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Wednesday, December 30, 2015

New Year's Eve links

How (Not) to Celebrate the New Year: advice from 700 AD (hint - if you dress up as a stag or a calf you'll spend 3 years doing penance). Also, advice from 1862: How to Tell Your Fortune for the New Year.

Dave Barry's Year in Review - previous such columns are available here.

Strange New Year traditions around the world.

Some links to avoid becoming philogrobolized
Your Complete Guide to the Science of Hangovers
Infographic on the Anatomy of a Hangover
Hangover Cures From Famous Heavy Drinkers
5 Really Strange Ways to Cure a Hangover
Dark Liquor Makes For Worse Hangovers
How to Cure a Hangover
According to a 2009 study in the Journal of Food Science, the amino acids and minerals found in asparagus extract may alleviate alcohol hangover and protect liver cells against toxins.

Why We Sing Auld Lang Syne on New Year’s Eve, and here's Mark Steyn singing and explaining What Are You Doing New Year's Eve?

Eat your heart out, New York: Boise, Idaho drops a giant potato downtown on New Year's Eve.


ICYMI, Most recent (all Christmas-related) links are here.

Advice from 1862: How to Tell Your Fortune for the New Year

I'm not sure whether it makes sense to generalize on the basis of this one example, but going by this there was not any thought in 1862 of shaping your own future in the sense of making New Year's resolutions - you just got what the world threw at you.

"The evening which of all others is the most adapted for witchery, is New Year's eve. It is a very ill practice to spend this evening at a ball, and it is an acknowledged fact that ill luck, more or less, follows a person throughout the year, who has danced the old year out and the new year in. You should spend New Year's eve with a small circle of near and dear friends, around a punch-bowl, while you seek to inquire what the future has in store for you. In the first place this may be done with melted lead or wax... Take a good-sized piece of lead or wax, (the former is better,) place it in a melting ladle, and dissolve it over the coals, or over a spirit-lamp, into which you have poured a little alcohol. You must then take a vessel full of water, (a bowl is best, that is not too deep nor too shallow,) and pour into it the lead or wax, and from the various figures which it forms in the water you endeavor to tell your fortunes."

Felix Fontaine, The Golden Wheel Dream-Book and Fortune Teller

From Ask The Past (via their blog):
Forget the dancing: your best bet for a safe and merry New Year's eve involves molten lead and witchery. No instructions are provided for interpreting the lead forms, so I'll predict in advance that your 2014 will be kind of formless and globular.

How (Not) to Celebrate the New Year: Advice from 700 AD (or thereabouts)

Ask The Past (via their blog): "If anyone does what many do on the first day of January, that is to say, goes around in the costume of a stag or a calf (which still remains from pagan custom), he must do penance for three years, because this is demoniacal." 

~Burgundian Penitential (c. 700)

Friday, December 25, 2015

Santa Claus enters the fray on the side of the Union

The History Blog:

The great 29th century political cartoonist Thomas Nast (wiki) is widely credited with having created the look of Santa Claus as we know him today. Inspired by Clement Moore’s* description of the “jolly old elf” in his 1823 poem A Visit from St. Nicholas, aka The Night Before Christmas, Nast first depicted Santa in the January 3, 1863, issue of Harper’s Weekly

Zoomable image here
On the cover was a scene captioned “Santa Claus in Camp” in which Saint Nick brings toys and good cheer to Union soldiers. It seems that Santa, much like Nast himself who was a staunch Republican and abolitionist, had picked a side in the Civil War, and he wasn’t at all subtle about it.

Santa’s blue (of course) coat has white stars on it and his pants have red and white stripes, similar to garb donned by other patriotic icons drawn by Nast like Columbia and Uncle Sam. He has delivered parcels to the soldiers. One finds a sock inside, doubtless a welcome gift in the bleak midwinter after the devastating loss at Fredericksburg which saw more than 12,000 of his comrades killed, wounded or taken captive. A drummer boy in the foreground stares with wide-eyed surprise at the jack-in-the-box that leapt out of his present.

But it’s the toy Santa is holding that is most remarkable. Here’s Harper’s explanation of it:
Santa Claus is entertaining the soldiers by showing them Jeff Davis’ future. He is tying a cord pretty tightly round his neck, and Jeff seems to be kicking very much at such a fate.
Read the whole rather fascinating post at The History Blog, including this:
After the war, Nast continued to draw Santa Claus for seasonal issues of the magazine. It was Thomas Nast who introduced the idea that Santa Claus has a toy workshop in the North Pole, although in his vision Santa did all his own labour.
From 1865, a less bloodthirsty version of Santa appeared:

Zoomable image here

By Christmas of 1865, Santa’s wartime support of the Union had softened from stringing up effigy Jefferson Davis with his own hands to presiding over a Christmas pageant starring Ulysses S. Grant as the giant killer from Jack and the Beanstalk. Sure, the decapitated heads of Confederate generals Robert E. Lee, John Bell Hood and Richard Ewell are at Grant’s feet, but it’s just metaphoric playacting and anyway Santa’s involvement is restricted to a wink and an avuncular smile, possibly a touch on the gloating side.
* There have been some questions raised about Clement Moore's authorship of this poem - this article sums up the controversy.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Christmas Eve links

Please accept with no obligation, implied or explicit, my best wishes for an environmentally conscious, socially responsible, low-stress, non-addictive, gender-neutral celebration of the winter solstice holiday, practiced within the most enjoyable traditions of the religious persuasion of your choice, or secular practices of your choice, with respect for the religious/secular persuasion and/or traditions of others, or their choice not to practice religious or secular traditions at all. I also wish you a fiscally successful, personally fulfilling and medically uncomplicated recognition of the onset of the generally accepted calendar year 2016, but not without due respect for the calendars of choice of other cultures whose contributions to society have helped make America great. Not to imply that America is necessarily greater than any other country nor the only America in the Western Hemisphere. Also, this wish is made without regard to the race, creed, color, age, physical ability, religious faith or sexual preference of the wishee.



Infographic: The logistics of Santa Claus.

ICYMI, Monday's and Tuesday's links include lots more obscure Christmas links (and a few other things).

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Supercut of movie Santas

Film list below the video.



Film List (In Order Of Appearance):

Elf (2003)
Christmas Evil (1980)
National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (1989)
Santa’s Slay (2005)
Arthur Christmas (2011)
Fred Claus (2007)
Don’t Open Till Christmas (1984)
Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer (1964)
Trading Places (1983)
Santa Claus Conquers The Martians (1964)
Black Christmas (1974)
Bad Santa (2003)
A Christmas Story (1983)
Scrooged (1988)
A Christmas Horror Story (2015)
Rise Of The Guardians (2012)
Santa With Muscles (1996)
Miracle On 34th Street (1947)
Fred Claus (2007)
Elf (2003)
Jingle All The Way (1996)
Fred Claus (2007)
The Santa Clause (1994)
Miracle On 34th Street (1947)
Trading Places (1983)
Santa Claus: The Movie (1985)
Miracle On 34th Street (1994)
The Santa Clause (1994)
A Muppets Christmas: Letters To Santa (2009)
Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer (1964)
A Very Harold & Kumar Christmas (2011)
Elf (2003)
The Polar Express (2004)
The Santa Clause (1994)

h/t Tastefully Offensive

Last Minute Gifts at Amazon for Free 1-day shipping

Today only, Amazon offers a selection of last-minute gifts, with prices starting from $5, all of which qualify for free 1-day shipping. (Select 1-day shipping at checkout.) 

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

REMINDER: Today is the last day for two-day shipping before Christmas at Amazon

Last day for 2 day shipping, plus you can get a 30 day free trial of Amazon Prime, which makes the shipping choices easier.

Tuesday links

Virginia O'Hanlon, of Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus fame, was asked about that letter for the rest of her life.


Ralphie teamed up with Flash Gordon in a deleted scene from A Christmas Story. Related: 10 Important Facts About A Christmas Story's Leg Lamp.

These Are The Star Wars Christmas Cards You’ve Been Looking For.





ICYMI, Monday's links are here, and include downloadable Star Wars snowflakes, all about the winter equinox, Roman maps of how the world looked when Jesus was born, the classic drunken fruitcake recipe (Check the whiskey. Pour 1 level cup and drink. Repeat.), the 1914 Christmas truce, and a flamethrower doing battle with a fire-hose.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Roasting a turkey with a drone mounted flamethrower

One of the many potential uses for drones - this is excellent, although I can see that there's a lot of potential for collateral fire damage:


via Ace.

Monday links


All the Stuff British Soldiers Have Carried in Battle, From the 11th Century to Today.

How The World Looked When Jesus Was Born, According to Roman Geographers.

Classic drunken fruitcake recipe: Check the whiskey. Pour 1 level cup and drink. Repeat.

A collection of downloadable templates for Star Wars snowflakes.

The 1914 Christmas truce.

Here’s what happens when a flamethrower does battle with a firehose.

ICYMI, Friday's links are here, and include lots of ugly Christmas sweaters (plus instructions for making your own), a Klingon Christmas Carol, why Japan is obsessed with Kentucky Fried Chicken on Christmas, poinsettia and mistletoe (which literally means "dung twig") science, and my personal favorite Christmas story: 'Twas the Overnight Before Christmas: The Merry Tale of How Air Cargo Deregulation Led To Amazon.

Friday, December 18, 2015

82 year old woman locked in public restroom spends four days knitting scarf

FELIXSTOWE, England, Dec. 18 (UPI) -- A British grandmother locked in a public restroom for four days said she kept warm using a hand dryer and passed the time by knitting a scarf.

Gladys Phillips, 82, said she was out shopping in Felixstowe, England, when she made a pit stop in a public restroom that she didn't realize was not yet open to the public.

The hi-tech locking system shut tight and it was not until four days later that painters discovered her inside. She had no mobile phone and her bangs and shouts were unanswered – so she settled down and made a pink scarf for her granddaughter to keep boredom at bay.
"I was not really concerned at first when I couldn't get out," Phillips told the Suffolk Gazette
"In fact I was just relieved I'd managed to go to the loo! Luckily I had just been to the shops and picked up a new ball of pink wool, so I began making a scarf, which one of my lucky grandchildren will now get for Christmas.
I had also popped into the sweet shop after collecting my pension, so I had a full bag of mint imperials to eat which kept my spirits up no end.
The loo was very clean and cozy. I was able to sleep on my big overcoat and was lovely and warm, and if I got cold I just sat under the hand dryer for a while."
 more at UPI  and Yahoo.

Classic Christmas drunken fruitcake recipe: Check the whiskey. Pour 1 level cup and drink. Repeat.

I actually know someone who likes fruitcake, but for most people it makes an excellent gag gift; the obvious advantage is that it can be re-gifted for years.

Ingredients:

1 cup butter
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs
2 cups dried fruit
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 cup nuts
1 gallon whiskey

1. Take a large bowl.

2. Check the whiskey to be sure that it is of the highest quality. Pour 1 level cup and drink. Repeat.

3. Turn on the electric mixer. Beat butter in large bowl.

4. Add sugar and beat again.

5. Check the whiskey again. Cry another tup. Or two.

6. Turn off the mixer. Break 2 legs and add to the bowl, along with the dried fruit.

7. Mix on the turner. If the fried druit gets stuck in the beaters, pry it loose with a drewscriver.

8. Sample the whiskey again to check for consisticity.

9. Sift the salt. Or something. Who cares.

10. Check the whiskey again.

11. Sift the lemon juice and strain the nuts. Add one tablespoon. Of sugar or something. Whatever.

12. Grease the oven.

13. Set the cake pan to 350 degrees.

14. Beat off the turner.

15. Throw the bowl out the window and finish what’s left of the whiskey.

Related: here are 15 Fun Facts About Fruitcake. And, no matter how this turns out, you can always save it for January 3, which is National Fruitcake Toss Day.

Virginia O'Hanlon, of Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus fame, was asked about that letter for the rest of her life

Virginia O'Hanlon is famous as the young girl who wrote a letter to the New York Sun in 1897 asking if Santa Claus was real, prompting a reply from Francis P. Church, "Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus."

But you have to feel a bit sorry for O'Hanlon, because almost every year after that, until she died in 1971, reporters sought her out to do follow-ups to find out if she still believed in Santa Claus. It must have been frustrating to be asked the same question, year after year.

O'Hanlon was always very gracious about the repetitive questioning, (seems like she was a very nice lady), and would say that of course she believed in Santa Claus — except for 1935 when she must have been in a dark mood, because in that year she came close to saying that she no longer believed. She told a reporter:

I still keep my faith in the ultimate kindness of human nature, but how can I, or anyone, believe in the Santa I knew as a child when today there is so much misery and suffering in the world?
If Santa lives today, he lives only in the childish joy of those he has made happy. How can he live in the crying hearts of those he has forsaken? Little children, such as I was, trust in Santa Claus as a miraculous munificence through which all things are made possible. There will be a tree, there will be loved ones about, gaiety and cherished toys that have been dreamt about for months.
Those whom Santa visits think of Christmas as a beautiful, sacred occasion which it should be — but today seldom is. But for every child tucked into bed Christmas night with his new toy, there are hundreds, no thousands, who huddle in ragged bed clothing sobbing in the night at a fate at best cruel.
More at Weird Universe.

Here she is on the Perry Como show in 1960:

Friday links

Lots of ugly Christmas sweaters and instructions for making your own.

In the Christmas In Other Cultures category, here's a Klingon Christmas Carol. Also, how to have a British ChristmasSweden's bizarre tradition of watching Donald Duck (Kalle Anka) cartoons on Christmas Eve, Strange Christmas Traditions Around the World, and why Japan is Obsessed with Kentucky Fried Chicken on Christmas.

Some Excellent Animated Christmas Lights Displays, but the best display this year is this Santa Claus urinating on ISIS sign.

My personal favorite Christmas story: 'Twas the Overnight Before Christmas: The Merry Tale of How Air Cargo Deregulation Led To Amazon.



ICYMI, Tuesday's links are here, and include some extremely awkward Christmas photos, epic movie/TV-inspired gingerbread houses the pre-Seinfeld origins of Festivus, and strange hybrid animals.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Lots of ugly Christmas sweaters, instructions for making your own, plus ugly Christmas sweater suits.

In the phrase "ugly Christmas sweater," the word "ugly" is a term of art, a description rather than a put-down. One wears an ugly Christmas sweater precisely because it is so over the top, crammed with images of weighted-down Christmas trees, cartoony reindeer, red-cheeked Santas, and leering snowmen. Sequins are encouraged, as are lights. And if the sweater is three-dimensional, all the better.

There are currently 52,180 listings on eBay for "ugly Christmas sweater".

New and improved: Ugly Christmas Sweater suits:




A few favorites:











Wanna go the cheap route? The are lots of DIY kits, here's how to make your own - more ideas here and here. More photos here. And check out the All-Time Ugliest Christmas Sweaters.

And, of course, there are Happy Chanukah sweaters:

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Tuesday links

These awkward Christmas photos are really a hoot.



Cemeteries in Moscow to offer free Wi-Fi in 2016.

ICYMI, Monday's links are here, and include a bunch of weird nativity sets, comparing Spider-Man and Santa Claus, the real history of ‘Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer’ (it started with a 1939 Montgomery Ward marketing campaign), how cats use their whiskers to catch their prey, and the 1981 proposal to: keep the nuclear launch codes in an innocent volunteer's chest-cavity.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Monday links


The Difference between Spider-Man and Santa Claus Is Very Small.

The real history of ‘Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer’ - it all started with a Montgomery Ward marketing campaign in 1939.



Inside the Operating Theater: Early Surgery as Spectacle.

ICYMI, last Monday's links are here, and include the anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor (and Monty Python's reenactment), what Christmas meant to the Nazis, the politics of beards, most popular dog names of 2015, and the feast day of St. Nicholas of Myra (aka Santa Claus).

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Kevin Williamson at his snarky, silver-tongued best: Laziness, Stupidity, Corruption — and the Gun-Control Debate

Read the whole thing at NRO, about the not-particularly bright bureaucrats who arbitrarily stick names on the no-fly list. Excerpts:
But sorting out the criminals and malefactors from the law-abiding and peaceable is very difficult and demanding work, which is why we pay the ladies and gentlemen in our law-enforcement and intelligence agencies so much to do it. (Two hundred grand a year goes a long way in Philadelphia.) Conservatives are naturally inclined to indulge the police, but the fact is that the run of them are specimens of what you get when you take the same lazy unionized public-teat-suckling lumps over at the DMV and put guns on their hips and tell them that they are “at war” with the people they serve. Our intelligence guys aren’t in the main Blackford Oakes or James Bond: They’re drones compiling Excel reports until their pensions kick in. 
And this:
On the matter of ordinary workaday murders of the South Chicago and North Philadelphia type, it cannot be repeated enough that the majority of the killers — 90 percent in New York City according to a New York Times review of the data — have prior criminal histories, often for violent crime, frequently involving weapons offenses. Chicago, among other cities, does basically nothing to prosecute crimes involving the illegal possession of guns. For all the clucking about straw-purchasers — phony buyers who help criminals avoid background checks when acquiring guns — the U.S. attorney’s office for blood-soaked Chicago won’t even bother with those cases as a matter of policy. Why? Too much work, not enough juice. Nobody’s career gets made by putting some South Side gangster’s mom in the pokey for making a straw purchase of a Glock for her beloved son.
The Democrats and their intellectually corrupt apologists at the New York Times and elsewhere are willing to strip Americans of their constitutional rights, to micturate from a great height upon the entire concept of due process, and to treat all of us like criminals — while doing precisely nothing to prevent school shootings, terrorism, or ordinary crime — because they don’t have the guts to tell their political clients in the schools, the mental-health bureaucracies, and the criminal-justice system that eventually they are going to have to do their goddamned jobs in exchange for the hundreds of billions of dollars we lavish upon them.
Conclusion:
It is time for Americans to grow up and to sober up. It may push your soy-latte buttons every time Bubba down in Muleshoe, Texas, buys a scary-looking black gun and declares war upon a row of defenseless Budweiser cans, but inconveniencing Bubba isn’t going to get the job done. Laziness, stupidity, corruption: The U.S. government exists for the sole purpose of protecting the rights of U.S. citizens, but somehow the fine minds at the New York Times conclude that the federal government should do more to burden the citizens to whom it owes every duty than, say, so-called refugees from Syria to whom the U.S. government has no duty whatsoever. Why? Because the alternative is expecting the employees of our federal, state, and local governments to do their duties, and that is just too much work.  

Fritz Haber, father of synthetic fertilizer and chemical warfare

We are living now, not in the delicious intoxication induced by the early successes of science, but in a rather grisly morning after when it has become apparent that what triumphant science has done hitherto is to improve the means for achieving unimproved or actually deteriorated ends. 

~ Aldous Huxley (wiki) (1894-1963) (Ends and Means, Ch. 14) 

... a point well demonstrated in the checkered career of one man: 

Gaseous nitrogen combines with gaseous hydrogen in simple quantitative proportions to produce gaseous ammonia.

~ Fritz Haber (wiki) (attributed; a vast simplification of the Haber process for fixing nitrogen) 

The field of scientific abstraction encompasses independent kingdoms of ideas and of experiments, and within these, rulers whose fame outlasts the centuries. But they are not the only kings in science. He also is a king who guides the spirit of his contemporaries by knowledge and creative work, by teaching and research in the field of applied science, and who conquers for science provinces which have only been raided by craftsmen. 

~ Haber (memorial remarks on his mentor, Professor Georg Lunge, in January 1923) 
 
The effects of the successful gas attack were horrible. I am not pleased with the idea of poisoning men. Of course the entire world will rage about it first and then imitate us. All the dead lie on their backs with clenched fists; the whole field is yellow. 

~ Rudolph Binding (1867-1938) (on the first German gas attack, April 1915, in A Fatalist at War, 1915) 

War and its horrors, and yet I sing and whistle... 

~ Confederate General George E. Pickett (1825-1875) (letter to his wife, May 1864) 

Today is the anniversary of the birth of German physical chemist Fritz Haber (wiki) (1868-1934), who received the Nobel prize for chemistry in 1918 for his role in inventing the Haber-Bosch process for "fixing" nitrogen on an industrial scale, thus permitting mass production of synthetic fertilizers and high explosives.* Born to a well-to-do Jewish family in Breslau, Prussia, Haber studied chemistry at the Friedrich Wilhelm University in Berlin, eventually receiving a doctorate in 1891. 

Unable to find a comfortable working relationship with his father in the latter's Breslau chemical plant, Haber accepted successive academic positions in the universities of Jena and Karlsruhe and developed his nitrogen-fixing process at the latter between 1894 and 1911, while also working on electrochemistry, combustion reactions, and the separation of gold from seawater. When World War I broke out, Haber's process was key to Germany's ability to produce both fertilizer and high-explosives despite her inability to import nitrates because of the British blockade. Moreover, as a militant German imperialist who strongly supported the war effort, Haber played a major role in the development of chemical warfare by the Germans in World War I and was primarily responsible - as an army officer - for the weaponization of chlorine gas and its first devastating deployment against Canadian troops in the Second Battle of Ypres in April 1915.** 

He was also active in developing gas masks, studying the physiological effects of poison gas, and is still recognized by many as "the father of chemical warfare.*** Between the wars, Haber continued secret work for Germany on poison gas weapons, but with the coming to power of the Nazis in 1933, his Jewish ancestry told against him (despite an earlier conversion to Lutheranism), and he removed himself to Switzerland, where he died in 1934, a strange, enigmatic man... In his The Void of War, 1918, English writer Reginald Farrer (1880-1920) noted,
"Even in theory, the gas mask is a dreadful thing. It stands for one's first flash of insight into man's measureless malignity against man."  
* N.B. Although atmospheric nitrogen is plentiful, it is relatively inert and difficult to coax into forming compounds. The Haber-Bosch process converts atmospheric nitrogen to ammonia by a reaction with hydrogen using a metal catalyst and high temperatures and pressures. The ammonia is used in turn for manufacturing synthetic fertilizers or to produce the nitric acid needed for explosives. Thus, the Haber-Bosch process is one of the most important - and beneficial - industrial procedures ever devised. 

** A detailed account of Haber's role in the first deployment of poison gas at 2nd Ypres is provided by Diana Preston in her recent book, A Higher Form of Killing, which treats "the six weeks in World War I that forever changed the nature of warfare." (Preston also treats the sinking of the Lusitania and the first Zeppelin bombing raids on London, all in April/May 1915.) 

*** Haber's first wife, who was strongly opposed to his work on chemical weapons, committed suicide within two weeks of their first use at 2nd Ypres. His award of the Nobel prize was bitterly opposed by the Allied nations. 

What an extraordinarily mixed legacy - more here on the benefits to the world of the ability to fertilize crops with artificially produced ammonia. SciShow has an excellent brief video on Haber's inventions, good and bad:


Mental Floss has a series of posts covering the events of the WWI exactly 100 years after they happened - the excerpt below is from April 22, on the anniversary of the second battle of Ypres, but you should read the whole thing:
Unsurprisingly, after a few minutes of this the French soldiers fled their trenches in terror. Harold Peat, a Canadian private in reserve in the eastern part of the salient, witnessed the first moments of this new horror in war:
In the far distance we saw a cloud rise as though from the earth. It was a greeny-red color, and increased in volume as it rolled forward. It was like a mist rising, and yet it hugged the ground, rose five or six feet, and penetrated to every crevice and dip in the ground. We could not tell what it was. Suddenly from out the mist we men in reserves saw movement. Coming towards us, running as though Hell as it really was had been let loose behind them, were the black troops from Northern Africa. Poor devils, I do not blame them. It was enough to make any man run.

Another Canadian soldier in the front line, Reginald Grant, painted a similar picture:
The line trembled from one end to the other, as the Algerian troops immediately on our left, jumped out of their trenches, falling as they ran. The whole thing seemed absolutely incomprehensible until I got a whiff of the gas. They ran like men possessed, gasping, choking, blinded and dropping with suffocation. They could hardly be blamed... The buttons on our uniforms were tinged yellow and green from the gas, so virulent was the poison.
Gassed, a relatively little-known painting by famed American painter John Singer Sargent (1856-1925), better known for his exquisite portraiture. Now in the Imperial War Museum, London, it makes a harrowing impression full size: 

Based on Ed's Quotation of the Day, only available via email. Leave your email address in the comments if you'd like to be added to his list.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Monday links

A day that will live in infamy: today is the anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor. Related: Monty Python's reenactment of the battle.

What Christmas Meant to the Nazis.

The Most Popular Dog Names Of 2015.

ICYMI, Friday's links are here, and include the end of prohibition in the US, the world's most expensive cars, an emergency enema kit (the defibrillator of the 18th century) and more dubious medical treatments, DIY candles, and concrete ships.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

A day that will live in infamy: December 7 is the anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor

The Island of Oahu, with its military depots, both naval and land, its airdromes, water supplies, the city of Honolulu with its wharves and supply points, forms an easy, compact, and convenient object for air attack... I believe therefore, that should Japan decide upon the reduction and seizure of the Hawaiian Islands... [an] attack will be launched at Ford's Island at 7:30 A.M. 

~ General William ("Billy") Mitchell (1879-1936) (memorandum for the Chief of Staff of the U.S. Army, 1924) 

I can run wild for six months... after that, I have no expectation of success.* 

~ Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto (wiki) (1884-1943) (to the Japanese cabinet, circa 1940) 

December 7, 1941 - a date which will live in infamy - the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan. 

~ Franklin D. Roosevelt (wiki) (1882-1945) (to Congress, 8 December 1941) 

Throughout the action, there was never the slightest sign of faltering or cowardice. The actions of the officers and men were wholly commendable; there was no panic, no shirking or flinching, and words fail to describe the truly magnificent display of courage, discipline, and devotion of duty of all. 

~ Report by the Executive Officer of USS West Virginia after Pearl Harbor

Today is the anniversary of the Japanese surprise attack on Pearl Harbor (wiki) on 7 December 1941, which brought the United States into World War II. The meticulously planned and devastatingly successful operation was launched from six aircraft carriers and their escorts, which had managed to penetrate to within 200 miles of Oahu without being discovered. 

Of the eight American battleships in port that day, four were sunk or destroyed, and nine other warships were sunk or severely damaged. Over 2,400 U.S. servicemen lost their lives, including 2.000 sailors, most of whom perished on the USS Arizona (BB-39). The only bright spots were the absence of the three U.S. aircraft carriers from Pearl Harbor that day and the strange failure of the Japanese to destroy the Pacific Fleet's enormous fuel supplies, which would have been an easy target. Japan's attack on Oahu put an abrupt end to pre-war American isolationism and united the nation as it had never been before. But as Napoleon Bonaparte (wiki) noted in his Maxims of War,
"To be defeated is pardonable; to be surprised - never!" 
* N.B. Yamamoto is often quoted as having said, "I fear we have only awakened a sleeping giant, and his reaction will be terrible," but this appears to be apocryphal.

** Quoted in this form in Samuel Eliot Morison, The Two Ocean War, Ch. 3.

Here's a contemporaneous newsreel of the Pearl Harbor attack:


I realize that Pearl Harbor is a significant and serious event, but this reenactment by Monty Python, from Flying Circus: is a hoot, and much too good to pass up:
The stuff of history is indeed woven in the woof. Pearl Harbour. There are pages in history's book which are written on the grand scale. Events so momentous that they dwarf man and time alike. And such is the Battle of Pearl Harbour, re-enacted for us now by the women of Barley Townswomen's Guild (script available at the link):

Monday, November 30, 2015

Monday links

Winston Churchill was born on November 30, 1874: here he is on Islam (and other things)


Woman surprised when bank 'glitch' showed her $1.4 trillion overdrawn.

21 Truly Upsetting Vintage Recipes.

ICYMI, Thursday's links are here, and include Thanksgiving, the mean drunk gene, the giant claw machine that dredges bicycles from Amsterdam canals, and the post-Thanksgiving Peanuts holiday special It's Black Friday, Charlie Brown.

Winston Churchill's was born on November 30, 1874: here he is on Islam

How dreadful are the curses which Mohammedanism lays on its votaries!

Besides the fanatical frenzy, which is as dangerous in a man as hydrophobia in a dog, there is this fearful fatalistic apathy. The effects are apparent in many countries. Improvident habits, slovenly systems of agriculture, sluggish methods of commerce, and insecurity of property exist wherever the followers of the Prophet rule or live. A degraded sensualism deprives this life of its grace and refinement; the next of its dignity and sanctity. The fact that in Mohammedan law every woman must belong to some man as his absolute property—either as a child, a wife, or a concubine—must delay the final extinction of slavery until the faith of Islam has ceased to be a great power among men. Individual Moslems may show splendid qualities. Thousands become the brave and loyal soldiers of the Queen: all know how to die. But the influence of the religion paralyzes the social development of those who follow it. No stronger retrograde force exists in the world. Far from being moribund, Mohammedanism is a militant and proseltyzing faith. It has already spread throughout Central Africa, raising fearless warriors at every step; and were it not that Christianity is sheltered in the strong arms of science—the science against which it had vainly struggled—the civilization of modern Europe might fall, as fell the civilization of ancient Rome.

Churchill (wiki), from The River War, via Powerline.

I have never accepted what many people have kindly said - namely, that I inspired the nation... It was the nation and the race dwelling all round the globe that had the lion's heart. I had the luck to be called upon to give the roar. I also hope that I sometimes suggested to the lion the right place to use his claws. 

~ Churchill (speech in Westminster Hall, 30 November 1954) 

The ability to foretell what is going to happen tomorrow, next week, and next year. And to have the ability afterwards to explain why it didn't happen. 

~ Churchill (describing the qualifications of a prospective politician, quoted in Adler, Churchill Wit

Naval tradition? Monstrous. Nothing but rum, sodomy, prayers, and the lash. 

~ Churchill (quoted in Harold Nicholson, diary, 17 August 1950) 

He mobilized the English language and sent it into battle to steady his fellow countrymen and hearten those Europeans upon whom the long dark night of tyranny had descended.* 

- Edward R. Murrow (1908-1965) (broadcast, 30 November 1954) 

November is the anniversary of the birth in 1874 of the greatest British statesman of recent times, Winston Spencer Churchill (1874-1965). Born into an aristocratic family, Churchill was educated at Harrow and Sandhurst and served in the British Army in India, the Sudan, and South Africa. Elected to Parliament in 1900, he became the First Lord of the Admiralty in 1911 but was discredited and forced to resign by the failure of World War I's Gallipoli campaign in 1915. 

Subsequently, Churchill held several cabinet-level offices under both Liberal and Conservative governments, but he left politics between 1929 and 1939 and restricted himself largely to warning of the rise of Nazi Germany. In 1940, seven months after the outbreak of World War II - Britain's darkest hour - he supplanted Neville Chamberlain as Prime Minister and led his nation to victory in 1945. Turned out of office in the next election, he nonetheless returned as Prime Minister between 1951 and 1955. Also a prolific author, Churchill received the 1953 Nobel prize in literature for such books as The World Crisis (1923-29), a biography of his ancestor, the Duke of Marlborough, his multi-volume memoir of World War II, and The History of the English-Speaking Peoples

* N.B. The "We shall fight on the beaches speech" (wiki), perhaps Churchill's greatest wartime utterance, in the House of Commons, 4 June 1940 - I'm struck by his note of weary resignation, almost totally lacking in rhetorical enthusiasm. Text of the most famous paragraph is below - full text here

Even though large tracts of Europe and many old and famous States have fallen or may fall into the grip of the Gestapo and all the odious apparatus of Nazi rule, we shall not flag or fail. We shall go on to the end. We shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be. We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender, and if, which I do not for a moment believe, this island or a large part of it were subjugated and starving, then our Empire beyond the seas, armed and guarded by the British Fleet, would carry on the struggle, until, in God's good time, the New World, with all its power and might, steps forth to the rescue and the liberation of the old.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Happy Thanksgiving links

Time to invite the neighbors to dinner, kill them, and take their land. 

Here's a huge roundup of Thanksgiving links: how turkey got its name, why the Lions and Cowboys always play, Ben Franklin's account of the first Thanksgiving, Buffy Thanksgiving episode ("ritual sacrifice, with pie"), Mark Twain, science, the Thanksgiving birthday pattern, WKRP turkey giveaway ("as God is my witness, I thought turkeys could fly"), Cicero, the best turkey fryer PSA ever, and lots more.

'A Day of Thanksgiving and Praise': Remembering President Lincoln's 1863 Thanksgiving proclamation.

Weird Incidents Involving Wild Turkeys, and a Scientific Look at How Female Turkeys Choose Their Mates (and avoid the unwanted ones).

A definitive ranking of Thanksgiving sides, taking into account the availability theorem and the leftover theorem. Related, this map of side dishes by region.



From the American Chemical Society: What Happens When You Eat Too Much?


ICYMI, Monday's links are here, and include weird Stonehenge replicas, a parasitic worm that increases women's fertility, the science of smiling, and test-tasting computer-translated recipes.

Have an excellent Thanksgiving, and be good to all of those people you're thankful for!