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Friday, September 9, 2016

It's Tolstoy's birthday - this quote reminded me of Hillary

Specifically, it put me in mind of her comments to coal workers about the taxpayers funding their pensions and other benefits after saying "We're Going to Put a Lot of Coal Miners and Coal Companies Out of Business".  
I sit on a man's back, choking him and making him carry me, and yet assure myself and others that I am very sorry for him and wish to ease his lot by all possible means - except by getting off his back. 
~ Tolstoy (What Then Must We Do?, Ch. 16)
September 9 is the anniversary of the birth of Russian novelist and philosopher Count Lev (Leo) Nikolayevich Tolstoy (wiki) (1828-1910) in the province of Tula. Educated in Kazan, Tolstoy entered the army and served with distinction in the Crimean War (wiki) (1854-1856), after which he retired to his estates to devote himself to study and writing. In 1861, he freed his serfs, but in 1876 underwent a spiritual crisis in which he renounced his Russian Orthodox faith in favor of an individual Christianity that emphasized human brother-hood and non-resistance to evil. 

Tolstoy wrote prolifically, and in his masterpiece, War and Peace (1866), set during the Napoleonic era, he developed his theories about the inexorability of history in proceeding to its own ends. Later in life, his unconventional beliefs could have brought him into sharp conflict with the czarist authorities, but although he was excommunicated in 1901, his international following protected him from police interference. In Anna Karenina (1875-77), he wrote famously,
"All happy families resemble each other, but each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way."
Related posts:  


Friday links

Heineken's Lost Plan To Build Houses Out Of Beer Bottles, plus more bottle houses and a bottle brick tutorial.


Your kids will like this: Back to School Fashion circa 1939.

Physiognomy of eyebrows: everything you wanted to know about eyebrow interpretation from the 16th century.

The 29 most stressful jobs in America.


ICYMI, Wednesday's links are here, and include the history of ice cream truck jingles, the little-known lyrics from the Star Trek theme song, the anniversary of the Battle of Borodino (on which War and Peace and the 1812 Overture are based), and political maps of the United States from 1850 and 1880.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Heineken's Lost Plan To Build Houses Out Of Beer Bottles

The Heineken World Bottle was designed by architect John Habraken. When then-CEO Freddy Heineken was visiting the island of Curaçao, he was bothered by the mass amounts of trash and the lack of housing. His solution? Make a beer bottle that could serve as a brick when it's finished. It was a brilliant compromise, but Heineken's marketing department rejected it as effeminate. There's a photo of a house built with these at the bottom of this post, along with photos showing in more detail how they fit together.

There are a handful of houses in the US built of beer bottles, although not the brick style bottles - here's "The House of a Thousand Headaches" in Hillsville, VA - unlike other bottle houses, the bottles point outward so that the inner walls are flush:



And a Tonopah, Nevada house built in 1902 made from ~10,000 bottles of J. Hostetter’s Stomach Bitters (which consisted of various herbs in a solution of 47% alcohol, so not beer, but in the same spirit):


Around 1905, Tom Kelly built this house in Rhyolite, Nevada, using 51,000 beer bottles masoned with adobe:


Building with empty vessels (including bottles) goes back a long way, of course, back at least to ancient Rome, where many structures used empty amphorae embedded in concrete. This was not done for aesthetic reasons, but to lighten the load of upper levels of structures and reduce concrete usage. It's more common to find a wall of bottles than an entire structure.

Here's a tutorial on making your own bottle bricks:



An additional tutorial is here, more on the history of bottle walls here, and more on the Heineken bricks here and here.

Heineken bricks:

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Wednesday links

The Battle of Borodino, on which War and Peace and the 1812 Overture are based, took place on September 7, 1812.

Star Trek at 50: The theme song has lyrics

Watch M.C. Escher Make His Final Artistic Creation in this 1971 Documentary.


The Weird Tale Behind Ice Cream Truck Jingles.


ICYMI, Tuesday's links are here, and include a history of chairs, 1950s-era rules for college women, a gallery of hermit crabs wearing garbage as shells, and why we evolved to poop in the same place as our friends.

September 7 is the anniversary of the battle of Borodino, on which the War and Peace and the 1812 Overture are based

Larger version here
Today is the anniversary of the battle of Borodino (wiki) on 7 September 1812, at which Napoleon's (wiki) Grande Armée grappled bitterly with massed Russian forces defending Moscow under Marshal Mikhail Kutusov (1745-1813)* during Napoleon's invasion of Russia

Kutusov suffered significant losses, and the French occupied Moscow a week later, but in a month, Napoleon's disastrous retreat toward the west had begun. As Tolstoy noted in War and Peace,
"The cudgel of the people's war was lifted with all its menacing and majestic might, and caring nothing for good taste and procedure, with dull-witted simplicity but sound judgment, it rose and fell, making no distinctions."
Napoleon's own judgment has become more famous:

"Du sublime au ridicule il n'y a qu'un pas."

(From the sublime to the ridiculous is but a step.)

Here's the rousing cannon-punctuated finale of Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture, conducted by Leonard Bernstein:


Tchaikovsky (1840-1893) was commissioned to write that staple of summer pops concerts, the 1812 Overture (actually Ouverture Solennelle 1812, Op. 49), for an exhibition of arts and industries at Moscow in 1881. It was intended to commemorate the battle of Borodino and Napoleon's ultimate defeat.**

* N.B. Earlier, at the battle of Smolensk, Kutusov had noted, "The battle has already been decided. It is like a river that runs downhill. I can only move it slightly to the right or left. But its outcome will not be changed by me."

** During the Soviet era, Russian performances of the 1812 Overture substituted an anonymous chorale-like tune for "God Preserve the Czar," the "Russian hymn" quoted by Tchaikovsky in the original.

A brief documentary:

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Tuesday links

It's the anniversary of the birth of the Revolutionary War hero Marquis de Lafayette.



Why would we evolve to poop in the same place as our friends?


The Absurd Rules for College Women That Were Actually Enforced in the 1950s.

ICYMI, Friday's links are here, and include ancient library wars, private detectives on the internet, how to fight multiple assailants, FDR's attempts to keep his polio secret, and V-J Day, the day in 1945 that WWII ended with Japan's surrender.

Monday, September 5, 2016

It's the anniversary of the birth of the Marquis de Lafayette

I read, I study, I examine, I listen, I reflect, and out of all of this I try to form an idea into which I put as much common sense as I can.

~ Gilbert du Motier, Marquis de Lafayette (wiki) (letter to his father-in-law, the Duc d'Ayan, 4 December 1776)

Lafayette as a Lieutenant General, in 1791.
Portrait by Joseph-Désiré Court
Humanity has won its battle. Liberty now has a country.

~ Lafayette (variously attributed, after Yorktown)

When the government violates the people's rights, insurrection is, for the people and for each portion of the people, the most sacred of the rights and the most indispensable of duties.

~ Lafayette (speech to the Constituent Assembly, Paris, 20 February 1790)

He devoted himself, his life, his fortune, his hereditary honors, his towering ambition, his splendid hopes, all to the cause of liberty. He came to another hemisphere to defend her. He became one of the most effective champions of our Independence; but, that once achieved, he returned to his own country, and thenceforward took no part in the controversies which have divided us.

John Quincy Adams (wiki) (1767-1848) (of Lafayette, address to the U.S. Congress, 31 December 1834)

It's the anniversary of the birth of French patriot Gilbert du Motier, Marquis de Lafayette (wiki) (1757-1834), who fought in both the American and French revolutions. Born Marie-Joseph-Paul-Yves-Roch-Gilbert du Motier to a noble family of the Auvergne, Lafayette entered the French army, but inspired by the ideals of American fight for independence from Britain, he decamped to America and offered his services to the Continental Congress. He became a close friend of George Washington and served the Americans - without pay - as both a general and a diplomat. 

John Ward Dunsmore's depiction of Lafayette (right)
and Washington at Valley Forge
Early in the Revolution, he participated in the battles of Brandywine and Monmouth and in the expeditions against Canada and Rhode Island. Later, he was given responsibility for the defense of Virginia and played a prominent role at Yorktown. Returning to France, Lafayette became involved in the French Revolution - eventually commanding the National Guard - until during the Terror he fell out of favor with the Jacobins, who ordered his arrest. Fleeing France in 1792, Lafayette spent the next five years as a political prisoner in Austria and Prussia. Napoleon allowed him to return in France in 1799, and although he lived in retirement during the First Empire, he became active again in French and European politics after the restoration of the Bourbon monarchy. 

This 9 minute video entitled Lafayette: Champion of Liberty is a Strange as it Seems short film - part of a series of produced by Universal in the 1930's.


@JohnCFarrier recommends this longer documentary:


Based on Ed's Quotation of the Day, only available via email.  If you wish to be added to his list, leave your email address in the comments.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Why would we evolve to poop in the same place as our friends?

Artistic recreation of the ancient reptiles, dicynodonts, using
their communal latrine. Courtesy of Emilio López Rolandi.
Communal latrines, or defecation spots, are exactly what they sound like: Relatively small areas where multiple individuals relieve themselves, sometimes at the same time. Humans and housecats obviously defecate in communal latrines, but studies show that a number of other mammals do, too, and the behavior is particularly common among large herbivores. 

In fact, research shows this behavior was an ancient evolutionary development: scientists have discovered a large, rhino-like reptile defecated in "communal latrines" some 240 million years ago. Turns out, communal latrines have important biological functions

The eight communal latrines the researchers discovered were each 400 to 900 square meters and 1.5 kilometers apart. These fields were loaded with fossilized poo called coprolites - within the latrines, there were, on average, 67 coprolites per square meter, but in some areas the poo density reached 94 coprolites per square meter. Given the amount of coprolites and their size variation, the researchers believe the latrines were really communal, and used by many animals of different ages. 

The culprits were dicynodonts - ancient megaherbivores
"There is no doubt who the culprit was," said Dr Lucas Fiorelli, of Crilar-Conicet, who discovered the dung heaps. The perpetrator was Dinodontosaurus, an eight-foot-long megaherbivore similar to modern rhinos. These animals were dicynodonts - large, mammal-like reptiles common in the Triassic period when the first dinosaurs began to emerge. The fact they shared latrines suggests they were gregarious, herd animals, who had good reasons to poo strategically, said Dr Fiorelli:
"Firstly, it was important to avoid parasites - 'you don't poo where you eat', as the saying goes.
"But it's also a warning to predators. If you leave a huge pile, you are saying: 'Hey! We are a big herd. Watch out!"
 The new discovery also indicates that the seemingly mammal-only behavior of defecating in communal latrines developed before mammals first evolved. This new find actually predates the previous fossil record of communal latrines by 220 million years. We may owe our sanitary practices to our reptile ancestors.
Anyone remember the show Dinosaurs? Here's the episode where the baby runs away to the forest rather than poop in the same place as everyone else, because, as he explains it to the other forest denizens (hereafter FD1 and FD2),..

Baby: They tried to make me go potty.

FD1 explains to the others: When nature calls you've got to go to this one particular room and sit in this special chair...

FD2: You're making this up!

FD1: No, wait, wait wait there's even more conditions than that - everyone uses the same chair!

(loud expressions of disgust)

FD2: But, wait, what if you have to go and someone's already using the chair?

FD1: Then you have to wait.

FD2: But what if you can't wait?

FD1: You have to!

Baby: I wanna go when I wanna go!

FD1: Well, that's how we do it out here. You can go any time you want, anywhere you want.

Baby: Anywhere?

FD2: Well, except over there - that's the volleyball court.

Start watching at 8:50, if the video doesn't automatically start there:



Here's the full scientific article, a report at BBC, and discussion at io9.