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Saturday, April 13, 2019

Leonardo da Vinci’s Handwritten Resume (1482)

Leonardo da Vinci (wiki) was born on April 15, 1452 and died on May 2, 1519. He was an Italian polymath whose areas of interest included invention, painting, sculpting, architecture, science, music, mathematics, engineering, literature, anatomy, geology, astronomy, botany, writing, history, and cartography. He has been variously called the father of paleontology, ichnology, and architecture, and is widely considered one of the greatest painters of all time. Sometimes credited with the inventions of the parachute, helicopter and tank, his genius epitomized the Renaissance humanist ideal.

Before he was famous, before he painted the Mona Lisa and the Last Supper, before he invented the helicopter, before he drew the most famous image of man, before he was all of these things, Leonardo was an artificer, an armorer, a maker of things that go ‘boom,’” writes Marc Cendella on his blog about job-searching and recruitment advice. “Like you, he had to put together a resume to get his next gig. So in 1482, at the age of 30, he wrote out a letter and a list of his capabilities and sent it off to Ludovico il Moro, Duke of Milan.” Having yet to establish his reputation as perhaps the Italian Renaissance’s most respected polymath, Leonardo spelled himself out, in translation, as follows:
Most Illustrious Lord, Having now sufficiently considered the specimens of all those who proclaim themselves skilled contrivers of instruments of war, and that the invention and operation of the said instruments are nothing different from those in common use: I shall endeavor, without prejudice to any one else, to explain myself to your Excellency, showing your Lordship my secret, and then offering them to your best pleasure and approbation to work with effect at opportune moments on all those things which, in part, shall be briefly noted below.
1. I have a sort of extremely light and strong bridges, adapted to be most easily carried, and with them you may pursue, and at any time flee from the enemy; and others, secure and indestructible by fire and battle, easy and convenient to lift and place. Also methods of burning and destroying those of the enemy.
2. I know how, when a place is besieged, to take the water out of the trenches, and make endless variety of bridges, and covered ways and ladders, and other machines pertaining to such expeditions.
3. If, by reason of the height of the banks, or the strength of the place and its position, it is impossible, when besieging a place, to avail oneself of the plan of bombardment, I have methods for destroying every rock or other fortress, even if it were founded on a rock, etc.
4. Again, I have kinds of mortars; most convenient and easy to carry; and with these I can fling small stones almost resembling a storm; and with the smoke of these cause great terror to the enemy, to his great detriment and confusion.
Giant crossbow (more here)
5. And if the fight should be at sea I have kinds of many machines most efficient for offense and defense; and vessels which will resist the attack of the largest guns and powder and fumes.
6. I have means by secret and tortuous mines and ways, made without noise, to reach a designated spot, even if it were needed to pass under a trench or a river.
7. I will make covered chariots, safe and unattackable, which, entering among the enemy with their artillery, there is no body of men so great but they would break them. And behind these, infantry could follow quite unhurt and without any hindrance.
8. In case of need I will make big guns, mortars, and light ordnance of fine and useful forms, out of the common type.
9. Where the operation of bombardment might fail, I would contrive catapults, mangonels, trabocchi, and other machines of marvellous efficacy and not in common use. And in short, according to the variety of cases, I can contrive various and endless means of offense and defense.
Water lifting devices (larger version)
10. In times of peace I believe I can give perfect satisfaction and to the equal of any other in architecture and the composition of buildings public and private; and in guiding water from one place to another.
11. I can carry out sculpture in marble, bronze, or clay, and also I can do in painting whatever may be done, as well as any other, be he who he may.
Again, the bronze horse may be taken in hand, which is to be to the immortal glory and eternal honor of the prince your father of happy memory, and of the illustrious house of Sforza.
And if any of the above-named things seem to anyone to be impossible or not feasible, I am most ready to make the experiment in your park, or in whatever place may please your Excellency – to whom I comment myself with the utmost humility, etc.
Even the densest fifteenth-century Duke, I wager, could see the use in a man able to make portable bridges, get water out of trenches, destroy rock built upon rock, fling a storm of stones, fortify vessels, pass under rivers, and make everything from “big guns,” catapults, mangonels, and trabocchi to unattackable covered chariots. Though Leonardo understandably concentrates on his wartime engineering skills, he also touches on the range of other disciplines — Renaissance man, remember — he has mastered, like architecture, sculpture, and painting. Perhaps most impressively of all, he rattles off all these points without seeming particularly boastful, a feat seemingly out of the reach of many college graduates today. “You’ll notice he doesn’t recite past achievements,” Cendella adds, “because those are about his achievements, and not about the Duke’s needs.” 

NPR has translated Leonardo's To-Do List.


Abraham Lincoln was assassinated on April 14, 1865

From Harper's Weekly of April 29, 1965. this illustration is by Thomas Nast, and represents Nast's Tribute to the fallen president. The illustration shows Columbia, or Lady Liberty, kneeling and weeping over Abraham Lincoln's Coffin. The picture also shows a grieving Union Soldier, contemplating the loss of his commander and chief. Also pictured is a Union Navy man, likewise mourning Abraham Lincoln's death.
O Captain! my Captain! our fearful trip is done,
The ship has weather'd every rack, the prize we sought is won. 
The port is near, the bells I hear, the people are exulting,
While follow eyes the steady keel, the vessel grim and daring;

But O heart! heart! heart!
O the bleeding drops of red,
Where on the deck my Captain lies,
Fallen cold and dead. 

Walt Whitman (1819-1892) (wiki) ("O Captain! My Captain!," 1st stanza)*

Last known photograph of Abraham Lincoln,
taken by Henry F. Warren on 6 March 1865
Our children will behold his fame,
The kindly-earnest, brave, foreseeing man,
Sagacious, patient, dreading praise, not blame,
New birth of our new soil, the first American. 
~James Russell Lowell (1819-1891) (of President Lincoln, Commemoration Ode, 21 July 1865)

Assassination has never changed the history of the world.**

~Benjamin Disraeli (1804-1881) (in the House of Commons, 1 May 1865, on Lincoln's assassination) 

With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation's wounds, to care for him who shall have born the battle and for his widow and for his orphan, to do all that may achieve a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations. 

~President Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865) (wiki) (Second inaugural address, 4 March 1865)

Lincoln Assassination - Harper's Weekly Illustration
Although he actually died at 7:30 the following morning, today is the anniversary of the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865) on 14 April 1865, only five days after Lee's surrender at Appomattox. Lincoln was very fond of the theater, and that evening, he and Mrs. Lincoln - likely in a celebratory mood because of the end of the Civil War - attended a performance of the comedy, Our American Cousin, by English playwright Tom Taylor at Ford's Theater on 10th Street NW in Washington. There, following the intermission, actor and Southern sympathizer John Wilkes Booth managed to gain access to the Presidential box through a series of security lapses, and shot Lincoln in the back of head with a small pistol. He then jumped down onto the stage, shouted "Sic semper tynannis!" ("Thus always to tyrants!"), and although breaking his leg in the process, made his escape. Booth was ultimately tracked down and killed on 26 April, and four other conspirators were hanged on 7 July 1865.*** 

The Assassination of President Lincoln at Ford's Theatre
After the Act, wood engraving from Harper's Weekly, April 29, 1865.
At least in the North, the President's death unleashed a paroxysm of grief. Before funeral services in Washington, he lay in state in both the White House and the Capitol, and the train that slowly bore his body to Illinois for burial stopped in 11 cities for additional viewings by the public. He was laid to rest in Springfield, Illinois on 4 May 1865. Perhaps my favorite Lincoln quotation:
"As I would not be a slave, so I would not be a master. This expresses my idea of democracy. Whatever differs from this, to the extent of the difference, is no democracy."
* N.B. Written by Whitman in 1871 in memory of the assassination of President Lincoln.

** Except that this one probably did, at least in the United States... It led to the many excesses of Reconstruction and lasting bitterness between the North and South.

*** Lincoln's assassination was only part of a larger conspiracy which also targeted Vice President Andrew Johnson and Secretary of State William Seward. Johnson's intended attacker lost his nerve, but Seward was seriously wounded in a stabbing attack that same night. 

Here's a brief (5 minute) video on the assassination:


Funeral March for Abraham Lincoln written by Major General John Gross Barnard was performed by the United States Marine Band during the funeral procession from the Executive Mansion to the Capitol on April 19, 1865. This youtube version is played with with period illustrations of the obsequies: 


In 1956, an eyewitness (Samuel Seymour) to the Lincoln assassination appeared on "I've Got a Secret": 



Lincoln's 1858 speech on the meaning of Independence Day: "Let us stick to it then. Let us stand firmly by it then."

Gorgeous remastered and colorized images from the Civil War era, including Lincoln and Mark Twain

Much more at History.com. The rest of the illustrations from the Harper's Weekly issue referenced above are available here.

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Tuesday links

On April 9, the American Civil War ended with Robert E. Lee's surrender to Ulysses Grant: The Gentleman's Agreement That Ended the Civil War.

We missed Dog Farting Awareness Day yesterday, but this Scientific American's article on the science of dog farts is still worthwhile.

"Nub City" - the Florida town where people cut off their appendages for insurance money.


License-Plate Readers Are Dealt a Blow in Virginia, but Privacy Is Still a Rare Commodity Nationwide.

Declassified: That Time the US Military made Flying Saucers.

ICYMI, most recent links are here, and include the business of drunken online shopping, the etymologies of all 50 state’s names, and blood transfusion history.

Monday, April 8, 2019

Tax day quotes, cartoons, and links, Dave Barry, and the 1967 cartoon version of The Beatles "Taxman"

How to file an extension online.

The first modern income tax was levied in Britain between 1799 and 1816 to fund the Napoleonic wars, but it did not become permanent until 1874. Similarly the United States adopted a like measure during the Civil War, but it was not institutionalized until the ratification of the 16th amendment to the Constitution in 1913. Related: tax protester Sixteenth Amendment arguments.

When plunder becomes a way of life for a group of men in a society, over the course of time they create for themselves a legal system that authorizes it and a moral code that glorifies it.

~ Frédéric Bastiat (wiki)

A government that robs Peter to pay Paul can always depend on the support of Paul.

~ George Bernard Shaw

There is no worse tyranny than to force a man to pay for what he does not want merely because you think it would be good for him.


I cannot undertake to lay my finger on that article of the Constitution which granted a right to Congress of expending, on objects of benevolence, the money of their constituents.

~ James Madison

The point to remember is that what the government gives it must first take away.

~ John S. Coleman

Here's the 1967 cartoon version of The Beatles "Taxman": lyrics below the video. George Harrison (who wrote the song) explains why (more here):
“I had discovered I was paying a huge amount of money to the taxman,” he once explained in interview.  “You are so happy that you’ve finally started earning money – and then you find out about tax.  In those days we paid nineteen shillings and sixpence out of every pound (there were twenty shillings in the pound), and with supertax and surtax and tax-tax it was ridiculous – a heavy penalty to pay for making money…It was, and still is, typical.  Why should this be so?  Are we being punished for something we have forgotten to do?...That was the big turn-off for Britain.  Anybody who ever made any money moved to America or somewhere else.”

Let me tell you how it will be:
There's one for you, nineteen for me,
'Cause I'm the taxman, yeah, I'm the taxman.

Should five percent appear too small,
Be thankful I don't take it all
'Cause I'm the taxman, yeah, I'm the taxman.

If you drive a car, I'll tax the street,
If you try to sit, I'll tax your seat.
If you get too cold, I'll tax the heat,
If you take a walk, I'll tax your feet.

Don't ask me what I want it for,
If you don't want to pay some more,
'Cause I'm the taxman, yeah, I'm the taxman.

Now my advice for you who die:
Declare the pennies on your eyes,
'Cause I'm the taxman, yeah, I'm the taxman,
And you're working for no one but me.

The Beatles (George Harrison) ("The Taxman")

And from 1943, here's Donald Duck telling you to pay your taxes:


Congress can raise taxes because it can persuade a sizable fraction of the populace that somebody else will pay.


To force a man to pay for the violation of his own liberty is indeed an addition of insult to injury.

~ Benjamin Tucker

The difference between death and taxes is death doesn't get worse every time Congress meets.

We contend that for a nation to try to tax itself into prosperity is like a man standing in a bucket and trying to lift himself up by the handle.

~ Winston Churchill

Collecting more taxes than is absolutely necessary is legalized robbery.

~ Calvin Coolidge

It would be a hard government that should tax its people one-tenth part of their income.

~ Benjamin Franklin, Poor Richard's Almanac

What at first was plunder assumed the softer name of revenue.

~ Thomas Paine

What is the difference between a taxidermist and a tax collector? The taxidermist takes only your skin. 

To tax and to please, no more than to love and to be wise, is not given to men. 

~ Edmund Burke 

Civil servants and priests, soldiers and ballet dancers, schoolmasters and police constables, Greek museums and Gothic steeples, civil list and services list - the common seed within which all these fabulous beings slumber in embryo is taxation. 


Dave Barry's classic column on preparing your own taxes: Pray For an Asteroid.