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Friday, November 17, 2017

Friday links

The Suez Canal opened on November 17, 1869.

The Gettysburg Address was seven score and fourteen years ago tomorrow (November 18) - here's some history and an excellent brief video with contemporaneous photos and illustrations. Related: newspaper prints a retraction for 1863 article calling Gettysburg address "silly remarks"; retraction written in the style of Gettysburg Address.

The pigeon’s rump cure for childhood seizures.

My Surprising Career as an "Fake" Reviewer.

ICYMI, Wednesday's links are here, and include Field Marshall Erwin Rommel's birthday, are cats, technically, a liquid?, an X-ray murder trial, and how female turkeys choose their mates (and avoid the rejects).

Thursday, November 16, 2017

The Suez Canal opened opened on November 17, 1869

Oh, East is East and West is West, and never the twain shall meet,
Till Earth and Sky stand presently at God's great Judgment Seat;
But there is neither East nor West, Border, nor Breed, nor Birth,
When two strong men stand face to face, though they come from the ends of the earth!

Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936) ("The Ballad of East and West," stanza 1)

If M. de Lesseps (wiki) had not been a man of the stuff and stamp of which all great inventors are made, if he had not toiled on to the attainment of his end in spite of every hindrance, the Suez Canal would now exist only on paper... The opening of the new water highway between the East and West will mark an era in the annals of humanity.

~ The Daily Telegraph, London, 26 August 1869

The Suez Canal (wiki) was the greatest feat of organization and engineering of its day, and it served, for a brief moment, as a symbol of all that was right in the world. It was created by dreams and by meticulous organization, by brilliant engineers and by workers looking for their next meal. And then, once the fireworks had faded, the canal began to fade as well. Traveling through Suez today, it is tempting to despair. Barbed wire, overpopulation, rusting ships, and dwindling business stand as rebukes to the vision of de Lesseps.

~Zachary Karabell Parting of the Desert - the Creation of the Suez Canal (2003)*, Epilogue)

Today is the anniversary of the opening in 1869 of the Suez Canal between the Mediterranean and Red Seas, which offers the shortest maritime route between Europe and the lands of the Indian and Pacific Oceans. The subject of speculation for millennia, the 100-mile long canal was finally realized due to the vision and perseverance of French entrepreneur and engineer Ferdinand de Lesseps (1805-1894), who convinced the French and Egyptian governments that such a canal was feasible, arranged ample financing, and supervised its construction over ten years, despite enormous engineering challenges. 

In 1875, Great Britain gained majority ownership of the canal to assure easy passage to India and seven years later essentially seized control of Egypt to protect it. Subsequently, de Lesseps attempted to repeat his success by building a similar canal across the Isthmus of Panama but ended in bankruptcy in 1888. 

Here's a brief vintage documentary on the Suez Canal:

And one on the Suez Canal Crisis, precipitated when Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser seized and announced his intention to nationalize the canal. France, the United Kingdom, and Israel responded by bombing Cairo on 29 October 1956:

Coincidentally, November 19th will be the anniversary of the birth of de Lesseps in 1805: he's said to have claimed that he had always had "the privilege of being believed without having to prove what one affirms.")

* N.B. A concise and readable history of the conception and building of the Suez Canal.

The text above is adapted from 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. Ed is the author of Hunters and Killers: Volume 1: Anti-Submarine Warfare from 1776 to 1943 and Hunters and Killers: Volume 2: Anti-Submarine Warfare from 1943.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Paper prints retraction for 1863 article calling Gettysburg address "silly remarks". Retraction written in the style of Gettysburg Address.

One of the two confirmed photos of Abraham Lincoln
(sepia highlight) at Gettysburg, taken about noon,
 just after Lincoln arrived and some three hours before the
 speech. To his right is his bodyguard, Ward Hill Lamon.
Seven score and ten years ago, the forefathers of this media institution brought forth to its audience a judgment so flawed, so tainted by hubris, so lacking in the perspective history would bring, that it cannot remain unaddressed in our archives.

We write today in reconsideration of “The Gettysburg Address,” delivered by then-President Abraham Lincoln in the midst of the greatest conflict seen on American soil. Our predecessors, perhaps under the influence of partisanship, or of strong drink, as was common in the profession at the time, called President Lincoln’s words “silly remarks,”deserving “a veil of oblivion,” apparently believing it an indifferent and altogether ordinary message, unremarkable in eloquence and uninspiring in its brevity.

In the fullness of time, we have come to a different conclusion. No mere utterance, then or now, could do justice to the soaring heights of language Mr. Lincoln reached that day. By today’s words alone, we cannot exalt, we cannot hallow, we cannot venerate this sacred text, for a grateful nation long ago came to view those words with reverence, without guidance from this chagrined member of the mainstream media.

The world will little note nor long remember our emendation of this institution’s record – but we must do as conscience demands:
In the editorial about President Abraham Lincoln’s speech delivered Nov. 19, 1863, in Gettysburg, the Patriot & Union failed to recognize its momentous importance, timeless eloquence, and lasting significance. The Patriot-News regrets the error.
The original editorial:

Patriot & Union | Tuesday, Nov. 24, 1863 | Editorial

A Voice from the Dead 

We have read the oration of Mr. Everett. We have read the little speeches of President Lincoln, as reported for and published in his party press, and we have read the remarks of the Hon. Secretary of State, Wm. H. Seward,all delivered on the occasion of dedicating the National Cemetery, a plot of ground set apart for the burial of the dead who fell at Gettysburg in the memorable strife which occurred there between the forces of the Federal Government and the troops of the Confederacy of seceded States.

To say of Mr. Everett's oration that it rose to the height which the occasion demanded, or to say of the President's remarks that they fell below our expectations, would be alike false. Neither the orator nor the jester surprised or deceived us. Whatever may be Mr. Everett's failings he does not lack sense - whatever may be the President's virtues, he does not possess sense. Mr. Everett failed as an orator, because the occasion was a mockery, and he knew it, and the President succeeded, because he acted naturally, without sense and without constraint, in a panorama which was gotten up more for his benefit and the benefit of his party than for the glory of the nation and the honor of the dead. 

We can readily conceive that the thousands who went there went as mourners, to view the burial place of their dead, to consecrate, so far as human agency could, the ground in which the slain heroes of the nation,standing in relationship to them of fathers, husbands, brothers, or connected by even remoter ties of marriage or consanguinity, were to be interred. To them the occasion was solemn; with them the motive was honest, earnest and honorable. But how was it with the chief actors in the pageant, who had no dead buried, or to be buried there; from none of whose loins had sprung a solitary hero, living or dead, of this war which was begotten of their fanaticism and has been ruled by their whims?

They stood there, upon that ground, not with hearts stricken with grief or elated by ideas of true glory, but coldly calculating the political advantages which might be derived from the solemn ceremonies of the dedication. 

We will not include in this category of heartless men the orator of the day; but evidently he was paralyzed by the knowledge that he was surrounded by unfeeling, mercenary men, ready to sacrifice their country and the liberties of their countrymen for the base purpose of retaining power and accumulating wealth. Hi oration was therefore cold, insipid, unworthy the occasion and the man. 

We pass over the silly remarks of the President. For the credit of the nation we are willing that the veil of oblivion shall be dropped over them and that they shall be no more repeated or thought of.

But the Secretary of State is a man of note. He it was who first fulminated the doctrine of the irrepressible conflict; and on the battle field and burial ground of Gettysburg he did not hesitate to re-open the bleeding wound,and proclaim anew the fearful doctrine that we are fighting all these bloody battles, which have drenched our land in gore, to upset the Constitution,emancipate the negro and bind the white man in the chains of despotism.

On that ground which should have been sacred from the pollution of politics, even the highest magnate in the land, next to the President himself, did not hesitate to proclaim the political policy and fixed purpose of the administration; a policy which if adhered to will require more ground than Gettysburg to hold our dead, and which must end in the ruin of the nation. The dead of Gettysburg will speak from their tombs; they will raise their voices against this great wickedness and implore our rulers to discard from their councils the folly which is destroying us, and return to the wise doctrines of the Fathers, to the pleadings of Christianity, to the compromises of the Constitution, which can alone save us. Let our rulers hearken to the dead, if they will not to the living - for from every tomb which covers a dead soldier, if they listen attentively they will hear a solemn sound invoking them to renounce partisanship for patriotism, and to save the country from the misery and desolation which, under their present policy, is inevitable.

From PennLive.

Wednesday links

Field Marshall Erwin Rommel was born on November 15, 1891.

When The Photographer Asks You to Look Seductive…

Your house is a gigantic bug habitat, and there's nothing you can do about it.

A Scientific Look at How Female Turkeys Choose Their Mates (and how they avoid the rejects).

Death Rays: The X-Ray Murder Trial That Made International News.

Is a Cat a Liquid? A 2017 Ig Nobel Prize winner explains his work.

ICYMI, Tuesday's links are here, and include making a 10-year malt whisky in weeks, self-help lessons from Napoleon Bonaparte, and some of the best newspaper corrections ever.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Field Marshall Erwin Rommel was born on November 15, 1891

In a man to man fight, the winner is he who has one more round in his magazine.

~ Field Marshall Erwin Rommel (wiki) (Infanterie greift an ("Infantry Attacks," 1937))

Courage which goes against military expediency is stupidity, or, if it is insisted upon by a commander, irresponsibility.

~ Rommel (letter, 9 November 1942)

Self-restraint, even chivalry... distinguished the combatants on both sides throughout the North Africa campaign... The leading exemplar of this code was Rommel himself. When orders from Hitler mandated the execution of captured British commandos, Rommel tossed the document in the trash. He insisted that the Allied prisoners receive the same rations he was given. He even wrote a book about the conflict called Krieg ohne Hass ("War Without Hate"). Memoirs of the North Africa campaign attest that, fierce and brutal as much of the fighting was, relations between individual enemies retained a quality of forbearance that seems, today, almost impossible to imagine.

~ Steven Pressfield, (Killing Rommel, 2009)

He was a splendid military gambler, dominating the problems of supply and scornful of opposition ... His ardor and daring inflicted grievous disasters upon us, but he deserves the salute which I made him - and not without some reproaches from the public - in the House of Commons in January 1942, when I said of him, "We have a very daring and skillful opponent against us, and, may I say across the havoc of war, a great general." 

He also deserves our respect because, although a loyal German soldier, he came to hate Hitler and all his works, and took part in the conspiracy to rescue Germany by displacing the maniac and tyrant. For this, he paid the forfeit of his life. In the somber wars of modern democracy, chivalry finds no place ... Still, I do not regret or retract the tribute I paid to Rommel, unfashionable though it was judged.

~ Winston Churchill (1874-1965) (The Second World War, Vol. 3, The Grand Alliance)

November 15 is the anniversary of the birth of legendary German general Field Marshall Erwin (Johannes Eugen) Rommel (wiki) (1891-1944), who became known as Der W├╝stenfuchs ("the Desert Fox") as commander of the Afrika Korps in World War II. Born in W├╝rttemberg the son of a schoolmaster, Rommel joined the Imperial German Army in 1910 and served in France, Italy, and Romania during World War I, receiving the highest decorations for bravery. 

Between the wars, he rose steadily in the army hierarchy, becoming well known as a military educator and writer of textbooks during the early Nazi years. At the time World War II began, he was serving as the commander of Hitler's headquarters troops but was assigned command of a panzer division during the invasion of France and established a reputation for aggressive and innovative leadership. 

In early 1941, after Italy's failed attempt to invade Egypt from Libya, Hitler sent him to retrieve the deteriorating situation as head of the Afrika Korps, and in a series of see-saw battles which only ended in March 1943, he alternately threatened Egypt and fought a series of defensive actions while retreating toward Tunisia. 
Related: It's the anniversary of the 20th of July plot, the unsuccessful bomb attempt to kill Hitler in 1944.
In November 1943, Rommel was placed in charge of defending the French coast against the anticipated Allied invasion, and he held that command until after D-day (4 June 1944). Increasingly disillusioned with Nazism, Rommel became peripherally involved with the 20 July 1944 attempt to assassinate Hitler, and when his connection was discovered, he was forced to commit suicide in October 1944, although for political reasons his death was attributed to war wounds and he was given a hero's funeral. The real cause of his death did not emerge until after Germany's defeat. 

A brief biography:

The text above is adapted from 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. Ed is the author of Hunters and Killers: Volume 1: Anti-Submarine Warfare from 1776 to 1943 and Hunters and Killers: Volume 2: Anti-Submarine Warfare from 1943.

Tuesday links

Can you make a 10-year malt whisky in weeks? The chemistry says yes.

Some of the best newspaper corrections ever, including an excellent 2001 apology to Mark Steyn.

Frank Lloyd Wright had a plan to build a ‘city of the future’ on Ellis Island.

ICYMI, Friday's links are here, and include Veterans Day history, a keg of ranch dressing, a gallery of 48 wild hamsters, and the 1968 memo to Gene Roddenberry re William Shatner's disappearing wigs from the Star Trek set.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Most Popular Thanksgiving Foods in All 50 States, Mapped

via Mental Floss, Thanksgiving recipe requests by state:

To highlight regional Turkey Day tastes, General Mills collected data from top recipe searches on,, and the cooking website from November 1, 2016 through Thanksgiving Day 2016. They compiled the state-by-state findings into a map so we could see what Americans like to chow down on during the holiday.

It turns out, home chefs in Georgia, South Carolina, Delaware, and North Carolina largely searched for sweet potato dishes, while West Virginians, Ohioans, and Pennsylvanians wanted to make buffalo chicken dip. And oddly enough, the denizens of two landlocked states—Arizona and Wisconsin—sought out shrimp recipes.

Proving that some Thanksgiving desserts are relatively universal, however, residents of six states—including South Dakota, South Carolina, Oklahoma, North Carolina, New Mexico, and New Hampshire—all looked for various types of pie.

Check out the full findings in the map below.