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Saturday, January 13, 2018

How deep have humans dug into the Earth?

We haven't dug as far into the earth's crust as you might think (in spite of what Jules Verne wrote): 

The typical grave is 6 feet down. 

Most Olympic swimming pools are 10 feet deep. 

Nile crocodiles dig burrows as deep as 39 feet deep. 

The Paris Catacombs are 65 feet underground.

The ancient city of Derinkuyu lies 279 feet below Turkey. 

The Greenbrier Bunker in W. Virginia, built to keep Congress safe in an emergency, is 720 feet underground.

The Woodingdean Well is 1,285 feet deep. It's the deepest hole that humans have dug by hand. 

The deepest known point in a cave is in Krubera Cave in Georgia. 

Switzerland's Gotthard Base Tunnel is the deepest railway tunnel. 

Mponeng in South Africa is the world's deepest gold mine.

The Kola Superdeep Borehole is only 9 inches wide. Russian scientists have been drilling it since 1970. It's now deeper than the deepest part of the ocean. The bottom is 356˚F, which is too hot for drills to go any further. 

In 2012, Exxon completed the Z-44 Chayvo Well. This oil well is the deepest humans have dug.

It would take another 60,000 feet to reach the end of the crust and another 21 million feet to the center of the Earth. 

Roundup of links about snow - all kid-friendly

It snowed in the D.C. area over the weekend; the grandkids had a snow day and are restless, so I put together a bunch of the snow-related stuff I've either posted or linked to over the last few years. 

Scenes From the History of Snow Removal. Related; Do You Want To Build a Snowman? Physics Can Help.

Useful information these days: How to Rebuild and Repair Vintage Snowshoes. Related: Snowshoe art, and Trampled Snow Art. More here.

Friday, January 12, 2018

Happy Feast of the Ass

The Feast of the Ass (Latin: Festum Asinorum or asinaria festa, French: Fête de l’âne) was a medieval, Christian feast observed on January 14, celebrating the Flight into Egypt

It was celebrated primarily in France, as a by-product of the Feast of Fools celebrating the donkey-related stories in the Bible, in particular the donkey bearing the Holy Family into Egypt after Jesus‘s birth.


A girl with child on a donkey would be led through town to the church, where the donkey would stand beside the altar during the sermon, and the congregation would “hee-haw” their responses to the priest.

But wait. There’s more. Wikipedia adds:
Mass was continued, and at its end, apparently without awakening the least consciousness of its impropriety, the following direction (in Latin) was observed:

In fine Missae sacerdos, versus ad populum, vice ‘Ite, Missa est’, ter hinhannabit: populus vero, vice ‘Deo Gratias’, ter respondebit, ‘Hinham, hinham, hinham.’

(At the end of Mass, the priest, having turned to the people, in lieu of saying the ‘Ite missa est‘, will bray thrice; the people instead of replying ‘Deo Gratias’ say, ‘Hinham, hinham, hinham.’)

Can’t imagine why we don’t do this anymore. (I’m sure a few readers will insist that, in places, they still do…)

Per Chamber's Book of Days (website - scroll down to the Feast of the Ass section): A hymn, as ridiculous as the ceremony, was sung by a double choir, the people joining in the chorus, and imitating the braying of an ass. Ducange has preserved this burlesque composition, a curious medley of French and medieval Latin, which may be translated thus:
From the country of the East,
Came this strong and handsome beast:
This able ass, beyond compare,
Heavy loads and packs to bear.

Now, seignior ass, a noble bray,
Thy beauteous mouth at large display;
Abundant food our hay-lofts yield,
And oats abundant load the field.
Hee-haw! He-haw! He-haw!
True it is, his pace is slow,
Till he feels the quickening blow;
Till he feel the urging goad,
On his hinder part bestowed.
Now, seignior ass, & c.
He was born on Shechem's hill;
In Reuben's vales he fed his fill;
He drank of Jordan's sacred stream,
And gambolled in Bethlehem.
Now, seignior ass, & c.
See that broad majestic ear!
Born he is the yoke to wear:
All his fellows he surpasses!
He's the very lord of asses!
Now, seignior ass, & c.
In leaping he excels the fawn,
The deer, the colts upon the lawn;
Less swift the dromedaries ran,
Boasted of in Midian.
Now, seignior ass, & c.
Gold from Araby the blest,
Seba myrrh, of myrrh the best,
To the church this ass did bring;
We his sturdy labours sing.
Now, seignior ass, & c.
Hinhan eleison Kyrie eleison Hinhan eleison
While he draws the loaded wain,
Or many a pack, he don't complain.
With his jaws, a noble pair,
He doth craunch his homely fare.
Now, seignior ass, & c.'

The bearded barley and its stem,
And thistles, yield his fill of them:
He assists to separate,
When it 's threshed, the chaff from wheat.
Now, seignior ass, & c.

'With your belly full of grain,
Bray, most honoured ass, Amen!
Bray out loudly, bray again,
Never mind the old Amen;
Without ceasing, bray again,
Amen! Amen! Amen! Amen!
Hee-haw! He-haw! He-haw!'
Here's a YouTube video of the hymn being performed by an Italian group of strolling players:

Remember to extend warmest greetings on the occasion of this feast to those you love!

BTW, apparently there has been music composed for these occasions, and be sure to hit the stores to take advantage of the after-holiday sales!

Source: Wikipedia, via Deacon's Bench, more at Equus Asinus

Friday links

Director John Ford's WWII-era movies made for the pre-CIA OSS How to Operate Behind Enemy Lines and Sex Hygiene.

A Victorian dinosaur park.

Sunday, January 14: Happy Feast of the Ass.

People Walked Differently in Medieval Times.

Thomas Edison's sci-fi novel.

ICYMI, Wednesday's links are here, and include an $800 belt with airbags to protect your hips, the anniversary of Julius Caesar crossing the Rubicon River, how illegal shipping containers reshaped the world economy, and (via video x-ray camera) how hamsters fit so much in their cheeks.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Director John Ford's WWII movies How to Operate Behind Enemy Lines and Sex Hygiene

During World War II, director John Ford (wiki) worked* as chief of the Field Photographic Branch of the OSS, the intelligence agency that preceded the CIA (wiki). 

John Ford (February 1, 1894 – August 31, 1973) was an American film director. He is renowned both for Westerns such as Stagecoach (1939), The Searchers (1956), and The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962), as well as adaptations of classic 20th-century American novels such as the film The Grapes of Wrath (1940). His four Academy Awards for Best Director (in 1935, 1940, 1941, and 1952) remain a record. One of the films for which he won the award, How Green Was My Valley, also won Best Picture.
Some of Ford’s wartime movies were exclusively for OSS consumption, such as 1943’s How to Operate Behind Enemy Lines, a/k/a Undercover, an instructional film about how to be a spy. Like most movies of its kind, it teaches by illustrating dos and don’ts—Ford appears in the only speaking role of his career as the pipe-smoking case officer assigned to the “don’t” agent—and lays heavy emphasis on a single lesson, here the supreme importance of maintaining a believable cover story. Agonizing sequences depict spies blowing their cover through inattention to detail: anything from paying the bar tab with bills no longer in circulation to using “hair grease” they can’t get in Enemytown since hostilities began.

I'm going to call this one NSFW because I can't imagine an employer would want it played at work:

When he went on active duty, Ford had already directed 1941’s Sex Hygiene, an Army training film with tips for avoiding the clap and syphilis while on leave (“I looked at it and threw up,” was the review Ford later gave Peter Bogdanovich). Youtube comment:
Several servicemen relax by playing pool, but one of them goes off to spend time with a prostitute. Later, he discovers he has contracted a venereal disease. A graphic and frank presentation of the types and treatment of venereal disease follows.

The CIA's page on John Ford's war movies.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Wednesday links

On January 10 in 49 B.C., Julius Caesar crossed the Rubicon River.

US road grid corrections because of the Earth’s curvature

This $800 belt (presumably for the elderly) has airbags to protect your hips.

Video: X-Ray Camera Reveals How Hamsters Fit So Much in Their Cheeks

Albert Einstein and the high school geometry problem.

Innovation, regulation, and illegal shipping containers: How an Illegal Shipping Container Reshaped the World Economy.

ICYMI, Monday's links are here, and include Elvis Presley's birthday, the woman who slept with both Napoleon and Wellington, the business of making the fake money used in movies and TV shows, and advice from 1595 on how to slim down in fourteen days.

On January 10 in 49 B.C., Julius Caesar crossed the Rubicon River

Julius Caesar paused on the banks of the Rubicon.
Non esse consuetudinem populi Romani, ullam accipere ab hoste armato conditionem.

~ C. Iulius Caesar (Commentaerii de bello Gallico (wiki) V, 41)*

(It is not the custom of the Roman people to negotiate with an armed enemy.)
* N. B. Commentaerii de bello Gallico (English: Commentaries on the Gallic War) is Julius Caesar's firsthand account of the Gallic Wars, written as a third-person narrative.
Que volumnus et credimus libenter, et quae sentimus ipsi, reliquos sentire speramus.

~ Caesar (Commentaerii de bello civili, II, 27)

(What we desire we readily believe, and what we ourselves think we expect others to think.)

Satis diu vel naturae vixi, gloriae.

~ Caesar (reported in Cicero, Pro Marcello, VIII, as having been said by Caesar two years before his death.)

(I have lived long enough both in years and in accomplishments.)

This bridge over the River Fiumicino is believed by
some to have been the crossing used by Caesar
A man of great common sense and good taste, meaning thereby a man without originality or moral courage.

~ George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950) (of Caesar, in Notes to Caesar and Cleopatra)

Today is the anniversary of the day in 49 B.C. when Julius Caesar (wiki) - noting, Iacta alea esto ("The die is cast") - crossed the Rubicon River (wiki) with his legions to march on Rome in defiance of both the Senate and Roman law, which forbade any general from crossing the Rubicon and entering Italy proper with a standing army. To do so was treason. This tiny stream would reveal Caesar's intentions and mark the point of no return.

Born around 100 B.C. into one of the oldest patrician families of the republic, Caesar began his political career as a member of the popular party in 78 B.C., at first supported Pompey in his grasp for power, and served as governor of Spain. 

In 63, as Pontifex Maximus (essentially the high priest of the Roman government), he was responsible for the institution of the Julian calendar and in 60 organized the coalition known as the First Triumvirate, with Pompey and Crassus, to rule the city. He fully established his military reputation in the Gallic Wars from 58 to 49 B.C., but with the demise of the triumvirate, civil war loomed, and Caesar "crossed the Rubicon" to join the struggle for power.

Roman historian Suetonius in Eyewitness to History (website)
Coming up with his troops on the banks of the Rubicon, which was the frontier of his province, he halted for a while, and revolving in his mind the importance of the step he meditated, he turned to those about him, saying: 'Still we can retreat! But once let us pass this little bridge, - and nothing is left but to fight it out with arms!'
Even as he hesitated this incident occurred. A man of strikingly noble mien and graceful aspect appeared close at hand, and played upon a pipe. To hear him not merely some shepherds, but soldiers too came flocking from their posts, and amongst them some trumpeters. He snatched a trumpet from one of them and ran to the river with it; then sounding the "Advance!" with a piercing blast he crossed to the other side. At this Caesar cried out, 'Let us go where the omens of the Gods and the crimes of our enemies summon us! THE DIE IS NOW CAST!'
He quickly prevailed, pursuing Pompey to Egypt and establishing Cleopatra as a local satrap there. Upon his return to Rome, he used his influence over the people to become a populist autocrat and was appointed "dictator for life" in 44 B.C. However, his dictatorial powers aroused enormous resentment within the Senate, and he was assassinated there on the Ides of March of 44 by a conspiracy led by Cassius and Marcus Junius Brutus. 

In addition to his skills as a statesman and general, Caesar was a brilliant writer and orator, leaving us such classics as his "Commentaries on the Gallic Wars (wiki).

History Channel:

Related posts and links:

Beware - It's the Ides of March.

Where is the Rubicon? Due to frequent flooding of the plains around the Rubicon, the river frequently changed its course and it became unclear which of three waterways it was.

Part of 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.

Monday, January 8, 2018

Monday links

Elvis Presley was born on January 8, 1935.

The Business of Fake Hollywood Money.

Fascinatingly Filthy: How Bad Science Saved Lives in Victorian London.

The fennel and garlic diet from 1595, or How to Slim Down in Fourteen Days.

The woman who slept with both Napoleon and Wellington.

Welcome to the National Valet Olympics.

ICYMI, Wednesday's links are here, and include London's oldest house, West Point’s 1826 eggnog riot, and the birthdays of Isaac Asimov and J. R. R. Tolkien (with Middle-Earth history, dancing orcs and a Lego version of the battle of Helm's Deep).

Elvis Presley was born on January 8, 1935

Today is the anniversary of the birth of the greatest of American rock stars, Elvis Presley (wiki) (1935-1977). Born in Tupelo, Mississippi, Presley was influenced by rhythm-and-blues and country-and-western music and rose to stardom with "Heartbreak Hotel" in 1956. It was followed by "Hound Dog," "Love Me Tender," "All Shook Up," and "Don't Be Cruel," which firmly established Elvis as "the king of rock and roll," a position he enjoyed until the early 1960s. 

He appeared in several motion pictures before being drafted into the army in 1958, serving for over a year in Germany. Even after his career waned and he died of an apparent drug overdose in 1977*, Presley remained an object of adulation for a legion of fans and the inspiration for countless Elvis impersonators and "air-guitar" players. 

Chronic constipation killed Elvis, claims his doc:
According to his autopsy, Nichopoulos said, Elvis' colon was 5 to 6 inches in diameter, nearly twice the size of the average person. It was also 8 to 9 feet long, compared with the normal 4 to 5 feet.
"We didn't realize until the autopsy that his constipation was as bad," he said, noting that when he died there was waste in his colon that was several months old.
Here he is performing Hound Dog in 1956:


Elvis Does Karate

Who Inspired Elvis Presley's Haircut? - there is more than one story of the hair inspiration (and probably a combination of factors), but this is interesting - apparently he was a fan of comic books, and his supreme comic book hero was one "Captain Marvel, Jr."

"When I was a child, I was a dreamer. I read comic books and I was the hero."