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Friday, June 8, 2018

Friday links

How Merv Griffin Came Up With That Weird Question/Answer Format for Jeopardy!

Why the Military Can't Quit Windows XP.

How Ketchup Revolutionized How Food Is Grown, Processed, and Regulated.

On June 10, 1964, Democrats Filibustered the Civil Rights Act.

Pit Liquor Is Born: ‘We Love Whiskey, Why Not Put It In Our Armpits?’

The Japanese Balloon Bombs of World War 2.

ICYMI, Wednesday's links are here, and include the Thai military response to garlic smuggling, D-Day links, neuroscience on the reasons why we can't remember dreams, the origins of elevator music, and foolproof pick up lines, per Chinese scientists (personal favorite: "Your smile is a naughty goblin.").

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Wednesday links

June 6 is D-Day: quotes (Shakespeare, Eisenhower, Churchill), videos (footage, FDR's and Reagan's speeches, a Lego re-enactment), lots of links.

What Was the Point of Elevator Music?

"Your smile is a naughty goblin": foolproof pick up lines, per Chinese scientists

Thai military called in to halt garlic smuggling.

Neuroscience: several possible reasons why we can't remember dreams

ICYMI, Monday's links are here, and include a 1985 list of Western musical groups banned on Soviet radio, the strange history of the “King-Pine” (aka the pineapple), that time Thomas Jefferson sent a moose to Paris, and transmitting data through lamps and streetlights.

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

How Merv Griffin Came Up With That Weird Question/Answer Format for Jeopardy!

At Smithsonian mag, Jeopardy! champ Ken Jennings (wiki) wrote an article on what gives the virtually unchanged game show its lasting power.

In 1963, television host and erstwhile actor Merv Griffin was flying back to New York City with his wife Julann, after a weekend visiting her parents in Michigan. Merv was looking at notes for a new game show, and Jul­ann asked if it was one of the knowledge-based games she liked.

“Since ‘The $64,000 Question,’ the network won’t let you do those anymore,” replied Merv. The rigging scandals of the 1950s had killed off American quiz shows, seemingly for good. “They suspect you of giving them the answers.”

“Well, why don’t you give them the answers? And make people come up with the questions?”

Merv didn’t know what she meant.

“OK, the answer is ‘5,280.’”

He thought a moment. “The question is, ‘How many feet in a mile?’”

“The answer is ‘79 Wistful Vista.’”

“‘Where did Fibber McGee and Molly live?’”

Those two simple questions changed TV history.

“We kept going,” Julann Griffin remembers today, “and I kept throwing him answers and he kept coming up with questions. By the time we landed, we had an idea for a show.”

Dude - watch this eagle attack a mountain goat

Monday, June 4, 2018

June 4 is the anniversary of the 1872 issue of U.S. patent for Vaseline

Anoint, v.: To grease a king or other great functionary, already sufficiently slippery.

Ambrose Bierce, The Devil's Dictionary

Be it known that I, ROBERT A. CHESEBROUGH, of the city, county, and State of New York, have invented a new and useful Product from Petroleum, which I have named "Vaseline;" and I do hereby declare that the following is a full, clear, and exact description thereof, which will enable those skilled in the art to make and use the same.

~ Robert A. Chesebrough (wiki) (1837-1933) (U.S. patent # 127,568, 4 June 1872)

Handiest thing in the house.

~ early Vaseline advertising slogan

June 4 is the anniversary of the 1872 issue of U.S. patent # 127,568 for the process of making petroleum jelly - trademarked Vaseline* - to English-born inventor Robert A. Chesebrough (wiki). Born in London, Chesebrough was a chemist who originally worked on refining kerosene from whale oil. 

When the growing acceptance of petroleum drove whale oil off the market, he traveled to Pennsylvania to see what new products might be made from this new resource and found that a waste substance known as "rod wax" had to be removed regularly from pumps and drill rods. The oil workers had found, however, that this annoying by-product was useful for healing cuts and burns, which led Chesebrough to develop his process for producing the substance industrially and marketing it as a medicinal product. Excited about the many uses of his new product, Chesebrough demonstrated it by burning himself with fire and pouring acid on his skin. He would then cover himself in Vaseline to promote the healing properties of his petroleum jelly. 

Chesebrough lived to be 96 years old and was such a believer in Vaseline that he claimed to have eaten a spoonful of it daily. It made him a wealthy man, and in 1883 he was knighted by Queen Victoria, who claimed that she "used Vaseline every day." 

* N.B. The name is believed to come from the German Wasser (water) and the Greek elaion (oil). 

Bonus fact: In 1913, chemist T. L. Williams mixed coal dust with Vaseline petroleum jelly, inventing mascara.

Parts of the text above are 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. 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 links

The strange history of the “King-Pine”, aka the pineapple.

That time Thomas Jefferson sent a moose to Paris.

June 4 is the anniversary of the 1872 issue of U.S. patent for Vaseline.

What is li-fi? The new alternative to wi-fi transmits data through lamps, streetlights, and more. Sounds like a potential new surveillance problem to me - the article Inside the Brotherhood of the Ad Blockers, contained this:
"The developers have discovered spying by internet-connected TVs (which collect data for ad targeting), lightbulbs (users have reported some LED bulbs mysteriously connecting with the manufacturer’s server every 2 seconds), and printers (including one that sent out 34 million queries in a day)."
The Science Behind Florida’s Sinkhole Epidemic.

ICYMI, Friday's links are here, and include Europe's oldest tree, a selection of poorly translated English language T-shirts spotted In Asia, a history of the stoplight, using AI in the Vatican's secret archives, and the anniversary of the evacuation of Dunkirk by a flotilla of small boats (the occasion of Churchill's "We shall fight on the beaches...we shall never surrender") speech.

Sunday, June 3, 2018

Here's a list of Western bands banned on Soviet radio in 1985

Check out this 1985 list of Western music banned on Soviet radio stations - the blacklist, titled ‘The Approximate List of Foreign Musical Groups and Artists, Whose Repertoires Contain Ideologically Harmful Compositions’, was drawn up by Komsomol, the Communist Party's Youth Wing. It was written in the obscure and verbose language of Soviet bureaucracy and riddled with classic Cold War paranoia. Meant to clamp down on disco playlists, the blacklist was distributed to party officials in January 1985.

Here's the translated version from Alexei Yurchak’s book, Everything Was Forever, Until It Was No More (zoomable original of the list here):

Despite their left-wing street-cred in the West, the Clash were banned for “punk and violence”, as were, among others, the B-52s, the Stranglers and Blondie.
The Village People were banned for violence
Heavy Metal acts such as Black Sabbath, Nazareth, Iron Maiden and Judas Priest were blacklisted for supposed offences including religious obscurantism, violence, racism and anti-communism.
Talking Heads joined the list for “myth of the Soviet military threat” and Pink Floyd were blacklisted for “distortion of Soviet foreign policy.” But more mainstream acts also fell foul of the communist authorities. The Village People were deemed “violent,” Tina Turner was banned for “sex”, Summer for “eroticism” and several artists, including Iglesias and 10cc, for “neofascism.”
The document stated: “This information is recommended for the purpose of intensifying control over the activities of discotheques” and “must also be provided to all VIA [vocal instrument ensembles].”