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Sunday, December 15, 2019

How to Cure Your Cough, 1558

A most beautiful and pleasant secret for curing a cough by greasing the soles of the feet. An extremely true thing, and very easy.

BnF, MS Lat. 9471 (15th c.)
Take two or three heads of garlic and peel them, and crush them very well, and then add pork fat, and crush it together well again. Then, in the evening when you want to go to bed, take your socks off and put the soles of your feet toward the fire, and grease the soles with the mixture of garlic and fat. And keeping the feet always to the fire so that it almost burns you, or as hot as you can endure, let the ointment stay on for a while. Then put on warm socks and go to bed, and in bed have your back massaged a little with the ointment. And after three evenings you will be miraculously cured from any cough.

~ De’ segreti del reverendo donno Alessio Piemontese

Previous, semi-related posts:

Advice from c. 530: How To Use Bacon, including for medicinal purposes such as "thick bacon, placed for a long time on all wounds, be they external or internal or caused by a blow, both cleanses any putrefaction and aids healing".

How to Stop Bleeding, 1664:
“To Stench a Bleeding Wound: Lay hogs Dung, hot from the Hog, to the Bleeding Wound.”
~Samuel Strangehopes, A Book of Knowledge in Three Parts (166[4])
Dubious medical device du jour - the prostate warmer.

Advice from 1380: How to Tell if Someone Is or Is Not Dead, with bonus Monty Python.

Friday, December 13, 2019

Friday links

One of my favorite Christmas stories - 'Twas the Overnight Before Christmas: The Merry Tale of How Air Cargo Deregulation Led To Amazon.

How robocalls became America's most prevalent crime.

Darwin Awards: a cumulative list.

ICYMI, most recent links are here, and include advice from c. 1200 on surviving the winter (spoiler -  lay off the purging and blood-letting, and keep your hands and feet covered in wolf grease), the anniversary of Australia's Great Emu War, the pre-Seinfeld origins of Festivus, and a pairing guide for pop-tarts and fine whiskies.

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Weird nativity sets

Quite a collection of nativity sets - this first is my personal favorite, because you can eat it when the season's over:

Godzilla nativity:

Naked men nativity:

Zombie nativity:

Rubber duckie nativity:

For unto us a robot is born:



Creepy mannequins:

Mary, Joseph and Baby Cheesus (more here, including video of the cheddar-carving process:

Chicken nativity, complete with flying chicken angels:

Doggie nativity:

Hipster nativity:

Not sure how to label this one:

Or this one, and I suspect that having more than one Darth Vader isn't biblically accurate:

Whatever-you-have-handy nativity:

The meat nativity:

Irish nativity:

Various animals - moose:



The butter nativity:

The cupcake topper nativity:

Nativity carved out of spam:

Action figures:


And shotgun shells:

Mexican mermaid family nativity:

You may have to think about this one for a minute:

Tuesday links

Advice from c. 1200: How to Survive the Winter. Don't forget to lay off the purging and blood-letting, and keep your hands and feet covered in wolf grease.

On December 10, 1932, Australia's Great Emu War ended. More here.

The trippy illustrations in this Horseback Riding Manual are a hoot.

Before Seinfeld: The Origins of Festivus.

The Mechanics of What Happens When You Hit a Speed Bump at High Speed. Click through to see the video.

ICYMI, most recent links are here, and include why you shouldn't salt a leech that's sucking your blood, the mathematics of where to park your car, the physics behind why barns are painted red, and the history of penicillin. 

Thursday, December 5, 2019

Easy (4 ingredient) chocolate coconut pecan cookies.

Preheat the oven to 350°F


1 (14 oz) bag sweetened coconut flakes

1 (14 oz) can sweetened condensed milk

2 cups semi-sweet (or dark) chocolate chips

2/3 cup chopped pecans


Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, combine everything - coconut, chocolate chips, pecans, and sweetened condensed milk. Stir well.

Drop rounded teaspoons of dough on the baking sheet.

Flatten each ball of dough slightly, with a wet fork or wet fingers.

Bake for 10 minutes and check - they may need a couple more minutes. They're done when the tips of the coconut are starting to turn golden brown.

Let cool for a few minutes on the baking sheet.

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Tuesday links

Miscellaneous Thanksgiving stuff: Mark Twain, science, WKRP turkey drop episode, the best turkey fryer PSA ever, more

ICYMI, most recent links are here, and include what happens when birds get drunk, the Japanese invasion of Alaska, the traditional drunken turkey recipe, and Evacuation Day, when the British left New York City at the end of the Revolutionary War.

Monday, November 25, 2019

Miscellaneous Thanksgiving stuff: Mark Twain, science, WKRP turkey drop episode, the best turkey fryer PSA ever, more

I've accumulated a LOT of Thanksgiving-related links over the years, so I've divided them up - here's the first set.

I celebrated Thanksgiving in an old-fashioned way. I invited everyone in my neighborhood to my house, we had an enormous feast, and then I killed them and took their land.

Cartoon (The Oatmeal): Thanksgiving as a kid VS Thanksgiving as an adult.

Thanksgiving Day, a function which originated in New England two or three centuries ago when those people recognized that they really had something to be thankful for - annually, not oftener - if they had succeeded in exterminating their neighbors, the Indians, during the previous twelve months, instead of getting exterminated by their neighbors, the Indians. Thanksgiving Day became a habit, for the reason that in the course of time, as the years drifted on, it was perceived that the exterminating had ceased to be mutual and was all on the white man's side, consequently on the Lord's side; hence it was proper to thank the Lord for it and to extend the usual annual compliments.
~ Mark Twain Autobiography

WKRP Turkey Drop episode: "As God as my witness, I thought turkeys could fly"

Gratius animus est una virtus non solum maxima, sed etiam mater virtutum omnium reliquaram.

~ Marcus Tullius CiceroOratio pro Cnaeo Plancio, 23
A thankful heart is not only the greatest virtue, but the mother of all other virtues.

Turkey fryer alert: 86 year old man deep fries own leg. Or as he calls it, his drumstick.

If you're actually going to fry a turkey, you might consider Alton Brown's advice on how to construct a derrick over your turkey fryer (video). 

The voices of Christopher Walken and John Madden: The First Thanksgiving.

Monday lin ks

November 25 is "Evacuation Day (wiki), when the British ran 'way" from New York City at the end of the Revolutionary War. Here's the story of the young man who slithered up a greased flagpole to rip down the British flag.

What Happens When Birds Get Drunk?

You Can’t Keep Your Parents’ Skulls.

The traditional drunken turkey recipe.

Zenith Flash-Matic, the First Wireless TV Remote.

ICYMI, most recent links are here, and include the Thanksgiving birthday pattern, the history of Ken Doll's crotch, how female turkeys choose mates and avoid rejects (although they're generally artificially inseminated these days), and the wave-light flight patterns of a starling flock avoiding a falcon.

Friday, November 22, 2019

The traditional drunken turkey recipe

For those of us who combine our cooking and drinking...

Step 1: Go buy a turkey

Step 2: Take a drink of whiskey, scotch, or JD

Step 3: Put turkey in the oven

Step 4: Take another 2 drinks of whiskey

Step 5: Set the degree at 375 ovens

Step 6: Take 3 more whiskeys of drink

Step 7: Turn oven the on

Step 8: Take 4 whisks of drinky

Step 9: Turk the bastey

Step 10: Whiskey another bottle of get

Step 11: Stick a turkey in the thermometer

Step 12: Glass yourself a pour of whiskey

Step 13: Bake the whiskey for 4 hours

Step 14: Take the oven out of the turkey

Step 15: Take the oven out of the turkey

Step 16: Floor the turkey up off the pick

Step 17: Turk the carvey

Step 18: Get yourself another scottle of botch

Step 19: Tet the sable and pour yourself a glass of turkey

Step 20: Bless the saying, pass and eat out!

A few ruminations on growing old, plus the Thanksgiving birthday pattern

I was born on November 22, 1948; for those of us born between the 22nd and 28th and have always wondered, here's how it works: the Thanksgiving Birthday Pattern.

The older I grow the more I distrust the familiar doctrine that age brings wisdom.

~ H. L. Mencken

I have enjoyed greatly the second blooming that comes when you finish the life of the emotions and of personal relations; and suddenly find - at the age of fifty, say - that a whole new life has opened before you, filled with things you can think about, study, or read about...It is as if a fresh sap of ideas and thoughts was rising in you.

~ Agatha Christie

All would live long, but none would be old.

~ Benjamin Franklin

The first half of our lives is ruined by our parents, and the second half by our children.

~ Clarence Darrow

Every old man complains of the growing depravity of the world, of the petulance and insolence of the rising generation.

~ Dr. Johnson

Too old to plant trees for my own gratification, I shall do it for my posterity.

~ Thomas Jefferson

How pleasant is the day when we give up striving to be young -- or slender.

~ William James

For age is opportunity no less
Than youth itself, though in another dress,
And as the evening twilight fades away,
The sky is filled with stars invisible by day.

~ Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Morituri Salutamus

It is an illusion that youth is happy, an illusion of those who have lost it; but the young know they are wretched for they are full of the truthless ideals which have been instilled into them, and each time they come in contact with the real, they are bruised and wounded.

~ W. Somerset Maugham, Of Human Bondage

When I was young I was amazed at Plutarch's statement that the elder Cato began at the age of eighty to learn Greek. I am amazed no longer. Old age is ready to undertake tasks that youth shirked because they would take too long.

~ W. Somerset Maugham

Optima quaeque dies miseris mortalibus aevi prima fugit: subeunt morbi tristique senectus et labor, et durae rapit inclementia mortis.

~ Virgil
Of the measure of days allowed to piteous mortals, the best days are first to leave: illness and sorry old age loom up, suffering and death's untender mercies take all away.
Experience is a revelation in the light of which we renounce our errors of youth for those of age. 

~ Ambrose Bierce, The Devil's Dictionary

When the loud day for men who sow and reap
Grows still and on the silence of the town
The unsubstantial veils of night and sleep,
The meed of day's labour, settle down,
Then for me in the stillness of the night
The wasting, watchful hours drag on their course,
And in the idle darkness comes the bite
Of all the burning serpents of remorse;
Dreams seethe; and fretful infelicities
Are swarming in my over-burdened soul,
And Memory before my wakeful eyes
With noiseless hand unwinds her lengthy scroll.
Then, as with loathing I peruse the years,
I tremble, and I curse my natal day,
Wail bitterly, and bitterly shed tears,
But cannot wash the woeful script away.

~ Alexander Pushkin, Remembrance

The spiritual eyesight improves as the physical eyesight declines.

~ Plato

So Life's year begins and closes;
Days, though short'ning, still can shine;
What though youth gave love and roses,
Age still leaves us friends and wine.

~ Thomas Moore, Spring and Autumn

Though now this grained face of mine be hid
In sap-consuming winter's drizzled snow,
And all the conduits of my blood froze up,
Yet hath my night of life some memory,
My wasting lamps some fading glimmer left,
My dull deaf ears a little use to hear.

~ William Shakespeare, The Comedy of Errors

Friday links

A few ruminations on growing old, plus the Thanksgiving birthday pattern.

A Scientific Look at How Female Turkeys Choose Their Mates (and get rid of the rejects). Plus, artificial insemination.

Criminal decides to break into the house of an experienced medieval combat re-enactor, who keeps a carbon-steel double-headed battle axe that he calls, "my baby": "Police K-9s followed the trail of blood to apprehend the suspect."

ICYMI, most recent links are here, and include the chemicals that give autumn leaves their colors, why ice is slippery, exploring an old mental hospital, and an 18th century guide to hunting vampires.

Friday, November 15, 2019

A Scientific Look at How Female Turkeys Choose Their Mates (and get rid of the rejects). Plus, artificial insemination.

By the way, although this may be what happens in the wild, in real life the turkey industry is built on artificial insemination. The modern turkey has such large breasts that they physically gets in the way when the male and female try to mate.
...the turkey industry is built around artificial insemination, which is a very labor-intensive and hands-on process. Here’s the way it works: A team of workers has to pick up each male breeder, the tom, which might weigh as much as 70 pounds, secure his contribution — as they call it in the trade — and then bring that to the hen house to inseminate each hen. And then keep in mind — with such an intense consumer demand for turkey — this is not a once-a-year event. 
Per Dr. Richard Buchholz:
With its fanned plumage and bold strut, a male wild turkey’s display conjures images of Americana and festive feasts. But this grandstanding isn’t intended for human eyes – it’s for female turkeys who actually use it to discern a male’s genetic prowess.

This female has figured out how to get rid of a male - just make him dizzy until he falls over:

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Tuesday links

November 5 is Guy Fawkes Day, when God preserved us from the "secret contrivance and hellish malice of Popish Conspirators".

How Breakfast Became a Thing - the "most important meal of the day" line was an ad campaign to sell more cereal.

An 18th-century guide to hunting vampires inspired the first works of vampire fiction.

Why is ice so slippery?

A Cultural Historian Explores an Old Mental Hospital.

ICYMI, most recent links are here, and include awkward fashion ads from the 1970s, when George Soros broke the British pound, why pigeons bob their heads, and the Swiss town where residents spent a lifetime aging a wheel of cheese for their own funeral.

Monday, November 4, 2019

Happy Guy Fawkes Day! God preserved us from the "secret contrivance and hellish malice of Popish Conspirators"

Remember, remember the Fifth of November,
Gunpowder Treason and Plot,
I know of no reason
Why Gunpowder Treason
Should ever be forgot.
Guy Fawkes, Guy Fawkes, t'was his intent
To blow up the King and Parliament.
Three-score barrels of gunpowder below
To prove old England's overthrow;
By God's providence he was catch'd
With a dark lantern and burning match.
Holloa boys, holloa boys, let the bells ring.
Holloa boys, holloa boys, God save the King!

~ Traditional English children's rhyme for Guy Fawkes Day*

O God, whose name is excellent in all the earth, and thy glory above the heavens; who on this day didst miraculously preserve our Church and State from the secret contrivance and hellish malice of Popish Conspirators; and on this day also didst begin to give us a mighty deliverance from the open tyranny and oppression of the same cruel and blood-thirsty enemies...

The Book of Common Prayer (1771 Cambridge version) (opening passage of "A Form of Prayer and Thanksgiving, to be used yearly upon the fifth day of November; for the happy Deliverance of King JAMES I, and the Three Estates of England, from the most traitorous and bloody intended Massacre by Gunpowder..." This section, added in 1662, was removed only in 1859.)

November 5th is Guy Fawkes Day (wiki) in England, an unofficial holiday commemorating the failure of the so-called "Gunpowder Plot" on this date in 1605. A conspiracy of disgruntled English Catholics under the leadership of one Robert Catesby had succeeded in planting a large quantity of gunpowder in the cellar of the House of Lords with the intention of blowing up Parliament on its opening day, when King James I would have been present.

After one of the plotters warned a relative to stay away from Parliament that day, the scheme was discovered, and one of the key conspirators, Guy Fawkes, was essentially caught in the act.

'The Discovery of the Gunpowder Plot and the
Taking of Guy Fawkes' by Henry Perronet Briggs, circa 1823
All the plotters were apprehended and executed savagely, but the Gunpowder Plot had the unfortunate effect of perpetuating a deep distrust of "popery" and Roman Catholicism in England for centuries. (Catholics were barred from serving in Parliament for 224 years.) Today, the occasion is celebrated with bonfires, fireworks, and the construction of effigies of Guy Fawkes, carried about by bands of children begging "a penny for the Guy" from all they encounter.** 

* N.B. An additional verse, rather scurrilous, and thus less often sung, goes: 

"A penny loaf to feed the Pope
A farthing o' cheese to choke him.
A pint of beer to rinse it down,
A faggot of sticks to burn him. 
Burn him in a tub of tar,
Burn him like a blazing star.
Burn his body from his head,
Then we'll say ol' Pope is dead.
Hip hip hoorah!
Hip hip hip hoorah!" 

The etching of eight of the thirteen conspirators, by Crispijn
 van de Passe. Larger version, and more information, here.
** Curiously, Guy Fawkes Day - called "Pope Day" - was the only English holiday permitted in Puritan New England, and effigies of Fawkes, the pope, and the devil were carried in procession, burned, and dismembered. Because of the violence it provoked, the custom was forbidden by the Massachusetts Legislature in 1752. After George Washington publicly denounced the holiday as offensive to Canadian Catholic allies, the tradition died altogether in the Americas, while the effigy of Fawkes became the main one burned in England.

At History Today, this article has a comprehensive description of the events, and this one looks at the tradition of cartoons and caricatures inspired by the Gunpowder Plot: Drawing on History: The Gunpowder Plot.

The traditional Guy Fawkes mask was intended to resemble him:

The 2006 movie V for Vendetta, based on the comic book series written by Alan Moore and illustrated by David Lloyd, popularized a stylized Guy Fawkes mask. In the movie, V is a freedom fighter attempting to start a revolution against the fascist regime. The mask has since become associated with the group Anonymous.

BBC Video - The Gunpowder Plot: The Conspirators:

BBC Video - The Gunpowder Plot: Treason & Torture:


More on the history of the Gunpowder Plot and Guy Fawkes herehere and here, and here's the Wikipedia article.

BBC: Why do we celebrate Guy Fawkes night?

Ways to Celebrate Guy Fawkes Day.

Feel free to add more in the comments! 

Parts of the text above are 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.

Saturday, November 2, 2019

Daylight Saving Time: Here's DST history (including Ben Franklin's proposal), stories and video

My favorite DST story - this guy got two DUIs an hour apart at the same time:
The end of daylight saving time caused a unique situation in Urbana on Sunday morning. Police there arrested a man twice in one day, but at the same exact time.
Chief Matt Lingrell explained that Niles Gammons of Urbana was arrested for operating a vehicle while intoxicated at 1:08 a.m., then released with a summons to appear in court this week. An hour later, it was again 1:08 a.m. and police caught Gammons driving under the influence once again.

Here are excerpts from John Miller's classic rant:
Can we please slow down and get something straight? There is simply no way to “save daylight.” People can spin the hands of their clocks like roulette wheels, but come Monday here in Washington, D.C., we’re still going to have sunshine for about 12 hours and 45 minutes. The sun can rise at a time of day we call dawn or Howdy Doody Time or whatever–but the stubborn facts of astronomy are at work here and they can’t be wished away.
The reason we have Daylight Saving Time (DST), of course, is because the politicians have mandated it. Washington is much better at wasting things than saving them, but federal lawmakers nevertheless spent much of the 20th century insisting, with typical modesty, that they could “save daylight.” 
I recently wondered exactly why we observe Daylight Saving Time (DST). For some reason, I had harbored a vague notion that it had to do with farmers.
Well, it turns out that DST had nothing to do with farmers, who traditionally haven’t cared much for it. They care a lot less nowadays, but when the first DST law was making its way through Congress, farmers actually lobbied against it.
Dairy farmers were especially upset because their cows refused to accept humanity’s tinkering with the hands of time. The obstinate cud-chewers wanted to be milked every twelve hours, and had absolutely no interest in resetting their biological clocks–even if the local creameries suddenly wanted their milk an hour earlier.
As Michael Downing points out in his book, Spring Forward: The Annual Madness of Daylight Saving Time, urban businessmen were a major force behind the adoption of DST in the United States. They thought daylight would encourage workers to go shopping on their way home. They also tried to make a case for agriculture, though they didn’t bother to consult any actual farmers. One pamphlet argued that DST would benefit the men and women who worked the land because “most farm products are better when gathered with dew on. They are firmer, crisper, than if the sun has dried the dew off.” At least that was the claim of the Boston Chamber of Commerce, chaired by department-store magnate A. Lincoln Filene. This was utter nonsense. A lot of crops couldn’t be harvested until the morning dew had evaporated. What’s more, morning dew has no effect whatsoever on firmness or crispness.
Perhaps farmers should take one for the team–i.e., put up with DST even though they don’t like it because it keeps city cash registers chinging into the twilight. Yet the contention that DST is good for business is doubtful. It may help some businesses, but it also stands to reason that other ones suffer. If people are more likely to browse the racks at Filene’s Basement in the daylight, then they’re probably also less likely to go to the movies or take-out restaurants. And in the morning, when it’s darker during rush hour, commuters are perhaps disinclined to stop at the corner store for a newspaper or the coffee bar for a latte. Although it’s impossible to know the precise economic effects of DST, any attempt to calculate them carries the malodorous whiff of industrial policy.
Read the whole thing.
Here's a recording of an anti-DST song from 1909 entitled We Don't Want More Daylight.

Some general information about the history of and rationale for DST.

Video: The history and effects of DST:

Daylight Saving -The Movie (because twice a year, there comes a time when... time doesn't come):

Ben Franklin’s satirical proposal of something like daylight saving time is an excellent read.

That time an Irish bomber accidentally blows himself up because he forgot about Daylight Saving Time.

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

From a Cincinnati HS: Periodic Table of Pumpkins

Apparently Anderson High School in Cincinnati has done one of these each year for the last several years. This story is from last year's version, but the picture (click here to embiggen) is this year's.

click here to embiggen

via @JustinGood

Friday, October 25, 2019

Friday links

Fashion Ads From The 1970s. Warning - once you see these, they can't be unseen.

When Halloween Was All Tricks and No Treats.

Three major battles took place on October 25th - Agincourt, the charge of the Light Brigade and Leyte Gulf.

The Valley of the Cheese of the Dead - in this remote Swiss town, residents spent a lifetime aging a wheel for their own funeral.

ICYMI, most recent links are here, and include the physics of juggling, scientists investigating the secrets of smelly cat butts, a 1918 prostate warmer to restore your manly vigor (or radium suppositories if that doesn't work), and the history of toilet paper. 

Thursday, October 24, 2019

Fashion Ads From The 1970s

There's approximately a gazillion of these available on the interwebs, and I've probably posted way too many of them - once I started I had a hard time stopping! The vast majority of what I've included here are ads for men's clothing, because they're so many standard deviations from the current norm - the women's versions look (relatively) normal.

I have to say, too, that I lived through the 70's, and although this stuff was, obviously, advertised, I don't remember actually seeing much of it. On the other hand, I don't remember an awful lot about that time period.

The only person who pulled this fashion statement off, sort of, was John Travolta in Saturday Night Fever, and I'll bet it's been waaay to long since you watched it  (watch full screen):

This ad seems to be patterned after Travolta:

I don't know what to make of this:

I'm pretty sure I never heard of Flagg Brothers, but I love the pimp style and the women hanging onto their legs:

A couple for the ladies:

And for the whole family: