At one time, strongman acts were all the rage. Sideshows, circuses, and the like were eating them up.
Some were fake, but others were the real deal. From Listverse, here is the story of the Cannonball King.
John Holtum – Cannonball King
b.1845 – d.1919
John Holtum, was a strongman from Denmark who drew immense crowds in cities around the world by perfecting the cannonball catch. He lost a couple of fingers the first time he tried, but he eventually got his technique worked out. With Holtum on one side of the stage and a cannon on the other, an assistant would fire a 50-pound ball which Holtum caught with his gloved hands and chest. The feat required immense strength, steely nerves, and lightning-fast reflexes. Several skeptics questioned the legitimacy of his act but were convinced after Holtum brought them on stage for a demonstration. Holtum appeared before Royalty in Europe and was a great success in the US as well. Interesting Fact: Holtum’s initial attempt to catch the ball resulted in his losing three fingers. Holtum offered 3,000 francs to anyone who would perform a similar feat, but no one ever took him up on his challenge.
There is no way I'm gonna stand in the way of a cannonball. In fact, I'm not gonna stand in front of ANY firearm! Just seems to be asking for trouble to me.
It's been a while, but Mom is finally getting out of rehab tomorrow. I know she is ready to come home.
It has been an interesting experience, that's for sure. Mom has had some health issues while there, one is her continuing cough. She also came down with another case of pneumonia. That was the main reason for the extension.
One of her main complaints while staying there was not being able to get a good night's sleep. That is a problem for many people when they get used to their own bed and their own noise level as well. Hard to rest well in a place that is always noisy and full of people.
For the most part, the staff was helpful and seemed to be concerned for the patients. I don't know how much they concentrated on Mom's strength, but I reckon we'll find out. That was the main reason for putting her in rehab.
Anyway, I know she'll be glad to be back home. The other issues we will work out as they show up. Tuesday I go back to V.A. for a follow-up with the cardio doc. That should be interesting, to say the least!
So...that's the latest update from the homefront. Sorry about not giving a more regular report, but I wanted to wait until I actually had some news for ya. At least it's mostly good news this time, right?
Seems like the whole thing is part of the mating process. Why doesn't that surprise me? Guess these mice are not as dumb as we thought.
The Secret Mating Songs Sung By Mice
By Debra Kelly on Saturday, January 23, 2016
A mysterious singing mouse discovered in Detroit in 1925 was all but forgotten until researchers decided to record field mice and play those recordings back. Sure enough, just out of the range of our hearing was an incredibly complex, bird-like series of chirps and whistles, a mouse song that’s been found to attract mates. There’s a fair amount of variation between mouse songs, and it all seems to depend on their social situation. When you think of the great singers of the animal kingdom, birds are at the top of the list. Besides the neighbor’s dog at 3:00 AM, there are few others that spring to mind as great composers of music. But Duke University researchers have evidence that mice might have a place on the list, too. They found that male mice sing a complicated, bird-like tune when they smell a female mouse nearby. It’s too high-pitched for human ears to hear without some help from technological enhancements, but when we do get a listen, it sounds incredibly like the chirps and whistles of any bird perched outside your window. The sounds were exactly like that at their most basic level, made up of individual syllables that the mice put together to make their own tunes. The mice were most vocal when they first caught the scent of the nearby girls, using the song to woo their prospective mates closer. Once they were within range, the songs tapered off. It’s believed this is done to conserve energy for the next step in the wooing game. Well, girls always love the lead singer, but what about the sensitive guy? The mouse songs are only a part of the impressively complicated attempts made by male mice to secure themselves some love. Male mouse tears also drive the ladies wild. The tears are produced as a natural part of the grooming process to keep their eyes clear. The tears get spread to their faces, then their fur, then their nests. The females that come into contact with the tears are more likely to be agreeable mates. When it comes to their serenades, the individual parts of the song seem to be put together based on different situations. What’s not clear is if there’s a whole repertoire of innate mouse lyrics or if they’re just sort of jamming along to whatever’s going on around them. The studies hint at a complex social life in mice that we’re only beginning to understand, which makes us wonder what other animals have secret communications that we haven’t picked up on yet. And why were we looking at the songs and tears of mice in the first place? In 1925, a man named J.L. Clark was living in Detroit when he found a very odd singing mouse. He caught it and took it to the University of Detroit, where researchers confirmed that yes, it could sing. They tried breeding it with some of their own mice to see if it was inherited. The babies seemed to only chirp a bit louder than most, and the whole thing was forgotten. It was quite a while until a University of North Carolina biologist took another look at the single article that had been written about the weird singing mouse. An expert in animal sounds, Matina Kalcounis-Rueppell made some recordings of wild mice tagged as part of another study. It was only when she slowed down the recording that she first heard the mouse song.
Now I don't pretend to understand that much about singing mice or their secret songs, but I have to wnder what else in nature we are missing out on, ya know? Probably more than we realize.
Coffee out on the patio this morning. Temps are supposed to reach the 70s.
When I say "in the movies",I mean behind the camera. Women directors were few and far between in the old days.
To work at directing or the like took a great deal of talent and more than a little luck.
The Groundbreaking Female Director Hollywood Forgot
By Debra Kelly on Sunday, January 24, 2016
She invented the boom mic when she directed one of Hollywood’s first talkies, cast Katharine Hepburn in her first movie, portrayed a host of strong female characters who were more than their relationships, and worked alongside some of the greatest names in early movie history. At the helm of some of Paramount’s most successful early films was director Dorothy Arzner, a visionary editor and director who openly lived in a long-term lesbian relationship with choreographer Marion Morgan at a time when women’s gender roles were still clearly defined.
Early Hollywood—and, to a lesser extent, Hollywood today—is known as something of a boys’ club. While there were a handful of early and influential women in the movie industry, most of them made their mark in front of the camera while portraying the idealized standard of the day that we still associate with the Roaring Twenties. There’s one prolific, cinema-changing woman who’s largely been forgotten today, though: Dorothy Arzner. At a time when a film showing characters involved in relationships outside of their assigned class could destroy the careers of everyone involved (and almost did, with Arzner, Joan Crawford, and 1937’s The Bride Wore Red), Arzner went out of her way to make Hollywood accept her for who she was. Specifically, she was an out-of-the-closet lesbian who lived with long-time lover Marion Morgan. She was a director who was determined to make movies that didn’t sugarcoat the idea of a woman’s place in a marriage and the home. Born in 1897, Arzner made her connections in Hollywood through her family business. Her parents owned a local restaurant, giving her a foot in the door. That only got her so far, though, and she started her film career by typing up scripts for the company that would later become Paramount. Working her way up to cutter and editor, she worked on 52 films before getting a break on Rudolph Valentino’s Blood and Sand. Her work got the attention of other major studios, and an offer from Columbia forced Paramount’s hand. If they wanted to keep her, they needed to keep her happy—and that meant a director’s job. When the first film she headed was a massive success—1927’s Fashion for Women—she went on to milestones that would change the face of the film industry then and today. When she directed 1929’s The Wild Party, it was the first talkie for Paramount. Talkies added a whole new dimension to film, and when actress Clara Bow had trouble with her microphone, Arzner created a solution that’s still in use today: the boom mic. For 20 years, Arzner compiled a significant portfolio of work. She collaborated with Maureen O’Hara, Lucille Ball, and Joan Crawford, and she even cast Katharine Hepburn in her first role. She kept making movies after her departure from Hollywood in 1943, in part because of a bout of pneumonia and in part because of the strengthening insistence on conformation to gender roles after World War II. Then there were training films for the Women’s Army Corps, radio programs, and forays into live theater. Arzner was a teacher at UCLA and at the Pasadena Playhouse. She was also tempted back to more mainstream productions when Joan Crawford asked her to direct a set of 50 commercials she was appearing in for Pepsi. At a glance, it’s easy to pigeonhole Arzner as a feminist director. Her movies explored the relationships women often found themselves trapped in, showing wives in loveless marriages taking their fate into their own hands and becoming themselves rather than only a partner and possession. But modern-day feminists might be up in arms over her comments on her treatment as one of the only female directors of the time. Arzner once said in an interview, “No one gave me any trouble because I was a woman. Men were more helpful than women.”
Talk about anther woman that did things her way! I'm sure she opened many doors for others.
Coffee in the kitchen this morning. It's raining outside.
Nothing seems to stir the imagination like a good sea mystery.
This is one you may not have heard about. Governments were involved, but that should come at no surprise. Here is another tale from the high seas.
Photo via Wikimedia
In the 1970s, Bermeja Island served as a marker for Mexico to set its 200-nautical-mile economic zone. Just about 20 years later, the island disappeared without a trace. Along with the island went important documents containing a treaty regarding major oil reserves within the island’s region. The disappearance of these documents immediately gave rise to conspiracy theories that the CIA had something to do with the vanishing island, ensuring that the US would get the oil. The main theory has it that the CIA actually blew up the island in order to expand the US’s economic zone. The island is mentioned in a 1998 book about Mexican islands, disregarding the fact that a fishing expedition party already reported that they were unable to locate it the previous year. Bermeja Island was found on historical maps between 1535 and 1775, after which it also mysteriously seemed to vanish from any geographical records, right up until 1857, when a US map once again included it. The timelines vary according to different sources, with some saying that the Mexican government actually went looking for the island in 1997 but were unable to locate it. Further research in 2009 also didn’t turn up any missing islands, stirring further confusion as to whether the island ever actually existed. The mystery of Bermeja Island seems likely to remain for a while.
You just have to love these sea mysteries, especially unsolved ones like this.
Diamonds are one of the most valuable things we have to date. They hold their value well, changing very little over time.
Because of this value, the hunt for diamonds is always a gamble and never easy. That's where the Diamond plant can be a big help!
The Plant That Only Grows Around Diamonds
By Debra Kelly on Thursday, January 14, 2016
Thanks to De Beers, diamonds are in constant high demand all over the world. Finding new diamond-rich locations can be a challenge, but the presence of a single plant, called Pandanus candelabrum, can indicate a likelihood of diamonds below. The palm-like plant only grows around kimberlite pipes, volcanic pipes that are millions of years old. The pressure inside the kimberlite pipes makes them ideal locations for the formation of diamonds, and finding them has just gotten easier. There’s a certain sort of exotic mythos that’s grown up around diamond mining and the diamond, and a lot of that is thanks to the marketing campaigns of De Beers. They made diamonds the stone to have, which has turned diamond mining a rather cutthroat operation. Science now says there’s a weird little trick to finding diamond-rich soils. Just look for a plant called Pandanus candelabrum. It’s easy to find, too, growing up to 10 meters (33 ft) tall and looking a bit like a spiny palm tree. It grows throughout Africa, but more importantly, it only thrives in areas around kimberlite pipes. Kimberlite pipes are rare tubes of rock and minerals formed by magma as it cools in a reaction that starts deep inside the Earth. The pipes form as volcanic activity pushes molten rock toward the surface. The molten rock cools along the way, forming the pipes. Most of them are pretty ancient, with some dated to as far back as 1.2 billion years ago. More common are slightly younger ones—between 70 and 150 million years old—and they’re almost all found in areas where the Earth’s surface has remained unchanged since their formation. As minerals and rocks are pushed upward through the pipes, the narrowing chambers increase pressure, which is exactly what a diamond needs. We’ve long known that the presence of kimberlite pipes will likely yield diamonds, and now botanists have discovered a correlation with the plant growth around the pipes. Botanists aren’t quite sure if P. candelabrum only grows around the kimberlite pipes, but it’s the only place it’s been found so far. It seems to be able to survive only in these soils, which are incredibly high in minerals like potassium, phosphorus, and magnesium. All in all, kimberlite pipes are rare, and rarer still are those that contain enough diamonds to make a mining operation worthwhile. Only about 6,000 pipes have been discovered, and only a small fraction have been deemed worthy of a full-scale mining operation. Part of the problem in finding them is that they’re often in isolated, heavily forested areas where exploration is still difficult. But the discovery of the massive palms as an indicator species might make finding more of them a whole lot easier. The idea of using plants as indicators to find precious stones and minerals is one that has something of a precedent in other parts of the world. The Haumaniastrum katangense is more commonly known as the copper flower, and its unique physiology has allowed it to carve out a niche in its environment. Where there are high deposits of copper, there are also extreme soil conditions that many plants can’t survive. This one can, though, and it’s found throughout the African Katangan Copper Belt and marks high concentrations of copper. Studies of the plants show that some members of the family have adapted so well to the presence of usually toxic copper in the soils that they display enhanced chlorophyll activity when the soil has a sufficiently high copper concentration.
Guess I'm lucky that I don't plan tp buy any diamonds in the near future. Never could afford them anyway!
With all the improvements being made on todays cars, this should come as no surprise.
However, the results of some of these new features may surprise you.
The Radioactive Man
In May 2012, Connecticut firefighter Mike Apatow was on his way to an appointment when he was unexpectedly pulled over by a police officer. Surprisingly, he was not pulled over for a routine traffic stop but rather for being flagged as a radioactive car. This came as a surprise to Apatow because his car contained nothing radioactive, except for the driver himself. Earlier that day, he had been injected with a small amount of radioactive material to track his blood flow during a nuclear stress test. The amount of radioactive material is extremely low, about equivalent to a CT, but it was just enough to set off the radiation detector in the police car. What surprised Apatow the most was that police cars could even detect his radioactivity. The officer stated that the detectors are part of homeland security and that many police cars are fitted with them in Connecticut.
This is a development I haven't heard of before. Might be a good thing and it might not!
Back in the days before we knew better, we used some very troubling stuff as safe.
Things like asbestos, for one. You won't believe where this stuff was used! Not good, believe you me!
When Asbestos Was Used As Fake Snow
By Debra Kelly on Saturday, January 16, 2016
Throughout the 1930s, film companies were taking the advice of a well-meaning firefighter who had been concerned about the safety hazard presented by using flammable cotton for snow. Why not get rid of the fire hazard and use asbestos? Movies like The Wizard of Oz did just that, covering their stars in pure asbestos that was marketed with names like “Pure White.” The popularity of asbestos as snow spread to home use, and it could still be found in heirloom Christmas decorations.
The movie industry is famous for its sleight of hand tricks, especially back in the golden age of cinema. Chocolate sauce becomes blood, we know, but what was used when they needed snow? That was asbestos. We saw it most famously in The Wizard of Oz, when Dorothy was covered in the stuff while she was lying in a field of flowers. If you’ve ever seen the film clip of Bing Crosby singing White Christmas, that’s asbestos, too. Today, the idea of covering someone with asbestos to simulate snow is pretty horrifying, but the dangers weren’t known at the time. In the 1920s, the default material for on-screen snow was cotton, until firefighting consultants warned of the increased risk of fire on a set that was covered with cotton. Asbestos, seen as a safer alternative to the highly flammable cotton, stepped in to fill the void. Considering that cotton is absolutely harmless when it comes to health and isn’t much of a fire risk, this was unfortunate. Asbestos was marketed with innocent-sounding names like “Snow Drift” and “Pure White.” The movies weren’t the only place to use asbestos to simulate snow. If you have any heirloom Christmas ornaments, you might want to think twice before using them. White asbestos—also called chrysotile—is fireproof, making it ideal for all kinds of Christmas situations. It was “safe” to put on ornaments that would have been exposed to the heat of lights and candles, and it was also seen as safe to pile up around the tree for an indoor snow effect. Cover the tree, sprinkle some on wreaths and garland . . . you could even add some to decorative candleholders with no fear that it was going to catch on fire. That means that it’s highly possible that any heirloom ornaments or other decorations that have been handed down through the family since the 1930s or 1940s still carry with them a deadly passenger. Asbestos has been mined and used since the late 1800s, and it remained a hugely popular construction and wartime material throughout World War II. In the late 1970s, asbestos bans gained momentum. It was first outlawed for use in fireplaces and patching compounds, and it was completely banned in 1989. It is, of course, incredibly bad for you, associated with all different types of cancer and specifically with lung problems. In 1940, the Raybestos-Manhattan Corporation used safety as its angle for marketing its fake snow product, stating in its advertising that it was completely safe for all holiday decorations. And that’s gotten the company into continued problems, considering it used asbestos in a huge number of its products from car brake systems to its fake snow. Forty-year president Sumner Simpson has been the target of numerous lawsuits, with court cases bringing some less-than-reputable information to light. The health dangers of asbestos exposure had been circling for a long time, and the courts showed that Simpson had known about the questions as he kept his company running along the asbestos highway. In 1982, the company became Raymark, but the lawsuits kept coming. Raymark went through bankruptcy, recovered, and maintains a trust fund for asbestos-related injury lawsuits.
Can you believe how many years products like this were in use by the public? No wonder we have so many health concerns today!
Nothing like a declaration of being free to piss people off.
Both California and the Gulf states declared themselves independent republics with less-than stellar results.
The Short-Lived Independent Republics In California And The Gulf Coast
By Zachery Brasier on Friday, January 15, 2016
The most well-known break off from the United States of America is the Confederate States of America. However, Americans have a long and checkered history of trying to leave the United States. In the early and mid-1800s, parts of California and the land along the Gulf Coast tried to form their own nations. They only lasted a few weeks. Everybody knows about the secession of the South from the United States that started the Civil War. Most people know that the state of Texas used to be an independent country. However, in this history of Southern independent countries, the short-lived Republic of West Florida remains a forgotten historical footnote. The road to the founding of the small republic began with the Louisiana Purchase in 1803. While the deal went rather well diplomatically speaking, confusion lingered over who owned a strip of land bordering the Mississippi River that included parts of present-day Florida, Alabama, Louisiana, and Mississippi. Instead of turning the territory over to the US government, Spain continued administration of the area. At first, the settlers accepted Spanish rule peacefully, but they grew more restless over time. At the same time, US President James Madison was exploring options to take control of the strip of land from the Spanish overseers. Agitation started in 1808. By 1810, Florida rebels were ready to take the land they believed was theirs. On September 23, 1810, a militia contingent attacked the Spanish fortress of Baton Rouge and forced the Spanish soldiers to evacuate the fortification. The rebels declared themselves an independent country, raised their own flag, and began to set up a government based on the three-branch model of the US. Seeing the opportunity to gain the territory for the United States, James Madison authorized the military commander of the Orleans Territory to march on the Republic of West Florida and annex the area. Realizing that he had to act fast, Madison acted without Congressional approval, sidestepping the constitutional rules for declaring war. With US military forces moving into the Republic, West Florida’s president, Fulwar Skipwith, declared that they would fight to the last man. Fortunately for everyone, cooler heads prevailed by the time the US Army was ready to enter Baton Rouge. Skipwith accepted the annexation plan. Barely a month after the country was formed, it was part of the United States. Although President Madison was happy with the outcome of the crisis, he received political backlash for his actions, especially from Spain who refused to remove troops from the area for three years. When the Confederate States of America were looking for a new flag fifty years later, they adopted a blue flag with a single white star modeled after the West Florida flag. (This was only until a suitable replacement was designed.) On the other side of the continent, the California Republic was a short-lived independent country founded by settlers rebelling against a ruling government before being annexed by the growing United States. The California rebels came about during the 1840s, when Mexican-American relations were extremely tense. Many US settlers from the East were moving into the new territory of California, causing great concern among Mexican government officials. For the most part, the American settlers showed little interest in becoming Mexican citizens and retained close ties to their home country. Mexican officials had let the Alta California area become self-governing, which probably greatly increased the chances of a California revolt. As relations between the US and Mexican governments deteriorated, President James K. Polk began to tighten the noose on Mexican California. He ordered gunships into the San Francisco Bay and sent Commander John C. Fremont to visit the American settlers. Fremont discussed revolt with the Californians and openly encouraged them to fight against the Mexican government. Whether or not Fremont had orders to stir up a rebellion is disputed, but his influence worked anyway, and the Californians prepared to revolt. To start the rebellion, Californian rebels stole government horses on June 10, 1846. Four days later, a small contingent of rebels took the understaffed fort at Sonoma. Emboldened by the victory, the insurgents surrounded the home of Mexican general Mariano Vallejo and declared him a prisoner of war. A flag was designed and erected over Sonoma. After some minor skirmishes with Mexican forces, Commander Fremont arrived. The Californians declared him the leader of the new California Republic and planned to expand the revolution throughout all of Alta California. However, soon after the rebellion started, US forces marched into the California Republic and claimed it as United States territory. There wasn’t much for the rebellion to do at that point; the annexation ended the short-lived California Republic.
In the long run, we are better off as a united front. Independent Republics haven't done so well up until now, ya know?
Hitler had his troops working overtime to come up with deadly ways to kill.
One of the most diabolical plans had to do with chocolate and it's contents. No ordinary chocolate, this one was definitely not good to eat, and could cause some unwanted side effects.
Adolf Hitler And The Very Deadly Chocolate
By Debra Kelly on Sunday, January 17, 2016
Peters chocolate bars showed up in England in the years during World War II. Dark chocolate bars wrapped in elegant gold-and-black paper, they contained much more than chocolate: They contained enough explosives to kill a room full of people. Secret agents were tasked with getting them into Britain and, most importantly, into the War Cabinet in a plot that was uncovered by MI5. Intelligence then turned to an incredibly talented draftsman named Laurence Fish to create a series of sketches that would be handed out to help people identify the deadly chocolate. There were all sorts of wacky plans dreamed up during World War II on both sides of the fight, all designed to outfox and outmaneuver the enemy in hopes of getting the upper hand. All’s fair in love and war, after all, and in retrospect some of the plans looked downright insane. One of them was designed to strike at the heart of the Allied nations that were struggling under the burdens of wartime shortages and rationing. The world’s love of chocolate has been widely known since we learned how to make it into the deliciously sweet treat we know today, and it was World War II that gave birth to one America’s favorite candies today: the M&M. (They were in high demand and reserved only for the troops, as the candy coating wouldn’t melt in the heat of the Pacific Theater.) So chocolate’s always been a favorite on the homefront and abroad, and the Nazis developed some pretty diabolical ways to try to use that against the Allies. When Laurence Fish died in 2009, it was left to his widow and their daughter to sort through his papers. Whatever they were expecting to find, they weren’t expecting to find his top secret work from the war years, drawing detailed sketches of Nazi-created booby traps designed to be passed deep into Allied territory to strike at the heart of the home front, or to sink entire ships and help starve the nations at war. One of the drawings featured a chocolate bar that went past the point of poisoning its victims: This one was designed to explode. When someone picked up the chocolate bar and broke a piece off, that would pull at a piece of canvas that was also inserted into the bar. That would trigger the delay mechanism and the explosion.
Fish was tasked with drawing the booby traps that the agents at MI5 were discovering, with the hopes that the detailed sketches would teach soldiers and civilians alike how to recognize a booby trap before it turned deadly. Other drawings show a tin of dried peas that would expand when it got wet, pushing two contacts together to set off an explosion.
While the chocolate bar would have been an incredibly diabolical way to strike at the center of any civilian population, Hitler and his higher-ups had a very specific target in mind for the odd explosive device: Winston Churchill. The bars were labeled “Peters” and were made of dark chocolate covering enough explosives to kill everyone in a room. They were packaged to look like luxury chocolates in gold-and-black paper, and secret agents were tasked with getting the chocolate into the rooms of the War Cabinet. British spies uncovered the plot, though, and reported it to MI5 and Lord Victor Rothschild. They’d uncovered some of the explosive chocolate and submitted a rough drawing of exactly what it looked like. Rothschild wanted the drawing made and distributed, and Donald Fish of the counter-sabotage unit just happened to have a son who was an aircraftsman and an incredibly talented draftsman.
I often wonder what it would be like to go a full generation without a war going on somewhere. I reckon we will never really know...and that's too sad!
Very few things can be as spooky as an unexplored cave.
Think all the major cave systems have been found? WRONG! Many, many miles of unexplored caves still are waiting to be discovered.
It’s common knowledge that most of the Earth’s oceans remain unexplored. That’s not because we’ve spent all our time getting to grips with the land, though. Beneath our feet are literally thousands upon thousands of caves that no human being has ever set foot in. These subterranean worlds aren’t even in the minority. One estimate by National Geographic put the number of undiscovered caves at 90 percent of the planet’s total. That number is now slightly out of date, but it goes to show just how unknowable the ground beneath our feet is. It doesn’t help that the vast majority of caves are hidden, with no visible entrances at ground level. Even in a region of the world as mapped and meticulously explored as the US, it’s thought that only 50 percent of its caves have likely been found. This means that all of those grand, crystal-filled caverns you occasionally see photos of online might be only the tip of the iceberg. There’s a whole undiscovered world down there, a lightless place cut off from the surface for centuries, perhaps millennia. Who knows? There might even be Morlocks.
I'm sure that nearly every part of the country has many caves that have never been explored.I think I'll pass!
Ever wonder where that saying came from? The answer may surprise you!
The truth was found in the way that felt was processed for making hats, An unfortunate blend of chemicals that caused some serious mental problems for hatters.
Where did the phrase “mad as a hatter” come from?
JANUARY 11, 2016 By Elizabeth Nix
Lewis Carroll’s 1865 novel “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” famously features an eccentric character called the Hatter, who’s referred to in the story as “mad” and became popularly known as the Mad Hatter. However, the phrase “mad as a hatter,” used to describe someone who’s crazy or prone to unpredictable behavior, didn’t originate with Carroll. Instead, the expression is linked to the hat-making industry and mercury poisoning. In the 18th and 19th centuries, industrial workers used a toxic substance, mercury nitrate, as part of the process of turning the fur of small animals, such as rabbits, into felt for hats. Workplace safety standards often were lax and prolonged exposure to mercury caused employees to develop a variety of physical and mental ailments, including tremors (dubbed “hatter’s shakes”), speech problems, emotional instability and hallucinations. In Connecticut, mercury-induced tremors were called the Danbury shakes, after the city of Danbury, which was a leading center for hat making during the 19th century and into the early years of the 20th century (by the 1920s, only a handful of headwear manufacturers remained in the place once billed as the “Hat Capital of the World”). In the U.S., the use of mercury in the production of felt finally was banned in the early 1940s. Researchers have suggested that Boston Corbett, a hat industry worker who killed John Wilkes Booth, President Abraham Lincoln’s assassin, might’ve suffered from poor mental health due to mercury poisoning. Corbett, who’d been employed as a hat maker since he was a young man, became a religious zealot and in 1858 castrated himself with a pair of scissors as a way to curb his libido. He went on to serve in the Union Army during the Civil War, and after Lincoln was shot by Booth on April 14, 1865, at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, D.C., Corbett and his regiment, the 16th New York Cavalry, were sent to track down the gunman, who was on the lam. On April 26, the soldiers surrounded Booth in a Virginia barn; however, Corbett disobeyed orders to capture the fugitive alive and instead shot and killed him. Corbett was cleared of blame by the military and lauded by many in the public as a hero for his role in avenging the president’s death. Eventually, he resumed working in the hat industry in the Northeast before moving to Kansas in 1878, where he lived a solitary existence as a homesteader. In 1887, he landed in a mental asylum after threatening a group of people at the Kansas Statehouse with a gun. The following year, this possible “mad hatter,” who was then in his 50s, escaped the facility and soon disappeared for good.
I can only imagine the feeling of helplessness that came from going slowly mad! It had to be hard to grasp.
The small state of Rhode Island has it's share of strange and bizarre stories. Perfect for the Freaky Friday stories, I think.
The Ruins Of Hanton City
Photo via Wikimedia
Although Rhode Island is the smallest state in the US, its bizarre history is large with legends of vampires, ghost ships, and mysterious ocean lights. The weirdest of all may be the ruins of Hanton City, a “lost city” not far from Smithfield. Originally a small farming community, Hanton City was isolated from its neighbors, which left room for all sorts of suggestive rumors. Some said that Hanton City was populated by freed or runaway slaves, while others believed that the village was a sort of leper colony populated by disease-stricken people forced to live deep in the woods. Rumors aside, all that is left of Hanton City is a series of stone foundations, some unattached walls, a burial site, and other collapsed edifices. A set of headstones, all of which bear the last name Smith, can also be found in the ghost town. Sadly, not much else is known about this colonial-era settlement except for a few whispered stories about inexplicable noises and a generally spooky atmosphere.
Sounds to me like a place to avoid, ya know? Maybe nothing but stories, but why take a chance?
You know the time is coming that we are going to need a lot of new toys and tools for space. I'm talking about tools that can perform a number of different functions. Something like the ATHLETE from N.A.S.A .
Photo credit: NASA
NASA’s All-Terrain Hex-Limbed Extraterrestrial Explorer (aka ATHLETE) is a game-changing, exploratory mecha-spider that will be used to colonize the Moon. True to its name, each spindly limb features six degrees of freedom, enabling it to contort itself over rough, cratered patches of moonscape. Each limb is tipped with a retractable wheel for quicker locomotion over smoother terrain. ATHLETE is also a handyman that packs a well-stocked tool kit. Its dexterous extremities can grip the scoops, drills, and grippers needed to give the Moon a full physical. Primarily, though, the machine is a beast of burden built for heavy lifting. In the image above, it’s shown carrying a habitation module. Taller than a basketball hoop with its minimum height of 4 meters (13 ft), ATHLETE is an accomplished Olympic lifter, capable of hoisting 400 kilograms (900 lb) of gear over its head—in Earth’s gravity! Most importantly, ATHLETE’s nimble frame gives it the agility needed to transport supplies, unlike the immobile, cargo-laden landers of the past and present.
Now, this bad boy seems to ave just what we need up there. Sort of a pocket tool for space, ya know?
Did you know that Tecumseh handed the American troops their worst ever defeat? True!
Being a very sly warrior, Tecumseh was pretty good with misdirection. Here's what I mean.
Tecumseh took part in the worst defeat ever inflicted by Native Americans on U.S. forces.
In fall 1790, the Shawnee and Miami tribes repelled an assault on their villages near modern Fort Wayne, Indiana, killing 183 U.S. troops in the process. President George Washington authorized a new campaign the following year, in which he put Governor Arthur St. Clair of the Northwest Territory in charge of some 2,300 men. On the march north from modern Cincinnati, hundreds of them deserted as the weather worsened and food supplies ran low. For nearly two months, the remaining troops had little contact with native tribes. On November 3, the soldiers set up camp along the Wabash River in western Ohio. Washington had advised St. Clair to “beware of surprise,” but he posted few guards and built no barricades. The next morning, as the soldiers prepared breakfast, a force of Native Americans attacked and immediately overran them. Poorly trained militiamen fled, whereas the regulars who kept their position were decimated. When the dust cleared a few hours later, at least 623 American soldiers and dozens of camp followers were dead, and hundreds more were wounded. In comparison, fewer than 300 U.S. troops died during the much-more-famous Battle of the Little Bighorn. Tecumseh did not play a major role in the clash with St. Clair, but he scouted the U.S. soldiers during their advance north. Throughout the battle itself, in which only 21 Native Americans were reportedly killed, he watched the rear trail to make sure no reinforcements arrived.
Sounds to me as though ol' Tecumseh was best left alone. When you try and drive folks from their homes, this kind of thing is bound to happen, ya know?>
Coffee out on the patio9 again today, at least until the rain starts.
Once in a while, a simple plan actually works the way it was meant to!
Let's face it...anytime you engage in soy stuff, things can and usually will go haywire. Best plans are those that are left alone to be simple. Simple is good
Stealing And Returning A Soviet Lunar Probe
Photo credit: Alexander Mokletsov
In the 1960s, the Soviet Union was parading its scientific achievements around the world. Among them was a mock-up of Lunik, a Soviet lunar space probe which had been launched to the Moon in 1959. When the scientific tour reached America, the CIA suspected that the “mock-up” was actually a working production model. The CIA tried to confirm this in the craziest way possible—stealing the Lunik for a night to see if it would yield its secrets.
The CIA’s first plan, to sneak into the exhibit before it opened, was thwarted by round-the-clock Soviet guards. The second plan, to divert the railway car that was transporting the Lunik, was deemed impractical. So the CIA came up with a third scheme: to divert the truck that was carrying the Lunik from its exhibition to the rail yard.
Arranging for the Lunik to be on the last truck to the rail yard, the CIA switched drivers halfway through and drove the truck to a junkyard, where they pried open the Lunik to see how it worked. Working through the night, the agents found that the Lunik was actually the real deal minus a few electrical components. By dawn, the Soviets found the reassembled Lunik at the rail yard and were none the wiser that it had been stolen for a night.
As the old saying goes "keep it simple, Stupid!" Good advice at times!
In reaching out to other cultures is important to us, then this project was very special indeed!
Talk about drawing together the past and the future, this was a very important project and one that should mane all that participated very, very proud.
The Navajo Version Of ‘Star Wars’
By Nolan Moore on Friday, January 8, 2016
In 2013, an Arizona audience was treated to a special screening of Star Wars. What was so special about this particular version, you ask? Well, to encourage Navajo children to learn their traditional language, the Navajo Nation Museum translated George Lucas’s screenplay into Dine bizaad and brought in new voice actors to dub over the English-speaking stars. And as you might imagine, the Navajo translators had their work cut out for them. Everybody loves Star Wars. The box office numbers for The Force Awakens certainly prove that. Really, George Lucas’s space opera is one of those pop culture touchstones that has impacted people all over the globe, regardless of age or nationality. And that’s why Manuelito Wheeler thought the original 1977 film would be the perfect tool to help preserve his culture. Manuelito Wheeler is the director of the Navajo Nation Museum, and he’s concerned about the future of the Navajo language (known as Dine bizaad). True, it’s the most commonly spoken language in New Mexico and Arizona (other than English and Spanish, of course). However, more and more Navajo children are learning English first, and fewer and fewer are following in their ancestors’ traditions. And that’s where Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, and Princess Leia come in. Manuelito Wheeler wanted to dub Star Wars in Dine bizaad with Navajo actors. According to Wheeler, “This was an idea that I felt was a way to promote our culture, promote our language, a way to save our language.” As we mentioned, everybody loves Star Wars, and Wheeler was hoping that if he dubbed over one of the most popular films of all time, sci-fi fans would be encouraged to learn their own native language. Wheeler spent three years patiently pitching his idea to Lucasfilm, and finally, the production company agreed. Star Wars would now become the first big Hollywood film to ever be released in Navajo. Of course, this whole translation thing was a bit tricky. After all, Star Wars is full of words that don’t exist in Dine bizaad. So a team of translators was brought in to figure out how to convey 20th-century concepts in an ancient language. Fortunately, the five-person team came up with some pretty good ideas. For example, the word “droid” became “steel being,” the “lightsaber” was now a “light weapon,” and the name “R2-D2” was essentially turned into “short metal thing that’s alive.” When C-3PO advises his little robo-buddy to “hang on tight” before the Death Star run, the translators reworked that sequence to make it sound like the protocol droid was giving R2-D2 advice on how to stay on a rodeo bull. According to the translators, one of the most difficult sequences to translate was the sequence on Yavin when the Rebels are discussing how to destroy the Death Star. It was also tricky getting the Navajo words to match the English-speaking mouths. But what about characters like Greedo, you ask? What happened whenever aliens spoke their weird extraterrestrial languages? Well, Wheeler and his crew kept the alien language on the soundtrack, but they added Navajo subtitles to the bottom of the screen. Making things even trickier, the translators couldn’t just use any word they wanted. Some parts of the Navajo vocabulary are specifically reserved for religious rituals or particular time periods. That’s why there were a few Navajo elders on the team to help bridge that generation and cultural gap. Faced with all these challenges, it’s all the more impressive to learn that the team translated the script in a mere 36 hours. And after casting Navajo actors to dub the characters, the film premiered on July 3, 2013 in Window Rock, Arizona. Tickets were free, and the screening was a smash. Since the success of the Navajo Star Wars, the Navajo Nation Museum has teamed up with Disney to translate Finding Nemo. So to all the actors and translators working on this new Pixar project: May the Force be with you. Or as the Navajo would put it, “Ats’ahoniyee’ nil holoo doo.”
This was a very special endeavor, I'm sure. The importance of something like this is paramount to future communication between our cultures.
There are so many stories out there that are strange, maybe just a little weird Here is another one!
From bad beginnings come wonderful surprises on occasion. This may be one of those times!
The Man Who Made A Fascinating Village Of Army Dolls
By Nolan Moore on Tuesday, January 5, 2016
In 2000, Mark Hogancamp was viciously assaulted by a gang of young punks. After waking up from a coma, Mark was suffering from severe brain injuries. And that’s when he set about building Marwencol, a tiny village in his backyard populated with hundreds of dolls. Once upon a time, Mark Hogancamp was a Navy man. He was married for five years, and he was an alcoholic. He was also a cross-dresser who enjoyed wearing nylon stockings and women’s shoes. Only today, Mark doesn’t remember most of that. Back in 2000, Mark was in a New York bar when he made the mistake of sharing his high-heeled secret with five young men. And when Mark left the bar, the group attacked him, nearly beating him to death. Mark woke up from his coma nine days later. He was suffering from brain injuries, amnesia, and PTSD. He struggled to perform basic human functions like eating or going to the bathroom. Mark was forced to attend therapy so he could learn how to walk and talk… until Medicaid stopped paying the bills. Depressed and seemingly defeated, Mark returned to his trailer near Kingston, New York, forced to survive on his own. And that’s where Mark created Marwencol. About a year after the attack, Mark was browsing through a store when he found a World War II action figure. He took the doll home, named him “Captain Mark,” and set to work building a miniature town in his backyard for Captain Mark. Hogancamp named the town Marwencol and set his village in 1940s Belgium. Marwencol’s first building was a bar called the Ruined Stocking Cat Fight Club, owned by Captain Mark himself. Soon, there were miniature houses, a tiny bank, an ice cream shop, and even a cemetery. These structures were incredibly elaborate. Hogancamp made the buildings out of wood and added an insane amount of detail to each location. For example, if you peered inside the Cat Fight Club, you’d actually see a long mirror behind the bar. There were posters on the wall, magazines on the tables, and little ice cubes in each glass (the ice cubes were actually little bits of glass he’d found lying here and there). The town was also full of “people.” After buying Captain Mark, Hogancamp started adding more and more dolls, and today, there are 200 citizens living in Marwencol. But here’s the really amazing thing. Marwencol wasn’t some sort of insane art project. It was a way for Mark to cope with his PTSD. So how did a miniature village help Hogancamp come to terms with his tragedy? Well, Mark would use the dolls to create incredibly elaborate stories. As you’ve probably guessed by now, Captain Mark represented Hogancamp himself. According to the story line, Captain Mark crashed outside Marwencol during a World War II aerial battle. He then wandered into town to find a village full of beautiful, widowed women. The townsfolk gave Mark a place to stay, and soon he opened a bar and married a woman by the name of Ana, a doll that represents Hogancamp’s ex-wife. Over time, he added dolls to represent his neighbors and co-workers so he wouldn’t feel so alone in his little world. He also added action figures that looked like famous actors a la Vin Diesel, Matt Damon, and Leonardo DiCaprio. But most importantly, there were the five Nazi soldiers. In almost every story, these five SS men would barge into town and brutalize Mark. Sound familiar? Unlike Hogancamp’s real-life tragedy, these little dramas always had happy endings. In one scenario, the women of the town whipped out their pistols and executed the Nazis. In another story line, the hand of God (Mark’s actual hand) reached down, gently touched the bad guys, and “took their souls from their bodies.” As Mark explained to reporter Jon Ronson, “Marwencol was solely made up so I could kill those five guys. [ . . . ] The first time I killed all five of them, I felt a little bit better. That violent hatred and anger subsided a little.” But Mark wasn’t just creating story lines. He was also taking photos, capturing his dramas with cinematic snapshots. Eventually, Mark’s neighbor took a look at the photographs and sent them to Esopus, a New York magazine. The editor was so impressed that Esopus published Mark’s photos, and soon the little town of Marwencol was making big waves in the art world. His photos were put on display in numerous art galleries, and Hogancamp’s life was captured in both a book and a documentary. In fact, director Robert Zemeckis plans to adapt Mark’s story into a film starring Steve Carell. Mark hasn’t let all this fame distract him though. He’s still trying to cope in his own unique way. Thankfully, since he’s started making Marwencol, Mark has completely stopped drinking. He still wears women’s shoes while he’s at home, and he still spends most of his time in his backyard, enacting little stories, taking photographs, and getting a little bit better each day.
Revenge is truly a dish best served cold. Talk about self medication!
Well, I think it may be the right time to bring back Freaky Friday. Whadda ya think?
This time around we'll look at a ring owned by Rudolf Valentino, a silent movie star.
Rudolf Valentino (1895-1926) was considered one of Hollywood’s greatest silent movie stars. Valentino died of a perforated ulcer at the age of only thirty-one. Some blame his early demise on a ring he purchased from a jeweler in 1920. The ring had a gem called the tiger’s eye embedded in it. The legend goes that Valentino showed the ring to a close friend immediately after he bought it and his friend said he saw a vision of a pale and deathly Valentino. Regardless of what his friend did or did not see, Valentino’s next few major pictures flopped at the box office and he died within six years. But Valentino wasn’t the ring’s only victim: his lover Pola Negri became gravely ill after wearing the ring, so much so that her career had to be put on the back burner for years and it never fully recovered; Russ Colombo, the actor hired to play Valentino in the biopic of his life wore the ring and was killed in a shooting accident some days later; and the gangster Joe Casino bought the ring and refused to wear it until the curse had faded. After several years he finally put the ring on—and was dead within a week due to a motoring accident. The list goes on… But since the 1960s the ring’s whereabouts have remained unknown. Perhaps it’s on your finger, dear reader?
Well, that was certainly...different. Do you believe in curses or hauntings or anything strange? Guess we will never really know for sure!
Believe it or not, there are some rules governing the spelling and the properties of these two drinks. Who knew?
Calling a drink by it's proper name is as important (in some circles) as the taste. Believe me when I say that the biggest difference is the taste!
The Difference Between Whisky, Whiskey, Scotch & Bourbon
By Debra Kelly on Monday, January 4, 2016
The processes of making scotch, whiskey, and bourbon are very similar, but it’s only scotch if it’s made in Scotland, just like it’s only bourbon if it’s made in the United States. Whiskey and scotch guidelines allow for the alcohol to be aged in barrels other than the very specific charred white oak barrels used in bourbon production. And, to make things more complicated, whiskey spelled without the “e” is scotch. Scotch can only be called scotch if it’s made in Scotland. (But they might look at you funny if you go there and ask for it. There, it’s just whisky.) The process of making scotch is very similar to the process of making whiskey, but there are a few key differences. Before it’s turned into mash and fermented, the barley is encouraged to start germinating. This is done by heating it over a peat fire, which also adds to the flavor of the finished product. Different regions of Scotland are known for having a stronger or weaker peat flavor to their finished products. Scotch must be aged for at least three years in barrels that have already been used to age bourbon, wine, or sherry. Making whiskey is done in much the same manner. Barley is malted (soaked, germinated, and dried) before it is ground into grist and mixed with hot water to form mash. The mash is filtered, fermented, and then distilled, with the final product collected and oftentimes mixed together before it’s divided into barrels for maturation. There’s Irish whiskey, American whiskey, and Tennessee whiskey. Tennessee whiskey is different as it undergoes a process in which it is filtered through sugar maple charcoal to impart a unique taste. Thanks to the years lost to Prohibition, American whiskey distillers can’t boast the continuous long lineage that Irish distillers can. And what about bourbon? All bourbon is whiskey, but what makes it bourbon? Bourbon is only made in the United States. The base mixture it’s distilled from (mash) must contain at least 51 percent corn, and by the end of the process it must be less than 160 proof. Perhaps most importantly is how it’s aged. Bourbon has to age for a minimum of two years, and unlike other types of liquor (that rely on used barrels to impart some distinctive flavors), bourbon is aged in new, charred barrels made from white oak. When the oak barrels are used once, they can’t be used again to produce bourbon, although they’re often shipped off to distilleries for use in aging whiskey or scotch. And, of course, if it’s not made in Kentucky, it can’t be Kentucky bourbon. So what accounts for the wide variety of subtle (and not-so-subtle) flavors and notes present in all three? Studies by researcher Tom Collins (seriously, we didn’t make that up) at the University of California, Davis, have shown that there are literally thousands of different chemical compounds that can appear in a single glass of scotch, bourbon, or whiskey. How they’re aged and what they’re distilled from leaves a very distinct chemical profile that has allowed researchers to tell exactly what the liquid is just by looking at its chemical profile. Different blends have different compounds, such as tannins and fatty acids, unique to them. To use an “e” or not to use an “e”? While “whiskey” is often used to refer to the product of Ireland and America, “whisky” is used to refer to scotch whisky. Some distilleries—like George Dickel, of Tennessee—sometimes drop the “e” in order to imply that their beverage is of the same caliber as the original scotch whisky.
Sounds pretty complicated to me, but I'll take their word for it. Maybe this is one of those questions best pondered over a glass of...?
Thanks to the folks over at Knowledgenuts for explaining the difference
There seems to be some controversy over what side of the moon is darker.
When you think about it, it almost makes sense! Almost...! See, here's the deal!
The Moon’s Near Side Is Darker Than The ‘Dark Side’ Of The Moon
By Steve Wynalda on Saturday, January 2, 2016
Most of us are aware that we Earthlings see only one side of the Moon. Until the Soviet’s Luna 3 snapped a handful of pictures of it in 1959, no one had ever laid eyes on half the lunar surface. This is because the Moon rotates at the same speed it orbits the Earth (every 27.3 days) and keeps the same side facing us. But because the Moon orbits the Sun along with the Earth, the far side is not any darker—or lighter—than the side we’re familiar with. However, Luna 3 and subsequent Apollo missions revealed that that the far side does not have the coffee-colored maria or lunar seas that cover much of the near side.
For almost all of human existence, we’ve only seen about two-thirds of the Moon’s 36 million-square-kilometer total surface. This is because the Earth and the Moon are tidal locked, with the gravity of each slowing the rotation of the other.
A trillion years from now, the Earth’s rotation will be the same as a lunar month (which by then will be about 1,000 hours long) and the Earth and Moon will waltz around the Sun constantly showing each other the same face. But Earth’s greater gravitation has already slowed the Moon’s rotation so that it takes the same number of days as it takes to orbit us, revealing to Earthlings only one lunar hemisphere.
Logically that would mean we see 50 percent of the Moon’s total surface, but because of the elliptical nature of the lunar orbit (and the slight difference it has with the solar orbit), we actually see about 59 percent of its surface.
For centuries, humans have called the unseen far side of the Moon the “dark” side, as if the Earth produced its own light and directed it like a flashlight on the near side. Mark Twain once said that “everyone is a moon, and has a dark side which he never shows to anybody.” But, as the old saw declares that the Sun shines even on a dog’s butt, so it also does on the lunar far side.
With the coming of the space age, we learned that the far side is very different than the near side. For one thing, the far side is pockmarked with a lot more impact craters.
The near side is smoother, especially around the dark marias that give the surface a dark patchy look. Many a poet has imagined these patches to be the facial features of the Man on the Moon. These lunar seas are made of black basaltic lava rock and ejecta from ancient volcanic eruptions and cover about 30 percent of the near side, but only 2 percent of the far side.
Since then, scientists have been scratching their heads about the disparity in craters and maria. They initially thought that the Earth and its gravity shielded the lunar near side from asteroids and comets but could not protect the far side. But since the distance between the two celestial bodies is 40 times greater than the size of the Earth, there is plenty of room for space rocks to insert themselves between them. Indeed, the math indicates that the Earth would block only 1 percent of the space rocks that aimed for the near side.
One of the stronger theories as to why there’s a disparity is that the same gravitational forces that locked the Moon into a 27-day rotation has also pulled the near side toward the Earth like a wad of gum pulled through clenched teeth.
The Moon is oblong, almost football-shaped, with the near side’s crust considerably thinner than the far side. And when a space rock did impact the near side’s surface, it cracked it open and allowed lava and ejecta to cover neighboring craters or form them into shallow basins. The thicker far side’s crust bore the impacts without the resulting volcanic eruptions.
In a sense then, the dark patches on the near side are the Moon Man’s bruises and black eyes in his fight with the universe.
You can see how confusing the whole thing is, right? Bottom line...who really cares?
Sometimes what starts off looking and sounding like a game turns out to be more. A lot more...!
When Parker Brothers turned out the board game called "Monopoly", it looked nothing like the original. Here is the strange story of Monopoly.
The Shady And Ironic Origins Of Monopoly
By Debra Kelly on Wednesday, December 30, 2015
According to the official story, Monopoly was created by an unemployed, down-on-his-luck Charles Darrow. Darrow might have created the game as we know it today, but all he really did was do some polishing up and dumbing down of a game that had been invented 30 years before. Elizabeth Magie had spent years creating The Landlord’s Game, patenting it in 1903. Parker Brothers bought her patent for a flat $500; she accepted thinking that they were going to be publishing her game. When a very different version came out, it was attributed to someone else entirely and missing a key component—her set of anti-monopolist rules. We’ve all played it. No matter how old you are, chances are good that you’ve fought over the pieces. (Who wants to be anything but the top hat?) And that’s only the beginning of the arguments. Monopoly is one of those games that will nearly always end in anarchy and an overturned table. The popular story of Monopoly’s creation is an appropriate one, given the content of the game. Who doesn’t love a rags-to-riches tale? The official story of the invention of Monopoly was that it was the brainchild of a man named Charles Darrow. It was the middle of the Great Depression, and Darrow was unemployed and struggling. Until, that is, he developed Monopoly, which not only became the most famous board game in the world, but saved Parker Brothers from almost certain bankruptcy. Darrow, an occasional dog-walker and radiator repairman, supposedly based the whole idea around Atlantic City, where he had often gone with his family for vacations. When journalists asked him how he’d managed to come up with the game, he was quoted as saying, “It’s a freak. Entirely unexpected and illogical.” Not quite, considering he made his fortune on a game that had actually been patented almost 30 years before. The patent was held by a Washington, DC, woman named Elizabeth Magie. Magie was an oddity of her time, more along the lines of a 21st-century woman who traveled back in time to live in 1900. She didn’t marry until she was 44, she worked as a stenographer, she owned her own home and property, and she even taught political classes and gave lectures in her spare time. Wanting to teach more people of her political views, she decided to create a board game that she called The Landlord’s Game. It had all the familiar hallmarks of what would become Monopoly, including the board, the properties, the deeds, and the iconic “Go To Jail” square. There were railroads, service station squares, Chance cards, and a “Mother Earth” square that awarded players $100 every time they made it around the board and back to the starting square. And those who ended up in jail? They needed to pay a fine or roll doubles on their dice to get out. The whole game revolved around her economic philosophy. Players would compete to accumulate wealth, but there was another set of rules, a set where all the rewards were handed out equally. She was an anti-monopolist, and the board also bore a likeness of her political idol, an economist who believed the wealthy should be responsible for a greater amount of tax. Magie patented her game in 1903, and it was published by the Economic Game Company. It enjoyed a certain amount of popularity and got the attention of Charles Darrow. Darrow took the game to Parker Brothers, who bought the patent from Magie for a flat $500. Though she was originally excited that they were going to be selling her game, it wasn’t long before she realized they had bought the patent for protection. Darrow’s “official” version of the game dressed it up a bit, watered down the rules, and was a massive success. Magie spoke out about the theft and repackaging of her game, but for decades, her name faded into obscurity. She died a childless widow, remembered by coworkers as someone who used to talk about dabbling in inventing board games. It was only in 1973 that an economics professor uncovered what Parker Brothers had conveniently pushed aside. While engulfed in a Supreme Court case and fighting for the right to make his own anti-monopoly games, Ralph Anspach came across the story of Lizzie Magie. During that case, the president of Parker Brothers called Magie’s game “completely worthless.” But fortunately, Anspach didn’t just refuse to give up on his case, but he refused to give up on exposing the truth of Monopoly’s true origins—a politically minded, forward-thinking woman who has been all but forgotten in the history of entertainment pioneers.
Sometimes even the big boys get caught with their hands in the cookie jar. Sometimes they lose!
Coffee out on the patio this morning. I can see the sun!
The first on the scene gets all the attention, right?
Well get this. The very first Smartwatch was made in 1977! That's right...back in the dark ages!
Photo credit: Stahlkocher
The world’s first smartwatch was the HP-01. It was made by Hewlett-Packard in 1977, 17 years before the world’s first smartphone. Unlike the smartwatches of today, the HP-01 could not make phone calls, send messages, or connect to the Internet. Instead, it had a timer, stopwatch, calendar, reminder, alarm clock, calculator, and daily planner. It also lacked a touch screen, and users could only interact with it using its 28 buttons. But the buttons were so small that they could only be clicked with a stylus. The HP-01 was waterproof and powered by three batteries, six chips, and about 38,000 resistors, which was impressive for a time when computers only had two kilobytes of RAM. Two years after its introduction, the HP-01 went out of production due to poor sales. Its premium price—$650 for its stainless steel version and $750 for its gold-coated version—made it too expensive for many consumers.
Can you see the silliness that we get caught up in? There will always be a bigger and better "something" that demands our temporary attention. The secret is to not fall for it!
Coffee out on the cold patio this morning. Are ta up for it?