(Roughly) Daily

“Alis volat propriis”*…

 

In exactly a week, millions will gather on couches across America (and the world) to watch the the Seahawks and the Patriots duel in Superbowl XLIX.  And on the coffee tables in front of many– if not most– of them will sit heaping mounds of (now traditional) chicken wings.  Readers may recall that, two years ago, we reported on a downturn in Super Bowl wings consumption, occasioned by rising poultry prices.  But even as chicken costs have continued to rise, consumption has recovered…

According to a National Chicken Council report released Friday, 1.25 billion wings will be consumed during Super Bowl XLIX.

The average wholesale price of chicken wings is currently $1.71 per pound, up from $1.35 per pound at the same time last year, according to the Daily Northeast Broiler/Fryer Report by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agriculture Marketing Service. Wing prices hit a record high in January 2013 of $2.11 per pound.

If one laid 1.25 billion wings end-to-end, assuming and average length of 3.5 inches, they would stretch to and from CenturyLink Field in Seattle to Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass., almost 28 times. The wings would also circle the Grand Canyon 120 times.

It’s enough wings to put 572 on every seat in all 32 NFL stadiums and they weigh about 5,955 times more than the poundage of the Seahawks and Patriots entire 52-man rosters combined.

Most people will buy wings from restaurants and bars, but wings sales at grocery stores also spike during Super Bowl week. Nielsen Perishables Group FreshFacts shows that fresh and prepared wings sales totaled $1.7 billion in the 52 weeks ending Nov. 29, 2014, an increase of 3.1 percent compared to a year earlier.

As far as dipping sauces go, Ranch wins out. More than half of people prefer ranch for dipping, while 42 percent prefer barbecue sauce and 36 percent prefer blue cheese.

source: Chicago Tribune

* State motto of Oregon

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As we wonder how half-time turned into the fair-ground joke that it has, we might recall that it was on this date in 1890 that journalist Nellie Bly completed her 72-day trip around the world.

In 1888, Bly suggested to her editor at the New York World that she take a trip around the world, attempting to turn the fictional Around the World in Eighty Days into fact for the first time.  A year later, at 9:40 a.m. on November 14, 1889, with two days’ notice, she boarded the steamer Augusta Victoria, and began her 24,899-mile journey.

She brought with her the dress she was wearing, a sturdy overcoat, several changes of underwear, and a small travel bag carrying her toiletry essentials. She carried most of her money (£200 in English bank notes and gold in total as well as some American currency) in a bag tied around her neck.

Bly traveled through England, France (where she met Jules Verne in Amiens), Brindisi, the Suez Canal, Colombo (Ceylon), the Straits Settlements of Penang and Singapore, Hong Kong, and Japan.  Just over seventy-two days after her departure from Hoboken, having used steamships and existing railway lines, Bly was back in New York; she beat Phileas Fogg’s time by almost 8 days.

Nellie Bly, in a publicity photo for her around-the-world voyage. Caption on the original photo reads: “Nellie Bly, The New York WORLD’S correspondent who placed a girdle round the earth in 72 days, 6 hours, and 11 minutes.”

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Written by LW

January 25, 2015 at 1:01 am

“I could dance with you till the cows come home. Better still, I’ll dance with the cows and you come home”*…

 

Blosom, a 6′ 4″ bovine, was recently named the World’s Tallest Cow by Guinness World Records.

In an email from Guinness World Records in London, England, owner Patty Hanson read, “We would like to congratulate you on your record breaking achievement — you are truly amazing”…

This tall tale in it’s entirety at “‘Holy cow, she is big:’ Orangeville Holstein sets Guinness World Record“; more photos here.

* Groucho Marx, in Duck Soup

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As we celebrate superlatives, we might recall that the pinnacle of a cow’s produce, the Eskimo Pie–ice cream center covered in chocolate– was patented on this date in 1922.  Christian Kent Nelson, a schoolteacher and candy store owner, claimed to have received the inspiration in 1920 in Onawa, Iowa, when a boy in his store was unable to decide whether to spend his money on ice cream or a chocolate bar.  After experimenting with different ways to adhere melted chocolate to bricks of ice cream, Nelson began selling his invention under the name “I-Scream Bars.”  In 1921, he filed for a patent, and secured an agreement with local chocolate producer Russell C. Stover to mass-produce them under the new trademarked name “Eskimo Pie” (a name suggested by Mrs. Stover), and to create the Eskimo Pie Corporation.  After patent 1,404,539 was issued on January 24, 1922, Nelson franchised the product, allowing ice cream manufacturers to produce them under the now-ubiquitous name.  (Ultimately the company was acquired by Nestlé,)

 

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Written by LW

January 24, 2015 at 1:01 am

“Tragedy is when I cut my finger. Comedy is when you fall into an open sewer and die”*…

 

Further to Wednesday’s almanac entry on America’s first independent municipal sewer system

Sometime in mid to late January, researchers from MIT plan to gather around a manhole on Portland Street in East Cambridge, dressed in plastic disposable biohazard coats and gloves. Each hour over the next 24, working in teams of two over four-hour shifts, they’ll sink a tube into the muck and pump one to two liters of sewage water into a plastic container. The container will be put into a cooler and taken to the nearby lab at MIT run by Eric Alm, a computational microbiologist. Alm’s lab will analyze all 24 of these sludgy samples to see what viruses and bacteria they hold; meanwhile, a vial of each sample will be sent to another lab to be analyzed for biomarkers (molecular or cellular flags for things like diseases and drugs, legal and illegal ).

These researchers—who include architects, computational biologists, designers, electrical and mechanical engineers, geneticists, and microbiologists—will be testing an idea that’s attracting interest around the world: namely, that sewage can tell us important things about the people who excrete it. Already, research has shown that sewage can reveal illicit drug usage, the presence of influenza, the poliovirus and other pathogens, and the state of community health. So far, however, none of this has been tested in our local waste systems, other than some proof-of-concept sampling done in Boston. That has led to this first formal effort by scientists and public health officials to get a sewage snapshot of the people of Cambridge…

Get to the bottom at “What does Cambridge sewage say about residents? MIT plans to find out.”

* Mel Brooks

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As we hold our noses, we might recall that it was on this date in 1594 that Shakespeare’s Titus Andronicus was first performed (by Sussex’s Men at The Rose).  Titus‘s premiere is the first performance of a Shakespeare play of which there is precise record (though confident deduction dates other plays’ performances earlier); it was recorded in Philip Henslowe‘s diary.  It is also the only Shakespeare play for which a contemporary illustration survives, the work of a drawing master named Henry Peacham.

The Peacham drawing (c.1595)

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Written by LW

January 23, 2015 at 1:01 am

“If one cannot enjoy reading a book over and over again, there is no use in reading it at all”*…

 

Facebook has analyzed its well-known meme, “List 10 books that have stayed with you in some way. Don’t take more than a few minutes, and don’t think too hard. They do not have to be the ‘right’ books or great works of literature, just ones that have affected you in some way.”

It gathered an anonymized sample of over 130,000 status updates matching “10 books” or “ten books” appearing in the last two weeks of August 2014 (although the meme has been active over at least a year). 63.7% of the posters were in the US, followed by 9.3%in India, and 6.3% in the UK. Women outnumbered men 3.1:1. The average age was 37.

Here are the top 20 books, along with a percentage of all lists (having at least one of the top 500 books) that contained them.

  1. 21.08 Harry Potter series – J.K. Rowling
  2. 14.48 To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee
  3. 13.86 The Lord of the Rings – JRR Tolkien
  4. 7.48  The Hobbit – JRR Tolkien
  5. 7.28  Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen
  6. 7.21  The Holy Bible
  7. 5.97  The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – Douglas Adams
  8. 5.82  The Hunger Games Trilogy – Suzanne Collins
  9. 5.70  The Catcher in the Rye – J.D. Salinger
  10. 5.63  The Chronicles of Narnia – C.S. Lewis
  11. 5.61  The Great Gatsby – F. Scott Fitzgerald
  12. 5.37  1984 – George Orwell
  13. 5.26  Little Women – Louisa May Alcott
  14. 5.23  Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte
  15. 5.11  The Stand – Stephen King
  16. 4.95  Gone with the Wind – Margaret Mitchell
  17. 4.38  A Wrinkle in Time – Madeleine L’Engle
  18. 4.27  The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood
  19. 4.05  The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe – C.S. Lewis
  20. 4.01  The Alchemist – Paulo Coelho

Read more here.  And see how the same list varied in non-English-speaking areas here (spoiler alert: Harry Potter still rules…).

* Oscar Wilde

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As we turn the page, we might send leather-bound birthday wishes to poet, iconic bad boy (and, as readers will recall,  father of the redoubtable Ada Lovelace) George Gordon, Lord Byron; he was was born on this date in 1788.  Byron once famously suggested that “If I don’t write to empty my mind, I go mad.”  Still, history suggests, even then…

source

Written by LW

January 22, 2015 at 1:01 am

“Some people see the glass half full. Others see it half empty. I see a glass that’s twice as big as it needs to be”*…

 

Concave drawing of the Getty gardens

 

David Hockney has famously pondered perspective in his work; when criticized for a lack of “reality,” he’s observed,

Cubism was an attack on the perspective that had been known and used for 500 years. It was the first big, big change. It confused people: they said, ‘Things don’t look like that!’

The twin brothers Ryan and Trevor Oakes share his adventurousness in seeing in the artwork that they create together.

As children in the back seat, Trevor and Ryan Oakes noticed that when they focused on the horizon, bugs on the windshield seemed to split in two. Twenty-odd years later these identical twins are still investigating the intricacies of visual perception. This show pulls back the curtain on a decade of their optical obsession. To avoid the distortions that occur when the world is traced onto a flat canvas, the twins have built a concave metal easel that allows them to sketch directly onto the inside of a sphere. Rather than using lenses or mirrors to project an image onto canvas, as the Renaissance masters did, the twins have devised an ultra-low-tech method for sketching from life: they cross their eyes until an object floats onto their paper’s edge — and then they trace it. Visitors can marvel at the plaster helmet (dubbed an “optical cockpit” by Lawrence Weschler) where the twins have spent hours with their eyes out of stereo alignment [cross-eyed], reproducing skylines and courtyards into curved paper with a supernatural sense of depth and perspective. During the exhibition, the twins will haul their curved easel outside the museum to trace the Flatiron building with their cross-eyed technique. “Our subject matter is as much an eye looking as the thing being looked at,” said Trevor. Ryan added, “We’re dissecting what it feels like to have two eyes.”

See more, learn more at OakesOakes.

[TotH to @MartyKrasney]

* George Carlin

###

As we focus on the tips of our noses, we might recall that it was on this date in 1880 that the City of Memphis, Tennessee began construction of the first independent municipal sewage system in the U.S.  Independent sewer systems had been introduced in 25 years earlier in England; but American engineers at the time, still favored “combined” systems, in which storm water and sewage were handled in the same large pipes.  Memphis was the first U.S. municipal system to forgo the benefits of the natural “flushing” provided by rain water, opting for smaller, dedicated pipes.

Memphis suffered through several severe plagues of cholera (1873) and yellow fever (1878 and 1879) — over 10,000 lives were lost. The city recognized the need to get their sanitary sewage away from their water sources (then, primarily small private wells), even though the final decision was erroneously based on the belief that yellow fever was being caused by inadequate sanitation practices. The city and the state legislature tried to raise monies; the efforts gained some of the money they thought would be needed for a new sewer system — but not a lot.

The situation in Memphis aroused the sympathy of the nation and was largely responsible for the creation of the National Board of Health. The Board retained and sent Col. George E. Waring, Jr., [who had gained notoriety draining Central Park] to Memphis. He designed what he thought was a system Memphis could afford, but also one he felt would work: a separate system using 6″ diameter laterals, with sewers with 112-gallon flush-tank mechanisms placed at the upstream terminal end of each of the lateral (collector) sewer runs — to be flushed once every 24 hours. The house connection sewers were 4″ diameter. Both vertical and horizontal changes of alignment were routinely done along the long runs of manhole-less gravity sewer mains. No more than 300 homes were to be connected to each 6″ main. No rain water was to be made tributary to these sewers and the sewer system was to be vented through the soil pipe plumbing system in each house..

SewerHistory.org

Col. George E. Waring, Jr.

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Written by LW

January 21, 2015 at 1:01 am

“You know, Hobbes, some days even my lucky rocket ship underpants don’t help”*…

 

Horseshoe charm made from a fragment of German shell by a wounded Belgian soldier.

 

During (and after) World War I, British folklorist Edward Lovett made a point of collecting examples of lucky charms and amulets that soldiers had carried to war. Some of these—included in a new book about the Imperial War Museum’s World War I collections, The First World War Galleries, by Paul Cornish—are below.

Lovett was a contemporary folklorist, collecting and analyzing material from his own city of London instead of working with archives or in other countries. Most active during the 1910s and 1920s, Lovett worked at a bank by day, gathering examples of amulets, charms, and talismans in his free time.Lovett was interested in seeing how country folklore lived on in working-class parts of London. He investigated the use of such charms to cure illnesses, wish ill upon enemies, or attract good luck. You can see some of his larger collection online through this Wellcome Library digital exhibition.

The charms Lovett collected from soldiers were sometimes fashioned from materials with some significance to their owners: bog oak or Connemara marble, carried by Irishmen as mementos of home; [or as in the photo above] bits of armaments that could have killed the bearer, but didn’t.

Take in more talismans at “The Lucky Charms Soldiers Carried Into WWI.”

* Calvin (Bill Watterson)

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As we rub our rabbit’s feet, we might spare a thought for George Frederick Ernest Albert, George V, King of the United Kingdom and the British Dominions, and Emperor of India; he died on this date in 1936.   In a statement, the King’s physician, Lord Dawson of Penn, reported that the King’s last words were “How stands the Empire?”  But in his diary, uncovered much later, Dawson recalls a less elegant end:  The physician confessed in his memoir that he prescribed the fast-failing King a fatal sedative so that his death would be announced in the Tory morning papers (and opposed to the afternoon tabloids).  George’s actual last words, as a nurse approached with the morphine- and cocaine-filled syringe, were God damn you, you’re going to kill me!”

George V

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Written by LW

January 20, 2015 at 1:01 am

“The score never interested me, only the game”*…

 

In 1913, when he was 20, Clayton Hudson wrote Harry Houdini, daring him to escape from a special crate that Hudson had designed.  Houdini warmed to Hudson, choosing his challenge from the myriad he received, and with £100 at stake, found a way out.  26 years later, Hudson put his expensive lesson to work– using Monopoly sets to help World War II prisoners of war escape…

At around the time that Monopoly was starting to make a name for itself – and to achieve the kind of fame that would make it such a central part of prison life in Stalag XXB – Clayton Hutton was beginning to worry about the fate of Europe. As the 1930s drew to a close, a war was clearly looming, and he wanted to get involved.

Despite service as a pilot during the First World War, Clayton Hutton was not a career military man. Instead, he had left the service to work in journalism here and there and as a publicity director for the movie business. He had also become increasingly eccentric – a fact that, along with his age, may explain why he was swiftly turned down when in 1939 he applied to join the Royal Air Force.

Luckily, British military intelligence was currently looking for “a showman with an interest in escapology” – the kind of man, perhaps, who had once been publicly humiliated by the greatest magician that ever lived.

These were busy times for the intelligence services. MI9 had been newly formed under Brigadier Norman Crockatt; its objective was to facilitate the escape of any allied soldiers captured by the enemy during the coming war, and return them safely to the UK. This sort of thing required some pretty unusual thinking – and some pretty unusual thinkers. Following a short interview with Crockatt – in which the story of the Houdini challenge played a crucial role – Clayton Hutton was employed by MI9 as a technical officer…

Read the whole extraordinary story– and see photos of Hudson’s handiwork– at “Inside Monopoly’s secret war against the Third Reich.”

 

* Mae West

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As we bake a hacksaw into a cake, we might recall that it was on this date in 1944 that Helen Duncan became the last person to be charged under the British Witchcraft Act of 1735.  In the event, her real offense was a form of espionage, a violation of the Official Secrets Act: she’d held public seances purportedly with victims of the torpedoed of HMS Barham, the loss of which was classified.  (It was demonstrated at her trial that she’d had the opportunity to learn of the ship’s loss from crew members’ families.)  Rather than amplify the leak, the authorities prosecuted her under the Witchcraft statute, which made falsely claiming to procure spirits a crime.  She served nine months in prison, and was barred from further “practice”…  though she was caught in the act and arrested again in 1956 (this time under the Fraudulent Mediums Act of 1951, which replaced the Witchcraft Act).

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Written by LW

January 19, 2015 at 1:01 am

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