(Roughly) Daily

“While we do our good works let us not forget that the real solution lies in a world in which charity will have become unnecessary”*…


… In the meantime, let us remember that, as history repeats itself, so does the call on us all to do what we can to help.

The American Committee for Relief in the Near East, which put these posters in circulation in the last years of World War I, began in 1915 as the American Committee for Armenian and Syrian Relief and was formed as a humanitarian response to the Armenian genocide and the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire. As World War I developed, the group began to offer food and shelter to displaced people in Syria, Persia (now Iran), and Greece.

The American Committee for Relief in the Near East’s posters often used the image of a child, or a young woman, to appeal to passers-by. Throughout the war, Americans also donated to relief campaigns for Belgian and French children, and the image of hungry young people and frightened mothers came to symbolize the plight of civilians caught up in the war.

In Syria, after the war, shelters run by Near East Relief (which was renamed and granted a Congressional charter after the end of the war) housed 45,000 orphans. The organization operated these facilities until 1930, when the last war orphans aged out of the need for care…

More at “The Heartbreaking Posters That Convinced Americans to Help Displaced Syrians During WWI.”

* Chinua Achebe, Anthills of the Savannah


As we reach deep, we might we might recall that it was on this date in 1659 that Daniel Defoe’s “Robinson Crusoe” was shipwrecked and marooned on the desert island that was his home for the next 28 years.  Defoe called his novel, based in part on the true story of shipwrecked sailor Alexander SelkirkThe Life and Strange Surprizing Adventures of Robinson Crusoe, of York, Mariner: Who lived Eight and Twenty Years, all alone in an un-inhabited Island on the Coast of America, near the Mouth of the Great River of Oroonoque; Having been cast on Shore by Shipwreck, wherein all the Men perished but himself. With An Account how he was at last as strangely deliver’d by Pyrates.

Title page of the first edition


Written by LW

September 30, 2015 at 1:01 am

“The solar system is off center and consequently man is too”*…


email readers click here for video

On a dry lake bed in Nevada, a group of friends build the first scale model of the solar system with complete planetary orbits: a true illustration of our place in the universe…

* Harlow Shapley, Through Rugged Ways to the Stars


As we reach for the stars, we might recall that it was on this date in 1988 that NASA launched the space shuttle Discovery, marking America’s resumption of manned space flight following the 1986 Challenger disaster.  It was the first of Discovery‘s two “Return To Flight” assignments; it flew the “twin” missions in 2005 and 2006 that followed the Columbia disaster in 2003.



Written by LW

September 29, 2015 at 1:01 am

“Ambition is a dream with a V8 engine”*…


From Colin Furze, a DIY project with which to conjure…

email readers click here

Then watch it work…

email readers click here for video

* Elvis Presley


As we’re thoughtful about thrust, we might send birthday greetings to Thomas Crapper; he was baptized on this date in 1836 (his birthdate is unknown).  Crapper popularized the one-piece pedestal flushing toilet that still bears his name in many parts of the English-speaking world.

The flushing toilet was invented by John Harrington in 1596; Joseph Bramah patented the first practical water closet in England in 1778; then in 1852, George Jennings received a patent for the flush-out toilet.  Crapper’s  contribution was promotional ( though he did develop some important related inventions, such as the ballcock): in a time when bathroom fixtures were barely mentionable, Crapper, who was trained as a plumber, set himself up as a “sanitary engineer”; he heavily promoted “sanitary” plumbing and pioneered the concept of the bathroom fittings showroom.  His efforts were hugely successful; he scored a series of Royal Warrants (providing lavatories for Prince, then King Edward, and for George V) and enjoyed huge commercial success.  To this day, manhole covers with Crapper’s company’s name on them in Westminster Abbey are among London’s minor tourist attractions.



Written by LW

September 28, 2015 at 1:01 am

“Celebrity is the chastisement of merit and the punishment of talent”*…


It’s easy to imagine that the fever pitch of celebrity consciousness in which we’re awash is a modern phenomenon, a function of reality TV, social media, and other trappings of our times.  But consider the case of Lillie Langtry…

Known in the later 19th century as “the most beautiful woman in the world,” Langtry had her portrait painted by both John Everett Millais and James McNeil Whistler; and Oscar Wilde once said of her, “I would rather have discovered Mrs. Langtry than to have discovered America.”  Married to a wealthy Irishman, she was mistress of the Prince of Wales, later King Edward VII.  Through her society connections she befriended Sarah Bernhardt, who convinced her to try acting; she made her debut at London’s Haymarket Theatre in 1881.

From her autobiography, an anecdote from 1874– before her turn on the stage:

One morning I twisted a piece of black velvet into a toque, stuck a quill through it, and went to Sandown Park. A few days later this turban appeared in every milliner’s window labeled “The Langtry Hat.” “Langtry” shoes, which are still worn, were launched, and so on and so on. It was very embarrassing, and it had all come about so suddenly that I was bewildered. If I went for a stroll in the park and stopped a moment to admire the flowers, people ran after me in droves, staring me out of countenance, and even lifting my sunshade to satisfy fully their curiosity. To venture out for a little shopping was positively hazardous, for the instant I entered an establishment to make a purchase, the news that I was within spread with the proverbial rapidity of wildfire, and the crowd about the door grew so dense that departure by the legitimate exit was rendered impossible, the obliging proprietors being forced, with many apologies, to escort me around to the back door.

Instead of the excitement abating, it increased to such an extent that it became risky for me to indulge in a walk, on account of the crushing that would follow my appearance. To better illustrate my predicament I may state as a fact that, one Sunday afternoon, a young girl, with an aureole of fair hair and wearing a black gown, was seated in the park near the Achilles statue. Someone raised the cry that it was I, people rushed toward her, and before the police could interfere, she was mobbed to such an extent that an ambulance finally conveyed her, suffocating and unconscious, to St. George’s Hospital.

Via Lapham’s Quarterly

* Emily Dickinson


As we slake ourselves on selfies, we might spare a thought for Clara Bow; she died on this date in 1965.  Bow appeared in 46 silent films and 11 talkies, including Wings (1927; the winner of the first Academy Award for Best Picture).  But it was her appearance as a plucky shopgirl in the film It (also in 1927) that brought her global fame and the nickname “The It Girl.” Bow came to personify the Roaring Twenties and to become its leading sex symbol.  At the height of her stardom, she received more than 45,000 fan letters in a single month (January, 1929).

After marrying actor Rex Bell in 1931, Bow retired from acting and became a rancher in Nevada, where she lived, relatively quietly, for another 34 years.




Written by LW

September 27, 2015 at 1:01 am

“Since my last report, your child has reached rock bottom and has started to dig”*…


Between 1830 and 1860, historian Carl F. Kaestle has written, American schools, influenced by theories stemming from European educators Joseph Lancaster and Johann Pestalozzi, began to favor the inculcation of “internalized discipline through proper motivation.” In practice, this kind of discipline might include positive reinforcement, like these certificates, as well as corporal punishment. 

Schools that wanted to teach children to be “obedient, punctual, deferential, and task-oriented,” Kaestle writes, were responding to the exigencies of a classroom environment that could easily descend into chaos. (Nineteenth-century schoolrooms might be crowded with large numbers of students or be required to serve a wide variety of ages and abilities; teachers were sometimes young and inexperienced.)

This range of merit certificates shows what kinds of behaviors were valued in 19th-century students: selflessness, “correct deportment,” and diligence…

The digital archive of The Henry Ford has a group of 60 examples of rewards of merit given to 19th-century schoolchildren; more at “School Certificates of Merit For Good Little 19th-Century Boys and Girls.”

* actual comment made by a New York Public School teacher on a report card; see others– equally amusing– here


As we polish the apple, we might spare a thought for Ron Toomer; he died on this date in 2011.  Toomer began his career as an aeronautical engineer who contributed to the heat shields on NASA’s Apollo spacecraft.  But in 1965, he joined Arrow Development, an amusement park ride design company, where he became a legendary creator of steel roller coasters.  His first assignment was “The Run-Away Mine Train” (at Six Flags Over Texas), the first “mine train” ride, and the second steel roller coaster (after Arrow’s Matterhorn Ride at Disneyland).  Toomer went on to design 93 coasters worldwide, and was especially known for his creation of the first “inversion” coasters (he built the first coasters with 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, and 7, loops).  In 2000, he was inducted in the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions (IAAPA) Hall of Fame as a “Living Legend.”

Toomer with his design model for “The Corkscrew,” the first three-inversion coaster


“The Corkscrew” at Cedar Point Amusement Park, Ohio


Written by LW

September 26, 2015 at 1:01 am

“It is harder to let ourselves be loved than it is to love”*…


It should be no real surprise that one of the most capitalist nations in the world would capitalize on an Apostolic visit, even when the visitor is a pope who calls money the devil’s dung

From a G-string for women with a Pope Francis saying: “To live charitably means not looking out for your own interests but carrying the burdens of the weakest and poorest among us” and Pope Francis flip flops, to a microbrewery beer called YOPO—You Only Pope Once (that will be available at the pubs surrounding the Philadelphia venue for the Catholic World Meeting of Families) and a life-size gatorfoam standee posterboard of the pontiff ($160) for anyone who wants to take a papal selfie…  In contrast to Cuba, the Pope’s last stop, vendors are out in force as Francis visits the U.S. for the first time.

More at “Pope Francis Souvenir Shortage Hits Cuba, As U.S. Drowns In Them.”

* Pope Francis


As we “heart” Francis, we might recall that it was on this date in 1555 that Charles V and the forces of the Schmalkaldic League, an alliance of Lutheran princes, meeting in the imperial city of Augsburg (in present-day Bavaria, Germany) signed The Peace of Augsburg, officially ending the religious struggle between the two groups and making the legal division of Christendom permanent within the Holy Roman Empire.

Negotiating the Peace of Augsburg



Written by LW

September 25, 2015 at 1:01 am

“Humans were still not only the cheapest robots around, but also, for many tasks, the only robots that could do the job”*…


Researchers at Oxford University and Deloitte suggest that about 35% of current jobs in the UK are at high risk of computerization over the following 20 years (as, one imagines, are similar jobs in other developed nations).

The BBC has developed a handy tool one can use to learn just how much peril one is in: “Will a Robot Take Your Job?

* Kim Stanley Robinson, 2312


As we revisit Asimov’s Three Laws, we might recall that it was on this date in 1909 that Thomas M. Flaherty filed for the first U.S. patent for a “Signal for Crossings”– a traffic signal.  His signal used a large horizontal arrow pivoted on a post, which turned to indicate the right of way direction, and was activated by an electric solenoid operated by a policeman beside the road.

Flaherty’s was the first U.S. application for a traffic signal design, later issued as No. 991,964 on May 9, 1911. But though it was filed first, it was not the first patent actually issued for a traffic signal: Ernest E. Sirrine filed a different design seven months after Flaherty; but his patent was issued earlier, and thus he held the first U.S. patent for a “Street Traffic System.”

 source (and larger version)


Written by LW

September 24, 2015 at 1:01 am


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,145 other followers

%d bloggers like this: