(Roughly) Daily

Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

“All food is comfort food… maybe I just like to chew”*…

 

To understand the evolution of macaroni and cheese is to realize that pursuit of the “cheapest protein possible” has been a longstanding quest of the American food system. At times, cheese itself has shared a similar trajectory. Cheesemaking, which began 10,000 years ago, was originally about survival for a farm family or community: taking a very perishable protein (milk) and transforming it into something less perishable (cheese) so that there would be something to eat at a later date. Many of us today think of cheese in the context of tradition, flavor, or saving family farms, but a basic goal—whether a producer is making farm-made cheddar or concocting the cheeseless dairy product Velveeta—has always been getting as much edible food from a gallon of milk as possible…

Macaroni and cheese has been served as long as there has been a United States of America, but in a 20th-century economy driven by convenience packaging and industrialization, it was elevated to an ideal American food: Pasta and processed cheese are very cheap to make and easy to ship and store, and they certainly fill up a belly…

The story of a the versatile dish, popularized by Thomas Jefferson, that satisfied the quest for “the cheapest protein possible”: “A Brief History of America’s Appetite for Macaroni and Cheese.”

* Lewis Black

###

As we dig in, we might spare a thought for Jimmy Ray Dean; he died on this date in 2010.  First successful as a country singer (he’s in the Country Music Hall of Fame), he later found success as an actor (as Fess Parker’s sidekick in Daniel Boone), a television host (The Jimmy Dean Show, which introduced Jim Henson and the Muppets to the wider world), and as a businessman.  With his brother Don, he founded Jimmy Dean Sausage Company, for which he served for many years as its TV pitchman.

Jimmy on the right

source

 

Written by LW

June 13, 2018 at 1:01 am

“Disasters are called natural, as if nature were the executioner and not the victim”*…

 

The United States is an enormous country, spanning mountains, deserts, forests, prairie, tundra, and more. This varied terrain is also home to many natural hazards spawned by air, water, fire, and forces beneath the Earth’s surface.

Some of these threats are dramatic; the United States and its territories have the greatest number of active volcanoes of any country except Indonesia, as well as the most tornadoes. Other hazards, like heat waves, are less flashy but can still kill you.

Different regions of the country face very different hazards. But which part of the United States is the most dangerous? It turns out there’s no simple answer, although the south does have a particularly generous share of hazards…

See how the country’s natural menaces differ by geography at “Where in the United States is nature most likely to kill you?

* Eduardo Galeano

###

As we calculate our odds, we might recall that it was on this date in 1899 that New Richmond Tornado– an estimated F5 storm, formed in the early evening, and went on to tear a 45-mile long path of destruction through St. Croix, Polk and Barron counties in west-central Wisconsin, leaving 117 people dead, twice as many injured, and hundreds homeless.  The worst devastation wrought by the tornado was at the city of New Richmond, Wisconsin, which took a direct hit from the storm.  In all, more than $300,000 ($8,825,000 in today’s dollars) in damage was reported.  Still, it ranks as only the ninth deadliest tornado in United States history.

The ruins of New Richmond Methodist Church after the tornado

source

 

Written by LW

June 12, 2018 at 1:01 am

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that.”*…

 

A New Orleans levee, lit from above [source]

400,000 years ago, humans and Neanderthals discovered fire. This ignited a relationship between people and photons that changed the course of mankind—and continues to evolve to this day…

* Martin Luther King, Jr.

###

As we remove our sunglasses, we might spare a thought for Roger Bacon; he died on this date in 1292.  A philosopher and Franciscan friar, Bacon was one of the first to propose mathematics and experimentation as appropriate methods of science.  Working in mathematics, astronomy, physics, alchemy, and languages, he was particularly impactful in optics: he elucidated the principles of refraction, reflection, and spherical aberration, and described spectacles, which soon thereafter came into use. He developed many mathematical results concerning lenses, proposed mechanically propelled ships, carriages, and flying machines, and used a camera obscura to observe eclipses of the Sun.  And he was the first European give a detailed description of the process of making gunpowder.

He began his career at Oxford, then lectured for a time at Paris, where his skills as a pedagogue earned him the title Doctor Mirabilis, or “wonderful teacher.”  He stopped teaching when he became a Franciscan.  But his scientific work continued, despite his Order’s restrictions on activity and publication, as Bacon enjoyed the protection and patronage of Pope Clement…  until, on Clement’s death, he was placed under house arrest in Oxford, where he continued his studies, but was unable to publish and communicate with fellow investigators.

Statue of Roger Bacon in the Oxford University Museum

 source

 

 

 

Written by LW

June 11, 2018 at 1:01 am

“The challenge for capitalism is that the things that breed trust also breed the environment for fraud”*…

 

 source

WannaCry, a computer virus that encrypts data and demands a ransom to unscramble it, hit thousands of computers in May, causing several hospitals in Britain to close their doors. Hardly a week now goes by without a large company admitting that its systems have been breached: Yahoo recently confessed that 1bn accounts had been compromised in an attack in 2013. Cyber-attacks are a scourge of modern life, but their history goes back further than you might expect.

The world’s first national data network was constructed in France during the 1790s. It was a mechanical telegraph system, consisting of chains of towers, each of which had a system of movable wooden arms on top. Different configurations of these arms corresponded to letters, numbers and other characters. Operators in each tower would adjust the arms to match the configuration of an adjacent tower, observed through a telescope, causing sequences of characters to ripple along the line. Messages could now be sent much faster than letters, whizzing from one end of France to the other in minutes. The network was reserved for government use but in 1834 two bankers, François and Joseph Blanc, devised a way to subvert it to their own ends…

Nearly two centuries ago, France was hit by the world’s first cyber-attack.  With a nod to Isaiah Berlin**, Tom Standage argues that it holds lessons for us today: “The crooked timber of humanity.”

* James Surowiecki

** Berlin’s title was a reference to a quote from Kant: “Out of the crooked timber of humanity, no straight thing was ever made.”

###

As we learn from history, we might recall that it was on this date in 1858 that two ships, the Niagara and the Agamemnon headed out from Keyham Dockyard in England to begin work on what would become the first operational Transatlantic cable, as previous attempts at laying a Transatlantic cable had failed.  Designed for telegraph operation, the cable run was completed on August 5th; and the first test message was sent on August 12th.

The Niagara at work

source

 

Written by LW

June 10, 2018 at 1:01 am

“But the toaster was quite satisfied with itself, thank you”*…

 

Would a toaster still work in a freezer?  —My Brother, My Brother and MeEpisode 343, discussing a Yahoo Answers question

On a recent episode of Justin, Travis, and Griffin McElroy’s terrific advice podcast, My Brother, My Brother and Me, the brothers pondered a Yahoo Answers question about what would happen if you put a toaster inside a freezer. (The discussion comes around the 36-minute mark.)

They have a fun discussion of a few aspects of the problem before eventually moving on to the next question. Since they don’t really settle on a final answer, I thought we could help them out by taking a closer look at the physics of freezer toasters.

(A quick safety note: If you actually do this, keep in mind that the toaster may melt some of the ice in the freezer, leaving you with a running electrical appliance in a pool of water.)…

Another in Randall Munroe’s marvelous What If? series: “Toaster vs. Freezer.”

* Thomas M. Disch, The Brave Little Toaster

###

As we cultivate curiosity, we might recall that President Abraham Lincoln wasn’t the only person to die in Ford’s Theater: it was on this date in 1893 that three interior floors of the building collapsed.  Ford had acquired his venue from a failed baptist Church; but shortly after its conversion, it burned to the ground.  Ford hastily rebuilt, and began to program performances like Our American Cousin, which featured the  famous actor– and assassin– John Wilkes Booth.

Following Lincoln’s death, the United States Government appropriated the theatre, (Congress payed Ford $88,000 in compensation), and an order was issued forever prohibiting its use as a place of public amusement.  In 1866, the theatre was taken over by the U.S. military… then in 1893, the front of the building gave way, killing 22 military clerks and injuring another 68… which led some to conclude that the former Church-turned-theater was cursed.  (A restored Ford’s Theater opened in 1968.)

Bodies being removed from Ford’s Theatre following the building’s collapse

source

 

Written by LW

June 9, 2018 at 1:01 am

“I was once told that flying involves long hours of boredom, interrupted by moments of extreme fright”*…

 

Boeing Model 314 Clipper “California Clipper,” Pan American Airways [source]

On December 7, 1941, when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, there was a Pan Am Clipper proceeding to Auckland, New Zealand [from its San Francisco base] when the radio operator announced to the crew, in a panicked voice, that Pearl Harbor had been attacked. The Captain realized that this was not a joke, after looking over at the radio operator’s face, and said, “Please confirm the details of your news with Pan Am headquarters in New Caledonia.”

When the radio operator returned to the Captain’s side he advised that the news was in fact correct and they advised me to tell you the following, Implement Plan A.” The Captain reached for a sealed envelope from his jacket…

And so began a globe-circling trek that ended on January 6, 1942 at La Guardia’s Marine Air Terminal: total flight time was 209 hours; total distance, 31,500 miles (a circuitous route that involved dodging first Japanese then German military aircraft that considered the American plane “a strategic military resource” to be destroyed).  It was the first around-the-world flight by a commercial airliner… the hard way.

Read the fascinating story of this unintended circumnavigation at “The Long Way Home….Pan Am Flight 18602.”

* “Franklin W. Dixon” (the shared pseudonym of the many authors of The Hardy Boys novels)

###

As we buckle our seatbelts, we might recall that it was on this day in 1920 that Lt. John H. “Dynamite” Wilson of the 96th Aero Squadron, Kelly Field, Texas, leapt with a parachute from a De Haviland B airplane at an altitude of approximately 20,000 feet and made a safe landing in a turnip patch.

 source (and larger version)

 

Written by LW

June 8, 2018 at 1:01 am

“Whose maps are we trying to read? And what are we trying to draw?”*…

 

A map of the South China Sea, with competing territorial claims marked

Maps are complicated in the current geopolitical climate—especially emblazoned across your torso. What is perfectly acceptable in Vietnam can get you stopped at Chinese border control, and vice versa.

Recently, US clothing retailer Gap apologized for printing a t-shirt that didn’t include China’s claimed territories, including Taiwan, South Tibet, and islands in the South China Sea. In doing so, it joined Marriott and Delta, which had previously triggered Beijing’s ire for maps-related issues. At the same time, a group of Chinese tourists to Vietnam generated outrage by showing up at a Vietnamese airport wearing t-shirts with a Chinese map including parts of Vietnam…

Even the United Nations’s world map openly states that the represented borders aren’t necessarily officially recognized (the map specifically calls out Kashmir and the Falkland Islands as disputed territories.) It also notes that although Taiwan was a UN founding member, it left the organization in 1971, and the UN recognizes China’s sovereignty over it…

And so the image above: “Here’s a t-shirt you could wear everywhere in East Asia without upsetting anyone.”

* Rebecca Solnit

###

As we ponder geopolitical presumption, we might send pioneering birthday greetings to Henry Bradford Washburn, Jr.; he was born on this date in 1910.  An explorer, mountaineer, photographer, and cartographer, he established the Boston Museum of Science, served as its director from 1939–1980, and from 1985 until his death served as its Honorary Director.

In 1940, he married fellow explorer Barbara Polk; on their honeymoon in Alaska, they made the first ascent of Mt. Bertha.  Seven years later, they climbed Denali (Mt. McKinley), an ascent that made her the first female to reach the peak.

Bradford and Barbara atop Mt. McKinley, Alaska, June 6, 1947

source

 

%d bloggers like this: