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Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Tuesday links

Arthur Conan Doyle, creator of Sherlock Holmes, was born on May 22, 1859

Exercise for Women in the early 19th Century

What to do if you find yourself choking -- and no one's around.

1927 documentary on how to dial a telephone.

Gallery of photos from the Halifax explosion - the naval accident that erased an entire city in Canada.

Remembering the ‘Knocker-Ups’ Hired to Wake Workers With Pea Shooters.

ICYMI, Monday's links are here, and include the invention of the baby carrot, phrases commonly used today that come from obsolete technologies, a device used to resuscitate canaries in coal mines, Ziploc bag engineering, and the guy who makes the world’s best paper airplanes.

Monday, May 21, 2018

1927 documentary on how to dial a telephone

Model 102
I'm always fascinated by the technology of thisgs tha we take so completely for granted - the development of the telephone is an excellent example.

The rotary dial is a device mounted on or in a telephone or switchboard that is designed to send electrical pulses, known as pulse dialing, corresponding to the number dialed. The early form of the rotary dial used lugs on a finger plate instead of holes. 

The modern version of the rotary dial with holes was first introduced in 1904 but did not enter service in the Bell System until 1919. The rotary dial was gradually supplanted by Dual-tone multi-frequency pushbutton dialing, introduced at the 1962 World's Fair, which uses a keypad instead of a dial...

Older candlestick model
The Model 102 telephone (B1 mount/set) was Western Electric's first widely distributed telephone set to feature the transmitter and receiver in a common handset. Prior models had been of the "candlestick" type, which featured a transmitter fixed to the base, and a receiver held to the ear. The 102 was manufactured between 1927 and 1929.

More on the history of these telephone models at youtube.

via Kottke.

Monday links

The Guy Who Makes the World’s Best Paper Airplanes.


The Invention of the Baby Carrot

Phrases commonly used today which are derived from obsolete technologies.

This device was used to resuscitate canaries in coal mines.

The Surprisingly Complex Design of the Ziploc Bag.

ICYMI, Friday's links are here, and include medieval fitness programs, an interactive map showing all of the roads leading to Rome, lost survival tips from 100 years ago (with illustrations), and the Great Sperm Race, scaled up to human size (plus bonus Monty Python). 

Friday, May 18, 2018

What phrases commonly used today are derived from obsolete technologies?

I've always found phrase origins fascinating - they can give us a glimpse into an entirely different reality, and, perhaps more importantly, they remind us of how many things we accept without question. We should definitely be questioning more.

Some examples of origins you may not know: 

"Hang up the phone."
 This comes from one specific kind of land-line phone that had a kind of hook you'd hang the handset from when you were done. Doing so would pull down the hook that was connected to a switch inside the phone that would disconnect the line.
Originating from printing houses in the days of moveable type:

Upper Case and Lower Case: 
The individual type blocks used in hand typesetting are stored in shallow wooden or metal drawers known as "type cases". Each is subdivided into a number of compartments ("boxes") for the storage of different individual letters.
The terms upper and lower case originate from this division. By convention, when the two cases were taken out of the storage rack, and placed on a rack on the compositor's desk, the case containing the capitals and small capitals stood at a steeper angle at the back of the desk, with the case for the small letters, punctuation and spaces being more easily reached at a shallower angle below it to the front of the desk, hence upper and lower case.


"Mind your Ps and Qs":
A warning to printers’ apprentices to take care when selecting the little blocks with letters on, to ensure that they didn’t confuse the P block with the Q block, and vice versa.


Cut (or copy) and paste: 
The term "cut and paste" comes from the traditional practice in manuscript-editings whereby people would cut paragraphs from a page with scissors and paste them onto another page. This practice remained standard into the 1980s.


To run through the wringer (or put through the wringer) referred to this laundry device that predated the spin cycle.


There's lots of ship-related stuff (more here):

Above Board - Anything on or above the open deck. If something is open and in plain view, it is above board.

As the Crow Flies - When lost or unsure of their position in coastal waters, ships would release a caged crow. The crow would fly straight towards the nearest land thus giving the vessel some sort of a navigational fix. The tallest lookout platform on a ship came to be know as the crow's nest.

Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea - The devil seam was the curved seam in the deck planking closest to the side of the ship and next to the scupper gutters. If a sailor slipped on the deck, he could find himself between the devil and the deep blue sea.

Deck hatch
Booby Hatch - Aboard ship, a booby hatch is a sliding cover or hatch that must be pushed away to allow access or passage.

Buoyed Up - Using a buoy to raise the bight of an anchor cable to prevent it from chafing on a rough bottom.

By and Large - Currently means in all cases or in any case. From the nautical: by meaning into the wind and large meaning with the wind: as in, "By and Large the ship handled very well."

Groggy - In 1740, British Admiral Vernon (whose nickname was "Old Grogram" for the cloak of grogram which he wore) ordered that the sailors' daily ration of rum be diluted with water. The men called the mixture "grog". A sailor who drank too much grog was "groggy".

Leeway - The weather side of a ship is the side from which the wind is blowing. The Lee side is the side of the ship sheltered from the wind. A lee shore is a shore that is downwind of a ship. If a ship does not have enough "leeway" it is in danger of being driven onto the shore.

Pipe Down - Means stop talking and be quiet. The Pipe Down was the last signal from the Bosun's pipe each day which meant "lights out" and "silence".

Pooped - The poop is the stern section of a ship. To be pooped is to be swamped by a high, following sea.

Rummage Sale - From the French "arrimage" meaning ship's cargo. Damaged cargo was sold at a rummage sale.

Scuttlebutt - A butt was a barrel. Scuttle meant to chop a hole in something. The scuttlebutt was a water barrel with a hole cut into it so that sailors could reach in and dip out drinking water. The scuttlebutt was the place where the ship's gossip was exchanged.

Skyscraper - A small triangular sail set above the skysail in order to maximize effect in a light wind.

Bitter end
Slush Fund - A slushy slurry of fat was obtained by boiling or scraping the empty salted meat storage barrels. This stuff called "slush" was often sold ashore by the ship's cook for the benefit of himself or the crew. The money so derived became known as a slush fund.

The Bitter End - The end of an anchor cable is fastened to the bitts at the ship's bow. If all of the anchor cable has been payed out you have come to the bitter end.

The Devil to Pay - To pay the deck seams meant to seal them with tar. The devil seam was the most difficult to pay because it was curved and intersected with the straight deck planking. Some sources define the "devil" as the below-the-waterline-seam between the keel and the the adjoining planking. Paying the Devil was considered to be a most difficult and unpleasant task.

Sails "in the wind"
Three Sheets to the Wind - A sheet is a rope line which controls the tension on the downwind side of a square sail. If, on a three masted fully rigged ship, the sheets of the three lower course sails are loose, the sails will flap and flutter and are said to be "in the wind". A ship in this condition would stagger and wander aimlessly downwind.

To Know the Ropes - There was miles and miles of cordage in the rigging of a square rigged ship. The only way of keeping track of and knowing the function of all of these lines was to know where they were located. It took an experienced seaman to know the ropes.

And, moving beyond the nautical:

Post in the sense of "a blog post": from the act of nailing a sign to a wooden post, or from sending a message via a system of posted riders and horses (i.e., they are assigned to their stations, a.k.a. their posts).

Run of the Mill: Mills have very large and heavy grinding stones, it takes some time to get to normal speed for grinding grains. At the operational speed, they produce a nice, fine and uniform powder or grounded grains (flour etc.), this "steady state" output was called run of the mill. Which has come to mean "ordinary".

Software bugs and debugging: In the context of computers it uses was popularized by Grace Murray Hopper, involving an electromechanical fault in the Mark II computer, due to a moth stuck in one of the relays. 



Know of any others? Leave them in the comments!

Friday links

The Great Sperm Race: The Most Extreme Race on Earth, Scaled To Human Size (plus bonus Monty Python). 
"Meet Glenn. Like most average men Glenn has no idea about the miracle of engineering tucked away in his pants." 


An Interactive Map Shows Just How Many Roads Actually Lead to Rome.

25 Lost Survival Tips from 100 Years Ago – with Illustrations.


ICYMI, Monday's links are here, and include the practice of execution by cannon, ancient Rome's urine tax, more human feet washing up in British Columbia, and pigeons with cameras.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

An Interactive Map Shows Just How Many Roads Actually Lead to Rome

Zoomable version here.

...he went away, and passing through what was called the house of Tiberius, went down into the forum, to where a gilded column stood, at which all the roads that intersect Italy terminate.

~ Plutarch, Life of Galba (XXIV.4)

All roads lead to Rome.

To illustrate, designers Benedikt GroƟ and Philipp Schmitt worked with digital geographer Raphael Reimann to select 486,713 starting points on a 26,503,452 km² grid of Europe. The image above is from their interactive map Roads to Rome - zoom in for detail.

Via Open Culture, where they also point out:
In a nod to map lovers outside of Europe, the mobility-obsessed team came up with another map, this one geared to stateside users.
Do you know which of the United States’ nine Romes you are closest to?
Now you do, from 312,719 distinct starting points.

The Guy Who Makes the World’s Best Paper Airplanes

In this video from WIRED, John Collins (website), aka "The Paper Airplane Guy," who's devoted the last two decades of his life to paper airplanes, talks about how he designs and flies the world's best and coolest paper planes.



Monday, May 14, 2018

The Great Sperm Race: The Most Extreme Race on Earth. Scaled To Human Size (plus bonus Monty Python)


A contest with 250 million competitors; only one winner... relentless obstacles, outrageous fatality rate.
Within 30 minutes of ejaculation, over 99 percent of the sperm will be dead or dying. But for those that remain it will be a vicious 14-hour fight to the end, with only one champion!
Sizing Up Sperm (full documentary embedded below) uses real people to represent 250 million sperm on their marathon quest to be first to reach a single egg; it was made by NatGeo in 2009:
Scaled up to human size with the sperm played by real people, The Great Sperm Race tells the story of human conception as it's never been told before using helicopter-mounted cameras, world-renowned scientists, CGI and dramatic reconstruction to illustrate the extraordinary journey of sperm.
With the microscopic world of sperm and egg accurately scaled up by 34,000 times, we see the human-sized heroes negotiate some of the world's most striking landscapes when the epic proportions of the vagina become the Canadian Rockies and the buildings on London's South Bank symbolise the intricacies of the cervix.
With the female body designed to repel and destroy invaders, from acidic vaginal walls to impassable cervical crypts, the sperm face unremitting obstacles. 'The battle that sperm have in order to find and fertilise an egg is just immense,' explains Dr Allan Pacey.
'Everything is working against sperm and they're not really given a helping hand by the female reproductive tract.'
A team of Leukocytes from the female immune system are sent to kill the sperm in the uterus:



On the left you see sperm squished in the cervix, and on the right is an army of freshly created sperm waiting inside a giant testicle. 


Here's a trailer for the show - the whole documentary is below that:

I love this - it's near the beginning:
Meet Glenn. Like most average men Glenn has no idea about the miracle of engineering tucked away in his pants. 


The whole thing:



And, of course, Monty Python's Every Sperm is Sacred skit from The Meaning Of Life:



via the excellent Dark Roasted Blend, which has lots of additional images.

Monday links



The Urine Tax of Ancient Rome.

Science: Why is the sky blue? How do bees and butterflies see? How does an igloo keep you warm?

Figure Out Where You Are With Nothing But a Watch and Protractor.

If you're keeping a scorecard on the human feet being washed up in British Columbia, it's time for an update (spoiler - this is number 14).

ICYMI, Friday's links are here and are all Mother's Day related: good and bad animal and human moms, top sci-fi moms, how grandmothers gave humans longer lifespans, and gifts for your wino mom or wife. Not included but related: The Ultimate Guide to Bizarre Lies Your Mom Told You.

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Smothered Pork Chops With Cider and Apples

Smothered Pork Chops With Cider and Apples

adapted from America's Test Kitchen New Best Recipe cookbook.

Serve smothered chops with a starch to soak up the rich gravy. Simple egg noodles were the test kitchen favorite, but rice or mashed potatoes also taste great. 

Serves 4

3 ounces (about 3 slices) bacon, cut into 1/4-inch pieces
2 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
1 3/4 cups apple cider
vegetable oil
4 bone-in, rib-end pork chops 1/2 to 3/4 inch thick
ground black pepper
1 medium yellow onion halved pole to pole and sliced thin
table salt
2 tablespoons water
2 medium cloves of garlic, pressed through garlic press or minced (about 2 teaspoons)
1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme
2 bay leaves
1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley
1 large or 2 small Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, and cut into 3/8-inch wedges

1. Fry bacon in small saucepan over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned, 8 to 10 minutes. Using slotted spoon, transfer bacon to paper towel-lined plate, leaving fat in saucepan (you should have 2 tablespoons bacon fat; if not, supplement with vegetable oil). Reduce heat to medium-low and gradually whisk flour into fat until smooth. Cook, whisking frequently, until mixture is light brown, about the color of peanut butter, about 5 minutes. Whisk in apple cider in slow, steady stream; increase heat to medium-high and bring to boil, stirring occasionally; cover and set aside off heat.

2. Heat 1-tablespoon oil in 12-inch skillet over high heat until smoking, about 3 minutes. Meanwhile, dry pork chops with paper towels and sprinkle with 1/2-teaspoon pepper. Brown chops in single layer until deep golden on first side, about 3 minutes. Flip chops and cook until browned on second side, about 3 minutes longer. Transfer chops to large plate and set aside.

3. Reduce heat to medium and add 1 tablespoon oil, onions, apples, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and water to now-empty skillet. Using wooden spoon, scrape browned bits on pan bottom and cook, stirring frequently, until onions are softened and browned around the edges, about 5 minutes. Stir in garlic and thyme and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds longer. Return chops to skillet in single layer, covering chops with onions. Pour in warm sauce and any juices collected from pork; add bay leaves. Cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer until pork is tender and paring knife inserted into chops meets very little resistance, about 30 minutes.

4. Transfer chops to warmed serving platter and tent with foil. Increase heat to medium-high and simmer sauce rapidly, stirring frequently, until thickened to gravy-like consistency, about 5 minutes. Discard bay leaves, stir in parsley, and adjust seasonings with salt and pepper. Cover chops with sauce, sprinkle with reserved bacon, and serve immediately.