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Saturday, March 21, 2015

Friday, March 20, 2015

Friday links

Spring is here, although it doesn't feel like it in the DC area. Here's Vivaldi, science, myths, "spring spheres" and more. Related, for spring celebration purposes, here's Richard Feynman’s Ode to a Flower.

Microbiology takes on the important issues: Scientists Find a Way to Cut Wine Hangovers. And when they're not busy studying hangovers, Scientists make “species-appropriate” music just for cats. Listen here!

ICYMI, Tuesday's links are here, including the average temperature of all the water on the Earth’s surface, weird children's books, what happened to the ringwraiths after the Ring was destroyed, and lots of St. Patrick-related stuff.

From 1921, here's the Intelligence Test That Thomas Edison Gave to Job Seekers

The 146 questions (with answers included) below are purported to be Thomas Edison's test for potential employees. It was filled with trivia largely considered irrelevant to any job under Edison, but the quiz was all anyone could talk about when the questions leaked in the Spring of 1921.

Per Paleofuture, Americans obsessed over the test following publication of many questions in the May 11, 1921 New York Times. From there the test was debated, copied, and parodied in newspapers and magazines around the country. By May 13, 1921 a full 146 test questions and answers, as remembered by two applicants with apparently fantastic memories, was published in the Times.
Related: Check out this test for eighth graders in Kentucky dated 1912
Reporters even quizzed Albert Einstein, who was said to have "failed" Edison's quiz for not knowing the speed of sound off the top of his head. Edison's youngest son Theodore, a student at MIT, did poorly as well when questioned by a visiting reporter. According to The Wizard of Menlo Park: How Thomas Alva Edison Invented the Modern Worldthe Edison biography by Randall Stross, the elder Edison assured his son he had guaranteed employment anyway. 

According to the National Park Service, the test was changed multiple times after it leaked with the answers. But that didn't stop Americans from discussing the test as if it were the ultimate barometer of intelligence, and comparing notes on how well they did.

Want to take the test for yourself? Remember that you have to answer as if you're living in 1921. 

Questions, with answers: 

1. What countries bound France?

Spain, the tiny independent state of Andorra in the Pyrenees, Monaco, Italy, Switzerland, Germany, Luxemburg and Belgium.

2. What city and country produce the finest china?

Some say Limoges, France; some say Severes, France; some say Dresden, Germany; some say Copenhagen, Denmark.

3. Where is the River Volga?

In Russia.

4. What is the finest cotton grown?

Sea Island cotton or Egyptian cotton, according to different experts.

5. What country consumed the most tea before the war?


6. What city in the United States leads in making laundry machines?


7. What city is the fur centre of the United States?

St. Louis has been the raw fur centre until the month of April of the present year, when New York apparently eclipsed it. It is nip and tuck between the two cities, with New York leading. New York is incontestably the centre of fur manufacturing and retail selling.

8. What country is the greatest textile producer?

Great Britain is so considered, but the United States is a close competitor in volume, and may even be slightly in the lead at present day.

9. Is Australia greater than Greenland in area?

This is a catch question. Greenland looks far bigger on the square, flat maps on Mercator's projection, which represents the world as a cylinder, exaggerating the size of areas as they approach the poles. Australia is in reality more than three times as large as Greenland.

10. Where is Copenhagen?

In Denmark.

11. Where is Spitzbergen?

In the Arctic, north of Norway.

12. In what country other than Australia are kangaroos found?

In New Guinea.

13. What telescope is the largest in the world?

That at the Mount Wilson Observatory in California.

14. Who was Bessemer and what did he do?

An English engineer. He invented a process for making steel by taking carbon out of molten iron by the air blast.

15. How many states in the Union?


16. Where do we get prunes from?

Prunes are grown in the Santa Clara Valley and elsewhere.

17. Who was Paul Revere?

The Minute Man who spread the alarm of the British march on Lexington.

18. Who was John Hancock?

The first signer of the Declaration of Independence.

19. Who was Plutarch?

A Greek of the first and second centuries A.D., who wrote the Lives" and miscellaneous works.

20. Who was Hannibal?

The Carthaginian General who conquered most of Italy in the third century B.C.

21. Who was Danton?

A French Revolutionary orator, who was sent to the guillotine by the Committee of Terror.

22. Who was Solon?

An Athenian lawgiver, famous for twenty-three centuries for the remark to Croesus (which modern historians say he did not make) to "Count no man happy until he is dead."

23. Who was Francis Marion?

General Marion was a principal leader of the Revolutionary forces in the Southern States.

24. Who was Leonidas?

The Spartan General who led the heroic defense of Thermopylae.

25. Where did we get Louisiana from?

By purchase from France.

26. Who was Pizarro?

The Spanish conqueror of Peru.

27. Who was Bolivar?

The hero of the South American wars of liberation from Spain.

28. What war material did Chile export to the Allies during the war?


29. Where does most of the coffee come from?

From Brazil.

30. Where is Korea?

A peninsula on the northeast coast of Asia.

31. Where is Manchuria?

A northeastern province of China touching Korea.

32. Where was Napoleon born?

Ajaccio, Corsica.

33. What is the highest rise of tide on the North American Coast?

Seventy feet in the Bay of Fundy, between Nova Scotia and New Brunswick.

34. Who invented logarithms?

John Napier.

35. Who was the Emperor of Mexico when Cortez landed?


36. Where is the Imperial Valley and what is it noted for?

In Southern California on the Mexican border, and noted for melons.

37. What and where is the Sargasso Sea?

A vast tract of seaweed floating in the North Atlantic Ocean.

38. What is the greatest known depth of the ocean?

Thirty-one thousand six hundred feet at Nero Deep, near Guam.

39. What is the name of a large inland body of water that has no outlet?

The Great Salt Lake.

40. What is the capital of Pennsylvania?


41. What state is the largest? Next?

Texas. California.

42. Rhode Island is the smallest state. What is the next and the next?

Delaware. Connecticut.

43. How far is it from New York to Buffalo?

Three hundred and ninety-six miles by the shortest route.

44. How far is it from New York to San Francisco?

Three thousand three hundred miles.

45. How far is it from New York to Liverpool?

Three thousand one hundred and sixty-seven and one-half nautical miles.

46. Of what state is Helena the capital?


47. Of what state is Tallahassee the capital?


48. What state has the largest copper mines?

Montana has the largest single mine in the Anaconda. The mines of Arizona have the greatest combined output.

49. What state has the largest amethyst mines?


50. What is the name of a famous violin maker?


51. Who invented the modern paper-making machine?

The major discovery was made by Robert, a Frenchman, though it is often attributed erroneously to Fourdrinier, who introduced it into England.

52. Who invented the typesetting machine?

Mergenthaler was the first to perfect a highly practical one.

53. Who invented printing?

Nobody knows. Somebody in China, Japan, or Korea. Probably first invented in Europe by Lourens Janzoon Coster of Haarlem.

54. How is leather tanned?

By immersion in an infusion of oak or hemlock bark or other material strong in tannic acid.

55. What is artificial silk made from?

From cotton or wood pulp treated with acids and drawn into threads.

56. What is a caisson?

An enclosure to keep water from seeping or flowing into a space where engineering operations are taking place.

57. What is shellac?

A base for varnish made from lac, which is resinous incrustation formed on certain trees in the East Indies by an insect resembling the cochineal.

58. What is celluloid made from?

Wood pulp primarily.

59. What causes the tides?

The gravitational pull of the moon exerted powerfully on the ocean because of its fluidity, and weakly on the earth because of its comparative rigidity.

60. To what is the change of the seasons due?

To the inclination of the earth to the plane of the ecliptic. In the earth's revolution around the sun, this causes the sun's rays to be received at varying inclinations, with consequent variations of temperature.

61. What is coke?

Coal after the more volatile components have been driven from it by heat.

62. From what part of the North Atlantic do we get codfish?

Off the Newfoundland Banks.

63. Who reached the South Pole?

Amundsen, and then Scott.

64. What is a monsoon?

A periodic alternating wind in the Indian Ocean.

65. Where is the Magdalena Bay?

There is a Magdalena Bay in Lower California, one in Spitzbergen and one in Colombia.

66. From where do we import figs?

Mainly from the Smyrna region in Asia Minor, which was formerly Turkish but which since the war has become part of Greece.

67. From where do we get dates?

Arabia, India, North Africa, California, Arizona and elsewhere.

68. Where do we get our domestic sardines?

From Maine and California.

69. What is the longest railroad in the world?

The Trans-Siberian.

70. Where is Kenosha?

In Wisconsin.

71. What is the speed of sound?

In dry air at freezing it travels about 1,091 feet a second. In water its speed is about 4,680 feet per second. It traveled at 11,463 feet four inches a second through an iron bar 3,000 feet long. Sound moves at a constantly diminishing rate of speed.

72. What is the speed of light?

Approximately 186,700 miles a second in a vacuum and slightly less through atmosphere.

73. Who was Cleopatra and how did she die?

She was a Queen of Egypt, a contemporary of Julius Caesar and Mark Antony and committed suicide by causing an asp to bite her.

74. Where are condors found?

In the Andes.

75, Who discovered the law of gravitation?

Sir Isaac Newton.

76. What is the distance between the earth and sun?

93,100,000 miles.

77. Who invented photography?

Scheele, a Swede, discovered the principles about 1780 and Wedgwood, English, first applied them in June, 1802. Daguerre and Neipce, in France, produced the daguerretype, but Dr. John William Draper of New York University, in 1840, first improved it so as to make it practicable for taking the pictures of human beings.

78. What country produces the most wool?


79. What is felt?

A clothe made from matted wool, fur or hair, by pressure, as opposed to weaving.

80. What cereal is used in all parts of the world?

No cereal is used in all parts of the world. Wheat is used most extensively, with rice and corn next.

81. What states produce phosphates?

Arkansas, Tennessee and other Southern States.

82. Why is cast iron called pig iron?

Because of a fancied resemblance of the row of channels into which the molten flows to a litter of pigs.

83. Name three principal acids?

Hydrochloric, sulphuric and nitric.

84. Name three powerful poisons.

Cyanide of potassium, strychnine and arsenic.

85. Who discovered radium?

Mme Curie in Paris in 1902.

86. Who discovered the X-ray?

Roentgen, a German, in 1895.

87. Name three principal alkalis.

Soda, potash and ammonia.

88. What part of Germany do toys come from?

Nuremburg and the Nuremburg region.

89. What States bound West Virginia?

Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Kentucky and Ohio.

90. Where do we get peanuts from?

California, Georgia, Virginia and other Southern States and Southern Pennsylvania.

91. What is the capital of Alabama?


92. Who composed "Il Trovatore"?


93. What is the weight of air in a room 20 by 30 by 10?

484 86-1,000 pounds.

94. Where is platinum found?

Ural Mountains region separating Europe from Asia.

95. With what metal is platinum associated when found?

Native platinum is found alloyed with copper, iron, gold, iridium and osmium.

96. How is sulphuric acid made?

There are three commercial processes. (a) Chamber process: iron pyrites of sulphur roasted in special furnaces yield sulphur dioxide, which is collected in a lead chamber in the presence of water, oxygen or air and nitrous anhydride. (b) Catalytic or contact process: The raw materials, sulphur dioxide from burning sulphur or roasted iron pyrites and oxygen from the air, produce sulphur trioxide, which, when absorbed by water, gives sulphuric acid. Combination of sulphur dioxide and oxygen is carried on in the presence of a catlyzer, usually spongy platinum or iron oxide from pyrite burners. (c) Much sulphuric acid is made from waste gases of copper and zinc furnaces from ores rich in sulphur by the chamber process.

97. Where do we get sulphur from?

Louisiana and Texas.

98. Who discovered how to vulcanize rubber?

Charles Goodyear.

99. Where do we import rubber from?

South and Central America, Malay Peninsula, Ceylon, Borneo, Java and equatorial Africa.

100. What is vulcanite and how is it made?

A black variety of hard rubber capable of being cut and polished, made from the cheaper grades of rubber from Borneo and Java vulcanized with much sulphur.

101. Who invented the cotton gin?

Eli Whitney.

102. What is the price of 12 grains of gold?

United States Assay Office price, May 12, 1921, was 56.693 cents.

103. What is the difference between anthracite and bituminous coal?

Hard coal is anthracite; soft coal is bituminous.

104. Where do we get benzol from?

The fractional distillation of coal tar.

105. Of what is glass made?

A fusion of silica, usually in the form of natural and, with two or more alkaline bases, such as soda, lime or potash.

106. How is window glass made?

By immersing a blowpipe in molten glass, introducing compressed air and gradually withdrawing the blowpipe from the molten glass. This produces a large cylinder which is cut open and heated in a flattening oven until flat and then transferred to an annealing oven and gradually withdrawn from the heat.

107. What is porcelain?

A fine earthenware differing from china in being harder, whiter, harder to fuse and more translucent than ordinary pottery. (a) Natural porcelain: A mixture of kaolin and feldspar. (b) Artificial porcelain: Gypsum and bone ash replace the silicious materials.

108. What country makes the best optical lenses and what city?

"A catch question. The city of Jena in Germany, formerly produced the best lenses, but recently the Bureau of Standards in Washington has turned out lenses excelled by none." — Dr. George F. Kunz of Tiffany & Co.

109. What kind of a machine is used to cut the facets of diamonds?

A diamond lathe where "diamond cuts diamond."

110. What is a foot pound?

A unit of energy equal to the work done in raising one pound of avoirdupois against the force of gravity the height of one foot.

111. Where do we get borax from?

California, Nevada, Texas and Oregon.

112. Where is the Assuan Dam?

Across the Nile in Upper Egypt.

113. What star is it that has been recently measured and found to be of enormous size?


114. What large river in the United States flows from south to north?

The San Joaquin River in California. The Red River of the North.

115. What are the Straits of Messina?

They separate Sicily from Italy.

116. What is the highest mountain in the world?

Mount Everest in the Himalayas.

117. Where do we import cork from?

Southern Europe and Northern Africa.

118. Where is the St. Gothard tunnel?

Under the Alps.

119. What is the Taj Mahal?

A magnificent mausoleum built at Agra, India, by the Mogul Emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his favorite wife.

120. Where is Labrador?

A peninsula on the east coast of North America, running from St. Lawrence River to Hudson's Bay.

121. Who wrote "The Star-Spangled Banner"?

John Spofford Smith wrote the music for a drinking song for the Anacreonic Club in London about 1780. Francis Scott Key wrote the words.

122. Who wrote "Home, Sweet Home"?

John Howard Payne, an American, wrote the words. Sir Henry Bishop, an Englishman, wrote the music.

123. Who was Martin Luther?

The principal leader of the Reformation.

124. What is the chief acid in vinegar?


125. Who wrote "Don Quixote"?


126. Who wrote "Les Miserables"?

Victor Hugo.

127. What place is the greatest distance below sea level?

The Dead Sea. It is 1,300 feet below sea level and is the most depressed accessible part of the earth's surface.

128. What are axe handles made of?

Ash is generally used in the East and hickory in the West.

129. Who made "The Thinker"?

Auguste Rodin.

130. Why is a Fahrenheit thermometer called Fahrenheit?

It is named after Gabriel Daniel Fahrenheit, the German physicist, who invented it.

131. Who owned and ran the New York Herald for a long time?

James Gordon Bennett.

132. What is copra?

The dried kernel of the cocoanut.

133. What insect carries malaria?

The mosquito of the genus Anopheles.

134. Who discovered the Pacific Ocean?


135. What country has the largest output of nickel in the world?


136. What ingredients are in the best white paint?

Linseed oil, with a small percentage of turpentine and liquid dryer, together with a mixture of white lead and zinc oxide.

137. What is glucose and how made?

"It is remarkable how few of the apparently well-informed know what 'commercial glucose' really is. This is due to the confusion of terms which associate this misnamed starch product with grape sugar and dextrose. It is quite true that dextrose (glucose) is an ingredient of commercial glucose, but the dextrose in the commercial glucose of today is the least important ingredient." — Rogers's Manual of Industrial Chemistry. Commercial glucose is made from crude corn starch liquor that is first converted into a liquid by being hydrolized by an acid, then neutralized by a solution of sodium carbonate, and finally filtered and evaporated in vacuum pans.

138. In what part of the world does it never rain?

"People have not been in one place long enough to know for a certainty where it never rains. Some natives of the Sahara Desert, however, have expressed amazement when they heard that water came from the skies. Rain has been reported in regions close to the poles, but neither of the discoverers of the North and South Poles was there any length of time." — U.S. Weather Bureau.

139. What was the approximate population of England, France, Germany and Russia before the war?

England, 34,000,000 (United Kingdom, 45,000,000); France, 40,000,000; Germany, 65,000,000; Russia, 180,000,000.

140. Where is the city of Mecca?

In the Kingdom of Hedjaz, 65 miles east of the port of Jedda on the Red Sea.

141. Where do we get quicksilver from?

From cinnabar, the red sulphite of mercury, mined chiefly in California, Texas and Spain.

142. Of what are violin strings made?

From "catgut," now usually made from the intestines of sheep.

143. What city on the Atlantic seaboard is the greatest pottery centre?

Trenton, N.J.

144. Who is called the "father of railroads" in the United States?

John Stevens, 1749-1838, of Hoboken, N.J.

145. What is the heaviest kind of wood?

Lignum vitae.

146. What is the lightest wood?

Basswood, at thirty pounds a cubic foot, has been called the lightest, but it has been asserted recently that balsa, or corkwood, found in South America, is the lightest.

Spring is here, although it doesn't feel like it in the DC area. Here's Vivaldi, science, myths, "spring spheres" and more

Spring is here! Some miscellaneous stuff:

Science of the equinox. More here and here (this one is from 2013, so the time is wrong).

This video on the mechanism of the seasons is kinda grade-school level, but for that reason it's simple and complete:

Informative 2 minute NatGeo video:

The Four Seasons - "Spring" - Concerto # 1 in E major, Op. 8, RV 269, played by Itzhak Perlman:

        Giunt' è la Primavera e festosetti                    Here comes the Spring, and festively
        La Salutan gl' Augei con lieto canto,               The birds salute her with a merry song
        E i fonti allo Spirar de' Zeffiretti                      And fountains, to the whispering Zephyrs,
        Con dolce mormorio Scorrono intanto:            With sweet murmurings flow all the while.
        Vengon' coprendo l' aer di nero amanto           Advancing o'er the heavens is a black canopy
        E Lampi, e tuoni ad annuntiarla eletti              With lightning and thunder to announce her.
        Indi tacendo questi, gl' Augelletti;                   Then, when they go silent, the little birds
       Tornan' di nuovo al lor canoro incanto.             Return anew to their cheerful song.
       E quindi sul fiorito ameno prato                       And later in the lovely flowering fields
       Al caro mormorio di fronde e piante                 To murmurings of fronds and leaves
       Dorme 'l Caprar col fido can' à lato."                The goatherd sleeps, his faithful dog beside.
       Di pastoral Zampogna al suon festante            To the rustic bagpipe's festive sound
       Danzan Ninfe e Pastor nel tetto amato             Nymphs and shepherds dance
       Di primavera all' apparir brillante.                     'Neath heaven's canopy,
                                                                                 And Spring appears so brilliantly.
                                         - Antonio Vivaldi (1678-1741)
                                           (Le quattro stagioni, "Primavera")* 

Live in each season as it passes; breathe the air, drink the drink, taste the fruit, and resign yourself to the influences of each. Let them be your only diet, drink, and botanical medicines. 

~ Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862) (Journals, entry for 23 August 1853)
Today is the vernal equinox, heralding the coming of spring in the Northern Hemisphere. At the vernal equinox, the sun appears to cross the celestial equator from south to north, and for a brief period shines directly on the equator, yielding equal length for day and night in virtually all parts of the world. Although most people my age grew up thinking that spring always began on 21 March, none of the vernal equinoxes for the rest of this century will occur in the Americas after the 20th of the month. American humorist Ogden Nash (wiki) noted in "Like a Rat In a Trap,"

After various guesses at last I've guessed
Why in spring, I feel depressed.
When the robins begin to play
Summer is just a step away.

Then hardly the summer has commenced
When autumn is what you're up against,
And once that autumn has muscled in on you
Winter is waiting to begin on you.

So spring isn't spring, but otherwise,
Just a prelude to winter, which I despise.

The two revolutions, I mean the annual revolutions of the declination and of the centre of the Earth, are not completely equal; that is the return of the declination to its original value is slightly ahead of the period of the centre. Hence it necessarily follows that the equinoxes and solstices seem to anticipate their timing, not because the sphere of the fixed stars moves to the east, but rather the equatorial circle moves to the west, being at an angle to the plane of the ecliptic in proportion to the declination of the axis of the terrestrial globe.

~Nicolaus Copernicus

My personal favorite "spring" story:
Seattle school renames Easter eggs 'Spring Spheres': This is actually from a couple of years ago, but it's still great. On top of all the additional ways in which this is ridiculous, eggs are, of course, not spherical.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

It's Rimsky-Korsakov's birthday - quotes, bio, Flight of the Bumblebee and a lame joke

Even before this I had known and worshipped his operas; but as editor of the scores in print I had to go through Glinka's style and instrumentation to their last little note ... And this was a beneficent discipline for me, leading me as it did to the path of modern music, after my vicissitudes with counterpoint and strict style. 

~Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov (My Musical Life)

Apparently [Rimsky-Korsakov] is now passing through this crisis, and how it will end will be difficult to predict. Either a great master will come out of him, or he will finally become bogged down in contrapuntal tricks.

~Peter I. Tchaikovsky (1840-1893) (letter to Nadezhda von Meck, ca. 1873) 

Rimsky-Korsakov - what a name! It suggests whiskers stained with vodka!

~Musical Courier, New York, 27 October 1897

Today, March 18, is the anniversary of the birth of Russian composer Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov (wiki) (1844-1908), the best known of the group of late-19th-century Russian nationalist composers known as "The Five" or "The Mighty Handful."

Born to an aristocratic family in Tikhvin, east of St. Petersburg, Rimsky-Korsakov showed significant musical talent while still a boy, but at 12, he entered the Russian Imperial Navy as a cadet and remained a naval officer - at first at sea and later as Inspector of Naval Bands - until 1884. While composing at sea in his spare time, Rimsky came under the influence of the older members of "The Five," imbibed their interest in Russian folk themes, and saw the first public performances of his work around 1865. 

In 1871 - still a naval officer - he became a professor of composition and orchestration at the St. Petersburg Conservatory and pursued an academic career until his liberal sympathies during the 1905 revolution caused him to be relieved of his positions. Nonetheless, he counted among his students Alexander Glazunov, Igor Stravinsky, Serge Prokofiev, and Ottorino Respighi. 

Rimsky composed prolifically in many forms: more than a dozen operas, three symphonies, and many orchestral works, including the popular Scheherazade and Capriccio Espagnole. A brilliant orchestrator and editor, he prepared performing versions of many of the works of his "Mighty Handful" colleagues, most notably Mussorgsky's opera Boris Godunov and his Night on Bald Mountain. A musical conservative to the end of his life, Rimsky-Korsakov exclaimed to Serge Diaghilev after hearing Claude Debussy's opera Pelléas et Mélisande,

"Don't make me listen to all these horrors or I shall end up liking them!"  

* N.B. The other four members of "The Five" were Alexander Borodin (1833-1887), C ésar Cui (1835-1918), Mily Balakirev (1837-1910), and Modest Mussorgsky (1839-1881). Conspicuous by his absence was Tchaikovsky, who was influenced largely by Western European music. 

Here's Flight of the Bumblebee:

And a really lame Rimsky-Korsakov joke:
A neophyte radio announcer was confused when he was told to play the Ave Maria by Bach-Gounod. An older colleague explained that this merely meant that the music was originally by Bach but arranged by Gounod. The next day, the young announcer found Scheherazade on his play list. A little knowledge is a dangerous thing. He confidently announced, "Next we will hear Scheherezade, written by Rimsky and arranged by Korsakov."

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Tuesday links

Saint Patrick’s Day: origin, history, quotes, poetry, videos, and how to make your own green beer.

What Happened to the Ringwraiths Once the Ruling Ring Was Destroyed in the Lord of the Rings books?

Slow motion video of stuff bouncing off gelatin.

30+ Of The Weirdest Children’s Books Ever - this is an open list, so you can add your own.

ICYMI, last Tuesday's links are here, and include Chuck Norris' 75th birthday, Pop Rocks recipes, photo contest winners, and why people want to eat babies.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Saint Patrick’s Day: origin, history, quotes, poetry, videos, and how to make your own green beer

For the great Gaels of Ireland
Are the men that God made mad,
For all their wars are merry
And all their songs are sad.

~G.K. Chesterton (1874-1936) (Ballad of the White Horse(wiki))

Sir... the Irish are not in a conspiracy to cheat the world by false representations of the merits of their countrymen. No, Sir, the Irish are a FAIR PEOPLE; - they never speak well of one another. 

~Dr. Samuel Johnson (1709-1784) (Boswell's Life of Johnson, 1775)

St. Patrick with a shamrock - more
 on the shamrock connection here
The 17th of March is St. Patrick's Day (wiki), commemorating the patron saint of Ireland, Padraig mac Caiprainn (ca. 390-461?). Much of Patrick's life is shrouded in legend, but he is said to have been born in Roman Britain and was captured and enslaved by Irish raiders until he managed to escape to Gaul. There, he entered the priesthood but returned to Ireland as a missionary and made many converts, reportedly by using the leaves of the shamrock to explain the three-in-one mystery of the Trinity. 

In 445, with the approval of Pope Leo the Great (reigned 440-461), he established his arch-episcopal see at Armagh, and by the time of his death, Ireland was largely Christianized. Our principal source about St. Patrick's life is his own Confessions, written in his last years.

My personal favorite Irish joke:
"An Irishman walked out of a bar... " (that's all of it).
The story of St. Patrick:

Around 1.6 million gallons of Guinness is consumed on St. Patrick’s Day. This is a bit over double the amount on any other given day of the year. Guinness trained a sheepdog to round up Irishmen and herd them to a bar:

Some of the stories and traditions associated with Saint Patrick (wiki) are actually probably from another man that preceded Patrick by a 1-3 decades (exactly how much isn’t known), Palladius. It has also been argued by some scholars that the blending of these two’s accomplishments was done purposefully to bolster the prestige of Saint Patrick. Palladius was one of the earliest missionaries to Ireland, ordained by Pope Celestine the first as the “First Bishop to the Irish believing in Christ”. However, accounts seem to indicate the Palladius and his companions’ mission was fairly unsuccessful and Palladius himself was eventually banished by the King of Leinster, at which point he went to Northern Britain to preach to the Scots. Nevertheless, much of what Palladius did accomplish while in Ireland has long since been credited to Saint Patrick instead and it’s difficult to tell in most cases exactly which of them accomplished what.

King George III in 1783 created a “Most Illustrious Order of Saint Patrick”, which is an order of knights of Saint Patrick given to certain people associated with Ireland who the monarchy wishes to honor. It’s been decades since the last person was inducted into this order and the last person in the order died in 1974, Prince Henry the Duke of Gloucester. Nevertheless, the order still technically exists with the Queen functioning as the Sovereign.

Based in part on a post at the excellent Today I Found Out (their Wise Book of Whys went to several family members as Christmas presents last year). 

The epic poem Ballad Of The White Horse (link is to a free Kindle version) tells the fascinating story of Alfred the Great's stand against the Danes in 878 - or read about the subject at Wikipedia. Per Amazon:
More than a thousand years ago, the ruler of a beleaguered kingdom saw a vision of the Virgin Mary that moved him to rally his chiefs and make a last stand. Alfred the Great freed his realm from Danish invaders in the year 878 with an against-all-odds triumph at the Battle of Ethandune. In this ballad, G. K. Chesterton equates Alfred's struggles with Christianity's fight against nihilism and heathenism—a battle that continues to this day. 
One of the last great epic poems, this tale unfolds in the Vale of the White Horse, where Alfred fought the Danes in a valley beneath an ancient equine figure etched upon the Berkshire hills. Chesterton employs the mysterious image as a symbol of the traditions that preserve humanity. His allegory of the power of faith in the face of an invasive foe was much quoted in the dark days of 1940, when Britain was under attack by Nazis.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Sharknado 3 update: in addition to Ann Coulter as VP, David Hasselhoff to play Finn's father

SyFy announced Tuesday that David Hasselhoff (wiki) has been added to the cast of the third film in the hit franchise, with the “Baywatch” star tapped to play Gilbert Shepard, the father of “Sharknado” hero Finn Shepard (Ian Ziering).

The “Knight Rider” actor joins a cast that also includes Bo Derek as the mother of Tara Reid's character April, “Shark Tank” star Mark Cuban as President of the United States and Ann Coulter as the Vice President.

NSYNC singer Chris Kirkpatrick, talk show host Jerry Springer and wrestler Chris Jericho have also been confirmed to make cameos in the movie.

Slow motion video of stuff bouncing off gelatin

Using dynamic breaking to slow down a falling object's impact.