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Thursday, May 25, 2017

Thursday links

Fans of Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy: don't panic - today is Towel Day!

Why You Do Your Best Thinking In The Shower: Creativity and the “Incubation Period”.


Classic Pin-Up Girls Before and After Editing: The Real Women Behind Gil Elvgren's Paintings.

The Curious Evolution of the Typewriter, in Pictures.

Finnish Brewery Sells 1000-Packs Of Beer.

ICYMI, Monday's links are here, and include Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's birthday, how to build your own medieval crossbow, when women started growing out and painting their nails, and the history of tea.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Classic Pin-Up Girls Before and After Editing: The Real Women Behind Gil Elvgren's Paintings

Before Photoshop, artist Gil Elvgren (wiki) relied on the technique of painting from a photograph of a model instead of from the live model. His classic pin-up pictures of curvy-girl-next-door types with their skirts billowing adorned the noses of bombers and the walls of soldiers barracks in the 1940s and '50s. In addition to dozens of calendars, he illustrated stories for a host of magazines (such as The Saturday Evening Post and Good Housekeeping) and also provided advertising images for Coca-Cola, General Electric and Sealy Mattress Company, among others. 

As the '70s approached and the pin-up girl craze started to die, Elvgren was down to one business account. When he died in 1980 he was broke, and his last work was published posthumously. In the last few years there has been a resurgence of interest in the pin-up girls, and Elvgren's work in both advertising and calendars has become highly collectible - in 2012 one of his classic pin-ups sold for $176K. In 1998 Elvgren's youngest son Drake produced a 200-page coffee table book includes hundreds of photos of Elvgren's work entitled Elvgren: His Life & Art

Even if you're too young to remember any of these specifically, they're so ubiquitous that they probably look familiar. Below are some of his paintings, alongside the photos on which each was based.


















More pictures here, here, and here.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Monday links

Happy Birthday, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, creator of Sherlock Holmes.

DIY: How to build a medieval crossbow.


Physicist Richard Feynman told the FBI to leave him alone. They did.

ICYMI, Friday's links are here, and include what to do if you get caught in an avalanche, the Justice Department’s guide to using psychics in police investigations, the physics of a T-Rex bite, and the Victorian belief that a train ride could instantly make you insane. 

Sunday, May 21, 2017

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

They were herded in at the base of the Abousir rock, this little group of modern types who had fallen into the rough clutch of the seventh century—for in all save the rifles in their hands there was nothing to distinguish these men from the desert warriors who first carried the crescent flag out of Arabia.

~ Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (wikiThe Tragedy of the Korosko (on a routine tourist excursion interrupted by an approaching group of Mahdists - the Isis of the late 19th century) 1898 illustrated version is available online here.

A man should keep his little brain attic stocked with all the furniture that he is likely to use, and the rest he can put away in the lumber room of his library, where he can get it if he wants it.*

~ Doyle (Sherlock Holmes (wiki), in The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. "The Five Orange Pips")   

Detection is, or ought to be, an exact science, and should be treated in the same cold and unemotional manner.  You have attempted to tinge it with romanticism, which produces much the same effect as if you worked a love story or an elopement into the fifth proposition of Euclid. 

~ Doyle (Holmes, in The Sign of Four, Ch. 1)

How often have I said to you that when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth? 

~ Ibid,, Holmes in Ch. 6 

"Is there any other point to which you would wish to draw my attention?"
"To the curious incident of the dog in the night-time."
"The dog did nothing in the night-time."  
"That was the curious incident," remarked Sherlock Holmes. 

~ Doyle (The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes, "Silver Blaze")
                       
"Excellent," I cried.  "Elementary," said he.** 

~ Doyle (Ibid, "The Crooked Man") 

Don't you find as you age in the wood, as we are both doing, that the tragedy of life is that your early heroes lose their glamour? ... Now with Doyle I don't have this feeling. I still revere his work as much as ever.  I used to think it swell, and I still think it swell.   

~ P.G. Wodehouse (1881-1975) (in Performing Flea,1953)

May 22nd is the anniversary of the birth in Edinburgh of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (1859-1939), creator of the world's greatest fictional detective, Sherlock Holmes.  After receiving his degree at the University of Edinburgh, Doyle practiced medicine in Southsea but turned to writing as an avocation and produced a series of novels now largely forgotten.  Beginning with The Sign of Four in 1889, however, his detective stories, featuring the enigmatic Holmes and his trusty sidekick Dr. Watson, assured his lasting fame. Collected in The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (1891) and The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes (1904), Doyle's mystery tales remain a cornerstone of the genre. 

On Doyle's gravestone in Hampshire is engraved:

Steel True
Blade Straight 
Arthur Conan Doyle
Knight
Patriot, Physician & Man of Letters

*  Reminiscent of Dr. Samuel Johnson's remark:    

"Knowledge is of two kinds: We know a subject ourselves, or we know where to find information upon it." 

** This is the closest Doyle came in any of the Sherlock Holmes stories to "Elementary, my dear Watson," a classic misquotation.   

Saturday, May 20, 2017

The History of Tea

Tea is the second most consumed beverage in the world right after water, and I drink a lot of it myself, since I suck down iced green tea* all day. I can't say, though, that prior to this I knew so many details about it's history.

Here’s a short video from TED Ed describing the origins of tea and how the beverage became so popular.



* Actually, what I drink is green tea with ginseng, and after lots of experimentation this is the process I use:

Buy this stuff from Amazon - it's dirt cheap and good, and the bags are not individually wrapped. That may be a disadvantage in some cases, but it you want to use several at a time, it's much easier not to have to unwrap them. There's no extra flavors added. so if you want you can get some lemon or honey flavored bags and throw a couple of them in, too.

Put six bags (if adding the lemon flavored variety, use four of the plain and two lemon) in a saucepan with ~ 1.5 quarts of water, heat to just below a boil, and remove the pan from the burner.

If adding sugar, do it now while it'll dissolve easily - remember you'll end up with approximately a gallon of tea so sweeten accordingly. Sweetened or not, wait at least an hour for it to steep and cool, then dump into a pitcher, fill the pitcher up with water and refrigerate. I use these 3 quart pitchers because they (1) have a sturdy, well-shaped handle and (2) are somewhat narrow so they take up less room in the fridge, but use what you have, or use an old empty 1 gallon milk/juice carton. 

Friday, May 19, 2017

Friday links

Now there's a KFC romance novelTender Wings of Desire.

The psychological effects of growing up with an extremely common name.

Victorians Believed That a Train Ride Could Cause Instant Insanity.

What to do if you get caught in an avalanche.

Here's the Justice Department’s guide to using psychics in police investigations.

How Much Force Could a T.Rex Bite Deliver?

ICYMI, Wednesday's links are here, and include second careers of former football players, digitizing a 6 foot tall 17th century book, a few dancing clips for Fred Astaire's birthday, and Thomas Sowell on greed.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Now there's a KFC romance novel: Tender Wings of Desire

Amazon lists the author of Tender Wings of Desire as Colonel Sanders, but I have my doubts about the accuracy of that. Here's their blurb:
When Lady Madeline Parker runs away from Parker Manor and a loveless betrothal, she finally feels like she is in control of her life. But what happens when she realizes she can’t control how she feels? When she finds herself swept into the arms of Harland, a handsome sailor with a mysterious past, Madeline realizes she must choose between a life of order and a man of passion. Can love overcome lies? What happens in the embrace of destiny, on the Tender Wings of Desire?
Related, sort of:

Really bad book covers (and books)

Alton Brown's critique of Amazon's dumbest kitchen gadgets, with bonus Amazon reviews.


Remember dinosaur porn? Now it's Bigfoot - Can you say ‘cryptozoological erotica'? (NSFW language)

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Jew's ear juice, anyone?

Thirsty?

The Consulate General of Israel in Shanghai was surprised to discover on the shelves of a local supermarket chain a canned beverage called "The Jew's Ear Juice."

The drink is made of a black mushroom which does resemble a wrinkled ear. (I can't find liquid, but if you want to make your own, Amazon has lots of choices for the alternative name of wood ear mushrooms.)

Israel's Consul-General in Shanghai Jackie Eldan stressed that this was not a case of anti-Semitism, as Judaism is considered in China a synonym of success.

According to Eldan, the juice's manufacturer must have thought that linking it to the Jewish ear would be profitable.

ElderOfZiyon found a review:

From the Chinese name, 黑木耳露 (Hei1 Mu4 Er3 Lu4), I know that it's wood ear juice. Wood ear (evidently a.k.a. Jew's ear) is a fungus that's pretty common in Chinese dishes, but I would never think about drinking it.

Also available powdered!
It's a nasty-looking thick semi-transparent cloudy brown liquid. It's smell is weird, like a mix between the apple vinegar drink and turkey gravy. It's a little thick and slimy, but the flavor is actually mild. The flavor isn't anything at all like the cooked wood ear that I'm used to eating.

It's so strange that it tastes like bland, bad, old apple cider, that I decided to check the ingredients. The Jew's Ear Juice is made of: pure water, black wood ear (Jew's ear), haw (Chinese hawthorn), big Chinese date, sugar, honey, sodium of citric acid, and stabilizer.

It all makes sense now, the strange appley flavor is coming from the haw. It does taste similar to hawthorne juice now that I think of it.

Jew's Ear (AKA Wood Ear) fungus
Well, the can says that if you drink the Jew's ear juice cold, it's clear and refreshing, but you can heat it up to make it more "densely" fragrant. I gotta try it.

They were right about the smell, it is definitely denser. The strange thing is that it now smells more like food, almost like spaghetti-o's. Believe it or not, Jew's ear juice actually tastes better hot. Maybe it's the thickness, but I think it's just that wood ear is usually served cold, and when the juice is hot it reminds me less that I'm drinking fungus juice.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Wednesday links

It's Fred Astaire's birthday - here are clips of some of his best dancing.


Ten-Year-Old Girl Survives Alligator Attack by Punching It, Shoving Fingers into Its Nostrils.



ICYMI, Friday's links are here, and include Nazi board games, colorized x-ray photos of plants and animals, Cinco de Mayo, and the story of the song Take Me Out to the Ball Game.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

It's V.E. Day: on May 8, 1945, World War 2 ended in Europe

May 8th is the anniversary of V.E. Day (for "Victory in Europe") (wikiBBC) in 1945, which saw the German surrender and the end of World War II in the European theater
The beaten foe emerged.
Winston Churchill waves to crowds London on V-E Day.
All over the broad Atlantic, wherever they had been working or lying hid, the U-boats surfaced, confessing the war's end. A few of them, prompted by determination or struck by guilt, scuttled or destroyed themselves, or ran for shelter, not knowing that there was none; but mostly they did what they had been told to do, mostly they hoisted their black surrender flags, and stayed where they were, and waited for orders. 
They rose, dripping and silent, in the Irish Sea, and at the mouth of the Clyde, and off the Lizard in the English Channel, at the top of the Minches where the tides raced; they rose near Iceland, where Compass Rose was sunk and off the north-west tip of Ireland, and close to the Faeroes, and on the Gibraltar run where the sunk ships lay so thick, and near St. Johns and Halifax and in the deep of the Atlantic, with three thousand fathoms of water beneath their keel. 
They surfaced in secret places, betraying themselves and their frustrated plans: they rose within sight of land, they rose far away in mortal waters, where on the map of the battle, the crosses that were the sunken ships were etched so many and so close that the ink ran together. They surfaced above their handiwork, in hatred or in fear, sometimes snarling their continued rage, sometimes accepting thankfully a truce they had never offered to other ships, other sailors.
They rose, and lay wherever they were on the battlefield, waiting for the victors to claim their victory. 
~Nicolas Monsarrat ("V.E. Day," from The Cruel Sea)

Today, May 8th, is the anniversary of V.E. Day (for "Victory in Europe") (wiki, BBC) in 1945, which saw the German surrender and the end of World War II in the European theater.* Lest we forget. English novelist Nicolas Monsarrat (1910-1979) was born in Liverpool and earned a law degree at Cambridge. With the outbreak of World War II, he joined the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve and served on the North Atlantic convoys for several years. This experience led to his crafting perhaps the most highly regarded novel about modern naval warfare yet written - The Cruel Sea - which appeared in 1951 while its author was serving as a British diplomat in South Africa. An equally esteemed motion picture, starring Jack Hawkins, was made of the book two years later, and it remains a classic today. Several other Monsarrat novels followed, but none ever gained the stature of The Cruel Sea.

* N.B. V.E. Day is called "Victory Day" in Russia and is celebrated tomorrow, May 9th, with elaborate ceremony. 

Below is a generous theatrical trailer for The Cruel Sea, which actually shows some of the best bits.

Here's the Youtube description:
The novel The Cruel Sea by Nicholas Monserrat was an unflinching portrayal of life at sea during WWII on a boat tasked with protecting convoys and seeking and destroying U-boats. A runaway success, the novel had already sold over 4 million copies in just 2 years when Ealing decided to make the film version. Filmed aboard an actual Royal Navy corvette, The Cruel Sea tells the story of the sailors aboard the HMS Compass Rose: the bonds that form between them, the daily pressures they face and their epic struggle to overcome the enemy. Nominated for a BAFTA for Best British Film, The Cruel Sea stars Jack Hawkins, Sir Donald Sinden and Stanley Clarke, and is a gripping insight into the lives of unsung heroes at sea during the war, and the agonizing decisions and incredible peril they faced on a daily basis.


And a brief documentary:



Related posts:

It's V-J Day, the anniversary of the date of Japan's surrender in 1945 and the end of WWII.

Churchill's "We shall fight on the beaches...we shall never surrender" speech: the evacuation of Dunkirk by a flotilla of small boats.

June 6 is D-Day: quotes, videos (footage, FDR's and Reagan's speeches), lots of links.