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Friday, May 6, 2016

2016 Audubon Photography Awards Winners

I've pasted a few of the winners below - go to for the whole set (larger!) and further information on each photo. The Grand Prize winner is quite extraordinary.

 Grand Prize Winner - Bonnie Block:

Bald Eagle and Great Blue Herons. Photo: Bonnie Block/Audubon Photography Awards
Professional Winner -  Dick Dickinson:

Osprey. Photo: Dick Dickinson/Audubon Photography Awards
Fine Art Winner - Barbara Driscoll:

Green Violetear. Photo: Barbara Driscoll/Audubon Photography Awards
Amateur Honorable Mention  - Colleen Gara:

Common Ravens. Photo: Colleen Gara/Audubon Photography Awards

Friday links

Roundup of Mother's Day links.

How a Wine and Cocaine Cocktail became Coca Cola.

Why You Accidentally Call Your Relatives by Your Dog's Name, But Not Your Cat's.

Why It’s Illegal to Use Milk Crates for Anything Besides Milk.

V.E. Day is this weekend: on May 8, 1945, World War 2 ended in Europe.

6 most bizarre traditional dishes from all over the world.

ICYMI, Thursday's links are here, and include Cinco do Mayo, colorized vintage photos of landmarks being built, phrases derived from obsolete technologies, medieval pet names, and the Doorway Effect: why we forget what we’re doing when we enter a room.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

How a Wine and Cocaine Cocktail became Coca Cola

Oh, for the good old days - at least when it comes to soft drinks.

Via one of my favorite websites, MessyNessyChic:

Click to embiggen
Most of us have heard the story about how Coco-Cola once contained a significant dose of cocaine (and 7-Up contained lithium) until it was removed from the recipe in 1903. Less well-known is the story about how Coca Cola originates from an alcoholic drink based on cocaine and wine, Bordeaux wine to be specific - a particular combination which made for a distinctly more toxic beverage, known as Coca Wine. 

Coca Wine was first developed in 1863 by a French-Corsican entrepreneur in Paris, Angelo Mariani. His advertising in Europe and the United States claimed the tonic would “cure melancholia … restore health, strength, energy, and vitality”. During the second half of the 19th century, everyone was drinking the stuff. Vin Mariani was a favorite amongst celebrities of the day including Thomas Edison, Jules Verne, Sarah Bernhardt, Ulysses S Grant and was even Queen Victoria’s drink of choice. Pope Leo XIII personally endorsed the wine, lending his face to the brand’s advertising campaign - he even awarded it the Vatican gold medal.

And, in fact, when alcohol and cocaine combine, they form a chemical they create a third unique drug called cocaethylene, which produces a feeling of euphoria more powerful and longer lasting than cocaine is capable of producing on its own.

There were copycats, of course. In the 1880s Dr. John Pemberton, a pharmacist in Georgia who was himself a morphine addict following an injury in the Civil War, set out to make his own version. He called it Pemberton's French Wine Coca and marketed it as a panacea. Among many fantastic claims, he called it "a most wonderful invigorator of sexual organs". 

When his home state passed Prohibition legislation in 1886 (many states passed their own versions prior to the 18th amendment in 1920), Pemberton scrambled to come up with a non-alcoholic version replacing the wine with a syrup and naming it Coca Cola. Cocaine remained the principle active ingredient of the new carbonated drink for nearly another two decades, although Pemberton added ingredients that Vin Mariani lacked, such as damiana (wiki), a reputed cure for impotence, as well as kola nut, a source of caffeine - both were later included in Coca-Cola. 

When Pemberton’s health began to fail in the late 1880’s, he sold his little company and the formula for Coke to the far more successful Atlanta druggist, Asa Candler, in 1888 for $2,300. Pemberton died later that year at age 57. Candler’s success didn’t go unnoticed - North Carolina businessman Caleb Bradham launched a copycat product in 1893, without the coca leaf extract. He called it Brad’s Drink. Five years later, looking for a name to convey its fizzy appeal, he rebranded it as Pepsi-Cola.

The Atlantic had a not-particularly well-sourced article a few years ago claiming that Coca Cola removed the cocaine because African Americans could get bottles of it:
During that time, racially oriented arguments about rape and other violence, and social effects more so than physical health concerns, came to shape the discussion. The same hypersexuality that was touted as a selling point during the short-lived glory days of Vin Mariani was now a crux of cocaine's bigoted indictment.
There was at that time a growing fear of drug abuse which made coca-based drinks less popular, and Pemberton’s successors preemptively took the cocaine out of his drink (at least most of it) in 1903. Eleven years later, in 1914, the drug was officially banned, forcing Vin Mariani and other Coca Wine brands out of business and off the menu forever.

The Coca-Cola we know today still contains coca -- but the ecgonine alkaloid is removed from it. Perfecting that extraction took until 1929, so before that there were still trace amounts of coca's psychoactive elements in Coca-Cola. As Dominic Streatfield describes in Cocaine: An Unauthorized Biography, the extraction is now done at a New Jersey chemical processing facility by a company called Stepan. In 2003, Stepan imported 175,000 kilograms of coca for Coca-Cola. That's enough to make more than $200 million worth of cocaine. They refer to the coca leaf extract simply as "Merchandise No. 5."

The facility is guarded.
Further reading:

The very first Coke? It was Bordeaux mixed with cocaine... and 23 other interesting facts about the world's best-known brand.

Thursday links

Happy Cinco do Mayo!

Medieval Pet Names.

ICYMI, Wednesday's links are here, and include the physics of peacock feathers, Star Wars Day, a video compilation of small dogs trying to get onto or off of big couches, how your devices are spying on you, and the American who placed a $1 million bounty on Hitler the year before we entered WWII. 

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Wednesday links

Video compilation of Small Dogs vs. Big Couches.

Why You Never Heard About the Largest Disaster in Maritime History.

In addition to International Respect for Chickens Day, May the Fourth (be with you) is also Star Wars Day. Here's a nice collection of Star Wars propaganda posters and a bit of trivia - per, one of the earliest known records of “May the 4th” used in popular culture is in 1979:
“Margaret Thatcher has won the election and become Britain’s first woman prime minister. To celebrate their victory her party took a half page of advertising space in the London Evening News. This message, referring to the day of victory, was ‘May the Fourth Be With You, Maggie. Congratulations."
In 1940, before the U.S. entered WWII, an American citizen offered a $1 million bounty on Hitler.

Your Devices' Latest Feature? They Can Spy On Your Every Move.

ICYMI, Tuesday's links are here, and include the politics of the Louisiana Purchase, how spacecraft dashboards evolved, a 1909 scheme to whiten the Hawaiian populace by importing Siberian workers, and a video of Kung Fu physics brought to life by motion capture.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Our guacamole recipe

All quantities are approximate - add more or less to taste: This mixture feeds 4 - 6 people as an appetizer.

You need:

2 - 3 ripe avocados cut into good sized chunks (they'll get somewhat smushed when you stir everything together, so start with chunks)

1 teaspoon minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
1 Tablespoon finely chopped onion
1 Tablespoon finely chopped cilantro
1 finely chopped good-sized jalapeno, seeds and white pith removed
2 Tablespoons diced tomato (I cut grape tomatoes into quarters)
1 lime, juiced

Tortilla chips

If at all possible, you should do this in a molcajete made of lava stone or unpolished granite - the rough interior is really good for grinding the ingredients together and you can serve in it. If you don't have one, use a shallow bowl and a small amount of coarse salt and smear everything together with a fork.

Chop the avocado and set aside.

Grind together the garlic, salt, onion, and cilantro and jalapeno. Start grinding (or smearing) so that approximately 1/4 of this mixture is smushed and the remaining 3/4 is still in its chopped condition.

Fold (gently) the chopped avocado and chopped tomatoes into this mixture. Squeeze lime juice over the whole thing.

That's it - serve with tortilla chips!

Tuesday links

Tomorrow is International Respect for Chickens Day: some chicken-related links to help you celebrate.

Extremely Cool: Kung Fu Physics brought to life (video).

How Spacecraft Dashboards Evolved.

ICYMI, Friday's links are here, and include Duke Ellington's birthday, that time Eisenhower's presidential motorcade picked up hitchhikers, the plans for the Nazi super-cannon capable of hitting London from France, horoscopes for babies, and why making your bed is a total waste of time.

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 probably don't 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.

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.

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.

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!

Monday, May 2, 2016

Cool: Kung Fu Physics brought to life (video)

German digital artist Tobias Gremmler decided to portray Kung Fu in an entirely new light through the use of motion capture.

Gremmier’s complex digital scan measures the fighter’s movements in terms of velocity, time, and space, altering the parameters of its visual manifest through a number of variations. It's fabric woven by time, velocity transformed into matter, expansion out of emptiness.