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Friday, December 8, 2017

James Thurber's fable "The Bear Who Let It Alone"

Thurber's fable The Bear Who Let It Alone:

In the woods of the Far West there once lived a brown bear who could take it or let it alone. He would go into a bar where they sold mead, a fermented drink made of honey, and he would have just two drinks. Then he would put some money on the bar and say, "See what the bears in the back room will have," and he would go home. But finally he took to drinking by himself most of the day.

He would reel home at night, kick over the umbrella stand, knock down the bridge lamps, and ram his elbows through the windows. Then he would collapse on the floor and lie there until he went to sleep. His wife was greatly distressed and his children were very frightened.

At length the bear saw the error of his ways and began to reform. In the end he became a famous teetotaler and a persistent temperance lecturer. He would tell everybody that came to his house about the awful effects of drink, and he would boast about how strong and well he had become since he gave up touching the stuff. To demonstrate this, he would stand on his head and on his hands and he would turn cartwheels in the house, kicking over the umbrella stand, knocking down the bridge lamps, and ramming his elbows through the windows.

Then he would lie down on the floor, tired by his healthful exercise, and go to sleep. His wife was greatly distressed and his children were very frightened.

Moral: You might as well fall flat on your face as lean over too far backward.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Cake mix cookies - lemon or orange

This works well with lemon or orange cake mix. I don't see why it wouldn't work with other flavors, but I haven't tried anything else.


1 package lemon (or orange) cake mix 
2 eggs
1/3 cup vegetable oil 
1 teaspoon lemon (or orange) extract plus the zest of one lemon or orange*

1/2 cup confectioners' sugar 


Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Whisk together (thoroughly) the eggs, oil, and extract/zest. Add the cake mix and stir well. 

Stop now and refrigerate for at least a couple of hours - overnight is fine. If you can't do this, the cookies will still work, but they're much easier to handle after refrigeration.

Drop teaspoonfuls of dough into a bowl of confectioner's sugar, roll them around and put them on an ungreased foil- or parchment-covered baking sheet. This is for easy cleanup, not because it affects the cookies. If you like scrubbing cookie sheets, feel free to leave off the foil or paper.

Bake for 8 minutes in the preheated oven - they won't get brown on the top, but they will on the bottom. If your oven runs hot or cold, adjust accordingly - you may also need to add time if you make bigger cookies.

*You may be tempted, as I was, to use orange or lemon juice instead of extract. Lemon juice is an OK substitutie because it's strong, but stick to the 1 teaspoon measurement. A teaspoon of OJ would contribute little in terms of flavor, and adding more liquid (like, for example, enough OJ to add flavor) makes the dough mushy and hard to handle.

Thursday links

A day that will live in infamy: It's the anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor: some history, contemporaneous newsreels, and a Monty Python re-enactment.

The voice actress who played Snow White was forbidden by Disney from appearing in films, radio, or television.

If spiders worked together, they could eat all the humans in a year.

This ‘smart condom’ will give insights into your sex life that you probably didn’t want.

Do emotions related to alcohol consumption differ by alcohol type?

ICYMI, Wednesday's links are here, and include the feast day of St. Nicholas of Myra (aka Santa Claus), how Civil War soldiers gave themselves syphilis while trying to avoid smallpox, a famous French fartist from the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and a selection of weird nativity sets.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

A day that will live in infamy: December 7 is the anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor

The Island of Oahu, with its military depots, both naval and land, its airdromes, water supplies, the city of Honolulu with its wharves and supply points, forms an easy, compact, and convenient object for air attack... I believe therefore, that should Japan decide upon the reduction and seizure of the Hawaiian Islands... [an] attack will be launched at Ford's Island at 7:30 A.M. 

~ General William ("Billy") Mitchell (1879-1936) (memorandum for the Chief of Staff of the U.S. Army, 1924) 

I can run wild for six months... after that, I have no expectation of success.* 

~ Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto (wiki) (1884-1943) (to the Japanese cabinet, circa 1940) 

December 7, 1941 - a date which will live in infamy - the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan. 

~ Franklin D. Roosevelt (wiki) (1882-1945) (to Congress, 8 December 1941) 

Throughout the action, there was never the slightest sign of faltering or cowardice. The actions of the officers and men were wholly commendable; there was no panic, no shirking or flinching, and words fail to describe the truly magnificent display of courage, discipline, and devotion of duty of all. 

~ Report by the Executive Officer of USS West Virginia after Pearl Harbor

Today is the anniversary of the Japanese surprise attack on Pearl Harbor (wiki) on 7 December 1941, which brought the United States into World War II. The meticulously planned and devastatingly successful operation was launched from six aircraft carriers and their escorts, which had managed to penetrate to within 200 miles of Oahu without being discovered. 

Of the eight American battleships in port that day, four were sunk or destroyed, and nine other warships were sunk or severely damaged. Over 2,400 U.S. servicemen lost their lives, including 2.000 sailors, most of whom perished on the USS Arizona (BB-39). The only bright spots were the absence of the three U.S. aircraft carriers from Pearl Harbor that day and the strange failure of the Japanese to destroy the Pacific Fleet's enormous fuel supplies, which would have been an easy target. Japan's attack on Oahu put an abrupt end to pre-war American isolationism and united the nation as it had never been before. But as Napoleon Bonaparte (wiki) noted in his Maxims of War,
"To be defeated is pardonable; to be surprised - never!" 
* N.B. Yamamoto is often quoted as having said, "I fear we have only awakened a sleeping giant, and his reaction will be terrible," but this appears to be apocryphal.

** Quoted in this form in Samuel Eliot Morison, The Two Ocean War, Ch. 3.

Here's a contemporaneous newsreel of the Pearl Harbor attack:

I realize that Pearl Harbor is a significant and serious event, but this reenactment by Monty Python, from Flying Circus: is a hoot, and much too good to pass up:
The stuff of history is indeed woven in the woof. Pearl Harbour. There are pages in history's book which are written on the grand scale. Events so momentous that they dwarf man and time alike. And such is the Battle of Pearl Harbour, re-enacted for us now by the women of Barley Townswomen's Guild (script available at the link):

Wednesday links

December 6 is the feast day of St. Nicholas of Myra, aka Santa Claus.

In 1909, a Door-to-Door Catnip Salesman Incited a Riot in New York.

How Civil War Soldiers Gave Themselves Syphilis While Trying to Avoid Smallpox.

A selection of weird nativity sets.

The Amazing Story of Joseph Pujol, the Famous French Fartist From the Late 19th and Early 20th Centuries

The Evolutionary Reason Why Fish Don’t Swim Upside Down.

ICYMI, Tuesday's links are here, and include why dark winter days bum people out, the anniversary of the end of prohibition in the U.S., how air cargo de-regulation led to Amazon, and, in the "What can go wrong" department, a spider that drank graphene and spun a web that could hold the weight of a human.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Tuesday links

Grapefruit, Animal Economics, and Big Drunk Guys. Some peculiar sociology research.

T'was the Overnight Before Christmas: The Merry Tale of How Air Cargo Deregulation Led To Amazon

Pop-Tarts alerts police about Illinois man who spreads mustard on his breakfast pastry.

ICYMI, Thursday's links are here, and include carbon paper history, people who still use iron lungs to breathe, a slingshot that launches swords, Congressmen behaving badly in 1856, and, for Winston Churchill's birthday (and related to the first link above), the doctor's note allowing him to drink "unlimited" alcohol in prohibition-era America.

Monday, December 4, 2017

'Twas the Overnight Before Christmas: The Merry Tale of How Air Cargo Deregulation Led To Amazon

Related, and this is practically a public service announcement - if you sign up for a 30 day free trial of Amazon Prime now, you can get unlimited free shipping through the holidays.

Try Amazon Prime 30-Day Free Trial

Professor of Public Policy at George Mason University Kenneth Button shares the story of how air cargo deregulation in the 1970s paved the way for low-cost, reliable overnight shipping, which in turn allowed for groundbreaking new e-commerce businesses like Amazon and eBay. These innovations enable everyone to get their presents on time for the holidays – almost as fast as delivery by Santa himself! 

‘Twas two nights before Christmas, and all through their houses
Every creature was busy, double-clicking their mouses.
Christmas was coming, but there were still presents to buy--
Thank heavens overnight shipping allows boxes to fly.
“But how can this be?” the people asked in their haze
“With so many miles to cover, why aren’t there delays?”

What allowed this to happen is a very old rule,
That deregulated air cargo - isn't that cool!
You see, express planes were smaller, unlike today.
Bigger is better, but the law said “No way!”

And if Fisherman Fred shipped lively lobsters from Maine
He hoped for some room in the belly of a passenger plane
But if Aunt Edna had checked in fifteen pieces of luggage
Fred’s lobsters would arrive days later, looking quite sluggish.

Freed from restrictions, more packages could flow
And arrive soon as promised, even in snow.
This allowed private carriers to grow and expand,
Unleashing innovations no one could’ve planned
With better shipping options, online shopping exploded,
And business inventories grew leaner: before they were bloated!

Thanks to rolling back rules that were surely passé,
Delivery is almost as fast as on Santa’s great sleigh.

Prohibition in the United States began on January 16, 1920 and ended on December 5, 1933

The precursor to the "war on drugs":

Puritanism: the haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be happy. 

H. L. Mencken (1880-1956) (A Book of Burlesques, "Sententiae") 

Abstainer, n. A weak person who yields to the temptation of denying himself a pleasure. A total abstainer is one who abstains from everything but abstention, and especially inactivity in the affairs of others. 

~ Ambrose Bierce (1842-1914?) (The Devil's Dictionary

Prohibition will work great injury to the cause of temperance. It is a species of intemperance within itself, for it goes beyond the bounds of reason in that it attempts to control a man's appetite by legislation, and makes a crime out of things that are not crimes. A Prohibition law strikes a blow at the very principles upon which our government was founded. 

~ Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865) (speech, 18 December 1840 to the U.S. House of Representatives) 

The prohibition law, written for weaklings and derelicts, has divided the nation, like Gaul, into three parts - wets, drys, and hypocrites. 

~ Florence Sabin (1871-1953) (speech, 9 December 1931) 

Once, during Prohibition, I was forced to live for days on nothing but food and water.

W. C. Fields (1880-1946) (attributed) 

Prohibition (wiki) began on January 16, 1920, which was the effective date of the 18th amendment to the U.S. Constitution: it was a national ban on the sale, manufacture, and transportation of alcoholic beverages in the United States. An outgrowth of the temperance movement, which had been gathering momentum during the entire 19th century, Prohibition got a final impetus from World War I, which prompted the Congress to pass the 18th amendment in December 1917.* Ratification (by 36 of the 48 states) came on 16 January 1919, and the Volstead Act implemented the measure a year later.** 

Prohibition - highly unpopular - was only weakly enforced by the federal government, and thousands of "speakeasies" - many controlled by organized crime - quickly appeared to satisfy the nation's thirst. The illegal importation and distribution of booze soon became a major source of income for "the Mob" and led to the infamous gang wars of the late 1920s and early 1930s. 

Several states had banned alcohol prior to the federal ban, and in Illinois there was an organized attempt by a group of women to use telepathy to influence the outcome of local votes: the Temperance Thinkers mobilized some 500,000 women to dress all in white and to direct thought waves at voters. “Women arrayed in white will assemble at the polls,” described one paper, “and by concentrated mental effort endeavor to influence the men."

On December 5th, 1933, prohibition in the United States of America came to an end with the ratification of the 21st Amendment***. After 13 years, the country's attempt to ban the booze had ended.

The video below shows a newsreel from the time, documenting the 'happy news for the grain raisers of the United States and for many others throughout the land'. I like this quote: "The problems with legislating morality soon became abundantly clear":

* N.B. To save grain for the war effort, a temporary prohibition measure was enacted just after the Armistice and went into force in July 1919. More over, the discrediting by the war of the large German-American community, strong objectors to Prohibition, diminished the opposition. Similarly, it has also been claimed that the absence of a large proportion of American men - serving in France - had a significant effect. 

** Named for Minnesota representative Andrew Volstead (1860-1947), the act defined the alcoholic products affected, stated enforcement procedures, and set out the penalties for violation. It was passed over President Wilson's veto.

In the 21st Amendment Congress gave individual states the right to regulate alcohol as they saw fit, a move that created a dazzling array of confusing alcohol control laws under seemingly arbitrary regulatory agencies.

"I do not think the state has any more right to tell me what to put in my mouth than it has to tell me what can come out of my mouth. Those two are essentially the same thing, and they are both essential elements of freedom."

My maternal grandmother was the president of the Poughkeepsie, NY chapter of the Women's Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) - there were 4 members and they met monthly (or thereabouts). Her four sons tried many times over her life to sneak a few drops of something into her lemonade or iced tea, but as far as I know they never succeeded and she went to her grave never having had alcohol pass her lips.


Winston Churchill's Doctor's Note Allowing Him to Drink "Unlimited" Alcohol in Prohibition America.

1860s series of photos illustrating the '5 stages of inebriation'.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Winston Churchill's was born on November 30, 1874: here he is on Islam

How dreadful are the curses which Mohammedanism lays on its votaries!

Besides the fanatical frenzy, which is as dangerous in a man as hydrophobia in a dog, there is this fearful fatalistic apathy. The effects are apparent in many countries. Improvident habits, slovenly systems of agriculture, sluggish methods of commerce, and insecurity of property exist wherever the followers of the Prophet rule or live. A degraded sensualism deprives this life of its grace and refinement; the next of its dignity and sanctity. The fact that in Mohammedan law every woman must belong to some man as his absolute property—either as a child, a wife, or a concubine—must delay the final extinction of slavery until the faith of Islam has ceased to be a great power among men. Individual Moslems may show splendid qualities. Thousands become the brave and loyal soldiers of the Queen: all know how to die. But the influence of the religion paralyzes the social development of those who follow it. No stronger retrograde force exists in the world. Far from being moribund, Mohammedanism is a militant and proseltyzing faith. It has already spread throughout Central Africa, raising fearless warriors at every step; and were it not that Christianity is sheltered in the strong arms of science—the science against which it had vainly struggled—the civilization of modern Europe might fall, as fell the civilization of ancient Rome.

Churchill (wiki), from The River War, via Powerline.

I have never accepted what many people have kindly said - namely, that I inspired the nation... It was the nation and the race dwelling all round the globe that had the lion's heart. I had the luck to be called upon to give the roar. I also hope that I sometimes suggested to the lion the right place to use his claws. 

~ Churchill (speech in Westminster Hall, 30 November 1954) 

The ability to foretell what is going to happen tomorrow, next week, and next year. And to have the ability afterwards to explain why it didn't happen. 

~ Churchill (describing the qualifications of a prospective politician, quoted in Adler, Churchill Wit

Naval tradition? Monstrous. Nothing but rum, sodomy, prayers, and the lash. 

~ Churchill (quoted in Harold Nicholson, diary, 17 August 1950) 

He mobilized the English language and sent it into battle to steady his fellow countrymen and hearten those Europeans upon whom the long dark night of tyranny had descended.* 

~ Edward R. Murrow (wiki) (1908-1965) (broadcast, 30 November 1954) 

November 30 is the anniversary of the birth in 1874 of the greatest British statesman of recent times, Winston Spencer Churchill (1874-1965). Born into an aristocratic family, Churchill was educated at Harrow and Sandhurst and served in the British Army in India, the Sudan, and South Africa. Elected to Parliament in 1900, he became the First Lord of the Admiralty in 1911 but was discredited and forced to resign by the failure of World War I's Gallipoli campaign in 1915. 

Subsequently, Churchill held several cabinet-level offices under both Liberal and Conservative governments, but he left politics between 1929 and 1939 and restricted himself largely to warning of the rise of Nazi Germany. In 1940, seven months after the outbreak of World War II - Britain's darkest hour - he supplanted Neville Chamberlain as Prime Minister and led his nation to victory in 1945. Turned out of office in the next election, he nonetheless returned as Prime Minister between 1951 and 1955. Also a prolific author, Churchill received the 1953 Nobel prize in literature for such books as The World Crisis (1923-29), a biography of his ancestor, the Duke of Marlborough, his multi-volume memoir of World War II, and The History of the English-Speaking Peoples

The video below is of the "We shall fight on the beaches speech" (on the occasion of the evacuation of Dunkirk), perhaps Churchill's greatest wartime utterance, in the House of Commons, 4 June 1940. I'm struck by his note of weary resignation, almost totally lacking in rhetorical enthusiasm. Text of the most famous paragraph is below - full text and more information in this post

Even though large tracts of Europe and many old and famous States have fallen or may fall into the grip of the Gestapo and all the odious apparatus of Nazi rule, we shall not flag or fail. We shall go on to the end. We shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be. We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender, and if, which I do not for a moment believe, this island or a large part of it were subjugated and starving, then our Empire beyond the seas, armed and guarded by the British Fleet, would carry on the struggle, until, in God's good time, the New World, with all its power and might, steps forth to the rescue and the liberation of the old.

March 5 is the anniversary of Winston Churchill's Iron Curtain speech.

Before there was Laffer: Churchill on the fiscal cliff.

Churchill on women in combat.

Churchill's Doctor's Note Allowing Him to Drink "Unlimited" Alcohol in Prohibition America.

Thursday links

Winston Churchill was born on November 30, 1874: here he is on Islam, here's the story of his "Iron Curtain" speech and of his "We shall fight on the beaches...we shall never surrender" speech (on the occasion of the evacuation of Dunkirk), and here's Churchill's Doctor's Note allowing him to drink "unlimited" alcohol in prohibition-era America. Vintage Churchill:
"You may, by the arbitrary and sterile act of Government—for remember, Governments create nothing and have nothing to give but what they have first taken away—you may put money in the pocket of one set of Englishmen, but it will be money taken from the pockets of another set of Englishmen, and the greater part will be spilled on the way."
Congressmen Behaving Badly, the 1856 version.

Three people in the United States still rely on "iron lungs" to breathe.

New Germany in Texas: how thousands of German families ended up in the Republic of Texas in the 19th century.

ICYMI, Friday's links are here, and include cat and dog research (including two studies on how dogs affect their owner's urine), "Evacuation Day, when the British ran 'way" from New York City at the end of the Revolutionary War, the history of Jingle Bells, and a supercut of people in movies getting angry and flipping over tables.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Churchill on women in combat

Excerpt from a Strand magazine article in 1938:

We take the immunity of women from violence so much for granted that we do not perceive what inroads are being made upon it. These inroads come from opposite quarters. The first is the feminist movement, which claims equal rights for women, and in its course prides itself in stripping them of their privileges. Secondly, the mud-rush of barbarism which is breaking out in so many parts of the world owns no principle but that of lethal force. Thus we see both progressive and reactionary forces luring women nearer to danger, and exposing them to the retaliation of the enemy...

The part which our women played in winning the War was enshrined in the grant of them to vote which for so many years they had vainly sought to wrest from successive Governments by methods too often suggesting that they had not the civic sense to use the privilege rightly. It was the War which solved that problem, as it solved so many others in our internal affairs. . .

On the other hand, even in the last war there were many things that women could do apart from killing which added to the fighting power of the army. There were innumerable duties of all kinds behind the front which brought them ever nearer to the line and into danger. We must expect that this will continue to develop in a war for the future.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

A Slingshot That Launches Swords

Slingshot guru Jorge Sprave of the Slingshot Channel:

Here's The Full Auto Pencil Shooter Ballistic Jelly Massacre:

And here's how to turn a drill into a monster shotgun:

h/t Dyspepsia Generation

Friday, November 24, 2017

Friday links

Kids re-enact the first Black Friday.

Tomorrow, November 25 is "Evacuation Day (wiki), when the British ran 'way" from New York City at the end of the Revolutionary War. Here's the story of the young man who slithered up a greased flagpole to rip down the British flag.

Getting angry and flipping over a table: the supercut.

The Serial-Killer Detector - A former journalist, equipped with an algorithm and the largest collection of murder records in the country, finds patterns in crime.

Cat and Dog Research. Including two studies on how dogs affect their owner's urine.

ICYMI, Thursday's links consisted of a boatload of obscure Thanksgiving-related material.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Today is President James Garfield's birthday

For mere vengeance I would do nothing. This nation is too great to look for more revenge. But for security of the future, I would do everything. 

~ James A. Garfield (wiki) (speech, 15 April 1865, on the occasion of President Lincoln's assassination) 

Nobody but radicals have ever accomplished anything in a great crisis. Conservatives have their place in the piping times of peace, but in emergencies, only rugged issue men amount to much. 

~ Garfield (statement in his diary for 1876) 

I am trying to do two things: dare to be a radical and not be a fool, which, if I may judge by the exhibitions around me, is a matter of no small difficulty. 

~ Garfield (letter to Burke A. Hinsdale, 11 January 1867) 

The divorce between the church and the state ought to be absolute; It ought to be so absolute that no church anywhere in any State or in the nation should be exempt from equal taxation; for if you exempt the property of any church organization, to that extent you impose a church tax on the whole community.

~ Garfield (in the House of Representatives, 22 June 1874) 

Garfield died of a gunshot wound, from a disgruntled office-seeker, that today would probably not be life threatening. They just couldn't find the bullet and get it out. Alexander Graham Bell's attempt to locate it electronically, with the first metal-detector, failed, confused by the metal bed springs. Sadly, within ten years, the discovery of X-rays would provide a technology that could have made finding the bullet easy, even routine. With no antibiotics to control the infection, Garfield lingered painfully for more than two months.

~ Kelley L. Ross (b. 1949) (The Great Republic: Presidents and States of the United States) 

He did not flash forth as a meteor; he rose with measured and stately step over rough paths and through years of rugged work. He earned his passage to every preferment. He was tried and tested at every step in his pathway of progress. He produced his passport at every gateway to opportunity and glory. His broad and benevolent nature made him the friend of all mankind.

~ William McKinley (1843-1901)* (eulogy on the unveiling of a statue of President Garfield, 19 January 1896) 

Today is the anniversary of the birth of James A(bram) Garfield (1831-1881), 20th President of these United States, in Moreland Hills, Ohio. Born to a widowed farm wife, Garfield worked at a series of menial jobs but eventually attended Williams College, graduating in 1856. 

He entered politics as a Republican and served in the Ohio State Senate until the outbreak of the Civil War, in which he saw combat as a Union major general. In 1862 he was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives and served in that body until 1880, after 1876 as Republican Leader of the House. 

Noted as a skilled orator, Garfield supported the more radical aspects of Reconstruction, but later moderated his views and became known for his strong support in Congress for the gold standard and free trade. He narrowly escaped involvement in the Crédit Mobilier scandal of 1872, but his stature was such that the Republican party nominated him in 1880 as a compromise candidate for the Presidency, which he won handily. His four-month administration, characterized by party squabbles over federal jobs and political patronage, was cut short by his fatal wounding by a disappointed office-seeker in Washington in July 1881:

On July 2, 1881, at 9:20 a.m., James A. Garfield was shot in the back as he walked with Secretary of State Blaine in Washington's Baltimore and Potomac train station. The proud President was preparing to leave for Williams College—he planned to introduce his two sons to his alma mater. The shots came from a .44 British Bulldog, which the assassin, Charles J. Guiteau, had purchased specifically because he thought it would look impressive in a museum. Garfield's doctors were unable to remove the bullet, which was lodged in the President's pancreas. On September 19, 1881, the President died of blood poisoning and complications from the shooting in his hospital rooms at Elberon, a village on the New Jersey shore, where his wife lay ill with malaria.
The shot in the back was not fatal, not hitting any vital organs. The bullet lodged behind the pancreas.
"If they had just left him alone he almost certainly would have survived," Millard said. Within minutes, doctors converged on the fallen president, using their fingers to poke and prod his open wounds. "Twelve different doctors inserted unsterilized fingers and instruments in Garfield's back probing for this bullet," Millard recounted, "and the first examination took place on the train station floor. I mean, you can't imagine a more germ-infested environment." 
He died two and a half months later and was succeeded in office by Vice-President Chester A. Arthur. 

* N.B. Ironically, President McKinley was the next president to be assassinated - in September 1901. 

A brief documentary:

Happy Thanksgiving links

Time to invite the neighbors to dinner, kill them, and take their land. 

Here's a huge roundup of Thanksgiving links: how turkey got its name, why the Lions and Cowboys always play, Ben Franklin's account of the first Thanksgiving, Buffy Thanksgiving episode ("ritual sacrifice, with pie"), Mark Twain, science, the Thanksgiving birthday pattern, WKRP turkey giveaway ("as God is my witness, I thought turkeys could fly"), Cicero, the best turkey fryer PSA ever, and lots more.

'A Day of Thanksgiving and Praise': Remembering President Lincoln's 1863 Thanksgiving proclamation.

Weird Incidents Involving Wild Turkeys, and a Scientific Look at How Female Turkeys Choose Their Mates (and avoid the unwanted ones).

A definitive ranking of Thanksgiving sides, taking into account the availability theorem and the leftover theorem. Related, this map of side dishes by region.
Have an excellent Thanksgiving, and be good to all of those people you're thankful for!

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Getting angry and flipping over a table: the supercut

Has film brought us a better short hand for "uncontrollable anger" than the table flip? Watch full screen!

Cinematic Table Flips from Roman Holiday on Vimeo.

The films used in this table flipping montage:

00:05 - Angel's In The Outfield (1994)
00:12 - A Clockwork Orange (1971)
00:13 - Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure (1984)
00:15 - Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009)
00:16 - Once Upon A Time In Mexico (2003)
00:17 - Taken (2008)
00:18 - Pulp Fiction (1994)
00:20 - Die Hard (1988)
00:21 - Citizen Kane (1941)
00:22 - Magnolia (1999)
00:24 - The King Of Kings (1927)
00:25 - Jesus Christ Superstar (1973)
00:31 - Jesus (1999)
00:38 - Happily Ever After (2007)
00:46 - Thor (2011)
00:51 - Moneyball (2011)
00:56 - Moonstruck (1987)
00:58 - The Sea Hawk (1940)
01:00 - The Gospel Of John (2003)
01:01 - Pollock (2000)
01:03 - Jesus Of Montreal (1989)
01:04 - P.S. Your Cat Is Dead! (2002)
01:06 - The Artist (2011)
01:07 - Raging Bull (1980)
01:08 - Son Of Frankenstein (1939)
01:10 - The Adventures Of Robin Hood (1938)
01:11 - Peter Pan (1953)
01:13 - Titanic (1997)
01:14 - Splice (2009)
01:15 - The Greatest Story Ever Told (1965)
01:17 - Red Lights (2012)
01:18 - Being John Malkovich (1999)
01:21 - Scum (1979)
01:27 - Take Shelter (2011)

Music: Carmen Overture - Georges Bizet

via io9.

Tuesday links

A Thanksgiving miscellany: Mark Twain, science, WKRP, Cicero, the best turkey fryer PSA ever, more.

For those of us born between the 22nd and 28th and have always wondered, here's how it works: The Thanksgiving Birthday Pattern.

Advice from c. 1200: How to Survive the Winter.

This Celebrity Perv Apology Generator is my new favorite thing.

Recreating the diet of a 17th century sailor.

ICYMI, Monday's links are here, and include color photos of the 1939 NY World's Fair, the traditional drunken turkey recipe, enginneering the world's largest telescope, and President James Garfield's birthday (when he was shot, Alexander Graham Bell showed up with a metal detector to try to locate the bullet).

Monday, November 20, 2017

Roast Chestnut Soup

The directions below makes 6 to 8 servings - doubles well, and is better the next day.

1 pound chestnuts (we use these)

1/2 chopped medium onion

1/2 cup chopped celery

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 1/4 quarts low-sodium chicken broth

2 bay leaves

1 cup half-and-half

Dash of freshly grated nutmeg

In a good-sized, heavy bottomed saucepan, over medium-high heat, saute onion and celery in butter until soft.

Add chestnuts, chicken broth and bay leaves and bring to boil over high heat. Reduce heat to low and simmer uncovered until chestnuts are tender, about 30 minutes. Remove bay leaves.

In a blender or food processor fitted with a metal blade, puree soup until smooth. If you have an immersion blender, use that. 

Return soup to pan; stir in half-and-half, salt, pepper and nutmeg. Heat through over low heat. Serve hot.

Round-up of Thanksgiving links

A Thanksgiving miscellany: Mark Twain, science, WKRP, Cicero and the best turkey fryer PSA ever.

10 Thanksgiving Words With Bizarre Origins.

A bird in a bird in a bird in a bird in a bird in a pig: the TurBacon Epic.

This Man Made the First Canned Cranberry Sauce.

For those of us born between the 22nd and 28th and have always wondered, here's how it works:

Dave Barry Thanksgiving columns from 1996, 1998, 2004... feel free to add more in the comments.

Buffy Thanksgiving episode: "Ritual sacrifice, with pie."

Monday links

Yesterday was President James Garfield's birthday - when he was shot, Alexander Graham Bell showed up with a metal detector to try to locate the bullet.

The Astounding Engineering Behind the World's Largest Optical Telescope.

The traditional drunken turkey recipe.

Farmers urged to bury their underpants to improve quality of their beef.

ICYMI, Friday's links are here, and include the anniversaries of the Gettysburg Address and the opening of the Suez Canal, 3 foot long crabs that hunt birds, the pigeon’s rump cure for childhood seizures, and what it's like to be an "fake" reviewer.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Friday links

The Suez Canal opened on November 17, 1869.

The Gettysburg Address was seven score and fourteen years ago tomorrow (November 18) - here's some history and an excellent brief video with contemporaneous photos and illustrations. Related: newspaper prints a retraction for 1863 article calling Gettysburg address "silly remarks"; retraction written in the style of Gettysburg Address.

The pigeon’s rump cure for childhood seizures.

My Surprising Career as an "Fake" Reviewer.

ICYMI, Wednesday's links are here, and include Field Marshall Erwin Rommel's birthday, are cats, technically, a liquid?, an X-ray murder trial, and how female turkeys choose their mates (and avoid the rejects).

Thursday, November 16, 2017

The Suez Canal opened opened on November 17, 1869

Oh, East is East and West is West, and never the twain shall meet,
Till Earth and Sky stand presently at God's great Judgment Seat;
But there is neither East nor West, Border, nor Breed, nor Birth,
When two strong men stand face to face, though they come from the ends of the earth!

Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936) ("The Ballad of East and West," stanza 1)

If M. de Lesseps (wiki) had not been a man of the stuff and stamp of which all great inventors are made, if he had not toiled on to the attainment of his end in spite of every hindrance, the Suez Canal would now exist only on paper... The opening of the new water highway between the East and West will mark an era in the annals of humanity.

~ The Daily Telegraph, London, 26 August 1869

The Suez Canal (wiki) was the greatest feat of organization and engineering of its day, and it served, for a brief moment, as a symbol of all that was right in the world. It was created by dreams and by meticulous organization, by brilliant engineers and by workers looking for their next meal. And then, once the fireworks had faded, the canal began to fade as well. Traveling through Suez today, it is tempting to despair. Barbed wire, overpopulation, rusting ships, and dwindling business stand as rebukes to the vision of de Lesseps.

~Zachary Karabell Parting of the Desert - the Creation of the Suez Canal (2003)*, Epilogue)

Today is the anniversary of the opening in 1869 of the Suez Canal between the Mediterranean and Red Seas, which offers the shortest maritime route between Europe and the lands of the Indian and Pacific Oceans. The subject of speculation for millennia, the 100-mile long canal was finally realized due to the vision and perseverance of French entrepreneur and engineer Ferdinand de Lesseps (1805-1894), who convinced the French and Egyptian governments that such a canal was feasible, arranged ample financing, and supervised its construction over ten years, despite enormous engineering challenges. 

In 1875, Great Britain gained majority ownership of the canal to assure easy passage to India and seven years later essentially seized control of Egypt to protect it. Subsequently, de Lesseps attempted to repeat his success by building a similar canal across the Isthmus of Panama but ended in bankruptcy in 1888. 

Here's a brief vintage documentary on the Suez Canal:

And one on the Suez Canal Crisis, precipitated when Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser seized and announced his intention to nationalize the canal. France, the United Kingdom, and Israel responded by bombing Cairo on 29 October 1956:

Coincidentally, November 19th will be the anniversary of the birth of de Lesseps in 1805: he's said to have claimed that he had always had "the privilege of being believed without having to prove what one affirms.")

* N.B. A concise and readable history of the conception and building of the Suez Canal.

The text above is adapted from Ed's Quotation of the Day, only available via email - leave your email address in the comments if you'd like to be added to his list. Ed is the author of Hunters and Killers: Volume 1: Anti-Submarine Warfare from 1776 to 1943 and Hunters and Killers: Volume 2: Anti-Submarine Warfare from 1943.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Paper prints retraction for 1863 article calling Gettysburg address "silly remarks". Retraction written in the style of Gettysburg Address.

One of the two confirmed photos of Abraham Lincoln
(sepia highlight) at Gettysburg, taken about noon,
 just after Lincoln arrived and some three hours before the
 speech. To his right is his bodyguard, Ward Hill Lamon.
Seven score and ten years ago, the forefathers of this media institution brought forth to its audience a judgment so flawed, so tainted by hubris, so lacking in the perspective history would bring, that it cannot remain unaddressed in our archives.

We write today in reconsideration of “The Gettysburg Address,” delivered by then-President Abraham Lincoln in the midst of the greatest conflict seen on American soil. Our predecessors, perhaps under the influence of partisanship, or of strong drink, as was common in the profession at the time, called President Lincoln’s words “silly remarks,”deserving “a veil of oblivion,” apparently believing it an indifferent and altogether ordinary message, unremarkable in eloquence and uninspiring in its brevity.

In the fullness of time, we have come to a different conclusion. No mere utterance, then or now, could do justice to the soaring heights of language Mr. Lincoln reached that day. By today’s words alone, we cannot exalt, we cannot hallow, we cannot venerate this sacred text, for a grateful nation long ago came to view those words with reverence, without guidance from this chagrined member of the mainstream media.

The world will little note nor long remember our emendation of this institution’s record – but we must do as conscience demands:
In the editorial about President Abraham Lincoln’s speech delivered Nov. 19, 1863, in Gettysburg, the Patriot & Union failed to recognize its momentous importance, timeless eloquence, and lasting significance. The Patriot-News regrets the error.
The original editorial:

Patriot & Union | Tuesday, Nov. 24, 1863 | Editorial

A Voice from the Dead 

We have read the oration of Mr. Everett. We have read the little speeches of President Lincoln, as reported for and published in his party press, and we have read the remarks of the Hon. Secretary of State, Wm. H. Seward,all delivered on the occasion of dedicating the National Cemetery, a plot of ground set apart for the burial of the dead who fell at Gettysburg in the memorable strife which occurred there between the forces of the Federal Government and the troops of the Confederacy of seceded States.

To say of Mr. Everett's oration that it rose to the height which the occasion demanded, or to say of the President's remarks that they fell below our expectations, would be alike false. Neither the orator nor the jester surprised or deceived us. Whatever may be Mr. Everett's failings he does not lack sense - whatever may be the President's virtues, he does not possess sense. Mr. Everett failed as an orator, because the occasion was a mockery, and he knew it, and the President succeeded, because he acted naturally, without sense and without constraint, in a panorama which was gotten up more for his benefit and the benefit of his party than for the glory of the nation and the honor of the dead. 

We can readily conceive that the thousands who went there went as mourners, to view the burial place of their dead, to consecrate, so far as human agency could, the ground in which the slain heroes of the nation,standing in relationship to them of fathers, husbands, brothers, or connected by even remoter ties of marriage or consanguinity, were to be interred. To them the occasion was solemn; with them the motive was honest, earnest and honorable. But how was it with the chief actors in the pageant, who had no dead buried, or to be buried there; from none of whose loins had sprung a solitary hero, living or dead, of this war which was begotten of their fanaticism and has been ruled by their whims?

They stood there, upon that ground, not with hearts stricken with grief or elated by ideas of true glory, but coldly calculating the political advantages which might be derived from the solemn ceremonies of the dedication. 

We will not include in this category of heartless men the orator of the day; but evidently he was paralyzed by the knowledge that he was surrounded by unfeeling, mercenary men, ready to sacrifice their country and the liberties of their countrymen for the base purpose of retaining power and accumulating wealth. Hi oration was therefore cold, insipid, unworthy the occasion and the man. 

We pass over the silly remarks of the President. For the credit of the nation we are willing that the veil of oblivion shall be dropped over them and that they shall be no more repeated or thought of.

But the Secretary of State is a man of note. He it was who first fulminated the doctrine of the irrepressible conflict; and on the battle field and burial ground of Gettysburg he did not hesitate to re-open the bleeding wound,and proclaim anew the fearful doctrine that we are fighting all these bloody battles, which have drenched our land in gore, to upset the Constitution,emancipate the negro and bind the white man in the chains of despotism.

On that ground which should have been sacred from the pollution of politics, even the highest magnate in the land, next to the President himself, did not hesitate to proclaim the political policy and fixed purpose of the administration; a policy which if adhered to will require more ground than Gettysburg to hold our dead, and which must end in the ruin of the nation. The dead of Gettysburg will speak from their tombs; they will raise their voices against this great wickedness and implore our rulers to discard from their councils the folly which is destroying us, and return to the wise doctrines of the Fathers, to the pleadings of Christianity, to the compromises of the Constitution, which can alone save us. Let our rulers hearken to the dead, if they will not to the living - for from every tomb which covers a dead soldier, if they listen attentively they will hear a solemn sound invoking them to renounce partisanship for patriotism, and to save the country from the misery and desolation which, under their present policy, is inevitable.

From PennLive.