24 November 2017

Fred Astaire's famous dance from Royal Wedding (1951)


And explained:
But the more you think about it, the more amazing an accomplishment this number seems. The cage must have had a diameter of something like 20 feet, and the light fixtures had to stay powered throughout. The whole thing must have weighed a ton or two. Building this set was an enormous feat of engineering. What would it look like to a bystander as this amazing scene was shot?
Movie buffs will want to continue reading the explanation here.

"Potentially" ? suggestive statue

You can't convince me that the artist who sculpted this depiction of St Martin de Porres "handing a loaf of bread to a young boy" did not have other ideas in mind.  The Guardian reports on the response at the priory school where the statue was installed.

Willie and the Wheel

Related: Willie in 1965In 1997.

The last survivors in iron lungs

A report at Gizmodo describes the current lives of the last three persons in the U.S. known to be living in iron lungs.
Her iron lung has portholes and windows on the side; a pressure gauge at the top. The machine is actually cobbled together from two iron lungs. One, the March of Dimes gave her when she was a child. The other, she bought from someone in Utah, after she haggled him down from $25,000 to $8,000. The body has also been modified over the years. Her grandfather invented a motorized pulley system that closes the bed tray into the tank after she climbs in. He also replaced the brushed aluminum mirror above the neck slot with a real mirror so that she could have a clear view to the rest of the room when she’s locked in the canister. A local engineer used a motor from an old voter registration device to build a mechanism that tightens the collar around her neck after she slips her head through the portal. The fan belts and half-horsepower motor have been replaced about ten times.

When Lillard was a child, polio was every parent’s worst nightmare. The worst polio outbreak year in US history took place in 1952, a year before Lillard was infected. There were about 58,000 reported cases. Out of all the cases, 21,269 were paralyzed and 3,145 died. “They closed theaters, swimming pools, families would keep their kids away from other kids because of the fear of transmission,” Bruno said. 
I was a participant in that polio epidemic of 1952, as were my mother and sister.  I woke up one morning and fell to the floor because my legs wouldn't hold me up, then spent months in Sheltering Arms, the Minneapolis Sister Kenny Institute before eventually returning home.  What separates me from the three adults in the story above is that the virus only reached my thoracolumbar spine, not the C-spine.

The fate of presidentially-pardoned turkeys

I'm sure most readers know this, but just for the record...
[I]t's kind of a hoax. I went to the farm where birds pardoned by presidents go, and I learned that this is not a story with a happy ending...

I visited Kidwell Farm to see how the turkeys pardoned in previous years were doing. I looked for some of the birds pardoned by Clinton, but couldn't find them. I couldn't find the Bush Sr. birds, or the Reagan turkeys, or Carter's, or any of the pardoned birds. 

There is a sign saying Turkey Pen, and farmer Marlo Acock took me to it. But the pen was empty. Why? Well, the birds do come here, explained Acock, but they don't last

"We usually just find 'em and they're dead," he said. 

Most of the pardoned turkeys only last a few months, Acock said. One died within days. 
For more details on why they die so quickly, PETA offers a less nuanced view.

Yellowjacket horrorshow

21 November 2017

Etruscan statue

“Evening shadow”. Etruscan statue, 3rd c. BC, Volterra. The name is from Gabriele d’Annunzio

Via Poemas del rio Wang.

Alexa commands

Cnet has a (momentarily) complete list of Alexa commands.
The list of Alexa commands is expansive and grows with every new service or device it supports. Alexa isn't perfect, but it's pretty great at understanding natural language, so you don't always have to speak the commands exactly as you see them below. Many commands work when worded several different ways or even with words omitted.
I also discovered that there is a subreddit dedicated to Amazon Echo, wherein you can find a list of known Easter eggs, including...
  • Alexa, I am your father.
  • Alexa, who lives in a pineapple under the sea?
  • Alexa, what is the loneliest number?
  • Alexa, how many roads must a man walk down?
  • Alexa, all your base are belong to us.
  • Alexa, how much is that doggie in the window?
  • Alexa, romeo, romeo wherefore art thou romeo?
  • Alexa, define rock paper scissors lizard spock
  • Alexa, beam me up.
  • Alexa, how much wood can a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood?
  • Alexa, define supercalifragilisticexpialodocious.
  • Alexa, who’s your daddy?
  • Alexa, Earl Grey. Hot. (or Tea. Earl Grey. Hot.)
  • Alexa, what is the meaning of life?
  • Alexa, what does the Earth weigh?
  • Alexa, when is the end of the world?
  • Alexa, is there a Santa?
  • Alexa, make me a sandwich.
  • Alexa, what is the best tablet?
  • Alexa, what is your favorite color?
  • Alexa, what is your quest?
  • Alexa, who won best actor Oscar in 1973?
  • Alexa, what is your quest?
  • Alexa, what is the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow?
  • Alexa, where do babies come from?
  • Alexa, do you have a boyfriend?
  • Alexa, which comes first: the chicken or the egg?
  • Alexa, may the force be with you.
  • Alexa, do aliens exist?
(more at the link)

Posted for Suzanne up at the lake, with thanks for recommending this device to me.

'Tis the season

In the past we have generally gone out to get our Christmas tree in early December, but after realizing that the trees are cut much earlier than that, we decided this year to go out much sooner.

Yesterday was Monday, November 20.  Our local garden center told us that they had just received their shipment of trees on the weekend (we were their third customer), and that the trees had been harvested here in central Wisconsin three days earlier (Nov 17).

This batch of trees will sit outside for weeks now desiccating in the wind.  We won't put ours up inside the house until early December, but in the meantime it sits in a bucket in the garage soaking up water. 

And as a bonus the garage smells like pine.

Japanese game show

Posted as a reminder to those of us living in the Upper Midwest that winter is just around the corner.

Does anyone recognize this "NL" logo ? (solved)

I found this Zippo lighter while cleaning out an old desk drawer; it presumably is a family heirloom but has no sentimental value for me.  But before disposing of it I thought I'd inquire about that logo on the side.

I presume it's the 15th anniversary of something.  The lighter would have been used by my father in the 1950s-60s, and it likely was given to him by a customer or friend, since he didn't spend money on fancy Zippos.

Does the logo look familiar to anyone?

Addendum: a tip of the hat to reader Gelvan Tullibole 3rd, who found the logo (in Wikipedia no less) associated with NL Industries.

About those towers on the Sears warehouses

I remember the massive Sears building in Minneapolis.  In my childhood it was an iconic structure.  The Atlantic has an article about how such buildings around the country are being repurposed.  One particular item caught my eye:
As a hybrid of store and warehouse, the plants were the physical embodiment of the company’s pivot from rural-focused mail-order catalogues to urban and suburban retail stores...

The plants’ locations also speak to this transitional moment. They were built at what was then the edge of town, adjacent to rail lines. Land was cheap and parking plentiful in these areas, but they were still closer to the urban core than many early car-oriented bedroom communities, says Jerry Hancock, an amateur Sears historian.

Plants were among the largest buildings by square footage in their cities, if not the largest outright. They usually clocked in at a million square feet or more. Their art deco flourishes and iconic “Sears towers”—not to be confused with the company’s eventual headquarters in Chicago—made them local landmarks. (The towers, Hancock explains, were built to hold the plant’s cistern, providing maximum water pressure during break times on the warehouse floor, when hundreds of workers would use the bathroom at the same time.)

More kitchen tips than you can ever remember

"Passing as white"

I'd never seen my mother so afraid.

“Promise me,” she pleaded, “you won’t tell anyone until after I die. How will I hold my head up with my friends?”

For two years, I’d waited for the right moment to confront my mother with the shocking discovery I made in 1995 while scrolling through the 1900 Louisiana census records. In the records, my mother’s father, Azemar Frederic of New Orleans, and his entire family were designated black.
The rest of the story is at The Washington Post.


The best special effects are the ones you don't notice.
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