Sunday, November 25, 2018

9 LOST INVENTIONS

I discovered this list and thought it would make an interesting blog. Some of these could come in handy in today's society

1)  FLEXIBLE GLASS
Lots of stories from ancient times describe incredible inventions, some purported to be real and others attributed to magic and wizards.  It's fair to say that most of them are nothing more than fanciful tales with no relationship to reality.  However…when three separate historians describe something, it wouldn't hurt to take a closer look.  One such story comes from the reign of Emperor Tiberius Caesar and tells of a glassmaker who came to his court with a drinking bowl. The Emperor threw it on the stone floor where it merely bent rather than shattering. He had the man beheaded because he feared the flexible glass would undermine the value of gold. Some speculate that this tale presages the development of tempered glass, but even that doesn’t bend, leaving the truth lost to the ages.

2)  STARLITE
Some truly great inventions came from unlikely sources which is how you’d explain Starlite. Jane's International Defense Review contained the first announcement of Starlite, a revolutionary insulation created by hobbyist Maurice Ward in the 1980s. Live TV tests showed the material keeping an egg completely raw after 5 minutes of a blow torch. Several noted scientists vouched for its incredible ability to resist heat and impact. Unfortunately, Ward died in 2011 before sharing the secret of Starlite to anyone and the material hasn't been seen since.

3)  THE OGLE CARBURETOR
Ever since the invention of the automobile people have been looking for ways to improve fuel efficiency. Most of them are worthless or scams (i.e., the dozens of "gasoline pills"), but every so often one comes along that's more believable. In the 1970s, a man named Tom Ogle developed a new type of carburetor that pressurized gasoline into a vapor and injected it into the firing chambers. After installing it in his Ford Galaxie, the car got a verified 113 miles per gallon. Unfortunately, Ogle died in 1981 before revealing the design of his carburetor.

4) SLOOT DIGITAL CODING SYSTEM
Here's a lost invention that's very modern, one that fascinates data storage experts. In the late 1990s Romke Jan Berhnard Sloot, a Dutch electronics technician, announced the development of the Sloot Digital Coding System. He described it as a revolutionary advance in data transmission that could reduce a feature-length movie down to a file size of just 8KB. Sloot demonstrated this by playing 16 movies at the same time from a 64KB chip. After getting a bunch of investors, he mysteriously died on September 11, 1999, two days before he was scheduled to hand over the source code.

5)  WIRELESS POWER TRANSMISSION
An entire book could have been written about the inventions that Nikola Tesla took to the grave with him. One such invention was the ability to distribute power wirelessly on a global scale. Tesla had dazzled crowds with demonstrations of short-range wireless power through the air, using coils to light the bulbs as far as 100 feet away with no physical connection between the coil and the light bulbs. Tesla claimed he had a significant upgrade on that technique that allowed for electricity to be transmitted through the Earth’s atmosphere, using high-altitude receiving stations. He began constructing a prototype in 1901 but funding fell through and it was never completed.

6)  GREEK FIRE
Warfare has always been a driving force for the development of technology. Apparently we humans never tire of coming up with faster and more painful ways to kill each other. In the 7th century, eastern Roman (Byzantine) emperors were purported to have deployed an incendiary weapon exceptionally effective in naval warfare, as it could be shot from siphon-like devices and continued to burn even when it came in contact with water. The substance has come to be known as Greek fire, and although we've certainly invented other similar weapons, the composition and manufacture of this one was such a closely-guarded military secret that no records remain.

7)  INCA STONEWORK
Some lost technologies don't seem all that impressive on the surface, but modern man still can't figure them out. A good case in point is the stonemasonry of the ancient Inca people of Peru. Working with huge, rough-hewn stones is extremely difficult especially without modern machinery. But the fit of the blocks in Inca structures in Macchu Picchu is so tight and precise that it's been said you couldn't fit a razor blade between them. It's still unknown how the Incas of the time were able to transport the massive stones—some weighing as much as 300,000 pounds—and place them with such precision.

8)  SILPHIUM
This item is a plant rather than an actual invention.  It's what the ancient Romans did with it that makes it notable. This member of the fennel family grew wild in North Africa and was used as a primitive contraceptive, with its leaves ground into a resin and used as a spermicide. The settlers of the area quickly began exporting silphium in large quantities resulting in the plant quickly being rendered extinct. To this day, we don’t know what in silphium's biological makeup allowed it to serve as birth control.

9)  TESLA DEATH RAY
Another Nikola Tesla creation. This one never saw the light of day. In the late 1930s, Tesla approached the U.S. military with a proposal.  He would create a new style of weapon for them that could be fired great distances. The exact blueprints for this weapon have never been revealed, but there are a number of speculations. Some believe it might have been a primitive laser, while others think it was an electrostatic generator that blasted microscopic pellets of tungsten at intense force a distance of over 300 miles. Tesla’s death device has since been lost forever.

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Those Naughty Pilgrims part 2 of 2

Welcome to part two of my two-part Thanksgiving blog.

With Thanksgiving comes stories of the Pilgrims taking up residence in the new world, landing at Plymouth Rock in what is now the state of Massachusetts.  The pious Pilgrims certainly have a reputation for being a rigid, hard-working, and humorless group.  But there are a few surprises to be found.  Even though drunkenness was discouraged, beer was accepted as a drink for men, women, and also children.  The daily ration on the Mayflower was a gallon a day for each individual.  It took 66 days for them to sail from England to their landing place of Plymouth Rock.  Hmmm…66 days times 1 gallon per person times the number of people on the ship.  It seems that a lot of room on board the ship was devoted to storing the beer ration.

Even sex was not taboo under the right circumstances.  They had a matter-of-fact attitude about sex as long as it was between a married couple.  It's when sex strayed from being the exclusive right between a married couple that the stories get interesting.

Studies by a group of anthropologists at the University of Virginia found that the Pilgrims spent a great deal of time thinking about how to punish those with impure thoughts and actions.  Studies also discovered that in 11% of the marriages at Plymouth Colony the bride was already pregnant.  The same study estimates that as many as 50% of the Pilgrims engaged in premarital sex.  Definitely not an image that fits the stereotype of the staid Pilgrims.

But what about the actions and activities of those naughty Pilgrims?  As with so much in life, there's the fa├žade then there's the underlying reality.

Although not liberal in their thinking or lifestyle, the Pilgrims were not as uptight as history would have us believe and apparently not as uptight as their cousins, the Puritans.  Both the Pilgrims and the Puritans were English Protestants who believed that the Church of England was in need of reform.  Although both groups were strict Calvinists, they differed in their approach to how the Church of England should be reformed.  The Pilgrims were more inclined to separate from the church (therefore known as separatists), while the Puritans wanted to reform the church from within.  The Pilgrims were the first group of Puritans to seek religious freedom in the New World (thus separating from the church).  As strict Calvinists, members of both groups believed in original sin, predestination, and the literal interpretation of the Bible as God’s word.

The Pilgrims tried to create a strict religious society, but had an understanding and mercy unusual for their time in history.  As time passed, however, intolerance grew and was reflected in their laws and clearly demonstrated by the notorious Salem witch trials.  Innocent people were convicted and put to death on evidence that later even the Pilgrims declared to be inadmissible—I saw it in a dream, the spirit of my dead grandmother came to me and said…

According to the Mayflower Compact, the colony was to establish laws based on Biblical teachings "for the glory of God and the advancement of the Christian faith."  The Old Testament book of Leviticus was the basis for most of their laws, a biblical source that definitely predated the New Testament and Christianity's teachings of love and forgiveness rather than reflecting those Old Testament teachings.  Adultery?  Death.  A man has sex with his daughter-in-law?  Death.  Sodomy?  Death.  Bestiality?  Death.  Are you beginning to see a pattern?  :)

But interestingly, the Pilgrims did not typically enforce the death penalty for sex offenses.  There is only one known case in which the convicted offender was actually put to death for sex crimes.  It was the case of Thomas Graunger, a teenage boy apparently at the peak of his raging hormones who sought satisfaction from any and all sources available to him…those sources being the farm animals.

According to Plymouth Governor William Bradford, "He was this year detected of buggery, and indicted for the same, with a mare, a cow, two goats, five sheep, two calves and a turkey."

Even though Thomas was the only one executed for a sex crime, punishments were routinely severe even with far lesser sex crimes and usually meant whippings, being put into the stocks, and fines.

Men were not the only offenders in Plymouth colony.  The prim women weren't always so pious either.  Women were often caught since the evidence of their dalliances were babies.  The records of the times are filled with one out-of-wedlock child after another.  Babies showing up just a few months after marriage were also evidence of wrong doing.  Pre-marital sex was severely punished.  Fines were levied even for making passes, for appearing to have a lascivious carriage in public, or partying in mixed company at an unseemly time of night.

Sex outside marriage, even between two unmarried consenting adults, usually meant a whipping and fines.  If the woman became pregnant, the man had to either marry her or pay for the child's upbringing.  The man was usually placed in the stocks and whipped while the woman was made to watch.  Sometimes mercy was granted as in the case of a servant, Jane Powell.  Following years of hard servitude, she was destitute and had agreed to having sex in the hopes of marrying the man.  Apparently the court found her plea convincing and she went unpunished.

Even though the Pilgrims imposed strict punishment for crimes, they also understood human temptations.  In 1656, Katheren Aines and William Paule were sentenced for committing adultery.  William was whipped and forced to pay the costs of his imprisonment.  Katheren was whipped, imprisoned and forced to wear a letter on her shoulder designating her as an adulteress.  (Calling Nathaniel Hawthorne!)  However, Katheren's husband, Alexander, was also punished.  Alexander had left his family for some time and treated her badly during their marriage.  The Pilgrims viewed him as guilty of "exposing his wife to such temptations."  Alexander was required to pay for his wife's imprisonment, and sit in the stocks while William and Katheren were whipped.

This Thanksgiving as you sit down to your turkey dinner, it might be a good idea to take a moment to be thankful that you aren't a Pilgrim.  :)

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Thanksgiving Myths and Facts part 1 of 2

This week is part one of a two part blog about Thanksgiving.

We all know the often told story of how the Pilgrims left England seeking religious freedom and finally settled in the New World, stepping off the Mayflower onto Plymouth Rock in what is now the state of Massachusetts.  And how in 1621 they invited the local natives to share a feast with them in order to give thanks for a successful harvest and surviving their first year.

From those humble beginnings have come many facts and just as many myths about the Pilgrims and our Thanksgiving holiday.

I have some Mayflower myths to share with you, followed by some Thanksgiving facts.  And next week in part two—Those Naughty Pilgrims.

Myth:  The first Thanksgiving was in 1621 and the Pilgrims celebrated it every year after that.
Fact:  The first feast wasn't repeated, so it wasn't the beginning of a tradition.  In fact, it wouldn't have been called Thanksgiving because to the Pilgrims a thanksgiving was a religious holiday when they would fast rather than feast.  That feast in 1621 was a secular celebration and would not have been considered a thanksgiving in their minds.

Myth:  The original Thanksgiving feast took place on the fourth Thursday of November.
Fact:  The original feast in 1621 occurred sometime between September 21 and November 11 and was a three day celebration based on the English harvest festivals.  In 1939, President Franklin D. Roosevelt set the official date for Thanksgiving as the fourth Thursday of November, a decision fraught with controversy.  The date was approved by Congress in 1941.

Myth:  The Pilgrims wore only black and white clothing with buckles on their hats, garments, and shoes.
Fact:  Buckles did not come into fashion until later in the 17th century.  Black and white were commonly worn only on Sunday and formal occasions.

Here's a list of trivia that could be called Thanksgiving-by-the-numbers.

3,000—the number of calories eaten during an average Thanksgiving meal.

12,000,000—the number of whole turkeys Butterball sells for Thanksgiving.

2,000 - 3,000—the number of people used to guide the balloons during the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.

214—the average number of miles driven for the family get together at Thanksgiving.

1939—the date the Great Thanksgiving Day calendar controversy began (when FDR declared the fourth Thursday of November to be the official date of Thanksgiving).

40,000,000—the number of green bean casseroles made for Thanksgiving dinner.

72,000,000—the number of cans of Ocean Spray cranberry sauce sold for Thanksgiving dinner.

Next week I'll contradict the belief that the Pilgrims embodied the very soul of purity and piety.

Sunday, November 4, 2018

Halloween Candy Nightmares

 
I'd like to offer one last Halloween fright before we turn our attention to the next of the holiday season holidays—Thanksgiving.  And what is that one last fright?  It's all that Halloween candy!

Halloween aftermath usually means two things—putting the witch and goblin decorations away and fighting the battle of all that candy in the house.  First, there's the leftover candy from what you bought to hand out to trick-or-treaters.  There's two schools of thought about what type of candy to buy.  One theory says buy what you like so you can enjoy the leftovers.  The other theory says buy what you don't like so you won't be tempted.  And the second thing is all the candy the kids collected on their trick or treat rounds.  Sacks full of candy.  Enough potential sugar overdose and tooth decay material to last until next Halloween.

And what kind of candy is it that we now have in abundance?  It seems that all the candy manufacturers, in addition to their regular size candy bars, make the little fun size candy—the mini candy bars or individual pieces.  Those little bite size morsels that give us just a taste.  Unfortunately, it's usually a taste for more.  :)

These little tidbits aren't as harmless as you'd like to believe.  Many of the small treats are worse for you than eating a normal size candy bar.  But that can't be, you tell yourself, because you're only going to eat one of those little things and that's certainly not the same as a regular size candy bar.  What's that you said?  Eat just one?  Well, you and I both know that's a lie!  :) Remember that old Lay's Potato Chip commercial from many years ago? Bet you can't eat just one. That applies to those tasty little bite size morsels of candy as well.

 I recently saw a list of the ten worse choices of these mini candy snacks and I'd like to share it with you.

1)  Reese's Peanut Butter Pumpkins (1 piece):  You convince yourself that you're getting lots of protein from the peanut butter.  Think again.  One pumpkin has 180 calories, 11 grams of fat, and 17 grams of sugar.

2)  Dove Milk Chocolate Promises (5 pieces):  Chocolate is marvelous stuff, full of antioxidants that help decrease the risk of heart disease.  Think again.  It's DARK chocolate that has the antioxidants, not milk chocolate.  You're eating 220 calories, 13 grams of fat, and 22 grams of sugar.

3)  Twix Miniatures (3 pieces):  Like the Reese's Peanut Butter Pumpkins, another choice that might not seem so bad for you.  This gooey caramel and cookie crunch treat has 150 calories, 8 grams of fat, and 15 grams of sugar.

4)  Almond Joy Snack-Size Bars (3 pieces):  Coconut milk and coconut water might be popular in healthy eating circles, but that doesn't mean it's ok to cover it with chocolate and still consider it healthy.  With these, you're eating 200 calories, 11 grams of fat, and 19 grams of sugar.

5)  Reese's Peanut Butter Cups Miniature (5 pieces):  Remember the comments about Reese's Peanut Butter Pumpkins?  Well, the same rules apply here only this time it's 220 calories, 13 grams of fat, and 23 grams of sugar.

6)  Hershey's Miniatures (5 pieces):  These are staples every year at Halloween time.  The mixed bag of treats begs you to try at least one of each kind.  You'll be consuming 200 calories, 11 grams of fat, and 19 grams of sugar.

7)  Hershey's Kisses Caramel-Filled (9 pieces): These seem safe, but don't be fooled.  You're looking at 190 calories, 9 grams of fat, and 24 grams of sugar.

8)  York Dark Chocolate-Covered Peppermint Patties (3 pieces):  The cool minty chocolate that melts in your mouth gives you 150 calories, 3 grams of fat, and 27 grams of sugar.

9)  Snickers Fun Size (2 bars):  The commercials say, "Hungry?  Grab a Snickers."  If you do, you'll be grabbing 144 calories, 7.4 grams of fat, and 14 grams of sugar.

10)  Kit Kat Snack Size (3 bars, 2 pieces each):  These little beauties are worth 210 calories, 11 grams of fat, and 24 grams of sugar.

Perhaps the scariest thing about Halloween is the number of calories, grams of fat, and grams of sugar we consume under the guise of it's little, it won't hurt me.

And strictly for adults…having a glass of wine with our Halloween candy.  What type of wine could possibly go with Candy Corn?

Master Sommelier and Director of Wines at Kimpton Hotels and Restaurants has put together some pairings of Halloween candy and wine for your pleasure.

Hershey's Milk Chocolate Bars go nicely with a fruity, low-alcohol wine like Brachetto d'Aqui from Northern Italy.  It's bright pink and tastes like raspberries and roses.

Hot Tamales candy are intensely spicy and sweet.  That demands a high acid wine with low alcohol to cut the spice and high sugar content, something like a German Riesling.

Tootsie Rolls go very well with a Tawny Port.  A twenty year old Tawny Port will taste like nuts and orange peel.

Reese's Pieces go perfectly with Vin Santo from Italy.  This wine has a nutty flavor, a great match with the peanut buttery candy.

And finally…what wine goes with Candy Corn?  According to the expert, this super sugary candy pairs well with a very floral wine like Muscat de Beaumes de Venise which is a fortified Muscat from the South of France with a rich orange blossom flavor.

So…sort out your candy and don't over do it.