Friday: Hili dialogue

It’s Friday, January 4, 2019, and I’ve been in Hawaii for one week, with two weeks to go. It’s National Spaghetti Day, and World Braille Day, celebrating the birthday of inventor Louis Braille (see below). I just wondered: now that nobody under 40 reads things on paper any more, how do the blind deal with the Internet?

On this day in 1847, Samuel Colt sold his “revolver pistol” to the U.S. government. In the ensuing Civil War, his Connecticut factory provided weapons to both the North and South, and I don’t know how that was legal. Here’s his model 1860 Army revolver:

On January 4, 1853, according to Wikipedia: “After having been kidnapped and sold into slavery in the American South, Solomon Northup regains his freedom; his memoir Twelve Years a Slave later becomes a national bestseller.” Most of you have probably seen the eponymous movie, which won three Oscars, including Best Picture.

On this day in 1903, Topsy, an unwanted circus elephant, was electrocuted in public, with the execution being filmed (the film is still easily found, though I’m not going to post it). This was after cyanide-laced carrots failed to work. She was then hanged for good measure, although she was already dead. I don’t know how people could do this to a trusting and docile animal, but it’s a measure of progress that this could never happen today.

On January 4, 1974, Richard Nixon refused to hand over the White House tapes subpoenaed by the Senate’s Watergate Committee. The Supreme Court later forced the crook to fork over the stuff. And 11 years ago, the 110th U.S. Congress convened, electing Nancy Pelosi as the first woman Speaker of the House. She will resume that position today, and it’s going to be an interesting two years in Congress.

The government, of course, is still shut down over Congress’s refusal to fund Trump’s Big Wall. I have no idea how this will come out, as both sides refuse to give. Any guesses?

Notables born on this day include Isaac Newton (1643; the December 25, 1642 date given by many is from the outdated Julian Calendar), Jacob Grimm (1785), Louis Braille (1809), General Tom Thumb (1836), Augustus John (1878), Max Eastman (1883), James Bond (1900, the suave British agent 007 was named after this ornithologist), and Floyd Patterson (1935).

A few words from Wikipedia about how Ian Fleming appropriated the name of his famous character (I was a huge James Bond fan as a teenager).

Ian Fleming, who was a keen bird watcher living in Jamaica, was familiar with Bond’s book, and chose the name of its author for the hero of Casino Royale in 1953, apparently because he wanted a name that sounded “as ordinary as possible”. Fleming wrote to the real Bond’s wife, “It struck me that this brief, unromantic, Anglo-Saxon and yet very masculine name was just what I needed, and so a second James Bond was born.” He also contacted the real James Bond about using his name in the books, and Bond replied to him, “Fine with it.” At some point during one of Fleming’s visits to Jamaica he met the real Bond and his wife, as shown in a made-for-DVD documentary about Fleming. A short clip was shown with Fleming, Bond and his wife. Also in his novel Dr. No Fleming referenced Bond’s work by basing a large ornithological sanctuary on Dr. No’s island in the Bahamas. In 1964, Fleming gave Bond a first edition copy of You Only Live Twice signed, “To the real James Bond, from the thief of his identity”. In December 2008 the book was put up for auction, eventually fetching $84,000 (£56,000).

In the 2002 Bond film Die Another Day, the fictional Bond, played by Pierce Brosnan, can be seen examining Birds of the West Indies in an early scene that takes place in Havana, Cuba. The author’s name (James Bond) on the front cover is obscured. In the same film, when Bond first meets Jinx (Halle Berry), he introduces himself as an ornithologist. In the 2015 Bond film Spectre, the same book was seen in a promotional on-set photo, which is supposed to be appearing in an alternate take of a scene taking place in Bond’s Chelsea apartment.However, it is nowhere to be found in the finalized film.

James Bond, 1900-1989

Those who died on January 4 include Elizabeth Ann Seton (1821), Cornelius Vanderbilt (1877), Albert Camus (1960; Nobel Laureate), Erwin Schrödinger (1961; Nobel Laureate), T. S. Eliot (1965; Nobel Laureate), Christopher Isherwood (1986), and Les Brown (2001).

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili has an interesting thought.

Hili: Did cats domesticate humans because of books?
A: No, because of grain.
Hili: What? What are you talking about?
A: Mice like grain.
Hili: Well, yes, it could be that, but books were important as well.

In Polish:

Hili: Czy koty udomowiły ludzi z powodu książek?
Ja, Nie, z powodu zboża.
Hili: Co ty opowiadasz?
Ja: Myszy lubią ziarno.
Hili: No tak, mogło tak być, ale książki też są ważne.

Who goes with Fergus?

An Egyptian double-duck bracelet found on Facebook:

An animal joke sent by reader Will, whose daughter found it on Facebook:

 

Tweets from Matthew. The first is Tweet of the Week: Duck curling!

Mishaps of 2018; do watch them!

This risqué joke is told by comedy writer and “Curb Your Enthusiasm” actor Bob Einstein, who died yesterday at age 76.

This is a classic video, but be sure to see versions where words are put to the cats’ sounds, like this one.

And today’s Trumpian Metatarsals in Mouth Moment:

Tweets from Grania. A new use for Siri!

A new bonus from the Ultima Thule mission:

And the real Ultima Thule, a 21-mile-long iceball:

Baby penguins. Translation: “A baby penguin that spreads its wings to protect itself from predators and shows himself big.”

An adorable bout of play between a cat and a fox:

And The Gif of the Year:

106 Comments

  1. Saul Sorrell-Till
    Posted January 4, 2019 at 7:02 am | Permalink

    Funkhouser is one of my favourite Curb characters. The guy who played him is responsible for this completely brilliant moment from the seventh(and best) season:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3o5m_mXadoU (Warning: rude word.)

    Jerry Seinfeld apparently had no idea what the joke would be until this moment, which is the first take.

    • Michael Fisher
      Posted January 4, 2019 at 7:06 am | Permalink

      Snigger. Very good!

  2. Michael Fisher
    Posted January 4, 2019 at 7:02 am | Permalink

    ULTIMA THULE Friday fight: It’s pronounced “Ultima Thew-lay”!

    • rickflick
      Posted January 4, 2019 at 8:01 am | Permalink

      It probably needs and accent aigu on the e.

      • Michael Fisher
        Posted January 4, 2019 at 8:09 am | Permalink

        I’m hoping for a fight & you’re not helping rick! 🙂 The pronunciations I’ve heard so far are:
        Thew-lay [Posh, educated sounding Brit]
        Too-lay [Brit scientist]
        Too-lee [BBC radio person]
        Thule [US]

        • rickflick
          Posted January 4, 2019 at 10:07 am | Permalink

          At a news conference, the NASA folks were calling it ultima Too lee.

          • Posted January 4, 2019 at 10:10 am | Permalink

            I pronounce it Ultima Fros-tee.

            • rickflick
              Posted January 4, 2019 at 10:22 am | Permalink

              I think I could warm up to the idea.

            • Michael Fisher
              Posted January 4, 2019 at 11:08 am | Permalink

              +1

    • Serendipitydawg
      Posted January 4, 2019 at 1:37 pm | Permalink

      I think you’ll find it’s pronounced (486958) 2014 MU69 😀 😀

  3. Anastasia Cheetham
    Posted January 4, 2019 at 7:12 am | Permalink

    In answer to your question about how blind people “deal with the internet”:

    Blind people have been using text-to-speech to use computers-and the Internet- for years. Years and years and years.

    • Neil Wolfe
      Posted January 4, 2019 at 7:33 am | Permalink

      Is this a new thing?

      • rickflick
        Posted January 4, 2019 at 7:51 am | Permalink

        It was years and years and years ago.

      • GBJames
        Posted January 4, 2019 at 9:03 am | Permalink

        Accessibility remains a challenge for blind people. It takes effort to make a web page “clean” for text-to-speech processing.

        It will take lawsuits to motivate people to invest the effort it takes to make things better.

        • Anastasia Cheetham
          Posted January 4, 2019 at 1:26 pm | Permalink

          Actually, it does NOT take effort to make a Web page accessible to screen readers. All it takes is complying with the HTML standard and with general best practices. I worked in the field of accessible web development for almost 20 years. Screen reader technology has advanced considerably in that time, in close concert with the evolution of web standards.

          It does take effort to re-write a website, if you did a crappy job the first time around.

          You’re right, though, that it takes lawsuits to convince people to just implement the damned standards.

    • Bruce Lilly
      Posted January 4, 2019 at 7:55 am | Permalink

      True; the early ones were known as “screen readers” and used text-to-speech for text-based content (email, usenet, etc.). That of course doesn’t work for images or video, which are more prevalent on the Internet now. There are ways to make web sites using images and video accessible for the visually impaired: here’s a link. http://www.afb.org/info/programs-and-services/afb-consulting-services/afb-accessibility-resources/123

      For example, alternate text can be provided to describe an image for those who cannot see the image. Here’s a WordPress-specific link: https://en.support.wordpress.com/accessibility/

      • Posted January 4, 2019 at 10:51 am | Permalink

        AFAIK, they are still called screen readers. My company was involved in making mathematical notation readable by screen readers.

        Watching and listening to a blind person use a screen reader is quite fascinating. They navigate around a document or web page using keystrokes. Each time they move to a piece of text, it is spoken. The person often moves very quickly between chunks of text, looking for the one they want to read. Since they don’t have to wait for the whole paragraph to be read in order to identify it, the witness hears mostly only fragments of sentences. Since text read aloud can be understood at a much higher rate than a person can speak, especially if the voice is familiar and speaks distinctly, the text is read very fast. The witness’s common reaction is pure amazement. The human brain is a wonderful thing. It is interesting to note that evolution gave us this ability even though none of our ancestors could possibly ever have heard a voice spoken this fast.

        • rickflick
          Posted January 4, 2019 at 12:27 pm | Permalink

          Fascinating.

    • Serendipitydawg
      Posted January 4, 2019 at 10:22 am | Permalink

      I agree about the poor design of modern web pages creating problems for text readers; particularly sad since there is plenty of CSS support for them that people just don’t use. I thought that the disability discrimination legislation in the UK was meant to improve things but my blind friend would dispute this.

      As an aside: in the pre-internet days of the 1980’s, I met a blind man who was fond of playing computer games on a BBC Model B. He was capable of playing Rocket Raid by using sound cues and the miniscule vision that he did have (basically gross light/dark contrast) and easily beat my own high score on my office computer (I developed programs for the Beeb at that time, amongst other things… and they weren’t games 😀 ).

      • Michael Fisher
        Posted January 4, 2019 at 11:07 am | Permalink

        A blind Persian friend of mine at the University of Liverpool in ’81 was studying Mathematics BSc [Hons]. He would record lectures & then at home he’d transcribe to a maths version of 6-cell Braille – he used his own version of Nameth Braille on his Braille typewriter [puts bumps in paper in the right place – no easy erasing or whiteout for that!]. This is quite a process – you can’t use ordinary Braille for advanced maths & he had nobody to show him alternatives, so he cooked up his own 6-cell symbology & remembered it! This is tougher than it sounds because one symbol might require 3 x 6-cell Braille in a certain order to be representative of one simple concept I could write with the stroke of a pen.

        Then we get his course work – the books he has to read! I was one of three that read books to him [or to tape] for him to mentally condense & type in his maths Braille code.

        Imagine him reading his own typing later – he gets to an equation, he has to find the end of it, he has to look for nested brackets, he has to read from within the deepest bracket outwards. Mind blowing. A complex equation could take two lines in his Braille, while for me to look at in the original it’s perhaps half a line.

        He developed one hell of a memory – he was lazy like that 🙂

        • Serendipitydawg
          Posted January 4, 2019 at 11:21 am | Permalink

          He developed one hell of a memory

          I have encountered this… one of my friends who suffered detached retinas several years ago has become progressively worse in recent years and has developed a much improved memory. Go figure!

          She has a white stick but doesn’t use it to navigate; it is the if you cross my path I will crash into you because I can’t detect anything at the sides and adjust for your presence flag 😀

          • Michael Fisher
            Posted January 4, 2019 at 11:33 am | Permalink

            The Persian guy, Kavaan used his stick as mainly a flag too. He knew the exact step count, turns, kerbs, door types & swing opening direction for every pub in & around the university. 🙂

            Also pub internal layouts, seating arrangement, payphones, pricing [exact to the penny], bar staff names from their voices & footsteps.

            Also all the bus routes by stops, taxi ranks, train time tables & hundreds of full names, addresses & phone numbers going back two decades.

            Animal.

            • rickflick
              Posted January 4, 2019 at 12:48 pm | Permalink

              Amazing. I couldn’t even approach this level of competence. Imagine putting on a blindfold and being let go in an unfamiliar city. Though, I suppose, with years of practice your brain would reprogram itself to meet the challenge. Plasticity!

        • Posted January 4, 2019 at 12:13 pm | Permalink

          Braille has largely lost out to text-to-speech via screen reader software. Kids are not learning Braille much any more. As you might imagine, it is controversial. Braille aficionados claim that kids will lose out on an important experience and kids say, “So what? It’s too hard to learn.”

          Nemeth math braille is supposedly much harder to learn than regular braille. Not only do kids need to know braille, they also have to learn Nemeth’s math encoding at the same time as struggling with mathematics itself. Our math-to-speech solution involved something called MathML, a W3C standard that extends HTML to cover math notation. Our software converted MathML in web pages to text to be spoken by screen readers.

          • Michael Fisher
            Posted January 4, 2019 at 12:58 pm | Permalink

            That must have been hard work developing/debugging! Kavaan would have loved MathML & all the tech behind it. We were both getting to grips with BASIC on the university mainframe at the time [I suppose it emulated it – I don’t know what OS the mainframe used].

            I remember his fascination when he first got a wristwatch that spoke the time [replaced one where the face glass flipped up for hands reading by hand] – like a dog with two tails.

            • rickflick
              Posted January 4, 2019 at 1:42 pm | Permalink

              He would have had no trouble reading the punched cards I used on my first mainframe. 😎

            • Serendipitydawg
              Posted January 4, 2019 at 1:45 pm | Permalink

              [replaced one where the face glass flipped up for hands reading by hand]

              Now that takes me back! These days, of course, there is more and more tech and software applied to everyday needs. My friend’s major boon is, however, the little clip-on that tells you when something is full and to stop pouring. Low tech, no software and ever reliable and useful.

              Mind you, the talking weiging scale is also the canine’s appendages.

            • Posted January 4, 2019 at 3:20 pm | Permalink

              It is difficult to say how hard it was. The real science is in good text-to-voice conversion but we didn’t have to do that part. Screen readers either use the text-to-voice facilities provided by the operating system or they license a text-to-speech “engine” from companies that specialize in them.

              Actually, one of the biggest struggles we had is in fooling them into pronouncing “a” as “ay” and not as in “I took a walk”.

              Another fun problem that must be tackled is that speaking a test question, rather than having the student read it, can sometimes give away the answer. “Is 1,000,000,000 (a) one million, (b) one trillion, or (c) one billion?” The text-to-speech algorithm wants to be helpful and, by default, would read the question as “one billion”, in the US anyway.

              • Michael Fisher
                Posted January 5, 2019 at 6:03 am | Permalink

                Thank you. Most interesting.

  4. Randall Schenck
    Posted January 4, 2019 at 7:23 am | Permalink

    Regarding stupid and the wall. I will guess he folds today. The house already passed all the bills to do it. The Senate would also if they took a vote again. If it is not today it will be within the next week.

    • Serendipitydawg
      Posted January 4, 2019 at 10:25 am | Permalink

      I still can’t understand why the tweetieverse isn’t humming with all the why do you need money when Mexico are paying? messages. The whole thing seems like collective amnesia, unless the media in the USA is making hay from this.

      • Saul Sorrell-Till
        Posted January 4, 2019 at 12:09 pm | Permalink

        That bugs me too. We should just interrupt with “-MEXICO” every time he talks about his fucking wall. Every time.

        But of course we are the grown ups in the room, so operate under a huge array of constraints, while this vaguely human shaped globule of orange candle wax gets to tear around the world smearing paint and crayons on the wall and randomly threatening to press the fake plastic nuclear button his carers gave him on day one. It’s an utter farce.

        Also, the fact that he’s accelerated the news cycle means we, and I mean the collective, liberal/anti-Trump ‘we’, barely have time to think tactically about how to respond to him. Which means there’s not enough time for a consensus to form that, as you say, we should be collectively pushing him on why Mexico isn’t paying for the wall. Everything’s happening at once, Trump-bombs are going off everywhere, Trump-fires have to be put out all over the place.

        • Serendipitydawg
          Posted January 4, 2019 at 12:13 pm | Permalink

          We should just interrupt with “-MEXICO” every time he talks about his fucking wall.

          This!

          As you say, we are grown-ups, but still… you would at least expect someone in the media to head out out and do a vox pop with his core supporters and at least mention it 😀

          • Serendipitydawg
            Posted January 4, 2019 at 12:14 pm | Permalink

            Sorry, borked the end of italics… I can get it right though 😀

            • Saul Sorrell-Till
              Posted January 4, 2019 at 12:25 pm | Permalink

              Don’t worry about it. I find myself thinking that everything should be italicised at the moment.

        • rickflick
          Posted January 4, 2019 at 1:09 pm | Permalink

          “vaguely human shaped globule of orange candle wax”

          Fun to say out loud.

  5. Frank Bath
    Posted January 4, 2019 at 7:35 am | Permalink

    I don’t see what the money to pay for The Wall dispute is all about. Mexico is going to pay for it. Trump said so.

    • Serendipitydawg
      Posted January 4, 2019 at 10:28 am | Permalink

      Oops, I failed to read far enough 😀

      +1 googolplex

      • infiniteimprobabilit
        Posted January 4, 2019 at 2:56 pm | Permalink

        Never mind, serendipitydawg. Scrolling down the page, your comment actually shows up *before* Frank’s. I’d never have noticed you weren’t first if you hadn’t just owned up.

        😎

        cr

        • Serendipitydawg
          Posted January 4, 2019 at 3:05 pm | Permalink

          It isn’t so bad when the other comment is well down, but I feel a bit dumb when it is the very next one! 🙂

          • infiniteimprobabilit
            Posted January 4, 2019 at 3:12 pm | Permalink

            Been there, done that.

            Many times….

            WordPress doth make fools of us all.

            🙂

            cr

  6. Ken Kukec
    Posted January 4, 2019 at 7:49 am | Permalink

    The government, of course, is still shut down over Congress’s refusal to fund Trump’s Big Wall. I have no idea how this will come out, as both sides refuse to give. Any guesses?

    With Trump declaiming victory while mired fecklessly in the ashes of defeat, no doubt.

    The outcome could provide some adumbration of how Trump might eventually resign his office (or at least renounce a run for a second term) while claiming it as a great loss for the disloyal American people.

  7. Torbjörn Larsson
    Posted January 4, 2019 at 7:54 am | Permalink

    In other news there is a possible Ebola case near Uppsala (Enköping). Unlikely, but tests results expected later today. I tend to forget that the larger outbreaks will travel…

    Meanwhile, that quote! Irresponsible Trump is irresponsible.

    The government, of course, is still shut down over Congress’s refusal to fund Trump’s Big Wall. I have no idea how this will come out, as both sides refuse to give. Any guesses?

    The local media thinks the Abominable Showman will lose the wall, but gain the next election. Mostly because the high ranked Democrats going for the next election are Clinton copycats.

    So who wants US the next 6 years? Not the rest of the world!

    • Mark R.
      Posted January 4, 2019 at 1:16 pm | Permalink

      Waaaaaaaay too early to even speculate who the next Dem. candidate will be. I wouldn’t be surprised if he/she isn’t even on the “list” yet. And it’s the media that paints a lot of Dems (like Warren) as Clinton copycats. When it comes to Warren, nothing could be further from the truth…except they’re both blonde-haired white women.

  8. Michael Fisher
    Posted January 4, 2019 at 7:58 am | Permalink

    SPOT THE GUNS & GUN PARTS @ The Church of the Good Shepherd, Hartford, CT. I’ve made it easier by started you off with a pic of a replica 5-Barrel Bulldog Gatling gun from 1877 [top right of montage]:
    colt
    It is an Episcopal church at 155 Wyllys Street in Hartford, Connecticut. It was commissioned by Elizabeth Jarvis Colt, the widow of Samuel Colt and completed in 1867. WIKI

    • Andy Lowry
      Posted January 4, 2019 at 10:38 am | Permalink

      Wow, they even got a bullet mold in there, at the bottom of the cross. Very creative. I’m wondering why the cylinder-back in the circular ornament is for only five shots– Colt revolvers were (and still are) six-shooters.

      • darrelle
        Posted January 4, 2019 at 11:17 am | Permalink

        I think it is the muzzle of a 5 barrel gatling gun, rather than a revolver cylinder.

      • Michael Fisher
        Posted January 4, 2019 at 11:25 am | Permalink

        Didn’t realise that was a bullet mold until you pointed it out. The carving: isn’t that a component from a 5-barrel Gatling? His Gatling came in 10-barrel & the lighter 5-barrel versions. Also Colt’s first revolver [holster model] & rifle were 5-shot – the Paterson.

        • Saul Sorrell-Till
          Posted January 4, 2019 at 12:15 pm | Permalink

          Is there such a thing as a ‘gun nerd’? Or is that a contradiction, like a ‘D&D jock’?

          Either way, you’re nudging up against the former Michael…

          • Michael Fisher
            Posted January 4, 2019 at 12:35 pm | Permalink

            No Saul – I don’t care for pistols & the like, but I do enjoy understanding how devices work & I especially like the industrial era where all components are easily functionally understandable.

            Same for early industrial architecture – train stations, warehouses & factories. Both the weapons & the buildings also accumulated a design aesthetic [language] that’s missing today. Churches, museums, galleries, retail, offices, apartments are indistinguishable ~ Bauhaus, Le Corbusier etc up to Frank Gehry [whom I love] have thrown iconography out the window [or is it a door? Who knows?]

            • Saul Sorrell-Till
              Posted January 4, 2019 at 3:38 pm | Permalink

              I get that. There’s something rather lovely about antique guns, although I only know this from playing Red Dead Redemption 2. Which also has a brilliant recreation of a late C19 catalogue, with beautiful hand-drawn advertisement illustrations of all the weapons in the game. (More work went into that catalogue than most game developers put into an entire game.)

              • Michael Fisher
                Posted January 4, 2019 at 4:05 pm | Permalink

                Red Dead Redemption 2 – I looked it up. Interesting. Good graphics.

                I’m getting back into games this year after a three decade break. I’m looking at online, turn-based, strategy war games like the hex-based SPI & GMT paper/board games I used to play. A lot has changed, but I see a lot of the stuff from way back cardboard days is available on screen now. PBEM seems the way to go, but still researching because AI opponent doesn’t interest me.

              • Saul Sorrell-Till
                Posted January 4, 2019 at 4:57 pm | Permalink

                That’s a…long break. You have some SERIOUS catching up to do.

                I don’t really play strategy games but I’ve always thought I’d enjoy them if I got into them. I did get X-Com 2 for my PS4 recently, but I bounced off it a bit. That’s the most critically-acclaimed strategy series I know of. Into The Breach got rave reviews as well. These are all single-player games though so I don’t know if that’s your thing.

                I must say, I slightly envy you having three decades of gaming to catch up on…

      • Michael Fisher
        Posted January 4, 2019 at 12:21 pm | Permalink

        @Andy Lowry. Looking around – I think you’re right. It’s the back of an 1836 Paterson 5-shot, black powder, muzzle loading Cylinder. It was his first revolver & therefore worth memorialising I suppose.

        Here is a complete pistol kit for the Paterson No. 5 – the rear end of the spare cylinder is shown top right:
        13.-No.-5-Texas-Patersons

        • rickflick
          Posted January 4, 2019 at 1:46 pm | Permalink

          Where’s the trigger?

          • Michael Fisher
            Posted January 4, 2019 at 2:09 pm | Permalink

            Good question! The trigger folds up into the frame above the trigger when the hammer is uncocked. “To fire the Paterson, the shooter thumbed the hammer back and the action rotated a chamber in line with the barrel and locked the cylinder in place. This also caused the folding trigger to drop down from the frame into firing position.” WIKI

            • rickflick
              Posted January 4, 2019 at 8:35 pm | Permalink

              Quite an elaborate advance over the tree branch as a club.

        • infiniteimprobabilit
          Posted January 4, 2019 at 3:10 pm | Permalink

          I assumed (as I guess you did from your first comment, and darrelle) that the five-way thingy was the business end of a gatling-type gun of some sort.

          When you say ‘muzzle-loading’, I think it more likely that the cylinder flipped out and was charged with powder from the five-nozzled container at the bottom of the picture?
          (Or was that still known as ‘muzzle-loading’ by analogy with single-shot guns of the time?)

          Still a pretty slow process…

          cr

          • Michael Fisher
            Posted January 4, 2019 at 3:49 pm | Permalink

            Yes, I thought it was the Gatling when I put up the montage. It’s described inaccurately as “muzzle loading” in the places I’ve looked & there’s no flipping out of the cylinder for reloading – you have to almost disassemble the pistol to reload.

            * remove a screw from the side
            * hammer out the lug that secures the barrel
            * slide the barrel off
            * slide the cylinder off
            * put cylinder down on a table front face up
            * load black powder simultaneously into the five chambers
            * hammer a lead ball into each chamber – it’s a tight fit [you don’t want a spark at this point!]
            * smear tallow or wax over the 5 holes to seal the lead balls against water ingress
            * reverse the cylinder so the back face is up
            * load 5 caps
            * reassemble pistol

            That’s why there’s a spare cylinder for pre-loading & that’s why the Texas Rangers liked to have two Patersons about their person. The spare cylinder was normally carried in a coat pocket – different pocket from the one for smoking materials I’m guessing.

            There was no safety other than you had to cock the hammer, BUT an uncocked pistol’s hammer rested on a cap! Some people only loaded four chambers for that reason – drop your pistol on the ground & there’s a fair chance it will discharge.

            • infiniteimprobabilit
              Posted January 4, 2019 at 4:27 pm | Permalink

              Ouch. That is such a laborious process, one wonders if it was even worth it. I suppose the ability to get off five shots quickly if necessary was an advantage, even if it was followed by a long delay.

              I’d say there was also a considerable chance, with a fully loaded five shots, that banging the holstered pistol against something would result in shooting yourself in the foot.

              cr

  9. Randall Schenck
    Posted January 4, 2019 at 8:12 am | Permalink

    I have no idea why Colt was allowed to supply the south with guns during the war. The north embargoed the coast line to keep trade out. Some thought Lincoln stepped all over the constitution? Maybe the NRA was already in business back then.

    • Michael Fisher
      Posted January 4, 2019 at 8:45 am | Permalink

      None of this is cross checked, maybe inaccurate:

      ** Colt sent his last [official?] shipment of guns to the South on April 15, 1861, three days after Fort Sumter was fired upon by the Confederate army. He was very busy supplying The South up until then of course.

      ** Any Colts delivered to the CSA after that was via agents I’m guessing, but Colt was struggling to fulfil Union Army orders anyway, thus I doubt he had the capacity at Hartford, CT to supply the CSA

      ** The CSA got a huge supply of arms via Europe all throughout the war. The UK was officially pro-North, but many businessmen [especially the cotton traders] were pro-slavery & loved the money too. Examples: Liverpool built & supplied ships to both sides during the war and Birmingham [my city] was a major weapons manufacturer supplying anyone & everyone. We have a street in the gun quarter named for Princip – that’s bipartisan for ya

      • Randall Schenck
        Posted January 4, 2019 at 9:30 am | Permalink

        Not sure what you mean – None of this cross checked. I said the north established a blockade on the south. They did this throughout the war. It did not stop all materials from making it’s way to and from but it was a fact. I did not say that Colt continued to send guns to the south, that was in the posting.

        The primary item the north was attempting to stop was Cotton. It was everything to the south. Destroying the cotton trade in affect bled the south dry. They were broke and starving at the end.

        You are welcome to say whatever you want and on any subjection apparently, but don’t get so much wrong.

        • Michael Fisher
          Posted January 4, 2019 at 10:08 am | Permalink

          There is some misunderstanding going on here Randall, so I’ll be clearer:

          RS: “Not sure what you mean – None of this cross checked.”

          I mean I wrote down what I found out [such as the date of the last supply of arms to the CSA by Colt], but I didn’t cross check my info with multiple trusty sources like I normally do. I wasn’t saying anything more than that.

          RS: “I said the north established a blockade on the south. They did this throughout the war. It did not stop all materials from making it’s way to and from but it was a fact. I did not say that Colt continued to send guns to the south, that was in the posting.”

          Yes I know. And I was correcting the OP’s post NOT yours!

          RS: “The primary item the north was attempting to stop was Cotton. It was everything to the south. Destroying the cotton trade in affect bled the south dry. They were broke and starving at the end.”

          I was not critiquing your comment & saying “ooh look, Randall is wrong about the blockade – weapons were getting through from Europe to the South. I was trying to illustrate that the CSA had multiple sources for weapons outside the North. One Birmingham, UK arms manufacturer alone supplied 800,000 firearms to a buyer in New Orleans [’61 to ’64ish & then the buyer started his own factory business being so good]

          RS: “You are welcome to say whatever you want and on any subjection [Sic] apparently, but don’t get so much wrong.”

          What an absurd & catty opening: me being welcome to say whatever I want on any subject. What is eating you? And please point out out what you’re seeing as “so much wrong” in my first post.

          • Randall Schenck
            Posted January 4, 2019 at 11:36 am | Permalink

            When you click on reply to my message I must assume you are writing specific to my message. If you are just writing about the posting then do that.

            The first line written in reply to my comments – None of this is crosschecked, maybe inaccurate.

            If that is simply a beginning to describe everything you are going to say after this then I have to wonder why you say it. Let’s just call it a large misunderstanding.

            • Michael Fisher
              Posted January 4, 2019 at 12:48 pm | Permalink

              Yes. Let’s do that.

    • David Duncan
      Posted January 4, 2019 at 8:50 am | Permalink

      I also didn’t know Colt could sell guns to the South. But in some border states (such as Kentucky and Tennessee) neutral trade was tollerated to some extent.)

      • Posted January 4, 2019 at 12:13 pm | Permalink

        Tennessee seceded.

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted January 4, 2019 at 3:28 pm | Permalink

      What PCC said was “I don’t know how that was legal.”

      I guess the answer is, it was perfectly legal unless and until Congress (or whoever was in power where his factory was located) passed a law making it illegal. I don’t know if they did.

      Of course, laws can be circumvented, and frequently are in the arms trade. My favourite example is that Lockheed or the CIA bought all the titanium to make the SR-71 from Russia.

      (There’s a nice conspiracy theory that the Russians knew this but figured letting the SR71 take a sneak peek now and then would make the US feel more comfortable and less likely for some gung-ho Prez to launch by accident. I don’t really believe this but stranger things have happened in war and politics).

      cr

      • infiniteimprobabilit
        Posted January 4, 2019 at 4:31 pm | Permalink

        ‘Lockheed or the CIA bought all the titanium to make the SR-71 from Russia.’

        To clarify – via third parties, natch. They didn’t just rock up to the Kremlin waving a check book. 😉

        cr

        • Michael Fisher
          Posted January 4, 2019 at 4:53 pm | Permalink

          Buy piece of it HERE

  10. DrBrydon
    Posted January 4, 2019 at 8:14 am | Permalink

    It’s customary in British History to not change the birth dates of people born before the adoption of the Gregorian calendar in 1752, nor of any document or event. Usually the only instances that reference is made to the Gregorian dates is when you are dealing with events or correspondence where two parties use the different calendars, or when the date falls between Jan. 1 and March 25. May 25, Lady Day, was the old start of the new year, and to prevent confusion, you will see things like January 30, 1648/49 (even in contemporary documents), which, based on a year beginning in January, we consider to be 1649. So that Newton’s birthday is considered to be Dec. 25. *pushes up glass*

  11. Terry Sheldon
    Posted January 4, 2019 at 9:32 am | Permalink

    The electrocution of Topsy is IMHO one of the most distressing and appalling pieces of film footage I have ever seen. My understanding is that the electrocution was staged by Thomas Edison as a demonstration of the dangers of Nicola Tesla’s alternating current.

    • Serendipitydawg
      Posted January 4, 2019 at 10:35 am | Permalink

      He referred to it as being Westinghoused, and tried to associate AC with danger, because of the adoption by the epoymous company of Tesla’s alternating current. For him it was DC and a power station every 1500 yards… Westinghouse were able to transport cheap hydroelectric power for hudreds of miles, so he was onto a loser.

      • Saul Sorrell-Till
        Posted January 4, 2019 at 12:12 pm | Permalink

        I know all this only because it’s come up in QI at least twice.

        • Serendipitydawg
          Posted January 4, 2019 at 12:22 pm | Permalink

          Indeed. They may have got Mithras wrong, but they were bang on the money with this one. I always hoped XKCD would have an If Edison had made DC dominant cartoon. For a start, we would have run out of copper years ago 😀

          • Saul Sorrell-Till
            Posted January 4, 2019 at 3:44 pm | Permalink

            They get so much stuff wrong on that show though…it’s a running joke among people I know.

            And I remember listening to the QI Elves on a podcast talking about how underrated and unfairly maligned creationist scientists are. They were so confident in their own ability to parse good biology from bad, even though none of them had any scientific qualifications. I think they’re an arrogant bunch of sods behind the scenes, very drawn to big, flashy tabloid-headline-science. So they talk a lot of rubbish as a result.

            • Serendipitydawg
              Posted January 4, 2019 at 5:02 pm | Permalink

              They did have a programme when Fry was still in charge that highlighted the half-life of QI facts, given the changing consenus of what is true. Alan Davies was awarded several hundred points at the start as compensation for the things that he has got wrong in the past that are probably correct.

              I am convinced they slip all sorts in just because they know that people in the pub will be quoting it as gospel.

              • Saul Sorrell-Till
                Posted January 5, 2019 at 7:41 am | Permalink

                Yes I saw that ‘half-life of QI facts’ show. What bugged me about it is that while they gave people all the points they should have received for facts that had since turned out to be correct, the didn’t _take away_ points for the answers they’d given in the past that had since turned out to be _incorrect._

                Yes, the word is ‘pedant’.

        • Serendipitydawg
          Posted January 4, 2019 at 1:53 pm | Permalink

          There was also a rather good documentary about Tesla that covered the Edison/Tesla spat as well as detailling a lot of the advances that Tesla assigned to Westinghouse for a pittance – he may have been brilliant but he suffered mentally and died in poverty. Deeply sad.

  12. Posted January 4, 2019 at 9:55 am | Permalink

    On this day in 1903, Topsy, an unwanted circus elephant, was electrocuted in public, with the execution being filmed (the film is still easily found, though I’m not going to post it). This was after cyanide-laced carrots failed to work. She was then hanged for good measure, although she was already dead. I don’t know how people could do this to a trusting and docile animal, but it’s a measure of progress that this could never happen today.

    According to Wikipedia, Topsy was considered a “bad” elephant already, but then killed a drunk spectator who apparently had abused her. Sensationalist media also exaggerated its notoriety afterwards.

    Animals are still routinely put to death when they killed a person (provoked or not). The USA still has the death penalty. I don’t know exactly what methods are being used, but certainly poisons. I think electrocution is no longer fashionable, but it wouldn’t
    surprise me if hanging was still on the menu in some state.

    So animals (including human animals) are still put to death today.

    • GBJames
      Posted January 4, 2019 at 10:07 am | Permalink

      The electric chair seems to be becoming more fashionable. Here and here, for example.

    • Posted January 4, 2019 at 11:28 am | Permalink

      I am for killing animals that have killed a human, but not for turning this into a morbid show.

      • Saul Sorrell-Till
        Posted January 4, 2019 at 12:11 pm | Permalink

        I don’t see the point, unless they’re domesticated animals, like dogs. At least there’s a preventative aspect to the execution. Otherwise why execute animals? You might as well make them apologise to the victim in a letter.

        • Posted January 4, 2019 at 12:20 pm | Permalink

          I see no use to keep a captive wild animal that has killed a human. Unless it is from a very endangered species and is needed to reproduce; in such cases, an exception could be made.
          Wild, free carnivorous mammals that have killed a human once are likely to do it again, and may teach their young.

          • infiniteimprobabilit
            Posted January 4, 2019 at 3:32 pm | Permalink

            If a captive wild animal has killed a human, that presumably indicates that the security of the enclosure needs to be improved, not that the animal should be killed.

            cr

  13. Posted January 4, 2019 at 12:11 pm | Permalink

    “Two primitive bodies smashed together!”

    That’s how Bristol Palin got pregnant.

    • Serendipitydawg
      Posted January 4, 2019 at 12:24 pm | Permalink

      I thought “who the hell is…” and just managed to stop myself using Google in time!

      • infiniteimprobabilit
        Posted January 4, 2019 at 3:41 pm | Permalink

        I did Google. Oops. Sounds like she’s wallowing in sub-Kardashian dreck.

        There was one glint of gold in the crap though, I saw a quote from one Johnny Bananas (apparently a ‘reality TV’ star) –
        ‘Reality television is the biggest misnomer ever because there’s nothing real about it.’

        Amen, brother.

        cr

  14. Gareth Price
    Posted January 4, 2019 at 12:59 pm | Permalink

    I tried the “one trillion to the power of ten” question with Siri. After a while, “zero, zero, zero, zero…” started sounding like “yours, yours, yours, yours…”. Or is that just me?

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted January 4, 2019 at 4:41 pm | Permalink

      What I want to know is did that sequence terminate or did Siri get stuck in an infinite loop?

      cr

      P.S. Is one trillion to the power of ten greater, equal or less than ten to the power of a trillion?

      My brain just overloaded but I suspect, much less. I should know this but my brain just died.

      cr

      • Michael Fisher
        Posted January 4, 2019 at 5:01 pm | Permalink

        10^12O versus 10^1000000000000

  15. revelator60
    Posted January 4, 2019 at 1:04 pm | Permalink

    Wikipedia is slightly wrong about the naming of James Bond. Fleming did not contact the real James Bond about using his name, he simply swiped it. But he never made a secret of that fact, and in 1961 Mrs. James Bond eventually wrote him a cheerful letter about the matter—“I told MY JB he could sue you for defamation of character, but JBBA [James Bond British Agent] is too much fun for that and JB authenticus regards the whole thing as ‘a joke.'”

    Fleming wrote back to her:

    “I will confess at once that your husband has every reason to sue me in every possible position and for practically every kind of libel in the book, for I will now confess the damnable truth.

    “I have a small house which I built in Oracabessa in Jamaica just after the war and, some ten years ago a confirmed bachelor on the eve of marriage, I decided to take my mind off the dreadful prospect by writing a thriller.
    I was determined that my secret agent should be as anonymous a personality as possible, even his name should be the very reverse of the kind of ‘Peregrine Carruthers’ whom one meets in this type of fiction.

    “At that time one of my bibles was, and still is, ‘Birds of the West Indies’ by James Bond, and it struck me that this name, brief, unromantic and yet very masculine, was just what I needed and so James Bond II was born, and started off on the career that, I must confess, has been meteoric, culminating with his choice by your President as his favourite thriller hero (see ‘Life’ of March 17th).

    “So there is my dreadful confession together with limitless apologies and thanks for the fun and fame I have had from the most extraordinary chance choice of so many years ago.

    “In return I can only offer your James Bond unlimited use of the name Ian Fleming for any purposes he may think fit. Perhaps one day he will discover some particularly horrible species of bird which he would like to christen in an insulting fashion that might be a way of getting his own back.

    “Anyway I send you both my most affectionate regards and good wishes, and should you ever return to Jamaica I would be very happy indeed to lend you my house for a week or so, so that you may inspect in comfort the shrine where the second James Bond was born.”

    The complete letter, and many more, are collected in the charming book “The Man with the Golden Typewriter: Ian Fleming’s James Bond Letters,” edited by his nephew Fergus.

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted January 4, 2019 at 3:52 pm | Permalink

      Actually, it might be hard for the real Bond to sue Fleming for defamation. It would be necessary to prove that the name ‘James Bond’ was unique (or sufficiently unusual) and distinctive enough to clearly identify the original person, (and the whole point of Fleming choosing the name was that it was nondescript).

      Furthermore, there are doubtless many people named James Bond, which would make identity with one particular person doubtful. (Umm, “There are 2598 professionals named James Bond, who use LinkedIn …”)

      And finally, Fleming’s Bond had nothing in common with the ‘original’ birdwatcher, making any identity even more moot.

      But it was a delightful exchange of letters.

      cr

  16. Paul S
    Posted January 4, 2019 at 2:05 pm | Permalink

    My prediction for the shutdown is that it will end when the TSA walks off the job disrupting airport operations.
    Unlike the 1982 ATC strike, it won’t be a choice. TSA workers will be forced to quit because they cannot afford to work for free.

    • Paul S
      Posted January 4, 2019 at 2:06 pm | Permalink

      1981 strike.

  17. David Coxill
    Posted January 4, 2019 at 2:38 pm | Permalink

    Re the guy falling over on the motorbike .
    In late Oct i was wheeling my motorbike trying to get it pointing the opposite direction ,i fell over and broke my left wrist .
    I had to get my brother to help pick the sodding thing up.

    • Serendipitydawg
      Posted January 4, 2019 at 3:10 pm | Permalink

      At least that was a cool way to break your wrist. I was atop a step ladder that went over while painting – it is difficult to look anything other than an idiot in A&E when covered in white emulsion paint.

      • Saul Sorrell-Till
        Posted January 4, 2019 at 3:47 pm | Permalink

        I give you the least cool way to injure yourself ever captured on film:

        I love Conan

        • Serendipitydawg
          Posted January 4, 2019 at 4:49 pm | Permalink

          Laughing out loud, literally! Thank you for that.

          • Saul Sorrell-Till
            Posted January 4, 2019 at 5:00 pm | Permalink

            You’re welcome. It’s one of my favourite sketches ever.

      • David Coxill
        Posted January 5, 2019 at 4:16 am | Permalink

        Any photos ? lol.
        Did anyone notice my home made cat toy on the far right of the photo?
        I used to spray catnip on the toy,kept the cats happy for at least 2 minutes .

        • Serendipitydawg
          Posted January 5, 2019 at 6:05 am | Permalink

          No photos 😀

          I still have the pins that were removed when the cast came off 19.5 years ago… given how unpleasant that was, I am grateful that I was under general anaesthesia when they went in (judging by the points a hammer was involved at some point, followed by pliers/cutters to make them short enough to fit under the plaster with a neat little handle for extraction).

          Strangely, the 10 weeks it took before I could drive a car made everyone at work who had any reason to climb a step ladder more than willing to climb down and move the ladder 12 inches, as opposed to stretching just a little bit mo-

          -re. Oops. Hello, I’d like an ambulance please.

          • David Coxill
            Posted January 5, 2019 at 2:07 pm | Permalink

            Hope you made a full recovery .

  18. Jim Swetnam
    Posted January 4, 2019 at 6:44 pm | Permalink

    As to how the blind “see” the internet, see here:

    https://gizmodo.com/5620079/giz-explains-how-blind-people-see-the-internet

  19. ThyroidPlanet
    Posted January 5, 2019 at 6:37 am | Permalink

    Bob Einstein was so funny. I’m sad he’s gone. Why was his voice so gravelly? I remember Super Dave Osborne – I thought he was a real person – perhaps because Bob Einstein is a good actor?

    Goog Hili Dialogue!…. “I believe you’re in my seat” – perfect!


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