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Peanuts

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I want to take a moment to be thankful for peanuts.  They are my breakfast sometimes.  They are the perfect way to stave off sugar lows and hunger pains.  They are vitamin rich and high in protein and have been shown to help protect against heart disease, alleviate the effects of diabetes, reduce inflammation and protect against colon cancer.  And they are in our lives today because of the work of just one man: George Washington Carver.   He changed agriculture in the south by encouraging the cultivation of alternate crops like peanuts and sweet potatoes instead of cotton.

He designed a mobile classroom for his course at the Tuskegee Institute’s Agriculture Department, and became famous and admired for his work.  He also came up with 105 recipes for peanuts in his agricultural bulletin.

 

He could have added fortune to fame, but caring for neither, he found happiness and honor in being helpful to the world.

a little obsession with author voices

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Before copyright law there were poets and playwrights who bemoaned the theft of their work and words by others while at the same time they stole words to build their poems and plays.  Plagiarism was rampant, though, the act of literary theft was only just termed plagiarism, by one poet’s re-purposing of a Latin term for man-stealing or kidnapping.  After copyright law was established, there were authors postulating its merits and its deficiencies, in writing, to the public and their peers.  Authors were thinking about copyright.

When I discovered that one of my favorite authors, Mark Twain, had stood before congress to give his professional opinion on a copyright term extension I was more than excited.  But, I found myself arguing with Twain.  I could see some of his point, but I did not agree with all of it.  I wondered, where were the author voices on copyright today.  I’m still searching, but what I’m finding is that most of the well known, professionally published and successful authors are letting publishers and author’s guilds speak for them.  Do they really agree with everything that’s being said?

Now that copyright is immediate without registration, the world is teaming with authors.  Some write for fun, and to entertain their friends.  Some make a living off of it, or perhaps off of other creative endeavors offered up to the public via the web.  And just like those poet thieves from before copyright law, all authors are users of copyrighted content as well.  With this huge population of authors, there is still little thinking and postulating and writing about copyright.  I’m not saying copyright theory is crazy sexy or anything…well, no, you know what?  It is.  It is obsession worthy.  It is discussion worthy.  I mean, think about it, copyright law is government regulation over what we birth and grow in our minds and give to the world.  If Athena emerged from Zeus’ head today she would be protected by copyright law!  If art is a conversation, copyright law is keeping checks on what we say!

copyrightfistfight CopyrightposterTwain&Tolstoy
Anyway, my obsession with finding author voices has resulted in these things, so far.  Twain and Tolstoy were contemporaries; and if you think all authors would argue for longer and stronger copyright law, Tolstoy would prove you wrong.  He was against copyright.  He looked on his writing as a service to the public that both provided him the experiences he used to write and the living that let him write.  The burden of his education and leisure was to reach out to people, teach them, and attempt to enrich their lives with the fruit of his literary genius.

Schmidt

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Luke Elstad – CC-BY

It’s normal to instantly start paying more attention when you hear a family name, even for those people whose family names are some of the most common in the world.  That’s what happened in my house while we were watching ant man and they kept mentioning the Schmidt Pain Index. What was this thing named after Schmidt, we wondered?

The answer is, that Justin O. Schmidt, an American entomologist born 1947, developed the scale to measure the relative pain and discomfort of hymenopteran stings, himself having experienced many in the course of his research and trapping of the insects.  After his original paper in 1983 comparing venom properties, Schmidt refined his scale.

1.0 Sweat bee: Light, ephemeral, almost fruity. A tiny spark has singed a single hair on your arm.
1.2 Fire ant: Sharp, sudden, mildly alarming. Like walking across a shag carpet & reaching for the light switch.
1.8 Bullhorn acacia ant: A rare, piercing, elevated sort of pain. Someone has fired a staple into your cheek.
2.0 Bald-faced hornet: Rich, hearty, slightly crunchy. Similar to getting your hand mashed in a revolving door.
2.0 Yellowjacket: Hot and smoky, almost irreverent. Imagine WC Fields extinguishing a cigar on your tongue.
2.x Honey bee and European hornet.
3.0 Red harvester ant: Bold and unrelenting. Somebody is using a drill to excavate your ingrown toenail.
3.0 Paper wasp: Caustic & burning. Distinctly bitter aftertaste. Like spilling a beaker of Hydrochloric acid on a paper cut.
4.0 Pepsis wasp: Blinding, fierce, shockingly electric. A running hair drier has been dropped into your bubble bath (if you get stung by one you might as well lie down and scream).
4.0+ Bullet ant: Pure, intense, brilliant pain. Like walking over flaming charcoal with a 3-inch nail in your heel.

from Batts, Shelley (2007) “Schmidt Pain Index (Which Sting Hurts the Worst?)”  Retrospectacle:  a Neuroscience Blog.  http://scienceblogs.com/retrospectacle/2007/05/16/schmidt-pain-index-which-sting/

Tom Dooley

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Tom Dula

The shadows around her moved like cats, fluid and sometimes fast.  They made a crackling hissing sound like fat frying on the stove.  They said murderer.  Anne raked her slim fingers over her face and moaned in grief.  She could still see him holding out his hand, still hear him professing that he didn’t harm a hair on Laura’s head.  He didn’t look at her then, but Anne knew he had hoped she would’ve come forward.

She reached over to the drawer in the night table and pulled out a worn picture of Tom in his uniform.  It used to lie at the bottom of a box in the wardrobe, but recently she’d taken it out to keep it close.

When he had professed her innocence, he hadn’t thought it would be his death, and now he haunted her.  He’d haunted her for four years.  She could feel him pulling her soul down with him.  She would not get out of her bed today.

Anne’s cousin Laura stared at her from the shadows in the corner, her dress stained with soil and blood, her knees folded up in front of her like a defensive child.  She didn’t make a sound when James strode into the room and sat in the chair between her and Anne.  Anne stared at him aghast.

“Laura,” she croaked.

“Shhh, now.  That’s all over with,” James rumbled lowly.  The look on his face was one of resignation.  It was a look he often directed at Anne, ever since the trials, ever since all her wash had been laid out to public view.  He wouldn’t have to suffer the stares and the whispers much longer, though.  Anne was dying.

“I should’ve stood up, Jim; I shouldn’t have let Tom go alone,” Anne’s voice was raspy and weak.

“This isn’t the time,” James raised his hand as if it would stop her from continuing.

Ann shook her head back and forth with what little energy she had left.  “There’s no other time, Jim.  I’m guilty and I let Tom die alone.  I love him and I betrayed him like that.  I can’t die with that on my conscience.  I can’t die with Laura on my conscience.”  Anne’s convulsive hands crumpled the picture and let it roll over her side before she reached out for her husband’s hand and grasped it, wild eyed, “They haunt me so!  They follow me around like lost dogs!  I can’t turn a corner but I see one of ’em there.”

“Shhh,” James soothed again.  He tried, but couldn’t find any other words to give her.  Her hands squeezed his harder as she seemed to look through him for a painful, wild, minute.  Then she relaxed, slowly falling back on her pillow, her hands dropping onto the bed.  She was still then, eyes aimed at the ceiling.  James watched her not moving and not breathing until the evening shadows reminded him that he had calls to make.

note:  I went in search of the story behind the song “Tom Dooley.”  It’s a good’un, and well covered online starting with:  Tom Dula – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia and “A bit of justice for Anne” Wilkes Journal Patriot, among others.

Chromolithography and the mystery of Henri and Anita LeRoy

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It all started with a print called “Spirited Horses”  diningroomwallon my dining room wall.  I had inherited it from my grandmother.  I remember sleeplessly looking up at it on the wall of her den during ‘nap time.’  A notation on the bottom says it was copyright in 1900 by Jos. Hoover & Sons.  The signature reads ‘LeRoy’ with a circular flourish around it.

Then I saw the same picture in a magazine spread of an interior designer’s home and I was so captured by coincidence that I found out all I could on the artist and wrote a short post on my blog:  Vintage Prints and Small Worlds.

At that point in time, I found that the print was attributed to a Henri LeRoy (1851-), still life painter in France.  I have since found that the true artistry of Spirited Horses is much more convoluted.

A dealer on an auction site had a 1904 edition of Spirited Horses that lists it as a no. 2 in a series of images.  While researching his find, he found from a discussion list (no longer active) that Spirited Horses no. 2 was part of 4 companion images.  No. 4 in this series apparently shows the horses dead.  These images were attributed to Anita LeRoy, signing simply as LeRoy.  On yet another auction site, a dealer with a 1908 edition of Spirited Horses #2, spots it in the movie A Christmas Story in the scene where the leg lamp breaks.

I hate to say it, but all my researching didn’t turn up any definitive answer on whether Henri or Anita was the author Spirited Horses, or the many other prints that came out of Jos. Hoover & Sons printing with signatures like:

LeroySignatureLeroySignature2 leroysignature3
On the contrary, I wonder if there may be another answer and another artist for the prints out of Jos. Hoover & Sons, separate from Henri LeRoy (1851-) and Anita Pemberton (nee LeRoy).  The only person who may really know the answer is the printmaker himself:  Joseph Hoover.  The Philadelphia Print Shop Ltd., and the related Antique Prints Blog describe Joseph Hoover as the maker of elaborate wooden frames who later began producing prints under other publishers of the day including James F. Queen.   The Library Company of Philadelphia adds that Joseph Hoover, of Swiss-German heritage, was born in Baltimore in 1830 and became one of the most prolific chromolithographers of late 19th century parlor prints after he opened his own shop.  By 1893 his business was booming and he was working closely with his son, trained lithographer Henry Leander Hoover (b. Sept. 1866).

Continue reading Chromolithography and the mystery of Henri and Anita LeRoy

The plan

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1211planMy last mention of the Internet Archive’s Building Technology Heritage Library collection didn’t highlight my obsession with house/floor plans, and I though you should know.  I have a whole notebook full of houses that I have dreamed up over the years and before any move, I would obtain the floor-plan of the apartment so I could plan the furnishings.

Lucky then that the Building Technology Heritage Library collection included home plan catalogs for prospective 40s and 50s home owners to dream and plan, right?  Or, no.  I was really hoping that I would stumble upon the original plan for our house, but I have not, yet.  That’s the house as it is above.  There are a few thick walls round the outside, making up planters and defining the patio space.

With what I have seen of common house plans and houses in the area, combined with examination of walls and doorways, I think the house was originally laid out like this:

1211orgplan-800x362

The ‘dining room’ was a 60s addition that used the existing roof over the breezeway and added a doorway from it to the utility room hallway.  A bathroom/bedroom area was made out of, what I think would have been, a workroom beside the utility room.  Finally, perhaps in a 90s kitchen remodel, the wall separating the kitchen and living room was opened up and replaced with a counter peninsula.  Even with two remodels, the house footprint hasn’t been changed from it’s original 1949 slab and footings.

I can find some plans with an original bedroom layout like mine, and some with a breezeway to utility/workroom area like mine, but none with all of it combined in one plan.  It could just mean that my house wasn’t bought out of a catalog, and that’s just fine too.  I just wish one day I will stumble onto some blueprints shoved in a rafter or something!

 

Dictionary tidbits

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There’s something about Clement Skitt that you probably don’t know because he hasn’t shown evidence of it yet: he is obsessed with slang.  And, since he time travels wherever he wants, he’s picked up some pretty obscure and outdated vocabulary.  Writing a character like this means I’ve returned to one of my favorite childhood pastimes of reading dictionaries.  It’s amazing to find slang from the 1800s that is common usage today and also to see how it evolves over time.  For instance, in 1811 England ‘games’ were “thin, ill-shaped legs:  a corruption of the French word jambes”  (Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue) by the 1920’s, ‘gams’ were simply ‘women’s legs.’

Another thing you might get from reading the dictionary is historical tidbits.  Like this from  the 1891 American Slang Dictionary by James Maitland:

Danites

Silly me, I knew the Mormons had faced opposition in a few of the states they attempted to set up shop, but I didn’t know about the killing.  In addition to above, the Danites, were not approved of by Joseph Smith, Mormon founder, but may have evolved from the militia he created known as the “Armies of Israel.”  They were most active during the Missouri Mormon War of 1838.  Seems they had a war in just about every state they tried to settle:  See the Utah War and the ‘lesser known’ Illinois Mormon War.  Though the Danites are thought to have ended after the Missouri Mormon War.

Time Traveling

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I am getting into the frame to finally give my time travelers, Clement and Rosalie Skitt, their own comic.  And then I saw, in my RSS feed, a picture from the amazingly inventive and fantastic Miguel Marquez’s Outside.

Miguel Marquez

What could I do but scour the internet for more evidence of time traveling.  My first stop, was my favorite convenience store, the Echo Park Travel Mart.  After which I spent some time reading up on all the Evidence that Time Travel Is Happening All Around You (on i09). Which led me to The Mystery of John Titor-the realest time traveler the web has known yet.  Go and read, ’cause it’s fascinating!

Writing assistance

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I am planning a writing holiday; a week long stay-cation dedicated to getting some writing done.  This spring has felt exceptionally devoid of holidays and vacations and I have at least three stories that I’ve started and not finished.   I also have a lovely library slash dining room/office that makes working on the computer very enjoyable, indeed.

To get in the right frame of mind I am considering some software specifically developed for writers.  The first, Qiqqa is a free resource for PDF and research management.  It might be more suited to my academic writing persona – with PDF management, highlighting and reference lists.

Sigil can help turn what I have into an ebook layout (also something I was thinking of).  There are a few other recommended programs on Techradar that look interesting. Then there is Scrivener,  which is $40 after free trial, and offers a complete writing studio.  I first heard about this on a author’s blog who was describing the detriments of Word.  I am intrigued by the bulletin board function.  The notebook, looks a lot like how Evernote is laid out and functions.  I make heavy use of Evernote already.

If you are big into concept mapping or brainstorming, like I am, then you might want to start with free mind or bubbl.us.  The host of Scrivener, Literature & Latte, also has a list of other resources divided up by OS.  If I pick something, I will let you know.

Brother Jonathan and friends

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The U.S. is particularly rich in national personifications.  Uncle Sam and Lady Liberty are well known to most of us, but what about Columbia and Brother Jonathan?

Brother Jonathan in striped pants, somber overcoat, and Lincolnesque stove-pipe hat, as drawn by Thomas Nast.
Columbia wearing a warship bearing the words “World Power” as her “Easter bonnet” (cover of Puck, April 6, 1901).

Brother Jonathan, representing New England, came into use during the war for independence and would eventually be supplanted by Uncle Sam who would later represent the entire nation, rather than just the government.

Columbia, representative of the 13 colonies was in use since the 1730, and only fell out of use around WW I when images of Lady Liberty were more common.

Johnny Reb, it should be no surprise, arose during the Civil war along with his counterpart Billy Yank.

We’ve got a whole family of characters; I am almost inspired to do a family reunion comic.  It could be reminiscent of Hetalia, ’cause I love that show, but not WW II based.

 

some more evolutionary diversion

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4anteaterCC BY-SA 3.0 Sandip kumar – Own work

I dreamed I was walking in the desert, and came across and giant armadillo.  Only it wasn’t really an armadillo.  It was more like some ancient plated dinosaur predecessor of an armadillo, as big as a medium sized dog with a long armored tail that stretched suspended over the arid ground as the animal walked.

It was a pangolin.  In the same order, Xenarthra, with armadillos, sloths and anteaters, pangolins are solitary, nocturnal and eat ants and termites.  They’re also threatened because their armor plates are thought to be of medicinal value.

The Electrical Experimenter on the Internet Archive

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electricalexperimenterv7Are you hankering for some easily digestible, perhaps incorrect and outdated, home science and hopelessly optimistic paleo futurism?  Then the Internet Archive’s collection of the Electrical Experimenter is for you.  Read articles from the likes of Nikola Tesla, Hugo Gernsback, and Frederick Finch Strong.

What, you say you’ve never heard of paleo futurism before?  You’ve never toured through the worlds we were supposed to have if the idealistic scientists of yesterday had their way?  Then I also recommend Paleo Future, where you will find countless examples of how clean, peaceful and advanced we should be living today if all predictions had come true.

Australia – love from afar

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Hello there, lovers of the strange and unusual.  There is no place better to find strange and unusual than Australia and I’ve picked out a few examples of evolutionary diversion to share with you today.

Southern Hairy-nosed Wombat CC BY 2.0 | Jason Pratt – originally posted to Flickr as Southern Hairy-nosed Wombat

Wombats captured my attention since I first saw one falling through a broken deck chair in Sirens.  I find them laughably cute.  They are one of many marsupials that call Australia home.  In fact, 70% of the 334 marsupial species in the world are found in Australia, near by New Guinea and surrounding islands (Wikipedia).

The strangeness of marsupials (what with half developed embryos crawling around on their parents) pales in comparison to the Platypus.   With a duck bill, beaver-like tail, and eyes like a hagfish or lampry, this egg laying mammal takes the prize for best animal mash-up, but that’s not all of the strangeness.  The Platypus hunts by electroreception, similar to sharks, has venom, and lacks a stomach.

Though not specific to Australia, flying foxes also make there home down under.  They are also known as mega bats and can have wings spans up to 2 meters or 6 feet.

Not to be outdone by warm bloods, the trees of Australia are equally strange.  A stand of Huon Pine trees in Western Tasmania are an all male clone colony in excess of 10,500 years.   It’s like the Dr. Who of trees, never sexually partnered and constantly living in new bodies of itself.  Though not of Australia I’d be remiss if I did not mention Pando, the Trembling Giant in Utah, a clonal colony of quaking aspen.

Where clone trees are cool and all (banana lovers everywhere owe their thanks), danger is much more exciting!  The Gympie Gympie tree will sting you.  It will burn you like a chemical Moriarty if you so much as brush lightly past and then it will revisit you with burning sensation over the course of years, like some horrible tactile acid flashback.

More evolutionary diversion

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Why is it pictures and stories about weird animals and animal behaviors is so fascinating to humans?  I’m no exception, of course, and I will from time to time stare wide eyed at the weedy sea dragons webcam as they drift slowly about in the water.  Sea dragons are curious things to look at and have evolved a fantastic camouflage that seems to impede their ability to do much more than float with the seaweed.

Binturong in Overloon photo taken by Tassilo Rau
Binturong in Overloon photo taken by Tassilo Rau

Our star today is the Bearcat or binturong.  The Binturong not only has several visual characteristics of a cat, but also has similarly placed scent glands and comfort behaviors:  grooming and sleeping curled up.  It’s tail is prehensile, like many tree monkeys and is used to steady their slow but sure climbing in the trees.  The Bearcat is not related to bears or cats or monkeys, nor is it related to the oninguito or the red panda which are also sometimes called bearcats or cat-bears.  Instead, it shares a family with civets and genets.

Oh, and, it smells like popcorn.

The Sin Eater

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Our little bit of history today comes from the depths of my Evernote where I had saved an article by Meg Favreau on Table Matters about the custom of funeral cakes, and sin eaters.  This reminded me of i09’s article “The Weird but True History of Sin Eaters”  and then the BBC article about how the grave of Richard Munslow, the last known sin eater in the UK, had been recently (2010) restored.

It’s a kind of hapless research I have in my Evernote; collections of articles and links on a subject growing larger over years, never collated.  Sin eaters would become outcasts, tainted in the public eye by the sins they had taken from the recently deceased.  The custom usually includes eating and drinking bread and wine that had been passed over the dead.  The sin eater was paid for their trouble, that of carrying the sins for the rest of their days, but also shunned.

The custom is sometimes tied to Leviticus, and thought to be a mutated practice of scapegoating, where humans and not goats are given the transgressions and cast out.

This custom alludes (methinkes) something to the Scape-goate in ye old Lawe.  Leviticus, cap. xvi, verse 21, 22.  “And Aaron shall lay both his hands on the head of the live goate and confesse over him all ye iniquities of the children of Israel, and all their transgressions in all their sins, putting them upon the head of the goat, and shall send him away by the hand of a fitt man into the wilderness.  And the goat shall bear upon him all their iniquities, unto the land no inhabited: and he shall let the goat goe unto the wilderness.”

-Hartland, E.S. (1892) “The Sin-Eater.”  Folklore.  3(2); 145-157.

But the practices of making one person a sacrifice for a whole community is very common.  Wikipedia’s scapegoat discusses the Greek custom of casting out a crippled member of the community, especially when facing an immanent threat.  Cultures all over the world have had traditions of sacrifice deep in their past, and though most of the world now shuns ritual killings, the tradition of sacrifice continues on in narrative, worship, and even politics.

Names for things and rituals may change a little, but I’m not really sure there ever will be a last sin-eater.

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