Friday, June 29, 2007

Add Coastal Erosion to Fire and Storms

Coastal erosion: another environmental attack on archaeological sites. Like fire and storms, it reveals--then destroys. (Good segue from yesterday's blog, right?)

A mound on Scotland's coast built up over 2,000 years to cover Iron Age pottery, metal works, and housing remains. That Sandwick, Unst coastline features many treasures, including a Viking settlement. At this particular site, archaeologists found a skeleton with copper alloy ornaments and a polished stone disk in its mouth.

Now that's unusual. The BBC story ran in October 2005. Another story about Scotland's eroding coastline and the 12,000 archaeological sites at risk is here.

An update appears in the Shetland Times of June 29, 2007. The community is rebuilding the site at Sandwick, Unst (not Uist; that was yesterday's entry), knowing that the waves will wear it down over the next few years. They figure they'll not only increase awareness of the site, but learn a lot as well.

Here is a website about the Sandwick, Unst site, showing the last two year's work. There's even a kids' page!

We get spoiled by the incredible sites at Giza, Athens, Rome, and Stonehenge; I suspect we sometimes think that monuments must last forever to be worthwhile. And, by extension, that we must build to last forever.

Even here in California, there is a tendency to think that way--that our buildings must endure, that all must remain as it is. Truthfully, though, there were many, many cultures that lived either on the move or in shelters that were not meant to house generations of people. I'm sure those cultures supported rich, meaningful lives. The only downside to that way of thinking is that we don't know about them, because they left no stone buildings.

And that's our problem, not theirs--right?

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

The Up Side of Fires and Storms

In 2002, there was a monstrous, mother-of-all fires in Arizona: the Rodeo-Chediski fire. It burned for 3 weeks and consumed nearly half a million acres. Thirteen hundred archaeological sites--including ancient villages, early railway camps, and rock art, were endangered by the fire. (don't know how many were actually damaged). This image is from NASAMODIS and was found at (of all places) the website of the National Wild Turkey Federation, or nwtf.org.

In its aftermath, though, at least a dozen new archaeological sites on the White Mountain Apache reservation were exposed and "discovered," according to an article in Archaeology Magazine online. That article mentions a 1996 Colorado fire that revealed 400 sites after burning 5000 acres of Mesa Verde National Park.


Of course, more is lost in a disastrous fire than is found; I don't mean to imply otherwise. In fact, the White Mountain Apache tribe filed a civil suit against the woman who accidentally started the fire, which charred sacred sites on the reservation.

The Arizona Republic published a 5-year retrospective on the fire's damage here June 17, saying, "Miles of forest will be a wasteland for generations."

I'm reminded of this because the BBC reports that two 2000-year-old round houses on the beach in North Uist, Scotland were exposed by a terrible storm in 2005. The sites are in danger of being damaged by future storms, but for now, the round houses are being studied as they sit on the coast.

Here is a picture presentation of the Iron Age structures. These, including the picture shown here, are taked by SCAPE: the Scottish Coastal Archaeology and Problem of Erosion, a group funding the investigations. The remains of a round house are pretty clear here.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Battle Horns

Back to basics—meaning archaeology and Celts. The carnyx was the Celts’ battle horn. It had a boar’s head at the top, which stood two meters above the men who held it. Probably emitted an eerie, terrifying sound.

We know about carnyx’s . . . um, carnyxi? ah: carnyces! from impressions on the Gundestrup cauldron, a beautiful embossed bowl made up of many plates with depictions of Celtic mythology. On one plate is an antlered god. On another, a procession of men being dipped into a cauldron—could indicate some underworld death ritual, or magic spell, or hallucinogenic experience.

Those silly Celts neglected to leave us a manual explaining the symbolism.

Anyway, besides the Gundestrup cauldron, some ancient coins depict carnyces. The horns are also mentioned by Roman and Greek writers.

In 2004, a trove of five—FIVE!—bronze carnyces were found buried beneath a temple in Correze, France. Four had boar's head mouthpieces; the fifth had a serpent's head. The horns date to the first century BCE. Below is a picture of archaeologists carefully brushing away debris to reveal the instruments. Note the perfectly preserved Styrofoam cups and a plastic bottle as well.

(the picture is shamelessly copied from this site, which is in French.)
The site—called Tintignac—also yielded nine beautiful war helmets, including one decorated with a swan. Although the news stories do not specifically state this, my assumption is that these items were all offerings to deities, dropped into sacred pits and later buried so that the invading Romans would not find and profane them.
No whole carnyces had been found before, so the site (to me) is more important that all the new mummies that Dr. Hawas has unearthed near the pyramids.

Here is a news story in English on the discovery. Another article puts the dig in Lemovices territory.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Whither the Tourists & Their Lovely Money?

"Tourists aren't flocking to the US" the Los Angeles Times reports in June 22's Business section. Between 2000 and 2005, we learn, international visitors to the US dropped by 17%, and in big cities, by 20%. The rest of the world is enjoying a rise in tourism. Mayors are worried. CVBs (Convention & Visitors Bureaus) are frantic.

Several possible factors are listed for the drop in tourism: Our declining image abroad comes first, then . . . (drumroll) . . . "the difficulty and time it takes to get a visa and the perception that US ports of entry are unfriendly, understaffed, and overzealous about security." Gee, D'YA THINK????

The article acknowleged that 3/4 of the mayors polled agreed that treatment of tourists at U.S. ports of entry reinforce the negative impression.

Clearly worried, the government today announced that European tourists will soon be asked to submit to a 10-digit finger scan when they enter the U.S. Aren't the Europeans our friends?

Travel industry leaders point out that waiting time for a visa appointment in some countries takes 120 days. A State Dept. spokesman disputes this.

I was at the Travel Industry Association PowWow in Anaheim two months ago, and talked to a journalist from Hungary who said most of his colleagues will not bother to try to visit. His colleagues, mind you, who would benefit from the trip and probably get their employers to pay for it. But they don't want to come.

The Hungarian journalist described a demeaning and ridiculous scenario that involved opening up bank records, property records, family history, and many other forms of data to the U.S. authorities. Remember, to him, the U.S. is a foreign country. Would you let a foreign government dig around in your personal and financial records? Friends had to be interviewed, months passed, and in the end, he got his visa--with the understanding that upon landing on U.S. soil, customs officials could decide they didn't like his face or accent, and refuse him entry. If that happened, he would just have to get on a plane and return home immediately.

Most people just don't want to deal with that when planning a trip for business or pleasure.

The Los Angeles Times covered that angle back on April 25, too, interviewing foreign journalists at the TIA PowWow. "Reporters told horror stories about protracted visa application processes and lengthy airport security lines." Would you want to visit a country that, after a day-long airplane ride, kept you in a security line for over 90 minutes? So that you missed your connecting flight?

Two thousand international travelers rated the US airport arrival process as the "World's Worst", two to one over the runner-up: the Middle East. That's just embarrassing.

In April the guestimate of lost tourism revenue stood at $94 billion, according to the travel industry. I'm looking at the article, trying to find a decimal in there--nope, it's $94 billion. And today's story ups the figure to $100 billion.

How many people would that employ? In the U.S.? We're really shooting ourselves in the foot here.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Club 33: The Happiest, Most Exclusive Place on Earth


Who knew?

In 1967, Disneyland opened Club 33. Furnished with antiques and serving food that can only be described in French, like "Escargots et champignons sauvages sur petules des tomates," the club has only 487 members. They sit above the rabble that clogs the cobbled streets of New Orleans Square and sip champagne from Cinderella's glass slipper.

Wail and gnash your teeth; the waiting list for Club 33 has closed and will not suffer the inclusion of further supplicants. The few mortals already on the list may look forward to an estimated fourteen years of drooling until a slot becomes available. If they're lucky enough to be called, prospective members must cough up a $9,500 initiation fee and $3,175 yearly dues.

What do you get for this princely sum? Besides an appetizer of snails and wild mushrooms with tomatoes? Well, you can see pictures of the bar, lounge, and dining room at this unofficial (I prefer to think of it as illicit) website.
According to the LA Times, your meal at the club (for which you pay) includes access to Disneyland for everyone in your party. You can request that a Disney character join you at your table (yeah, I wanna see Mickey slurp those snails!), get behind the scenes tours. . . of course, you must reserve your table weeks in advance. Those 486 other members must be pretty frequent diners, I guess.
And someone pays over $12,000 for this! Corporations, btw, pay $25,000 for a members and almost $6,000 in yearly dues.
There are legends of animatronic vultures in the trophy room that delight visiting dignitaries. Kobe Bryant and our Governator have eaten there. . . OK, make it undignitaries, occasionally.
Twelve thousand dollars. It boggles the mind. That this story came out the day after World Refugee Day is a crude aside; just ignore me. I'm going away to sulk for the weekend.

Incans Killed by Spanish Muskets: Proof that Photographs are more Powerful than History Books

The papers are full an exciting find: a young man's body, with skull pierced by a musket ball shot in 1536 by a Spanish conquistador during the siege of Lima, Peru.

This photo is credited to archaeologist Elena Goycochea, National Geographic and AP

A great discovery--but isn't it sad that bodies had to be found to draw attention to a battle that has been in the books for 460 years?

72 bodies were unearthed in a Lima suburb, and many showed signs of being bludgeoned and torn apart or impaled. At least three were shot. Archaeologists assume only the Spanish had guns, and the bludgeoning deaths were likely at the hands of Indians from enemy tribes, armed with clubs.

The Los Angeles Times story says that this "evidence casts the conquistadors in a less heroic light." Peruvian historians talk about the great cover-up. Heroic? In 2007, does anyone still think of the unbelievable barbarity of Pizarro, Cortez, and their followers as heroic? More tragic is the idea that a cover-up was taught in Peru until recently--which is the impression I get from the article.

The bodies were found in an Incan cemetery with at least 500 classic burials. The 72 that died at the siege of Lima were not posed as the other corpses in the cemetery, but were hastily wrapped and put in shallow graves without offerings.

In fact, when he first found the skull in the photograph above, the head archaeologist Guillermo Cock assumed he'd come across a modern crime victim. His second impression was that the bullet hole was modern, made by someone shooting into the ground. Forensic scientists in the U.S. figured out that the force of the impact and the trace of iron on the skull could only have been caused by 16th century European weapons, though.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

New Blog!

I'm posting to hubpages.com as well. Check out my first hub on Transformers--the Toys and TV Show.

Writing, trivia, archaeology, and odds and ends will still be here. But hubpages.com will now have my best efforts at "history-behind-the-news" type of stories. And as we all know, the Transformer movie come out July 4th.

Veg-O-Matic


When my Dad passed away, my brother and I had 50 years of accumulated paraphenalia to sort through. Mixed up in that were six--count 'em--six Veg-O-Matics.

This picture is from the Smithsonian Institution Press webpage.

Why? The original, the one I remember using in the sixties, was still stored in its black, white, and orange cardboard box. Maybe Dad bought the others as gifts he forgot to bestow. Maybe they were on sale--he could never pass up a good deal. I think my brother sold them all on Ebay, except for the original. He kept that, and all the special blades.

I bring this up because Ron Popeil sold Ronco two years ago. Besides Veg-O-Matics and the Pocket Fisherman (which were actually invented by Ron Popeil's Dad), Ronco sold Ginsu knives, Armorcote pans, Set It and Forget It ovens, and the Inside-the-Shell egg scrambler. Ah, the memories! After selling $2 billion worth of gadgets, Popeil called it a day. His first payment from the new buyer was $40 million.

However, the new owners filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, and Popeil is still owed nearly $12 million. It's downright embarassing, since he also sold rights to his own image and voice. The company that bought Ronco shows Popeil's picture, and according to the newspaper, uses his voice on their answering machines.

But they're talking to a new buyer. Wonder how he feels when he calls the company and hears Ron Popeil's voice?

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Mahar's Humor

The best I can do today is refer anyone who's reading to a hilarious essay that appeared in Newsweek's international edition: "Hillary Equals France"
. . . France has 20,000 miles of railroads that work. We have the trolley at the mall that takes you from Pottery Barn to the Gap. It has bullet trains. We have bullets. . . .
Why did Newsweek--a worthy publication--not make this gem available to its U.S. readership? HBO's ratings should convince Newsweek that we can laugh at ourselves. Really, that's our greatest asset.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Rome, Etruscans, and Turkey(s)

Geneticist have decided that the Etruscans, the Italian tribe that dominated Italy before Rome, originally came from Turkey. The well-educated scientists determined this by testing men whose families had lived in the Etruscan area (now Tuscany) for at least three generations, and who had Etruscan names.

This was in the Los Angeles Times, here, and probably in a bunch of other newspapers.

Um. . . OK, they tested men whose families lived in the area for three generations. That's what--60 to 90 years, tops? And based on that, these geneticists assume descent from a tribe that flourished 2600 to 3200 years ago? I wonder if the Times has left something out--something that would make this assumption sound . . . I dunno. . . rational? Or just a bit less loopy?

Oh yeah, the subject men had Etruscan names.

But the Etruscan language is lost. They left no writing. How on earth do you identify a surname as Etruscan after 2600 years?

The scientists say they will now look at the DNA from excavated Etruscan burials. That might be a good idea. In fact, it might have been smart to do that before holding a press conference about their findings.

Three generations? Etruscan names? Puh-leese!

Beads from 80,000 Years Ago

I love this. A dozen beads, pierced for stringing and dyed with red ocher, were found in a Morrocan cave. They date to 80,000 years ago.

(picture from MSNBC's website and credited to Ian Cartwright, LiveScience)

And they aren't even the oldest ever found. A couple of shell beads in Shkul, Israel were unearthed in the 1930s and are believed to be 100,000 years old. One in Algeria is aged 90,000 years, and some in South Africa are 75,000 years old. They weren't found near a beach; they were carried away deliberately and worked.

80,000 years, or 100,000. What does that compare to? The caves painted with horses and hunt scenes in Lascaux, France, date to 15,000 BCE. The agricultural revolution didn't kick off till 8,000 or 9,000 BCE. The earliest evidence of weaving--impressions of cloth pressed into wet clay, or fossilized cloth wrapped around an antler--date to 7000 BCE. (That doesn't mean cloth didn't exist earlier; we just haven't found any evidence)

So what were people doing 80,000 years ago?

Dressing up, obviously.





Saturday, June 16, 2007

Sneakers and Plimsolls

A lesson in demand and supply:
By the 1830s, working-class men and women in England were taking annual holidays to the beach. A cheap, light, canvas-top shoe with a leather or jute sole became the footwear of choice on these vacations. The New Liverpool Rubber Company (which would become Dunlop) developed a low-cost, rubber-soled "sand shoe" for the beachgoers.

The shoe caught on. In the 1870s people started calling the shoes 'plimsolls' because its horizontal band, placed where the rubber joined the canvas, looked like the Plimsoll line on a ship: a line on the hull that showed how much weight a ship could carry.

White plimsolls resembled more expensive shoes made for the tennis set; in fact, the plimsolls soon replaced other shoes. The rubber soles were more comfortable and resilient on tennis courts and lawns.

Plimsolls were everywhere. They went with Admiral Scott on his Antarctic exedition . . . they were worn by athletes at the first modern Olympics in Athens . . . the military had thousands dyed to match uniforms . . . schools made them mandatory gear in athletic programs. . . . And that's in Europe.

In the U.S., the style was copied and caught on with croquet players.In 1875, rubber-soled shoes acquired the name "sneakers" because they didn't squeak like most other footwear, allowing a person to sneak around silently.

In 1912 the U.S. company Spaulding made a high-top speaker with a gum rubber suction sole, and an upper of black kangaroo leather—the forerunner of today’s basketball shoes.

Marquis Mills Converse began producing shoes in New England shortly after that, and came out with a basketball shoe in 1917: the All Star.

The first celebrity endorsement? That was the Converse Rubber Shoe Company's Chuck Taylor All Star--which is still being marketed in 2007. Basketballer Chuck Taylor got involved with Converse, suggesting improvements to the All Star shoe. He got his name on the shoe in 1923, and the rest is marketing legend. 750 million Chuck Taylor All Stars have been sold since.

Converse remained the most popular basket ball shoe for forty years. it took Adidas Pro Model in the 1960s to knock them out of first place.

And that's another story.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Damned if you are, damned if you're not

My grandmother used to say "Damned if you are, damned if you're not."

She told me it came from the days when the English used to kill people for belonging to the wrong religion: Henry VIII killed Catholics who wouldn't support his new church of England. Then Henry died, and his oldest daughter Mary--a devout Catholic--piously ordered the execution of at least 300 people who turned their backs on Catholicism to save their skin, under her father's reign. That's why she's called Bloody Mary. Then she died and Elizabeth took over. Catholics out, Protestants in, but things calmed down a bit.

The phrase comes to mind today as ABC News and others report executions in the streets of Gaza of Fatah leaders or supporters (CNN says these reports are not confirmed). Not enough to be a Palestinian; you have to be in the right party. I thought their virulent hatred of Israel would be enough to keep the factions from trying to destroy each other, but I have a tendancy to be a Pollyana. Silly me.

In the Spanish Civil War (the 1930s), the two sides tore into each other with growing violence. The Spanish Civil War was unbelievably bitter and bloody. The factions were Franco's Insurgents and the government Loyalists. Both groups were willing to eviscerate their country and kill everyone in it to keep the other side from winning.

In one city--Baena--the Insurgents took over and executed 90 men, all leaders and administrators. Months later, the Insurgents were forced out by the Loyalists. When the Loyalists took control, the killed 700 Insurgent sympathisers in reprisal.

Damned if you are, damned if you're not.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

History With Warts and All


Hmmm . . . how to present an underground slave passage belonging to one of the icons of liberty? Could be tricky.

Washington DC was not our original capital. Philadelphia was. When George Washington became our first leader in the 1790s, his presidential home was in Philadelphia.

The National Park Service is excavating that home, right in front of the Liberty Bell Center. (this pictures is from AP/Matt Rourke) They planned to build a nice, media-savvy, pro-active, 21st century exhibit hall; sounds like the excavation was intended to be a quick look and no one expected to find much.

Lo and behold, they found a lot, including the underground walkway. The passage is evidence that the nine slaves serving Washington in Philadelphia (he actually owned 300, but most stayed in Mount Vernon) tiptoed around unobtrusively, using secret tunnels to go in and out of the house. How best to incorporate this into the planned media exhibit?

The National Park Service is filled with dedicated people. They want to show visitors what they’ve unearthed. If they have to add ramps to an underground passage, reposition the building so that the excavation is protected . . . you don’t have to be an engineer to realize that the budget is going to explode!
But what else can they do? Maybe a corporation or millionaire patriot/history buff will cover the new expenses.

Public History—I know this because I got my masters (in history) from Arizona State U, which has a great Public History program—is about preserving history for the public. Museums, historical societies, monuments, publishing, even things like grant-writing, are all part of public history.

National Park employees, public historians, writers, all of us, believe that history is exciting. You and your kids should see it, not lock it up in libraries or bury it underground.
So if you know any potential benefactors just aching for a worthy cause, please let them know about this! The original story, published at Examiner.com, is here.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

From Typhoid Fever to XRD TB

With all the fuss over Andrew Speaker, the groom infected with XRD-TB, I’ve pulled out a copy of a 1938 New York Times obituary. The headline of the obit doesn’t give the woman's name. It reads instead: ‘Typhoid Mary’ Dies of a Stroke at 68.

Her name was Mary Mallon. She was never sick, but she carried the bacillus that caused typhoid fever, back before antibiotics. Typhoid is not an airborne disease like TB, but Mary was a cook. Over the years, she infected at least 46 people. Three of them died. Mary was judged to be a threat to public safety, and was sent to Brothers Island to live in isolation.

It’s a fascinating story. Nova did an episode on her. Anthony Bourdain and others have written books about Mary Mallon. We can ask the same question about her that we now ask of Andrew Speaker: was this person a na├»ve pawn of the system, or a disease-spewing threat to us all?

Mary was the first healthy carrier identified, but within a few years New York doctors and officials realized she wasn’t the last. In fact, hundreds and maybe even thousands were walking the streets. No one tried to apprehend them—impossible! And when these carriers were identified—when an epidemic broke out and families and servants got tested—no one locked them away.

In fact, one carrier, Alphonse, owned a bakery. After being categorized and warned by public health officials not to prepare food, he was caught baking (horrors!) and hauled before a judge. The judge reminded Alphonse that he should not be touching food because he carried typhoid fever. Then he sent Alphonse home. End of story.

So why was Mary locked up on Brothers Island for twenty-six years? Why do we not speak loathingly of Typhoid Alphonse? Well, Mary was a single Irish woman, a fair target of prejudice in those days. But the real reason might be just because she was the first. The original scare and resultant media frenzy was all about her.

Which doesn’t speak well for poor Andrew. Still, he has one thing going for him that neither Mary nor Alphonse could enjoy: a blogosphere that has labeled him and his bride "hotties."

See? Some things do change. We can get more shallow, if we all try.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Photography and Irony


Everyone has seen this Pulitzer-prize winning photograph of the young girl in Vietnam, running naked down a road after a napalm attack, wailing.

And everyone has also seen the picture that one of the paparazzi got of Paris Hilton in the sheriff's car on the way to court, wailing. It was in every newspaper in the country last Friday or Saturday.

Did you know the same photographer took both pictures? No joke. His name is Nick Ut, and David Hinckley of the NY Daily News just wrote an article about this strange twist of fleeting fame. Here it is.

Vannes


In 56 B.C., Julius Caesar continued his war of conquest against the many tribes of Gaul. The contestants that 3rd year were the residents of Brittany. The most powerful tribe (per Caesar), the Veneti, lived around the Morbihan Bay and controlled the tin and metals trade and all the shipping with Britain. Caesar stormed several of their towns, but they always managed to vacate and escape by sea to an island or peninsula.

The city of Vannes sits on the Morbihan Bay and I believe its name is an homage to the Veneti. But this is not where the Veneti lived. No one has ever found the site of their city, which Caesar called Venetia.

That the Veneti had a pretty large town or oppidum (a fort) is certain. So much commerce would have to be warehoused and distributed. They struck coins indicating a pretty stable currency. They had hundreds of large ships. We know about them from The Gallic Wars, written by Caesar. He was pretty proud of the way fortune delivered the Veneti fleet to him, and how his men responded.

He sent Brutus (yup, the et-tu Brutus) up the Loire River to build dozens of Roman ships. Brutus delivered: little Roman carvels that couldn't even ram the larger Veneti ships. But, on the day of battle, as Caesar watched from shore (tradition puts him at St. Gildas) . . .

Our men had made ready in advance. . . sharpened hooks fixed into long poles, not unlike the kind of hooks used for pulling down walls in seiges. Using these hooks, our men seized the ropes binding the enemy yardarms to the masts and drew them tight: then our ship quickly rowed away, and the ropes broke.
The Veneti ships depended entirely on their leather sails for mobility; they didn't have rowers. The Roman carvels disabled a few ships in this manner, but the Veneti caught on and kept their distance. Then a miracle happened:

. . . suddenly a dead calm fell, and they were unable to sail away.
No wind, no movement. One by one the great ships were surrounded and boarded. The Veneti fought hard but were slaughtered piecemeal.

All their warriors had been on those ships; there was no one left to defend the towns. Caesar executed their surviving rulers and sold all of the people into slavery.

Hoards of Veneti coins have been found buried over the past two thousand years. Merchants and tradesment fled with all their wealth, hoping to escape. The one place that these coins have NOT been found is Vannes. In Vannes, which sits at the site of the Roman settlement Darioritum, archeaologists find Roman coins and artefacts dating to the first century B.C. when the Romans moved in--but nothing earlier.

So where was Venetia? Some people hope to find Atlantis or the grave of Attila. I'd rather find the remnants of a great Veneti town, looted or not.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Iran-Iraq War

I haven't blogged about ancient Gaul in a long time, have I? Most recently the Iran-Iraq War has been taking up my time. Here's some stuff I betcha didn't know about that charming little matchup:
  1. A million deaths resulted from the Iran-Iraq War.
  2. It lasted a month short of eight years (September 1980 to August 1988), making in the longest conventional war of the twentieth century
  3. Iraq's President, Saddam Hussein, invaded Iran at the beginning of the war, thinking that the new leadership of the country (the Ayatollah--remember him?) was not ready to fight a war. Was he wrong! Never underestimate the power of religious fanaticism.
  4. Iraq ended the war $80 BILLION in debt. That's one big reason why Iraq invaded Kuwait two years later and started the Gulf War.
  5. In Iran, volunteer soldiers as young as 9 years old--yes, NINE--were joining the army and "clearing fields of mines" (I think that means they got blown up.)

What a fun topic. But two weeks ago it was Guernica and the Spanish Civil War. We just never learn.

Hefeweizen

Here is the proper way to pour Hefeweizen, a wonderful cloudy beer made of wheat. The barkeep at HipKitty showed me.

Pour into glass, but leave about an inch in the bottle for half a minute. The yeast settles at the bottom of the bottle. Swish it around, then pour it into the glass--the beer will turn color.

Now quite honestly, it was really dark so I didn't see the color change. But I believe him; why would a nice, handsome man lie?

A quick scan of beer sites shows me that:
  • It's Hefe Weisen
  • Pouring the yeast in last allows it to lace through the brew and adds to the flavor.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Good Things Come in Threes

Just found out that Inland Empire Magazine, the big glossy journal that covers San Bernadino and Riverside Counties (with a little overlap into LA and the OC), has published my profile on Matthew Atherton, winner of the Sci-Fi Channel's 2006 series, "Who Wants to Be A Superhero?"

Interviewing Matthew, who is super-nice, interesting, courteous, inspiring, and engaging--besides being tall and handsome--was a lot more fun than researching old wars. Here are links for his Feedback website, and and for his favorite charity, Recording for the Blind and Dyslexic.

Combined with the Boys' Life short and the Modoc War series in Chronicle of the Old West, that's three for the month!

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Postage

This is important. Future jobs may depend on it.

First class letters up to 6 by 11 and 1/2 inches are 41 cents, and over one ounce you add 17 cents per ounce. So, two ounces is 58 cents.

If you send out 8 and 1/2 by 11 inch envelopes (if you send clips, in other words), the postage is now 80 cents for one ounce, and 17 cents extra for additional ounces.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Drains, Kites, and Cupcakes

Here is some interesting information from an old issue of Wired that got a final perusal before being dumped in the recycle bin:
  • The water in bathtubs, sinks, and toilets does NOT swish one way (clockwise) in the northern hemisphere and the other way in the southern hemisphere. The shape of the basin and position of incoming water flow are what determines the direction.
  • Benjamin Franklin's kite was NOT struck by lighting. The kite picked up electricity from the air, which caused an arc between Franklin's hand and the key that was tied to the kite.
And finally, from a New York Times article:
  • The Torrance Bakery is now 23 years old and is swamped with intern applicants, willing to work for free. This is a new phenomenon. So treat those smilin' college students with some respect, please; they are not simply there because their parents made them get a minimum-wage summer job!

But why does the New York Times run an article on bakeries in Los Angeles county? Could it be that their Los Angeles cousin has been too busy handing out pink slips to note the stories under their noses?