December 2: Happy Guano Day! (Thank you, Millard Fillmore)

December 2, 2016

 

Why December 2?

(You couldn’t make this stuff up if you were Monty Python.)

English: Millard Fillmore White House portrait

Millard Fillmore’s White House portrait, via Wikipedia

President Millard Fillmore, in the State of the Union Address, December 2, 1850

Peruvian guano has become so desirable an article to the agricultural interest of the United States that it is the duty of the Government to employ all the means properly in its power for the purpose of causing that article to be imported into the country at a reasonable price. Nothing will be omitted on my part toward accomplishing this desirable end. I am persuaded that in removing any restraints on this traffic the Peruvian Government will promote its own best interests, while it will afford a proof of a friendly disposition toward this country, which will be duly appreciated.

Did any other U.S. President spend so much time thinking about guano?  Did any president ever mention it in a State of the Union Address?  The curious case of Millard Fillmore, Seer, just grows.

Guano, or bird poop (and its relative, bat poop), contains phosphorus, which is an essential element for life.  Consequently, it turns out to be a key ingredient in effective agricultural fertilizers.  In international competition for supremacy in farming and farm exports, guano became a key resource to fight over, in the 19th century.

It’s almost safe to say the fights were economic; but guano did play a key role in wars in South America (see Andrew Leonard’s article, noted below).

Fillmore figured out that the substance had great importance, coupled that with the rather esoteric knowledge that sea birds tended to deposit guano in great abundance on certain islands, often unoccupied, and ordered the U.S. Navy to claim islands found to contain guano deposits that were not claimed by other nations.

By the American Civil War, the importance of phosphorus to the production of gun powder became an issue for the armies of the North and South.  Millard Fillmore had set the stage for the North to win an important advantage in gun powder production, just one of many that led to the defeat of the South.

It’s one more thing we should thank Millard Fillmore for doing. Our study of history should inform us that it is, indeed, important for politicians to understand the importance of guano.

Fillmore knew his guano.

Take a moment on December 2 to toast Millard Fillmore’s prescience, on Guano Day!

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Yes, this is mostly an encore post. Fighting ignorance requires patience.

Yes, this is mostly an encore post. Fighting ignorance requires patience.

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Word of the 2016 elections: Mumpsimus

September 30, 2016

Wikipedia said: The humanist scholar Desiderius Erasmus of Rotterdam may have coined the word. Painting by Hans Holbein the Younger (1497/1498–1543, Wikipedia Image

Wikipedia said: The humanist scholar Desiderius Erasmus of Rotterdam may have coined the word. Painting by Hans Holbein the Younger (1497/1498–1543, Wikipedia Image

Mumpsimus. A description of the malady that plagues U.S. politics in 2016.

Odd word, but even Wikipedia has very descriptive entry.

A mumpsimus is an action by a person who adheres to a routine, idea, custom, set of beliefs, or a certain use of language that has been shown to be unreasonable or incorrect. For example, a person may continue to say all intents and purposes as all intensive purposes,[1] even after being corrected. The term mumpsimus may also refer to the person who performs the action.

Definition

Mumpsimus has been defined as a “traditional custom obstinately adhered to however unreasonable it may be”,[2] as well as “someone who obstinately clings to an error, bad habit or prejudice, even after the foible has been exposed and the person humiliated; also, any error, bad habit, or prejudice clung to in this fashion”.[3] In other words, mumpsimus can describe the behavior, as well as the person doing it. Garner’s Modern American Usage says the word could describe George W. Bush because of his persistent habit of pronouncing “nuclear” as /noo-kyə-lər/ (“nucular”) instead of the standard /noo-klee-ər/, despite the error being widely reported.[4]

Mumpsimus became a hashtag on Twitter earlier this year, and you can see why.

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Random thoughts, and Twitter, on National Coffee Day

September 29, 2016

Found at Your Lighter Side Blog, 2014.

Found at Your Lighter Side Blog, 2014.

It’s a commercial and wag-created day of note, National Coffee Day. It’s not declared by Congress in a memorial resolution, nor honored by the President with a proclamation.

Doesn’t mean we can’t have fun

September 29 is National Coffee Day, or in many corners of the internet, #NationalCoffeeDay.

A few Twitterized thoughts.

Driving between Duncanville, Texas, and Appleton, Wisconsin, on one of those “visit the kid at college” trips, we encountered this truck. Despite its hopeful sign, it really carried gasoline, sort of a visual pun on coffee, I suppose.

We collect coffee mugs — not always consciously. They add up. There’s a story behind each mug pictured.

The nice oak racks were handcrafted by Kathryn’s father, Ken Knowles. Two of the racks hold 23 mugs, and a third holds 20. We also have a high shelf that holds the overflow mugs, including the seasonal favorites that get rotated in at appropriate times, like the Dracula and witch mugs for Halloween.

I used to be a tea guy. Off at college I didn’t take much pleasure in the cup o’ joe offered by the Huddle or Student Union at at the University of Utah (though I drank my share). Teas other than Lipton started showing up in small shops, Celestial Seasonings started up and took off. I had a variety of tea infusers, and cleaning the smaller tea paraphernalia was always easier than keeping up with a coffee pot or a Mr. Coffee with two years of rancid coffee oils built up on parts of the device.

Out in New York with the L. A. Jonas Foundation’s Camp Rising Sun (CRS), I ran into Greg Marley from Albuquerque (yeah, the irony), and we swapped methods and stories of brewing teas way out in the Southwestern deserts, where local “weeds” offered a variety of great things to supplement teas. They don’t call that plant “Mormon tea” without reason, you know? At CRS I often partook of Mama Glenn’s stout percolated brews, for the incredible caffeine jolts they offered. Mama Glenn always used sweetened condensed milk to lighten it, and if you tried it black, you understood why.

I’ve driven the length and width of the nation, had coffee over campfires, in diners and luxury hotels, in every state except Maine, North Dakota, Alaska and Hawaii. I’ve awakened to those tiny cups of dark, heavy Scandinavian brews in Denmark and Sweden; spent most of a week with English breakfast coffees and that infernal heated milk they lighten with. Tried some thick muds in Monterrey and Nogales, Mexico, and had pretty good cups from Vancouver to Toronto — coffee is almost always better in the mountains, by the way.

Tea still catches my fancy often, especially if I don’t want caffeine. But coffee is my drink of choice.

I was fortunate enough to get a trip to Seattle in the near-early days of the rise of the Northwest coffee culture that gave rise to Starbucks. In town for the Computer-Aided Manufacturing – International (CAM-I) convention (does the group still exist?), corporate consultant extraordinaire Roger Beynon and I sampled coffee all over town, and I knew things were looking up.

The successes of Peet’s, and the dramatic spread of Starbucks, put pressure on almost all commercial coffee sellers to step up their games. In most towns in America today, in most supermarkets, you can buy a very good cup of coffee or the beans and accoutrements to brew one on your own.

A couple of years ago son James and his wife Michelle took me to the weekly Friday fest in Louisville, Colorado. We had a grand night listening to the band, whose name I forget, and arguing with a couple of cheeky libertarians posing as the local Republican Party. On the way out, about 10:00 p.m. we stumbled on a woman brewing coffee in a Chemex drip, and giving out samples. What fortune!

The woman was Neige LaRue, proprieter of Snow Street Coffee, a roasting company. The coffee was an Ethiopian bean, Yirga Cheffe. It’s a medium roast, where I usually prefer a darker roast.

But that coffee! It was sweet, hot, aromatic, with only tasty hints of bitterness — struck me at the time as the best cup of coffee I’d ever had. Several pounds later, I think it still holds up, though Ms. LaRue can brew it better in her Chemex than I can in our Melitta (Kathryn’s brewing is better than mine, and I swear we do it exactly the same). In any case, I highly recommend it.

We may rankle at its corporateness, and its ubiquity, but Starbucks still does a good job of brewing a good cup. They’ve also changed how we think of coffee houses in America, and maybe around the world. I’m disappointed they don’t carry music CDs anymore. And I really wish they’d bring back that much maligned bit of putting controversial quotes on their cups. A hundred times I’ve wished I had a thousand of cup #289 in their “The Way I See It” series:


Men who can help us fight mosquitoes in the post-DDT world!

June 23, 2016

mosquito_hunters

Roy and Hank Spim. Photo by M. Python

George Wiman, a jack-of-many-trades, provides a hopeful post on the issue of fighting Zika virus, in a world where DDT no longer works well against mosquitoes.

At least, I think he does.

The daily saga of Hank and Roy.


March 14, 2016: π Day! A π roundup, mostly pie

March 14, 2016

Let’s rerun this one. Again.  I like the photographs. I may go search for a good piece of pie.

Of course you remembered that today is pi Day, right?

Pi Day Pie from Slashfood.com

Happy π Day! Pi Day Pie – Slashfood.com

Oh, or maybe better, π Day.

We’ll start with the brief post from a few months ago, and then build on it with some activities and posts from around the WordPress-o-sphere.

The good people at PiDay.org suggest a few ways you can celebrate:

Make (and Eat) a Pie – These pie recipes for Pi Day from NPR’s McCallister look incredibly tasty. But, there’s no shame in putting a frozen store-bought pie in the oven, or picking up a pie from your local bakery. Any kind of pie is great on Pi Day! If you’re making your own, get inspired by these beautifully designed Pi Day Pies. Tell us on Facebook: What’s your favorite kind of pie for Pi Day?

Hope your π Day is complete as a circle, and well-rounded!

How are others celebrating?  A look around WordPress:

At SocialMediaPhobe, a musical interpretation of pi featuring the music of Michael Blake:

So Long Freedom:

pidaypieToday is March 14th, also known as “Pi Day” for us math geeks out there because March 14th (3/14) is the first 3 digits of π (3.14159…).  To celebrate “Pi Day” I highly recommend doing something mathematical while having some pie at 1:59 pm.  I recommend Yumology‘s S’mores Pie as it has 3 main ingredients (chocolate, marshmallow, and graham cracker) and about 0.14159 other ingredients like sugar, butter, and stuff.  If you are not a math geek, its okay…you can still eat pie and count things like how many stop signs you pass on your way back to work from lunch.  Or you could go to the library and take out a book on something fun like binary code.  As we like to say, “There are only 10 types of people in the world:  Those that understand binary and those that don’t.”  Seriously, binary is as easy as 01000001, 01000010, 01000011.

Miles Free at PMPA Speaking of Precision:

Today 3-14 at 1:59 I will be celebrqting Pi Day. 3.14159 is the value of pi to 5 decimals...

So besides being  the cause of much techie “irrational” exuberance, Pi Day  is a great way to get some engagement with students.

Marymount High School has several activities, last year they had a design competition incorporating pi; the students then made and sold buttons of each design, proceeds going to the Red Cross.

Hmm- math subject matter, design, production, sales, accounting.

Sounds like what we do in manufacturing.
Maybe celebrating Pi Day is not so irrational as first thought.

Free said his pie is peach.

Steve Doyle at CraveDFW:

On March 12, 2009 your lawmakers  passed a non-binding resolution (HRES 224) recognizing March 14, 2009 as National Pi Day. It is one of the more legit holidays we discuss here, and it is actually an homage to geeks everywhere who see the date as a reason to celebrate due to its mathematical implications. We say any reason to celebrate anything is just fine by us.

Since we are predominately about food we will suggest a few places to actually enjoy a pie.

DSC06367

If you followed us at all this week you may have seen the pie at Bowl and Barrel pop up on our pages. This is the uber delicious Butterscotch Pie served as the solo dessert at the bowling alley and restaurant.  Go eat one of these.

He’s got more pi pie, if you click over there.

Gareth Branwyn at MakeZine offers more pie and a mnemonic:

How to Remember Pi to 15 Digits

Pi-Pie--69299

By way of sci-fi author and mathenaut Rudy Rucker’s Facebook wall comes this:

One way to remember the first few digits of pi is to count the letters in the words of this phrase:

“How I need a drink, alcoholic of course, after the heavy lectures involving quantum mechanics.”

[Image via FreakingNews]

Another song, on YouTube, at Awsomesauce:

b.love offers this clock image (is this clock for sale somewhere?):

A clock for pi day

TED Blog offers two videos:

Chirag Singh explains his “passion for pi.”

Daniel Tammet, “Different Ways of Knowing:

Geeks are really out in force today, flaunting pi for all they’ve got.

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Hey, students! Did any of your teachers do cool stuff for Pi Day? Tell us what, and who, in comments.

Yes, this is mostly an encore post. Fighting ignorance requires patience.

Yes, this is mostly an encore post. Fighting ignorance requires patience.


Any special activities at the Millard Fillmore Presidential Library for January 7?

January 7, 2016

The Ladies of Mount Vernon maintain George Washington’s home and a couple of farms, and now have an extensive center for teachers, in addition to an extensive library on Washington.

In Springfield, Illinois, a private foundation established the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum.

Neither is part of the National Archives (NARA) presidential libraries programs. NARA operates libraries for Hoover, FDR, Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, George H. W. Bush, Clinton, George Bush, and NARA will operate the Obama library from the start.

Other presidents are left out in the cold, mostly. There are informal facilities for Teddy Roosevelt, James Garfield, and Woodrow Wilson.

On Millard Fillmore’s birthday, January 7, I am happy to report there is a Millard Fillmore Presidential Library, too.

For some reason, it’s in Cleveland, Ohio.

Photo of the interior of the Millard Fillmore Presidential Library, in Cleveland, Ohio. Motto something like, "This ain't the LBJ Library."

Photo of the interior of the Millard Fillmore Presidential Library, in Cleveland, Ohio. From Facebook page. Motto something like, “This ain’t the LBJ Library.”

A promising place for scholarship on our 13th president, perhaps. Photos of Fillmore, previously unknown, have been published by this establishment.

The new Millard Fillmore Presidential Library casts new light on the 13th president's talents and methods of relaxation.

The new Millard Fillmore Presidential Library casts new light on the 13th president’s talents and methods of relaxation.

Finally, a place to properly celebrate Millard Fillmore’s 216th birthday anniversary, today!


Trump says China? Let’s go see

October 26, 2015

Kenny sent an e-mail, with a link to Donald Trump, saying “China.”

So, we went to see.

Among other things, Kenny’s brother James, our younger son, was getting married in Beijing.  Good excuse to travel.  Keeping with the rule that one should spend at least a day in a destination for every hour of travel it takes to get there, we planned 13 days.

I don’t think Donald Trump knows China.

After 13 days and a few thousand miles, and perhaps a few hundred supreme dumplings and two Beijing ducks, fugu, and noodles of nearly endless variety, with gallons of stout vinegars you won’t find in a U.S. supermarket, I know I don’t know China.

(I don’t think Trump knows much of anything, a very little in any depth; this is funnier now than it was when Kenny sent the link before the trip.)

Following, not always consecutively, some reports on some of the things we saw. Please stay tuned.

Wikipedia photo, by the way:

We saw the ancient city of Pingyao, Shanxi Province, where wheelers and dealers have been mincing people like Donald Trump for millennia. I’ll bet Trump didn’t go there. (This is a Wikipedia photo, by the way: “Pingyao-oldtown” by Benzh – Own work. Licensed under Public Domain via Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Pingyao-oldtown.jpg#/media/File:Pingyao-oldtown.jpg)

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