Scope & Horror: The Entertainers

The Entertainers Highlights from the week of July 22-July 29 Director and actor James Whale (b. July 22, 1888). He made Frankenstein (1931), The Invisible Man (1933), and Bride of Frankenstein (1935) among other classics.  Publicity still of James Whale with the model of Frankenstein’s monster, Copyright Universal Studios, 1935Silent film actress Aileen Pringle (b. July 23, 1895). […]

Night of the Living

George Romero died one year ago today. He made Night of the Living Dead. I guess those zombies are supposed to look scary, but to me, they just look like a horde of stepdads heading for the fridge in the middle of the night. And what’s with the one on the left? Did he just get […]

An Arctic Icarus

In an ultimately unsuccessful attempt to reach the North Pole by hydrogen balloon, engineer and aeronaut S. A. Andrée, accompanied by engineer Knut Frænkel, and photographer Nils Strindberg took off from Spitsbergen, Norway on July 11, 1897. They flew for 65 hours, but a series of unfortunate events including flying directionless into heavy storms, they crash-landed onto pack ice […]

On Miasma and Contagia

Physician and anatomist Friedrich Gustav Jakob Henle was born July 9,1809. His essay On Miasma and Contagia survives as an early argument for germ theory. Before bacteria and virus were understood, diseases were thought to be caused by miasma, or “bad air.” The word comes from Greek mythology, where miasma seems to have been a cross […]

The Ghost Forest

    Isaac Newton’s Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica was published July 5, 1687. Dolly the sheep, the first mammal cloned from an adult cell, was born July 5, 1996. Astronomer A.E. Douglas was born July 5, 1867. He studied the connection of sunspot cycles and tree growth rings, founding modern dendrochronology. The study of tree growth rings reminds […]

Superstition and the Dog Days of Summer

Illustration of the constellation Sirius, with text circa 820 Sirius rises late in the dark, liquid sky On summer nights, star of stars, Orion’s Dog they call it, brightest Of all, but an evil portent, bringing heat And fevers to suffering humanity. Stanley Lombardo translation of Homer’s Iliad July 3rd is the first of 40 […]

The Middle of Things

Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan disappeared on July 2, 1937, flying over the Pacific Ocean. Her plane took off at 12:00 midnight GMT from Lae Airfield in Papua New Guinea. Her last radio messages were received about 8 and half hours later. Pluto’s fourth and fifth moons, Kerberos and Styx were named on July 2, 2013. Does anyone […]

The Sheep You Asked For Is Inside

  “This is only his box. The sheep you asked for is inside.”                                                     The Little Prince Antoine Marie Jean-Baptiste   French writer Antoine Marie Jean-Baptiste was born June 29, 1900. He […]

Seven Sleepers’ Day

It’s Seven Sleepers Day. Known as Siebenschläfertag, it’s basically German groundhog’s day. Folklore says that today’s weather predicts what the weather will be like in July and August. Naturalist Thomas Say was born June 27, 1787. Considered the founder of descriptive entomology, he described at least 1.000 new species of beetles and published  American Entomology: Insects of North […]

Six Degrees of Separation: Smurfs, Zombies, Farrah Fawcett, and the American Auto Industry

Igor Stravinsky’s opera Firebird opera opened in Paris on June 25, 1910. The firebird is a creature from Slavic fairy tale.  The opera is a mix of this and another fairy tale called Koschei the Deathless, about a magician who cannot be killed like a mortal because his soul is separate from his body, inside a needle, hidden inside an egg […]

The End of the Dark

The summer solstice happened this morning. It’s the official start to the summer and the longest day of the year.  June 21st is the birth date of two astronomical instrument makers, John Dolland and James Short, who were born in 1703 and 1710 respectively.  Designed by George Washington Gale Ferris Jr, the Ferris Wheel was introduced at the […]

Elementary Lessons in Electricity and Magnetism

June 19th, also known as Juneteenth, marks the anniversary of the 1862 court ruling that prohibited slavery in the United States. It is also the anniversary of the 1964 approval of the Civil Rights Act.  And then everything was solved forever. German chemist and pharmacist Friedrich Sertürner was born June 19, 1783. He was the first […]

Parasites Affecting Your Bowels and Your Week

Illustrator James Montgomery Flagg was born Jun 18, 1877. Astronomer William Lassell was born June 18, 1799. He discovered many moons of distant planets. Physician Charles Laveran was born June 18, 1845.  By examining blood smears, he discovered parasitic protozoans as the cause of malaria. Youngest daughter of last Russian Czar Nicholas II, Anastasia Nikolaevna was […]

The Gorilla is for Sand Racing

June 14th has a lot about America in the history lists. It’s the birthday of the US Army. est. 1775. Two years later, the Continental Congress approved the Stars & Stripes for the U.S. Flag. So it is also Flag Day. Pennsylvania is the only place to acknowledge it as an official state holiday. In […]

How to Calculate Your Weight in Bitcoin and Increase Your Resale Value

I will be back tomorrow with regular posts. For today, I wanted to share my new blog called Your Bitcoin BMI. I am pretty excited about it.  Special thanks to E.L. for cleaning up the first post. A Touch of Grey Learning about investing and money markets is tough. I know retirement age and the quick […]

Ghosts in the Machine

Ectoplasm and Enumeration   The Art of Statistics On June 8, 1887, Herman Hollerith, founder of the company that was to become IBM, applied for patent #395, 781 for his punched card calculator for what he called the Art of Compiling Statistics.  His innovation would cut the processing time of the 1890 census considerably and set […]

Donkeys and Virgins: Symbols of Plenty

Today is the first day of Vestalia, a nine day festival in Ancient Rome to celebrate the goddess Vesta,the virginal goddess of the hearth, home, and family. She is the daughter of Roman god Saturn and goddess Ops, who loosely correlate with the Greek Titans Cronus, Rhea, and daughter Hestia. During this festival, in hopes of […]

Robots, Empathy, and Entrails

I gave into temptation and ordered my genetic profile from AncestryDNA. What’s more, I downloaded the raw data and ran it through Promethease, a website that will analyze your genome and then give you pages and pages of your genetic traits and mutations matched to current and generally reliable medical evidence on certain health risks […]

Is That All There Is?

Bedtime for Bonzo This morning, in a perfectly fine mood, making coffee, I think I got a message for you. As I reached for a mug, I found that, completely unconsciously, I had been singing Is That All There Is?  (I have always preferred the PJ Harvey version). Being somewhat unexpected for my otherwise quiet […]

Does It Matter What Color Your Parachute Is When You Are Falling Towards the End at Terminal Velocity?

Plus what to serve at your funeral Joseph-Michel and Jacques-Etienne Montgolfier gave the first public demonstration of their hot balloon, called the montgolfière, with great success today in 1783.  Exactly one year later Élisabeth Thible, dressed as the goddess Minerva, became the first woman to fly in an untethered hot air balloon.  Their balloon was named La Gustave in […]

Questionable Advice From My Father

Crushing Your Opponent In the Dirt and Other Tales The Anonymous Head In A Jar Archaeologist Flinders Petrie was born in 1853.  I bring him up here not to celebrate his mass plundering of Egypt, nor his horrifying pro-eugenic views, but because he donated his head to the Royal College of Surgeons in London.  Shortly […]

Self Help

If you are still in your twenties, this isn’t for you.  You have your whole life ahead of you.  Keep Instagramming and going to NYU.  For the rest of us struggling, older, non-geniuses: I wasn’t going to write today, because, well remember yesterday, I told you I have two jobs? And not enough hours in […]

Le Merope, tragedia

Writer and antiquarian Scipione Maffei was born June 1, 1675, in Verona. His play Merope is credited with revitalizing Verona theater. He also wrote and published histories of ancient Italian civilizations, apparently in a sort of competition with a worthy foe, Antonio Francesco Gori.  His bio says he published “running skirmishes in print with his rival in the field […]

Saint Patronilla and the Sick

Who is in charge of this ship? Big Ben began ticking May 31, 1859. The Johnstown Flood drowned 2,200 residents in Pennsylvania after a dam burst in 1889. The last Ford Model T was produced today in 1927. May 31st is the birthdate of poet Walt Whitman. Julius Petri, of Petri dish fame,was born in […]

God for the Nonbelievers

Karl Fabergé was born in 1846. You know the guy that made the ornate eggs for Russian royalty with all those shiny things? Kind of like the crab in Moana, but fancier. This year our daughters asked why we dye eggs at Easter, and of course I had to look it up and give them […]

Valley of the Dolls, Parasites, and a Full Flower Moon

On May 29, 1953, Edmund Hillary of New Zealand and Sherpa Tenzing Norgay of Nepal became the first climbers to reach the summit of Mount Everest. Because I have already confessed to you that this is my favorite novel, I will give a moment of solemn contemplation for the anniversary of this accomplishment … and […]

Radar Men From the Moon

The Days Before Twitter (does that make me sound really old, or only medium old?) Nineteen-year-old German aviator Mathias Rust landed in Moscow’s Red Square today in  1987. Flying in from Helsinki, Finland with diplomatic intentions, he was detected several times by Soviet air defense systems but was never intercepted.  As you can imagine, his landing […]

Captain Video and His Video Rangers

Cartographer Sebastian Münster died today in 1552. Seriously, his maps are so beautiful. Born on May 26th: Dorthea Lange, John Wayne, Peggy Lee, Miles Davis, Jack Kevorkian, Sally Ride, Helena Bonham Carter, and Lauryn Hill. Also born today author and cartoonist Raina Telgemeier.  I almost didn’t write a post today, but I am so glad I […]

Not Part of Any Club That Would Have Me As a Member, and Other Personal Predictablities

It is National Tap Dance Day, in honor of the 1878 birth of dancer Bill Robinson. The Muppet’s puppeteer Frank Oz was born today in 1944. He voiced Fozzie Bear, Bert, Grover, Cookie Monster, Sam Eagle, Animal, and Miss Piggy. Also Yoda.  Coincidentally, Star Wars was released today in 1977.  Wrestling champion William Muldoon was born today […]

How to Kill a Victorian

In honor of Queen of Victoria’s birthday, May 24, 1819, today’s post is solely dedicated to all of the ways in which living in Victorian England was deadly. Death by steamboat We will start with Canadian Victorians and then cross the ocean. First of all did you know there is a Thames river in Ontario? […]

A Taxonomy of Bookworms and Other Musings

  Baquet. Interior view: Drawing room scene with many people sitting and standing around a large table; a man on a crutch has an iron band wrapped around his ankle; others in the group are holding bands similarly; to the left, a man has hypnotized a woman. Born today: physician and astrologer Franz Mesmer.  You know […]

Fads and Fallacies in the Name of Science

An illustration from the American 1918 edition Gray’s Anatomy First and foremost, it is WorldGoth Day. I was trying to find a way for you to celebrate it, but frankly, this guy nailed it. If you must expand on that, you can make your own Book of Shadows. Because nothing says witchcraft more than WikiHow […]

Heartbreak at Muscle Beach

Image source Day of the Beefcake According to The Old Farmer’s Almanac, May 19th is the best day to plant above ground crops, graft or pollinate, or to begin a diet to gain weight. So, I might have jumped the gun on last weekend’s carbo-loading. Oh well, grab and plate and start over. I have […]

The Witch of Agnesi

May 16 Chirogram from Chirologia, 1644. Born Dr. John Bulwer was born in 1606. One of his published works is titled Chirologia, and it is about the language of gesture (not to be confused with sign language). Mathematician, philosopher, and humanitarian Maria Gaetana Agnesi was born in 1718. As one of 21 children (!), she […]

Illustrations of the Family of Psittacidae, or Parrots

May 12th On this day in 1473, Marie Theresa became Queen of Bohemia. Holy Roman Emperor Charles VII lost Bavaria, when allied French troops had to retreat to the Rhine River. Bohemia, incidentally, if we were in Geography class, is the westernmost region of what is now the Czech Republic.  Then nomadic Romani people in […]

Lazy Mary, You Better Get Up, We Need the Sheets for the Table

  Today is May 11th. Today in 912, Alexander began his 13th month reign as the Emperor of the Byzantine Empire.  In 1833, after just over a month at sea, The Lady of the Lake hit an iceberg 250 miles of the coast of Newfoundland and sank.  Only fifteen of the estimated 275 people aboard survived. This […]

A Guide to the Scientific Knowledge of Things Familiar

  Today is May 10th.   London, New York [etc.] Cassell and Company, Limited – Heat, an Introduction: Ebenezer Cobham Brewer, author of A Guide of Scientific Knowledge of Things Familiar, was born in 1810. God Save the Queen Also born on May 10th: German mathematician Wilhelm Killing in 1847; Actress Mae Murray in 1885; Fred Astaire in 1899, and […]

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