An Arctic Icarus

General Discomfort

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 in the middle of the Arctic Ocean.

They had flown about 495 km, and spent the next three months attempting to head back over frozen terrain, eventually landing on the deserted Arctic island of Kvitøya sometime in October. The three of them died there and their whereabouts were a mystery until 1930 when their bodies (and Strindberg’s photo plates) were found by chance. It is said that Andree ignored many potential flaws in his plan, including that the balloon had come from Paris directly after being made, had never been tested, and was showing serious signs of leaking. He also ignored concerns that his devised method of steering the balloon with a series of weighted ropes might not be as effective as he claimed (which turned out to be true).

Two Horse, One Horse, No Horse 

The Lumière brothers demonstrated their invention of the cinématographe, the all-in-one camera, developer, and projector, to scientists July 11, 1895


Harry Kellar’s “Levitation of Princess Karnac” poster, Strobridge Lithography Co., 1893.

Boris Grigoriev ______ ___________ __________ Tutt'Art@ (8) (1).jpg

Night Scene, Paris 1913. Boris Grigoriev

Their first film is 46 seconds and is called Sortie de l’Usine Lumière de Lyon (Workers Leaving the Lumiere Factory in Lyon). This video shows all three versions, released about a year apart, in 1895, 1896, and 1897 respectively. Each version is often referred to by the number of horses seen in the shot.

Magician Harry Kellar was born July 11, 1849.  Apparently, he was known as the “Dean of Magic,” and specialized in illusions that involved the use of apparatuses. Also, he talked Harry Houdini out of attempting to catch a bullet. Also if you click on that link, there is a picture of the two of them that makes Kellar look an awful lot like Houdini’s ventriloquist dummy.

Illustrator H.M. Brock was born July 11, 1875; followed by astronomer and author of Astronomy for Young Folks Isabel Martin Lewis in 1881; Russian painter Boris Grigoriev, in 1886; and writer E.B. White, in 1899. I trust you own The Elements of Style, yes?


from The Elements of StyleStrunk & White, 1918

Writer Alexander Afanasyev was born July 11, 1826. He published 8 volumes of Russian fairytales and folktales.

Chester Gilette murdered Grace Brown on July 11, 1906, inspiring Theodore Dreiser‘s An American Tragedy. Also on July 11; Big Ben rang for the first time in 1859, and Aaron Burr shot Alexander Hamilton in 1804. Remember back before there was a musical, and we all knew about those two was from the milk commercial?

Okay, I have to wrap this up, it isn’t even July 11th anymore.

Affirmation for your morning: It’s a wise dog that scratches its own fleas.

Hair of the dog that bit you: sheepdog

Number of horses in the shot: 1

Tasks: settle a kitten war, or two, or three and watch a trip to the moon

On Miasma and Contagia

General Discomfort

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 between an infectious force and karma. Henle published works on the structure of the lymphatic system, the integumentary system, and their connection to the formation of mucus and pus.

The formation of pus is an immune response, creating a fluid of mostly dead white blood cells called neutrophils. Have you ever seen macrophages engulf bacteria? Or if you really want to shudder, you could watch this video of things magnified under an electron microscope.

Speaking of miasma, Zachary Taylor, 12th President of the United States, died July 9, 1850, from cholera morbus, or what those in my house call the squirts. His condition was surely not helped by the treatment of his White House physicians, who treated him with a combination of ipecac, calomel, opium, and quinine. In spite of a 1991 exhumation, no conclusive evidence was found to indicate he was purposely poisoned. Washington D.C. had open sewers at the time, and it is most likely he ate something contaminated at a July 4th celebration, where they were also fundraising for the Washington Monument, under construction at the time.

Also speaking of miasma, July 9th is the birthdate of O.J. Simpson, Courtney Love, and Donald Rumsfeld.

Coming back into the light, July 9th is the birthdate of painter David Hockney, photographer Minor White, neurologist Oliver Sacks, and poet June Jordan.  Physicist John Wheeler was born July 9, 1911. His work is too vast to sum up here, but my favorite is his hypothesis of a one-electron universe.

July 9th is the feast day of Our Lady of Itatí, also known as the Virgin of Itatí. It’s also national sugar cookie day, a waste of an official day if ever I’ve heard one.

July 9th being filled with all of that bad air and pus, I think it is time that hypochondriacs have their day. It takes stamina to run from that black cloud day in and day out, and they deserve a shout out. More than the goddamned sugar cookie at least.

The Ghost Forest

General Discomfort



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 me of a New Yorker article published a few years ago, called The Really Big One by Kathryn Schulz. It is a fascinating piece about the Cascadia subduction zone, and the probability of earthquakes and tsunamis in the Pacific Northwest. I find tsunamis the most terrifying thing on earth, so I read the entire article with great interest a couple of times. There was an especially frightening part about the ghost forest, a group of dead but still standing trees standing in seawater along the Copalis River. These red cedars are estimated to be about 2,000 years old. In 1987, a couple of scientists analyzed samples of the trees’ growth rings and determined that the final rings were all in 1699, which lead to the confirmation that these remains are the result of a January 1700 earthquake and subsequent tsunami. The description of the area, along with that history, makes me think it sounds like the creepiest, loneliest place on earth, and of course, I want to go there.

Moving on. Activist Clara Zetkin was born July 5, 1857. Creator of Calvin & Hobbes Bill Watterson was born July 5, 1958. Artist Chuck Close born was July 5, 1940. I read an interview with him once where he was talking about how he used sensory deprivation to commit things to memory. It sounded like a rather extreme and uncomfortable way to meet an objective, but interesting.

Physicist and inventor Charles Cagniard de la Tour died July 5, 1859. Inventor Nicéphore Niépce died July 5, 1833. He developed the technique of heliography, and created the oldest known photograph. Satirical poet Sasha Chorny died July 5, 1932. Painter Cy Twombly died July 5, 2011. Are you looking for new ways to irritate your friends with your hipster sophistication, yet feeling uninspired by the latest wares at Urban Outfitters? May  I suggest a  Cy Twombly shower curtain?

Methods of recording and understanding moments in time stick out to me as the common thread of July 5th.  Early cameras, sensory deprivation, dendrochronology, copying a genome. What have you recorded about your life in unconventional and unexpected ways? Where is your ghost forest? I think it is time to visit and commit it all to memory.


Superstition and the Dog Days of Summer

General Discomfort
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 days known as the Dog Days of Summer. Ending on August 11th, these midsummer days are named for the time period where Sirius, also known as the Dog Star, follows the path of the sun.

Sirius is part of the Canis Major constellation, lower and to the left of Orion. In mythology, the name Sirius is used in a variety of stories, including as the dog of Icarus.

If you are a superstitious sort, you can expect bad luck, intense heat, abrupt thunderstorms, fevers, flooding, and a generally more ill-tempered population.

Wow, I think our luck is about to change. While researching canine symbology and derivatives of the name Sirius, I think I might have stumbled upon on something huge. Like New Testament or Star Trek: the Next Generation huge. Like they are blowing the lid off of all of everything and cracking it all wide open.


Good luck finding your way out of there.

Lucky number: 101

Affirmation: All dogs go to heaven

The Middle of Things

General Discomfort

Amelia Earhart in 1936, Harris & Ewing.

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 else find it eerie when planets and moons are named after things and places from the mythical land of the dead? I don’t believe in hell, but some part of that dark, silent, absolute zero space feels closer to my fear of what it might be if it actually did exist.

President Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act into law on July 2, 1964. Civil rights leader Medgar Evers was born July 2, 1925. He was shot and killed by a white supremacist on June 12, 1963.

On July 2, 1900,  the first Zeppelin flew over Lake Constance in Germany. One hundred and two years later, on July 2, 2002, Steve Fossett became the first person to fly a hot air balloon solo around the world. Astrologist and physician Nostradamus died on Saturday, July 2, 1566. Thomas Savery patented the first steam engine July 2, 1698. Writer Hermann Hesse was born July 2, 1877. Engineer Guglielmo Marconi received a patent for the radio July 2, 1897. Tennis player Jean-Rene Lacoste was born July 2, 1904. He created the polo shirt.

July 2nd is the 183rd day of the year. If 2018 were a play,  the inciting incident has happened and approaching the turning point. In Aristotle’s Poetics, the middle of your story is the place “that which follows something as some other thing follows it.” We are working towards the end, the place “that which itself naturally follows some other thing, either by necessity or as a rule, but has nothing following it.” Make sense? Yeah, me either. I mean, I understand the words, but they aren’t inspiring me either.

To describe the perfect story arch, and where we might be on that spectrum, I am going to use the 1988 horror movie The Blob:

  • A meteorite crashes, the Blob emerges and slimes its first victim.
  • Brian, Meg, and Paul find this victim and rush him to the hospital, but it is too late. The Blob dissolves him, and then Paul. Brian and Meg escape, while the Blob oozes out of the hospital to engulf a couple of teens drinking and making out in a car.
  • Movie heroes Brian and Meg plead for help from law enforcement, but no one believes them.
  • They meet at the local diner and find that the Blob has made it there first. It pulls a maintenance worker down a drain face-first and then chases Brian and Meg to a walk-in freezer. Surprisingly, it retreats and instead eats the diner owner and the sheriff before entering the sewer.

  • Meg and Brian run back to the police station, the dispatcher tells them the Deputy has left to inspect the meteor landing site. They find out the Blob is a Cold War-era military experiment that had been launched into space. The scientist who created the Blob orders the town quarantined.
  • Brian escapes. Meg saves her brother and his friend from the Blob at the movie theater. Mr. Scientist wants to trap it in there and blow it up, even if that means killing Meg and other Arborville residents.
  • Brian hears this and jumps on his motorcycle to save the day. The Blob eats the scientist and makes attacks more townsfolk. While putting out a fire that has engulfed a preacher who was warning about doomsday, Meg realizes the Blob retreated from the fire extinguisher. She remembers it also backed away from the walk-in freezer.
  • They retreat to the town hall, where it swamps the building and begins its final attack. They fight the Blob with liquid nitrogen, which flash-freezes and shatters.
  • In the end, we the Reverend again warning about a doomsday, and see that he has a tiny piece of Blob in a jar, leaving the world open to future destruction, and destined for a sequel.

So basically, if 2018 was the movie The Blob, admittedly, we’ve had a tough year. We’ve seen some shit, including the handyman getting sucked down the drain. The people in charge aren’t listening. No one is hungry anymore.

2018 has just come out of the walk-in freezer, and it’s time to come up with a plan. Your enemy is in the sewer. You have 183 days left, what are you going to do first? Beware of your fatal flaw.

The Sheep You Asked For Is Inside

General Discomfort


“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 wrote The Little Prince.     

Today is the third day in a row that I have started a post, put considerable time into researching, only to throw in the towel when I realize it is the end of the day and I still only have lists and scaps. Is everything feeling rushed and left half-done for you these days as well?

I was about to give up and hit close on this browser window, when I saw one the name of another person I had read about for today –  Claude-Frédéric Bastiat, an economist born June 29, 1801. He wrote an essay called Ce qu’on voit et ce qu’on ne voit pas (That Which We See and That Which We Do Not See) in 1850, which is known as the parable of the broken window. He argues that it does not make economic sense for societies to spend money to repair destruction. He works it out that spending money to repair, for example, a broken window, does not result in a gain to society, even if the glazier gets paid to replace a window. Basically, it is a libertarian appeal to consider opportunity costs.

Fine, fine – I don’t particularly agree with his assessment, but I see how he got there. Anyway, it got me thinking about sunk cost fallacies (the tendency to throw good money into a bad investment rather than walk away,  because it is enormously difficult for people to abandon what they have put time and/or money into ). It did give me the resolve hit to select+ delete a whole page of work and just make a post about the writer of one of my very favorite books.

Aren”t we all just a sunk cost fallacy, getting worse for the wear year after year, but we perserve. If only to stick it a thorn in the side of all of those smug little misanthropes who walk around muttering about population control, and Darwin Awards, and about how we are overdue for a pandemic. In The Little Prince, as the prince cries and misses his rose, far away on his home asteroid B- 612, the fox says “It is the time you have lost for your rose that makes your rose so important.” We are all each our own sulking little rose, and the one who mourns for it.

As for insight and advice about what this means for the days ahead, I wrote it all down for you and put it in the box with the little sheep. You’re welcome.


Seven Sleepers’ Day

General Discomfort

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 America.

Astronomer Dr. Heber Doust Curtis was born June 27, 1872.  His 1942 obituary from The New York Times says that during his career, he traveled all over the world to study and witness 11 solar eclipses. Coincidentally, NASA launched IRIS, a space probe designed to observe the Sun, on June 27, 2013.

Other June 27 birthdays: Composer Mildred Hill (1859); and actor Moroni Olsen (1889). Mildred Hill wrote a song called Good Morning to You, which became the melody to Happy Birthday. Moroni Olsen was the voice of the mirror, mirror on the wall in Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. 

British chemist and mineralogist James Smithson died on June 27, 1829. Despite never having visited this county, he remarkably donated his estate to the United States. Specifically to Washington D.C. to found “an establishment for the increase and diffusion of knowledge among men,” to be named the Smithsonian Institute.

Swinging to the other side of the spectrum, controversial figure Joseph Smith, the founder of Mormonism, and his brother Hyrum Smith were shot and killed by a mob in an Illinois jail June 27, 1844.  His biography is far more captivating than I can describe here. I don’t have room to fully get into the mind boggling origins of this religion, which I only learned about in the past few years, but very briefly, Smith published The Book of Mormon after allegedly finding ancient Egyptian, golden engraved plates buried in New York. These were revealed to Smith by the prophet/angel Moroni. Somehow the book was transcribed by Smith using a complicated process using magic glasses, two transparent seeing stones, and a black hat Smith could stare into to see the words written in his mind’s eye.

At the time of his death, Smith was the mayor of Nauvoo, Illinois. Intending to set up a theocracy with himself as king, he ordered the town’s printing press destroyed. A riot ensued, and Smith declared martial law, and fled to a nearby town with his brother, where they surrendered to authorities on charges of instigating the riot. Amazingly enough, at the time of his death, he was also running for President of the United States. I wonder if they had had internet back then, would it have been more or less crazy than the current administration?

Just after midnight tonight is a Full Strawberry Moon. This full moon will be the lowest in the sky of all of the 2018 full moons.  The low position and warm humidity tend to make June’s full moon appear honey colored. Saturn will also shine its brightest tonight.  Lit up in exact opposition to the sun, it will be closer to the earth than any other time this year. It will rise in the sky with the moon, and, depending on the clarity of your skyline, you might even be able to see its rings.

Oh my god, I just realized the Mormon prophet and the Snow White voice actor have the same name. Do you think Moroni Olsen was a born-again Mormon prophet? Given tonight’s quite unusual and mystical planet alignment, here is what I want you to do:

Wearing the tallest hat you can find, put on your glasses, hold something made of clear glass to use as your seeing stone, and spin around in front of a mirror while singing Happy Birthday. Tear sheets out of your favorite book, and use the pieces as a symbolic offering, showing that you would be willing to destroy a printing press in the name of God.  Actually, you should probably smash your smartphone and laptop too.

If you complete all of these steps with a pure heart, Moroni Olsen will appear to you. Tell him that you destroyed all of your technology and will therefore no longer be able to post selfies to Instagram. He will tell you the answers to these mysteries thrice:

1. If your glasses flatter your face shape

2. Whether or not you can pull off a hat

And finally:

3.  Using a ten-point scale, he will reveal to you if you are hot or not.

Also, can you ask him to confirm the weather for July and August? Thanks.

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

General Discomfort

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 in a duck, which is in a hare inside of an iron chest that is buried under an oak tree on an island.

June 25th is the birthday of illustrator and creator of  Kewpies, Rose Cecil O’Neill, who was born in 1874. Writer Frigyes Karinthy was born June 25, 1887. He was the first person to introduce the concept of six degrees of separation, in the story Láncszemek (translation Chains). Writer George Orwell was born June 25, 1903.  His given name was Eric Arthur Blair. Philosopher Willard VanOrman Quine was born June 25, 1908.

Belgian author and illustrator Pierre Culliford was born June 25, 1928.  He is better known by his pen name Peyo, and he created The Smurfs. They started as a Belgian comic strip in 1958, and were called Les Schtroumpfs.

These pages are from the 1958 story Les Schtroumpfs Noir. In a nutshell, the plot involves a smurf getting bit by a poisonous black fly, who then has to run around biting and infecting other smurfs. So, basically a precursor to Night of the Living Dead.

Governor of Massachusetts John Winthrop of Massachusetts introduced the fork to colonial America. This factoid was listed on The Old Farmer’s Almanac and it seemed so improbable that this first has a documented anniversary, I had to investigate further. I did find it referenced in several places, including the book Colonial American History Stories – 1214-1664: Forgotten and Famous Historical Events by Paul Wyoming.

Jacques Cousteau died June 25, 1997. Farrah Fawcett and Michael Jackson died June 25, 2009. French philosopher Michel Foucault died June 25, 1984.

So, I am assuming you want me to summarize June 25th using six degrees of separation? Okay, starting backwards, an important focus of Foucault’s philosophical theory is primarily concerned with power and punishment. He died in 1984, which is the title of George Orwell’s novel, about a totalitarian society named Oceania. Jacques Cousteau explored the oceans. There are such a thing as zombie fish  (we are going to assume this takes care of both Michael Jackson, and the Smurfs, which started as a comic). Speaking of comics Kewpie dolls started as a comic strip, and Farrah Fawcett starred in the following comic book:

Here we are going to make the very likely cognitive leap that somewhere there is a photo of Farrah Fawcett riding in, or sitting on, a Pontiac Firebird, a car that was first assembled in 1967, in Ohio. Do you know who else is from Ohio? Willard VanOrman Quine, who was born in Akron, Ohio, who, coincidentally, I am related to.  Willard’s mother Harriet was the daughter of James, who was the son of Oliver, who was the son of James, who was the brother of John, my 4th great grandfather.

So, stick a fork in it, I’m done.

The End of the Dark

General Discomfort

James Short – Philosophical Transactions 46 (1749–50), 241–246, reproduced in Kragh, H. The Moon that Wasn’t: The Saga of Venus’ Spurious Satellite. Birkhäuser, 2008. 

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 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago on June 21, 1893.

On June 21, 2006, the two newly discovered moons of Pluto were officially named. One is named for Hydra, the nine-headed lake monster who guarded the entrance to the Underworld. The other is named after the Greek goddess Nyx,  goddess of night.  She was born out of Chaos, and sister to Erebus, god of darkness. With her bother, she gave birth to Hemera, goddess of the day, and Aether, god of light. On her own, Nyx gave birth to many children, including daughters Keres, death spirits; twin boys Thanatos, god of Peaceful Death and  Hypnos, god of sleep.

Reading about Nyx and her brood, and the personification of all of the blackest and most complex problems of being human felt apropos today. It was a rather sad day at my house.  For many months I have been leaving little treats for my girls under the guise that they had special fairies who they grew to love as much as their own family members.  This morning, my tracks weren’t covered as well as they should have been, one question lead to another, and facts unraveled, smothering all of the magic. I think I broke their little hearts.

More than that, I have been realizing the more time I spend online, the more powerless and overwhelmed I feel by all of the evil in the world, but especially in this country right now in the name of, I don’t even know, nationalism? It’s pretty horrifying. And when I get horrified, I shut down. I am trying to fight it.

For tonight, on the longest day of the year, in all of this light and dark, look up?


Night sky map, The Old Farmer’s Almanac


Elementary Lessons in Electricity and Magnetism

General Discomfort

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.


Juneteenth Emancipation Day Celebration, June 19, 1900, Texas.   Mrs. Charles Stephenson (Grace Murray) – The Portal to Texas History Austin History Center, Austin Public Library.

German chemist and pharmacist Friedrich Sertürner was born June 19, 1783. He was the first person to isolate morphine. Speaking of a problem solved forever: morphine was sold commercially for a number of years, both as a pain reliever and as a treatment for opium addiction and alcoholism.  Whoops.

Olympic swimmer and former world-record holder Helene Madison was born June 19, 1913. Moses Horwitz was born June 19, 1897.  He is probably better known as Moe from The Three Stooges, a show that having to watch, in my opinion, is akin to torture. Speaking of insufferable entertainment, the comic strip Garfield debuted June 19, 1978. He hates Mondays, loves lasagna, and is in the Guinness Book of World Records for the expanse of his of his unavoidable celebrity.

Artists John Heartfield was born June 19, 1891.  Also born on June 19th: artist Mary Callery and baseball player Lou Gehrig, both in 1903; and socialite Wallis Simpson, in 1896.  King Edward VIII abdicated the throne in 1936 to marry her.

Berlin, KPD-Plakat zu den Reichstagswahlen

John Heartfield’s The Hand has 5 Fingers.

Professor of physics Silvanus Phillips Thompson was born June 19, 1851. Among his published works are the textbooks Calculus Made Easy, which explains the fundamentals of infinitesimal calculus (still in print), as well as a physics text titled Elementary Lessons in Electricity and Magnetism. Also, folk singer Nick Drake was born in 1948.

Do you ever have way too many things you want to tell people about, but not enough time to organize them and coherently present? That’s how I feel about today.  I will have to let many factoids go, for now, seeds to plant on another day.

Today is the Catholic Feast Day of Saint Juliana Falconieri, O.S.M. She died June 19, 1341, and is the patron saint of the helpless, chronically ill and abandoned.

This post will now be abandoned, without formal closing or insightful observation, but ultimately protected by a saint so we will all be just fine.

If you must have further insight into today, or your life, or the ultimate path of mankind, you could probably consult the personal website of Laura Ingraham. She turns 55 today, and seems terribly thoughtful and well-rounded. Or at least, I bet she has a lot of empathetic responses to the opioid crisis. Or did Jared Kushner solve that one already?



Parasites Affecting Your Bowels and Your Week

General Discomfort

James Montgomery Flagg – Life Magazine, March 23, 1905

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 born June 18, 1905.  Economist and financial journalist Sylvia Porter was born on June 18, 1913.


Laveran’s drawing in his 1880 notebook showing different stages of Plasmodium falciparum from fresh blood.

Actress Nedra Voltz was born June 18, 1921. You should probably check out her acting credits on IMDb. She was in pretty much every American sitcom of the last generation for at least an episode or two. Right off the bat, there’s Duke’s of Hazzard, Webster, Alf, Mr.T, and Step by Step.  (I have a dear friend who was an exchange student in Italy during high school, and she told me that the Italian translation of the title of Suzane Somers’ sitcom Step by Step was A Blonde for Dad). Anyway, Nedra Volz had an amazing career. Also she was in Earth Girls Are Easy, a 1988 movie starring Geena Davis and Julie Brown that I think about with surprising frequency.


Paul McCartney was born June 18, 1942, the same day as film critic Roger Ebert. Also, Isabella Rossellini was born ten years later, on June 18, 1952. Oz Fox, lead guitarist of the Christian glam metal band Stryper (how did I just learn they were a Christian glam metal band?) was born June 18, 1961. His wife for real runs a ministry in called Hookers for Jesus, which is sincerely awesome.


Head of the pork tapeworm, Taenia solium., with attachment structures to attach to the wall of the small intestine

I’ve been away for a few days and my sights into your week are cloudy. To give an accurate reading, you will need to have blood and stool samples checked for parasites. Please leave a callback number and someone from the lab will get back to you within 48 hours.

The Gorilla is for Sand Racing

General Discomfort

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 1954, President Eisenhower signed the bill into law the added “under God” to the Pledge of Allegiance.


Apparently, Pringles were originally intended for the army as a snack food made of potato flakes to replace actual potatoes that had to be peeled and sliced.  So I guess you can buy some and feel especially patriotic about it today? Only if you are in Pennsylvania though. Or you are an anchor on Fox News. I have a feeling no one else will care.  At least Freedom Fries aren’t still a thing. Are Freedom Fries still a thing?

June 14th is the birthday of organic chemist and inventor Fred Baur, born on June 14, 1918. He applied for a patent for the Pringles can in 1966.  Some sites say he invented the recipe too, but it seems like this honor goes to Alexander Liepa. Anyway, when Fred Baur died in, his family honored his request and at least partially buried him in a Pringles can which is objectively pretty awesome.

In 1989, Queen Elizabeth II granted honorary knighthood to Ronald Reagan.  Did you buy those paper dolls I told you about? Because now would be an excellent evening to reenact and maybe even draw some new outfits for him.

Speaking of presidents, ol’ 45 turns 72 today. I am sure he is doing something expensive and uninspiring. Maybe you should send him a can of Pringles?

You have 10 minutes and then pencils down.


How did you do? I bet you got more than the President. Unless you just filled it in with the names of strippers you know of in all 50 states. Then he might have more than you.





Robots, Empathy, and Entrails

General Discomfort

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 and disease susceptibility of the individual findings, good and bad. I was absolutely ready to take my results with a grain of salt, as I am not specialized enough by even the kindest of estimates to interpret much of the individual findings, and their relationship to each other. I know individually each gene is just an indicator on a path of a million other variables.  Still, one result gave me pause.


What the hell does that mean?

I have been told by people who don’t know me well that I can seem aloof, but I don’t see myself that way. I don’t want to crush my opponents in the dirt, and generally, seek harmony in my relationships. I would go so far as to say I even care about the well being of others. In fact, one of my worst qualities is a tendency to gush when I am nervous, and sometimes I have to fight an instinct to give someone a hug or otherwise attempt to put them at ease.  When I do regrettably give into those awkward instincts, I sometimes have an out-of-body experience, rolling my eyes back at myself. “Quit it,” I tell myself, “you look like an idiot.” But what if I have it wrong, and what I think I am fighting is not actually empathy at all, just a mishmash of fear, embarrassment, and overall social inhibition without any real underlying altruism?

It is with this basis that I began researching the historic markers of June 6th., and came across this especially unsettling tale. Today in 1822, a man named Alexis St. Martin was accidentally shot in the abdomen, and tended to by an army surgeon named Dr. William Beaumont, and was not at all expected to survive the injury.  Surprisingly, he did, and so began a decade of scrutiny and experimentation on this very lucky or very unlucky patient. Dr. Beaumont noticed early on that when St. Martin ate, sometimes food would ooze out of his open surgical wound. Immediately recognizing an opportunity, the opening was accidentally-on-purpose kept open to heal into a permanent fistula or small opening directly from his skin into his stomach.  It appears the good doctor then signed the bankrupt and illiterate 19-year-old into what sounds like indentured servitude and took advantage of the close proximity to attempt more hands-on research on him.

To understand more about the process of digestion, the physician would tie little pieces of food to string and insert them into St. Martin’s stomach. He would periodically pull them out to witness digestion in action, as well as extract gastric juice into cups to watch food breakdown. All while having the bonus as of St. Martin doubling as a handyman, to chop firewood and what not. Sounds almost like Prometheus or some other punishment out of a Greek tragedy.

Dr. Beaumont published of his research in the 1833 volume entitled  Experiments and Observations on the Gastric Juice, and the Physiology of Digestion. Recognized as the founder of physiologic research on digestion, at least nine institutions are named in his honor.  For St. Martin’s contribution, when he died in 1880, his family delayed his burial, allowing his body to decompose longer than usual, in hot weather, for fear that the physicians whose autopsy requests had been refused, would dig him up.  They also made the grave eight feet deep just in case curiosity got the better of any member of the very interested medical community. Doesn’t sound like the actions of an exploited family to me.

MM7 answers the phone for his master. IMAGE: KEYSTONE FEATURES/GETTY IMAGES

So, I am wondering if I could do what Dr. Beaumont did.  Would I be able to pursue an answer to a question at the expense of another’s pain, or at least extreme discomfort? I want to say 100% no, but I am going to have to sleep on it to make sure. I am surely not that curious about gastroenterology, but is there a question I want to be answered badly enough? Maybe, if what I have considered empathy in myself is completely wrong, and I am only motivated to manipulate emotions I am uncomfortable with? Surely if robots are being programmed to fake empathy, so could also make a good approximation without actually having any.

While I examine this new question of inherent identity (with or without bits of food on a string) I am going to outsource further insight or advice on your day.

🤖chat with a robot

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

General Discomfort

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 honor of the visiting Swedish King and flew in the air for approximately two and a half miles at nearly 5,000 feet.

In 1876, via the First Transcontinental Railroad, the Transcontinental Express train arrived in San Francisco, California, 83 hours and 39 minutes after departing New York City. June 4th is also the anniversary of a breakthrough in automobile travel. Henry Ford successfully test drove his first gasoline-powered automobile, the Ford Quadricycle, today in 1896.


Now I feel compelled to see if I can find any historic events for ships or airplane. Oh yeah.  Some really shitty ones. You can take your pick.  Oh, and this happened today in 1989. I should know better by now than to get all optimistic about history.

Chemist and short story writer for Weird Tales was born in 1873.  Today is also the birthday of writer and illustrator Wendy Pini.  And Dr. Ruth Westheimer was born in 1928.  Better known to you as Dr. Ruth. (I bet you didn’t know her last name either. Or that she is indeed still living, that little spitfire).

Okay, so wrapping up your Monday with a few inspiring travel tales, and a lot of reminders about why mankind is the worst, the question you should be asking yourself: What color is your parachute? 

Not because you need career advice but because clearly, you had better find one before we crash land.  Would you like to make some Mormon Funeral Potatoes: The Carb-Heavy Meal For The End of The World?

Wow, this post got dark really quickly.  How about a link to the most useless quiz ever created: Are You Prepared for a Global Apocalypse? Find out with this quiz.  Then go eat the potatoes.

Self Help

General Discomfort

Actual Work Space of a Non Genius

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 the day.  I also have poems, and paintings, and cartoons, and a couple half-finished novels I want to work on. I am interested in too many things to pick a lane, so I have been swerving around the highway like an entitled, gin-soaked, chief executive my whole life.  Which is to say, with little regard to my health, future, or anyone else. In general, I am average.  I am talented, but not crazy so. I am pretty, but probably not more than, I don’t know, name ten attractive people you know.  Which is to say, I have chin hairs and cellulite-since-I-was-11 just like everyone else.

All of this is to say, I am incredibly lucky.  I have a family, and a house, and willing to keep a certain amount of revolving credit card debt to pursue my interests. But I have been trying to stick to doing something creative everyday (writing, drawing,painting), and have stuck with it most of this year. But as someone who also has two jobs, and likes to go outside every so often, it has to be little by little, which can be frustratingly slow and non-impressive.

A couple of years ago, one of my friends shared with me some financial advice her very wealthy grandfather (who may or may not have murdered his business partner) shared with her: pay yourself first.  He told her this to get her investing – when she gets paid, she puts some money into an investment account first. This stuck with me too, and I have tried to apply it to both my time and my money.  I buy small amounts of stock when I get paid because it is good advice.  I am a non-saver. I will just transfer it back to checking when things run short in a couple of weeks.  And it makes me feel terribly sophisticated to say I am a stockholder (who has recently had a $17 return on each of the shares of Okta I have been hoarding like tiny walnuts).

So that’s my version of a Tony Robbins moment.  I try to apply this crazy, greedy. old man’s advice to both my money and my time. As someone who values sleep, and has two little girls that still want to spend time with me over anything else, it’s really goddamn hard. But I keep getting up every day and write myself a check, in hopes that something will stick and someday I can write for a living.  And/or make enough money to install a swimming pool.

So, it’s June 2nd. Today in 1910, Charles Stewart Rolls, co-founder of Rolls-Royce, became the first person to cross the English Channel and back by plane.  He sounds like a prime example of an entitled, lane-swerver whose confident persistence you could emulate. Or if you are looking for a more eccentric role model, maybe P.T. Barnum, whose circus started their first tour today in 1835.

Today is also the Feast Day of Saint Elmo, of Saint Elmo’s Fire fame. He is the patron saint of mariners, the Italian cities of Gaeta and Formia, women in labor, and is invoked against infant colic, intestinal disease, and cattle pests.  That is a multi-tasker if ever I have heard one.

For today: Pay yourself first

Self-promotion of my cartooning:  Christopher’s Motorbike Website or Christopher’s Motorbike Twitter and Christopher’s Motorbike Instagram

Chance of rain: 50/50

Radar Men From the Moon

General Discomfort

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 set off a global media spectacle.

Speaking of the Soviets, writer Ian Fleming was born in 1908.  He created James Bond. I love that he chose the character name because it was the most boring name he could think of.

Marco Rubio is 47 today if you want to send him a happy birthday, or a send him a present. My youngest sister won the worst birthday gift story in our family.  Her father was known as something of a junk hunter, and for her 13th birthday, he gave her a six foot tall, 50-pound mirror he found in the dumpster behind J.C. Penney’s. She is a ways off from her next milestone birthday, but it just occurs to me we should probably start planning now to top that.

Eck, it’s also Rudi Giuliani’s birthday, if you believe he was indeed born and not the undead.

So for today, find someone you wish the universe would take back, and give them a shitty gift they can’t return.  xoxo

(Also, I just realized one could surmise I am bundling my sister in with those who I wish the universe would absorb into black silence. This is very much not the case. Only the politicians).

Captain Video and His Video Rangers

General Discomfort


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 did.  Because I had no idea about her work, and it is awesome.  She has made graphic novels of The Babysitters Club, my most favorite childhood book series.  Aside from the blog What Claudia Wore, this is my favorite post-Ann M. Martin (that’s a recognized artistic period right?) Babysitters Club project.

Okay for the more scientifically inclined, it is also the 1907 birth date of Jean Bernard, the first to document a trial of radiotherapy on a patient with lymphoma. That’s not really him, but how funny would that be if it was? I have to bookmark that image search. For reals, if anyone is interested in the topic, and you should be because well many, many of us are going to get it, may I recommend The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer by Siddhartha Mukherjee?

Today’s Fortune: It’s probably cancer.


Captain Video and His Video Rangers (1949-1955)

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

General Discomfort

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 in 1852. Both poets Ralph Waldo Emerson and Theodore Roethke were born on this date, in 1803, and 1908 respectively. And one of my most favorite writers Raymond Carver.  Computer scientist and psychologist Catherine Wolfe was born today in 1947.  Her story is pretty amazing.  It reminded me of the Diving Bell and the Butterfly.


William Muldoon: early days, as the “Fighting Gaul” in 1887, as he appeared in the drama known first as the “Gladiator” Theater, NYC (Aug 1932 RING, p. 19)

Let’s see, Babe Ruth hit the last home run of his career today in 1935, at Forbes Field in Pittsburgh.  Oh, you don’t care about Babe Ruth? Yeah, neither do I.

John Scopes was indicted today in 1925 for teaching Darwin’s theory of evolution in a classroom in Tennessee, where he was working as a substitute teacher. I would like to think we have come a long way nearly a hundred years later, but sadly, not as far as one might have hoped.

The last Oprah Winfrey Show aired today in 2011.  Aside from admiring her as an incredibly successful woman, I have never been too interested in the Oprah phenomenon.  If anything, having an Oprah Book Club stamp on the cover of a book sometimes deterred me from reading it.  Or at the very least, hiding the cover if I was reading on the metro or something.  Isn’t that stupid, this fear of admitting that I am any part a marketer’s demographic, when I am, for the most part, exactly that?  I am absolutely one of those people whose likes and dislikes could be picked by an algorithm to a horrifying degree.  Or is it that most of us are, and that is what is scary?

I’m thinking there’s something so much more vulnerable about saying you like something than saying you don’t. It’s like we are all still on a playground, holding out something we think is special, only for it to inevitably be smashed to the ground by some jerk. In fact, it’s actually really difficult for me to say my likes and dislikes in person, because if you say you like something, I will most likely agree, because I don’t want to be the playground jerk. I mean if I start the conversation, I would be fine, but I almost never start the conversation, so there you go.

In the spirit of full transparency, here are things I like that I would be most embarrassed to tell you in person, with a few things that I do not.  Okay, right off the bat, I read both Bridget Jones books probably every other year. I have read Jacqueline Susann’s Valley of the Dolls at least 20 times. I like, and hate myself for liking, the Dave Matthews song “Crash into Me” Oh my god, you have no idea how hard that one is to cough up.  In high school, I really liked Jewel.  And I saw her in concert.

Also, I was a jerk in high school. I was the punching playground jerk. The problem is I am really good at making fun of people. Which I did, a lot. I justified it by assuming I only made fun of people who seemed higher up the social order than me, but for real I didn’t really think about most people not being cartoons until my twenties.

I love, but am also ashamed of loving, feeling superior (it’s a rare thing anyway, so not too much of an issue).  I am almost always on a diet, but I would rather die than be seen eating diet foods, and I don’t like people who equate food with being bad and want to tell me about it. I don’t care that they think it. I just want them to keep it to themselves.  Like anyone who has ever told me eating potato chips is bad for me or seen me drink a soda and told me I am ruining my teeth.  My eyes seriously can’t roll back far enough. Also, my teeth are fine.

Also, I am super lazy. That one might not surprise people who know me, or maybe, I don’t know. I would always choose to nap as a pastime if there were not people in my life who force me to chose otherwise.  Feeling angry at the several primary care doctors who have told me I can cure my depression with exercise can keep me awake at night.

My favorite movie is Desperately Seeking Susan Susan. I have watched it easily 50 times. Also Reality Bites, which is a terrible movie, but I don’t even hate-watch it, I just like watching it (yet I loathe Ethan Hawks). I hate pretension, yet am also pretentious.  I have ordered clothes from Delhias. As an adult. I will absolutely read any celebrity magazine put in front of me. And I have followed Jennifer Aniston’s career with semi-interest because she really does have nice hair.

My freshman year in college, my roommate and I coordinated our class schedules to make sure we were home for Wednesday night 90210. Not in an ironic way, we just liked it. Okay, that’s enough confessions for today. Reading over the things that I am most embarrassed about makes me realize what I am hiding is just that I am drawn to, terrified of, sometimes feel shut out of mainstream culture.  It’s all ego. My biggest fear is rejection, and I will happily make myself or anyone else the butt of a joke to make someone laugh and accept me.

You can unfollow me now if you want, I won’t judge you. Or I will, but I will keep it to myself, while angry eating potato chips.  Rippled. Preferably very salty, with vinegar.

A Taxonomy of Bookworms and Other Musings

General Discomfort


Traitement_baquet.jpgBaquet. 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 the word mesmerism? That’s his scientific contribution. He called it animal magnetism, kind of the 18th-century version of the force, which carried on into the 19th century when surgeon James Braid coined the term hypnosis.

Writer Margaret Fuller was born today. So was Swedish botanist and physician Carl Linnaeus.  He devised a binomial naming system of all living things and is thus known as the father of modern taxonomy. Cyrill Demian received the patent for the accordion today in 1829, in Vienna.  Bonnie & Clyde were shot and killed by police today in 1934.  In 1533, the marriage of King Henry VIII to his first wife, Catherine of Aragon, is officially absolved.  His second wife Anne Boleyn would be beheaded almost three years to the day.  Rosemary Clooney was born today in 1928.

For today:

Bristletail vs silverfish


Silverfish or firebrat: silverfish

Ice cream flavor: pistachio

Horoscope: Cosmopolitan I mean, it says it has everything you need to know about your week.  I know it’s almost over, but better late than never? I am assuming you will need a case or two of this. And a bottle of this. And this? And a lot of this.

Are you depressed? quiz

Maybe you need some friends: wikihow Make Friends

Making friends coupon codes

Fads and Fallacies in the Name of Science

General Discomfort

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 and a clipboard.

It’s also vanilla pudding day. I guess you could try combining the two themes.

Recipe for Under-a-spell red devil cake Maybe you can substitute vanilla for white chocolate pudding?

Woah, hold up. It is also Morrissey’s birthday, who was born in 1959. Man, the to/do’s are piling up and it’s after 3pm.

I myself don’t care for The Smiths, so I have outsourced finding the saddest songs for you.

Born today in 1831, anatomist and surgeon Henry Vandyke Carter. He illustrated Gray’s Anatomy. Also born today painter Mary Cassatt; painter Belmiro de Almeida; musician Sun Ra; Harvey Milk; and Arthur Conan Doyle. I saw this earlier and was going to write a mystery for you, but things got big fast once I visited the National Days page.

Novelist Victor Hugo died in 1885. American mathematician, magician cryptographer, and author Martin Gardner died in 2010. I can’t sum up this guy neatly in a few sentences. He is worth reading about. Also he wrote Fads and Fallacies in the Name of Science, which I will definitely read and report back on.

Today’s lucky number: 5

Color: Pantone 292

Coffee or tea: Coffee. Black. And cigarettes.

Ella Fitzgerald – Black Coffee

The Crystal Ball by John William Waterhouse (1902)

I looked inside my scrying mirror and I am seeing the letter E. What significance might the letter e have on your day?

a. ETOH and large and poorly considered eBay purchase?

b. an unexpected trip with help from your EZ pass and Hyundai Elantra?

c. An egg-based dinner tainted with E. coli?

Not sure. Stick to coffee and cigs just in case.

P.S. I love Wikipedia’s “modern-day scrying” example. It really brightened my day.

Calcul d’effet des Machines

Existential Dread

Remember when the world was going to end on May 21, 2011, and we could all max out our credit cards on jeans, and tell everyone you hate that you hate them to their face? Oh, and um, repent for your misdoings? Let’s all do more of that today, and not worry about tomorrow.

Today is the birthday of Alexander Pope, Henri Rousseau, Fats Waller, Robert Creeley, and the Notorious B.I.G. Also modernist architect Marcel Breuer. You know all those concrete buildings that look like Eggo waffles? You can thank him for those. Computer scientist Sandy Douglas was born today in 1921. He programmed the one of the digital graphical video game OXO. Even better, he programmed it on this monstrosity:

The Electronic Delay Storage Automatic Calculator in 1948

Today is also the birthdate of French engineer Gaspard-Gustave-Gustave de Coriolis. He was the first to describe the transfer of energy by force “work.” 7th-grade physics coming back to you? He published an 1829 textbook called Calcul d’effet des Machines. His work is also noted for his descriptions of what has come to be known as the Coriolis effect. You know how the earth keeps spinning and spinning and you stay on it speeding towards death no matter how much you wish it not true? It’s kind of about that.

Clara Barton established the American Red Cross today in 1881. Who remembers what I taught you about saving lives on Saturday.


Coke or Pepsi: Coke

Tabloid of choice: O.K.

Homework: sentence diagrams

Today’s fortune:

Sentence diagram source and author

Today you might get hit with a ______________.

a. raindrop b. finance charge c. brick

Most likely c (today is about work)

Today you will also attempt to start reading a great work of literature, but give up because it is too confusing and difficult.


Remote Control

Existential Dread

Today is Josephine Baker Day

Full disclosure, I just returned from a five-year-old’s birthday party at a Pump it Up with a nonfunctioning air conditioner, so I am not at the top of my game. The birthday girl got so overheated, she barfed and things only went up from there. Perhaps she worked through yesterday’s to do list?

MTV Remote Control, season 3, Danny Bonaduce vs. Butch Patrick vs. Brandon Cruz. My money is on Danny.

Eugene Polley, American engineer, inventor of the remote control died today in 2012. Do you guys remember the MTV game show Remote Control? A quick internet search tells me that you do. Check out the sweet prizes people won!

A pencil portrait of Gardner Fox by Gil Kane

Honoré de Balzac, Cher, and Busta Rhymes share a birthday today. Also actor James Stewart, comic book writer Gardner Fox, comedian Gilda Radner, and inventor Emile Berliner. He invented the gramophone record.

The first modern atlas Theatrum Orbis Terrarum was issued today in 1570. The first public display of Thomas Edison‘s prototype kinetoscope was displayed for the public today in 1891.

Shakespeare’s sonnets were first published in 1609.

Illustration from Pygmalion by George Bernard Shaw

May 20th is Eliza Doolittle Day To celebrate you can work on your elocution. Or watch Pygmalion. Or both.

Lucky number: 64

Soup or salad: bread bowl

Winner of the above Remote Control episode: Danny

List of English lucky charms and talismans

TV trivia: misfortune falls on which Brady family member first when they find the ancient tiki?

Homework: write a sonnet using Cockney rhyming slang and I will mail you a prize.

Brady trivia answer: Greg

Heartbreak at Muscle Beach

General Discomfort

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 confirmed by several sources that May 19th is National Devil’s Food Cake Day, so batter up! We can’t all be Lou Ferrigno.

We are on the fourth day of a waxing moon. Anne Boleyn, the second wife of Henry VIII of England, was beheaded in 1536. If I remember my American Red Cross training correctly, when you arrive at the scene of an accident, the following are signs not bother with CPR or stop if you have started: rigor mortis, lividity, impalement, decomposition, incineration, and decapitation.

There have, however, been 38 medically documented incidents of Lazarus Syndrome since 1982, where people declared dead have just randomly started breathing again, sometimes in the morgue.

Today’s lucky number: 78

Today’s pet horoscope: go here

Seconds of consciousness after decapitation: debatable

Alcoholics Anonymous affirmation: just for today (I know it’s the same as yesterday’s but perhaps you are not understanding the meaning of this affirmation).

Today’s literary conflict: man vs. self


Anybody want a peanut?

Today is the birthday of Johns Hopkins, Ruth Ella Moore, Malcolm X, Andre the Giant, and Pete Townshend. Ogden Nash died in 1971.

Also, World Whiskey Day is celebrated on the third Saturday of May, so between the cake and the drinking, you’ve got a lot of work to do. EMTs will not try to rescue you tomorrow when they find you with rigor mortis.

Man vs Mercury

Weird Science

The astronomer Clyde Tombaugh, discoverer of Pluto here shown with his homemade 9-inch telescope.

In 2005, we learned that Pluto has two more moons, named Nix and Hydra, when the Hubble Space Telescope confirmed this with a second photo, making a total of five moons. Pluto is, of course, god of the underworld. Nyx is the goddess of night, and the mother of the ferryman of Hades, Charon (incidentally another moon of Pluto). Hydra is the nine-headed water serpent from Greek mythology that lived in the Lake of Lerna, entrance to the underworld. Hercules killed it because we can’t have anything nice.

Chemist and mineralogist John Children was born in 1777. He invented a way to extract silver from ore without using mercury. If you would like to estimate your risk of mercury poisoning, go here. Writer, historian, and humanitarian Bertrand Russell was born in 1872.

Filmmaker Frank Capra was born in 1897. Pathologist Michael A. Epstein was born in 1921. He co-discovered the Epstein virus, also known as HH-4 or herpes 4 virus, which can cause mono. Most people are exposed to it and become immune, but in certain individuals, it can wreak all kinds of havoc.

Celebrated cartoonist Don Martin was born in 1931. In 1946, baseball player Reggie Jackson was born. We had an Irish setter named after him. Tina Fey was born in 1970.

Elijah Craig, American minister, inventor, and educator, who invented Bourbon whiskey died in 1808 (does anyone else find that whole combo weird?).

Wrapping up

Today your time is slipping through a siphon or a sieve: a sieve

Lucky number: 58

Odds of dying in a bathtub: 685, 000 to 1

Odds of dying climbing Mt Everest: 1 to 6

Alcoholics Anonymous affirmation: just for today

Percent you could be saving on car insurance: 15

Collaborative fortune based on above: I don’t know, whatever you think

For the weekend: ham on rye?

Trading Under the Buttonwood Tree

Existential Dread, Pseudoscience


A depiction of traders under the buttonwood tree, 1945

The New York Stock Exchange was established today in 1792 under the signing of the Buttonwood Agreement. Whenever I picture the stock exchange as an actual object, I picture that giant wheel on The Price is Right. I mean that’s pretty much how all that Wall Street stuff works right? This probably explains my financial acumen. Alexander Hamilton would be so proud.

Speaking of wheels of fortune, the Antikythera mechanism was discovered today in 1902 by archaeologist Valerios Stais. Described as an ancient analog computer believed to have been assembled between 100 to 200 B.C. with the purpose of predicting astrology and eclipses. Its complex mechanics point to a knowledge of technology that was not seen again until the 14th century.

This reminded me of the wonderful podcast S -Town. Did you listen to this last summer too? It’s a seven-episode podcast, mainly interviewing a very eccentric horologist in Woodstock, Alabama. It starts out having you think it’s about certain things but veers into very unexpected places. The clockmaker is very interested in collecting sundial mottos, small quotes that are placed by the maker to express some sentiment, but as he explains, they are usually kind of dark. Sort of a yin and yang thing, reminding us of our mortality in the glare of the bright sun. There are several beautiful ones that he reads, but his favorite is “tedious and brief.” I will leave it at that in case you haven’t heard it and want to check it out.

I heard it in August, shortly before the solar eclipse, and a milestone birthday, and right before our house was sold unexpectedly, enabling us to move to a completely different part of the country. It was kind of a surreal time, and this story got very wound up in those memories.

Born today

Cover page of Investigations into Magic via

Belgian theologian Martín Delrio was born today in 1551. He wrote and published a six-volume set titled Investigations into Magic, mainly concerning witchcraft, superstition, and, you know, Magic. It looks like it has been translated into English so … summer beach read?

Also born today mathematician Charlotte Barnum in 1860; inventor Frederick McKinley Jones, who you can thank for a number of innovations especially in long-haul refrigeration, was born in 1893; and physicist Julius Sumner Miller in 1909. He was teaching kids science on tv long before Bill Nye the Science guy (though I am grateful for his contributions too).


Blacksmith and manufacturer John Deere died in 1886. Prince Boris Borisovich Golitsyn died in 1916. He invented the first seismograph, a very impressive instrument that will no doubt be regarded with the awe of the Antikythera mechanism inspired back in 1902 “A civilization smart enough to create this, and yet they were so, so dumb.”

In summary

My mother’s side of the family is all Italian Roman Catholic, so I have a soft spot for superstitions. Mainly I glom onto the bad luck omens. Unfortunately, the number 17 is bad luck in Italian lore. Something about it looking like a man hanging in the gallows, and in Roman numerals, the anagram spells something about tempting death. Those fun-loving Italians. Thirteen is actually a lucky number, though obviously never sit down to a table of twelve thereby making it thirteen, because well that should be a given.

Other favorite superstitions of mine include an unhung hat; crossed cutlery on a dinner plate; boiled over milk, shoes left facing in opposite directions; and broken picture frames. Don’t ever hold a mirror up to a mirror unless you want to invite the evil eye. No birds in a home, ever. Though curiously if one poops on you outside, that is good luck. Let’s be reasonable here and assume that one was made up on the spot by some sad sack with bird shit on his shoulder. Well played, bird shit man, well played. Because our great, great, great grandmothers heard you, and your feeble lie traveled an ocean and continues to this day.

Like I said, I collect them, so if you have any good ones, let me know in the comments. And yes, I absolutely throw spilled salt over my left shoulder. Not to chase the devil away, but just in case he needs any seasoning for his dinner or wants to make me potato chips or something. At my age, I am happy for the company.

The Compulsive Wanderers

Travel & Leisure

In 1796, in the War of the First Coalition, Napoleon triumphantly entered the city of Milan. In 1851 the first Australian gold rush was officially proclaimed. In 1905, 110 acres in Nevada next to the Union Pacific Railroad was auctioned off, and, alas, Las Vegas was born.

Did you know that Las Vegas shares a birthday with McDonald’s and Mickey Mouse? Mickey Mouse made his debut in 1928 in the animated short Plane Crazy. And on May 15, 1940, McDonald’s opened the doors of its very first restaurant in San Bernardino, California. What an unholy trio of…earnest aims gone awry?

Queen of France Margaret of Valois was born in 1553; astronomer and Hungarian priest Maximilian Hell in 1720 (isn’t every word of that bio perfect?). The moon crater Hell is named in his honor. He also believed in the healing power of magnets.

Writer Lyman Frank Baum was born in 1856. He wrote The Wizard of Oz. Swiss mountaineer Matthias Zurbriggen was also born on this day in 1856. He had kind of a tragic life. He spent most of his life climbing, both alone and as a guide, through the Alps, the Himalayas, and through mountains in South America, and New Zealand. But he spent the last years of his life as a vagrant in Switzerland and died by suicide at the age of 61.

Author of The Master and the Margarita Mikhail Bulgakov was born in 1891. That novel, much like Catch 22 and anything by William Faulkner, is one of a collection of books that I have started and stopped many times with the idea that if I could just pursue a little further, I will like them. But still, they stand unfinished on my bookshelves, small monuments to both my hubris and laziness. Ah well.

Emily Dickinson died today in 1886. Painter Edward Hopper in 1967. Singer June Carter Cash died in 2003.

May 15th seems kind of dark, no? Maybe it’s the miasma of French fry grease, Napoleon, Las Vegas, with a dash of Disney. Maybe because of the loss of both a poet and a painter who were masterful at capturing loneliness. And then our poor mountaineer. His story reminds me a little bit of the bizarre story about the “compulsive wanderer” on The Futility Closet podcast a few months back. So much struggle to make our way in the world, so much searching in search of nothing.

Which then reminds me of another podcast. If you have twenty minutes, The Slowest Distance Between Two Points is worth a listen. I’ll be over here, stuck on chapter one, page one of The Sound and the Fury.

Venice, Lost in One Day

Existential Dread

One of the earliest experimenters in photography Thomas Wedgwood was born in 1771. Illustrator Henri Julian was born in 1852; pianist Lance Dosser in 1916; silent film actress Billie Dove in 1921; and lithographer Robert Bechtle in 1932.

Lance Dossor (far right), February 1937

Robert Bechtle, ’61 Pontiac, 1968–69. Oil on canvas, 59 3/4 × 84 1/4 in. (151.8 × 214 cm). Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; © 1969 Robert Bechtle

Musician B.B. King died on May 13, 2015. So did poet Franz Wright and astrophysicist Stanton Peale. Poet Stanley Kunitz died in 2005; singer Frank Sinatra in 1998; actress Billie Burke, who played Glinda the Good Witch of the North, in 1970; singer Lucrezia Bori in 1960; and painter Yasuo Kuniyoshi died in 1953.Lucrezia Bori, 1921. Unknown photographer

“Ah, fors’è lui” … “Sempre libera”

From Giuseppe Verdi‘s La traviata, sung by Lucrezia Bori in 1910 for Edison Records.


Yasuo Kuniyoshi from the Archives of American Art

Kuniyoshi. Dream (1922), Bridgestone Museum of Art, Tokyo


Today is the Catholic feast day of Saint Matthias, who was chosen as the apostle to replace Judas after his betrayal of Jesus and subsequent death.

In 1509, the French army defeated the Republic of Venice in the Battle of Agnadello. Wars have never interested me that much, but I like the quote from Machiavelli’s The Prince that is sited on the reference page: “Venice lost in one day gains of eight hundred years.”[1]

In 1796, Edward Jenner gave the first vaccination for smallpox. In 1804, the Lewis and Clark expedition began, travel long up the Missouri River. Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway was published May 12, 1925. Israel was declared an independent state in 1948. The United States launched their first space station Skylab in 1973.

Speaking of betrayal, and outer space, and stream of consciousness novels, I was listening to the Stuff to Blow Your Mind podcast about the Boltzmann Brain paradox. It is a thought experiment that posits it might be mathematically more likely that you are a brain floating in a vat in space than a person living on earth. And if you aren’t that, you might have to get comfortable with the idea that you aren’t the only you. Kind of freeing isn’t it? Losing Venice in a day surely doesn’t matter now, even if did mean losing nearly a millennium of work in the lifespan of a mayfly.

Hopefully, it makes all the shit that you was going to keep you from falling asleep tonight less of a big deal. If you are still worried, here is a link to an excellent poem by Franz Wright titled “To Myself” that will take your mind off it.

1. Machiavelli, The Prince, transl. Rufus Goodwin, (Dante University Press, 2003), 77.

Communism is Just a Red Herring

Soft Science, Travel & Leisure

The Pajama Game opened on Broadway today in 1953. I am not entirely clear of the plot with my exhaustive 60 second scan, but something about a pajama factory and demands of a seven and a half cent raise. Sounds topical.  There are unions involved, so I can say with 100% certainty my father would not like it. Communists.

(I can’t believe I have worked in two quotes from the movie Clue in four blog posts. Prodigious).

In 1958, Ben Carlin became the one and only person to travel around the globe in an amphibious vehicle.  It took him ten years, 11,000 miles at sea and 39,000 miles by land.

A photograph of w:Ben Carlin and Boye de Mente aboard their craft Half-Safe in Tokyo in late 1956. Unknown photographer.

In Australia, the Great Comet of 1861 was discovered by John Tebbutt, the same day that Pakistan’s first railway opened to the public today in 1861. In Milan in 1909, the first annual Giro d’Italia was underway. And hey, guess what, Lance Armstrong is trying to gum up the works of that one too.

Born today


Russian prince turned saint Alexander Nevsky was born in 1221. Danish physician Ole Worm (I really need to keep a list of perfect names) was born in 1588. According to his Wikipedia biography, he also went by his Latin name Olaus Wormius because of course he did. The small bones that stitch the larger structures of the skull are named after him. And those would be called the wormian bones. He seems to have been an odd duck, known for his cabinet curiosities, and his pet auk bird. Yet for all his whimsy, he did spend a considerable amount of time in his studies to determine that unicorns are not real, and were likely narwhals. Killjoy.

Only known illustration of a Great Auk drawn from life, Ole Worm’s pet received from the Faroe Islands, which was figured in his book Museum Wormiamum, 1655.

Also born today mathematician, geophysicist Alexis Clairaut in 1713. Also painter Georges Braque in 1882. American treasure Bee Arthur was born in 1922, and author Francine Pascal in 1938. She wrote The Sweet Valley High books. Take my word for it, she created a stunning and urbane teen series. I read all of them when I was twelve and once as an adult, I stayed at someone’s camp and found a whole box full of them that I read over a weekend. They held up.

Actor Robert Pattinson was born in 1986. Speaking of teen book series, researcher Costas Efthimiou mathematically established the impossibility of vampires a few years back, so you should probably put that screenplay away and get back to work.

Wow, we are just crushing dreams left and right. So I’ll just push through the death summary here. Actor Gary Cooper died today in 1961; painter Franz Klein died in 1962; and musician Chet Baker in 1988.

So how should I sum up today? May 13th seems to comprise labor and study; reflection and skepticism. You must own your burdens, put some improbable conclusions to rest, and, for fuck’s sake, can someone tell Lance Armstrong he’s not on the list?

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

General Discomfort


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.

sinking ship

Enter a caption

This is not The Lady of the Lake, but a stock photo of a sinking ship by Norma Cornes. A tiny bit I want to take her name. That’s a great name.

Anne of Bohemia was born today in 1366. Ballerina Fanny Cerrito was born on 1817, as well as Detroit Tigers baseball player Charlie Gehringer, and let us not forget MTV VJ (wow, is that still a thing?) Martha Quinn, who has been keepin it real since 1959.  Sort of related, though he has nothing to do with May 11, my friends and I were talking the other day, and did you know Kurt Loder is 73???


Leo VI the Wise, Byzantine Emperor, died today in 912.  We’ve already covered his brother taking over if you have been paying attention.  John D. Rockerfeller Jr. died today in 1960.  As did mob boss Vincenzo Coloisomo, gunned down in Chicago in 1920.  Though officially an unsolved murder, it has apparently been suggested that Al Capone fired those fatal bullets.  Coincidentally, New York mob boss Joseph Bonanno died today in 2002, at the grand old age of 97.

With this information, plans for the weekend should include:

  1. pasta and/or breadsticks carbo-loading (but please not at the Olive Garden.  The Macaroni Grill is similarly blacklisted.  Actually, if you must pick between the two, go with Olive Garden.  There is something so unappetizing about the other name.
  2. twirling said pasta with a spoon and a fork and rolling your poor meatballs onto the floor, watching as, then said sad meatballs roll out the door
  3. watching Married to the Mob, a 1988 classic
  4. and finally listening to Mob Hits, volumes 1 & 2, preferably on cassette.  This one is my favorite.  Don’t translate it into English though, it’s much racier than its melody and frequent plays at Italian weddings would suggest.


A Guide to the Scientific Knowledge of Things Familiar

General Discomfort


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 Sid Vicious in 1957.


Mae Murray Ruth Waterbury – Photoplay Magazine March 1917


On this day…

That call from J. Edgar Hoover was for me.

In 1924 J. Edgar Hoover was appointed Director of the FBI.1024px-J_Edgar_Hoover                                                                                                  photo credit:   Yoichi R. Okamoto


Also on this day in 1940, Winston Churchill became Prime Minister of the United Kingdom.  And on May 10, 1774, Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette ascended the throne in France.  So, in short, to celebrate May 10th, you still have few hours to appoint yourself head of something, or promote yourself to inhabit and nap in tucked away office, or perhaps beat someone at checkers?  Or at the very least, lie and say you did. To quote Sir Winston Churchill: “Perhaps we have been guilty of some terminological inexactitudes.”


    photo credit: Yousuf Karsh