Archive for January, 2012

Winner: FrankC and Duncan

Tonight’s game, with 20 players, was managed by a one-eyed purple people eater. Well, maybe she wasn’t wearing purple, but after eye surgery mistress Daphne was pretty much one eyed, and if you have played this game, I don’t have to explain the “people eater” reference.

We had a new first time winner for the second week in a row as Duncan tied with FrankC. Finishing just behind were Droppin’, Colm, and Pluto, in what was a very competitive game. We learned that Pocahantas was warned by a spiritual talking willow tree about the presence of the Englishmen (need to keep up with Disney animated films for that one).

Good Question: What present did Hercules receive from his father?

Answer: Flying Horse

Greek mythology is filled with tales of great heroes and fantastic creatures. One of the most famous mythological creatures is Pegasus, the winged horse. However, it was Arion, a lesser known winged horse, who helped many heroes, including Hercules, who rode Arion into battle.

Disney created the myth that Pegasus was created by Zeus and given as a companion to Hercules for their Hercules cartoon. Poor Hercules is probaly turning in his grave:

The concept of a winged horse may originate in Egyptian mythology, and thus predate Greek origin myths, but today pegasi (pl.) are seen as uniquely Greek. One of the most common myths of Pegasus’ creation was that he was created of Medusa’s blood after her beheading by the hero Perseus, who is said to have had Pegasus’ aid in defeating the Amazon’s.

In later years, after aiding heroes, Pegasus is said to have lived on Mount Olympus, where he became the servant of of the gods. There he was the mount of Eos to help bring the dawn, or was ridden by Apollo to bring the sun. Pegasus also served Zeus by bringing to him the thunder and lightning needed for the thunderbolts. For all his noble services, Pegasus was honoured by a constellation in the autumn sky.

Thus we have the beautiful Pegasus constellation, which forms a square, with lines leading out from the top left, and bottom right to slightly resemble a grazing horse. It does take some stretch of the imagination to visualize the constellation as connected to the mythical beast.

Representations of winged horses proliferate in Western culture. The Greeks used them on coins, and Exxon Mobil uses a winged horse as its symbol. Pegasus continues to be an indelible symbol of flight, strength and inspiration.

sources: gogreece.about.com,relache.hubpages.com (Mythological Creatures)

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Winners: Colm and Droppin’ Dave

Interesting game tonight where we had a first time winner and an old time winner share the prize. Colm had watched his brother, shark fin, win and tonight was his turn. We learned we should fix our leaking faucets (6 billion gallons! lost to leaks every day in america) and that wind power could supply five times our energy needs, if all viable wind power locations were exploited. Now if they could just make those huge wind turbines invisible.

Darin gave us all a pat on the back for our holiday donations to the local food bank. Main Street Cafe raised $3,900 this year – good job everyone. Don’t forget – this Sunday is Super Bowl party time at Main Street Cafe. Free Food, Prizes, Cook-off and a chance to gather together to root the Giants to victory. GO BIG BLUE!

Good Question: Horology is the study of the measurement of what?

Answer: Time

Today, a wristwatch is considered as much of a status symbol as a device to tell time. In an age when cell phones and digital pagers display tiny quartz clocks, the mechanical wristwatch has slowly become less of an object of function and more a piece of modern culture and jewelry.

Walk into the boardroom of any Fortune 500 company and you’re likely to see dozens of prestigious wristwatches, including such names as Rolex, Vacheron Constantin, Frank Müller, Jaeger-LeCoultre and even Patek Phillipe (even though my $29 Timex running watch will tell time just as well).

However, this fascination with expensive wristwatches was not always the case. Less than 100 years ago, no self-respecting gentleman would be caught dead wearing a wristwatch. In those days of yore, real men carried pocket watches, with a gold half-hunter being the preferred status symbol of the time—no pun intended.

Wristlets, as they were called, were reserved for women, and considered more of a passing fad than a serious timepiece. In fact, they were held in such disdain that many a gentlemen were actually quoted to say they “would sooner wear a skirt as wear a wristwatch”.

The established watchmaking community looked down on them as well. Because of their size, few believed wristlets could be made to achieve any level of accuracy, nor could they withstand the basic rigors of human activity. Therefore, very few companies produced them in quantity, with the vast majority of those being small ladies’ models, with delicate fixed wire or chain-link bracelets.

This all started to change in the nineteenth century, when soldiers discovered their usefulness during wartime situations. In the first World War, soldiers wore wristwatches because taking out a pocket watch to check the time was difficult or impossible in battle. After the war was over, it was considered “socially acceptable” to wear wrist watches, and they became popular.

Half a century later, digital watches, which used electrical currents running through quartz crystals to cause vibration and tell the time very accurately, began to appear.

The next great advancement in timekeeping was in 1967, when the atomic clock, which used the oscillations of cesium-133 atoms to tell time, was invented. This clock had an error ratio of 1 second for every 1.4 million years. Recently, in 1999, scientists developed the cesium fountain atomic clock, which is off by only one second every 20 million years. This clock is the most accurate in the world.

History of Telling Time

Prehistoric man, by simple observation of the stars, changes in the seasons, day and night began to come up with very primitive methods of measuring time. This was necessary for planning nomadic activity, farming, sacred feasts, etc..

The earliest time measurement devices before clocks and watches were the sundial, hourglass and water clock.

The forerunners to the sundial were poles and sticks as well as larger objects such as pyramids and other tall structures. Later the more formal sundial was invented. It is generally a round disk marked with the hours like a clock. It has an upright structure that casts a shadow on the disk – this is how time is measured with the sundial.

The hourglass was also used in ancient times. It was made up of two rounded glass bulbs connected by a narrow neck of glass between them. When the hourglass is turned upside down, a measured amount of sand particles stream through from the top to bottom bulb of glass. Today’s egg timers are modern versions of the hourglass.

Another ancient time measurer was the water clock or clepsydra. It was a evenly marked container with a spout in which water dripped out. As the water dripped out of the container one could note by the water level against the markings what time it was.

Before we go further along this history of time, I must mention the YouTube Time Machine. You give it a year and YouTube Time Machine will show you videos of events from that year.

A huge advance occurred in the 1300’s when mechanical clocks, which used weights or springs, began to appear. At first, they had no faces, and no hour or minute hands; rather, they struck a bell every hour. Later, clocks with hour, and then minute hands began to appear. These early mechanical clocks worked by using an escapement, a lever that pivoted and meshed with a toothed wheel at certain intervals. This controlled the movement, or “escape” of either the weights or the springs that were powering the clock, in order to regulate the speed at which the gears and wheels which measured the time turned.

In the 1400’s, another important discovery in timekeeping was made: it was learned that coiled springs, which used small coiled springs unwinding at a speed controlled by an escapement, were able to move the hands on a clock as well as weights or springs of previous, larger clocks. This discovery made smaller clocks, and later watches, possible.

Then, in 1656, Christiaan Huygens invented the pendulum clock, which used weights and a swinging pendulum. These clocks were much more accurate than previous clocks, off by less than a minute a day, compared to the 15 minutes a day of earlier clocks. The bigger the pendulum, the more accurate the clock was.

In 1714, the British Parliament offered a cash reward to anyone who could invent a clock accurate enough for use in navigation at sea. Thousands of sailors died because they were unable to find their exact position, because the exact time was needed to find longitude, and pendulum clocks would not work at sea.

For every minute lost by a clock, it meant that there would be a navigational error of 15 miles, and sailors died because they were lost or smashed against rocks because they were unable to figure out their exact position.

Then, in 1761, after 4 attempts, John Harrison finally succeeded at inventing a small clock accurate enough to use for navigation at sea. This tiny pocket watch lost only 5 seconds in 6 and ½ weeks.

In the early 1800’s, one of the most important events in clock making occurred. Eli Terry developed machines, patterns, and techniques that produced clock parts that were exactly alike, so they could be mass-produced and interchanged from one clock to another. This drove the price of clocks way down, and allowed common people to own at least one, if not many, timekeeping devices. Enter the wristwatch.

sources: worldtempuus.com, wikipedia.org

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Winners: Coffee Bill, Driver Shea, & Droppin’ Dave

Tonight was a cool night with a small turnout. Our homegrown version of Moe, Larry, and Curly shared first place with only 3 wrong. We did learn that Tiffany, who stood in for Darin behind the bar, was not the most powerful woman in SAmerica, although with the Islanders winning 3-0 on TV she may have been the happiest.

Good Question: Which renewable ingredient was moderately successful in a US Navy test of alternative boat fuel in 2010 ?

Answer: Seaweed   

“US Navy goes green, unveils seaweed-powered ship.” read a headline in Oct. 2010. With an experimental gunboat that runs on a 50-50 mix of algae and diesel, the US Navy is hoping to make half its fleet powered by renewables by 2020. OK, maybe it wasn’t an aircraft carrier but you have to start somewhere.

The navy currently meets about 16 percent of its energy and fuel needs from nuclear power, with the rest from conventional sources.

The navy plans to roll out its first green strike force, a group of about 10 ships, submarines and planes running on a mix of biofuels and nuclear power, in 2012, with deployment in the field scheduled for 2016.

The green trend runs across all military services. The air force has been testing jet engines on a mix of conventional fuels and camelina, a crop similar to flax, and the Marine Corps recently sent a company to Afghanistan’s Helmand Province equipped with portable solar panels and solar chargers for their radio equipment.

Fuels made from algae oil burn more cleanly than fossil fuel, but preventing climate change is not a major factor in the Pentagon’s calculations. “Our program to go green is about combat capability, first and foremost,” Rear Admiral Cullom said. “We no longer want to be held hostage by one form of energy such as petroleum.” He called the gunboat a “mean green riverine machine.”

Over the last year, the Pentagon has become increasingly vocal about the burden of running oil convoys in battle zones. Fossil fuel is the No. 1 import to US troops in Afghanistan and the slow and lumbering convoys of oil tankers are an obvious target for enemy combatants.

Fossil fuels are also horrendously expensive. By the time it reaches a war zone, the true cost of a liter of gasoline is about US $150. In theory, biofuels can be produced wherever the raw materials are available, possibly even in the combat zone.

The early versions of algae-based fuels had a short shelf life, with the fuel separating in the tank, sprouting, or even corroding engines. “They had some not very good characteristics at the end of the day,” Cullom said. But the navy appears committed. Last month it placed an order for 567,812 liters of algae-based fuel from a San Francisco firm. Could this wild idea – fueling ships with algae – be the canary in the coal mine? Does the military know something we don’t, about Peak Oil?

On a less serious note, wonder why they have not considered powering their planes like Flash Gordon did:

sources: taipei times, telegraph.co.uk

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Winner: Driver Shea

On a night when some folks got rid of unwanted Christmas gifts in the annual re-gifting party, Driver Shea was a two time winer. First, he won a close one, narrowly beating Colm in a shortened game. Then he claimed the prize re-gift “The Joy of Writing Sex”. No word yet on whether he intends to do some field research before beginning his writing. He has a standing offer to publish right here on this blog.

WordPress, the blogging platform for TNBE,  sent their annual analytical report for this blog and it has some interesting info:

36 new posts in 2011. 6,400 views and the readership goes beyond our local pub crowd. As expected, most views were from NAmerica, but a sizable contingent came from Europe (esp. the United Kingdom) and Asia, and even some from SAmerica and Africa! The most viewed post in 2011 was “I Want my MTV” which was first published in April 2010, making it an oldie, but a goodie.

Good Question: Who composed the music known as the Nutcracker suite?

Answer: Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky

“Nutcracker”, “Swan Lake”, “The Sleeping Beauty” – Tchaikovsky was the author of some of the most popular themes in all of classical music. The power and communicative sweep of his best music elevates it to classic status, even if it lacks the formal boldness and harmonic sophistication heard in the compositions of his contemporaries, Wagner and Bruckner. It was Tchaikovsky’s unique melodic charm that could, whether in his Piano Concerto No. 1 or in his ballet The Nutcracker or in his tragic last symphony, make the music sound familiar on first hearing.

His music has come to be known and loved for its distinctly Russian character as well as for its rich harmonies and stirring melodies. His works, however, were much more western than those of his Russian contemporaries as he effectively used international elements in addition to national folk melodies.

It was upon hearing Mozart’s Don Giovanni that Tchaikovsky decided to dedicate his life to music. Abandoning his civil service position, Tchaikovsky entered the St. Petersburg Conservatory to study under Anton Rubinstein.

On a personal level, Tchaikovsky’s neuroses, which in part stemmed from his homosexuality, often lead him to be depressed and insecure in the presence of people. Perhaps to allay rumors of his homosexuality, Tchaikovsky married a young student in 1877. It naturally proved disastrous. All that Tchaikovsky was left with after nine short weeks of marriage was a suicide attempt and nervous breakdown.

Tchaikovsky’s music was marked by a sensuously rhythmic pulse and an innate melodic flow that enabled him to create some of the world’s greatest ballet music; music that shows a mixture of playful classicism and romantic verve. Tchaikovsky’s inner conflicts perhaps give a clue to his music, for he openly adored the style and grace of Mozart, yet gravitated to the revolutionary innovations of Franz Liszt and the Romantics. Although he could escape and find peace and consolation in Mozart, his inner turmoil and the tempestuous times in which he lived forced him to ingest and release stirringly Romantic creations.

Having written a broad spectrum of works- ranging from piano solo pieces & chamber works to concertos, symphonies, and operas -Tchaikovsky has undoubtedly made his mark as one of the greatest masters of the late Romantic era.

If you want to see some beautiful and fantastic athletic ability, see “The Nutcracker Ballet” with Mikhail Baryshnikov and Gelsey Kirkland @ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5RcMV091Ifk&feature=related

and remember: GO BIG BLUE!

sources:classicalarchives.com, d-vista.com, guardian.co.uk/music

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Winner: Judy

Judy doesn’t play often, but when she plays she comes to play. Judy followed last week’s win with a second straight victory. Following close behind were Carol & Rosebud to make it an all woman’s podium finish. Rosebud gave away an easy one when she didn’t know that George HW Bush painted “Barbara” on his plane in WWII.

Good Question: What was the first city to have  a subway?

Answer: Boston

Most people think that NYC had the first subway. Certainly there are some city subway lines so poorly maintained (have you ever passed through the desolation that is the Z line on the lower east side?) that you are sure it must be the oldest subway system anywhere. This is what the interior of the first Interborough subway car looked like in 1904. Later, when the center door was added to speed the flow of passengers, the cross-seats were removed.

Oldest Subway – U.S.

The Green Line, a streetcar system run by the Massachusetts Bay Transportation authority (MBTA), is the oldest line of Boston’s subway, which is known locally as the ‘T’. The Green Line runs underground downtown and on the surface in outlying areas. The Tremont Street Subway – the oldest continually operating subway tunnel in North America – and several connecting tunnels carry cars of all branches under downtown. The Tremont Street Subway opened in stages between Sept. 1897, and Sept. 1898, to take streetcars off surface streets. Beat NYC by 7 years.

Oldest Subway – World

The first urban underground railway was the Metropolitan Railway, which began operations on January 10, 1863. It was built largely in shallow tunnels and is now part of the London Underground. It was worked by steam trains, and despite the creation of numerous vents, the smoke caused discomfort for passengers and was unhealthy and uncomfortable for passengers and operating staff.

Nevertheless, its trains were popular from the start and the Metropolitan Railway and the competing Metropolitan District Railway developed the inner circle around central London, completed in 1884.

The opening of London’s City and South London Railway in 1890 overcame the smoke problem by using electric traction and led to the development of electric underground railways in Liverpool, Budapest, Boston, Paris, Berlin, and New York City by 1904. This first electrified urban railway opened in deep tubular tunnels, leading to the term “tube”, which was eventually applied to the entire London Underground.

Budapest inaugurated the first electrified underground line on the continent, the M1, in 1896. It ran from the city centre to City Park and the local zoo, a distance of 2.3 mi. It is now part of the Budapest Metro. When you rode it, before it’s recent renovation, you thought you had travelled back to the Victorian age. Its iconic Line1, dating from 1896, was declared a World Heritage Site in 2002.

LIRR has the Oldest Subway Tunnel 

The Atlantic Avenue Tunnel is officially the world’s oldest subway tunnel.  This tunnel was built in 1844 beneath a busy street in the City of Brooklyn (Brooklyn did not become part of NYC until a half-century later).  The Atlantic Avenue Tunnel is a half-mile long and accommodated two standard gauge railroad tracks.

The Atlantic Avenue Tunnel was built in only seven months, using the cut-and-cover method; only hand tools and primitive equipment were utilized in its construction.  It was built for the previously existing LIRR route on the surface of Atlantic Avenue and to provide grade separation for early Long Island Rail Road trains that lacked brakes good enough to operate on city streets. The tunnel eliminated vehicular and pedestrian traffic conflicts and delays.

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