Archive for November, 2014


Winner: Carol D

Last week it was the Madeira.

This week it was the Ambrosia – a real treat from our host Darin. Now we know why the Greek Gods had a thing for Ambrosia, but I bet their Ambrosia wasn’t nearly as tasty as Darin’s. This game is becoming a real gourmand’s delight.

Surprisingly, tonight’s winner CarolD has been missing from the podium for some time. Tonight she led from start to finish and was happy to return to the winner’s circle, even if it meant she had to be photographed next to the Driver’s puking reindeer.


The major controversy tonight involved a question asking how many handlers are needed for the big balloons in the Macy’s parade. When the answer was given as 90, pandemonium broke out. I mean have you ever seen a balloon with 90 handlers – no way. In fact, the next day Pluto found himself on the UWS when the balloons were being inflated and confirmed that the Snoopy balloon had guidelines for about 30 handlers, not 90!

Christmas Carols @ MainStreetCafe – Tuesday, Dec. 23 this year.
As many of you know, the highlight of the holiday season is not the NYC Ballet’s “Nutcracker” at Lincoln Center, it’s “The 12 Days of Christmas”, sung with gusto right here at MainStreetCafe, in Northport, NY.

Good Question!: The first aerial photographs were taken from a balloon during which war?

Choices:   a. Civil    b. Revolutionary    c. War of 1812    d. WWI


Answer: Civil War

Since photography had only been around since 1840, it’s use from the air in the Civil War is pretty impressive.

Balloons were the first mechanisms used in air warfare. Their role was strictly for reconnaissance purposes. They provided humans with the first available method of elevating themselves well over the battlefield to obtain the proverbial “birds-eye view.” They were an early instrument of definitive intelligence collection, and were also particularly useful in the preparation of accurate battlefield maps, before which time this rudimentary craft had led to many a battlefield failure.

The first major-scale use of balloons in the military occurred during the American Civil War with the Union Army Balloon Corps established and organized by Prof. Thaddeus S. C. Lowe in the summer of 1861. Originally, the balloons were inflated with coal gas from municipal services and then walked out to the battlefield, an arduous and inefficient operation as the balloons had to be returned to the city every four days for re-inflation.

Eventually hydrogen gas generators, a compact system of tanks and copper plumbing, were constructed which converted the combining of iron filings and sulfuric acid to hydrogen. The generators were easily transported with the uninflated balloons to the field on a standard buckboard. However, this method shortened the life of the balloons, because traces of the sulfuric acid often entered the balloons along with the hydrogen. In all, Lowe built seven balloons that were fit for military service.


Here is a good discussion of advanced weapons (including balloons) used for the first time in the Civil War

7 Unusual Civil War Weapons
By Evan Andrews (history.com)

You might think the Civil War was only fought with muskets, bayonets and cannons, but those weren’t the only deadly weapons to haunt the battlefields of the 1860s. The war came in the wake of the Industrial Revolution, and both the Union and the Confederacy experimented with strange and often gruesome new combat technologies.

hl-cw-weapons-grenade1. Hand grenades (see photo)
Civil War soldiers were known to make jury-rigged explosives using assortments of fuses and gunpowder, but the conflict also saw advances in the design and manufacture of hand grenades. The most popular model was the Union-issued Ketchum grenade, a projectile explosive that was thrown like a dart. The grenades came in one-, three- and five-pound models equipped with stabilizer fins and a nose-mounted plunger. Upon impact, the plunger would detonate a percussion cap and ignite a deadly supply of gunpowder..

2. Rockets
Rocket launchers might seem like a 20th-century phenomenon, but they made a few appearances on Civil War battlefields. Confederate forces reportedly experimented with Congreve rockets, a British-designed explosive that had previously seen action in the War of 1812. These weapons resembled large bottle rockets and were so inaccurate that they never saw widespread use.

Meanwhile, Union forces employed the Hale patent rocket launcher, a metal tube that fired seven- and 10-inch-long spin stabilized rockets up to 2,000 yards. While a vast improvement on the Congreve, these projectiles were still quite unwieldy, and were only generally used by the U.S. Navy.

hl-cw-weapons-gatling-gun3. Machine guns
(see photo)
Colt revolvers and Springfield muskets were the Civil War’s most popular firearms, but the era also gave rise to some of the earliest machine guns. Of these, perhaps none is more infamous than the Gatling gun, a six-barreled piece that was capable of firing up to 350 rounds a minute. The U.S. government never ordered the Gatling in bulk, but Union General Benjamin Butler privately purchased several of the intimidating weapons in 1863 and later used them during the Petersburg Campaign.

4. Landmines
Mines—or “torpedoes,” as they were then known—were largely a Confederate weapon. Originally developed by General Gabriel J. Rains, these antipersonnel explosives were typically iron containers rigged with gunpowder, a fuse and a brass detonation cap. Rains first used the subterranean booby traps in 1862 during the Peninsula Campaign, and later buried thousands more around Richmond and in various parts of the Deep South. In fact, some of these still-active landmines were only recovered in Alabama as recently as the 1960s.

While they proved an intimidating method of psychological warfare, landmines were often viewed as an unethical form of combat. Union General George B. McClellan denounced them as “barbarous,” and Confederate General James Longstreet briefly banned their use. Perhaps their most vociferous critic was Union General William T. Sherman, who lost several troops to underground landmines during his famous March to the Sea. Decrying the use of mines as “not warfare, but murder,” Sherman reportedly forced his Confederate prisoners to march at the head of his column so that they might trigger any hidden “land torpedoes.”

5. Underwater mines
Along with landmines, the Civil War was also a major testing ground for underwater mines. Both sides mined harbors and rivers with torpedoes, but the Confederacy enjoyed greater success. Starting in 1862 with the sinking of the ironclad Cairo, Confederate torpedoes destroyed dozens of Union ships and damaged several others. Union torpedoes, meanwhile, only sank six Confederate Navy vessels.

The rebels owed their skill at underwater warfare in part to Matthew Fontaine Maury, an oceanographer who first demonstrated the use of mines in 1861. Maury’s “infernal machines” made the James River virtually impassable, and mines later terrorized the Union Navy during battles at Mobile Bay and Charleston Harbor. The Confederacy also succeeded in using submarines to turn mines into offensive weapons. In 1864 the H.L. Hunley destroyed the Union sloop-of-war Housatonic after ramming it with a pole-mounted torpedo, becoming the first combat submarine to successfully sink an enemy ship.

6. Calcium floodlights
During an 1863 operation to retake Charleston Harbor, General Quincy Adams Gillmore laid siege to the Confederate stronghold at Fort Wagner. Gillmore’s Union guns bombarded the fort day and night with the help of a strange invention: the calcium light. Better known as “limelights,” these chemical lamps used superheated balls of lime, or calcium oxide, to create an incandescent glow. The lights had been used in lighthouses and theaters since the 1830s, but Gillmore’s engineers were the first to adapt them for combat. By shining calcium lights on Fort Wagner, Union forces were able to illuminate their artillery target while simultaneously blinding Confederate gunners and riflemen.

7. Hot air balloons
Because they allowed generals to get an aerial view of the battlefield, Civil War balloons were primarily used in a reconnaissance capacity. The Union even had an official Balloon Corps headed by “Chief Aeronaut” Thaddeus Lowe. Under his direction, balloons were launched for scouting purposes at several famous engagements, including the First Battle of Bull Run and the Battles of Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville. In a balloon tethered to the ground with a telegraph line, Lowe was able to give real-time updates on troop movements, and once even directed Union artillery fire from the sky.




Read Full Post »


Winner: Droppin’

IMG_2797 Tonight’s game was highlighted not by the Q&A, but by the fine bottle of Madeira brought back from their recent journey by the Driver and Mistress Daphne. This was one fine wine – quite an upgrade over the liquor with the scorpion in the bottle (tasted suspiciously like kerosene) that they brought back from VietNam. In case you are interested, Madeira is an island in the North Atlantic, a few hundred miles from the Canary Islands, not a place that you are likely to pass through, unless you hired a cruise ship to take you there.

Back to the game. Not surprisingly, Droppin’ finished first, just ahead of Wild Bill, Rhys and the Driver. I found it ironic that Wild Bill’s prize was a book titled “The Innocent Man.” Tonight we learned that the “Mosquito Coast” was incorporated into Niaragua in 1894 – I mean, who doesn’t know that. Once again we learned that Lincoln was the first President to appear on a U.S. coin, a question that Pluto has missed each and every time.

Good Question!:
What food was considered the food of the Gods?

Choices: a. Olive oil    b. Grapes    c. Ambrosia    d. Hummus


editedAmbrosia 010

Answer: Ambrosia

We all know the modern version of Ambrosia, marshmallows and all. I was curious whether back in the day the Gods liked their Ambrosia with marshmallows, too. Here’s what I found:

Ambrosia was the food of the gods and goddesses in Greek mythology. It was often accompanied by the drink nectar in celebrations, and indeed, ambrosia and nectar both appear in myth and literature as divine confections that were guaranteed to satisfy the hunger and/or thirst of any immortal resident of Mt. Olympus.

While scholars are not entirely certain what the ancient Greeks thought the composition of ambrosia (or its liquid counterpart, for that matter) actually was, it is believed that these mythical items had some connection to a sweet treat enjoyed by mortals throughout the ages – honey. Honey was highly regarded by the people of ancient Greece, so this suggestion makes sense.

Ambrosia made more than just a delightful meal, however. There are several episodes in Greek myth in which ambrosia is used by the gods and goddesses as a sort of balm, to confer grace or even immortality (in the case of mortals) onto the recipient. One such incident that demonstrates how ambrosia was used to beautify involves Aphrodite, the enchanting goddess of love. In the Homeric Hymn to Aphrodite, the goddess prepares herself for some serious seduction with the assistance of eau de ambrosia:

“…there the Graces bathed her and anointed her with ambrosian oil such as is rubbed on deathless gods, divinely sweet, and made fragrant for her sake.”


Ambrosia recipe

(courtesy of Food Network)

1/2 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon sugar
4 ounces sour cream
6 ounces homemade mini marshmallows, approximately 3 cups
1 cup clementine orange segments, approximately 6 clementines
1 cup chopped fresh pineapple
1 cup freshly grated coconut
1 cup toasted, chopped pecans
1/2 cup drained maraschino cherries

Place the cream and sugar into the bowl of a stand mixer with the whisk attachment and whip until stiff peaks are formed. Add the sour cream and whisk to combine. Add the marshmallows, orange, pineapple, coconut, pecans and cherries and stir to combine. Transfer to a glass serving bowl, cover and place in the refrigerator for 2 hours before serving.
Recipe courtesy Alton Brown, 2007
Read more at: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/

Read Full Post »

Killer Fruit

IMG_2731                                         (click the photo to enlarge)

Winners: Driver and Judy

Mistress Daphne returned to moderate after extended absences adrift on the ocean. She immediately tried to restore her brand of order and discipline to the game. Good luck with that.

We had a large group of players and a very competitive game. It did not start that way. The Driver raced out to a large lead in the first half. but as he often does, he faltered in the second half. A large group almost caught him at the end. In fact, after recalculation Judy was declared a co-winner, with Droppin’, Rosebud, Rhys, and Bonobo just one question behind. $Bill who finished back in the pack insisted on being in the photo, as stand-in for Bonobo.

Good Question!: This fruit is rich in Vitamin C and its antioxidants reduce cholesterol levels, which may help lower the risk of cardiovascular disease. A downside of this fruit is that it might kill you! Which fruit is this?

Choices:   a. strawberry      b. grapefruit      c. kiwi      d. peach

Fruit null by William Henry Hunt 1790-1864

Answer: Grapefruit

Here is the whole scary story as reported in Britain’s “Daily Mail”.

Better read this one:

As doctors warn it can cause a dangerous reaction with a host of common drugs… Toxic truth about your breakfast grapefruit
Researchers warn that grapefruit reacts with many medicines
The fruit can cause devastating side-effects from stomach bleeding to kidney problems. Doctors say the public is ignorant to the dangers and putting themselves needlessly at risk


Breakfasting on half a grapefruit has long been seen as one of the healthiest ways to start the day, a virtuous alternative to tucking into cereal or a cooked breakfast. But could this supposed ‘superfood’, which is packed with vital vitamins and minerals, really be doing you more harm than good?

This week, researchers warned that the fruit reacts with a large number of medicines taken by millions of Britons every day, causing devastating side-effects ranging from stomach bleeding to kidney problems, muscle aches and irregular heartbeats.

Doctors say the public are woefully ignorant about the dangers of mixing grapefruit with medicine and that many are putting themselves needlessly at risk. Half a grapefruit has long been seen as one of the healthiest ways to start the day but researchers have warned that the fruit reacts with a large number of medicines causing devastating side-effects

So what is the truth behind the scare, and how can such a ‘healthy’ fruit pose such a threat?


Astonishingly, just one glass of grapefruit juice is enough to treble the potency of some cancer, heart, cholesterol and painkilling drugs.
More than 20 years ago doctors discovered that grapefruit makes some prescriptions dangerously strong. But since then, the list of medicines affected by the fruit has soared.

Doctors are supposed to advise patients about the risks, while the warning also appears on patient leaflets that accompany drugs. But sometimes, amid the flurry of information that patients get when prescribed a new drug, the warning is overlooked or quickly forgotten.

Disturbing side-effects: The concentrations in grapefruit can interfere with a naturally produced chemical in our intestines and is involved in the metabolism of some drugs, controlling the amount that enters the bloodstream. And the side-effects of grapefruit-related overdoses can be horrendous. Some patients suffer low blood pressure and immune system collapse.


Scientists have only recently worked out how grapefruit makes drugs more potent.

The problem lies in chemicals in the fruit called furanocoumarins. These are produced by plants often as a defence mechanism against predators.
The concentrations in grapefruit are not toxic, but they interfere with a chemical naturally produced in our intestines called cytochrome P450 3A4.
This enzyme sits in the lining of the intestines and is involved in the metabolism of some drugs, controlling the amount that enters the bloodstream. Drug companies have to increase the dosage of some tablets to compensate for the action of the enzyme.

However, if furanocoumarins are present in the intestine, they stop cytochrome P450 3A4 from working. As a result, more of the drug gets into the bloodstream and a patient is at risk of an overdose. Just one glass of grapefruit juice is enough to treble the potency of some cancer, heart, cholesterol and painkilling drugs. A single helping of grapefruit can have an effect, even if consumed hours before the patient takes their medicine.

The effects of mixing medicine and grapefruit can be dramatic. In tests, patients taking the blood pressure drug felodipine had three times the level of the medicine in their blood after drinking grapefruit juice than those patients who’d had a glass of water. People who eat lots of the fruit over a long period of time appear to be at even higher risk.

Dr David Bailey, a researcher at the Lawson Health Research Institute in London, Ontario, who published this week’s study, said in summary: ‘One tablet with a glass of grapefruit juice can be like taking five or ten tablets with a glass of water. So you can unintentionally go from a therapeutic level [of the drug] to a toxic level just by consuming grapefruit juice.’



Read Full Post »


Winner: Droppin’

Tonight we started with a primer on Ebola, then moved to a wide range of topics. Did you know that President Kennedy was shot on Elm Street in Dallas, or that the most popular street name is Second Street. Go figure. Well, Dropping’ knew and finished just ahead of Rosebud, Rhys, and Pluto.

Good Question!: Which battle is considered the turning point of the Civil War?

Choices:   a.Vicksburg      b.Gettysburg      c.Antietam      d.Bull Run


Answer: Gettysburg

Most people jumped on the best known battle, Gettysburg, but a few Civil War buffs thought it might be Vicksburg. Of course, it was Gettysburg that changed the course of the war.

On the third day of the battle, General Robert E. Lee launched a ferocious artillery barrage aimed at softening the Union center; then he ordered Major General George Pickett to lead 15,000 men across almost a mile of open fields while Union artillery and rifle fire tore them to shreds. One unit managed to reach the Union lines. But the attack was really doomed from the start.

Lee knew it was over. The next day he led his beaten troops back toward Virginia. He had lost almost 28,000 men—roughly a third of his army. Perhaps more important, his own confidence was shaken. He wrote Confederate president Jefferson Davis offering to resign his position—Davis would hear nothing of it. But Lee, his army, and the Confederate cause would never be the same.

Even though Gettysburg was not his finest hour, General Lee’s performance leading the Confederate armies was probably the only reason the overmatched Confederacy lasted as long as they did.

4818657_origRobert E. Lee (1807-1870) was one of the most talented and successful generals of the Civil War. After graduating from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in 1846, Lee fought in the Mexican-American War, where he showed his excellent leadership skills. In 1859, he was in command of the force that captured abolitionist John Brown at Harper’s Ferry, Virginia. Though he was against secession, he declined Lincoln’s offer to command the Union Army, instead declaring his allegiance to his home state of Virginia. Lee commanded the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia until his surrender to General Grant at Appomattox Court House on April 9, 1865.

Given the almost impossible task of defeating a larger and better-equipped northern army, Lee used brilliant and aggressive tactics to defeat his enemies. At the Battle of Chancellorsville in 1863, he daringly divided his army and won a decisive victory, paving the way for his second invasion of the North. The ensuing Battle of Gettysburg, however, turned into a disaster when Lee ordered a huge frontal assault at the middle of the northern line, a doomed attack known to history as Pickett’s Charge. The South never recovered from the losses of that day, and Lee spent the remainder of the war doing his best to hold off the inevitable. His surrender after the nine-month siege of Petersburg ended all major southern resistance. Lee is still remembered as a great hero of the southern cause.


When we think of Gettysburg we often think of the Gettysburg Address. Here is a fine version, only 2:49, but worth every moment:



Read Full Post »