Saturday, December 30, 2006

Apple #213: Spackle

As 2006 draws to a close, I know you're all thinking about something Very Important, the exact same Very Important thing I'm thinking about:

The wonderful substance called Spackle.

Like me (and my dad), you are burning with curiosity to know, where the heck did such a funny word (which is also a lot of fun to say, as in, Better get some Spackle on that or simply, Spackle Spackle Spackle) come from? Is it the inventor's name, perhaps?

  • For those of you who don't know all the various ways to fix up your house, or if you're just not hip to every detail of American slang, Spackle compound is a paste you can use to patch scratches or small holes in drywall or plaster surfaces inside your house.
  • If you're British, your Trademark-turned-generic term for the stuff is Polyfilla.
  • Specifically, it is a combination of gypsum powder and glue. It is usually sold in plastic containers in which it is kept moist with water so that it stays in a ready-to-use paste form.

A pretty typical-looking tub of Spackle
(You can buy this at the ePaintStore)

  • To use it, scoop up a fair amount of it onto your putty knife and spread it onto the offending, non-smooth surface (a wall where you've run a chair into it while moving furniture in or out of the room, for example). Use the putty knife to smooth out the paste and scrape away the excess. Wait for it to dry, sand it down to make the patch still smoother, and then you can paint over it and the wall looks like new again -- if you've done a good job of smoothing it out and matching the existing paint, that is.

Someone is Spackling over a pretty nasty-looking gouge in the wall
(For more info on how to Spackle, see Black & Decker's page on the subject)

  • Now, for what we really want to know: where did that word "Spackle" come from?
    • First off, the word itself is a Trademarked term that did not exist before it became a product.
    • However, the Online Etymology Dictionary says the term is probably derived from the German word spachtel, which means "putty knife," or "filler." This is sort of an odd combination of definitions for one term, but seems to match exactly with our good friend Spackle.
    • Other, possibly related words include:
      • shpaklevat (Russian): to fill holes with putty or caulk
      • szpachla (Polish): spatula or putty knife
      • spaklieven (Yiddish): to fill in small holes in plaster
    • Interestingly, Spackle as a word has been around at least since 1927, which is when Spackle was first patented -- older than I would have guessed. Use of the term as a verb (Better Spackle that up quick) appeared on the scene around 1940.
Now, don't you feel better about starting the New Year? If you accidentally make any dings or dents, you can Spackle those right up!

Online Etymology Dictionary, spackle
Word Web Dictionary, spackle
Mendele's Yiddish literature and language Q&A, spakleiven and Spackle
Mike Todd's American slang for British English speakers
Street Terms: Drugs and the Drug Trade, S
For those of you interested in the serious American slang of the drug trade, Spackle is a street term for methamphetamine. Don't ask me why.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas from the Apple Lady

Friday, December 22, 2006

Apple #212: Loch Ness Monster

About that So-Called Traffic Increase...

As soon as I said I had all those hits, they stopped. Traffic is way down again, to just a few hits per day. Maybe it's the fact that Christmas is almost here and people aren't that interested in checking blogs. Or something.


This is my new favorite blog to check, the Daily Monster. The guy draws a new monster every day, and you get to watch, in sped-up time. Sometimes he draws the monster upside down.

Loch Ness Monster

Thinking about monsters makes me wonder, what's the latest with the Loch Ness Monster?

  • The Loch Ness Monster is the name for an elusive creature that supposedly lives in Scotland's largest freshwater lake, or loch, called Loch Ness.
  • Sightings of the monster date back some 1,400 years.
    • Either the Loch Ness Monster is one old monster, or there are at least two, if not many of them, and they have been secretly propagating and allowing only one monster to surface at a time.
  • Many photos and anecdotes have been presented as evidence of the monster's existence. Usually it is depicted or described as having a very long neck and a torso that undulates above the water's surface.

Carol took down her painting of the Loch Ness Monster, so in its place I give you this poster of the Loch Ness Monster from Sea Serpent Productions (it can be yours for $16.99)

  • The monster was first described in the legend of Saint Columba, who battled a water beast that was attacking someone. But she may have been in the River Ness as opposed to the Loch Ness. Or she may have helped someone beseiged by many metaphorical monsters throughout his life. But anyway there was a monster in the water and she fought it.
  • Very little was heard of the monster for centuries until 1934 when a photograph taken by a gynecologist named Colonel Robert K. Wilson became a media sensation and launched all sorts of searches and excitement.
    • This photo is typically referred to as the Surgeon's photo, because Colonel Wilson never publicized the photo himself, and it was circulated without anyone's name attached to it.

The much-acclaimed Surgeon's photo
(Photo from

    • It turns out, however, that the photo was a hoax, and three people were involved, including the Surgeon himself.
    • In 1933, a road was built around Loch Ness and more people were saying they had seen the monster. So a newspaper hired a very famous big game hunter named Marmaduke Wetherall to find the monster. Wetherall did find some tracks made by a very large animal of some kind, and people got all worked up over them. Upon examination, the tracks turned out to have been made by an elephant foot -- and not a live elephant either, but the kind of elephant foot used in umbrella stands, which was a popular thing to have at the time. Wetherall retreated in humiliation.
    • Then Wetherall secretly went to his step-son, Christian Spurling, and asked him to make a model of the monster and take a picture of it and thus avenge himself for being humiliated. Spurling did as his step-father asked, and took a picture of a toy submarine with a plastic head affixed to it.
    • Then he gave the photo to Wilson, who was a highly respected doctor, and told him to turn it in to the newspaper.
    • Spurling confessed all this in 1994 when he was 90 years old and nearing the end of his life.
  • Despite this confession, the photo is still circulating with all sorts of oohs and aahs and significance attached to it. And people still say they see the monster, still take pictures, and still try to come up with explanations for the monster in the water.
  • In 2001, two large, dead conger eels were found next to Loch Ness. No one made any particular claims about these eels. The theory is that someone thought they could put eels into the lake, take pictures of them and claim to have seen the monster, but since the eels are saltwater creatures, that whole plan didn't quite work out.

This is a world record-sized 68 pound conger eel caught by Martin Larkins at Devil's Point, Plymouth, England.
(Photo posted at the British Conger Club)

  • In 2003, someone found a dinosaur fossil when he tripped and fell into the loch. The fossil was confirmed to be that of a plesiosuar, a dinosaur that once lived underwater. Some people have said that this could be the Loch Ness monster, or maybe its relative.
    • The fossil is embedded in limestone that dates to the Jurassic period. However, the rocks in and around Loch Ness date to a much older period and are igneous, crystalline, and metamorphic rocks.
    • Dinosaurs were cold-blooded reptiles, and could not have survived in the cold temperatures of Scotland's northerly lake.
    • The dinosaur whose bone this was originally lived in saltwater, but the Loch Ness is a freshwater lake.
    • So this plesiosaur was not the Loch Ness monster at any point, and probably no dinosaur ever lived in Loch Ness.
  • In 2005, two American students visiting in Scotland said they had found a huge tooth lodged in the body of a dead deer and suggested that the tooth belonged to the Loch Ness Monster. They took pictures of the tooth, which they said was then confiscated by a game warden, so they no longer had the actual tooth, but they did have photos.
    • Scientists who saw the photos said that the tooth was actually a deer's antler
    • It was later revealed that the photo, the story, and the website with the details all were part of an effort to publicize a horror novel called The Loch.
  • In 2006, one paleontologist suggested that Loch Ness monster is actually an elephant in the water. The head extending out of the water is actually the elephant's trunk, and what looks like humps of its body are the top of the elephant's head and its backbone. The paleontologist said that circuses used to travel that road around Loch Ness and maybe the let the animals go swimming in the lake now and then, and so that's what the Surgeon must have seen when he took his photo.

(Image from National Geographic News)

  • Except, we know what the Surgeon saw when he took his photo: a plastic toy submarine.

Lots of theories have been advanced to explain what people are actually seeing when they think they see the Loch Ness monster. Perhaps they're seeing sturgeon, which are fish that can grow to be up to seven feet long, and their fins do stick out of the water sometimes. Perhaps these people are seeing schools of fish, boats or wakes of boats, driftwood, birds with long necks, or even groups of otters swimming all in a line. But maybe the culprit really at work is what's known as "expectant attention," the phenomenon of thinking you're going to see something as you're looking at it, so you fool yourself into believing that you actually do see it.

"Loch Ness Sea Monster Fossil a Hoax, Say Scientists," National Geographic News, July 29, 2003
Crystalinks, Loch Ness Monster
Museum of Hoaxes, The Loch Ness Monster and the Surgeon's Photo
"Photo in the News: Loch Ness Monster was an Elephant?" National Geographic News, March 9, 2006
"Why the Loch Ness Monster is no plesiosaur," New Scientist, November 2, 2006
"North America's 'Loch Ness Monster' Spotted Again," LiveScience, March 7, 2006

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Apple #211: Walruses

I saw something on Animal Planet the other day about how some people found a young, injured walrus and nursed him back to health. There were a lot of close-up shots of this young walrus. He had the pouchy front cheeks, the whiskers, and his skin looked smooth and he had an expression like a nice but slightly confused dog: What's are you doing? Will there be food?

I realized I didn't know all that much about walruses. Time to do a little appling.

  • Walruses live on both the Atlantic and Pacific shores. Pacific walruses are generally larger. They weigh, on average, around 2,000 pounds.
  • Walruses live in enormous groups, or herds, by the hundreds. Scientists say this makes them the most gregarious of all animals.

This is only part of a herd of walruses
(Photo from the NOAA Photo library, used at Gregory's page on walruses)

  • They group together as a way to keep warm, which is essential since they tend to live in pretty cold places, like off the coasts of Canada and Greenland, and in the Bering sea.
  • They also have a layer of blubber to keep them warm. Their blubber can be as much as 4 inches thick.
  • Even though walruses hang out together by the hundreds, they separate themselves into groups of males and groups of females.
  • They also develop hierarchies within the groups based on size, aggressiveness, and tusk length. Bigger walruses with longer, unbroken tusks are at the top of the social ladder, while smaller walruses with shorter or broken tusks are at the bottom. Walrus tusks can grow to be 30 to 39 inches long.
  • Walruses use their tusks for fighting and for getting in and out of the water from icy or rocky shores. This process of entering or exiting the water is referred to as "hauling."

This walrus has hauled himself out of the water to take a break in his search for food. Just relaxing on a big old pile of ice.
(Photo by Budd Christman of NOAA, and posted by the Landfast Ice Gallery)

  • Their foreflippers have all the same skeletal components as the arms of a land animal, but everything is shortened and slightly modified. In the water, walruses use their foreflippers for steering (for propulsion, they alternate strokes of their hind flippers), and on land, they use the foreflippers as front legs in walking.
  • Scientists have discovered that most walruses have slightly larger bones in their right flipper. This means that most walruses use their right flipper more often than the left.
  • In the water, walruses can reach speeds up to about 20 mph. They can stay underwater as long as 10 minutes without coming up for air.
  • Walruses may communicate with each other above water or below. Above water, they clack their teeth and whistle. Below water, they make clicking or knocking noises, tapping, and "bell-like sounds." You can listen to some walrus sounds here -- and in this one, I thought the gonging sound was a person playing a drum, but it's actually a walrus!
  • Walruses have a special throat muscle that keeps water from going down its throat when the mouth is opened.
  • They eat a lot of shellfish, like clams and sea cucumbers and crabs. They dive underwater to look for clams, but because the water is usually cloudy and dark, they sniff along the bottom and use their whiskers to find food. The technical name for their whiskers is vibrissae.
  • They might use their tusks to dislodge the clams, or some walruses also blow powerful jets of water at the sea floor to uproot the mollusks. Then they suck the soft-bodied animals out of their shells and swallow them whole. Adult walruses can eat anywhere from 3,000 to 6,000 clams at one sitting.

This walrus is snuffling out clams on the sea bed
(Photo from the BBC)

  • Walruses may also eat fish occasionally, but they like the shellfish best. If food is really scarce, they may scavenge from corpses of dead seals, but that's when times are hard in walrus-land.
  • There are, however, some rogue walruses who eat seals a lot. They are referred to as "habitual seal-eaters." I'm not kidding. They are usually male walruses, they're usually larger than other males, and they're recognizable as seal-eaters because their skin gets grease-stained from seal blubber. Sounds like these are the bad seeds in the walrus herd.

Then, of course, there's the musical walrus.
(If you want to know what the song means, read what John Lennon said about it.)

Sea World Education Department Resource, Walruses
Helen Briggs, "Most walruses are right-flippered," BBC News, October 22, 2003

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Increase in Traffic

I have a brief announcement to make: Google has now begun to index each page of this blog, as opposed to mainly the entry page and every once in a while another entry here and there. The result is that people searching for topics which I have covered are being directed to the actual page where that information lives rather than to the first page.

What is more, I am getting a skadload more hits than I was before. Before, I had to struggle to reach 15 hits per day. Now, since Google is doing a better job indexing my content, I am getting, on average, 25 to 30 hits per day. This may seem like small change to some of you big-time bloggers out there, but for me, this is like Christmas (I can say that, since it's December).

What this means for you, dear readers, is not much except that if you want to find a particular entry, it's more likely that searching in Google will actually give you reliable results. Perhaps even more exciting is that you can consider yourselves regular readers of a growing cultural phenomenon that is the Daily Apple. You can say you were here at the beginning.

Thursday, December 7, 2006

Apple #210: Limbo

I was thinking about the word limbo. There's the kind of limbo you can be in, which to my way of thinking is an in-between state, neither here nor there. But there's also the dance, where you try to bend backwards and walk underneath a stick. I wondered, are the two words somehow connected, in their origins perhaps? Or are they totally different things that happen to share the same word?

Limbo the Place, or State

  • In this sense, the word comes from the Latin word limbus, which means a hem or a border that is distinctive from the rest of the garment. It could also mean anything joined on, such as a limb of one's body.
  • That concept of a border is probably what applies best here.
  • In Catholic theology, limbo is a place or a state that is neither heaven nor hell, in which unbaptized souls are suspended.

Mantegna's Descent Into Limbo
(Sold at Sotheby's for $28.5 million)

  • From this religious theory came a more secularized version. Limbo came to be the imaginary place where lost or neglected things or people went.
  • Limbo also came to refer to the situation of feeling oneself disregarded or forgotten. Or, if you say you are in limbo, you mean that you are in a state of waiting to find out what will become of you at some unknown point in the future.
  • One definition from the 1800s describes limbo as a waste basket where things are stowed that are too good to be thrown away but not good enough to use.
  • For prisoners, limbo refers to the time spent in jail awaiting trial.

Images of Mary Pickford as Priscilla, in the 1910 film "An Arcadian Maid." These images are provided as examples of films that have not been fully restored and remain unavailable to the public. The author of the Pickford Film Legacy website writes, "These Pickford titles remain in a seemingly unnecessary state of limbo." The woman herself seems to be stuck in limbo.
(Photo from the Pickford Film Legacy)

Limbo the Dance

  • The dance originated in Trinidad (in the Caribbean). It involves a stick being held up while the dancer arches backwards and scoots beneath the stick without falling over or touching the ground. Again and again the dancer passes under the stick, but each time the stick is lowered. The dance ends when the stick is so low that no one can go beneath it without falling or touching the ground.

Dancers in Grenada, which is next door to Trinidad, doing the limbo
(Photo from the Grenada Drum Festival)

  • The dance was originally meant to depict people being forced into slavery, having to bend and twist as they were forced into the hold of a slave ship. One can imagine the ship's hold becoming more and more crowded. In a less tangible sense, the dance depicts the concept of slavery itself, which makes greater and greater demands on a person so that a person struggles first to meet those demands and then simply to survive.
  • The dance as we know it may also have had its roots in an African funeral dance called the legba or legua.
  • It is possible that limbo in this sense is related to the idea of being limber, or being able to bend one's limbs.
So, there are similarities. The dance originally depicted a certain type of limbo, that of being forced into slavery, a state from which one never knows when one might be released. In both the dance and the religious theological definition, people are trying to meet someone else's expectations but not quite making it. Clearly, limbo is not a good place to be.

It's a good thing they made a dance out of it. It's sort of like the blues, and how those songs take feeling so bad and turn it into something that makes you feel good.

These people live at the South Pole, and they're doing the limbo
(they also may have been drinking alcohol mixed with fresh snow water)

This just in:

It appears that the Pope is considering declaring that limbo was never an official part of the Catholic church's teachings, and that it may not actually exist. But as far as I can tell, he hasn't made an official determination one way or another yet.

So now even the concept of limbo is in limbo.

OneLook and the various dictionaries sourced there, limbo
New Advent, Catholic Encyclopedia, Limbo
A Prisoner's Dictionary, limbo
Sonny Watson's Street Swing, Limbo
Merriam-Webster, second definition of limbo
Paul Cachia, "Limbo was never part of the official teaching of the Catholic doctrine," di-ve news, October 7, 2006
"Vatican to review state of limbo," BBC News, October 6, 2006

Saturday, December 2, 2006

Apple #209: Underpants Around the World

The other day, I was singing a song about underpants. Nothing fancy, it went like this, "Underpants! Underpants."

So I wondered, what kinds of underwear do people wear in various countries around the world?

I had expected to find lots of different kinds of garments. But in general, most countries' underwear looks a lot like underwear worn here in the U.S. Even with bras, too. Or at least this is true of companies posting pictures on the Internet.

Mainly, what's different is the style. Here is one example of what I mean:

Men's underwear, made by Adonis Clothing in Bulgaria)

So, just assume that for each country listed below, all the underwear is mostly the same, except for slight differences in style. I've noted only particular garments that seem especially unusual.

I should also say that the way image-posting works in Blogger didn't allow me to post many pictures from these international sites directly onto this page. If you want to see what a garment looks like, in most cases, you'll have to follow the link.

  • In India, one manufacturer makes a loose-fitting, cotton boy-short for children, called "bloomers." They have slightly different names for other things, too:
    • Men's undershirts are called "vests"
    • Long underwear is called "body warmers."
  • In China, the AB Group makes a couple interesting items:
    • "Anti-bacterial, smell-proof underwear". These are available in briefs for men, teens, and women, as well as shorts for women, which are sort of like briefs but with a little extra length at the legs.
    • Far-infrared suits for women. These are thermal pants with matching long-sleeve tops, with the additional feature of an infrared raised fiber. This material radiates infrared rays emitted by the human body back to the skin, thus not only providing extra warmth but also "expediting the blood circulation and facilitating metabolism." I guess you wear this stuff, you get warm, you sweat more, you lose a pound or two.
  • Another company in China, Yimi Lingerie, makes a thong but with extra support, called the "T-Back Brief." From the front, it looks like a brief: white and with an extra panel at the top. But in the back, it does that special thongy thing, though a little less narrowly than most thongs available here.
  • In Turkey, a company called Anil Lingerie makes lingerie that looks like what you might see in a Victoria's Secret catalog. In addition to these very modern and seductive items, they offer other peices of underwear with contrastingly old-fashioned names:
    • Knee-length (half) slips they call "petticoats"
    • Girdles and body-shaping extended-length underwear they call "corsets"
    • Kombinezons or "chemises" are full-length slips.
      • Incidentally, chemises have been around since medieval times. They are generally white or off-white garments like plain dresses that were worn beneath the showier dress or robe, if you were a man. The man's undershirt is the descendant of the men's chemise.
  • In Iran, one underwear company called Lano makes the seamless Hilper for women
    • It's an undershirt made of microfiber with a yoke-type neck, and the straps cross around the neck rather than over the shoulders.
    • I have no idea why it's called a Hilper.
  • In Australia, the very popular Holeproof company's Underdaks for men come in a variety of styles. Perhaps most arresting is this style, presented here in royal blue:

(Photo from Bizrate UK)

  • King Style underwear, based in Taiwan, seems to be suffering from some inelegant English translation of the description of their underwear:
King Style's main product, "Man's underwear" with a unique pouch for save-keeping the "balls" has been underwent many tests and has been proved to eliminate the problems created by traditional man's underwear.

Overall, I've highlighted above the various differences that I saw. But really, looking at so many pictures of underwear from various countries all over the world, I saw a lot of really similar stuff. It actually makes me feel kind of good, to know that in Iran, say, people that I might normally think of as pretty different from me, are actually wearing underwear much like my own.

Maybe that's something for the diplomats to discuss before they get down to business: what kind of underwear to you wear? Do you prefer cotton or polyester? Underwire or racerback? Really, the possibilities are endless.

Body Care International (India)
AB Group, products for women (China)
Yimi Lingerie, products (China)
Anil Lingerie products for 2006 (Turkey)
Lano (Iran)
BTC Textiles (the Netherlands)
Holeproof underwear (Australia)
Engel GmbH product overall view (Germany)
King Style underwear (Taiwan)

Monday, November 27, 2006

Apple #208: Medicine Hat, Alberta

I came across the name of this town recently. What a name, eh?

I decided that I would finally find out why it is called Medicine Hat, and some other sundry details about it.

First, the name:

  • Long ago, a great battle was fought between the Cree and Blackfoot tribes, on the bank of what is now called the South Saskatchewan River, which runs through what is now the center of Medicine Hat.
  • The Cree were battling hard, but then they saw their medicine man's eagle tailfeather headdress on the ground and they knew he had deserted them. In many tribes, the medicine man was hugely essential to the community, filling the role of spiritual leader, doctor, and overall guide.
  • When the Cree saw that their medicine man had left, they knew they were done for, and they put down their weapons. They were subsequently slaughtered by the Blackfoot tribe.
  • Afterwards the site was referred to as Saami, which is the Blackfoot word for medicine man's hat.

Map of Medicine Hat by the Lion's Club of Medicine Hat

  • Medicine Hat is located in the southeastern corner of Alberta, about 250 miles from Great Falls, Montana.
  • The city is situated in a river valley, pretty much in the middle of prairies.
  • The TransCanada Highway also runs diagonally along the southwest side of the city.

There's a big statue of a moose in Medicine Hat
(Photo from Big Things in Canada)

  • If you go to the city's official website, you will see that it wants to be known as "The Gas City." Okay, Medicine Hat, I'll call you Gas City if you really want me to.
    • Actually, there are roughly 20 billion cubic meters of natural gas below the surface of Medicine Hat and its environs
    • Rudyard Kipling said all that gas below ground meant the area had "all hell for a basement."
  • Most locals refer to their city as "The Hat."
  • An environmental study of Canadian weather found that Medicine Hat is the sunniest city in Canada, with over 2,500 hours of sunshine per year. It also had the highest number of days without rain.
  • As I type this, it is -6 degrees Fahrenheit in Medicine Hat (for you Canadians, that's -27 degrees C).

This is spring on Medicine Hat College's campus
(Photo from Medicine Hat College)

  • As of June 2005, Medicine Hat's population totaled 56,048. To put that into perspective,
    • Toronto's population is roughly 5.2 million
    • Quebec has 710,800 folks
    • Windsor has almost 331,000, or about 5 times the people of Medicine Hat.
  • In addition to natural gas mining companies and farms in the outlying areas, there's also an army reserve unit based in Medicine Hat (South Alberta Light Horse). Just west of the city is the Suffield base, which trains a lot of military troops, including folks deployed for NATO missions.
  • You can relax in 100 parks, all within the city limits and all linked by an extensive trail system.
  • In August, you can attend the Medicine Hat Stampede, which is actually a rodeo (Canada's second largest), complete with a parade, livestock show, art show, petting farm, and midway.
  • In December, the city erects a singing Christmas tree downtown. That's what they say, anyway.

These cows live in Medicine Hat
(Photo from Pahl Livestock)

Sources, Medicine Hat Travel & Tourism and Map of Canada
Medicine Hat, Alberta Business Directory
Canadian Relocation Systems, Medicine Hat, Alberta, Medicine Hat, Alberta
Big Things in Alberta, City of Medicine Hat, Alberta, Medicine Hat, Alberta
Environment Canada, Weather Winners Highlights
City Population, Canada

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Some Minor Adjustments

As some of you may be aware, the Blogger folks are updating their service and adding a lot more functionality. All new blogs will be made using their new (and easier!) Beta format. Existing blogs require some tweaking to make the adjustment to the new format. I'm doing some housekeeping things to make that migration happen. One of those things is adding subject labels to each post (see the bottom of each entry).

But I know that, for most of you, that is total yawnsville. In the meantime, I invite you to peruse some season-suitable entries I put together in the past, including

  • Turkeys -- find out what that thing is that hangs down under their beak
  • Dry Air in Winter -- what can you do to make your house less irritating when the cold weather hits?
  • Flu vs. Cold -- do you have a cold, or is it really the flu?
  • Wind Chill -- what is "wind chill," anyway?

I'll have a new entry up here soon, I promise.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Apple #207: Days of November

Brace yourselves. Some important holidays are coming up.

Sure, there's Thanksgiving, but in November, there is also so much more. You'll be glad to know that you can send e-greeting cards to your loved ones for just about every one of these "days."

For example, did you know that, among other things, November is

  • Learn Chinese Month
  • National Impotency Month
  • National Novel Writing Month
  • National Pomegranate Month
  • International Microfinance Month
I have the suspicion that these things are all mysteriously related.

Did you know that the pomegranate is originally from Iran and the Himalayas?
Babylonians chewed the seeds before battle, hoping to be made invincible.
(Photo from The Food Paper)

It is also currently

Coming up soon are the Better Conversation Week, National Family Week, and National Game & Puzzle Week (organized by the people who are now concentrating more on the Million Minute Family Challenge).

There are also very special individual days in the month of November.

Yesterday (the 15th) was the National Bundt Pan Day, and I did not make a Bundt cake, but I'm sure somebody somewhere did. Yesterday was also the I Love to Write Day, and I did actually write something yesterday.

Coming up, World Hello Day is on the 21st, before Thanksgiving. To celebrate, say hello to ten people. The 24th is Flossing Day, which is always the day after Thanksgiving. So you can say hello to 10 people, eat your turkey, and then floss afterwards.

Some people make various crafty things using dental floss. This necklace, made of dental floss and plastic bloody teeth, was an entry in an ugliest necklace contest.

The 19th is Have a Bad Day Day. It is intended to allow retail workers to wish people, "Have a bad day," instead of the usual alternative. This holiday is actually copyrighted by Thomas & Ruth Roy. Copyrighting a holiday seems in keeping with the whole "have a bad day" concept.

If you actually do have a bad day on the 19th, fear not, for Name Your PC Day follows immediately on its heels and will surely be a balm to your bad day. Although this one is copyrighted, too. :(

But perhaps most important of all, the 24th is National D.B. Cooper Day.

  • In 1971, Mr. Cooper hijacked an airliner flying from Portland, OR, to Seattle and threatened to blow it up unless the airline company, Northwest Orient, paid him $200,000 cash.
  • The plane landed at its destination, he got his $200 Gs, and he released the 36 passengers and two members of the crew. Then he made the remaining crew members take off again and fly him to Mexico.
  • When the plane reached 10,000 feet, with winds gusting at 80 knots and in a driving, freezing rain, at night, he jumped out of the plane via the rear stairs. He was equipped with four parachutes and twenty-one pounds of $20 bills strapped to his chest.
  • He was never seen again. No one knows if he died or is still alive.

Police sketch of Dan "D.B." Cooper
(Image from the FBI)

  • It is possible that he survived. At least two others copied his crime only a few months later and those hijackers lived to tell about it -- albeit in court.
  • D.B. Cooper is actually a name that one newspaper printed by mistake. He registered for his flight under the name Dan Cooper, but that might not be his real name.
  • Although this crime took place during the reign of the tenacious J. Edgar Hoover, it remains the only unsolved skyjacking.
  • He has been invited to attend a celebration in his honor on the 24th, at Chloride, Arizona, which is near the Hoover Dam and Route 66.
So relax, eat your turkey and your pie, floss your teeth, and then if you're so inclined, you can wing out to Arizona and maybe meet a famous hijacker! You might want to chew some pomegranate seeds before you go, just in case he actually shows up.

[For updates about the D. B. Cooper case, check out this more recent Daily Apple.]

Purdue University Center for New Crops & Plant Products, Pomegranate
MO-SPAN Green Ribbon Awareness Week
T.J. DeGroat, "Let it Go," Hatch Magazine
National Flossing Council Online
Crime Library, A Mystery (Story of D.B. Cooper)
U.S. News Online, Mysteries of History
Kingman Area Chamber of Commerce, D.B. Cooper Day

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Apple #206: Player Pianos

Someone at my job was telling me some pretty interesting things about player pianos. For instance, some of the music was composed only for player pianos. It was "printed" on the rolls that were used only with player pianos, but not recorded in any other form. So the only way to listen to this music was with a player piano. That music is all but lost, now that the player piano is essentially extinct.

I found this sort of fascinating, so I thought I'd see what else I could learn about player pianos.

  • Another word for player pianos is "pianola," which was at first a trademarked term, but then it became the word for all player pianos (the same way people use the word "Kleenex" to refer to all disposable tissues, or people in the South say "Coke" to mean any soda).
  • You can, of course, let the roll and piano go by themselves...

(Ad posted at Player Piano Rebirth)

  • ... but with an operator or "pianolist" at the controls, he or she can make subtle improvements to the sound.
  • Pressing on the foot pedals makes the thing go, but if you vary the pressure, you can change the tone. Manipulating the levers located under the front of the keyboard can change the tempo, accentuate particular notes, or sustain other notes. These controls also allow the pianolist to rewind and re-play the roll.
  • The keys can also be played the same way a conventional piano is played. This means the operator can play the keys while a roll is playing, if desired, to create harmonies or other effects.
  • Player pianos reached their peak of popularity between 1900 and 1930. Player pianos that exist today are around 70 years old and often need a lot of care and attention.
  • Here's a scaled-down description of how a pianola works:
    • Pianolist pumps air into the organ using the two foot pedals, which also makes the roll turn
    • Perforations in the paper, each representing a note, are "read" by a pneumatic device, which makes a valve open
    • The valve opening tells a pneumatic motor to go into action
    • The motor triggers a wooden, felt-covered "finger," or hammer, which presses the corresponding key, from behind the scenes, of the keyboard.

Diagram of the inner workings of a player piano. A little more complex than a conventional piano.
(Diagram from

  • The earliest pianola was made in 1895, by a guy named Edwin Votey, from Detroit. The early player pianos could only play about 60 notes. It wasn't until 1908 that they figured out how to get pianolas to be able to access all 88 keys of a typical piano.
  • The barrel piano, or drum piano, that people played on the street was the early version of the player piano.

One type of barrel piano. Many of these were larger, more like the size of a popcorn cart, with handles like a wheelbarrow.
(Photo from the Player Piano Page)

  • Player pianos died when the stock market crashed in 1929. Only a very few manufacturers survived that crash, but even so, most people couldn't afford to buy a player piano when they could barely find work.
  • Player pianos enjoyed a slight revival in the 1960s, but it didn't last long. Currently, nobody makes any player pianos anymore.
  • However, people are working on methods to preserve the music on the paper rolls, in electronic form. Most of this preserved music is in stored in midi files.
  • I found a site where you can listen to some midi files of player piano songs, and I picked out one I liked, the Powder Rag & Live Wires Rag. Apparently, making things explode is fun!
  • This music really is kind of happy, goofy, dancy. It's easy to understand, listening to it now, why it went out of fashion when the stock market crashed, and then World War II hit.

The Player Piano Page
Terry Smythe, Player Piano Rebirth
Listen to more player piano songs at Robert Perry's site (he's from New Zealand)

Tuesday, November 7, 2006

Apple #205: Gasoline Grades

I got some gas for my car tonight (or "petrol" for you folks from the UK). Filled up the tank, paid $2.11 a gallon. Not too bad a price -- for today, anyway.

As I was pumping the gas, I wondered, what exactly is the difference between Regular and Mid-grade and Premium? How much better is Premium, really?

Pumps like these, ready for all three grades of gasoline, are the norm.
(These particular pumps are available for purchase from Ken-Co)

  • Grades of gasoline are defined in terms of the performance-grade of octane present in the gasoline. There are actually different types of octanes in various batches of gasoline, so to speak. The worst performing octane is given a zero rating, while the best is given a 100. The grades of gasoline reflect the range of performance levels of the octanes present in the gas:
    • Regular (a.k.a. conventional) gas has an octane rating of 85 to just shy of 88
    • Midgrade (oxygenated) gas has an octane rating of 88 to 90
    • Premium (reformulated) gas has an octane rating greater than 90
  • The higher the octane rating, the less likely your engine is to knock.
Which begs the question, what's engine knocking, and why should I care?
  • Once upon a time, car engines had a hard time regulating the amount of fuel versus air that was going into the engine if the temperature dropped, or the humidity went up, and so on. Sometimes too much gas was released, which soaked the carbon deposits just outside the engine cylinder. Those gas-soaked carbon deposits then ignited, but they were igniting outside the cylinder, where you don't that to happen, and this premature ignition made a popping or knocking sound. Not only was it an unpleasant noise, it also meant your car wasn't getting the most bang from the fuel that it could, and it was damaging the engine besides.

This is a piston that's been essentially shot through, all because of engine knock.
(Photo from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory)

  • However, this problem was true of cars made before the mid-1980s. Since then, cars have been built with computerized fuel injectors that work to control the mix of fuel and air going into the engine, regardless of the weather. In most cases, cars made today won't have a problem with engine knock, no matter what grade of gasoline you buy.
  • Some engines are made expressly for one grade of gasoline (my dad had a Cadillac for a while, and it required only Premium gas. Expensive!). If this is true of your car, you'd better use the grade that's called for.
Here's what it comes down to: grades of gasoline will affect how rapidly your car can reach higher speeds, or its horsepower. You won't get better mileage if you use a higher grade of gasoline.

So, in essence, the importance of gasoline grades is all but obsolete. And all those times I bought higher grades of gas, thinking I was doing a good thing for my car, I was just another sucker on the vine.

Filename: BD07032_.wmf Keywords: anger, businessmen, cigars ... File Size: 37 KB

These decades, what matters more is the quality of gasoline you purchase. In other words, it matters which gas station you go to, not what you buy once you're there.

  • The primary differentiating factor among brands of gasoline is the detergent they add. Detergents help to remove deposits that build up in the works. Every type of gasoline sold in the U.S. has to meet standards set by the Environmental Protection Agency for acceptable levels and types of detergent.
  • Gas sold by lesser-known gas companies tends to have a different type of detergent. It is approved by the EPA, but it's of a lesser standard and was approved expressly so that some companies could sell their gasoline more cheaply. In other words, these detergents don't work as well, but they keep the total cost of the gas down. Most car folks warn people away from buying gas at cheap-o, off-brand gas stations.
  • Name-brand companies like Mobil and Chevron and BP and so on add the better-perfoming detergents. Many have done this since before the EPA started requiring it.

Gas companies have been adding detergents for a long time
(Photo from Rare Ads)

  • Of the well-known gas companies, Shell adds the highest amount of detergents. The company claims that this is extra-helpful to your car, but people who test these sorts of things say that more detergent doesn't necessarily make as much difference as the type of detergent does.
  • Various gasoline makers add other things besides just detergents. They each use a slightly different recipe. They don't like to say just what that recipe is, but they all like to say theirs is the best. However, I couldn't find many objective poeple saying one name-brand type of gasoline is particularly better than another.
  • If you buy the same brand of gasoline on a regular basis, it's a good idea to switch it up once in a while. The same way you need to switch your shampoo to wash away detergent build-up, changing the brand of gasoline means you're putting in a different formulation of detergents that will wash away your old brand's excess detergent and maybe a few deposits that the old gas might have missed.

Energy Information Administration, Definitions of Gasoline Grades, Chemistry, Before You Buy Gasoline or Petrol, Chemistry, How is Gasoline Made? What Are Octane Ratings?
Don't Waste Your Money, Gasoline Grades, Do You Really Need Premium?
Environmental Protection Agency, Gasoline Detergent Additives Enforcement and Recordkeeping Requirements, October 1997
Environmental Protection Agency, PA EPA Gets Gasoline Certification Program, 06/28/96.
American Petroleum Institute, Gasoline - Is It All the Same? What about Octane?

eHow, How to Purchase the Right Gasoline

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Apple #204: Shel Silverstein

A few entries ago, I mentioned that I learned that a Johnny Cash song, "A Boy Named Sue" was actually written by Shel Silverstein. In that entry, I found out about other songs performed by Johnny Cash.

But what I most want to know is, how is it that the same person who wrote The Giving Tree and all sorts of happy, goofy poetry for children also wrote a song that involves a father cutting off a chunk of his son's ear?

So it's time, boys and girls, to learn about Shel Silverstein.

  • Born in Chicago in 1932 and grew up there
  • Wanted to be a ball player when he was a kid, but he wasn't very good at baseball, so he drew and wrote instead.
  • Served as a GI in Japan and Korea in the 1950s and while there, drew cartoons for the Pacific Stars and Stripes.
  • After leaving the military, he made cartoons for Playboy in 1956. Mainly, he took TV-show stills and wrote his own captions that were mostly punny. You can find those cartoons in collections titled Playboy's Teevee Jeebies and More Playboy's Teevee Jeebies.

(I used to have an image of one of Shel's Teevee Jeebies, but the website that hosted the images has since disappeared.)

  • He never intended to write anything for children. But a friend of his, Tomi Ungerer, who himself wrote children's books, encouraged him that he submit a children's story to an editor at Harper's.
  • The first thing he wrote for children was Uncle Shelby's Story of Lafcadio, The Lion Who Shot Back, which was published in 1963.
  • It was the publication of The Giving Tree, which appeared in stores in 1964, that made him famous. He had trouble getting a publisher to accept it. Some said it was too short; others said it was too sad. It was four years before a publisher agreed to print it, sad ending and all. And then it became phenomenally successful and loved by thousands.

"Once there was a tree ... and she loved a little boy."
The Giving Tree

(Image from HarperCollins)

  • Also during this decade, he started writing folk music and sometimes performing themself on guitar. "A Boy Named Sue" was recorded by Johnny Cash in 1969, and "The Cover of the Rollin' Stone" was recorded by Dr. Hook & The Medicine Show in 1972 (they sing this song in Almost Famous).
We take all kinds of pills that give us all kind of thrills
But the thrill we've never known
Is the thrill that'll gitcha when you get your picture
On the cover of the Rollin Stone

(Rollin Stone.....) Wanna see my picture on the cover
(Stone.....) Wanna buy five copies for my mother
(Yah! Stone.....) Wanna see my smilin face
On the cover of the Rollin Stone....
(that's a very very good idea)

I got a freaky ole lady name a cocaine Katy
Who embroideries on my jeans
I got my poor ole grey-haired daddy
Drivin my limosine
Now it's all decided to blow our minds
But our minds won't really be blown
Like the blow that'll gitcha when you get your picture
On the cover of the Rollin Stone

  • In 1974, Silverstein published Where the Sidewalk Ends: Poems and Drawings, which, as far as I'm concerned, is one of the best books for children EVER.
    • One of my favorites when I was a wee applet only eight years old was the Peanut-Butter Sandwich poem. It's about a king who's a boy and who loves peanut butter sandwiches. Won't eat anything else. Then his mouth gets stuck shut. Though all his family and the wizard and the dentist try everything, including grappling hooks, to pry his mouth open, but nothing works, for twenty years. When his mouth opens with a squeak, the first thing he says is, "How about a peanut-butter sandwich?" I just loved the idea of all that peanut butter.
  • In the 1980s, he wrote several plays, including "The Lady or the Tiger Show," "The Trio," and a play performed as part of the Lincoln Center's production "Oh Hell!"
  • He also co-wrote the film "Things Change" with David Mamet in 1988. The movie is a black comedy with a light touch, about a shoe repairman (Don Ameche) who is asked by a Chicago gangster to confess falsely to committing a murder that was actually done by one of the gangster's flunkies.

Box cover of "Things Change"
(Photo from Rotten Tomatoes)

  • Once Silverstein got famous, he had three homes: one in Greenwich Village, one in Key West, and one in Sausalito, California.
  • In 1999, Mr. Silverstein had a heart attack and died in his home in Florida.
I've decided I like it that Shel Silverstein isn't only about wacky happy children stuff, he's also got some wacky adult stuff going on too. He's a real live person! Except for the fact that he's dead. But you know what I mean. Go, Uncle Shelby!

Shel Silverstein official website
Shel Silverstein biography on Geocities, Shel Silverstein 1932-1999
Sely Friday's biography of Shel Silverstein
Lyrics Download, Dr. Hook - The Cover of Rolling Stone lyrics
Hal Hinson, Review of "Things Change,"
The Washington Post, October 21, 1988

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Apple #203: Wonders of the World

Last night, a friend said, "What are the seven wonders of the world, anyway?"

I said there were seven ancient wonders and seven modern wonders, and I started to list what I could remember -- the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, the Colossus of Rhodes -- and he suggested the Golden Gate Bridge as one of the modern wonders.

Surely, he said, Niagara Falls ought to be in there somewhere. But was there a separate list for the natural wonders versus the man-made wonders?

Clearly, it was time for the Apple Lady to step in.

As we suspected, there are actually many lists of wonders of the world. Herodotus was the first known person to come up with such an idea, as a way to celebrate the best of human structures that express a reverence for religion, art, mythology, science, or political dominance.

Ever since Herodotus, people have been coming up with lists of wonders all over the place. I'll start with the Ancient Wonders and give a couple other lists after that.


Listed chronologically, in order of their construction:

Great Pyramid of Giza
  • in Memphis, Egypt
  • built as a tomb for the Egyptian Pharaoh Khufu around 2560 BC
  • the oldest and only surviving structure of the Ancient Wonders
  • was originally 481 feet high and for 43 centuries, was the tallest structure on Earth
  • each side is 751 feet long
  • consists of about 2 million blocks of stone
  • interior sarcophagus is aligned with the directions of the compass

Hanging Gardens of Babylon
  • legendary palace and gardens along the Euphrates River, about 50 km south of Baghdad
  • built by King Nebuchadnezzar II, supposedly to please his wife who was from greener lands
  • built around 600 BC, and the foundation of the palace was only recently discovered
  • little is now known about the gardens
  • the plants grew above ground, even above eye-level and were irrigated with sloping channels, while grass grew green underfoot
  • all of this was accomplished in the desert-like conditions of Mesopotamia

One rendition of what the Hanging Gardens might have looked like. You can see more renditions at Joseph Berrigan's page.

Statue of Zeus at Olympia
  • enormous statue of the ruler of the Greek gods, seated on his throne
  • carved in honor of the Athenian Olympic games by renowned sculptor Pheidias
  • Pheidias started working on the statue in 440 BC
  • it was built starting with a metal frame over which were laid sheets of metal and ivory and gold
  • the statue is 40 feet high, or about four stories, and the base is 20 feet wide
  • the legs of the throne were decorated with sphinxes, Zeus' garments were inlaid with animals and lilies, and an eagle perched atop his sceptre
  • copies and reconstructions have since been attempted, but none managed to parallel the original work

Temple of Artemis at Ephesus
  • in Ephesus, which is about 50 km south of Izmir, in Turkey
  • built in honor of the Greek goddess of hunting and nature
  • foundation was constructed in the 7th century BC, but the rest of the structure was built around 550 BC
  • it was made of marble, with 127 Ionic columns aligned around the outside
  • the terrace alone was 260 feet by 430 feet
  • it housed many statues, including four bronze statues of Amazon women
  • though the temple had been burned, it was still standing and the locus of a very strong religious group still devoted to Artemis when Paul visited Ephesus in the 1st century AD

Mausoleum at Helicarnassus
  • Helicarnassus is now Bodrum, on the coast of the Aegean Sea in southwest Turkey
  • built in honor of King Maussollos, who was a local governor of Caria, one of Persia's outposts
  • the structure of Maussollos' tomb (hence, mausoleum) and was originally planned by his wife, who was also his sister, Artemisia
  • it was completed around 350 BC, three years after Maussollos had died, and one year after Artemisia had died
  • it was 120 feet by 100 feet at the base, and rose to a total height of 140 feet
  • on the surrounding podium and on top of the roof were all sorts of life-sized statues of people, lions, horses pulling chariots, and free-standing sculptures

One depiction of what the Mausoleum might have looked like
(from a page on the subject from the Netherlands)

Colossus of Rhodes
  • built at the harbor around the Island of Rhodes, in the Mediterranean
  • enormous statue of Helios the sun-god
  • took 12 years to build, and was finished in 282 BC
  • it has long been described as standing astride the harbor, with one foot on either side, but given the width of the harbor, this is highly unlikely to have been the case
  • the base was made of marble, an iron and stone framework rose up from there, and was overlaid in bronze
  • the dimensions were such that "few people can make their arms meet around the thumb"
  • an earthquake in 226 BC weakened the statue at the knee, and it fell over

Lighthouse of Alexandria
  • built by the Ptolemy rulers of Egypt shortly after the death of Alexander the Great
  • located off the coast of Alexandria, on the island of Pharos
  • the word Pharos is the root word of lighthouse
  • the lighthouse stood about 40 stories high and contained and internal shaft where fuel was lifted to keep the nighttime fire burning
  • during the day, an enormous mirror was used to reflect sunlight and direct ships
  • a statue of Poseidon, Greek god of the sea, stood atop the whole thing
  • the last of the non-existent Ancient Wonders to crumble
  • a series of earthquakes proved its undoing in 956, 1303, and 1323 AD

This model of the Lighthouse gives you an idea of the structure's massive scale (from a U of Texas course Intro to Greece)


There are lots of different lists of natural wonders. Some list only 7, some list far more. Some, though they restrict their list to 7, have different items on their list. I've decided to go with this list, which was compiled primarily by CNN:

  • Grand Canyon in Arizona
  • Great Barrier Reef off the coast of Australia
  • Mount Everest in Nepal
  • Northern lights
  • Paricutin Volcano in Mexico
  • Rio de Janeiro harbor
  • Victoria Falls on the border of Zambia and Zimbabwe

I know it's a postcard, but it's the best image I found that helps me to understand why a harbor is on this list. And yes, all that water is one harbor. That statue, called Cristo Redentor (Christ the Redeemer), is on other lists of man-made wonders.


This list, too, appears in many and various forms. The one repeated most often was compiled by the American Society of Civil Engineers. I detect a bit of a bias towards the United States -- where's the Eiffel Tower, for example -- and towards engineering -- somehow, I doubt that the North Sea Protection Works is especially pleasing to the eye.

  • Channel tunnel between France & England
  • CN Tower in Toronto, Canada
  • Empire State Building in New York
  • Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, CA
  • Itaipu Hydroelectric Dam on the border of Brazil & Paraguay
  • North Sea Protection Works (good pictures of this at Wikipedia)
  • Panama Canal

The Itaipu dam provides more hydroelectric power than can be generated by 10 nuclear power plants. 28% of Brazil's electricity and 78% of Paraguay's electricity is generated by this dam alone. To build it, engineers had to move 50 million tons of dirt and rock and then shift the course of the seventh largest river in the world.
(Photo by Rab & Jo)

There are also lists of forgotten wonders, wonders of the medieval mind, forgotten wonders of the medieval mind (but if they're forgotten wonders of the mind, how did we wind up with a list of them?), and so on. Niagara Falls, by the way, are included on the Forgotten Wonders of the Natural World list.

All these lists lead me to think that you or I could make a list of wonders, and if we told enough people about our list, we might get everybody to think we were being Very Official about our Seven Wonders of the World's Bathrooms or whatever topic we chose.

In fact, a preservation foundation are trying to put together a new list of the New Seven Wonders of the World, and they're taking votes! The New Wonders will be announced in Lisbon, Portugal, on July 7, 2007 (07-07-07).

Alaa Ashmawy's Seven Wonders of the Ancient World
Wonder Club, Complete Listing of World Wonders
123World, Seven Wonders of the World and More
Wikipedia, Seven Wonders of the World

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Apple #202: Apple Juice vs. Apple Cider

It's high time I wrote an Apple about something to do with apples.

I've been drinking lots of apple cider lately, now that it's in season and readily available in my nearby grocery store. I. Love. Apple. Cider. It's sweet, but not entirely so; there's more flavor to it than that. It has almost a cinamonny flavor, or anyway something darker, almost tangy, but if it's fresh, it's not tangy yet, it's still crisp. It tastes and smells like fall -- cool and orangey brown, a little bit melancholy and yet still delightful.

What's strange about my penchant for apple cider, I think, is that I really do not like apple juice. To me, apple juice is too sweet. Too simple. Like sugar water. A drink for a child. Watered down pap.

What accounts for the difference?
  • First thing to note, in countries outside the United States, "apple cider" refers to apple juice that has been allowed to ferment and become an alcoholic beverage. We in the US call this "hard cider."

Hard or scrumpy cider
(Photo from Snail's Tales, cider from J.K.'s Scrumpy)

  • But I'm not talking about hard cider, I'm talking about non-alcoholic apple cider.
  • I should also note that in countries outside the US, people do not distinguish between our apple cider and our apple juice. To them, it's all apple juice.
  • And some producers in the US even say that apple cider and apple juice are the same thing. I protest; they are NOT the same.
  • It turns out, there are no specific standards or hard & fast definitions to distinguish the two. But there are some characteristics of each that are usually true. 
Here's your basic apple juice. Note how pale the juice is compared to the cider pictured below. You can't see this, but the label reads "from concentrate."
(From a photo array created by Thomas G. Smith)

    • pasteurized and thermally processed
    • usually filtered to a clear liquid
    • may also be boiled to form a concentrate and then water is re-added
    • may include preservatives and has a far longer shelf life than cider
    • may be made entirely from the same variety of apples (Jonagold, for example)
    • usually bottled by nation-wide producers 
    Apple cider made by Kathi and her husband, using their own press. Here you can see the cider is clearly a darker color than the juice.
    (Photo from Feathering My Nest)

      • unfiltered and may include bits of apple or skin
      • those bits of apple oxidize when they hit the air, same as when you cut an apple open and let it sit a while, and turn brown, hence cider's distinctive color
      • used to be unpasteurized, but many apple cider producers now do pasteurize theirs, but not for as long as apple juice is pasteurized
      • no preservatives, which means it will stay fresh & unfermented for, at most, 2 weeks
      • often is made with several varieties of apples in the same batch, or using apples that have more tannin and generally are not eaten raw
      • contains more polyphenols (specific type of antioxidants) and more pectin (which happens to be beneficial in fighting colon cancer)
      • often made locally

                This is how most apple cider is made, or pressed
                (Photo from Noto Fruit Farm & Cider Mill)

                These people are pressing apples to make cider. Technically, they could drink it right from the press.
                (Photo by Dan Shorock, of the Sawlog 'n' Strings Bluegrass Festival)

                • In terms of mutritional content that is typically shown on packaging labels, apple juice and apple cider are roughly the same. They both have about 100-120 calories per 8 oz serving and about 22 grams of sugar, and surprisingly little Vitamin C or other nutrients.
                • To throw in one last item, apple cider vinegar is apple cider plus a particular form of bacteria, colloquially known as "mother of vinegar," which is added to turn the cider more acidic.

                Food Reference, Apple Cider, Apple Juice
                Cooking Club of America, What's the difference between apple juice and apple cider?
                Amy Topel, "Apple Cider - The Essence of Fall," The Green Guide, October 4, 2005
                Rees Fruit Farm, Our Apple Cider
                New England Apples, Apples the healthy snack
                Dear Uncle Ezra, Addicted to Apple Cider
                University of Tennessee Agricultural Extension Service, Home Apple Cider Production
      , Vinegar

                Wednesday, October 18, 2006

                Apple #201: Johnny Cash Songs

                So the other day, Johnny Cash's "A Boy Named Sue" was playing over the loudspeaker in a store. If you don't know it, here are a few key lines:
                Well, I hit him hard right between the eyes
                And he went down, but to my surprise,
                He come up with a knife and cut off a piece of my ear.

                Someone nearby remarked, "Ah, A Boy Named Sue. Courtesy of good old Shel Silverstein."

                "Shel Silverstein wrote this?" I said in shock. Absolutely yes, was the reply. "Wow," I said. "The Giving Tree and your dad cutting off your ear. Naturally both would be written by the same guy."

                So now I want to know, just how many songs that I think of as synonymous with Johnny Cash were actually written by someone else?

                In the case of some songs he's performed, I did know he hadn't written them. That Nine Inch Nails song, "Hurt," for example. That was obviously a cover, since I heard NIN perform it on the radio a kajillion times first.

                And "Ring of Fire" I knew he didn't write; his wife, June Carter, wrote it. She wrote it before they were married, when they were married to other people. It is about how consumed she felt by her love for Johnny Cash, even though she knew it constituted adultery and might get her burning in hell.
                Love is a burning thing
                And it makes a fiery ring
                Bound by wild desire
                I fell into a ring of fire.

                By the way, if you want to hear the best account, ever, of how Johnny & June fell in love, listen to Sarah Vowell's "Greatest Love Story of the 20th Century" on a This American Life broadcast called What Is This Thing? (It's Episode 247; you have to scroll down to find it).

                Another Johnny Cash cover that I knew about is "Sunday Morning Coming Down", written by Kris Kristofferson, and which speaks to Johnny's days when he was hooked on barbituates and was country music's super-bad-ass:
                On a Sunday morning sidewalk
                I'm wishing Lord that I was stoned
                'Cause there's something in a Sunday
                That makes a body feel alone.
                And there's nothin' short of dyin'
                That's half as lonesome as the sound
                Of a sleepin' city sidewalk
                And Sunday mornin' comin' down.

                While we're on the subject of Johnny's bad old days, I have to repeat this story told by U2's Bono, and which I found in a Mars Hill Review of Cash's records:
                "We bowed our heads and John spoke this beautiful, poetic grace," Bono notes in Rolling Stone, "and we were all humbled and moved. Then he looked up afterwards and said, 'Sure miss the drugs, though.'"

                Speaking of U2, Cash sang the lyrics on U2's "The Wanderer," on the often-overlooked Zooropa.
                I went walking
                looking for one good man
                a spirit who would not bend or break
                who would stand at his father's right hand.
                I went out walking with a Bible and a gun.

                "Highway Patrolman," about a policeman whose brother may or may not have shot a man and who watches while his brother flees to Canada, was written by Bruce Springsteen.
                Me and Frankie, laughin' and drinkin'
                Nothin' feels better than blood on blood
                Takin' turns dancin' with Maria
                As the band played "Night of the Johnstown Flood"
                I catch him when he's strayin', like any brother would
                Man turns his back on his family, well he just ain't no good.

                "Down There by the Train" is about how everyone can get saved and sounds an awful lot like the kind of thing Johnny Cash would say. But it was originally written by Tom Waits.
                You can hear the whistle, you can hear the bell
                From the halls of heaven to the gates of hell
                And there's room for the forsaken if you're there on time
                You'll be washed of all your sins and all of your crimes
                If you're down there by the train
                Down there by the train.

                Now for some songs you all know as Johnny Cash's, and that he wrote himself:

                Delia's Gone
                Disturbing, yes. But the song does have a certain ring to it.
                First time I shot her, I shot her in the side
                Hard to watch her suffer
                But with the second shot she died
                Delia's gone, one more round, Delia's gone.

                I Walk The Line
                This is Johnny Cash's pledge to remain faithful to June
                As sure as night is dark and day is light
                I keep you on my mind both day and night
                And happiness I've known proves that it's right
                Because you're mine,
                I walk the line.

                Folsom Prison Blues
                Written not when Johnny was in jail -- he never served time in prison -- but in the Air Force
                When I was just a baby, my mama told me, "Son,
                Always be a good boy; don't ever play with guns."
                But I shot a man in Reno just to watch him die.
                When I hear that whistle blowin' I hang my head and cry.

                Man in Black
                I wear the black for the poor and the beaten down,
                Livin' in the hopeless, hungry side of town.
                I wear it for the prisoner who has long paid for his crime,
                But is there because he's a victim of the times.

                He never in his life learned to read music.

                Matthew Blair's Johnny Cash fan site, The Man in Black, especially his Written versus Performed by page
      , Johnny Cash
                Biography of Johnny Cash, from
      , Marriage, Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash
                Dave Urbanski, "Mean Eyed Cat, Kneeling Drunkard's Plea, and the Wayfaring Stranger," Mars Hill Review
                Lyrics from lots of places including Lyrics Depot, Cowboy Lyrics, Lyrics4All

                Friday, October 13, 2006

                Apple #200: Top 5 of the First 200 Apples

                I have tallied the results of the voting for the Five Favorites, and I will present the list of winners shortly.

                But first, thank you to the many devoted readers who scanned through many pages of this blog to decide which five entries you liked the best. I very much appreciate the time it took to do this, which is probably more time than you my faithful readers would prefer to put forth toward the construction of someone else's blog. So you have my sincerest gratitude, and I am also forwarding the happy gratitude of fellow readers who will enjoy finding out what is the overall consensus.

                What I learned from the voting is that lots of people liked lots of different things. Very few people voted for the same entries. I actually think this is a good sign. We all need a little variety, and I think that the voting tells me I'm doing a fairly good job of providing that variety.

                Forty Apple entries were selected as people's favorites. Seven got more than one vote. That's not much of a consensus, but as I said, variety is good, and it's what we have to work with.

                Before I get to the top five, I'm going to give a little wave to the entries on the 1904 Olympic Marathon and Emma Goldman. Rather like the gymnast who performs the triple Tsukahara with a twist but doesn't take the gold, these entries got high praise but not quite enough votes.

                Going from the lowest number of votes to the highest, here are the winners:

                5. Pastrami, Apple #78
                What sets Pastrami above the other entries that received two official votes is that I happen to know that one rogue reader, who did not have the chance to enter, wanted it in her five favorites. In addition, Pastrami was also #10 in the previous poll. People like to say the word "pastrami." They like the link to the gallery of reubens. I had a reuben sandwich for dinner last night.

                4. Boston Molasses Flood, Apple #118
                I came very close to voting for this one, even had it in my original list. It's just such a fantastic story. A vat of molasses exploded all over Boston -- it's like some children's story -- except the resulting destruction was pretty serious. Horses and people got trapped in the goo. Molasses oozed out of the sidewalk for years afterwards. And the photo of said destruction is very memorable. Not the sort of story they teach you in high school history class, but they if they included things like this, I think more people would like history.

                3. Llamas, Apples #92 and #94
                Llamas got two official votes plus a vote from that rogue reader. I voted specifically for one of the two llama entries, but the other voter for llamas did not specify which entry, so we're going with the both of them. I made the same decision in the previous poll, where the llamas also rang in at #3. Llamas hum. Their fur is soft. They travel in people's minivans and look out the back window.

                2. Dewey Decimal System, Apple #198
                With three official votes outright, the entry on Dewey and his system of organization weighs in at number two. It's a very recent entry, suggested by a relatively new reader, but it was appreciated by library-lovers across the country -- and I mean literally from the East Coast to the West Coast. My favorite part of this entry is the realization that this simple system has been used for 150 years to organize all human knowledge across all time.

                1. Inventor of the Urinal Cake, Apple #177
                With a commanding four-vote victory, the urinal cake entry wins the big prize. This topic was suggested by a loyal reader, a3dmofo (who also voted for this entry). This is why I ask people for suggestions, to get the big winners. The fact that this topic was your favorite proves to me that, yes, you agree, there are interesting facts to know about any object around you, however trivial or ridiculous it may seem.

                Thank you all, again, for your votes. They are much appreciated.

                (Photo from Raynox)