Tuesday, June 27, 2006


See this page.

Here's hoping I have "a good day through and through."

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Apple #180: Nintendo and Bottled Water

Okay, this is the last of the requests. And since I haven't gotten any new requests in a couple weeks, I think it's safe to shut down those non-existent request lines and go back to covering Apple Lady-chosen topics. Thanks to everybody who submitted ideas!

But first, some necessary information about two topics:


  • The name Nintendo is the Romanized version of three Japanese characters which are apparently difficult to translate into English. Some possibilities include:
    • Heaven blesses hard work
    • Word hard but in the end it's in the hands of heaven
    • Deep in the mind, we have to do what we have to do.
  • The company Nintendo actually started in 1889, by making playing cards. They still make playing cards, but that's a very, very small part of their business.
  • For a while, the longtime president of Nintendo, Hiroshi Yamauchi, was a regular customer of a side business he created, a "love hotel." The Nintendo "love hotel" no longer exists.
  • Early toys made by Nintendo included a baseball-throwing machine for in-home use and a light gun powered by solar cells. The light gun was very successful and marked Nintendo's first real foray into hand-held toys.
  • In 1977, Nintendo formed an alliance with Mitsubishi and created their first video game machine, the Color TV Game 6, which was capable of playing six different versions of light tennis (Pong).
  • By 1980, three years later, Nintendo was making $330 million a year in sales.

Lots o' Super Mario Brothers

  • After launching several products like the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) and Famicom and games like Super Mario Brothers and Tetris, Nintendo released the Game Boy in 1989. By this time, at least one type of Nintendo video game system was in use in 21% of American homes.
  • In 1992, Nintendo bought the Seattle Mariners baseball team. Since then, the team has won their division a few times, but they never went to the World Series. They also lost hold of one of baseball's best players, Alexander Rodriguez.
  • In 2000, Nintendo sold its 110 millionth Game Boy unit, and in 2001, the company launched its GameCube home video game console.

The GameCube
(Photo from a German-language review of the GameCube)

  • In 2005 alone, Nintendo netted $4.8 billion in sales.


(Photo from the Royal Society of Chemistry)

  • Generally, there are three types of bottled water.
    • Spring water comes from natural formations underground and bubbles up to the surface. To be labeled "spring water," it must be collected at the mouth of the spring or just below the surface. If the label says something like "mountain water" or "glacier water," that basically means nothing about the water's purity.
    • Purified water can pretty much come from anywhere, and can be produced by distillation, dionization, reverse osmosis, or other methods.
    • There's also mineral water, which has dissolved mineral solids in it, and sparkling water, which has had carbon dioxide added to it to make it fizzy.
  • Bottled water is supposed to be at least as pure as tap water, and it must be delivered in a sealed and sanitary container.

  • Since tap water is supposed to be the baseline, let's talk about that first. The EPA regulates the purity levels of tap water, including a certain number of contaminants generally present in tap water. Some contaminants may not be present at all, such as Cryptosporidium, and some may be present in very small amounts determined not to be harmful at those levels. Those contaminants that can be present include metals such as asbestos, arsenic, lead, and mercury, and chemicals with big names that come from fertilizers or pesticides or manufacturing plants. The allowable amounts are very small.
  • Even though bottled water is supposed to be at least as good as tap water, bottled water is not necessarily safer. A fairly extensive test by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) found that while most bottled water seems to be of good quality, some of the bottled waters tested showed troubling levels of certain substances.

(Image from emagazine)

  • Other bottled water companies may improve upon tap water. One common improvement is to use other methods besides adding chlorine to disinfect it. Such methods include ozonation, which is essentially blasting it with supercharged oxygen, or treating it with UV light to get rid of the nasty bugs in it. Neither of these methods leave an aftertaste, which chlorine does.
  • Companies may also apply additional filtration methods to reduce the levels of contaminating substances such as arsenic. Or they may add minerals that are good for you such as calcium or magnesium. Check the label to see if magnesium levels are at least at 90 mg/Liter, that calcium levels are twice that, and sodium levels are less than 10 mg/L.

Generally, these companies' bottled water passed the NRDC's tests.
Other brands of water, though, did not do as well.
(Photo from Howstuffworks' bottled water page)

  • Here's what you really want to know. The NRDC found low levels of contaminants in some samples -- not every sample -- of many of several brands of bottled water. The worst offenders include:
    • Alhambra mountain spring water
    • Black Mountain fluoridated water
    • Hyde Park purified water
    • Lady Lee purified and Lady Lee drinking water
    • Lucky seltzer water
    • Master Choice spring water
    • Natural Value spring water
    • Niagara drinking water
    • Opal spring water
    • Perrier sparkling mineral water
    • Private Selection (Ralph's) drinking water
    • Publix drinking water
    • Randalls Deja Blue drinking water
    • Safeway drinking water
    • Sparkletts Crystal Fresh and Sparkletts Mountain Spring drinking waters
    • Vittel mineral water

  • Basically, if it's your grocery store's brand of bottled water, you're probably better off not buying that. Choose another option, like your own tap water, or a filter for your tap, or another brand of bottled water.
  • To see how your favorite brand stacks up, check out the Appendix to the NRDC's report.
  • A special caveat about NRDC's results: Some of the waters they tested had fairly high levels of a bacteria called HPC. There have been lots of disputes about this particular bacteria, but many scientists have said that it's present everywhere, and that to be harmful there has to be tons of it, it has to be incubated at high temperatures for a couple of days, and that more people get sick from it in food than in water.
Nintendoland, Fun Facts and The History of Nintendo
Nintendo 2005 Annual Report
Baseball Library.com, Seattle Mariners 1977-
Absolute Astronomy, Reference, Seattle Mariners
MLB.com Historical Team Stats
Bottled Water
International Bottled Water Association, FAQs
EPA, List of Drinking Water Contaminants & MCLs
EPA, Bottled Water Basics
Natural Resources Defense Council, Bottled Water: Pure Drink or Pure Hype? Executive Summary and Principal Findings and Recommendations and Bottled Water Contamination and Appendix A
Iowa State Extension, Bottled Water: to drink or not to drink?
R.J. DeLuke, "Symposium: HPC bacteria not a drinking water concern," Water Tech Online, June 2002.
Foundation for Water Research, "Health Significance of Heterotrophic Bacteria in Drinking Water," April 1998

Monday, June 19, 2006

Apple #179: Odds & Ends

A few people submitted lists of topics for the Daily Apple. I've responded to a couple of items off each list, and I've decided that for the rest of the items on those lists, I'm going to provide a list of quickie answers. Just as a change of pace. And I'll be able to address everybody's topics this way.

OLIVE OIL - Olive oil is "good" for you in a relative sense. It contains monounsaturated fat, which doesn't hang around and clog up your arteries the same way that saturated fat does. So if you replace other saturated fats -- in things like lard or butter or palm oil or coconut oil -- with olive oil instead, then you're making a healthier choice. However, the total amount of fat in olive oil is still pretty high, so that means don't pig out on olive oil and expect to be suddenly skinny. If you did that, you'd probably actually get pretty fat, and maybe you'd get heart disease as well.

Olive oil also contains a particular acid, oleic acid, which has been shown to help reduce the occurrence of breast cancer. This acid diminishes the activity of a gene that triggers breast cancer, and it also promotes the effects of an anti-breast cancer drug. However, again, don't assume that if you eat a lot of olive oil, you'll never get breast cancer. You could still get it, and you could also get heart disease if you eat too much olive oil.

Please don't do this.
(Photo from Jewlicious)

SONIC BOOM - A sonic boom happens when anything travels faster than the speed of sound, which is 750 miles per hour at sea level. At higher altitudes, the threshold to surpass the speed of sound is lower.

Anything traveling through the air -- we'll assume it's an airplane -- produces sound waves. Think of these waves as concentric circles similar to the ripples when you drop a pebble into the water. In the air, the plane travels forward, pulling the circles behind in kind of a cone shape. As long as the plane is traveling slower than the speed of sound, some part of those circles is still ahead of the airplane and we can hear the sound of the plane as it passes.

When the plane flies faster than the speed of sound, it gets ahead of the sound waves. The circles pile up behind the plane so that at first you don't hear anything, and then you hear them all at once as a giant boom. It's something like when a boat goes by a ways from shore. At first, you don't see any effects of the boat's passing, but eventually the waves are rolling and splashing up onto the shore all over the place.

VEHICLES FASTER THAN SOUND - Bearing in mind that to surpass the speed of sound, you must travel faster than about 750 mph, here are the fastest vehicles on record:

  • Airplane: the Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird capable of speeds over 2,200 mph. Can also fly up to 80,000 feet altitudes. Which means it kicks the speed of sound's ass about three times, and then some.
  • Car: In 1997, the British TrustSSC drove across Nevada's Black Rock desert in two tests, the first at just over 760 mph, the second at just over 763 mph.

The ThrustSSC
(Photo from ThrustSSC)

  • Boat: in 1980, a $2.5 million rocket boat called the Discovery II, with 8,000 pounds of thrust and 16,000 horsepower, was tested. It reached just shy of 270 mph, when it hit a swell and reportedly disintegrated, disappearing underwater in seconds. Another boat with a jet engine, afterburner, and a lightweight hull was tested in 1989. It reached 263 mph then became airborne, cartwheeled over the water's surface, the safety parachute failed, and the boat shattered, killing its driver.

  • Not a combination of other fruits.
  • Native to China, where it was originally known as the Chinese Gooseberry.
  • Also grown in New Zealand, California, Italy, South Africa, and Chile.
  • New Zealanders renamed it the kiwifruit, after its native kiwi bird, which is brown and fuzzy.
  • It's also been called a macaque peach, a yang peach, a goat peach, a vine pear, and a hairy pear.
  • You can eat the skin, which is rich in Vitamin C. And fiber.
  • Kiwifruit is picked when it's hard. They do not become soft & ripe until after they are picked. The best way to speed the ripening process is to put them near a banana, or even in a paper bag with a banana.

(Photo from Taste.com.au)

This is the first name of the guy with the TV show, Rabbi Shmuley Boteach. His goal is to help married people avoid divorce, and to help families live in greater harmony together.

His real name is Shmuel, and Shmuley is the nickname his mother gave him. Shmuel is a Hebrew spelling of Samuel.


  • We refer to pants in pairs (as in "What do you think of this pair of pants?") because they were originally made from two separate pieces of woven cloth, one for each leg, which were then tied to a belt to hold them up.
  • The word "pants" is shortened from the word "pantaloons," and first appeared as its own term in the United States in 1840. It was considered a vulgar term for at least a century after that.
  • To Americans, pants are trousers. To British folks, pants are underwear. For a while in the 1990's, British kids were using "pants" as a term of disparagement. Some examples of this form of usage include:
    • That Daredevil movie was absolute pants
    • My tomato crop was pants last year
    • Say pants to your bad habits!
  • Pants have gone in and out of fashion throughout the centuries. In the fourth century, Western women wore pants, the way that their Persian neighbor women did. Men who wore pants were thought to be un-masculine. By the Middle Ages, women switched to wearing dresses and, though some women wore pants to do risky things like ride horses, it was basically frowned upon and in some cases even illegal for women to wear pants all the way up until 1970.
  • Perhaps those who think women shouldn't wear pants would do well to read Dr. Seuss' "What Was I Scared Of?" when his little fuzzy guy encounters that most-fearful-of-all-things, a pair of pale green pants with nobody inside 'em!
  • The next No Pants Day is May 4, 2007. For info & photos of past No Pants Days, see their website.
  • Songstowearpantsto - people request songs on bizarre topics. I recommend "Lisa Wants to Be a Bad Robot" and "All You Need is a Little Pancreas." Baby.
  • Or, if you do nothing else today, check out the postmodernist dramatization of Shel Silverstein's poem "Dancing Pants," as performed by David, Kenny & Robbie, Grade 6.

Jennifer Warner, "Olive Oil Cleared for Heart-Healthy Claim," WebMD Medical News, November 1, 2004
"FDA Allows Qualified Health Claim to Decrease Risk of Coronary Heart Disease," FDA News release, November 1, 2004
"Olive oil acid 'cuts cancer risk,'" BBC News, January 10, 2005
Howstuffworks, What causes a sonic boom?
SkyFlash, What is a Sonic Boom?
NASA, Astronomy Picture of the Day, A Sonic Boom, February 21, 2001
Nova, Faster than Sound, Speed Machines
California Rare Fruit Growers, Kiwifruit facts
California Kiwifruit Commission, FAQs
Answers.com, kiwifruit
"N.Y. Times Gives Jacko's Ex-Rabbi Another Shot," FOXNews, December 23, 2002
Judaism 101, A Glossary of Basic Jewish Terms and Concepts, Shmuel
World Wide Words, pants
The Mavens' Word of the Day, pants, pair of, August 14, 2001
Fact Monster, Trousers in History

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Apple #178: How Cats Purr

A while back, a3dmofo posted several requests of the Apple Lady. I've answered one, and now I'm going to do another.

I thought I knew what makes the purring sound in cats. I thought it was the blood traveling through their veins or something like that. Or anyway, that's what many people had told me many times. Turns out, that's a big fat lie!

The actual mechanism of purring is situated in the cat's voice box. Sounds obvious, doesn't it? A certain timing mechanism in a cat's brain transmits messages to the muscles around the voice box (a.k.a. larynx), so that the muscles open and close the air passage several times per second, or vibrate. This makes the air as it travels over the voice box vibrate also. The muscles vibrate whether the cat is inhaling or exhaling, so that's why it sounds like the purring happens continuously.

In a human larynx, the vocal cords are open when you're breathing, and closed and vibrating when you're talking.  In a cat, purring happens while breathing, during both inhaling and exhaling.
(Diagram from vocal clinic)

People also think that cats purr when they're happy. It turns out, they purr in many other circumstances as well, including when they're nervous, frightened, severely injured, or giving birth. If your cat looks like it's not feeling well and it's purring, don't assume that because it's purring it's happy and therefore not sick. In fact, you should probably assume the opposite, that's it's purring precisely because it's not well.

People who've studied cats think that purring may help to relieve a cat's anxiety or pain, and maybe even help in healing injuries. Researchers have found that the sound frequency of cat purring helps improve bone density and promotes healing.

Some companies have assumed, hey, if it works for cats, why can't it work for people? Many music & gizmo companies now offer recordings of a cat purring, which they try to sell as a relaxation or healing tool.

But there might be something missing from those gizmos. Veterinarians have discovered that a cat's brain also releases endorphins while a cat is purring. So the cats are actually getting a little stoned. Maybe this is why they like cat nip so much...?

By the way, thanks for the link, a3dmofo!

Howstuffworks, "How does a cat's purring work? How do cats make the purring noise?"
Leslie A. Lyons, response to Why do cats purr? in Scientific American.com, January 27, 2003
www.pets.ca, Tip 71 - Cat purring - Why do cats purr?
Wikipedia, Purr
Bruel & Kjaer, "Solving the Cat's Purr Mystery using Accelerometers," company magazine, No. 1, 2003.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Apple #177: Inventor of the Urinal Cake

Daily Apple reader a3dmofo recently posted several requests, the first of which was:

Whose [sic] the (un)lucky sap who invented the urinal cake?

For those who are not accustomed to seeing urinal cakes on a regular basis, a urinal cake is a disk of chemicals that is put into the well of a urinal and dissolves slowly on contact with moisture or the air. The more moisture that hits it, the more of its chemical it releases, thus deodorizing or even disinfecting the urinal.

This is a urinal cake in its plastic dispensing container. This particular cake is called "Big-D" and is available in a box of 12 for $18.52.
(Photo from BuyOnlineNow's Janitorial Supplies page)

I thought that finding the inventor of the urinal cake might be easy. However, the usual internet sources are no help. So I had to turn to searching patents, primarily through the US Patent Office, which offers patent searching for free.

It so happens, there are patents for urinal cakes, and containers to hold the urinal cakes, and methods of making urinal cakes, like crazy all over the place. It seems like every chemist and every sanitation company has a patent on some device that you stick in a toilet or a urinal in order to clean the bowl for you.

When there are tons and tons of patents for a pretty simple device, this usually means that the original patent-holder did a bad job of writing that first patent. For example, let's say the chemical composition of the first urinal was bleach. The first guy (it probably was a man) to write the patent wrote it only for a urinal cake made of bleach, leaving out the possibility that other urinal cakes could come along afterwards and be made of other types of deodorizing or disinfecting substances. So, the next guys to make a urinal cake of something other than bleach, or of bleach plus something else, could get a patent.

Where the cakes go.
(Photo from Oldster's View)

The problem with this many patents is, first of all, that the original guy or company to make the urinal cake lost out on a crapload of money. So a3dmofo is right, the original patent-holder is an unlucky sap.

But for our purposes, what this plethora of patents means is that it will be pretty much impossible for me to find the ultimate, original urine-cake-patenter-guy. If I had access to one of those souped-up, subscription-based patent databases that offered some actual text rather than just images for patents older than 1975, I might be able to track it down. But as it is, the best I can give you is an approximation.

The oldest patent I could find for a urinal cake is number 1,430,598 for a Urinal Trap and Disinfecting Device, patented by George A. Sleight. The patent was issued October 3, 1922. Mr. Sleight was from Hyde Park, New York, and apparently not necessarily affiliated with any particular company when he filed this patent.

However, his is not the first device of its kind, since the patent says that Mr. Sleight's device is a "new and Improved" version.

The original urinal cake patent, wherever it may be, is probably ten or maybe even twenty years older than Mr. Sleight's patent. But with limited tools, I wouldn't be able to track it down without spending a ton of time (it would probably take me several days, literally) to hunt for it. But if anyone out there has access to MicroPatent or Derwent or Delphion or any of those other fancy-shmancy subscription patent databases and wants to run a charitable search on urinal cakes, please let us know what you find.

By the way, there have been some advancements in urinal cake technology since 1922. Perhaps most notably, a company called Wizmark now offers a "urinal communicator." These devices have a built-in waterproof screen on top of the cake container that also plays an audible message "when greeting a visitor." The message and the display can be customized according to an establishment's needs.

Wizmark's urinal communicator, with customizable display

Some bar owners in New York and New Jersey have purchased Wizmark devices and customized them to remind patrons not to drink and drive.

Update: As of December 14, 2006, it is now possible to search the US Patent and Trademark Office's database of issued patents using Google's patent search. For help in searching this database with greater control, see Google's patent searching help page.

US Patent and Trademark Office Full-Text and Image Database (aka uspto.gov)
Wizmark's site
"First-Ever Interactive Urinal Communicator Targets Men," PR Newswire, October 11, 2004
"Nassau Using Talking Urinals to Discourage DWI," WCBS News Radio, May 24, 2006
"Talking urinal offers final words of advice to drinkers," The Washington Times, May 31, 2006
"Gee Whiz, It's a Talking Urinal," ABC News, October 12, 2004

Thursday, June 8, 2006

Apple #176: The Voynich Manuscript

We've had a new request! A few days ago, bradsam wrote:

I'm guessing that the Apple Lady might like to write about the Voynich manuscript, if the request lines are still open, and she's craving a Peasgood's Nonesuch, and suspects her readers would like the same.

I've never heard of the Voynich manuscript. So, your devoted Apple Lady dons her investigative cap and dives in.

  • Briefly, the Voynich manuscript is known as "the world's most mysterious manuscript." It's a very old document that's written in some strange script that seems like a language, or perhaps a code, but nobody knows what the script is and nobody's been able to de-code it.

This is what the script of the Voynich manuscript looks like.
(Image from Nabataea.net)

  • Throughout its 235 pages, there are lots of drawings of leaves and plants and sunflowers. There are also big circles with stars in the middle, like maybe a kind of calendar or astrological map. Finally, there are also drawings of groups of naked women, gathered in pools of liquid that then have stems or pipes growing out of them.

Sample of some of the plant drawings
(Image from Nabataea.net)

One of the drawings of big circles with stars in the middle
(Image from NASA's Astronomy Picture of the Day)

One of the pages with drawings of women in a pool
(Image from Richard Shand's Illuminations site)

  • Various ideas of what the manuscript might be about include alchemy, astronomy, astrology, medicine, a guide to herbs, some type of Rosicrucian or secret sect's controversial beliefs, and a hoax.
  • People have tried to figure out even when the manuscript was first written, using some of the pictures of plants and postulating about what plants they knew existed in what century, but even those attempts are really just guesses, and other people have been able to poke holes in those theories.
  • The manuscript is called Voynich after an antiquarian book dealer, Wilfrid M. Voynich, who bought it in 1912. No one knows exactly where he got it from, except that he got it somewhere in Europe. He brought it to people in the United States whom he thought could de-code it and also tell him of its true value.
  • A letter that was with the manuscript said that a priest from the Charles University of Prague was sending the manuscript to a Jesuit Priest named Kircher in Rome in the hopes that he could de-code it. That letter was dated 1666. The letter also said that an Emperor from Bohemia, who lived in the late 1500's to early 1600's, used to own it. The letter further said that the Emperor believed that it was written by a famous Franciscan Friar, Roger Bacon, who lived in the 1200's.
  • Voynich didn't figure out too much more about the manuscript. He died, the manuscript was handed down through a few people in his family, and then a New York book dealer named Kraus bought it for $24,500. He valued it at $160,000, but he never found anyone who wanted to buy it. Finally, he donated it to Yale University, where it remains to this day, in its Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library.
Some of the proposed "translations" of the manuscript include:
  • Roger Bacon was the author, and he had built a working telescope and a working microscope and was able to see the Andromeda Galaxy as well as cellular structures. The type of microscopes and telescopes that would have been necessary to see these things were absolutely unknown in the 13th century. This proposed solution was disproved in 1931, but some people still think Bacon was the author.
  • One guy at the Catholic University in Washington started to transcribe it by hand, making a card index for each of the words and a concordance. He labored at this for years, but then he died and no one knows if he reached any conclusions at all.
  • Other people have identified the species of plants and the zodiac symbols, and they have tried translating some of the script, assuming that those words correspond with the names of plants or symbols. But those "translations" make various logical assumptions that haven't been borne out in other parts of the text.
  • Others have suggested that the script is possibly abbreviated medieval Latin, Ukrainian, Manchurian, Sanskrit, a Creole version of Flemish, or other known languages. Most of these theories are problematic in that they require the use of characters or words that did not exist in the time frame that the manuscript would have been written.
  • Still others have suggested various types of codes, including a polysyllabic cipher and a random cryptology which was used to generate a hoax document. However, various problems exist in the logic behind the proposed codes, such that the codes cannot be applied the same way throughout the document, or that the codes do not take into account that in some ways, the text follows some of the laws of natural language.
Clearly, this is a mystery that your Apple Lady is not equipped to solve.

The drawings are cool-looking, though.

(Image from Amaranth Publishing)

(Image from Andy Pryke.com)

(Image from someone's Urban Adventure in Rotterdam)

Oh, and by the way, a Peasgood Nonesuch is a type of apple. It grows primarily in Lincolnshire, England. A Peasgood can grow to be enormous, "nearly as big as a boy's head," and is often used in cooking.

You can get a print of this Peasgood Nonesuch from Darvill's Rare Prints for $45.

Rene Zandbergen, The Voynich Manuscript, 2004
Nabataea.net, The Voynich Question
World Mysteries, Strange Artifacts, Voynich Manuscript
To see photonegatives of manuscript pages from the Yale University Library, go to this site and enter "Voynich"

Lincolnshire countryside access, Cross O'Cliff Orchard, Lincoln
Fruitwise.net, Apple Varieties We Grow, Peasgood's Nonesuch

Monday, June 5, 2006

Apple #175: Emma Goldman

A faithful Daily Apple reader asked a while back if I would do an entry on Emma Goldman. I have a somewhat hazy memory for names of famous people, especially actors, and I at first confused this person's name with Emma Watson, the actress who plays Hermione Granger in the Harry Potter movies. I am ashamed to admit this because I now know that Emma Goldman is not Emma Watson. Regardless, a few days ago, I came across a mention elsewhere of Emma Goldman, which indicated that she was an anarchist. I agreed with my Daily Apple reader that it would be interesting to learn more, so here we are.

Photo of Emma Goldman, sometime around 1910. She was once called "the most dangerous woman in America" and "the world's most dangerous woman."
(Photo from Flag.blackened.net's Anarchist Images)

  • Emma Goldman was born in in Lithuania in 1869, four years after the U.S. Civil War ended. She died in 1940, just as World War II was beginning, at the age of 70.
  • She is remembered as an anarchist and an advocate for free speech, birth control, and the rights of women and of labor unions.
  • In 1885, she left her family's second home in St. Petersburg and settled in Rochester, New York with her sister.
  • Goldman became interested in pro-union and pro-strike activities after having worked in garment and corset factories, and especially after seven anarchists were executed following the deadly Haymarket riot in Chicago.
  • In 1892, a friend of hers shot and stabbed Andrew Carnegie's steel manager. The manager survived the attack and Goldman's friend was sentenced to 22 years in prison.
  • After leading a march of 1,000 people to Union Square in Philadelphia and there giving a speech urging workers to help themselves to bread if they needed it, Goldman was arrested, tried, and found guilty of inciting a riot. She spent a year in the New York penitentiary. The day after she was released, she published an account of her experiences in prison.

Her mug shot taken in Philadelphia in 1893
(Photo from Wellesley's Women's Review of Books, April 2003)

  • She went to Vienna where she was formally trained in nursing and midwifery.
  • The man who shot President McKinley in 1901 said the last public speaker he heard before he committed his crime was Emma Goldman. She was arrested and held without bail, but released two weeks later. The man who shot McKinley was executed.

Possibly another mug shot of Emma Goldman, taken in 1901.
(Photo from the Anarchy Archives)

  • She began speaking about the right of free speech after Congress passed an Immigration Act which included a ban on anarchists.
  • A soldier in the US Army was photographed shaking her hand after one of her speeches and was subsequently court martialed, dishonorably discharged, and served three years' hard labor on Alcatraz.
  • She also lectured on drama and major plays of the day, including works by Ibsen, Strindberg, Shaw, and Chekov.
  • She founded Mother Earth magazine in 1906 and continued its publication through 1917, when she was imprisoned and the magazine seized (more on that later). Its pages included essays and poems by such notables as Leo Tolstoy, Friedrich Nietzsche, Oscar Wilde, Maxim Gorki, and Walt Whitman.
  • She was arrested and fined several times for making speeches and handing out literature on birth control.

Photo of Goldman speaking to garment workers about birth control in 1916
(Photo from Eilat Gordin Levitan's page on Emma Goldman)

  • In 1917, the US entered World War I. A month after Congress and the President instituted the draft, Goldman spoke against conscription. A law was subsequently passed that allowed for the imprisonment of people who interfered with the draft, and she was arrested and found guilty of conspiracy. She was sentenced to two years in a federal penitentiary in Missouri.
  • After she was released from prison, she was deported back to Russia.
  • She was at first welcomed by the Bolsheviks who had successfully overthrown the tsarist rulers in Russia. But once she had toured various prisons and spent time with the Bolsheviks, she was irritated by their practices and appalled by the executions they had carried out.
  • She returned to the US after two years and upon her arrival, published two works that exposed both her disillusionment with the Bolsheviks and the economic and political climate that she witnessed.
  • To earn money, she lectured more frequently on drama. She married a Welsh pro-union friend in order to obtain British citizenship and travel more easily. She moved to St. Tropez off the coast of France and wrote several essays and her autobiography.
  • Following the stock market crash and the onset of the Depression, public opinion toward her changed. Journalist H.L. Mencken appealed for her to be allowed to return to the US. Knopf publishing house agreed to publish her autobiography, in spite of the difficult economic climate. When she returned to the US in 1934, she was mobbed by reporters and photographers.

This photo was used as the front piece in her autobiography, Living My Life
(Photo from the Anarchy Archives)

  • Though the US now wanted her back, she remained abroad in Europe, living in London, where she spoke out against Stalin, which earned her the scorn of Communists, and in Barcelona, where she spoke on behalf of anarchists fighting in the Spanish Civil War.
  • She died in Toronto, but she is buried in Chicago, near a memorial to the tragic strike in Haymarket Square.

Emma Goldman's grave in Chicago's Waldheim cemetery
(Photo from Ammanford, Wales' page on Emma Goldman)

  • Here are some of her thoughts:
    • On prisons: " With all our boasted reforms, our great social changes, and our far-reaching discoveries, human beings continue to be sent to the worst of hells, wherein they are outraged, degraded, and tortured, that society may be 'protected' from the phantoms of its own making."
    • On patriotism: "Patriotism assumes that our globe is divided into little spots, each one surrounded by an iron gate. Those who have had the fortune of being born on some particular spot, consider themselves better, nobler, grander, more intelligent than the living beings inhabiting any other spot. It is, therefore, the duty of everyone living on that chosen spot to fight, kill, and die in the attempt to impose his superiority upon all the others."
    • On marriage: "I believe that when two people love each other that no judge, minister, or court, or body of people, have anything to do with it. They themselves are the ones to determine the relations which they shall hold with one another."
    • On Puritanism: "With Puritanism as the constant check upon American life, neither truth nor sincerity is possible. Nothing but gloom and mediocrity to dictate human conduct, curtail natural expression, and stifle our best impulses. Puritanism . . . repudiates; but being absolutely ignorant as to the real functions of human emotions, Puritanism is itself the creator of the most unspeakable vices."
    • When asked what she did with the money she earned from sewing: "Spent it all on books."
PBS, American Experience, Timeline: Anarchism and Emma Goldman
University of California at Berkeley Digital Library, The Emma Goldman Papers and Bibliographical Essay
Interviews and Essays available through UC Berkeley's site, including:
Nelly Bly Interview with Emma Goldman, interview in New York World, September 17, 1893
What Is There in Anarchy for Woman? interview in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch Sunday Magazine, October 24, 1897
Patriotism: A Menace to Liberty
The Hypocrisy of Puritanism

Thursday, June 1, 2006

Apple #174: Blessing After a Sneeze

A few days ago, a faithful reader asked:

I'd like to know the history because "bless you" after a sneeze. I think it's quite amazing that across the board, in all countries, when you sneeze you are blessed after. Why? Why the sneeze and not the cough? Back in the ancient times they did not know that your heart skips a beat when you sneeze, so why did they choose the sneeze as a blessing point? Thanks!

I thought I had encountered the answer to this not too long ago, and by using my SUBJECT INDEX of this very same blog, I discovered I had covered this topic in an entry a while back on Sneezing.

Of course, my intrepid reader may not have begun following this blog until recently, so it is entirely understandable that this information could have been missed. But allow me to take this opportunity to recommend perusing the SUBJECT INDEX, a link to which is always available over in the right margin of these pages.

Here's the text relevant to the question at hand:

The tradition of saying "bless you" after a person sneezes dates back to 590 AD, when Pope Gregory became Pope while a plague was going on. He recommended that people pray unceasingly for God's protection against the disease. One of the ways that people followed his advice was to say the little prayer "God bless you" whenever someone sneezed, in the hopes of warding off the plague.

Actually, this reason is the most commonly given. As with many customs that people have carried on for centuries, no one can say with absolute certainty what the definitive, original reason was for the behavior.

And by the way, it is not true that one's heart stops during a sneeze. That belief is one that has persisted for a good long time, in spite of evidence to the contrary.

For a list of some other explanations for saying "bless you" after sneezes, see "Bless You!" from the ever-reliable, rumor-busting site Snopes.com.

Thanks for the question, Anonymous. And keep them coming, readers! I know I still have elements of past questions to get to, but don't let that hold you back!