Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Other Daily Apples

As I have done occasionally over the past couple of years, I took a look around to see where the Daily Apple stands in Google's lexicon, and if there are other Daily Apples on the horizon. This time, I discovered two.

I don't know how long they've been around, but I don't think they can have been in existence as long as THIS Daily Apple. But they're getting more Google-love than this here blog. And at least in the case of the first blog on the list, that extra love is well-deserved.

  • Mark's Daily Apple is about health. Provides basic tips, light-hearted encouragement, etc. It's got a simple but slick design, he's got a forum you can join, it's pretty solid. Won a Bloggy award this year. Though the name of the blog would have you believe it's just one guy's blog, he's actually got three additional people writing for him.
  • Your Daily Apple is a much lower-budget blog, more in my neck of the woods. It's only been around since December 2006 and is apparently about rock & roll news and miscellany that has caught the eye of the page's keeper, someone who refers to him or herself as The Daily Apple Sez.
  • There's also a television program called Daily Apple TV. It's a talk show, mainly about health or other topics that seem to be targeted toward folks of retirement age. It's been on the air -- somewhere -- since September 2006.

What this means, at the very least, is that when you have a good idea, other people are bound to join in sooner or later.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Apple #244: Horse + ? = ?

Here's a conversation between two friends that resulted in a request for help from this here Apple Lady (the names have been changed):

JEHOSHAPHAT: there's some donkeys and mules around here. i really like them.
JEHOSHAPHAT: their ears are spectacular.
LILY ANNE: Can you tell me the dif?
JEHOSHAPHAT: a donkey is a donkey, but a mule is a cross between a horse and a donkey.
JEHOSHAPHAT: all mules are born sterile.
JEHOSHAPHAT: donkeys are smaller.
LILY ANNE: how many other species have that mixability, I wonder?
JEHOSHAPHAT: you can mix horses and zebras, i know that.
LILY ANNE: I'm going to have to talk to the Apple Lady about this. There's research to be done, here, and she's just the dame to do it.
JEHOSHAPHAT: ah, the apple lady.

So here are how the animal pairings work out:

  • Female horse + male donkey (jack) = mule
  • Male horse + female donkey (jennet) = hinny, which is generally referred to as a mule
  • Zebra + any type of equine = zebra hybrid
  • Zebra + horse stallion = Zorse
  • Zebra + pony = Zeony
  • Zebra + donkey = Zebroid, Zebrass, Zedonk (I'm not kidding)

I have a pretty good idea of what a horse looks like, so to me, these other types of equines are defined by how they differ in size and appearance from a horse. Mule and donkey lovers may bray their displeasure at this, but that's how equines are organized in the Apple Lady's brain.

So for comparison's sake, here's a picture of a horse:

(Photo from Eye of Dubai)


Baby and adult donkey, who live at the Robinson Ranch in Madisonville, Texas
(Photo from donkeys.com)

  • really long ears
  • donkeys' haunches don't have the big muscular curve that horses do
  • straighter back
  • mane is stiff and usually upright
  • hooves are smaller and rounder
  • many have a cross and stripe over their shoulders, but not all
  • characteristic AW-ee AW-ee bray
  • donkeys, in addition to being used as pack animals, can also be used to guard a cattle herd and will ward off pesky dogs -- though they can be trained to tolerate the family dog.
  • if you do want to use a donkey as a guard animal, make sure it is at least 3 years old.


This mule is named Handy Man, and he lives at the Mule Action Ranch in Weiser, Idaho
(Photo by Diana K. Tibbets)

  • are not a species, but are a hybrid of the donkey and the horse
  • ears are long and narrow, longer than a horse's, smaller than a donkey's
  • thin forelock and coarse hair in the mane
  • usually have some features reminiscent of a horse
  • not quite as chunky in the body as a donkey
  • tend to whinny and try for a bray but can't pull it off with as much gusto
  • female mules have a 1 in 1 million chance of being fertile and have actually given birth. Those that have been fertile are scientific mysteries.
  • male mules have never, ever sired anything.
  • people generally castrate the male mules because they do still have the hormones, so sometimes they kind of run amok.


This is Joe the Zedonk (zebra + donkey)
(Photo by Lisa McDonald, posted at Zebra Hybrids)

  • brown or light tan coats but with characteristic zebra stripes
  • body shape resembles either a donkey or a horse, depending on its non-zebra parent
  • manes are stiff and upright, usually no forelock
  • make a barking sound or a "qua-ha" like a zebra
  • because zebras can bite and will not let go, owners of zebra hybrids need to be very cautious and well-trained in handling the animals.


  • Spanish wild donkey
  • Refers only to wild donkeys and only to those that are mid-sized
  • All the pictures I found showed "burros" carrying stuff for people or being ridden by people. And if they have to be wild to be burros, I figured those animals technically were not burros.


This pony's name is Bunowen Castle Ri, and is being ridden & shown by Mathew Lawrence at the UK's National Pony Society Olympia Final in May 2006. To me, that looks exactly like a horse except the legs are too short.
(Photo posted at the National Pony Society)

  • 14.2 hands high or shorter, while a horse is larger than 14.2 hands high
  • also tend to be stockier than horses
  • eat less, can cope better on more rugged ground

So, have you got all that, Lily Anne & Jehoshephat?

From top to bottom, a zedonk named Patchwork, a miniature donkey, and a goat
(Photo by Ivan Karakashian, Columbia News Service)

American Donkey & Mule Society
The Robinson Ranch
Geocities, Zebra Hybrids
UC Davis entomology course
Katherine Blocksdorf, About.com, Feeding Ponies
Horse fun

Monday, May 21, 2007

This week

Here's what happened this week to the Daily Apple:

This image loaded so small, I don't know whether you can see it or not, but basically the amount of traffic this blog was getting jumped from about 35 hits per day to today's total of almost 400 hits per day. That may not be all that much for lots of blogs, but for the Daily Apple, that's huge. And usually, Sundays nights are when this blog gets the least amount of traffic. Not this week.

I don't know whether this is a fluke like other upticks have been in the past. We'll all have to stay tuned and find out what happens to the Daily Apple.

Oh, and the Loch Ness Monster entry is still the most frequently visited -- 64 hits today alone.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Apple #243: Fettuccine Alfredo

So the other day, my friend and I were talking about Fettuccine Alfredo. Made with butter, cream, and cheese, it sounded to us like maybe the dish had been influenced by French cuisine, which tends to use sauces with lots of butter and cream. "Maybe Fettuccine Alfredo is Northern Italian, then," my friend said. "I'd be curious to know what part of Italy it comes from." So another Daily Apple entry is born.

  • The story goes that Fettuccine Alfredo was first made in Rome.
  • Specifically, the recipe was conceived by Alfredo di Lelio, whose Roman restaurant was called Alfredo all'Augusteo.

Alfredo di Lelio
(Photo posted by Bill Carson at photo.net)

  • Some say the dish was first made in the 1920s, others say 1914. In either case, I had assumed the dish would be much older than this.
  • Legend further has it that Hollywood megastars of the time, Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford, went to Alfredo's restaurant while on their honeymoon and ordered the signature fettuccine.

D.W. Griffith, Charlie Chaplin, Mary Pickford, and Douglas Fairbanks, Sr. These four together founded United Artists in 1919.
(Photo from UA but posted at Kipnotes)

  • Before leaving Rome, the famous newlyweds presented chef di Lelio with a golden pasta fork and spoon in thanks for the delicious food. Journalists reported the heck out of this, and it wasn't long before restaurants in America were trying to duplicate the dish enjoyed by their beloved Hollywood stars.

Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford, married in 1920, divorced in 1936.
(Photo from Carpe Vino)

  • The dish faded from popularity through the War years because not many people had heavy cream, butter, and fresh cheese at hand. In the 1950s, other Hollywood stars of the day (Ava Gardner, Tyrone Power, Richard Burton, Liz Taylor, etc.) were vacationing around the world, and when they got to Rome, they ate at Alfredo's restaurant. The charismatic restaurateur convinced them to try his signature dish, and the stars of the 1950s loved it, too. When they got back to the States, they started asking for it at their favorite restaurants. Chefs in the US who had not heard of Fettuccine Alfredo scrambled to learn about it and offer it to their star patrons.
  • One source says that Alfredo's original dish never included the heavy cream but that the 1950s stars demanded it in the States. But most other sources say that heavy cream was part of the original dish, and that it was US chefs who altered it by substituting egg yolks for the cream. Most recipes today will tell you to use heavy cream -- especially if you have fresh Fettuccine.

Fettuccine Alfredo has become one of those dishes that everybody makes, and everybody makes a bit differently. To my way of thinking, this indicates the dish is a good one, since everybody adapts it to their own taste (like potato salad). So I can't advocate one recipe for Fettuccine Alfredo as The Authentic Recipe. But I can say that the following recipe seems to embody the original concept:

  • 10 oz fresh fettuccine
  • 8 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano (Parmesan), at room temperature, plus extra cheese to pass at the table
  • 1 cup heavy cream, very lightly whipped
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
Timing is crucial for this dish. Ideally, the pasta and the sauce should be ready at the same time. Fresh fettuccine cooks as quickly as 2 minutes, while dry pasta takes longer.

  • Heat salted water for pasta to bring to a boil.
  • Begin making sauce relative to cooking time of the pasta.
  • In a pan large enough to hold the sauce and all the pasta together, melt butter over low heat.
  • Slowly add lightly-whipped heavy cream to the pan, whisking continually.
  • Stir continuously until the sauce is hot and slightly reduced.
  • Still stirring, slowly add grated cheese.
  • The sauce should thicken without becoming gloppy.
  • Add salt and pepper to taste.
  • (At this point, pasta should be cooked)
  • Drain pasta and add it to the sauce. Mix well.
  • Serve with grated Parmesan to pass at the table.
Recipe adapted from Jo Bettoja's recipe from In a Roman Kitchen: Timeless Recipes from the Eternal City.

  • Tourists who have been to Italy and asked for Fettuccine Alfredo there report receiving puzzled looks from their waiters. Apparently, when the dish is described to them, the waiters proclaim that it sounds entirely too fatty and unappetizing, and surely it must be an American bastardization of something else.
  • But, no. It comes from Rome.
  • Which brings us to the other part of the question, which is whether Fettuccine Alfredo is a northern or southern Italian dish.
  • The answer is not as easily arrived at as you might think. Some people say that Rome is part of "middle Italy" -- neither north nor south. A lot of guidebooks include Rome in their list of places to visit when touring southern Italy. Very few sites I visited describe Rome as a northern city. So it would seem that Rome is more southern than northern.

To my untutored eye, Rome appears to be smack in the middle of the country. But according to what I've read elsewhere, Rome considered part of Southern Italy.
(Interactive map from Yahoo Travel)

  • In terms of cuisine, it's even less clear-cut. Northern Italian cuisine is characterized by meats, butters, creams -- expensive ingredients that poorer Italians who lived in the south did not have. Southern Italian cuisine uses tomatoes, fish, pasta -- the cheaper stuff that nonetheless became tasty dishes.
  • For a long, long time, Rome was the place where cattle were slaughtered, so a lot of meat dishes were served in Rome. This sounds like Roman food would be considered more northern, doesn't it?
  • But, more than one site says, since people came to Rome from all across Italy, Roman food reflects a combination of both Northern and Southern influences.
  • So if you wanted to be diplomatic about it, you could say that Fettuccine Alfredo is a truly Roman dish in that its sauce comes from a Northern Italian tradition, while the pasta and the dish's simplicity speak to a Southern Italian sensibility.

e.rcps, Fettuccine Alfredo with Cheese, Cream and Butter
Food Reference.com, Fettuccine Alfredo
Food Timeline, history notes, muffins to yogurt
Lidias Italy.com, Fettuccine Alfredo
John F. Mariani, "Everybody Likes Italian Food," American Heritage Magazine, December 1989
Yahoo! Answers.com, Does Alfredo sauce exist in Italy?
Life in Italy: Southern Italy by Train
Answers.com, Food and Culture, Southern Italy
IMDB, Douglas Fairbanks biography
PBS.org, American Experience, Douglas Fairbanks

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Holy Hits, Batman

I'm not sure what brought this on, but my quiet Daily Apple, which is accustomed to getting around 30 to 35 hits per day, is all of a sudden getting traffic like gangbusters. Today, so far, the entry on the Loch Ness Monster alone has gotten 61 hits. Lots of people like looking at pictures of the Loch Ness Monster, it's true (perhaps because it doesn't exist). But other entries are getting hits, too. Remember good old Swiss Cheese? Remember thunderstorms? Remember Mr. T, Stevie Wonder, and the Stork, Bringer of Babies? Well, Google (finally) has. And it's leading people thither. Whew!

Monday, May 14, 2007

Apple #242: Sinkholes

I was reading an article about the Dead Sea and how it's shrinking, and how they're trying to divert water from the Red Sea into the Dead Sea to keep it from evaporating. The article also said that one of the reasons they don't want the Dead Sea to keep shrinking is because sinkholes keep opening up around it. The article described how sinkholes formed, but it was either confusing or I wasn't paying attention, or anyway I didn't really get it. So I've decided to find out how sinkholes form.

One of the sinkholes near the Dead Sea.
(Photo from the Geological Survey of Israel)

  • Where it rains, or any place there's a body of water, some of that water will soak into the ground.
  • The farther the water soaks into the ground, the more acidic it becomes as it travels through the soil.
  • Eventually that acidic water is going to hit rock beneath the soil.
  • Depending on where this is happening, that rock might be a salt bed or it could be limestone or some other type of soft rock. If that's the case, that acid-laced water will erode and crack the soft stone beneath the layers of soil.

The early stages of sinkhole formation, when water is eroding the limestone beneath the soil and forming water pockets.
(Diagram by USGS, sourced from U of Florida)

  • Over time, the water carves out such a big space in the underground rock that pools or even small lakes of water form in the rock.
  • Eventually, that space in the rock becomes too big for the soil and other rock above to keep acting as a ceiling, and the pressure of the rock and soil above will make that surface material collapse into the hole.

A sinkhole, post collapse
(Diagram by USGS, sourced from U of Florida)

  • Thus a sinkhole is born. Or more accurately, thus it is revealed to those of us living on the surface.
  • In the United States, Florida and the area surrounding the Texas panhandle are the places where sinkholes are most likely to form.
  • One day in September 1999, a sinkhole opened up beneath Lake Jackson in Tallahassee, Florida. Within a few short days, the entire lake and everything in it -- fish, alligators, plants, frogs, everything -- drained down the sinkhole.
"It was spectacular," said Jess Van Dyke, a regional biologist for the State of Florida who was on the scene when it happened. He saw "animals trying to scramble out, a whirlpool of gators, birds and bass went down the hole."
  • It is now possible to walk across the entire dry lakebed from shore to shore.

A house in Florida completely sunk in a sinkhole
(Photo from the Southwest Florida Water Management District)

  • Some sinkholes persist for a long time once they've opened up. One famous sinkhole that harbors a complete ecosystem is Montezuma's Well near the Grand Canyon in Arizona.
  • Another enormous sinkhole -- the world's deepest -- is in Mexico, and it happens that NASA is sending a robotic explorer into it this week. The sinkhole is called Zacaton, and it is 282 meters deep. While divers have made the attempt to reach bottom, they have not succeeded and at least one person died trying. This will be the first time anyone will see what is down there at its deepest point.

Montezuma's Well, a sinkhole that's been around a long, long time.
(Photo sourced from Ron's Log about life in the desert)

EDIT:  At the end of May 2010, tropical storm Agatha caused all kinds of flooding and mudslides and various other rearrangements to the landscape in Central America.  One of those rearrangements was a giant sinkhole that yawned in the middle of Guatemala City.  There was another a sinkhole that opened up in Guatemala City in 2007.  That one was estimated to be 300 feet (100 meters) deep.

This 2010 sinkhole is a brand new one.  It's only about 3 miles away from the old one.  A three-story house that was used as a clothing factory fell into it, and according to CNN, a security worker fell into it and died, though his death has not yet been confirmed.  The reason there were no casualties from when the clothing factory fell in is because everyone had left work about an hour before the sinkhole appeared.

Sinkhole in Zone 2 of Guatemala City, 2010
(Photo from Trending Daily)

As of June 1, scientists are estimating that the new sinkhole is about 66 feet across and 100 feet (30 meters) deep, or only about 1/3 as deep as the 2007 sinkhole.  It's probably only the angle from which the photographs were taken, but the new one looks even scarier than the old one.

It's not that obvious in the photo I have here, but that building with the greenish-blue front is teetering over the hole.

Here's what the 2007 sinkhole looked like:

2007 sinkhole in Guatemala.  The two look very similar, don't they?
(Photo from News Junkie Post)

The 2007 sinkhole opened up because of a ruptured sewer line in the city's sewer drainage system.  They're not saying yet what caused this one, though speculation has included the possibility that it could be the sewer system again, or that the sinkhole touched down into a massive underground cave.  City officials also don't know yet how they'll attempt to fill the hole.

Sinkholes in Popular Culture
  • Because a sinkhole opens up when the pressure from above gets to be too great, that means that a person walking over a secret sinkhole could trigger its collapse and fall when the thing caves in. This strikes me as ripe material for a horror movie and leads me to my next question: have there been any books or movies that use sinkholes?
    • A movie called Sinkhole was released in 2003, but it seems to refer to sinkholes as more of a concept than actual items or plot events.
    • On Hostile Ground, which was a TV movie from 2000, is about a city worker and her geologist friend (John Corbett) who try to keep New Orleans from having its annual Mardi Gras parade because a giant sinkhole is growing ever larger and collapsing all the city's sewage tunnels.
    • A sinkhole does appear briefly in Gothika, but that movie makes insanity rather than sinkholes its star. A sinkhole also opens up in the War of the Worlds, but I suspect that movie uses anything and everything they could render in CGI.
  • Seems like some untapped potential is lurking in sinkholes, all you horror writers out there!

Sinkhole that opened up beneath a garbage truck in Toronto in 2006
(Photo posted at Stormchasers)

  • I did find sinkholes appearing in other media:
    • Quad Desert Fury - Gameboy game. Race your ATV over the desert and avoid sinkholes to beat the competition.
    • There's a song called Sinkhole by a punk band named Fifi. The lyrics in this sample are: "The city's gonna fall / the city's gonna fall / the city's gonna fall into the sinkhole."
    • And there's a band called Sinkhole. They have three CDs (two plus a compilation), which include songs such as
      • Fudge Bar
      • Burning, Itching, Irritation
      • Smell Isn't Everything
      • Go Ahead, Eat My Pretzels
You could make the argument that somebody who eats all your pretzels is like a sinkhole.

Southwest Florida Water Management District, Sinkholes brochure
US Geological Service, Water Science for Schools, Sinkholes
University of Florida, Plant Management in Florida Waters, Sinkholes
Jake Page, Dragonfly Dramas,
Smithsonian Magazine, January 2002
Desert USA, Montezuma's Well: A Living Oasis

2010 sinkhole news
Crews probe Guatemala sinkhole as neighbors flee, Associated Press, June 1, 2010
Ezra Feiser, Guatemala City sinkhole so big, so round it "doesn't seem real," Christian Science Monitor, June 1, 2010
Ker Than, Sinkhole in Guatemala: Giant Could Get Even Bigger, National Geographic Daily News, June 1, 2010
Tropical Storm Agatha blows a hole in Guatemala City, The Guardian, June 1, 2010
Guatemala Sinkhole: The Guatemala Crater that's making news, Trending Daily, May 31, 2010
Ole Ole Olson, Massive Sinkhole In Guatemala Created By Tropical Storm Agatha, News Junkie Post, May 31, 2010
Ole Ole Olson, 2007GuatSink, News Junkie Post, May 31, 2010
Guatemala Sinkhole: Giant Crater Opens in Guatemala City, Long Island Press, May 31, 2010

Monday, May 7, 2007

Apple #241: History of Trash Collection

Today when I got home from work, I put out the recycling bin. As I did so, I thought about the people who come around and pick up trash. I thought, this must be a relatively new thing, putting out your trash and having someone pick it up for you. I wondered when that started, and what did people do with their trash before that?

  • It's difficult to pin down an exact date of when cities first started collecting its citizens' trash. Because trash collection happens at a municipal level, it's tough to find an overall history. But I did manage to find some milestones.
  • The first known municipal dump was established in Athens, Greece, in 500 BC.
  • The Mayans also took their trash to dumps. Sometimes the heat from the sun combined with items in the pile and set the dump on fire or even caused it to explode.
  • For centuries in Europe, people dumped their trash -- and other waste -- into the gutter. In most cases, it stayed there until it decayed, or until someone picked it up, usually to re-use it in some way.
  • Some people burned their own trash as an additional heat source for their homes. Other people lived on the scraps that their wealthier neighbors discarded.
  • In the 1800's, with the rise of horse-drawn vehicles, trash collection started getting organized. Street sweepers used to go up and down the streets, armed with shovels and brooms and horse-drawn carts, clearing away the waste and scooping it into the cart.
  • Despite whatever organized collection that occurred, there was still trash in the streets, and many people and animals subsisted on it. In 1830, some 10,000 hogs lived in Manhattan, roaming the streets and eating garbage -- and also providing a food source for the city's poor.

This horse-drawn "tip-cart" from 1900 was used to collect refuse from gutters and sewers. I wouldn't want this tip-cart to tip over on me!
(Image from Jon Schladweiler's site of sewer history artifacts)

  • In small towns in 1900, "piggeries" were established -- places where pigs lived solely to consume garbage people had created. These still functioned in many places as long as the late 1960s. In the 1950s, pigs in many of the piggeries developed terrible diseases from consuming raw garbage and many had to be euthanized. Subsequently, laws were passed requiring garbage to be cooked before it was fed to pigs.
  • At the same time, many cities relied on garbage dumps. With the exception of what the horses and carts collected, most trash was brought to the dump by individuals. Once at the dump, the trash was often burned.
  • The industrialization of cities, which meant increases in urban population, spurred many municipalities to start building what is known today as infrastructure -- sewers, water lines, roads, power lines, etc. Cites wanted to make sure its citizens had clean water to drink and wash with, and to keep its streets clean and healthy. To accomplish those goals, cities had to find better procedures and equipment to collect refuse.
  • The first automotive vehicles used specifically for collecting trash appeared on the streets in the 1920s. These were open-topped wagons, which were generally undesirable, since refuse tended to spill out of them, or at the very least, they emitted unspeakable odors as they passed.

This garbage truck used by King County, Washington in the 1920s was pretty advanced for its day.
(Photo from King County Archives & Records Management)

  • In 1937, George Dempster invented the Dempster-Dumpster. He operated steam shovels for a living, and his Dempster-Dumpster was originally intended to scoop up dirt and other construction materials. He developed the Dumpster in 1935, three years after he was hard-hit by the Depression and his home was auctioned off. Within a few years, his wheeled containers and grappling lift systems were being used across the country.

An early Dempster-Dumpster being demonstrated by George Dempster, who by this time had been elected mayor of Knoxville, Tennessee.
(Photo from the Knoxville News-Sentinel, sourced from Fountain City History)

  • Only a year later, the first truck with an on-board compactor was invented. The compactor used an hydraulic press and allowed the truck to double its capacity.
  • Although trash collection trucks benefited from many technical improvements in the 1930s, trash collection itself didn't really take off until after World War II. In other words, the volume of trash went up and so did the number of garbage trucks on the streets. Contributing factors to the increase in trash and its collection were the widespread use of plastics, disposable goods, and paper products.

Anatomy of a garbage truck with compactor. This is a 1949 model, but most garbage trucks today operate on similar principles.
(Photo of an early Garwood Load-Packer posted at Tigerdude.com)

  • In 1954, Olympia, Washington established a program to pay people to return their aluminum cans -- arguably the first can & bottle pay return program in the country.
  • Continuous compactors, large municipal garbage dumps, and increased capacity and safety in compactor trucks all came on the scene in the 1960s and 1970s.
  • It wasn't until 1975 that all 50 states had some form of regulations governing solid waste collection.

Front loaders are the hottest thing in trash collection. They're used to hoist up commercial-sized Dumpsters.
(The Half/Pack Sierra, available from Heil)

The good news about trash is that our per capita generation of it has leveled off.

MSW = Municipal Solid Waste (trash)
(Source: EPA Municipal Solid Waste Basic Facts)

So, too, however, has our recycling.

(Source: EPA Municipal Solid Waste Basic Facts)

Susan Strasser's book Waste and Want: A Social History of Trash is full of many more tidbits about the history of trash in the United States.

US EPA, Municipal Solid Waste Basic Facts and Milestones in Garbage
Wikipedia, Waste Collection Vehicle
Tigerdude's History of refuse collection (or the garbage truck)
Kim Knowlton, Urban History, Urban Health, American Journal of Public Health, December 2001
Fountain City History, Fountain Citians Who Made a Difference, George R. Dempster
Environmental Chemistry.com, The History of Waste

Thursday, May 3, 2007

April's Favorites

Okay, so you know how I've been keeping track lately of which pages get the most hits? And you know how I've been posting the top three pages of each month? (see the sidebar on the right) Well, in April the three pages with the most hits were the biography of recently-deceased literary icon Kurt Vonnegut; the long-famous Musso & Frank Grill in Hollywood, California, which has been frequented by some of the most luminous luminaries in show business; and the entry about my betta fish.

And what do you know, the entry about FishFish not only topped them all, but creamed them. FishFish got literally twice as many hits as the page about Kurt Vonnegut. 25% of the people who looked at the Daily Apple looked at the entry about FishFish. People love their betta fishes the world over, I guess. Either that, or everybody loves FishFish.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Apple #240: Women's vs Men's Sports

A few weeks ago, some friends of mine were playing one-on-one basketball. I'll call my friends Dagwood and Albertina. They had both recently had some, um, beverages, both are smokers, and neither one had played in several months. Dagwood has easily five inches on Albertina, but Albertina used to play basketball in college. It was nighttime, but the court was lit. A fairly even match, wouldn't you say?

At one point during the game, Albertina said she was having trouble getting used to the "boy's ball." I hadn't realized that collegiate women's basketball uses different sized basketballs than men's teams, but apparently they do.

(I'll tell you the results of the one-on-one at the end of this entry.)

That got me wondering, what other sports require the use of differently sized balls, depending on the gender of the person playing the game?

So I looked up the official regulations about the size and weight of balls in various sports. The professional sports associations don't make their rules easily available to the general public, so all I could find on the free-and-easy Internet was rules for college-level sports. But I figure that's about representative of the overall sports as they are played from elementary school through the professional world.

Yes, there are all sorts of opportunities for ball jokes in this entry. I fully realize that. Rather than making many ball jokes all over the place, I decided to omit them, thus allowing you to insert them at your leisure.

What I found was that, in sports where the equipment differed, there seems to be an underlying assumption that women need the equipment to give them a few breaks. Here's the breakdown:

  • The softball is larger and heavier than the baseball, and it's bright yellow. This is supposed to make it a better target and easier for women to hit it. Although that fat ball is a little more difficult to throw. Especially if you take into account women's wee tiny delicate fingers.
  • One reader remarked in a comment below that softball is played by both women and men who all use a ball of the same size, so my argument does not apply. My reply to that is that while men may also play softball, they usually do so in intramural, non-academic, or non-professional leagues. At the same time, women are not invited to play baseball in elementary, secondary, or post-secondary sports, and while there used to be a professional baseball league for women, it no longer exists. In brief, men get to play softball or baseball, women get to play softball only.

University of Michigan's shortstop in 2005 Jessica Merchant handles the fat softball (and a baserunner she's just gotten out) no problem.
Photo from ESPN chat with Jessica Merchant)

  • The women's ball is smaller, lighter, and more bouncy. If you go to Sports Authority's website, for example, to look at basketballs they have for sale, you'll see they categorize their basketballs into "Official" and "Women's/Intermediate" groups.
  • Judging by the differences in size and weight of the basketballs, women seem to have a harder time dribbling than men do. And in basketball, it seems, women must have smaller hands than men -- which is strange because in softball, apparently their hands must be larger than men's.

  • The dimensions of the ball are the same, but men's lacrosse balls can be white, yellow, orange, or lime green, where the women only get to use yellow balls. No idea about the rationale behind this one.

Water Polo
  • The circumference of the ball is smaller for women, but their ball weighs the same as the men's. Here, too, it seems women have smaller hands when they play water polo, but perhaps the officiators thought that since the water provides some buoyancy, women don't need the ball to weigh less.

Kelly Heuchan from Australia is doing a fine job controlling the ball so that Thalia Munro of the US team can't take it from her. Even so, the US team won the game -- and the 2004 bronze Olympic medal.
(Photo by Steve Christo)

  • The NCAA doesn't have rules posted for men's volleyball. Does this mean that men's volleyball is like the Wild West, no rules, make 'em up as you go?
  • Also because a couple people came to the site looking for this information, the height of women's volleyball nets according to the NCAA is to be 7 ft 4 1/8 inches (2.24 meters). Again, since the NCAA does not make the rules for men's volleyball available, I can't say what the height of the nets are supposed to be for men. One reader has offered some dimensions in his comment below, but his data conflicts with what I found from the NCAA.

  • The NCAA doesn't even have a page for women's football. But I know that girls in high schools and women in college are playing football. Catch up, NCAA!

I don't know who these women are, only that they are playing in the National Women's Football Association -- that's right, a professional women's football league.
(Photo sourced from Starling Fitness)

Yes, I'm being a bit snarky here. But it doesn't really make sense to me, these differences in equipment. Because the types of differences are not the same from sport to sport. In other words, if it's really necessary that women use different equipment, why aren't the balls in each sport always lighter, or always larger, or always brighter-colored?

And why, prey tell, is it that the balls are exactly the same for men and women who play other sports?

Equipment is the same for
  • Soccer
  • Tennis
  • Ice Hockey

Women's ice hockey teams from the College of Saint Benedict versus St. Augsburg, February 2006
(Photo from the College of Saint Benedict in Minnesota)

I wonder how long it will take before the equipment across sports is equalized. It has to happen. I mean, they don't make women run the 350 meter relay while men run the 400 meter relay, do they? They used to say that women shouldn't really compete in track because all that running jostled their important baby-making organs. But they've changed their minds about that idiocy, thankfully. So it has to be a matter of time before people realize, hey, maybe women can actually handle a basketball that's one inch larger.

Yeah, that's what the difference amounts to. But there is a difference. And here is where I reveal that Albertina lost the one-on-one. She jammed her finger horribly and later had to have a splint taped onto it, so her injury may have worked against her. It's also very likely that Dagwood's extra height was a major advantage for him, and Albertina's blood-alcohol level could have been higher than Dagwood's. But I do think that having to use equipment that was different than what she was used to also must have had a negative effect on Albertina's performance.

I don't think it was necessarily that the ball was bigger -- as in too big for her weak little arms -- because she has whipped many people at arm wrestling, including Dagwood. I think it was that the ball was different. When basketball players have to change their shoes in the middle of the game, people make a big deal out of it: oh, how will he adjust to this new equipment. Tennis players swap racquets in the mid-game and sometimes it throws them off. But they don't show up at a match and start playing with balls that are larger or smaller than they are used to. And when Billie Jean King trounced former Wimbledon champ Bobby Riggs in three straight sets, they didn't make her play with a bigger or smaller or more or less bouncy ball than she was used to. She beat him at the same game using the same balls.

For all Mr. Riggs' posturing, Billie Jean King defeated him in straight sets, 6-4 6-3 6-3.
(AP Photo)

Softball / Baseball




11 7/8” to 12 1/8”

9” to 9 ½”


6 ¼ to 7 oz

5 to 5 ½ oz


Optic yellow, red seams

White horsehide or cowhide





28 ½” to 29”

29 ½” to 30”


18 to 20 oz

20 to 22 oz

bounce, dropped 6 ft

51” to 56” high

49” to 54” high





7 ¾” to 8” (same)

7 ¾” to 8” (same)


5 to 5 ¼ oz (same)

5 to 5 ¼ oz (same)


solid yellow

white, yellow, orange, or lime green

Water Polo




0.65 to 0.67 meters

0.68 to 0.71 meters


400 to 450 g (same)

400 to 450 g (same)

air pressure

12 to 13 lbs/sq in

13 to 14 lbs/sq in





25.6” to 26.4”



9 to 10 oz


air pressure

4.3 to 4.6 lbs/sq in



12 panels, 1/3 white or light


Sources (it was hard to get these pdfs to load; I had to try multiple times)
NCAA 2007 Softball Rules and Interpretations, page 46
NCAA 2007 Baseball Rules and Interpretations, page 20
NCAA 2007 Men's and Women's Basketball Rules and Interpretations, page BR-37
NCAA 2006 Men's and Women's Soccer Rules and Interpretations, page 17
NCAA 2006-08 Men's and Women's Ice Hockey Rules and Interpretations
NCAA 2006 Women's Volleyball Rules and Interpretations, page VR-21
NCAA 2007 Women's Lacrosse Rules and Interpretations, page 19
NCAA 2007 Men's Lacrosse Rules and Interpretations, page 15
NCAA 2007 Men's and Women's Water Polo Rules and Interpretations, page 24