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23 February 2017
Morning Sedition

Mermaid Parade
Foot Fetish

Mermaid on Stilts

Continuing excerpts from my photos taken at last year's Mermaid Parade.

Some costumes had pretty fancy footwear. The woman below is wearing, if not PowerSkip shoes, something amazingly close. These spring-loaded leg extensions amplifying the human ability to run, hop, and skip. (I'm amazed the Mexican Government isn't giving these to its citizens to more easily cross into the United States in violation of our immigration laws. Hey, if Mexico's government is publishing a guide on how to cross the border, it's fair game for political commentary like this.)

Mermaid With Spring Walker

Neither works well on sand, though.

"I am not a number! I am a free man!"

Side View

Progress! It's an ironic symbol of progress. The penny farthing bicycle represents a simpler age. We live in an era where science is advancing so quickly, you don't even have time to learn about the latest innovations before something new arises.

Patrick McGoohan, creator and star of The Prisoner, interview, New Video Magazine, 1985

One of the things I like about New York City is the different kinds of bicycles. I'm not just talking about totally tricked-out bikes, either, but the abundance of variety. (Alfred Russel Wallace — the man from whom Darwin stole the theory of evolution — would have loved modern bicycles.) Anyway, there's one type of bicycle I've never seen on the streets of NYC: the "penny farthing."

Axle Assembly

Also known as boneshakers or high-wheels, for obvious reasons, these bikes first appeared in Victorian England in 1870. The reason for the huge front wheel is that these bicycles didn't have gears. That's right, it used a direct-drive system, and the huge circumference multiplied the speed of the rider's pedaling. The height was typically the same as the rider's inseam, which is basically the ankle-to-crotch pants length. Lacking brakes, these bicycles were stopped by backpedalling — pedaling backwards. (A technique familiar to the anyone who watches politics.)

The penny farthing essentially vanished when the "safety bicycle" — what we know as the modern bicycle with front and rear tires of the same size — was invented around 1890. The only place you're likely to have seen on is on The Prisoner. (Ahhhh, now the entry's title makes sense!) The only place I've seen them is in history books and on HBO's Deadwood. Well, TallBike.com has taken steps to remedy this disappearance, making what appear to be faithful reproductions of the original for $500:

We are now having many parts cast in SS and the black fork head shown in photos will be replaced by a polished SS one on the bikes sold. Bike has a 50" wheel in front and 16" in rear. The weight is a bit high at 46 lbs. The front wheel with tire, cranks and pedals is 20 lbs and the backbone with front end and rear tire attached is 26 lbs.

Our Bikes - R2 Repro Penny Farthing Bicycle - Tall Bike Rudge Reproduction

What impresses me most is the extensive security feature designed to stand up to tough environments like NYC. Just imagine the sheer frustration of a bike thief faced with this security system:

Bike Security

It's even tougher to remove than the legendary Kryptonite lock. (Which proved that the pen is mightier than the lock.)

Not that I was ever a huge Prisoner fan, but Patrick McGoohan's comment about the penny farthing as a symbol of progress really does work.

"Where am I?"
"...In the Village."
"What do you want?"
"Information."
"Whose side are you on?"
"...That would be telling... we want information... information...information"
"You won't get it!"
"By hook or by crook, we will."
"Who are you?"
"The new number two."
"Who is number one?"
"You are number six."
"I am not a number! I am a free man!"

The Prisoner, 1969

It’s Still an Open Container

Grolsch Blikbeugel

Grolsch Blikbeugel

I've only been in love with a beer bottle and a mirror.

— Sid Vicious

Grolsch has announced its Blikbeugel in time for koninginnedag. (As a man who doesn't drink beer, I seem to be posting a lot in the zymurgy category.) For those of us who don't speak Dutch, this means they've come out with a gizmo that snaps onto a can turning it into a bottle. Here's the translation, such as it is, of their announcement, courtesy of Babelfish:

Grolsch Blikbeugel

Grolsch introduce the Grolsch Blikbeugel in the week for koninginnedag. With this innovative gadget you make a clamp of your can with one click!

The Grolsch Blikbeugel have been developed from the idea that blikje are indeed more compact and you it more easily take along, but drinks less nicely than a flask. With the Grolsch Blikbeugel you and there become the drinkgenot of a bottle preserve the ease of use of the blikje to added. The set-up piece clicks you on the blikje and the blikje drink now as a clamp bottle. The can clamp can be hung for the ring, as a result of which you rather have yourself hands for other activities. The can clamp can be used several times.

In the week for koninginnedag (as from Monday 25 April) the Grolsch Blikbeugel available in hypermarket and slijterij are. The can clamp is provided in an action packing from 11 blikjes Grolsch?3 cl existing for 8.49 euro (recommended retail price). The Grolsch Blikbeugel are an one-off action and in a restricted oplage are brought out.

Babelfish Translation of Golsch Press Release
Golsch Press Release (Dutch)

Bottle It

Bottle It Spout for Canned Beverages

This isn't an original idea, however:

Why Didn't I think of that?

Bottle It™ Turns Any Beverage Can into a Longneck Bottle

AUSTIN, Texas (BUSINESS WIRE) - ImageMark, Inc., a Texas-based marketing company, recently launched its newest product, Bottle It™, a plastic "bottleneck" that snaps onto any beverage can, immediately converting it to a longneck bottle.

The product is currently being distributed to retailers and sports facilities.

Bottle It™ was designed and patented in the early nineties. The idea for the plastic longneck was born when the inventor experienced a run-in with the law while drinking from a glass bottle on the beach. Since glass is prohibited on beaches, the police confiscated his entire ice chest full of glass-bottle longnecks. Because he found aluminum cans distasteful, the inventor set about designing a way to turn an ordinary beverage can into a longneck and, of course, one that could be used on the beach.

The Bottle It™ unit is reusable, leak proof, easy to use, and completely eliminates the aluminum can taste. It comes in eight different colors and fits 12 ounce and 16 ounce cans. Retailers have reported that it has already had tremendous appeal among sports enthusiasts, beach-goers, golfers and boaters. It has also been successful with corporations and university organizations since it can be imprinted with company logos, fraternity/sorority letters, etc."

INVENTUS - September 1999 Newsletter

Montage of Bottle It Spouts

Montage of Bottle It Spouts

Bottle It was created by Imagemark, a design house specializing in branded products.

As our tagline clearly states, "We don't BRAND your merchandise. We Merchandise your BRAND." Imagemark's main object with this solution is to leave our client's mark, or brand on their customers mind...

"Solutions" by Imagemark

Assuming you didn't get one from a company promoting its brand, you can order one from Promo Place or Add Your Imprint.

If you get one of these, especially from Grolsch, be sure to avoid the open-container laws:

New York City Administrative Code, Section 10-125, Consumption of Alcohol in Public
b. No person shall drink or consume an alcoholic beverage, or possess, with intent to drink or consume, an open container containing an alcoholic beverage in any public place except at a block party, feast or similar function for which a permit has been obtained.
c. Possession of an open container containing an alcoholic beverage by any person shall create a rebuttable presumption that such person did intend to consume the contents thereof in violation of this section.

New York City Administrative Code, Section 10-125, Consumption of Alcohol in Public

Is That a Machete In Your Pocket…
or Are You Just Glad To See Me?

Logo for Firearms/Toolmarks Unit of the Federal Bureau of Investigation

Logo for Firearms/Toolmarks Unit of the Federal Bureau of Investigation

The Firearms/Toolmarks Unit of the Federal Bureau of Investigation has put out an amazingly useful guide to concealed weapons:

In the wake of the September 11, 2001, airline hijackings the FIREARMS AND TOOLMARKS UNIT of the FBI LABORATORY has started a collection of small and easily concealed knives. This is the first installment of a continuing effort to collect and distribute information on knives that otherwise may be dismissed as non threatening items. Many of the knives in this collection were commercially purchased and typically can be bought for less than $20. Some of these knives are common items found in most homes and offices. You will notice also that some are made of a plastic material, making them less likely to be considered a weapon. Each of these tools was designed to cut and is fully functional in that respect. Whether used to cut paper, cardboard, or other material, these knives should be treated as potentially dangerous weapons. Each knife is shown with an accompanying scale for size reference and many include an X-ray photograph to show how these weapons might appear if placed in luggage and passed through a scanning device.

Guide to Concealable Weapons, published by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, 2003

Guide to Concealable Weapons 2003

In the wake of the September 11, 2001 airline highjackings, the Firearms and Toolmarks unit of the FBI Laboratory started to compile information on small and easily concealed knives. This is the first installment of a continuing effort to collect and distribute information on knives that otherwise may be dismissed as nonthreatening items.

Guide to Concealable Weapons, published by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, 2003

Not only will they show you were to conceal the weapons:

Locations for Concealed Weapons

But they'll show you what weapons you could conceal. It's a virtual shopping catalog, albeit missing Website URLs and prices. You get to see each weapon closed, open, and even an x-ray view. When a weapon is made from ceramic or plastic, and thus immune to magnetometer screening, the guide will tell you. Now, this isn't anything you couldn't get from the catalogs or online, mind, so there's no great secret here. The advantage is that the FBI has collected it for you in one handy place.

Crucifix Knife

Crucifix Knife
(Who Would Jesus Stab?)

Coin Knife

Coin Knife
(Brother, Can You Slice Me Up With a Dime?)

Pen Knives in Shirt Pocket

Pen Knives In Shirt Pocket
(The Ultimate Pocket Protector)
(When The Pen is As Mighty as the Sword)

Cellphonus Interruptus
(Just a Moment, Dear. I Have a Cell Call.)

Paris Hilton Cell Phone

When I read this story I immediately thought of my entry a few weeks back about William Ayrton's comment from 1897 that someday phones would be wireless and portable, and if one's friend didn't answer when called, well, then, the friend was dead. I made the comment that there were some times I didn't answer the phone because I wasn't Paris Hilton. (Have you see the infamous sex tape? The point where she answers her cell phone in the middle of the action, much to the well-vocalized consternation of her companion, is really funny. It's the only watchable part.) Well, it turns out that a lot of people, unfortunately, have remarkably similar behavior:

Fourteen percent of the world's cell phone users report that they have stopped in the middle of a sex act to answer a ringing wireless device, Ad Age reported.

The highest incidence of cellular interruptus was found in Germany and Spain, where 22 percent of users interrupted sex to answer their cell phones; the lowest was in Italy, where only 7 percent reported doing so. In the U.S., the figure was 15 percent, the magazine said, citing a study conducted by BBDO Worldwide and Proximity Worldwide.

"Cell Phone Users Interrupt Sex for Phone Calls" Consumer Affairs, 11 April 2005

I wonder how the meme that a cell phone call is more important than anything else managed to spread so far and wide. The study, however, did not report the percentages of those answering the phone getting laid again by the partner put, ahem, on hold, shall we say. I think that's the really interesting number.

Knives Not Included

Voodoo Knife Rack By Raffaele Iannello

This knife rack, in sumptuous red plastic, designed by Raffaele Iannello is just too cool for words. Viceversa carries it; there aren't any ViceVersa distributors in the US that I could find. The closest is Canada.

You Say "Duck Tape", I say "Duct Tape"…

Duct tape is like the force: It has a dark side and a light side and it holds the universe together.

— Carl Zwanzig

Duct Tape Wallet

I'm sure you remember how The Department of Homeland Insecurity wowed us with its recommendation that every home have duct tape, plastic bags, and a change of clothes. (Isn't this the contents of every serial rapist's overnight bag?) Now that you ran out and bought all that duct tape for the non-existent attack, you're probably wondering what to do with it. Well, wonder no more! You can take what little remains of your precious cash after that shopping expedition, and having your job outsourced to China, and make a {drumroll} duct-tape wallet!

Most people agree that Duct Tape can save you money on costly repair bills but did you know that you could create a wallet to hold all of the money you’ve saved? It’s not as difficult as it sounds and in just a few simple steps, you could be the proud owner of this year’s most important fashion statement.

Duct Tape Workshop: Make a Duct-Tape Wallet

Now wasn't that much more fun than doing "DUCK!...and cover!" drills? Oh, and about the name?

Adhesive tape (specifically masking tape) was invented in the 1920's by Richard Drew of Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing, Co. (3M). Duct tape (the WWII military version) was first created and manufactured in 1942 (approximate date) by the Johnson and Johnson Permacel Division. Its closest predecessor was medical tape.

The original use was to keep moisture out of the ammunition cases. Because it was waterproof, people referred to the tape as "Duck Tape." Also, the tape was made using cotton duck - similar to what was used in their cloth medical tapes. Military personnel quickly discovered that the tape was very versatile and used it to fix their guns, jeeps, aircraft, etc. After the war, the tape was used in the booming housing industry to connect heating and air conditioning duct work together.

Soon, the color was changed from Army green to silver to match the ductwork and people started to refer to duck tape as "Duct Tape." Things changed during the 1970s, when the partners at Manco, Inc. placed rolls of duct tape in shrink wrap, making it easier for retailers to stack the sticky rolls. Different grades and colors of duct tape weren´t far behind. Soon, duct tape became the most versatile tool in the household.

History of Duct Tape

Sources and Further Reading

  1. RPI Guide on How to Make a Duct Tape Wallet
  2. Sean's Duct Tape Wallet - The Sequel
  3. The Duct Tape Guy's Guide to "How to make a simple duct tape wallet!"
  4. History of Duct Tape

Nice Rack, I Mean, Uh, Nice Pigeons

Pigeon Vest

Template for Maidenform Pigeon Vest, Maidenform Co., 1944

The Maidenform brassiere is so familiar it needs no explanation. During World War II, however, the company manufactured a very different type of support garment: the "US Army Pigeon Vest" (PG-106/CB) . The name is a slight misnomer; it wasn't worn by the pigeon, but by a soldier who would release it to carry a message from the field back to headquarters. Hard to believe, but reliable, and portable, communications are a relatively recent invention. It really wasn't until the Korean war that portable radios became lightweight and trustworthy enough to become commonplace. Long before electronics, or reliable telegraph, carrier pigeons were used to carry messages during wartime.

Pigeon Vest

"US Army Pigeon Vest" (PG-106/CB)

Pigeon Vest

Pigeon in Harness

I wonder who thought that the company's traditional product line lent itself to paratrooper vests.

Pigeon Vest

Patent drawing of Maidenform brassiere, by William Rosenthal and Charles M. Sachs, Maidenform Co., 1938

During World War II, Maidenform embraced a less buxom market: carrier pigeons. These pattern pieces were used to cut cloth for a pigeon vest, which, when complete, was wrapped and laced around a bird’s body and feet, leaving its head and tail feathers exposed. Attached by a strap to paratroopers parachuting behind enemy lines, the vests protected the birds during their descent from plane to earth. After landing, the birds flew back to home base to deliver word of the paratroopers’ safe arrival.

Maidenform also made a more conventional contribution to the war effort by manufacturing silk parachutes.

The United States Army Signal Center has a list of standard-issue pigeon equipment during World War II:

Lofts: transportable, for housing large number of birds
PG-46: prefabricated sectional housing for fixed use.
PG-68/TB: a combat loft, collapsible and easily transported by a truck or trailer.
Pigeon equipment: including containers for carrying a few birds
PG-60, 10w/CB, 103/CB and 105/CB: portable, carrying two to four birds, for combat troops.
PG-100/CB and 101/CB: four-and eight-bird containers respectively, with parachutes for dropping to paratroops or isolated ground forces.
Message holders: to fasten to the legs of the birds
PG-14: aluminum holders.
PG-52, 53, 54 and 67: plastic substitutes for the PG-14.
Pigeon vest, PG-106/CB: retaining a single bird, to be worn by paratrooper.

Pigeon Communication, United States Army Signal Center, Fort Gordon, GA

The "interBUG Homing Pigeon Information" Website has plenty of photographs of pigeon equipment from World War II.

"Bro's no good. Too ethnic."
"You got something better?"
"How about the Mansiere?"
"Mansiere."
"That's right. A brassiere for a man."

— Frank Costanza and Cosmo Kramer, "The Doorman", Seinfeld

"Pink is my favorite crayon"

Crayola Raw Materials Tests, Orange Test Sheet

Crayola Raw Materials Tests
Binney & Smith Inc., circa 1970s

Engineering documents can be amazing pieces of art. Just consider these test sheets for the lowly crayon. They may be made by a machine, but there are a lot of contemporary artists who could learn a lot about technique from them.

In 1885, Edwin Binney (1866-1934) and C. Harold Smith (1860-1931) formed Binney & Smith Inc. The duo began producing Crayola Crayons in 1903.

This data sheet was used in developing a new formula for the orange crayon. The objectives of the test were to improve the crayon quality - better color and marking properties - while reducing the cost of production. The list of criteria on the left side of the color sample shows the range of tests for each crayon formula.

Crayola Raw Materials Tests

Crayola Raw Materials Tests, Orange Test Sheet

Crayola "Crayon Testing Machine " test,
Binney & Smith Inc., circa 1970s

After World War II, Binney & Smith established a Research and Development Department to test and improve their crayons and other products. The Crayon Testing Machine (CTM) test measured a crayon’s ability to lay down color smoothly and evenly. Crayons were subjected to a number of different surfaces and coloring styles to assure their versatility and durability.

Crayola Raw Materials Tests

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