Towse: views from the hill

October 14, 2009

[URL] Canadian disasters

Filed under: factoid,history — Towse @ 12:25 am

We were sitting around outside the Ferry Building Sunday morning talking of weird and useful Canadian bits of info.

Something someone said led me today to SOS! Canadian Disasters

For those who don’t know much about Canadian history and those who do. …

This site uses digitized collection material from Library and Archives Canada to feature 15 historical and contemporary disasters grouped under elemental the themes of Fire, Air, Earth and Water, plus the distinctly Canadian element of Ice. Each of these disasters has had a profound and life-altering impact on Canadian communities, families, and society in general. The site looks at these selected events, their scale, and their news coverage. This phase of the site also features a section on Shipwreck investigations in Canada.

July 10, 2009

Plimsoll – trivia for the day

Filed under: factoid,history,wordstuff — Towse @ 12:31 am

Are plimsoll shoes related to the Plimsoll line on a commercial ship?

Yes, indeedy.

A plimsoll shoe or simply plimsoll is a type of athletic shoe with a canvas upper and rubber sole, developed as beachwear in the 1830s by the Liverpool Rubber Company (later to become Dunlop). The shoe was originally, and often still is in parts of the UK, called a ‘sand shoe’ and acquired the nickname ‘plimsoll’ in the 1870s. This name derived, according to Nicholette Jones’ book “The Plimsoll Sensation” because the colored horizontal band joining the upper to the sole resembled the Plimsoll line on a ship’s hull, or because, just like the Plimsoll line on a ship, if water got above the line of the rubber sole, the wearer would get wet.

We’d been looking at an incoming container ship and I was wondering if the plimsoll shoe got its name because of the resemblance of the demarcation between the shoe’s rubber sole and canvas upper and the Plimsoll line on the ship.

The Web is a wonder.

July 2, 2009

On this date in 1731 …

Filed under: factoid,history,libraries — Towse @ 12:07 am

… according to The Writer's Almanac with Garrison Keillor

It was on this day in 1731 that Ben Franklin founded the first circulating library, a forerunner to the now ubiquitous free public library. He started it as a way to help settle intellectual arguments among his group of Philadelphia friends, the Junto, a group of civic-minded individuals gathered together to discuss the important issues of their day.


[from Jessamyn West’s blog:]

April 20, 2009

The 411 on 420

Filed under: factoid — Towse @ 4:02 pm

HuffPo tells all about 4:20 on 4/20 and wow, man.

January 26, 2009

Pandit or The Things You Learn Whilst Playing Scrabble

Filed under: factoid,wordstuff — Towse @ 8:07 pm

The things you learn whilst playing Scrabble.


pundit from (1672) “learned Hindu.” Broader English usage first recorded 1816.

Thx, JMT!

August 16, 2008

California License Plate 2GAT123

Filed under: factoid,writing — Towse @ 12:41 am

Here is my “find out something new every day” for today courtesy of a post Dangerous Bill (Penrose) made to misc.writing.

Read the Wikipedia entry about California license plate 2GAT123.

(I knew about 555-0100 to 555-0199, but this license plate biz is news to me and news to his nibs as well.)

May 9, 2008 That Chain E-mail Your Friend Sent to You Is (Likely) Bogus. Seriously.

Filed under: factoid,politics — Towse @ 5:31 pm That Chain E-mail Your Friend Sent to You Is (Likely) Bogus. Seriously.

Interesting article. Keep the link stashed away and return it to anyone who sends you one of those chain e-mails about this or that presidential candidate.

November 3, 2007

The sellingest album of all time …

Filed under: factoid,music — Towse @ 12:03 am

That can’t be true, can it?

This article claims, “The Eagles Greatest Hits, 1971-1975 was released just four years after the band debuted. It has now sold more records than any album in history, including Thriller.”

[via grapes2dot0, who was more interested in the story on Winslow, AZ, still cadging drinks thirty-five years later off their one brief bit of fame in 1972.]

August 8, 2007


Filed under: books,factoid,history — Towse @ 3:41 am

Today is the sixteenth anniversary of Tim Berners-Lee posting the first Web pages about his hypertext project that eventually evolved into the World Wide Web.

I mentioned that I’d come across my copy of WEAVING THE WEB yesterday, inscribed “To Sal” by Tim B-L, my hero.

PJ Parks, who used to have a very readable blog but now no longer does, wrote that she has a copy too and talked about ENQUIRE WITHIN UPON EVERYTHING, a Victorian factoid book and the motivation for TB-L to name his proto-WWW project ENQUIRE.

Today, while sorting books and packing up boxes, I found a copy — well, not the Brit version, mine is the American version: INQUIRE WITHIN FOR ANYTHING YOU WANT TO KNOW, or Over Three Thousand Seven Hundred Facts WORTH KNOWING. Particularly intended as a book for Family Reference on Subjects connected with Domestic Economy, and containing the Largest and most Valuable Collection of Useful Information that has ever yet been published. INQUIRERS ARE REFERRED TO THE INDEX. (New York: Dick and Fitzgerald, No. 18 Ann Street. 1858 [maybe 1856, the numeral didn't print clearly])

The book has all =sorts= of useful (and quaint and dated and sometimes flat out wrong) stuff.


794. YULECAKE — Take one pound of fresh butter, one pound of sugar, one pound and a half of flour, two pounds of currants, a glass of brandy, one pound of sweetmeats, two ounces of sweet almonds, ten eggs, a quarter of an ounce of allspice and a quarter of an ounce of cinnamon. Melt the butter to a cream, and put in the sugar. Stir it till quite light, adding the allspice and pounded cinnamon; in a quarter of an hour, take the yolks of the eggs, and work them two or three at a time; and the whites of the same must by this time be beaten into a strong snow, quite ready to work in. As the paste must not stand to chill the butter, or it will be heavy, work in the whites gradually, then add the orange-peel, lemon, and citron, cut in fine stripes [sic], and currants which must be mixed in well with the sweet almonds; then add the sifted flour and glass of brandy. Bake this cake in a tin hoop, in a hot oven, for three hours, and put twelve sheets of paper under it to keep it from burning.


2004. Why does a lamp smoke, when the wick is cut unevenly? — Because the points of the jagged edge (being very easily separated from the wick) load the flame with more carbon that [sic] it can consume; and as the heat of the flame is greatly diminished by these little bits of wicks, it is unable to consume even the usual quantity of smoke. The same applies when the wick is turned up too high.

Some of the stuff in INQUIRE WITHIN is word-for-word what’s in ENQUIRE WITHIN. The scarf washing article above, f’rex, is word-for-word except that the title is “To Wash China Crêpe Scarves, &c.” in ENQUIRE.

Other bits of information (the one about lamp smoke, f’rex) are not covered by ENQUIRE WITHIN at all.

All-in-all fun stuff. You can see why TB-L called his project ENQUIRE — there’s more than a bit of resemblance to the random collection of stuff on the Web.

How prescient of him.

Project Gutenberg has made a copy of ENQUIRE WITHIN UPON EVERYTHING available. Did TB-L even dream sixteen years ago that his nifty little project would some day offer up ENQUIRE WITHIN UPON EVERYTHING for anyone with Web access?

Thanks, TB-L!

June 9, 2007

What do YOU want to be remembered for?

Filed under: factoid,people — Tags: — Towse @ 7:00 pm

Obit in today’s Chron: Edwin Traisman — french fry innovator.

Seems Traisman bought the first McDonald’s franchise in Madison, WI, in the late 1950s. At the time there was a problem getting the fresh potatoes to make fries. (McDonald’s fries at that time were made fresh in each location.) Ray Kroc asked Traisman to help work on the problem of making tasty frozen fries and a “Method for Preparing Frozen French Fried Potatoes” (a Traisman innovation) was patented in 1962.

But wait. There’s more.

Before becoming a McDonald’s franchisee, Traisman was director of food research at Kraft where he was instrumental in the development of Cheez Whiz cheese spread, instant pudding and other food products.

Cheez Whiz AND McDonald’s french fries! Where would we be today without Traisman?

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