First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they nick your terminology whilst draining all meaning from your ideas, then they win

November 26, 2013 § Leave a comment


What do you think of the word cuspidor? James Joyce said he thought it was the most beautiful word in English. Joyce was one of the poets who oftentimes cared more for melody than meaning.

List words that begin with the letters ”sn.” Don’t just about all have something to do with the nose?

Hardly anybody has even a little something decent to say about Willard L. Bundy. Too bad. After all, what he did goes back a long time. To 1888. That’s when he invented the time clock. But people don’t forget things like that.

Many, maybe even most, of Canada’s lakes still haven’t been named.

Q. Wasn’t it a comic strip cartoonist who dreamed up the girls’ name Sheena?

A. Sheena is the Scottish Jeanne. Since pritnear forever.

The temperature of your toes reveals the rate of your metabolism. Or so claim some medicos. Cold feet, low metabolism. Hot feet, high metabolism.

It’s said of Thomas Edison that he produced a patentable device – on an average – every two weeks of his life.

All the snakes in Tasmania are poisonous.

Q. It’s said the Mayans over 4,000 years ago in their blood rituals used the sharpest knives ever known. What were they made of?

A. Volcanic glass. Obsidian.

Lot of fishermen of the Aegean Sea bait their hooks with lemon peel. And say they do all right.

At least 100,000 people in Europe live all their lives on barges.  read more

ART: Randall Munroe

If all else fails (has failed) I can at least describe a place

July 26, 2013 § Leave a comment


“Now, that is what Henry Ford wants to prevent. He thinks it is stupid, and so do I, that for the loan of $30,000,000 of their own money the people of the United States should be compelled to pay $66,000,000 — that is what it amounts to, with interest. People who will not turn a shovelful of dirt nor contribute a pound of material will collect more money from the United States than will the people who supply the material and do the work. That is the terrible thing about interest. In all our great bond issues the interest is always greater than the principal. All of the great public works cost more than twice the actual cost, on that account. Under the present system of doing business we simply add 120 to 150 per cent, to the stated cost.

“But here is the point: If our nation can issue a dollar bond, it can issue a dollar bill. The element that makes the bond good makes the bill good. The difference between the bond and the bill is that the bond lets the money brokers collect twice the amount of the bond and an additional 20 per cent, whereas the currency pays nobody but those who directly contribute to Muscle Shoals in some useful way…

“It is absurd to say that our country can issue $30,000,000 in bonds and not $30,000,000 in currency. Both are promises to pay; but one promise fattens the usurer, and the other helps the people. If the currency issued by the Government were no good, then the bonds issued would be no good either…”

“Are you going to have anything to do with outlining this proposed policy?” Mr. Edison was asked.

“I am just expressing my opinion as a citizen,” he replied.  “Ford’s idea is flawless. They won’t like it…”  read more

PHOTOGRAPH: Thomas Demand

One can approve vulgarity in theory as a comment on vulgarity, but in practice all vulgarity is inseparable

May 30, 2013 § 2 Comments


One of the great proponents of moving walkways was Jesse Wilford Reno (1861-1947). In 1891 he applied for the first US patent for what we would recognize as a relatively modern moving walkway (granted 1892). However this early concept had to wait while Reno concerned himself with a slightly different idea.

Reno’s first machine was installed in 1896 as a mere pleasure ride at Coney Island, New York, at the Old Iron Pier. He termed it his ‘inclined elevator’ and it was inclined at 20 degrees and had a rise of only seven feet and a speed of about 75 ft/minute. In fact it was provided to act as a means of demonstrating its capabilities to potential customers, such as the trustees of the Brooklyn Bridge and subway and elevated railway operators. This ploy seems to have worked as machines were deployed at each end of the bridge (I think in 1896). Strange to say that it was only after this that the idea of constructing a horizontal machine was suggested, initially as a means of crossing the bridge, but this was not pursued.

So far as I have been able to establish, his 7 ft demonstrator only ran for two weeks but had the peculiar property that passengers were required to sit on it, as though it were some kind of inverted ski lift. It was therefore a passenger conveyor, but not a walkway. I am yet to discover more about this, especially as it is reputed to have gone to Brooklyn Bridge to impress the managers there (I believe for two months but struggle to confirm this). There is an image, produced below, of a sitting-down type conveyor at Coney Island, probably made by Reno, but it is obviously much more than 7 ft high and has a permanent look about it. Perhaps it was installed soon after as a result of a successful trial. It is apparent that this design departed very considerably from his 1892 patent and does not seem to have been repeated. Though Coney island is frequently cited as ‘the first escalator’, the evidence tends to suggest it was very different in conception and not part of the mainstream development of passenger conveyors.  read more

PHOTOGRAPH: Richard Perkins

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