Old Sailors' Almanac


Week 14, 2015

Previous Week   March 30, 2015 - April 5, 2015   Next Week

Eiffel Tower opens on March 31, 1889

Eiffel Tower opens on March 31, 1889

Eiffel Tower opens: On March 31, 1889, the Eiffel Tower is dedicated in Paris in a ceremony presided over by Gustave Eiffel, the tower’s designer, and attended by French Prime Minister Pierre Tirard, a handful of other dignitaries, and 200 construction workers.

In 1889, to honor of the centenary of the French Revolution, the French government planned an international exposition and announced a design competition for a monument to be built on the Champ-de-Mars in central Paris. Out of more than 100 designs submitted, the Centennial Committee chose Eiffel’s plan of an open-lattice wrought-iron tower that would reach almost 1,000 feet above Paris and be the world’s tallest man-made structure. Eiffel, a noted bridge builder, was a master of metal construction and designed the framework of the Statue of Liberty that had recently been erected in New York Harbor.

Eiffel’s tower was greeted with skepticism from critics who argued that it would be structurally unsound, and indignation from others who thought it would be an eyesore in the heart of Paris. Unperturbed, Eiffel completed his great tower under budget in just two years. Only one worker lost his life during construction, which at the time was a remarkably low casualty number for a project of that magnitude. The light, airy structure was by all accounts a technological wonder and within a few decades came to be regarded as an architectural masterpiece.

The Eiffel Tower is 984 feet tall and consists of an iron framework supported on four masonry piers, from which rise four columns that unite to form a single vertical tower. Platforms, each with an observation deck, are at three levels. Elevators ascend the piers on a curve, and Eiffel contracted the Otis Elevator Company of the United States to design the tower’s famous glass-cage elevators.

The elevators were not completed by March 31, 1889, however, so Gustave Eiffel ascended the tower’s stairs with a few hardy companions and raised an enormous French tricolor on the structure’s flagpole. Fireworks were then set off from the second platform. Eiffel and his party descended, and the architect addressed the guests and about 200 workers. In early May, the Paris International Exposition opened, and the tower served as the entrance gateway to the giant fair.

The Eiffel Tower remained the world’s tallest man-made structure until the completion of the Chrysler Building in New York in 1930. Incredibly, the Eiffel Tower was almost demolished when the International Exposition’s 20-year lease on the land expired in 1909, but its value as an antenna for radio transmission saved it. It remains largely unchanged today and is one of the world’s premier tourist attractions.

History Channel / Wikipedia / Tour Eiffel / Great Buildings / Virtual Tourist / Paris-live webcam

Photo: Eiffel Tower

Photo II: The Eiffel Tower was finished in time for the Exposition Universelle of 1889 in Paris. (Hulton Archive / Getty Images, Yahoo News). / Alliance Francaise

USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) (U.S.Navy.mil)

The Old Salt’s Corner

Carrier Battlegroup (CVBG)

Modern carrier battlegroups (CVBGs) and Amphibious Ready Groups (ARGs) incorporate a diverse mix of platforms to carry out their power projection missions. The typical breakdown for a current carrier battlegroup includes one carrier (CV or CVN), two cruisers (CGs and/or CGNs), three destroyers (DDs and/or DDGs) or frigates (FFs and/or FFGs) and one auxiliary (AE, AOE, or AOR). Some battlegroups also include a fast attack submarine (SSN) operating in a support role. The ultimate content of the battlegroup will depend on the specific mission of the Task Force. Additionally, nuclear powered carriers (CVNs) are often coupled with the most up to date air warfare (AW) and undersea warfare (USW) platforms (surface or subsurface). Nuclear cruisers normally will be attached to nuclear carriers.

The modern carrier battlegroup forms a potent power-projection platform. The embarked carrier air wing employs a diverse mix of offensive and defensive aircraft capable of carrying out intense and sustained combat operations against targets ashore and on the sea. The assets of the battlegroup itself maintain sophisticated combat systems for conducting local combat actions in defense of the carrier.

“I’m Just Sayin’”

“I’m Just Sayin’”

If the cops arrest a mute, do they tell him he has the right to remain silent?

“Thought for the Day”

“Thought for the Day”

“Patience is the companion of wisdom.”

~ Saint Augustine

“What I Have Learned”

“What I Have Learned”

“Experience is simply the name we give our mistakes.”

~ Oscar Wilde

Bizarre News (we couldn’t make up stuff this good – real news story)

Bizarre News (we couldn’t make up stuff this good – real news story)

“St Pauli pees back:” Hamburg red-light district's revenge on urinating revellers

“St Pauli pees back:” Hamburg red-light district's revenge on urinating revellers

The trendy St. Pauli neighborhood in historic Hamburg, Germany, suffers its share of uncouth revelers who wander out from nightclubs seeking restroom facilities but too often choose walls of storefronts and private homes, reported London’s The Guardian in a March dispatch. The solution, according to the civic group IG St. Pauli: paint jobs with an “intensely hydrophobic” product known as “Ultra-Ever Dry”, which somewhat propels liquid aimed at it right back toward the source by creating an air barrier on the surface. In other words, said an IG St. Pauli official, “It’s peeback time”, and shoes and trouser legs should expect splashes. The Guardian (3-4-2015) video

What are the Seven Seas?

Mr. Answer Man Please Tell Us: What are the Seven Seas?

The Seven Seas is a figurative term referring to all the seas and oceans of the world. Some folks will tell you the seven seas are the Arctic, the Antarctic, the North and South Pacific, the North and the South Atlantic and the Indian Ocean. But the term was never meant to be taken literally.

The phrase was popularized by Rudyard Kipling who used it as the title of a volume of poems first published in 1896. Kipling himself said the term might be regarded as referring to the seven oceans (named above) even though it was a very old figurative name for all the waters of the world.

The Seven Seas was part of the vernacular of several nations long before some of the oceans named were known to the inhabitants of Europe and Asia. The Seven Seas are referred to in the literature of the ancient Hindus, Chinese, Persians, Romans and other nations. In each case, the term simply referred to different bodies of water. Sometimes it even referred to mythical seas. To the Persians, the Seven Seas were the streams forming the Oxus River; the Hindus used the term for the bodies of water in the Punjab. There is a group of salt-water lagoons near Venice, Italy, that the Romans called septem maria, the Latin phrase for Seven Seas.

And don't forget, seven is a pretty special number. The world was formed in seven days. There are seven wonders of the world, seven deadly sins, seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, seven hills of Rome, and seventh heaven. Some even consider seven a perfect number.

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)Library of CongressWikipedia

Where Did That Saying Come From? “Over a barrel” On October 24, 1901 Annie Edson Taylor became the first confirmed person to go over Niagra Falls in a barrel on her 63rd birthday

Where Did That Saying Come From?

“Over a barrel”

Over a barrel:” In the days before CPR a drowning victim would be placed face down over a barrel and the barrel would be rolled back and forth in a effort to empty the lungs of water. It was rarely effective. If you are over a barrel you are in deep trouble. Phrases.org.UK

NAVSPEAK aka U.S. Navy Slang - U.S. Navy America's Navy - A Global Force For Good

NAVSPEAK aka U.S. Navy Slang

Broke-dick: Technical term describing malfunctioning or inoperable equipment. Example: “The f**kin' aux drain pump is f**kin' broke-dick.”

Buffarilla: Mixture of Buffalo and Gorilla. Result of many years of female inbreeding practiced by multiple heavyset inhabitants of the Southern United States. Habitat is usually limited to the Pascagoula, MS locale; however, intermarriage with drunken junior enlisted sailors resulted in wide-spread minor infestations across the lower 48 states.

EAWS: Enlisted Air Warfare Specialist. Often pronounced “A-wis”.

Sea Daddy: Senior, more experienced sailor who unofficially takes a new member of the crew under his wing and mentors him.

Just for MARINES - U.S. Marines Marines - The Few. The Proud.

Just for you MARINE

Devil Doc: Nickname for Navy hospital corpsmen assigned to Marine Corps field units.

Devil Dog: A Marine. The name “Teufel Hunden” was given to the Marines by their German enemies in World War I. It has come to be considered a sign of respect for the dogged determination of Marines.

DI: Abbreviation for drill instructor. Also a mid-20th Century movie about a drill instructor at Parris Island, SC starring Jack Webb.

Naval Aviation Squadron Nicknames

Naval Aviation Squadron Nicknames

VR-57 - Fleet Logistics Support Squadron 57: “Conquistadors”
NAS North Island, California

The Strange, Mysterious or Downright Weird

The Strange, Mysterious or Downright Weird

All-purpose American expression “OK”

All-purpose American expression “OK”

“OK” is the all-purpose American expression that became an all-purpose English expression that became an all-purpose expression in dozens of other languages. It can be an enthusiastic cheer (A parking spot! OK!), an unenthusiastic “meh” (How was the movie? It was…OK.), a way to draw attention to a topic shift (OK. Here's the next thing we need to do), or a number of other really useful things. It's amazing that we ever got along without it at all. But we did. Until 1839. The truth about OK, as Allan Metcalf, the author of OK: The Improbable Story of America's Greatest Word, puts it, is that it was “born as a lame joke perpetrated by a newspaper editor in 1839.”

On Saturday, March 23, 1839, the editor of the Boston Morning Post published a humorous article about a satirical organization called the “Anti-Bell Ringing Society” in which he wrote: The “Chairman of the Committee on Charity Lecture Bells”, is one of the deputation, and perhaps if he should return to Boston, via Providence, he of the Journal, and his train-band, would have his “contribution box”, et ceteras, o.k.—all correct—and cause the corks to fly, like sparks, upward.

It wasn't as strange as it might seem for the author to coin OK as an abbreviation for “all correct”. There was a fashion then for playful abbreviations like i.s.b.d (it shall be done), r.t.b.s (remains to be seen), and s.p. (small potatoes). They were the early ancestors of OMG, LOL, and tl;dr. A twist on the trend was to base the abbreviations on alternate spellings or misspellings, so “no go” was k.g. (know go) and “all right” was o.w. (oll write). So it wasn't so surprising for someone come up with o.k. for oll korrect. What is surprising is that it ended up sticking around for so long while the other abbreviations faded away.

OK got lucky by hitting the contentious presidential election jackpot. During the 1840 election the “oll korrect” OK merged with Martin van Buren's nickname, Old Kinderhook, when some van Buren supporters formed the O.K. Club. After the club got into a few tussles with Harrison supporters, OK got mixed up with slandering and sloganeering. It meant out of kash, out of karacter, orful katastrophe, orfully confused, all kwarrelling or any other apt phrase a pundit could come up with. It also got mixed up with the popular pastime of making fun of van Buren's predecessor, Andrew Jackson, for his poor spelling. One paper published a half-serious claim that OK originated with Jackson using it as a mark for "all correct" (ole kurrek) on papers he had inspected.

OK was the “misunderestimated”, “refudiated”, and “binders full of women” of its day, and it may have ended up with the same transitory fate if not for the fact that at the very same time, the telegraph was coming into use, and OK was there, a handy abbreviation, ready to be of service. By the 1870s it had become the standard way for telegraph operators to acknowledge receiving a transmission, and it was well on its way to becoming the greatest American word.

Its ultimate success may have depended on “the almost universal amnesia about the true origins of OK that took place early in the twentieth century. With the source of OK forgotten, each ethnic group and tribe could claim the honor of having ushered it into being from an expression in their native language.” By forgetting where OK came from, we made it belong to us all. Mental Floss


“Comfortably Numb” - Pink Floyd 1979

“Comfortably Numb” - Pink Floyd
Album: The Wall
Released 1979 video

Roger Waters wrote the lyrics. While many people thought the song was about drugs, Waters claims it is not. The lyrics are about what he felt like as a child when he was sick with a fever. As an adult, he got that feeling again sometimes, entering a state of delirium, where he felt detached from reality. He told Mojo magazine (December 2009) that the lines, “When I was a child I had a fever/My hands felt just like two balloons” were autobiographical. He explained: “I remember having the flu or something, an infection with a temperature of 105 and being delirious. It wasn't like the hands looked like balloons, but they looked way too big, frightening. A lot of people think those lines are about masturbation. God knows why.”

Mojo magazine asked Waters about the line, “That'll keep you going through the show”, referring to getting medicated before going on-stage. He explained: “That comes from a specific show at the Spectrum in Philadelphia (June 29, 1977). I had stomach cramps so bad that I thought I wasn't able to go on. A doctor backstage gave me a shot of something that I swear to God would have killed a f---ing elephant. I did the whole show hardly able to raise my hand above my knee. He said it was a muscular relaxant. But it rendered me almost insensible. It was so bad that at the end of the show, the audience was baying for more. I couldn't do it. They did the encore about me.”

Dave Gilmour wrote the music while he was working on a solo album in 1978. He brought it to The Wall sessions and Waters wrote lyrics for it.

Gilmour believes this song can be divided into two sections: dark and light. The light are the parts that begin “When I was a child...”, which Gilmour sings. The dark are the “Hello, is there anybody in there” parts, which are sung by Waters.

Waters and Gilmour had an argument over which version of this to use on the album. They ended up editing two takes together as a compromise. Dave Gilmour said in Guitar World February 1993: “Well, there were two recordings of that, which me and Roger argued about. I'd written it when I was doing my first solo album [David Gilmour, 1978]. We changed the key of the song's opening the E to B, I think. The verse stayed exactly the same. Then we had to add a little bit, because Roger wanted to do the line, 'I have become comfortably numb.' Other than that, it was very, very simple to write. But the arguments on it were about how it should be mixed and which track we should use. We'd done one track with Nick Mason on drums that I thought was too rough and sloppy. We had another go at it and I thought that the second take was better. Roger disagreed. It was more an ego thing than anything else. We really went head to head with each other over such a minor thing. I probably couldn't tell the difference if you put both versions on a record today. But, anyway, it wound up with us taking a fill out of one version and putting it into another version.”

This was the last song Waters and Gilmour wrote together. In 1986 Waters left the band and felt there should be no Pink Floyd without him.

When they played this on The Wall tour, a 35 foot wall was erected between the band and the audience as part of the show. As the wall went up, Gilmour was raised above it on a hydraulic lift to perform the guitar solo. It was his favorite part of the show.

In the movie The Wall video, this plays in a scene where the main character, a rock star named “Pink”, loses his mind and enters a catatonic state before a show. It was similar to what Syd Barrett, an original member of the band, went through in 1968 when he became mentally ill and was kicked out of the band.

This song is the final step in Pink's (Roger Water's) transformation into the Neo-Nazi, fascist character you see in the movie The Wall. Medics and the band manager come in and give Pink a shot to pull him out of his catatonic stupor, the manager pays protesting Meds some cash to shut up and let him take Pink to the concert in the state he's in (obviously a threat to his health, but the Meds, who probably don't make enough money, accept). In the movie Pink begins to melt on the way there, and underneath he finds that he is the cruel, fascist model of a Nazi party representative by the time he arrives at the concert. Supporting this, afterwards are the songs "The Show Must Go On" (Pink realizing as he gets to the show that there isn't really any turning back, and he's forced to go on-stage), “In the Flesh II” (the redone version of the first song on the album, now with Nazi-Pink singing, threatening random minorities), and “Run Like Hell” (after the crowd, loving nazi-Pink, has been whipped into a frenzy, now hunting minorities in the street, much like late 1930 Germany). While it does seem that this is a song about the “joy of heroin”, it has little, if any connection to heroin even if it's condition resembles that of somebody who's totally wasted.

Van Morrison played this with Roger Waters at a 1990 concert Waters organized in Berlin to commemorate the fall of the Berlin Wall. This version was used in the movie The Departed and also appeared in an episode of The Simpsons.

Gilmour's second guitar solo on “Comfortably Numb” regularly appears in Best Guitar Solo of All Time polls. In an August 2006 poll by viewers of TV music channel Planet Rock it was voted the greatest guitar solo of all time. For the solo, the Pink Floyd guitarist used a heavy pick on his Fender Strat with maple neck through a Big Muff and delay via a Hiwatt amp and a Yamaha RA-200 rotating speaker cabinet. Gilmour told Guitar World that the solo didn't take long to develop: “I just went out into the studio and banged out 5 or 6 solos. From there I just followed my usual procedure, which is to listen back to each solo and mark out bar lines, saying which bits are good. In other words, I make a chart, putting ticks and crosses on different bars as I count through: two ticks if it's really good, one tick if it's good and cross if it's no go. Then I just follow the chart, whipping one fader up, then another fader, jumping from phrase to phrase and trying to make a really nice solo all the way through. That's the way we did it on 'Comfortably Numb'. It wasn't that difficult. But sometimes you find yourself jumping from one note to another in an impossible way. Then you have to go to another place and find a transition that sounds more natural.”

Rolling Stone magazine (500 Greatest Albums of All Time #87) / Pink Floyd.com / Mojo Magazine / All Music / Billboard / Song Facts / Wikipedia

Image: “The Wall” by Pink Floyd



● Ethernet is a registered trademark of Xerox, Unix is a registered trademark of AT&T.

● The capital of Portugal was moved to Rio de Jeneiro, Brazil (at the time a colony of Portugal) from 1807 until 1821 while Portugal was fighting France in the Napoleonic Wars.

● Gerald Ford pardoned Robert E. Lee posthumously of all crimes of treason.

Military Trivia

● When World War II ended in 1945, How many enlisted men and women were in the nation's armed services?

A: Almost eleven million (10,795,775).

● What is a military contractor referring to when talking about a “manually powered fastener-driving impact device”?

A: A Hammer.

● What utensil were British sailors forbidden to use until the very late nineteenth century because it was considered both unmanly and harmful to discipline?

A: The fork.

Joke of the Day

Joke of the Day

A man and his wife were having an argument about who should brew the coffee each morning.

The wife said, “You should do it because you get up first, and then we don't have to wait as long to get our coffee.”

The husband said, “You are in charge of cooking around here and you should do it, because that is your job, and I can just wait for my coffee.”

Wife replies, “No, you should do it, and besides, it is in the Bible that the man should do the coffee.”

Husband replies, “I can't believe that, show me.”

So she fetched the Bible, opened the New Testament and showed him that at the top of several pages it does indeed say “HEBREWS”.