Old Sailors' Almanac


Week 32, 2017

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Smithsonian Institution created on August 10, 1846

Smithsonian Institution created on August 10, 1846

Smithsonian Institution created: After a decade of debate about how best to spend a bequest left to America from an obscure English scientist, President James K. Polk signs the Smithsonian Institution Act into law.

In 1829, James Smithson died in Italy, leaving behind a will with a peculiar footnote. In the event that his only nephew died without any heirs, Smithson decreed that the whole of his estate would go to “the United States of America, to found at Washington, under the name of the Smithsonian Institution, an Establishment for the increase and diffusion of knowledge”. Smithson’s curious bequest to a country that he had never visited aroused significant attention on both sides of the Atlantic.

Smithson had been a fellow of the venerable Royal Society of London from the age of 22, publishing numerous scientific papers on mineral composition, geology, and chemistry. In 1802, he overturned popular scientific opinion by proving that zinc carbonates were true carbonate minerals, and one type of zinc carbonate was later named smithsonite in his honor.

Six years after his death, his nephew, Henry James Hungerford, indeed died without children, and on July 1, 1836, the U.S. Congress authorized acceptance of Smithson’s gift. President Andrew Jackson sent diplomat Richard Rush to England to negotiate for transfer of the funds, and two years later Rush set sail for home with 11 boxes containing a total of 104,960 gold sovereigns, 8 shillings, and 7 pence, as well as Smithson’s mineral collection, library, scientific notes, and personal effects. After the gold was melted down, it amounted to a fortune worth well over $500,000. After considering a series of recommendations, including the creation of a national university, a public library, or an astronomical observatory, Congress agreed that the bequest would support the creation of a museum, a library, and a program of research, publication, and collection in the sciences, arts, and history. On August 10, 1846, the act establishing the Smithsonian Institution was signed into law by President James K. Polk.

Today, the Smithsonian is composed of 19 museums and galleries including the recently announced National Museum of African American History and Culture,nine research facilities throughout the United States and the world, and the national zoo. Besides the original Smithsonian Institution Building, popularly known as the “Castle”, visitors to Washington, D.C., tour the National Museum of Natural History, which houses the natural science collections, the National Zoological Park, and the National Portrait Gallery. The National Museum of American History houses the original Star-Spangled Banner and other artifacts of U.S. history. The National Air and Space Museum has the distinction of being the most visited museum in the world, exhibiting such marvels of aviation and space history as the Wright brothers’ plane and Freedom 7, the space capsule that took the first American into space. John Smithson, the Smithsonian Institution’s great benefactor, is interred in a tomb in the Smithsonian Building.

History Channel / Wikipedia / Encyclopedia Britannica / Smithsonian Institution: Smithsonian Home / Smithsonian Institution (YouTube search) video

“The Odyssey”

The Old Salt’s Corner

“The Odyssey”


Ulysses now left the haven, and took the rough track up through the wooded country and over the crest of the mountain till he reached the place where Minerva had said that he would find the swineherd, who was the most thrifty servant he had. He found him sitting in front of his hut, which was by the yards that he had built on a site which could be seen from far. He had made them spacious and fair to see, with a free ran for the pigs all round them; he had built them during his master's absence, of stones which he had gathered out of the ground, without saying anything to Penelope or Laertes, and he had fenced them on top with thorn bushes. Outside the yard he had run a strong fence of oaken posts, split, and set pretty close together, while inside lie had built twelve sties near one another for the sows to lie in. There were fifty pigs wallowing in each sty, all of them breeding sows; but the boars slept outside and were much fewer in number, for the suitors kept on eating them, and die swineherd had to send them the best he had continually. There were three hundred and sixty boar pigs, and the herdsman's four hounds, which were as fierce as wolves, slept always with them. The swineherd was at that moment cutting out a pair of sandals from a good stout ox hide. Three of his men were out herding the pigs in one place or another, and he had sent the fourth to town with a boar that he had been forced to send the suitors that they might sacrifice it and have their fill of meat.

When the hounds saw Ulysses they set up a furious barking and flew at him, but Ulysses was cunning enough to sit down and loose his hold of the stick that he had in his hand: still, he would have been torn by them in his own homestead had not the swineherd dropped his ox hide, rushed full speed through the gate of the yard and driven the dogs off by shouting and throwing stones at them. Then he said to Ulysses, “Old man, the dogs were likely to have made short work of you, and then you would have got me into trouble. The gods have given me quite enough worries without that, for I have lost the best of masters, and am in continual grief on his account. I have to attend swine for other people to eat, while he, if he yet lives to see the light of day, is starving in some distant land. But come inside, and when you have had your fill of bread and wine, tell me where you come from, and all about your misfortunes.”

On this the swineherd led the way into the hut and bade him sit down. He strewed a good thick bed of rushes upon the floor, and on the top of this he threw the shaggy chamois skin- a great thick one- on which he used to sleep by night. Ulysses was pleased at being made thus welcome, and said “May Jove, sir, and the rest of the gods grant you your heart's desire in return for the kind way in which you have received me.”

To this you answered, O swineherd Eumaeus, “Stranger, though a still poorer man should come here, it would not be right for me to insult him, for all strangers and beggars are from Jove. You must take what you can get and be thankful, for servants live in fear when they have young lords for their masters; and this is my misfortune now, for heaven has hindered the return of him who would have been always good to me and given me something of my own- a house, a piece of land, a good looking wife, and all else that a liberal master allows a servant who has worked hard for him, and whose labour the gods have prospered as they have mine in the situation which I hold. If my master had grown old here he would have done great things by me, but he is gone, and I wish that Helen's whole race were utterly destroyed, for she has been the death of many a good man. It was this matter that took my master to Ilius, the land of noble steeds, to fight the Trojans in the cause of kin Agamemnon.”

BOOK XIV continued ...

~ Homer

Written 800 B.C.E

Translated by Samuel Butler

Table of Contents

“I’m Just Sayin’”

“I’m Just Sayin”

“Supply creates its own demand”, i.e., if businesses produce more output in a free market economy, the wages and other payment for productive inputs will provide sufficient demand so that there is no general glut.

~ Say's law, attributed to economist Jean-Baptiste Say by economist John Maynard Keynes

“Thought for the Day”

“Thought for the Day”

“Persuasion is often more effectual than force.”

~ Aesop

“What I Have Learned”

“What I Have Learned”

“The greatest remedy for anger is delay.”

~ Seneca the Younger

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)

Cops Hunt Dirt Bikers Who Jumped Collapsed Bridge In Evel Knievel-Style Stunt

Cops Hunt Dirt Bikers Who Jumped Collapsed Bridge In Evel Knievel-Style Stunt

Police in North Carolina are trying to identify a pair of daredevils seen in a viral video jumping over a collapsed section of a closed bridge.

The video, which was posted to Facebook by Hickory resident Colt Howell, shows two dirt bikers taking turns jumping the gap before a small group of onlookers. It’s not clear whether Howell is one of the people featured in the video.

Spectrum News reports the span between the two collapsed sections of the bridge is 72 feet.

Authorities said the riders are a threat to themselves and a danger to others who might try to copy them. “We don’t want anyone to participate in anything dangerous like that that could cause injury or loss or life.”

The concrete barriers have since been bolted down to deter anyone else from attempting to jump the collapsed bridge.

The bridge, which was built in 1942 and used until its closure late last year, is scheduled for demolition. Officials said construction on a replacement bridge, which will cost $3.2 million, is slated to begin in the coming weeks, Charlotte’s WBTV News reported.

Huffington Post (06/01/2017) video

When Did the Do Not Call List Stop Working?

Mr. Answer Man Please Tell Us: When Did the Do Not Call List Stop Working?

There was once a time when picking up a call from an unfamiliar number didn’t guarantee you’d be talking to a robot. For several years following its introduction in 2003, the Do Not Call list successfully sheltered individuals from unwanted calls about gym memberships and cheap travel packages. Companies respected the list, and if they didn’t, they faced legal ramifications.

Then, at the turn of the decade, something changed. Telemarketing scams began trickling through the cracks, and today the Do Not Call list is about as effective as a free cruise offered over the phone is free.

So what happened? It may not be evident to current members, but the National Do Not Call Registry does work - with some numbers, at least. According to the Do-Not-Call Implementation Act, telemarketers (excluding surveyors, politicians, and charities) can be fined up to $40,000 for ignoring the list. So when it comes to calls from legitimate, law-abiding businesses within the U.S., the Do Not Call list is a useful barrier. Problems arise when callers never intend to follow the law in the first place.

Around 2010, the same time the internet made international calls a lot less expensive, phone scammers began relocating outside the U.S. Whether they’re calling from India or Jamaica, voice over internet protocol technology makes spamming numbers with prerecorded messages cheap and easy. Another trick, known as “call spoofing”, allows frauds to input fake caller IDs to make it seem like they’re calling from within the country. Some telemarketers even go so far as to call from the recipient’s home area code, leading the person on the receiving end to think it’s someone they know.

“It’s difficult to identify who’s actually placing the call because of the call spoofing”, Maureen Mahoney, a public policy fellow for Consumers Union’s End Robocalls campaign, tells Mental Floss. “So that also makes it difficult to track these people down.” Even when authorities do catch up to operations working in foreign countries, most of the money scammed from consumers has already been spent. It’s no wonder that the U.S. loses billions of dollars to scam calls each year.

Phone owners are well aware of the problem. “We actually sent out an email to our list asking what’s one of the issues you’re most concerned about, and overwhelmingly the response was robocalls”, Mahoney says. Consumers Union took action by launching their campaign to end robocalls in 2015. Instead of going after lawmakers, who often receive the brunt of the public’s blame, the initiative targets phone companies. A petition on the organization's website calls on phone company CEOs to “provide free tools to block unwanted robocalls before they reach my phone.”

“We really believe that the phone companies are in the best position to address the problem”, Mahoney says. “They’re the ones with the best engineers and the technology and the know-how.” Some industry leaders have taken steps to tackle the issue. Time Warner customers have the option to sign up for Nomorobo, a service that blocks illegal robocalls, for free. AT&T made a similar option available for select devices in December, and T-Mobile rolled out a robocall-blocking feature of its own in April. But there are still many companies that have no such resources available, or only offer them at an additional cost.

If electing to block robocalls through your service provider is impossible or impractical for you, there are other ways to protect yourself. When an unknown number lights up your screen, don’t pick up. Sometimes a “hello?” is all the information telemarketers need to confirm you’re a living human being who is worth calling again. If you do decide to answer, don’t be afraid to hang up as soon as things start feeling fishy. Staying on the phone gives scammers more opportunities to squeeze information from you, so even asking to be taken off their list is more trouble than it’s worth.

One of the most notorious scams to look out for today is the IRS phone scam. To trick their victims, callers (sometimes calling from a bogus Washington D.C. area code) will say they work for the IRS and demand to be paid immediately. Americans have been cheated out of tens of millions of dollars as a result of this scheme.

Mahoney also warns consumers to be wary of calls claiming to come from card services (“We can offer you a lower interest rate!”), tech support (“We can fix your computer!”), and even your phone company (“You need to pay your bills! Could we have your card information?”). Even if you suspect the call's legitimate, it's always best to end the conversation and call back using a number you trust. “If someone’s asking for your personal or financial information, hang up the phone right away”, Mahoney says. “Report it to the FCC.” You can contact the Federal Communications Commission with your complaints here.

We already know that the Do Not Call Registry alone isn’t enough to keep telemarketers at bay, but it doesn’t hurt to keep your name on the list - even if all it does is cut down the amount of robo-harassment you receive each week by a call or two.

DoNotCall.govMental FlossQuoraSlateWikipedia

Where Did That Saying Come From? “Raining Cats and Dogs”

Where Did That Saying Come From?

Raining Cats and Dogs”  Meaning: Raining heavily.

Origin: In Norse mythology, cats symbolised heavy rain, while dogs were associated with Odin the storm god, and therefore represented howling wind.

The phrase isn't related to the well-known antipathy between dogs and cats, which is exemplified in the phrase 'fight like cat and dog'. Nor is the phrase in any sense literal, that is, it doesn't record an incident where cats and dogs fell from the sky. Small creatures, of the size of frogs or fish, do occasionally get carried skywards in freak weather. Impromptu involuntary flight must also happen to dogs or cats from time to time, but there's no record of groups of them being scooped up in that way and causing this phrase to be coined. Not that we need to study English meteorological records for that - it's plainly implausible.

One supposed origin is that the phrase derives from mythology. Dogs and wolves were attendants to Odin, the god of storms, and sailors associated them with rain. Witches, who often took the form of their familiars - cats, are supposed to have ridden the wind. Well, some evidence would be nice. There doesn't appear to be any to support this notion.


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

NAVSPEAK aka U.S. Navy Slang

Pit: A sailor's rack or bunk. Usually used among those who aren't particularly pleased with shipboard life.

Pit Sword: A sword-shaped device that protrudes below the ship to measure it's actual speed.

Pineapple Fleet: The Pacific Fleet, usually refers to the Seventh Fleet (in the western Pacific) and specifically to ships stationed in Pearl Harbor. Somewhat confusing term, as Pearl Harbor is considered part of the Third Fleet's area, and not the Seventh.

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

Just for you MARINE

Re-up: Reenlist, an Army term that has made its way into the vernacular for volunteering for an additional period of service. The correct term is Ship-over.

Reverse Raider: Derogatory term for MARSOC Marines, due to their reputed tendency to assume they are superior to regular Marines. Many in the Marine Reconnaissance community see MARSOC as wanting to emulate the Marine Raiders of WWII, which they are not meant to be.

RFI: Request For Information.

Naval Aviation Squadron Nicknames

Naval Aviation Squadron Nicknames

VAQ-132 - “Scorpions”
Formerly VAH-2 Expeditionary, Naval Aviation Squadron Whidbey Island, Washington - Established November 1, 1955

Science & Technology

Science & Technology

Science & Technology

This Genetically-Modified Cyborg Dragonfly Is the Tiniest DroneFirst Private Moon Landing Gears Up for LaunchThe Boats That FlyThe 23 Best iPhone Apps to Download NowFor The First Time Ever, Lightning Striking a Building is Caught in High SpeedA Giant Ice Shelf Is About to CollapseThe Rise of Disposable Drones (As air-launched munitions get smarter, the Air Force is creating a new class of weapon - a combination of drones and missiles.)20 Quick Tips for Finding the Right House

Popular Mechanics

The Strange, Mysterious or Downright Weird

The Strange, Mysterious or Downright Weird

World's Most Powerful X-Ray Laser Creates Molecular 'Black Hole'

World's Most Powerful X-Ray Laser Creates Molecular 'Black Hole'

The black hole is not a tiny version of the supermassive celestial object that devours everything within its event horizon. Rather, when X-ray energy is aimed at a molecule, it strips away so many of the electrons that it creates a void that then sucks in all the electrons from nearby atoms — in black-hole fashion.

“It basically sucked all the electrons away from the surrounding environment”, said study co-author Sebastien Boutet, a physicist at the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory in Menlo Park, California. “It's an analogy to how a black hole gravitationally pulls everything in." [Brightest X-Ray Laser 'Blows Up' Water Droplets in Stunning Video]

The molecular black-hole effect occurs thanks to the most intense X-ray beam of its kind - equivalent to focusing all the sun's light onto a spot the size of a thumbnail.

The findings were published today (May 31) in the journal Nature.

Live Science (05/31/2017) video

© CEASAR CHOPPY by cartoonist Marty Gavin - archives Ceasar Choppy's Navy! “© CEASAR CHOPPY” by Marty Gavin


“Burning Down The House” - Talking Heads 1983

“Burning Down The House” - Talking Heads
Album: Speaking in Tongues
Released 1983 video

‘Burning Down The House’ from the Talking Heads‘ 1983 album ‘Speaking In Tongues’ was the group’s biggest hit, no doubt thanks to the endless rotation of the song’s innovative video on MTV. The single peaked at the No. 8 position on the Billboard Hot 100 singles.

Characterized by the very new-wave sound with which the band was associated, the song is perhaps most notable for the nonsensical phrases sung by vocalist David Byrne. If there was a hidden meaning or agenda behind lyrics such as “Cool babies, strange but not a stranger”, he wasn’t letting the audience in on the gag.

When discussing the song’s lyrics in an NPR interview conducted in 1984, Byrne said he had been simply trying to sing phrases that fit with the rhythm of the song, a technique that was influenced by their producer friend Brian Eno. Stating that he had “loads of phrases” that he thought “thematically had something to do with one another”, Byrne merely cherry-picked from those phrases to compile the lyrics heard in the song.

Interestingly, after the 9/11 attacks on the United States, ‘Burning Down The House’ was put onto the list of media giant Clear Channel’s list of possibly inappropriate songs for airplay.

Talking Heads, official website / Billboard / All Music / Song Facts / Ultimate Classic Rock / Wikipedia

Image: “ Speaking in Tongues (album)” by Talking Heads



The composer Sergei Prokofiev of “Peter and the Wolf” is a musical piece for orchestra tells the story of a disobedient boy's encounter with a wild animal.

● TWO VIOLINS, ONE VIOLA, ONE CELLO are the four stringed instruments make up a string quartet.

● Although John Philip Sousa is renowned for composing marches, in 40 years of touring, the Sousa Band only marched in eight parades.

A Test for People Who Know Everything

From the Jeopardy Archives Category - “I LIKE YOUR COLÓN” ($200):

Descendants of those who worked on a big dig are the main populace of Colón, this country's major port. (The big dig, of course, took place in [*], the canal)

Answer for People Who Do Not Know Everything, or Want to Verify Their Answer CIA.gov

Answer to Last Week's Test

From the Jeopardy Archives Category - “STEVE JOBS” ($1000):

In the 1980s Jobs began NeXT company with help from this Texas entrepreneur & future presidential candidate.

Answer: Ross Perot. Encyclopedia Britannica

Joke of the Day

Joke of the Day

A dentist had a sink backed up in his office and he couldn’t treat patients without having it fixed.

He called a plumber who fixed the problem in about half an hour, and the plumber gave the bill to the dentist.

The dentist looked at the bill and exclaimed, “$250 for half-hour’s work?! That comes out to $500 an hour! Even I don’t make that kind of money!”

The plumber smiled and answered: “Yes, I know! I used to be a dentist!”

Quotable Quotables

“The Untouchables” TV Series (1959 - 1963)

Agent Enrico Rossi: “Mr. Ness... I want to do more than testify.”

Jake Guzik: “A gun can't think!”

Frank Nitti: “It can *shoot*, Guzik!”

Norma Louise Guzik: “I didn't know he had an Italian Brother-in-law.”

Agent Enrico Rossi: “Happens to the best of us, lady.”

~ “The Untouchables” TV Series (1959 - 1963) - “YouTube search” (“The Untouchables (TV Series 1959–1963)”) video Series Cast: Robert Stack (Eliot Ness), Walter Winchell (Narrator), Nicholas Georgiade (Enrico Rossi), Paul Picerni (Lee Hobson), Abel Fernandez (William Youngfellow), Bruce Gordon (Frank Nitti)...