Old Sailors' Almanac


Week 39, 2017

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Battle of Yorktown begins on September 28, 1781

Battle of Yorktown begins on September 28, 1781

Battle of Yorktown begins: On this day in 1781, General George Washington, commanding a force of 17,000 French and Continental troops, begins the siege known as the Battle of Yorktown against British General Lord Charles Cornwallis and a contingent of 9,000 British troops at Yorktown, Virginia, in the most important battle of the Revolutionary War.

Earlier, in a stroke of luck for the Patriots, the French fleet commanded by Francois, Count de Grasse, departed St. Domingue (the then-French colony that is now Haiti) for the Chesapeake Bay, just as Cornwallis chose Yorktown, at the mouth of the Chesapeake, as his base. Washington realized that it was time to act. He ordered Marquis de Lafayette and an American army of 5,000 troops to block Cornwallis’ escape from Yorktown by land while the French naval fleet blocked the British escape by sea. By September 28, Washington had completely encircled Cornwallis and Yorktown with the combined forces of Continental and French troops. After three weeks of non-stop bombardment, both day and night, from cannon and artillery, Cornwallis surrendered to Washington in the field at Yorktown on October 17, 1781, effectively ending the War for Independence.

Pleading illness, Cornwallis did not attend the formal surrender ceremony, held on October 19. Instead, his second in command, General Charles O’Hara, carried Cornwallis’ sword to the American and French commanders.

Although the war persisted on the high seas and in other theaters, the Patriot victory at Yorktown ended fighting in the American colonies. Peace negotiations began in 1782, and on September 3, 1783, the Treaty of Paris was signed, formally recognizing the United States as a free and independent nation after eight years of war.

History Channel / Wikipedia / Encyclopedia Britannica / British Battles / National Park Service.gov / Mount Vernon.org / Army History.org Battle of Yorktown 1781 (YouTube search) video

“The Odyssey”

The Old Salt’s Corner

“The Odyssey”


Minerva now put it in Penelope's mind to make the suitors try their skill with the bow and with the iron axes, in contest among themselves, as a means of bringing about their destruction. She went upstairs and got the store room key, which was made of bronze and had a handle of ivory; she then went with her maidens into the store room at the end of the house, where her husband's treasures of gold, bronze, and wrought iron were kept, and where was also his bow, and the quiver full of deadly arrows that had been given him by a friend whom he had met in Lacedaemon- Iphitus the son of Eurytus. The two fell in with one another in Messene at the house of Ortilochus, where Ulysses was staying in order to recover a debt that was owing from the whole people; for the Messenians had carried off three hundred sheep from Ithaca, and had sailed away with them and with their shepherds. In quest of these Ulysses took a long journey while still quite young, for his father and the other chieftains sent him on a mission to recover them. Iphitus had gone there also to try and get back twelve brood mares that he had lost, and the mule foals that were running with them. These mares were the death of him in the end, for when he went to the house of Jove's son, mighty Hercules, who performed such prodigies of valour, Hercules to his shame killed him, though he was his guest, for he feared not heaven's vengeance, nor yet respected his own table which he had set before Iphitus, but killed him in spite of everything, and kept the mares himself. It was when claiming these that Iphitus met Ulysses, and gave him the bow which mighty Eurytus had been used to carry, and which on his death had been left by him to his son. Ulysses gave him in return a sword and a spear, and this was the beginning of a fast friendship, although they never visited at one another's houses, for Jove's son Hercules killed Iphitus ere they could do so. This bow, then, given him by Iphitus, had not been taken with him by Ulysses when he sailed for Troy; he had used it so long as he had been at home, but had left it behind as having been a keepsake from a valued friend.

Penelope presently reached the oak threshold of the store room; the carpenter had planed this duly, and had drawn a line on it so as to get it quite straight; he had then set the door posts into it and hung the doors. She loosed the strap from the handle of the door, put in the key, and drove it straight home to shoot back the bolts that held the doors; these flew open with a noise like a bull bellowing in a meadow, and Penelope stepped upon the raised platform, where the chests stood in which the fair linen and clothes were laid by along with fragrant herbs: reaching thence, she took down the bow with its bow case from the peg on which it hung. She sat down with it on her knees, weeping bitterly as she took the bow out of its case, and when her tears had relieved her, she went to the cloister where the suitors were, carrying the bow and the quiver, with the many deadly arrows that were inside it. Along with her came her maidens, bearing a chest that contained much iron and bronze which her husband had won as prizes. When she reached the suitors, she stood by one of the bearing-posts supporting the roof of the cloister, holding a veil before her face, and with a maid on either side of her. Then she said:

“Listen to me you suitors, who persist in abusing the hospitality of this house because its owner has been long absent, and without other pretext than that you want to marry me; this, then, being the prize that you are contending for, I will bring out the mighty bow of Ulysses, and whomsoever of you shall string it most easily and send his arrow through each one of twelve axes, him will I follow and quit this house of my lawful husband, so goodly, and so abounding in wealth. But even so I doubt not that I shall remember it in my dreams.”

As she spoke, she told Eumaeus to set the bow and the pieces of iron before the suitors, and Eumaeus wept as he took them to do as she had bidden him. Hard by, the stockman wept also when he saw his master's bow, but Antinous scolded them. “You country louts”, said he, “silly simpletons; why should you add to the sorrows of your mistress by crying in this way? She has enough to grieve her in the loss of her husband; sit still, therefore, and eat your dinners in silence, or go outside if you want to cry, and leave the bow behind you. We suitors shall have to contend for it with might and main, for we shall find it no light matter to string such a bow as this is. There is not a man of us all who is such another as Ulysses; for I have seen him and remember him, though I was then only a child.”

BOOK XXI continued ...

~ Homer

Written 800 B.C.E

Translated by Samuel Butler

Table of Contents

“I’m Just Sayin’”

“I’m Just Sayin”

“If something can go wrong, it will.”

~ Sod's law

“Thought for the Day”

“Thought for the Day”

“Don’t believe anything you read on the net.

Except this

Well, including this, I suppose.”

~ Douglas Adams

“What I Have Learned”

“What I Have Learned”

“Don’t place your mistakes on your head,

their weight may crush you.


place them under your feet

and use them as a platform

to view your horizons.”

~ Anonymous

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)

World's Biggest Super Soaker Packs a Mean Punch

World's Biggest Super Soaker Packs a Mean Punch - Check out the record (and glass) shattering Super Soaker, measuring seven feet long.

Last year, Mark Rober introduced us to the world's largest Nerf gun to provide a leg up in those Nerf battles against friends. This year, he brought us yet another enormous classic toy gun. Mark, along with Bob Clagett of I Like To Make Stuff, created the world's largest Super Soaker, which holds the Guinness World Record at 7 feet long.

The body of the Super Soaker is made out of foam and it features an awesome paint job. But this over-sized water gun's true beauty lies within. Under the hood it contains a similar structure to that of the original super soaker and operates on the same water-launching principles.

Every time you pump a traditional Super Soaker, the air pressure within the water tank increases. The pressurized air pushes down on the water so hard that when the trigger is pulled, the water shoots out with plenty of force to fly long distances. But instead of pumping this huge Super Soaker, a tank filled with high pressure nitrogen gas is used to pressurize the water tank and shoot the stream out at 272 mph.

Even though this enormous water gun looks like a boatload of fun, it can also be a bit dangerous. With water bursting out at 272 mph, you can't exactly soak your friends with this Super Soaker. The original super soaker was pressurized to 40 psi. This super Super Soaker is pressurized to a whopping 2400 psi—more than eight times the pressure of a fire hose.

Check out I Like to Make Stuff's video as well to learn about how the enormous soaker was made.

Popular Mechanics (07/12/2017) video

Jam vs. Jelly: What's the Difference?

Mr. Answer Man Please Tell Us: Jam vs. Jelly: What's the Difference?

The language of fruit spreads is a peculiar one. Spreads made from the squeezed-out remnants of oranges, berries, grapes, and other mashed-up foods can easily be confused for one another, with jam vs. jelly being a particular source of befuddlement. Here’s how to keep them straight.

Jelly is made solely from the juice of fruit. The fruit is crushed and strained, and the liquid extract is boiled with added sugar and pectin to produce a thick, spreadable topping. Jam is produced in a similar way, but with one important distinction: It’s not strained. The goop leaves in chunks of crushed fruit, giving the spread a more robust consistency. Because it’s already thick, preparations of jam typically don’t call for a whole lot of pectin. Think of it as the chunky peanut butter to jelly’s regular, even though you might not see whole pieces of fruit suspended in the product.

Sometimes people will call a spread a “fruit preserve”. While that might mean the fruit chunks are larger and more noticeable, that’s not always the case. You might also see marmalades that look suspiciously like jams. The distinction there is that marmalades are typically sourced from citrus fruits like oranges or lemons.

Things get a little trickier in the UK, where “jelly” can refer either to a fruit spread or to the gelatin concoction Jell-O. The country also has pretty strict standards for applying the jam label: Jams need to be a minimum of 60 percent sugar in order to earn that title. The rule was created in the 1920s so the spreads would have a longer shelf life. (Sugar, in this instance, acts as a preservative.) Reducing the amount of sugar, which has been discussed among people wishing to keep all of their teeth, might result in a longer boil process and some loss of flavor.

And what of fruit butters and conserves? Fruit butters are made using fruit pulp for thick spreads, but don’t actually contain any butter. Conserves add nuts or raisins for added texture. These rogue spreads aren’t as common as jelly or jam.

We hope this clears up any jam vs. jelly confusion and that you find yourself better-informed to deal with the next naked piece of toast you encounter.

Cooking LightEpicuriousFine CookingMental FlossQuaraWikipedia

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

NAVSPEAK aka U.S. Navy Slang

Portable Air Sample: (Submarine Service): A snipe hunt gag inflicted on “newbies”. Normally, portable air samples are regularly collected by a hand-held device operated by a highly qualified crewmember. In this snipe hunt gag, however, a plastic garbage bag is inflated like a balloon and sealed, sometimes with “official” forms taped to the exterior; the newbie is then dispatched to take this important atmospheric sample to the Executive Officer (NEVER the Skipper). Depending on that particular XO's sense of humor, the newbie could possibly come back with interesting counter-orders.

Portable Pad Eye: A pad eye is a recessed anchor point found in the decks of U.S. Navy Ships. They are a permanent fixture. Typically, as a hazing ritual, sailors fresh out of boot camp are sent out on a wild goose chase to retrieve a, “Portable”, Pad Eye.

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

Just for you MARINE

SCIF: Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility, a place classified materials are processed and/or stored.

Scrambled eggs: Gold oak leaf embroidery found on field grade and general officers' barracks cap visors and mess dress cuffs.

Scrounge: Place where dishes are washed.

Scuttlebutt: Gossip; or a drinking fountain, from “butt” (cask) and “scuttle” (a hole in a ship's side at deck level that allows water to drain from the deck), a cask that had an opening fitted with a spigot used to contain fresh water for drinking purposes. Because people gathered around a scuttlebutt, gossip, rumors, and sea stories are also known as scuttlebutt.

SDI: Senior Drill Instructor,, the leader of a recruit platoon.

Naval Aviation Squadron Nicknames

Naval Aviation Squadron Nicknames

VAQ-139 - “Cougars”
CVW-17 Naval Aviation Squadron Whidbey Island, Washington - Established July 1, 1983

Where Did That Saying Come From

Where Did That Saying Come From?

Where Did That Saying Come From? “Blood is Thicker than Water”

Blood is Thicker than Water”  Meaning: So it is, but this proverb hasn't to do with measures of viscosity. The expression, meaning that family bonds are closer than those of outsiders.

Origin: “Of course, blood really is thicker than water.”

This is first cited in Sir Walters Scott's work Guy Mannering; or the astrologer, 1815:

“Weel, blude's thicker than water; she's welcome to the cheeses and the hams just the same.”

Given Scott's facility for coining new phrases it may well be that this was his own work too. See also - phrases coined by Sir Walter Scott.

Phrases.org UK

Science & Technology

Science & Technology

Science & Technology

New Footage Shows Perils of F-35 Flight TestingThe Winter-Proof Drone That Will Watch the ArcticWorld's Biggest Super Soaker Packs a Mean PunchHow to Make Your Engine Clean Enough to Eat OffThis Is the Smallest Star Ever DiscoveredThe Navy Is Looking for a New Frigate to Replace the Troubled Littoral Combat ShipAmbulance Update Is a Reminder of How Much Self-Driving Cars Have to LearnAbort! Airliner Nearly Lands on Other Planes at San Francisco Airport

Popular Mechanics

The Strange, Mysterious or Downright Weird

The Strange, Mysterious or Downright Weird

Diatoms Have Sex, and Ammonium Is a Turn-On

Diatoms Have Sex, and Ammonium Is a Turn-On

Single-celled algae known as diatoms, long thought to reproduce asexually, were recently found to be friskier than expected.

Researchers discovered that diatoms do engage in sexual reproduction — and are especially likely to do it when in the presence of the compound ammonium, a waste product generated by most animals.

Previously, scientists had observed the complete life cycles in barely a handful of diatom species, and even among well-studied diatoms, sexual reproduction had never been seen, the researchers wrote in the study, published online in the journal PLOS ONE. [Photos Reveal the Diversity of Diatoms]

However, the study authors found that they could manipulate the diatom Thalassiosira pseudonana into changing its cell structures to be male or female. All they had to do was eliminate one of the factors that the diatom needed to grow - such as light or phosphorous — and then introduce ammonium, and the diatoms would differentiate into male and female cells.

“Our discoveries solve two persistent mysteries that have plagued diatom researchers”, study co-author Kimberly Halsey, a microbiologist at Oregon State University, said in a statement.

“Yes, they have sex, and yes, we can make them do it”, Hasley said.

Diatoms are protists, a diverse group made up of unicellular organisms whose bodies have cell walls and highly organized interiors, with a nucleus and an array of specialized structures called organelles. There are an estimated 200,000 diatom species in the world, and they can be found wherever there's liquid water.

Though tiny, diatoms play an important if unseen role in Earth's carbon cycle - marine diatoms generate oxygen through photosynthesis - and in cycling silica, which makes up about 25 percent of the planet's crust and which diatoms incorporate into structures in their cell walls.

But very little is known about how most diatoms grow and reproduce. T. pseudonana is one of only two diatom species that has had its genome sequenced, making it a perfect candidate for identifying changes on the genetic level that could be linked to sexual characteristics - and prior studies had even identified genes that were necessary for sexual reproduction, but determined that they were inactive, the scientists reported in the new study.

Ammonium proved to be the missing ingredient. It sparked a cascade of genetic responses that produced egg and sperm structures. But that wasn't all — more than 1,200 genes also started performing differently when ammonium was present, though the effects of those changes are as yet unclear, the study authors wrote. However, pinpointing ammonium as one of the factors that drives diatoms to reproduce sexually will enable scientists to continue to replicate the behavior in order to study it further, according to Halsey.

“Identifying ammonium as a sexuality inducer potentially opens the door to new avenues of research into breeding and genetic modification to control important traits”, Halsey said in the statement.

Live Science (07/12/2017) video

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


“Piano Man” - Billy Joel 1973

“Piano Man” - Billy Joel
Album: Piano Man
Released 1973 video

This was inspired by Joel's experiences playing at The Executive Room, a piano bar in Los Angeles. He worked there for six months in 1972 after his first solo album, Cold Spring Harbor, tanked. The characters in the song are based on real people Joel encountered while working at The Executive Room.

The “waitress practicing politics” is Elizabeth Weber, who ended up becoming his first wife when Joel married her in 1973 (they divorced in 1982).

Joel played under the name Bill Martin, which explains why the patrons in the song call him Bill. Martin is his middle name.

Joel recalled to the Metro newspaper July 6, 2006 his time playing at The Executive Room: “It was a gig I did for about six months just to pay rent. I was living in LA and trying to get out of a bad record contract I'd signed. I worked under an assumed name, the Piano Stylings of Bill Martin, and just bulls--ted my way through it. I have no idea why that song became so popular. It's like a karaoke favorite. The melody is not very good and very repetitious, while the lyrics are like limericks. I was shocked and embarrassed when it became a hit. But my songs are like my kids and I look at that song and think: 'My kid did pretty well.'”

Regarding the limericks statement, Joel points out that this is best heard in the following verse, which if you read with a sprightly pace, does sound like one:

Now John at the bar is a friend of mine

He gets me my drinks for free

And he's quick with a joke or to light up your smoke

But there's someplace that he'd rather be

This is the first song and title track to Joel's breakthrough album, which he released after signing with Columbia Records. His first album was released by Family Records in 1971, and the contract Joel signed to get that deal came back to haunt him. As is often the case with young musicians, Joel did not understand the contract, and it bound him “for life” to the label. Joel was forced to pay royalties to Family for years after breaking the deal and signing with Columbia.

This song is in waltz time (3/4), which is unusual for a pop song. Some other songs that use this time signature are “Iris” by the Goo Goo Dolls, “Kiss From A Rose” by Seal and Joe Cocker's version of “With A Little Help From My Friends”.

The line “Paul is a real estate novelist” is about a real estate broker who was a regular at the bar who always claimed to be working on a book. Joel figured Paul would never finish because he was always in the bar.

The harmonica part was inspired by Bob Dylan. Dylan was the first person Joel saw use a strap to hold the harmonica so he could play another instrument at the same time.

This song is one that every piano bar player has to deal with, since unimaginative patrons will inevitably ask for it. Joel points out, however, that the song can be quite dull when played in this format. He told Howard Stern in 2014: “I think it's a decent song. It doesn't change too much. When they play it on the piano as an instrumental, it gets really boring because it's the same thing over and over and over.”

This song has surprising appeal to a younger generation, something that Joel learned when he played the Bonnaroo festival in 2015 and the crowd sang along. He told Entertainment Weekly the response was unexpected, since it's “an old, long song about a guy at a depressing piano bar.”

Billy Joel, official website / Billboard / All Music / Song Facts / Ultimate Classic Rock / Wikipedia

Image: “Piano Man (album)” by Billy Joel



Cats are Feline, Dogs are Canine, Cows are Bovine, Sheep are Ovine, Horses are Equine, Pigs are Porcine, Bears are Ursine, Foxes are Vulpine, Wolves are Lupine and Snakes are Serpentine.

After Chinese, the world's three most commonly spoken languages are: English, Hindustani (Hindi and Urdu) and Spanish.

● Costa Rica was the first country located in North America to formally abolish military forces.

A Test for People Who Know Everything

From the Jeopardy Archives Category - “FIVE-LETTER MUSICAL INSTRUMENTS” ($800):

This instrument used for military calls has no valves or keys; tones are made by changing the tension of the lips.

Answer for People Who Do Not Know Everything, or Want to Verify Their Answer United States Army.mil - Music

Answer to Last Week's Test

From the Jeopardy Archives Category - “FRUIT STAND” ($800):

There's a giant type of this lime named for islands

Answer: The "Key Lime" - grown commercially in the Florida Keys until a hurricane wiped out many groves in the 1920s, and farmers replaced them with the larger, seedless Persian limes you see more often in the U.S. these days. Tasting Table

Joke of the Day

Joke of the Day

The Cynical Philosopher

• My therapist said that my narcissism causes me to misread social situations. I’m pretty sure she was hitting on me.

• My 60 year kindergarten reunion is coming up soon and I’m worried about the 175 pounds I’ve gained since then.

• Denny’s has a slogan, “If it’s your birthday, the meal is on us.” If you’re in Denny’s and it’s your birthday, your life sucks!

• The pharmacist asked me my birth date again today. I’m pretty sure she’s going to get me something.

Quotable Quotables

“Mad Men” Season 5 (2007 - 2015)

Joan: “Men don’t take time to end things. They ignore you until you insist on a declaration of hate.”

Megan: “You’ve never seen me throw a party. Everyone is going to come home from this and have sex.”

Don: “Sometimes we don’t get to choose where our talents lie.”

Peggy: (On Megan)

“I think she’s good at everything. I think she’s just one of those girls.”

Joan: “Then you had every right to be hard on her.”

Roger: “Jane wanted a baby but I thought”, “Why do that to somebody?”

Roger: “They make wine for Jews. And now they’re making one they want to sell to normal people.”

Ginsberg: “I feel bad for you.”

Don: “I don’t think about you at all.”

Sally: (At The Natural History Museum)

“How’d they get all these animals?”

Glen: “Teddy Roosevelt killed them.”

Sally: “Do you think they were a family?”

Glen: “I hope so. Otherwise what were they doing?” Walking around saying, “We just need a baby to finish this diorama?”

Glen: “Meet me in Africa.”

Ted: “You’re a woman and you smoke. What do YOU want?”

Beth: “You don’t know me. And I don’t know you. We just have the same problem.”

Don: “What are you doing here?”

Adam: “I lost my job when I died.”

~ “Mad Men” - “Mad Men Season 5” (2007 – 2015) video Creator: Matthew Weiner - A drama about one of New York's most prestigious ad agencies at the beginning of the 1960s, focusing on one of the firm's most mysterious but extremely talented ad executives, Donald Draper. AMC