I have admitted in past posts that I have very few artistic skills and that has not changed. But I am working to learn new skills and this is my first really homemade Christmas card. I did use some stencils and added my own freehand embellishments. I used a toothpick to add the red berries on the second page of the card. But, being an inveterate inventor I made my own texture paste for the snowflakes with blue acrylic paint and had some real problems getting good results but they have a true raised texture. (I failed to show the many rejects that really frustrated me)! For all of the embossing I used my own homemade embossing powder made from Pledge floor finish. (Put embossing in the search box if you are interested in this project). I also used a modified heat set ink from Speedball which is designed for silk screening. I know that I will never catch up with my creative and innovative readers/viewers but I am trying to get better. It just take me more time! No matter how you celebrate the holiday I wish all a meaningful and loved filled time of the year, Ken.
Women have been struggling to provide comfort and satisfy fashion for as far back as early Greece. It has not been easy as fashion changes happen so frequently and either low cut or completely hidden have been in vogue.
But in early in 1913 Mary Phelps Jacobs was getting ready to attend a formal affair that featured a plunging neckline and being rather large on the topside she had a problem. She did not want to wear the usual bone corset as it did not work with her gown. But with no support her sensitive parts were visible and that forced her to create a solution. She had her maid sew two handkerchiefs together and added thin straps which would be hidden by the gown. It worked and so became the brassiere. Another invention had been fostered by necessity! She wore it that night and soon began marketing and selling in well known stores and salons. From her autobiography:
"It is among the objects of the present invention to provide a garment in which a number of features of novelty and utility are combined, among which are the provision of a garment which has no back and therefore does not interfere with any design of evening gown that may be chosen; one which is capable of universal fit to such an extent that for commercial handling it need be made in but few sizes, with reasonable certainty that the size and shape of a single garment will be suitable for a considerable variety of different customers; and to provide a garment which is characterized by extreme simplicity by freedom from bones so that it may be finished with laces or embroideries for wear beneath a sheer waist or diaphanous gown, and which when worn is both comfortable and cool and so efficient that it may be worn even by persons engaged in violent exercise such as tennis; and which has other advantages that are characteristic of the invention herein set forth".
So, now more than 100 years later the debate continues as to bra vs. no bra. Either way, gravity will win and the choice is a simple personal decision.
As we approach the holiday season, humans around many places in the world are decorating all manner of trees, homes, and wreaths. Some even decorate their pets! And although the tradition of the colorful red green and silver tinsel only goes back as far as the late Victorian period, (late 1800's), some species other than humans have decorated themselves for much longer. A good example is the Majoid crab, also known as the decorator crab, that adds bits of algae and other bits of material to their appendages to hide from predators.
Researchers at the University of Delaware wanted to determine how quickly the crabs decorated themselves, and if they did it with and without a place to hide. The experiment was fairly simple; have two separate containers, one with a habitat and one without a place to hide. Then, using wet craft pom-poms so that they would sink to the bottom of the container, the crabs were photographed every hour for 24 hours.
In both containers most of the crabs were decorated within 6 hours. All of the crabs were completely covered after 24 hours. The difference was in which part of their body they protected first. If a habitat was available, the crabs decorated their appendages first and the ones without a place to hide, decorated the entire body. Since the crabs do not have color vision they probably failed to recognize that they were celebrating a holiday. "Tis the season"!
Almost everybody likes a good tasty banana when it is ripe and firm. It is the basis for smoothies, banana splits, and flambé. This fruit is readily available and inexpensive. And, every time we eat a banana it tastes the same. Why? Because it is genetically identical to the parent, the Cavendish, that was first cultivated in Great Britain in 1830. The gardener at Chatsworth House imported the cultivar and in 1835 the first tree bore fruit. It was mainly for the family but it would soon become the default variety for worldwide consumption. But, I am getting ahead of the story so let's go back.
For decades the most-exported and therefore most important banana in the world was the Gros Michel, but in the 1950s it was practically wiped out by the fungus known as Panama disease or banana wilt. (Also known as Fusarium fungus). Banana growers turned to another breed that was immune to the fungus - the Cavendish, a smaller and by all accounts less tasty fruit but one capable of surviving global travel and, most importantly, able to grow in infected soils.
But now, almost two hundred years later, the Fusarium Wilt has adapted and is killing the Cavendish. So far, the damage is calculated at about 30 % of the world wide crop and spreading fast. And considering that more than 100 billion bananas are consumed annually in the world, making it the fourth most important food crop after wheat, rice and corn, in the developing world, we have to begin to look seriously at biodiversity in all of our crops like wheat, rice, corn, and other critical foods. For a longer look at the Cavendish and Fusarium Wilt check the link here.
Many people eat tomatoes and consume the multiple varieties available. Additionally, these same tomatoes are the basis for home gardens because they are relatively easy to grow in the ground and in containers. And we know that this fruit is important because the issue of the nature of the humble tomato came up in the United States Supreme Court! And yes, the tomato botanically is a fruit because it is a seed-bearing structure growing from the flowering part of a plant.
But, in 1883 a New York produce supplier challenged the fact that tomatoes were being called a vegetable. He was just beginning to import produce from Florida and there was a Tariff on vegetables but not fruit. The producer lost the case because the "general meaning" and use of the tomato was as a vegetable. But this post is on the merits of the current product and not the Supreme Court. Today's tomatoes versus the heirloom varieties is the issue at hand.
The most popular tomatoes are either bought at the super market, farmer's market, or grown at home. But, the fresh tomato season is short, so the canned varieties are substituted for fresh ones. And, over time, we have become accustomed to the taste of the current collection of tomatoes and believe that they are typical of all tomatoes. But nothing could be further from the truth! It is unfortunate that we have not all taken the time to look at an incredible alternative; the heirloom tomato. My first taste of an heirloom, (which is based on a variety and seed that is at least 50 years old) was a bit unusual. The taste was unfamiliar and it seemed really strong as they are more acidic. But, the flesh is softer and there is more juice and it makes a perfect salad or BLT! I was completely sold and decided to try growing some heirloom varieties.
But reality quickly set in as I encountered problems with producing the old-timers. I had more tomato pests, wilt, and they didn't last as long after picking. And the reason was clear; they were not bred to be bullet-proof like the mundane varieties that I was familiar with. The tomatoes today are designed to be shipped for miles, not bruise, last longer, be available year-round, be disease and pest resistant, and bland!
So, in my humble opinion it is worth investigating these tomatoes that have been around successfully for years and really are better tasting. There are some out standing candidates here. Bon appetite!
Button, or coin cell batteries are found in so many electronic devices and toys that the word ubiquitous is almost inadequate. Many come in packs of ten or more as in the batteries used in hearing aids and other devices that drain the current relatively quickly. Others, frequently bought in stores are simply a way to have us buy more than we need. But, there is no doubt that they are used in devices throughout the home. And, many small toys use button batteries and the obvious threat is to small children who love to play and put these shiny objects in their mouths, ears, and even their nose! And even with the toy indicating "small objects and may be swallowed" is on the package, the battery is not included in this warning. How serious is this problem? Here is a quote from healthychildren.org supported by pediatricians:
"More than 3,000 button batteries are ingested each year in the United States. It may be as frequent as every three hours that there is a child in the ER somewhere in this country for a battery-related emergency issue. Small, shiny and appealing to children, button batteries can result in a major injury and even death if ingested". Link Here.
In addition to the fact that the battery can block the esophagus causing a breathing problem, the battery still has an electrical charge. The failure of the device suggests a depleted battery but there is still voltage in the cell, but not enough to run the device. But there is enough to burn the sensitive tissue causing severe burns. The short-circuit causes the acidity to increase and in less than two hours serious damage can occur. In doing some research on what happens if the battery reaches the stomach, it appears that due to the acidity in the stomach with the normally occurring hydrochloric acid, the battery may pass normally.
The obvious solution is to safeguard children from coming into contact with the batteries but that can be difficult. Toys with loose battery compartments seem to be the biggest concern so that may be a place to start looking. Protecting children in the home and elsewhere is difficult but I hope that this post at least raises some consideration of an overlooked problem...
If you were expecting to add a sweet temptation like whipped cream to your holiday desserts you may be out of luck! The propellant that allows the pressure to force out the somewhat dubious "whipped cream" from the popular Reddi-wip and other brands, nitrous oxide is in short supply due to an explosion in one of the major producers, Conagra. The gas, which is also used as an anesthetic in dentists offices and for legal huffing, will go to the dentist and not the pumpkin pie! From the Boston Globe:
"If you were hoping to add a dollop of whipped cream to your apple pie this holiday season, then you’d better head to the store and start filling up your shopping cart early.
Some supermarkets and manufacturers are warning customers that due to a national shortage of nitrous oxide, certain canned whipped cream products may be missing from the shelves.
An incident at a Florida facility in August has impacted the production of the gas that shoots whipped cream from canisters and onto desserts, leaving some stores that sell the fluffy white topping strapped before Christmas.
Conagra Foods, which makes Reddi-wip, said the industry-wide issue affects any company that relies on nitrous oxide in their products, including private labels and competitive brands.Lanie Friedman, a Conagra spokeswoman, said in a statement that the company is doing its best to make its whipped cream available to as many consumers as possible.
In the meantime, they’re encouraging shoppers to “stock up early,” during the peak season.
“We should have our full supply up and running by February,” Friedman said".
Of course for those who realize that you can make whipped cream easily at home without the need for shooting it directly into your mouth, there is no problem. Strange that in a world in chaos we are worried about whipped cream. Only in America...
The LED (Light Emitting Diode) candle has become ubiquitous and has been around for several years in various forms. The principle is simple; make a yellow LED flicker and look like a candle. Although there are several price points and aesthetic designs, the form differs from tea lights or votives, all the way to massive column shapes. And, many of the more recent iterations have real wax exteriors in an attempt to look more “natural”.
However, the technology to make the LED’s flicker like a candle flame has changed over time. The earliest examples used discreet parts like transistors, resistors, and capacitors to effectively mimic the movement of a burning flame. Then, integrated circuits became the default technology, and soon they were miniaturized to fit into the LED itself! And soon thereafter came the next innovation; an LED candle that can be turned on and off with a breath of air. I do have the ability to extinguish a candle with air, but I have not been able to re-ignite it in the same way! And that is the subject of this post and video.
I have received several questions as to how the blow on/blow/off candles operate so it was time for a tear down. Although I typically do not try and “reverse engineer” products, I thought a video might explain how these candles work. So, enjoy the destruction and explanation…
This is the mini-amp that I used to amplify the electret microphone signal from the JFET that did not show up in the video.
This is perhaps the most unusual entry that I have done in the past five years. It is not a typical post and it is designed to be fun and maybe entertaining. I’ll leave the analysis up to the reader (listener). The content involves some of my activities that are generally outside of this websites subject matter. Let’s follow the bouncing ball!
I have been playing guitar for a number of years and in a number of styles but mainly finger picking. But, over time I have learned other stringed instruments including the bass guitar, banjo, and mandolin. But, I have also tried harmonica and piano and enjoy the challenge of learning something new. But, I consider myself an amateur and have always played music for fun.
About 5 years ago I decided to figure out how to accompany myself and do something like a “one man band”. The obvious answer was a simple 4 channel tape recorder that allows putting down one track with the acoustic guitar, playing that back through headphones, and adding the bass on track 2. Then, while playing both of those tracks, add the electric guitar on track 3. Then finally, add the harmonica on track 4. Although it sounds simple, it is labor intensive but really fun. (As an aside, I could have done it all digitally but a higher cost). So, since I was going to do that anyway, I might as well write some songs and really go big or go home! So I did write about 10 songs; some were instrumental and some were vocal. But, to be perfectly clear, I really could not write songs as I don’t read music. And, you can’t write what you can’t read. So, I made them up as poetry and added the chords. So, since I was the “composer”, there was no chance of copyright infringement! The next logical step was to copy them all after taping to a CD and distribute them to friends and family. Of course the big flaw in my use of analog tape for a natural sound is changed by burning to a CD and making the songs mp3’s. Oh well, here is a clip of one I call “Scrambled Eggs” which defies genre!
Note: The video below is the same one as the YouTube video so if you have already seen it there just read the write-up.
The ability to free my art mannequin from that annoying piece of wire support has allowed me to use different configurations in looking at the way in which limbs move. In the full disclosure mode, I am not an artist or even an art student. But, I am interested in bio-mechanics and that is what motivated me to free my model. (If you want to know more about how the mannequin is fabricated, check Google Patents for the 1945 patent, (2,451,023 for one of the methods of construction.)
I originally planned on using small neodymium magnets embedded in the hands and feet to allow positional control but did not like the idea of drilling or cutting the model. But, while discussing the problem with my son he happened to mention Velcro as a possible solution. That, and in some instances coupled with magnets, solved the problem. But, the story would be incomplete without the magic of Velcro, (A trade name for a hook and loop fastener) and a video. The name Velcro comes from the words velvet and crochet.
In 1941 Swiss engineer George de Mistral was walking his dog in the woods of the Alps and was perplexed by the fact that the burrs (seed) of the burdock plant were sticking to his pant legs and his dog’s fur. When he returned home he examined the burr under the microscope and discovered that the burr was covered with hooks that locked together with the loops on the dogs’ fur and on his pants. He immediately thought about making a temporary cloth connector that could be used like a zipper. It is the perfect example of biomimicry where natural phenomena can be translated into other useful processes.
He began his work with cotton but had many failures until he finally used nylon. His first patent was filed in 1955 and granted in 1958. The product really did not really catch on until the 1960’s, when NASA began using it to secure space suits and tying down equipment on spacecraft. But since then it has been a standard method of making temporary connections on many products. The patent expired in 1978 and is now manufactured by many other manufactures. But Velcro is still strong and is still manufactured right here in New Hampshire. Velcro, by the way, is a trade name. Here is the macro image:Now, on with the video!
Note: I found that my mannequin had a threaded post and took some effort to detach.