Fun Stuff

August 24, 0079: Vesuvius erupts

This Day in History - Sat, 08/23/2014 - 11:00pm

After centuries of dormancy, Mount Vesuvius erupts in southern Italy, devastating the prosperous Roman cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum and killing thousands. The cities, buried under a thick layer of volcanic material and mud, were never rebuilt and largely forgotten in the course of history. In the 18th century, Pompeii and Herculaneum were rediscovered and excavated, providing an unprecedented archaeological record of the everyday life of an ancient civilization, startlingly preserved in sudden death.

The ancient cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum thrived near the base of Mount Vesuvius at the Bay of Naples. In the time of the early Roman Empire, 20,000 people lived in Pompeii, including merchants, manufacturers, and farmers who exploited the rich soil of the region with numerous vineyards and orchards. None suspected that the black fertile earth was the legacy of earlier eruptions of Mount Vesuvius. Herculaneum was a city of 5,000 and a favorite summer destination for rich Romans. Named for the mythic hero Hercules, Herculaneum housed opulent villas and grand Roman baths. Gambling artifacts found in Herculaneum and a brothel unearthed in Pompeii attest to the decadent nature of the cities. There were smaller resort communities in the area as well, such as the quiet little town of Stabiae.

At noon on August 24, 79 A.D., this pleasure and prosperity came to an end when the peak of Mount Vesuvius exploded, propelling a 10-mile mushroom cloud of ash and pumice into the stratosphere. For the next 12 hours, volcanic ash and a hail of pumice stones up to 3 inches in diameter showered Pompeii, forcing the city's occupants to flee in terror. Some 2,000 people stayed in Pompeii, holed up in cellars or stone structures, hoping to wait out the eruption.

A westerly wind protected Herculaneum from the initial stage of the eruption, but then a giant cloud of hot ash and gas surged down the western flank of Vesuvius, engulfing the city and burning or asphyxiating all who remained. This lethal cloud was followed by a flood of volcanic mud and rock, burying the city.

The people who remained in Pompeii were killed on the morning of August 25 when a cloud of toxic gas poured into the city, suffocating all that remained. A flow of rock and ash followed, collapsing roofs and walls and burying the dead.

Much of what we know about the eruption comes from an account by Pliny the Younger, who was staying west along the Bay of Naples when Vesuvius exploded. In two letters to the historian Tacitus, he told of how "people covered their heads with pillows, the only defense against a shower of stones," and of how "a dark and horrible cloud charged with combustible matter suddenly broke and set forth. Some bewailed their own fate. Others prayed to die." Pliny, only 17 at the time, escaped the catastrophe and later became a noted Roman writer and administrator. His uncle, Pliny the Elder, was less lucky. Pliny the Elder, a celebrated naturalist, at the time of the eruption was the commander of the Roman fleet in the Bay of Naples. After Vesuvius exploded, he took his boats across the bay to Stabiae, to investigate the eruption and reassure terrified citizens. After going ashore, he was overcome by toxic gas and died.

According to Pliny the Younger's account, the eruption lasted 18 hours. Pompeii was buried under 14 to 17 feet of ash and pumice, and the nearby seacoast was drastically changed. Herculaneum was buried under more than 60 feet of mud and volcanic material. Some residents of Pompeii later returned to dig out their destroyed homes and salvage their valuables, but many treasures were left and then forgotten.

In the 18th century, a well digger unearthed a marble statue on the site of Herculaneum. The local government excavated some other valuable art objects, but the project was abandoned. In 1748, a farmer found traces of Pompeii beneath his vineyard. Since then, excavations have gone on nearly without interruption until the present. In 1927, the Italian government resumed the excavation of Herculaneum, retrieving numerous art treasures, including bronze and marble statues and paintings.

The remains of 2,000 men, women, and children were found at Pompeii. After perishing from asphyxiation, their bodies were covered with ash that hardened and preserved the outline of their bodies. Later, their bodies decomposed to skeletal remains, leaving a kind of plaster mold behind. Archaeologists who found these molds filled the hollows with plaster, revealing in grim detail the death pose of the victims of Vesuvius. The rest of the city is likewise frozen in time, and ordinary objects that tell the story of everyday life in Pompeii are as valuable to archaeologists as the great unearthed statues and frescoes. It was not until 1982 that the first human remains were found at Herculaneum, and these hundreds of skeletons bear ghastly burn marks that testifies to horrifying deaths.

Today, Mount Vesuvius is the only active volcano on the European mainland. Its last eruption was in 1944 and its last major eruption was in 1631. Another eruption is expected in the near future, would could be devastating for the 700,000 people who live in the "death zones" around Vesuvius.

Categories: Fun Stuff

John F. Kennedy

Quotes of the Day - Sat, 08/23/2014 - 7:00pm
"Mothers may still want their sons to grow up to be President, but according to a famous Gallup poll of some years ago, some 73 percent do not want them to become politicians in the process."
Categories: Fun Stuff

Scott Adams

Quotes of the Day - Sat, 08/23/2014 - 7:00pm
"Give a man a fish, and you'll feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and he'll buy a funny hat. Talk to a hungry man about fish, and you're a consultant."
Categories: Fun Stuff

Mark Twain

Quotes of the Day - Sat, 08/23/2014 - 7:00pm
"In religion and politics, people's beliefs and convictions are in almost every case gotten at second hand, and without examination."
Categories: Fun Stuff

Woodrow Wilson

Quotes of the Day - Sat, 08/23/2014 - 7:00pm
"I not only use all the brains that I have, but all that I can borrow."
Categories: Fun Stuff

purfle

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day - Sat, 08/23/2014 - 1:00am

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for August 23, 2014 is:

purfle • \PER-ful\  • verb
: to ornament the border or edges of

Examples:
The guitar maker used abalone shell to purfle the instrument.

"She wore a silk dress purfled with gold, and they compared her beauty to the moon." — Nicholas Jubber, The Prester Quest, June 30, 2011

Did you know?
Today we use "purfle" mostly in reference to setting a decorative inlaid border around the body of a guitar or violin, a process known as "purfling." In the past, "purfle" got the most use in connection with adornment of garments. "The Bishop of Ely … wore a robe of scarlet … purfled with minever," reported an English clergyman in 1840, for example. We embellished our language with "purfle," first as "purfilen" in the 1300s, when we took it with its meaning from Middle French "porfiler."

Categories: Fun Stuff

Daily Puzzle - August 22

BrainBashers - Easy Sudoku - Fri, 08/22/2014 - 11:10pm
BrainBashers Daily Puzzle

I dig out tiny caves, and store gold and silver in them.

I also build bridges of silver and make crowns of gold.

They are the smallest you could imagine.

Sooner or later everybody needs my help yet many people are afraid to let me help them. Who am I?

Categories: Fun Stuff

Daily Sudoku - August 22 - Easy

BrainBashers - Easy Sudoku - Fri, 08/22/2014 - 11:10pm
BrainBashers Daily Sudoku



Complete the grid such that every row, every column, and the nine 3x3 blocks contain the digits from 1 to 9.

[Copyright: Kevin Stone]

Categories: Fun Stuff

Daily Game - August 22

BrainBashers - Easy Sudoku - Fri, 08/22/2014 - 11:10pm
BrainBashers Daily Game

Skidoo TT
   A nice slippery track to play with your skidoo. Navigate around the track in either arcade or time trial mode.
[Played on the BrainBashers Games website]

Categories: Fun Stuff

August 23, 1902: Fannie Farmer opens cooking school

This Day in History - Fri, 08/22/2014 - 11:00pm

On this day in 1902, pioneering cookbook author Fannie Farmer, who changed the way Americans prepare food by advocating the use of standardized measurements in recipes, opens Miss Farmer's School of Cookery in Boston. In addition to teaching women about cooking, Farmer later educated medical professionals about the importance of proper nutrition for the sick.

Farmer was born March 23, 1857, and raised near Boston, Massachusetts. Her family believed in education for women and Farmer attended Medford High School; however, as a teenager she suffered a paralytic stroke that turned her into a homebound invalid for a period of years. As a result, she was unable to complete high school or attend college and her illness left her with a permanent limp. When she was in her early 30s, Farmer attended the Boston Cooking School. Founded in 1879, the school promoted a scientific approach to food preparation and trained women to become cooking teachers at a time when their employment opportunities were limited. Farmer graduated from the program in 1889 and in 1891 became the school's principal. In 1896, she published her first cookbook, The Boston Cooking School Cookbook, which included a wide range of straightforward recipes along with information on cooking and sanitation techniques, household management and nutrition. Farmer's book became a bestseller and revolutionized American cooking through its use of precise measurements, a novel culinary concept at the time.

In 1902, Farmer left the Boston Cooking School and founded Miss Farmer's School of Cookery. In addition to running her school, she traveled to speaking engagements around the U.S. and continued to write cookbooks. In 1904, she published Food and Cookery for the Sick and Convalescent, which provided food recommendations for specific diseases, nutritional information for children and information about the digestive system, among other topics. Farmer's expertise in the areas of nutrition and illness led her to lecture at Harvard Medical School.

Farmer died January 15, 1915, at age 57. After Farmer's death, Alice Bradley, who taught at Miss Farmer's School of Cookery, took over the business and ran it until the mid-1940s. The Fannie Farmer Cookbook is still in print today.

Categories: Fun Stuff

George Bernard Shaw

Quotes of the Day - Fri, 08/22/2014 - 7:00pm
"When a thing is funny, search it carefully for a hidden truth."
Categories: Fun Stuff

Tom Lehrer

Quotes of the Day - Fri, 08/22/2014 - 7:00pm
"I wish people who have trouble communicating would just shut up."
Categories: Fun Stuff

Alfred Hitchcock

Quotes of the Day - Fri, 08/22/2014 - 7:00pm
"Drama is life with the dull bits cut out."
Categories: Fun Stuff

Edgar Bergen

Quotes of the Day - Fri, 08/22/2014 - 7:00pm
"Ambition is a poor excuse for not having sense enough to be lazy."
Categories: Fun Stuff

Davy Jones's Locker

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day - Fri, 08/22/2014 - 1:00am

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for August 22, 2014 is:

Davy Jones's Locker • \day-vee-johnz-LAH-ker\  • noun
: the bottom of the ocean

Examples:
"We asked where the rest of the ship's company were; a gruff old fellow made answer, 'One boat's crew of 'em is gone to Davy Jones's locker: —went off after a whale, last cruise, and never come back agin.…'" — Herman Melville, Omoo: A Narrative of Adventures in the South Seas, 1847

"They were storm driven throughout a long night and slammed into the cliffs of Guana Island 20 miles to the Southwest: a close call with Davy Jones' locker." — Jonathan Russo, Shelter Island Reporter (New York), June 23, 2014

Did you know?
Was there a real Davy Jones? Folks have been pondering that question for centuries. Sailors have long used "Davy Jones" as the name of a personified evil spirit of the ocean depths, but no one knows exactly why. Some claim the original Davy Jones was a British pirate, but evidence of such a pirate is lacking. Others swear he was a London pub owner who kept drugged ale in a special locker, served it to the unwary, and then had them shanghaied. But the theory considered most plausible is that "Davy" was inspired by St. David, the patron saint of Wales. (St. David was often invoked by Welsh sailors.) "Jones" is traced to Jonah, the biblical figure who was swallowed by a great fish.

Categories: Fun Stuff

August 22, 1950: Althea Gibson becomes first African-American on U.S. tennis tour

This Day in History - Thu, 08/21/2014 - 11:00pm

On this day in 1950, officials of the United States Lawn Tennis Association (USLTA) accept Althea Gibson into their annual championship at Forest Hills, New York, making her the first African-American player to compete in a U.S. national tennis competition.

Growing up in Harlem, the young Gibson was a natural athlete. She started playing tennis at the age of 14 and the very next year won her first tournament, the New York State girls' championship, sponsored by the American Tennis Association (ATA), which was organized in 1916 by black players as an alternative to the exclusively white USLTA. After prominent doctors and tennis enthusiasts Hubert Eaton and R. Walter Johnson took Gibson under their wing, she won her first of what would be 10 straight ATA championships in 1947.

In 1949, Gibson attempted to gain entry into the USLTA's National Grass Court Championships at Forest Hills, the precursor of the U.S. Open. When the USLTA failed to invite her to any qualifying tournaments, Alice Marble--a four-time winner at Forest Hills--wrote a letter on Gibson's behalf to the editor of American Lawn Tennis magazine. Marble criticized the "bigotry" of her fellow USLTA members, suggesting that if Gibson posed a challenge to current tour players, "it's only fair that they meet this challenge on the courts." Gibson was subsequently invited to participate in a New Jersey qualifying event, where she earned a berth at Forest Hills.

On August 28, 1950, Gibson beat Barbara Knapp 6-2, 6-2 in her first USLTA tournament match. She lost a tight match in the second round to Louise Brough, three-time defending Wimbledon champion. Gibson struggled over her first several years on tour but finally won her first major victory in 1956, at the French Open in Paris. She came into her own the following year, winning Wimbledon and the U.S. Open at the relatively advanced age of 30.

Gibson repeated at Wimbledon and the U.S. Open the next year but soon decided to retire from the amateur ranks and go pro. At the time, the pro tennis league was poorly developed, and Gibson at one point went on tour with the Harlem Globetrotters, playing tennis during halftime of their basketball games. In the early 1960s, Gibson became the first black player to compete on the women's golf tour, though she never won a tournament. She was elected to the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 1971.

Though she once brushed off comparisons to Jackie Robinson, the trailblazing black baseball player, Gibson has been credited with paving the way for African-American tennis champions such as Arthur Ashe and, more recently, Venus and Serena Williams. After a long illness, she died in 2003 at the age of 76.

Categories: Fun Stuff

Daily Puzzle - August 21

BrainBashers - Easy Sudoku - Thu, 08/21/2014 - 10:56pm
BrainBashers Daily Puzzle

At the local mid-summers fayre, four ladies are planning to delight the visitors with their speciality cakes.

Mrs Archer will make a chocolate cake.

Neither Mrs Bowness, Louise nor Kay Cook propose to make a vanilla cake.

Julie, who is not Mrs Dancer, will make coffee.

Mary will not make a plain one.

You need to find their full names and who plans to make which cake.

[Copyright: Kevin Stone]

Categories: Fun Stuff

Daily Sudoku - August 21 - Easy

BrainBashers - Easy Sudoku - Thu, 08/21/2014 - 10:56pm
BrainBashers Daily Sudoku



Complete the grid such that every row, every column, and the nine 3x3 blocks contain the digits from 1 to 9.

[Copyright: Kevin Stone]

Categories: Fun Stuff

Daily Game - August 21

BrainBashers - Easy Sudoku - Thu, 08/21/2014 - 10:56pm
BrainBashers Daily Game

Magic Liquid
   Try your best to break up all of the bubbles using the fewest clicks possible.
[Played on the BrainBashers Games website]

Categories: Fun Stuff

Kevin Rose

Quotes of the Day - Thu, 08/21/2014 - 7:00pm
"I don't care what it is, when it has an LCD screen, it makes it better."
Categories: Fun Stuff