Wednesday, January 22, 2020

6 Common Knowledge Items That Are False

Spinach is a good source of iron
Early spinach testing had contaminated precipitates leading to a too high measurement of iron. It does have as much iron as red meat, but it contains oxalic acid, which makes the iron hard for your body to absorb. Interestingly, E.C. Segar, the creator of Popeye, had his hero eat spinach because of its high Vitamin A content, not because of iron.

Vitamin C helps cure a cold
Linus Pauling (two Nobel prizes) took a lot of Vitamin C and claimed it stopped his frequent colds. Dozens of studies have shown that Vitamin C doesn't appreciably affect colds. It does prevent scurvy, however.

You lose most body heat through your head
This comes from a military study in the 1950s that measured soldiers out in the cold with no hat on. So, the only body part exposed was their heads! It's good to wear a hat, but not because the head is especially good at losing heat. It's that exposed body parts lose heat faster than covered body parts.

A person should drink 8 glasses of water a day.
Comes from a 1945 study that recommended about 2.5 liters of water, but then went on to say that most people get enough water from their foods. It also said that water should be taken ad libitun (as much or as often as necessary or desired) since sensations of thirst usually serve as an adequate guide to drinking water except in infants and sick people.

Sugar cause hyperactivity in children
In 1973, allergy doctor Dr. Feingold, with little to no evidence, recommended that artificial colors and flavors be removed from the diets of hyperactive children. People just added sugar to his already unsupported list. More than a dozen randomized controlled trials failed to detect difference in behavior between kids given large doses of sugar and those who were not. Interestingly, when parent think their kids have been given a lot of sugar, they think their kids are hyperactive, even when the actual substance wasn't high in sugar. 

Microbes outnumber cells in your body by 10 to 1
The original numbers for this calculation came from the 1977 paper "Microbial Biology of the Gastrointestinal Tract". The numbers for microbes (100 trillion) and cells in the body (10 trillion) were pretty much conjured out of thin air. The microbes number came from in a 1972 paper and was a back of the envelope estimate with no experiments. The human cells number from a 1971 text book with no supporting evidence for how the number was derived.

So, what are you believing without testing? As a technologist it is always good to check one's assumptions.

Wednesday, December 25, 2019

100 Years Ago

As we end this year, and the second decade of the 21st century, let's look at back one hundred years ago in 1919. What a difference a century makes!

The average life expectancy for men was 47 years.
Fuel for cars was sold in drug stores only.
Only 14 percent of the homes had a bathtub.
Only 8 percent of the homes had a telephone.
The maximum speed limit in most cities was 10 mph.
The tallest structure in the world was the Eiffel Tower.
The average US wage in 1919 was 22 cents per hour.
The average US worker made between $200 and $400 per year.
A competent accountant could expect to earn $2,000 per year.
A dentist earned $2,500 per year.
A veterinarian between $1,500 and 4,000 per year.
And, a mechanical engineer about $5,000 per year.
More than 95 percent of all births took place at home
Ninety percent of all Doctors had NO COLLEGE EDUCATION!
Instead, they attended so-called medical schools, many of which were condemned in the press AND the government as "substandard."
Sugar cost four cents a pound.
Eggs were fourteen cents a dozen.
Coffee was fifteen cents a pound.
Most women only washed their hair once a month, And, used
Borax or egg yolks for shampoo.

Canada passed a law that prohibited poor people from entering their country for any reason.

The Five leading causes of death were:
1. Pneumonia and influenza
2. Tuberculosis
3. Diarrhea
4 Heart disease
5. Stroke

The American flag had 45 stars ...
The population of Las Vegas, Nevada was only 30.
Crossword puzzles, canned beer, and iced tea hadn't been invented yet.
There was neither a Mother's Day nor a Father's Day.
Two out of every 10 adults couldn't read or write
And, only 6 percent of all Americans had graduated from high school.

Marijuana, heroin, and morphine were all available over the counter at local corner drugstores.
Back then pharmacists said, "Heroin clears the complexion, gives buoyancy to the mind, regulates the stomach, bowels, and is, in fact, a perfect guardian of health!" (Shocking?)

Eighteen percent of households had at least one full-time servant or domestic help.
There were about 230 reported murders in the ENTIRE U.S.A.

What will the next century bring?

Monday, December 9, 2019

The Great Escape

Untouched for almost seven decades, the tunnel used in the Great Escape has finally been unearthed. The 111-yard passage nicknamed 'Harry' by Allied prisoners was sealed by the Germans after the audacious break-out from the POW camp Stalag Luft III in western Poland. Despite huge interest in the subject, encouraged by the film starring Steve McQueen, the tunnel was undisturbed over the decades because it was behind the Iron Curtain and the Soviet had no interest in its significance.

But at last British archaeologists have excavated it, and discovered its remarkable secrets.

Many of the bed boards which had been joined together to stop it collapsing were still in position. And the ventilation shaft, ingeniously crafted from used powdered milk containers known as Klim Tins, remained in working order. (note: klim=milk, backwards)

Scattered throughout the tunnel, which is 30ft below ground, were bits of old metal buckets, hammers and crowbars which were used to hollow out the route.

A total of 600 prisoners worked on three tunnels at the same time. They were nicknamed Tom, Dick and Harry and were just 2 ft. Square for most of their length. It was on the night of March 24 and 25, 1944, that 76 Allied airmen escaped through Harry.

Barely a third of the 200 prisoners, many in fake German uniforms and civilian outfits and carrying false identity papers, who were meant to slip away, managed to leave before the alarm was raised when escapee number 77 was spotted.

Tunnel vision: A tunnel reconstruction showing the trolley system.

Only three made it back to Britain. Another 50 were executed by firing squad on the orders of Adolf Hitler, who was furious after learning of the breach of security. In all, 90 boards from bunk beds, 62 tables, 34 chairs and 76 benches, as well as thousands of items including knives, spoons, forks, towels and blankets, were squirreled away by the Allied prisoners to aid the escape plan under the noses of their captors.

Although the Hollywood movie suggested otherwise, NO Americans were involved in the operation. Most were British, and the others were from Canada, (all the tunnelers were Canadian personnel with backgrounds in mining) Poland, New Zealand, Australia, and South Africa.

The site of the tunnel, recently excavated by British archaeologists. The latest dig, over three weeks in August, located the entrance to Harry, which was originally concealed under a stove in Hut 104. 

The team also found another tunnel, called George, whose exact position had not been charted. It was never used as the 2,000 prisoners were forced to march to other camps as the Red Army approached in January 1945.

Watching the excavation was Gordie King, 91, an RAF radio operator, who was 140th in line to use Harry and therefore missed out. 'This brings back such bitter-sweet memories', he said as he wiped away tears. 'I'm amazed by what they've found. '

Gordie King, 91, made an emotional return to Stalag Luft III.

In a related post:

Escape from WWII POW Camps — starting in 1940, an increasing number of British and Canadian Airmen found themselves as the involuntary guests of the Third Reich, and the Crown was casting about for ways and means to facilitate their escape.

Now obviously, one of the most helpful aids to that end is a useful and accurate map, one showing not only where stuff was, but also showing the locations of 'safe houses' where a POW on-the-lam could go for food and shelter.

Paper maps had some real drawbacks -- they make a lot of noise when you open and fold them, they wear out rapidly, and if they get wet, they turn into mush.

Someone in MI-5 (similar to America's OSS) got the idea of printing escape maps on silk. It's durable, can be scrunched-up into tiny wads and, unfolded as many times as needed and, makes no noise whatsoever.

At that time, there was only one manufacturer in Great Britain that had perfected the technology of printing on silk, and that was John Waddington Ltd. When approached by the government, the firm was only too happy to do its bit for the war effort.

By pure coincidence, Waddington was also the U.K. Licensee for the popular American board game Monopoly. As it happened, 'games and pastimes' was a category of item qualified for insertion into 'CARE packages', dispatched by the International Red Cross to prisoners of war.

Under the strictest of secrecy, in a securely guarded and inaccessible old workshop on the grounds of Waddington's, a group of sworn-to-secrecy employees began mass-producing escape maps, keyed to each region of Germany, Italy, and France or wherever Allied POW camps were located. When processed, these maps could be folded into such tiny dots that they would actually fit inside a Monopoly playing piece.

As long as they were at it, the clever workmen at Waddington's also managed to add:

1. A playing token, containing a small magnetic compass
2. A two-part metal file that could easily be screwed together
3. Useful amounts of genuine high-denomination German, Italian, and French currency, hidden within the piles of Monopoly money!

British and American air crews were advised, before taking off on their first mission, how to identify a 'rigged' Monopoly set – by means of a tiny red dot, one cleverly rigged to look like an ordinary printing glitch, located in the corner of the Free Parking square.
Of the estimated 35,000 Allied POWS who successfully escaped, an estimated one-third were aided in their flight by the rigged Monopoly sets. Everyone who did so was sworn to secrecy indefinitely, since the British Government might want to use this highly successful ruse in still another, future war.

The story wasn't declassified until 2007, when the surviving craftsmen from Waddington's, as well as the firm itself, were finally honored in a public ceremony.

It's always nice when you can play that 'Get Out of Jail' Free' card!
Some readers of this email are probably too young to have any personal connection to WWII (Sep. '39 to Aug. '45), but this is still an interesting bit of history for everyone to know.

Friday, October 25, 2019

Life is Too Short

Life is too short
to be serious all
the time.

So, if you can't
laugh at yourself,
Call me... I'll

laugh at you!

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Ross Noble

'How come Miss Universe is only won by people from Earth?'

Ross Noble (June 5, 1976 -)

Monday, October 14, 2019

Technical Sniglets

Egosurf - Searching for yourself on Google or another search engine

E-mailsculation - What happens when the IT department abruptly takes away access to an email account from a worker that's been fired, including archives, distribution lists and contacts.

E-mnesia - Having sent or received an e-mail and having no recollection of it whatsoever.

Execuglide - Maneuver oneself around the room while seated in a wheeled office chair.

Faxcination - Staring intently at the fax machine because you're waiting for a fax to come through.

Fonesia - Dialing a phone number and forgetting whom you were calling just as they answer.

Gleemail - Inspirational emails forwarded by a friend or coworker that may or may not bring joy to your inbox.

Id10t error - Help desk log lingo for clueless end-user.

IMglish - Combination of chat abbreviations and online slang commonly encountered in instant messages conversations.

Multi-asking - Communicating with someone through IM, phone or e-mail at the same time. See also: e-dundancy.

OhNoSecond - Very short moment in time during which you realize that you have pressed the wrong key and deleted hours, days, or weeks of work.

Percussive Maintenance - Fine art of whacking the crap of of an electronic device to get it to work again.

Phenomenot - Latest, Greatest, wizz-bang whatever that's not what it's proclaimed to be.

Prairiedogging - When co-workers in neighboring cubicles pop their heads up to identify a sound or other happening.

reBay - to buy something on eBay and immediately put it back up for auction.

Regurgimailer - Person who forwards whatever that lands in their inbox to everyone he knows.

Screensucking - Wasting time engaging with any screen, including computer monitor, video game, television, BlackBerry, Palm, cell phone or iPod.

Specifiction - Specification founded on invalid or erroneous assumptions or one that, as written, is impossible to implement.

Zen Mail - E-mail message that arrives without text in the message body.

Friday, October 11, 2019

Richard Herring

'It's important to live your life by a motto. I chose to live my life by the motto, 'My enemy's enemy is my friend.' Unfortunately, as it turns out, my enemy is his own worst enemy. So, I have to invite him to barbecues.'

Richard Herring (July 12, 1967 -)

Thursday, October 10, 2019

David O'Doherty

'I like the Ten Commandments but I have a problem with the ninth. It should be - Thou shalt not covet they neighbor's ox, except in Scrabble.'

David O'Doherty (December 18, 1975 -)

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Nick Helm

“I needed a password eight characters long so I picked Snow White and the Seven Dwarves.”

Nick Helm

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Reginald D Hunter

'A class system is something you use to discriminate against someone who looks like you.'

Reginald D Hunter (March 26 1969-)

Monday, October 7, 2019

Denis Leary

'Racism isn't born, folks, it's taught. I have a two-year-old son. You know what he hates? Naps! End of list.'

Denis Leary (August 18 1957-)

Friday, October 4, 2019

Woody Allen

'Two elderly women are at a Catskill restaurant. One of them says, "Boy, the food at this place is just terrible." The other one says, "Yeah I know. And such small portions."

Woody Allen (December 1 1935-)

Thursday, October 3, 2019

Peter Kay

'I went to a restaurant that serves breakfast at any time. So I ordered 'French Toast during the Renaissance'.

Peter Kay (July 2 1973-)

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Mitch Hedberg

'The depressing thing about tennis is that no matter how much I play, I’ll never be as good as a wall.'

Mitch Hedberg (1968-2005)

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Steve Martin

'First the doctor told me the good news: I was going to have a disease named after me.'

Steve Martin (August 14 1945-)

Monday, September 30, 2019

Bob Monkhouse

'When I die, I want to go peacefully like my grandfather did – in his sleep. Not yelling and screaming like the passengers in his car.'

Bob Monkhouse (1928-2003)

Friday, September 27, 2019

Benny Hill

'Just because nobody complains doesn't mean all parachutes are perfect.'

Benny Hill (1924-1992)

Thursday, September 26, 2019

Steven Wright

'How do you tell when you're out of invisible ink?'

Steven Wright (December 6 1955-)

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Bill Murray

'A few decades ago we had Johnny Cash, Bob Hope and Steve Jobs. Now we have no Cash, no Hope and no Jobs. Please don't let Kevin Bacon die.'

Bill Murray (September 21 1950-)