Rachel's Blog Rachel's Blog: Knowledge

Fri, 17 Aug 2007
The human-ness of mechanical devices

One for the steampunk and typography fans.

(via Drawn)

Fri, 26 Jan 2007
Letters by Anne Frank's father found

The letters of Otto Frank, father of diarist Anne Frank, have been discovered in New York's YIVO Institute for Jewish Research. The half-inch thick file documents Otto's efforts to get his family out of Nazi-occupied Holland during WWII.

Perhaps the most interesting question raised by the letters' release is why Otto Frank's letters and pleas were not answered. YIVO executive director Carl Rheins believes the Frank file raises profound questions about U.S. immigration policy.
Tue, 11 Apr 2006
Grasshopperism

Just yesterday I was discussing my world-class procrastination skills with Richard, and today I discovered an article with a goodly collection of whys and wherefores (and whynots and useful tools).

The simple cure? Do everything opposite. Tell yourself: this isn't so hard, it won't take long, and I am sure that I know how to do it, or that I can learn while I'm doing it. And no one else really cares because they are all so busy with their own problems

I think I'd better print some of these out in a large font and stick them all over the house.

(via Rebecca's Pocket)

Mon, 27 Feb 2006
Asphalt Paving Machines and Vibratory Rollers
Diagram of a Paving Machine

(image from John Wainwright and Co. Ltd)

We had no concrete plans for today, but that didn't prove to be a problem as a team of road builders came by and resurfaced the road right in front of our house. Of course they used asphalt, not concrete, but you can't complain. We spent the greater part of the morning watching them work. Abbey was fascinated by the machinery, of which I could confidently identify the dump truck. Fortunately, once again, the internet provides all the answers.

Thu, 15 Dec 2005
Enid Blyton's Map of North America

A few months ago I bought a book, a secondhand sewing guide, from a delightfully messy bookstore in Box Hill. When I got it home a folded map fell out of it. (Yes, I know this sounds just like an Enid Blyton story.) I glanced at it, absorbed only that it was out of date and of North America, and put it on top of the filing cabinet.
Some weeks later, in a researchy mood, I had a closer look at it.


(click for larger image)

Here's what I learnt:
The Hudsons Bay Company is the oldest corporation in Canada. That's only logical. The first thing I need in a new and unexplored land is a department store.

York Fort was an actual fort built to defend the department store from the French. Unfortunately it sank. So they built another. If only they'd built their fort the way I do - with pillows and blankies - they would never have to worry about it sinking into the permafrost.

Ross, Parry and Franklin were all looking for a Northeast passage through the Arctic between 1818 and 1845 when Franklin took crystal and silverware with his crew instead of food, got icebound for a couple of years and were forced to eat each other. More men died looking for Franklin than were lost to cannibalism*.

East and West Florida - when one Florida just isn't enough.

Also worth noting is the large tract of Unexplored Territory in the middle of Russian America. In 1867 Alaska was sold to the US for $7.2 million dollars. Not only did this result in a move of the International Date Line, but also a switch from the Julian to the Gregorian calendar. The poor Alaskans not only had to suffer two Fridays in a row but lost a fortnight. Sadly for the Russians it turned out that hiding within the Unexplored Territory was the Klondike Gold Rush.

Lower and Upper Canada - see above re: Florida.

The 49th Parallel border between the United States and British Territory (not yet Canada) on this map dates from 1818 when it ran from the Lake of the Woods to the Rocky Mountains. Lake of the Woods? I told you this was an Enid Blyton story.

It wasn't until 1846 that the border at the 49th parallel was extended to the sea by the Treaty of Oregon, or Treaty with Great Britain, in Regard to Limits Westward of the Rocky Mountains. This was despite the Democratic Party trying to name rock bands 150 years ahead of time with the slogan Fifty-Four Forty or Fight!

*Alleged cannibalism.

All this time I had assumed it was a print I was working from, after all who would tear a map out of a book and then use it as a bookmark? On searching for information on the engraver, J. Dower of Pentonville, London, all I came up with were eBay auctions, but one of those lead me to the very friendly folk at the Melbourne business, Classical Images.

Here's how to detect an original map from a print or forgery.

A couple of emails later had my precious, precious map dated to the 1840s and valued at between $150 and $200.

I'm just glad I hadn't blu-tacked it to the wall.

Thu, 10 Nov 2005
A word from the future

I've fallen into the wicked habit of searching out the inevitably terrible novelisations of eighties sci-fi films for giving to my brother on gift giving occasions. So far, from memory, he has suffered Tron and D.A.R.Y.L. (I'm a loving sister.)
Today I ventured into a new (to me) second hand bookshop - The House of Books on Maroondah Hwy in Mitcham - and picked up The Special Young Readers' Edition of Star Wars by George Lucas and Back to the Future by George Gipe. (You might not want to have known that if you're a brother of mine. Sorry.) The latter is based on the screenplay (Robert Zemeckis and Bob Gale) so includes all the deleted scenes, as I discovered on reading the first page and thinking, "Huh? I don't remember that..." But that's not the point of this entry.
On page 111, exactly where the spine is cracked, the last sentence begins; Having restored his suzerainty... Suzerainty? It is a real word. A useful one to know in these times. And I dared question the value of these $1 books.

Tue, 09 Aug 2005
The Last Taboo

The Australian Museum Online has developed this useful set of pages (from a previous exhibit) on Death - The Last Taboo.
Includes pictures of autopsy instruments.