November 18, 2020


It's Wednesday, which means it's time for some fun links, but before we get to that: Happy...Vichyssoise Day? Look, I like chilled onion-flavored cream as much as the next Francophile, but an entire holiday dedicated to a cold soup?*

*Real talk: I would be all over this if it were Gazpacho Day. *looks up "gazpacho day"* Well well well...guess what we'll be celebrating on December 6th?!

Thankfully today is also Apple Cider Day, which is much more on-brand for mid-November! Served hot or cold, you know what pairs well with apple cider? Bourbon! Use a cinnamon stick as your stirring implement — with OR without the bourbon — and you've got yourself a party!

You know what pairs well with apple cider (or anything else, for that matter)? Birthday cake! Let's have some, shall we?

 First up, happy (maybe) birthday to famed abolitionist and women's rights activist Sojourner Truth, born on approximately this day in 1797! Ms. Truth (born into slavery as Isabella Baumfree in Swartekill, New York) escaped to freedom with her infant daughter in 1826, and after going to court in 1828 to recover her son she became the first black woman to win such a case against a white man. During the Civil War she helped recruit black troops for the Union army, and afterward worked tirelessly (if unsuccessfully) to lobby the federal government for land grants for formerly enslaved people. This became the foundation for the request of "40 acres and a mule".

• Next up, joyeux anniversaire to Louis-Jacques-Mandé Daguerre, born this day in 1789! Mr. Daguerre — Louis to his friends — was the inventor of the "daguerreotype" process of photography, which was the first widely available practical photographic process and was popular in the 1840s and 1850s.

• Moving on, sling a moon pie in the general direction of Rear Admiral Alan Bartlett Shepard, Jr., born this day in 1923! RADM Shepard was an astronaut and became the first American in space in 1961 as a member of the Mercury space flight program and walked on the Moon in 1971 as part of the Apollo program. He was portrayed by actor Scott Glenn in the 1983 film The Right Stuff, which you should check out because it's awesome (or at least it was to me in elementary school).

• Last, but certainly not least, happy birthday to novelist, poet, essayist, and inventor Margaret Atwood, born this day in 1939! Ms. Atwood is perhaps best known for her "speculative fiction" novel The Handmaid's Tale, but she is also the inventor of remote robotic writing tech gadget LongPen, which allows the user to write in ink from around the world via tablet PC and the internet. It allowed her to conduct book tours without needing to travel, and the technology is still in use today. Even though she conceived of the idea in early 2004, it certainly is a device fit for 2020! 

• Today is also the birthday of actors Owen Wilson (1968) and Chloë Sevigny (1974), as well as Mickey and Minnie Mouse, who first appeared in the animated short Steamboat Willie on this day in 1928!

Historically, lots of interesting stuff happened on November 18th!

• In 1872, Susan B. Anthony and 14 other suffragettes were arrested for voting illegally in the Presidential election of that year.

• In 1883 at noon, North American railroads switched to a new standard time system for rail operations, which they called Standard Railway Time (SRT). Almost immediately after being implemented, many American cities enacted ordinances, thus resulting in the creation of time “zones.” The four standard time zones adopted were Eastern, Central, Mountain, and Pacific. Though tailored to the railroad companies’ train schedules, the new system was quickly adopted nationwide, forestalling federal intervention in civil time for more than thirty years, until 1918, when daylight saving time was introduced.

• In 1978 in Jonestown, Guyana, Jim Jones led his Peoples Temple to a mass murder–suicide that claimed 918 lives in all, 909 of them in Jonestown itself, including over 270 children. Congressman Leo Ryan was murdered by members of the Peoples Temple hours earlier as he was attempting to leave Guyana following an investigation into claims that people were being held at the Jonestown settlement against their will.

OK,'ve waited long enough. It's link time!

1. This stop motion animated shorts is all about embracing your inner weirdness, and it hits right in the feels. 

Sometimes you've just got to be the yarn monster you were meant to be.

2. Dessert designer Liz Joy makes edible art that looks almost too good to eat.


3. Turns out eliminating late-return fines is better for public libraries than charging them. Wild!

At least that has been the experience for Chicago Public Libraries, which saw an 83% increase in long-overdue books being returned once late-return fines were eliminated, along with an increase in usage of libraries in the system from lapsed library patrons.

4. Cartoonist Brian Ahearn draws funny comics featuring real facts about animals with his strip ZooDraws.

Three words: switch blade orca. 

5. MeowTalk is an app that (allegedly) will allow you to understand the things your cat says to you.

I say "allegedly" because some of the app reviewers were unhappy with the app's performance...but when your options are "zero understanding" versus "some slight, if dubious understanding" I feel like you've got to take what you can get when it comes to a $0.99 download, y'know?

6. BONUS: This is a great listicle of unsung women throughout history!

From computing to aviation to cartography to advances in medicine and science, this is one AMAZING list of humans!