Archive for the ‘People’ Category

Slavoljub Eduard Penkala

Slavoljub Eduard Penkala

Slavoljub Eduard Penkala (April 20, 1871 – February 5, 1922) was an engineer and inventor from Croatia. Educated at the University of Vienna and the  Technische Universität Dresden, he earned a doctorate in organic chemistry. Among many other things, Penkala developed the mechanical pencil and the  first solid-ink fountain pen. He and Edmund Moster founded a pen and pencil factory still in existence and called TOZ-Penkala. Penkala’s first patented invention was the hot water bottle, a personal favorite of mine.  

hot water bottle is a container filled with hot water and sealed with a stopper, used to provide warmth, typically whilst in bed, but also for the application of heat to a specific part of the body.

Called “hotties” in New Zealand, hot water bottles come in many different shapes and sizes and with all kinds of fashionable covers. You can keep all that. On days like today with temperatures in the lower 4os and snow forecast, the old-fashioned rubber hot water bottle is one of life’s little luxuries I wouldn’t want to do without.

Ironically, Penkala died in Zagreb at the age of 51, after catching pneumonia on a business trip. He should have invented a travel version of his hot water bottle.

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This is a picture of my daughter-in-law Marion. I don’t know who took it, or when or even where. It is just one of those pictures that catches my eye and won’t let go. I like the lighting and muted colors, especially in the the painting behind Marion. Her expression is mysterious. I asked permission to use the photo, but couldn’t wait to post this. I hope you forgive me, Marion.  



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March 1: Independence Day in Bosnia and Herzegovina (1992); Saint David’s Day in Wales; Mărţişor in Romania and Moldova; Martenitsa inBulgaria

  • 1562 – The French Wars of Religion began with a massacre of Huguenots by Catholics in Wassy, France.
  • 1781 – The Articles of Confederation, the first governingconstitution of the United States, was ratified, legally uniting what were originally several sovereign and independent states into a new sovereign federation.
  • 1872 – Yellowstone National Park, located primarily in the U.S. state ofWyoming, one of the first national parks in the world, was established.
  • 1896 – Ethiopia won the decisive Battle of Adwa over Italy, ending the First Italo-Abyssinian War.
  • 1975 – Brian D. Kilgore and Gerda Hannelore Else Denninger (pictured) were married in Schweinfurt, Germany.2007-09-10-004

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Nancy Witcher Astor (May 19, 1879 – May 2, 1964) was the first woman to serve as a Member of Parliament in the British House of Commons and is reported to have told Winston Churchill – 

“If you were my husband, I’d poison your tea,” to which he responded, “Madam, if you were my wife, I’d drink it!”

This exchange with Churchill isn’t well documented and may be falsely attributed to her. But there are other examples of her wit.

  • I married beneath me. All women do.
  • I refuse to admit that I am more than fifty-two, even if that does make my sons illegitimate.
  • In passing, also, I would like to say that the first time Adam had a chance he laid the blame on a woman.
  • One reason why I don’t drink is because I wish to know when I am having a good time..
  • The only thing I like about rich people is their money.
  • The penalty for success is to be bored by the people who used to snub you.
  • We women talk too much, but even then we don’t tell half what we know.

What isn’t well known about Nancy Astor is that she was an American, born in Danville, Virginia. That she was a hypocritical racist and Christian Scientist may only be coincidental.

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The Fall Girl

The Fall Girl

Linda Chatman Thomsen recently resigned as the Director of the Division of Enforcement for the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, a kind of “Sheriff of Wall Street.”  She worked her way up in the division, carving notches in her gun for her part in the Enron and Martha Stewart cases. Wall Street complained Thomsen was too hard on business, which to me means she must have been doing her job. When she first took the job as director, then SEC Chairman Donaldson said – 

I am pleased that Linda has agreed to take on this new role at the Commission. Linda is a highly accomplished attorney with a proven record of effective advocacy on behalf of the nation’s investors. The skills Linda has exhibited during her tenure at the Commission instill great confidence in her ability to lead this important division.”

Thomsen is out now, largely because she didn’t pay attention to a private citizen named Harry Markopolos when he said Bernie Madoff was running the world’s largest unregistered hedge fund. I think this is another way of saying “Ponzi scheme.” Of course, no one else at the SEC (or Congress) paid any attention to Markopolos either. That is until the the defecation came in contact with the rotating oscillator, which is another way of say the sh** hit the fan. When greedy rich people lost money invested in Madoffian madness, it made headlines. These headline set off a round of Congressional salutes, This is an  index finger, pointed anywhere but back at its owner. Heads have rolled, and I am sure more are on the block. But will the right ones be there?

Did Thomsen cozy up to Madoff and others? No, I don’t believe she did. I believe Linda Chatman Thomsen took the fall. In Washington and on Wall Street, the call girls don’t have anything to worry about – they will always have a job.

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Contrite Miscreant

Alex Rodriguez pauses during a question-and-answer session at George Steinbrenner Field in Tampa.


“I knew we weren’t taking Tic Tacs. I knew it could be potentially something that was wrong. I wouldn’t imagine taking something like that today, obviously. It’s a different world. A different culture.”

Alex Rodriguez

I read the transcript of  Alex Rodriguez’s opening statement at a press conference. From this, it seems pretty clear Rodriguez would not have admitted anything had he not been on a list of players who might have tested positive for banned substances. He spent the rest of the time minimizing his actions and pointing fingers at people and circumstances responsible for his drug use.

Yeah, it’s a different world. You got caught, chump.

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Cool Hand Luke is one of the  sweatiest movies ever made, in no small part because of Joy Harmon in the steamy car wash scene. Joy didn’t have any lines in this film and none were needed. What she did have were curves a Ferrari couldn’t hang on to.

Joy is now out of acting, and in a “where are they now” kind of curiosity, I looked her up. What I didn’t expect was to find her described in Wikipedia as a “. . . a baker and former American actress.” Not trusting Wiki as much as I used to, I Googled Ms. Harmon and was surprised to learn she really is a baker, and Aunt Joy’s Cakes is a leading supplier of cakes and cookies to studios and cafes in the Los Angeles area.

They do cheesecake, too.

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Line drawing of Disraeli


There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics. 
Benjamin Disraeli


Chances are, he’s probably right . . .

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Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg

Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg

The newly appointed German Minister for Economics and Technology has one of the longest names I’ve ever seen. He only uses Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg, which is enough. His family history is aristocratic, but he seems like an ordinary type. He is pro-America, something I expect we will see more of as times goes on. And he is friends with Tom Cruise. Well, no one is perfect. 

What’s in a name? A lot, in this case.

Karl – from Charlemagne (Carolus Magnus, Karl the Great, Charles the Great), a king of the Franks and of the Lombards and of Rome.

Theodore – comes from the Greek name Θεόδωρος (Theodōros) meaning “gift of God.”

Maria – usually a female name, but is sometimes used as a male middle name in many Central European countries where it signified patronage of theVirgin Mary.

Nicholas – Saint Nicholas is the patron saint of sailors and is often called upon by mariners who are in danger of drowning or being shipwrecked.

Johann – is the Germanized form of the originally Hebrew language name “Yohanan”(meaning “God is merciful”). 

Jacob – in the Hebrew Bible means deceiver.

Philipp – is a given name, derived from the Greek Philippos (Φίλιππος), meaning “lover of horses” or “friend of horses”. 

Wilhelm – William is from the Norman language (although Norman French was Latin-based and the proper name is Germanic) and is a cognate from the German Wilhelm, and of Germanic origin: wil = “will or desire”; helm;”helmet, protection.

Franz – German version of Francis, a French, English and Scottish first name and a surname ultimately descended from the Latin name Franciscus, the name of Francis of Assisi.

Joseph – a name originating from Hebrew, recorded in the Hebrew Bible, as יוֹסֵף, Standard Hebrew Yosef, Tiberian Hebrew and AramaicYôsēp̄. In Arabic, including in the Qur’an, the name is spelled يوسف or Yūsuf. The name can be translated from Hebrew as signifying “The Lordwill increase/add”. 

Sylvester – means “wooded”, from the root sylvania meaning “forest land” in Latin. (more…)

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I read about a professor who is developing a microscope using something called optofluidics.  Sounds brilliant and all that, but since when did did you get to be a professor while still in high school?

Changhuei Yang

Changhuei Yang

Optofluidics – Optofluidics is a nascent technology field that combines optics and microfluidics. Prof Yang’s group is working on developing a microscope-on-a-chip system that is tiny, high resolution and cheap. This optofluidic microscope has the potential of dramatically improving third world healthcare and simplifying bioscience research. Prof Yang serves as the associate director of the DARPA funded Center for Optofluidic Integration at Caltech.

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