Sunday Bulletin Board: How is a hippopotamus like a horse? Its all Greek to us!
The Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon
COS ON THE EAST SIDE writes: Its good to know that even when one is Older Than Dirt, it is possible to learn something new from the comic pages. It is even better when it turns into a B-M and leads to a revelation concerning something most people probably already know.
On April 11, the Jumble had a drawing of two hippopotamuses in a river, with one giving the other a hard time about eating too much. The clue was When the river horse criticized his son about his weight, he was being a ____. The answer was HIPPO-CRIT. From this I deduced that a hippopotamus must also be known as a river horse. I never knew that.
A few hours later I was watching Jeopardy! and the clue was Africas Lake Victoria is home to a plethora of wildlife, including these water horses. I figured that water is equivalent to river and guessed the answer must be What are hippopotamuses? This was correct, and I had myself a B-M and also a minor mystery namely, why is a hippopotamus known as a river/water horse?
Ill admit that my knowledge of hippopotamuses is limited. Ive seen pictures and videos of them, know about the game Hungry, Hungry Hippos and have heard that annoying Christmas song I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas. So I do know that a hippo does not look at all like a horse. So what gives?
Apparently when the ancient Greeks first saw a hippopotamus in Egypt, they called it a horse of the river, with hippo coming from the Greek word for horse and potamus coming from the word meaning river or water. So we can blame the ancient Greeks for not having a word for a big funny-looking animal with four legs and deciding that horse was close enough.
This led me to the word hippodrome, which was an ancient Greek stadium for horse and chariot racing and is now used as the name of a place that hosts equestrian events in general. And that explains why the State Fair Coliseum was once called the Hippodrome and probably should be once again.
Did everyone already know that except me?
BULLETIN BOARD SAYS: No. Thank you!
Dept. of Neat Stuff . . . Tom Swift, The Radio Boys, and Me Division
GREGORY J. of Daytons Bluff writes: We hear the word wireless quite a bit nowadays usually in reference to cellphones and computer networks. Its actually an old word that has been repurposed.
The first use of wireless dates back to the 1890s, when Marconi figured out a way for telegraph sets to talk to each other using radio waves instead of wires. This enabled ships at sea to communicate with each other and with stations on land. In 1912, the Titanic used a wireless telegraph to send out distress calls.
A year earlier, in 1911, our good buddy Tom Swift created a wireless telegraph station in the book Tom Swift and His Wireless Message and used it to call for help when he was stranded on an island.
Other book series were advertised in the back of Tom Swift books. One of these series featured the Radio Boys. Their first book, published in 1922, was The Radio Boys First Wireless. I bought a copy to see what sort of wireless the boys were building, because according to the description, this was a new series of books giving full details of radio work . . . telling how small and large amateur sets can be made and operated.
Wireless had a different meaning in this book. The boys were going to build what was then referred to as a wireless telephone, usually shortened to simply a wireless, but not in the sense we think of a wireless phone today. No one carried these big sets in their pockets to talk to other people. A wireless was actually a very simple AM radio receiver, also known as a crystal set. Although there were many radio stations broadcasting by this time, home radios using vacuum tubes were relatively expensive so people often bought or built their own wireless.
The first thing I did when I got the book was to look for the photos, drawings, schematic diagrams and parts list needed to build a radio. There werent any. Instead, there were written descriptions of the necessary parts, how to assemble them into a radio receiver and how to operate it. This would probably have been rather confusing except for one thing I realized that I had built almost the identical radio many years ago.
The April-May 1968 issue of Radio-TV Experimenter magazine had an article titled Genuine Wireless Receiving Apparatus which contained the photos, drawings, schematic diagrams and parts list I had expected to find in the Radio Boys book. So that summer I built the radio. These radios needed what was known as a crystal detector, which basically converts the radio signals into sound. Both this article and the book told the builders to buy the detector, which I did, and it worked fine. But that was too easy.
I found another article that described how to make your own crystal for the detector. It is probably best not to go into the details, but lets just say they involved using lead, sulfur, and a propane torch. Back then, the Daytons Bluff boys were well acquainted with playing with chemicals and fire, and we had a lot of fun with this experiment. The homemade crystal detector may not have looked as nice as the commercial one, but it worked just as well.
What happened to my wireless? I still have it and decided to get it out, clean it up and take some photos. It isnt quite as professional-looking as I remembered, but considering that I built it as a teenager, it isnt bad.
Did it still work? There was only one way to find out: Test it. I already had the radio and an old pair of surplus headphones. No batteries were required because the power to run the headphones comes from the radio signal itself. It needed to be connected to a long-wire antenna. Fortunately I have one in the attic (doesnt everyone?) with a connecting wire coming down to my den/computer room. It also needed a good earth ground, which was no problem because there is a radiator in the room. I was tempted to make some improvements to the radio before testing it, but that would be cheating. Instead, all I did was fix a couple of solder joints and clean some electrical contacts.
And it worked. I managed to clearly tune in five AM radio stations without much effort and should be able to receive others when I have more time to play with it. However, I must confess that after my initial tests, I swapped the very uncomfortable headphones for an electronic battery-powered audio amplifier. It was made by the now defunct Radio Shack and probably qualifies as an antique itself.
So here I sit at my computer, which has a wireless connection to my router, with my wireless smartphone in my pocket, listening to Mexican music on WREY-AM 630 on my 55-year-old wireless receiver, and there are a couple of 100-plus-year-old books on the bookshelf about teenagers who built wireless radios.
BULLETIN BOARD SAYS: No. Fantastic!
Now & Then . . . Royal Division
THE GRAM WITH A THOUSAND RULES: Subject: Coronation Day.
As I sit alone in my lovely Independent Living apartment and watch nonstop repeat coverage of the coronation, I realize I wouldnt be doing this if my husband were still alive. He was as anti-Anglophile as my dear departed Aunt Ethel was pro-Anglophile.
I remember only snippets of newsreel coverage of King Georges coronation, simply because of Aunt Ethel and Princess Elizabeth. Aunt Ethel took me to the theater to watch the clips, and I remember both little princesses in their ermine robes waving from the balcony. In truth I wasnt a great fan of Princess Elizabeth, but was intrigued by photos of her simply because she looked nothing at all like the Princess Elizabeth doll Santa Claus had given me; it was disguised in a Shirley Temple box. I idolized Shirley, and when Santas elves made the ghastly mistake of placing Elizabeth in a box with a picture of Shirley on the cover, Aunt Ethel tried mightily to rectify the mistake by telling me how very lucky I was to receive her because, and I quote: Lots of little girls have Shirley dolls, but not everyone is so lucky to have a Princess Elizabeth doll. She will be a queen someday!
Well, Elizabeth became queen, and while the coronation was filmed by television in England, we had to wait to see that film in the movie theaters. We were newly engaged, so when I suggested going to see this, my fianc didnt protest or express (to put it kindly) his lack of enthusiasm for all things British. (He always seemed to emphasize the last syllable in the word British.) He never could understand why my daughters and I would get up early in the morning just to watch live television coverage of royal weddings. As the years went on, my husband mellowed or maybe he grew weary of my reminding him every time he would rant about the the damned Brits that in truth their heritage was every bit as German as his was. He even commented a time or two that the old queen seems like a nice sort, but that doesnt mean he would have willingly joined me getting up in the wee hours of the morning to watch the pageantry.
So, now I have lived long enough to witness three British coronations, and my question is: How can all those people sit through that long ceremony without being in desperate need of a bathroom?
JOHN IN HIGHLAND: Subject: The Canadian composer.
It was a sad day recently when we lost singer/composer Gordon Lightfoot. All through the 1970s, he would come here in the middle of winter, to play at the OShaughnessy in St. Paul. Since he was a Canadian, we figured that he was used to cold weather.
He would tell stories related to his songs, and he said that he loved playing at the OShaughnessy because of the intimacy that he felt with the audience.
One song that he always would sing was Bitter Green. It told of a young woman in St. Paul waiting for the return of her long-lost lover. In the song he alludes to her walking in the seven hills of St. Paul.
I have always wondered if the young woman truly existed here in St. Paul or only in Gordons imagination. I guess we will never know.
Gee, our old LaSalle ran great! . . . Including: The Permanent Neighborly Record
THE ASTRONOMER of Nininger: Subject: The Old Malibu Gas Tank.
A lot of Minnesotans drive, especially in winter months, what we call beater cars. They dont cost much and just barely get us through the severe abuses that chemicals and potholes inflict on our automobiles.
I must calmly admit to having owned several such vehicles over the years.
One beater was a 1966 Malibu. I purchased it for $200 and two years later sold it for $250. It wasnt exactly pretty, but it seemed to have a fine functioning engine that reliable old Chevy in-line six. The manual transmission had been moved from three on the tree to three on the floor, but did not follow the normal H shift pattern. Not a problem if you knew where to find the appropriate gear.
I needed to drive a load (actually, only five or six) students to the planetarium. We got there just fine and enjoyed our program, but once we got onto the Interstate returning to campus, the car hesitated, slowed substantially and finally just wouldnt go any farther as if it had run out of gas. That shouldnt have been I had filled it the previous day but all evidence seemed to indicate that we indeed were out of gas. The gas gauge itself was not much help, since it didnt work at all. I managed to nurse it along and pulled safely to the side. I didnt have to say much. My students disappeared like magic and found their way back to campus. There I was, along the streets of Minneapolis with a broken-down car.
This was back when one would attempt to fix things yourself. The Good Wife drove up and rescued me and took me home for supper. Once at home, I talked with neighbor Ed, one of the best mechanics I have ever met. Ed could fix most anything mechanical because he was an excellent welder and engine mechanic, and he often came up with ideas that would replace highly engineered systems. He drove a beater made by Renault and if you could keep that thing running all winter, you could keep anything going. Ed offered to help me retrieve the old Malibu.
It didnt take long. He suggested we bring along some parts. They included an old OMC outboard motor gas tank, partially filled, about 20 feet of rubber hose, an appropriate hose clamp, some wrenches, pliers and screwdrivers. We returned to the scene where the old Malibu was waiting to be resuscitated. Ed knew what he was doing. He placed the outboard gas tank on the seat next to the driver and without any hesitation connected the rubber hose to it. That model of Malibu had one of those little fly windows that were vertically hinged. Some people called them vent or wing windows. In any case, the other end of the hose went out that fly on the passengers door and routed under the hood, where it was simply plugged on to the vacuum fuel pump and secured with a hose clamp. In less than five minutes, we had the car running again.
What had happened was that we indeed had run out of gas. The extra weight of the students was too much for the old suspension, and it had settled down so that it crushed and collapsed the gasoline line. Ed drove it home from where it was disabled. It ran well until I replaced the outboard tank with an appropriate line.
Ed and I reminisced about this, and he informed me that he smoked on the way home. Dont try this yourself.
BAND NAME OF THE DAY: Playing With Fire