What were they thinking?

Ever read something that made you wonder what was running through the writer’s mind, or what caused their fingers to stutter as they were typing? I often notice typos in other peoples’ work (and miss them in my own), but I love this one:

usualibity, as in “…the Enterprise Edition can manage all engines at the same time, maximizing speed and usualibity.”

I presume they meant “usability” 🙂

Weapon of Mass Destruction

It seems incredible – not to mention barbaric – but this weapon really did exist during the First World War. The huge 100m tongue of flame released by the Livens Large Gallery Flame Projector – named for its inventor – must have produced shock and horror whenever it was used. Imagine being trapped in a trench with a ball of fire heading towards you. It was fuelled by a mixture of kerosene and diesel, and burned everything it touched. It was only used a few times and was later banned.

In 2010 a team of archaeologists conducted a dig in France, and found pieces of one of the World War 1 flame projectors. The dig was documented by UK Channel 4’s Time Team, and a working replica of the weapon was built by British Royal Engineers.

The Time Team episode is available here if you’re in the UK. For everyone else, the episode is available on Youtube in four parts:
Part 1 (12 mins 37 secs)
Part 2 (13:45)
Part 3 (10:11)
Part 4 (10:19)

The replica flame projector can be seen in action from 3:00 in part 4. It’s a truly awesome sight. I’m glad sanity prevailed after the war and weapons like this were banned.

The War to End All Wars

It seems to be human nature to name events. The 1914-18 war in Europe ended up with the name The Great War because it was a conflict of almost apocalyptic proportions and the people of the time thought there would never be another like it. History proved that idea wrong, and the modern title World War 1 came into use.

Wars of any size are devastating to the people and places involved, and they cause untold heartbreak and trauma. The Great War was like no other previous conflict (and, due to more sophisticated weapons and strategies since developed, probably like no other since or in the future). It saw the introduction of new weapons or further development of existing ones, including poison gas, tanks, long-range guns, machine guns, grenades, and flame throwers. The Great War also marked the first use of aircraft in war. [1]

In 1985 I visited the war memorial in Goulburn, NSW. I was awestruck by a series of enlarged, framed photos of the destruction caused by the war in France and Belgium. Those photos affected me in a way no amount of reading could have, and they have stayed with me ever since. One day, about a year ago, I was thinking about those photos. I decided to do some research. The result was The Great War, a slide presentation about the war, concentrating on the devastation it caused. I sent it to family members and friends I thought would be interested, and received some appreciative comments.

You can download The Great War (a Microsoft PowerPoint file), or view it at slideshare.

[1] firstworldwar.com: Weapons of War, accessed 28 Dec 2011.
Wikipedia: Weapons of World War I, accessed 28 Dec 2011.

Uplyme Rapper

Rev Gavin Tyte, a 40-year old “beatboxer, vicar, musician, producer, graphic designer and videographer” [1] from Uplyme in the English county of Devon, has made a rap version of the nativity story. It tells the story faithfully, and has subtitles and includes the Scripture reference for each verse. Unlike a lot of rappers, he is actually understandable!

More information:
Oddity Central: English Vicar Raps Nativity Story
Rev Gavin’s church: Uplyme Church

[1] From his Youtube profile, accessed 22 Dec 2011.

Real North Dakota?

This is Salem Sue, a – dare I say – statuesque Holstein (or Friesian) cow. She stands tall on a ridge keeping an eye on the traffic flowing along Interstate 94 near New Salem, North Dakota. Sue was put up in 1974 by the New Salem Lions Club to help promote the region’s Holstein cattle. Given that “the average productive life of a Holstein is approximately four years” [1], Sue is doing pretty well, and she gives the lie to the assertion that… “Cows that are always on concrete have a lesser chance of living longer.” [2]

Salem Sue
Salem Sue, the world's biggest Holstein cow

I have to say she looks more friendly than the Friesians we had on the farm when I was a kid. The Jerseys were my favourites – not that I really liked any cows, mind you – because they were usually good-natured and placid, while the Friesians tended to be a bit flighty and aggressive.

Sue is more than 11m tall and 15m long. She’s made of fibreglass, so I doubt she gives much milk, but her size makes her visible from about 8km away. The photo below seems to have been taken from I94 to the east of town and about 2km from Sue.

View of Salem Sue from I84
Sue from a distance

The RealND Project has more information on this “truly unique North Dakota roadside attraction” (their words, not mine), heaps of photos and no less than ten virtual tours of Sue. And I thought Australia’s Big Banana was something to behold :).

[1] Holstein Association USA: Holstein Breed Characteristics, accessed 22 Dec 2011.
[2] WikiAnswers: What is the average age of a dairy cow?, accessed 22 Dec 2011.