What's davintosh? Mostly just the random ramblings of a hopelessly distractible… Hey, what's that?

The Singing Highway

Filed under: Cars!,Cool Technology — dave @ 9:26 am 2007/11/30

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Here’s something interesting; grooves cut in the pavement on a dangerous highway make the tires “sing”, and help keep drivers alert. It’s called The Singing Highway in South Korea. Very cool!

I’ve thought of something like this; there are stretches of road around here that have grooves cut in them to channel water off the pavement, and the pitch varies according to the speed you travel over it. I reasoned that you could also vary the pitch by spacing the grooves differently, and end up with cars singing a tune as they roll over it. The Koreans must be using some long-distance mind scanning technology to steal my ideas. Too bad they weren’t more creative in their choice of a tune; Mary Had A Little Lamb?! I guess the idea was to keep drivers awake, so something annoying fits the bill pretty well.

I can think of lots of more appropriate tunes; what would you use?

World Vision Gift Catalog

Filed under: Faith & Worship,Fun! — dave @ 11:41 pm 2007/11/28

Is there someone you know who is really hard to buy a gift for? I know a few people like that. They’ve got everything they need. Most anything they don’t have and might be on their Christmas list would likely be too expensive for me to buy for them, and anything that is within my budget they would probably just go & buy for themselves. I feel like anything I buy for them would be just another junk trinket that they’ll either put on a shelf & forget about, return, or throw out.

We received a gift catalog from World Vision in the mail last week, and I was struck by its uniqueness. It’s not exactly what you’d expect in a gift catalog; instead of the usual stupid little trinkets you see in any other catalog from any other mail order company, World Vision offers gifts that you can give in someone’s name that can really make a difference.

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Your gift can provide animals for needy people, shelter & warmth, health care, clean water, nourishing food… Some of the gifts are quite affordable; five ducks cost only $30 and will provide eggs to eat and ducklings to sell. Others can be quite costly; a fresh water well costs $5,390, but World Vision gives you the opportunity to buy a share in that gift, so that together with several other givers you can be a part of providing clean water to a huge number of people. Having visited Africa, I know firsthand what kind of water people drink in third-world countries, and this is something that would make a huge impact.

You can purchase a gift through the website, or you can go there to request a catalog (or a hundred if you want to distribute them) and order by phone. Your gift-ee will receive a card from World Vision detailing what was given in their name.


We just watched “A Charlie Brown Christmas” on TV last night, and it’s interesting that even back then Charles Schultz was railing against the commercialism of Christmas. Most stores had their Christmas stuff on display in September already. It seems to happen earlier every year, with the constant drumbeat of how the Christmas shopping season is sink-or-swim time for retailers, and a major indicator for the US economy. All that is just a detraction from what Christmas is all about; I’m totally with Linus on his explanation on the subject:

And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.
And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them,

Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.


And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.”

Watch and enjoy the scene on YouTube, or click here to listen to the audio only.

Is It Christmas?

Filed under: Fun! — dave @ 10:58 pm

A simple, single-purpose website; IsItChristmas.com.

And no, it’s not Christmas yet.

This Close To Losing My Lobster

Filed under: Fun! — dave @ 12:19 am 2007/11/27

I ate my first lobster earlier tonight, and I must say it’s a terribly overrated experience. I was far from impressed.

I was invited to this banquet, and the main course was lobster. I wasn’t thrilled with the idea, but decided to go ahead for the adventure. And now, here I sit, four hours later with my stomach making horrible groaning noises, feeling like it’s right at the back of my throat, ready to launch lobster all over my keyboard. Ugh.

The lobster I ate probably wasn’t the freshest specimen on the planet — I live in South Dakota, so the poor guy was probably been cooped up in a small tank for the last month or so. When he took his final dive, I doubt he was at his best. But you know, the meat itself didn’t taste too bad, but then again it didn’t taste too good either. In fact, there really wasn’t much flavor to it that I recall. What I do recall is the green stuff. When the critters were served and the first one cracked open, someone said, “Don’t eat the green stuff.” No worries there; it looked like something that came out of the wrong end of an alien. And that was probably my biggest problem with the whole experience. Seeing the entrails all boiled to mush and falling on my plate.

I don’t mind the sight of the insides of animals, really I don’t. But in my mind there is this separation between gutting something and eating it. The way it’s supposed to work is you kill the animal, cut it open, take out it’s guts, clean the carcass, then cook it. That I can handle. But combining the gutting with the eating… That’s too much.

Things have settled down considerably now, so I think I’ll make it. Besides, it didn’t taste too great going down the first time, so I would imagine that the return trip would be so very much more unpleasant. I just hope the muscling-past-the-gag-reflex strategy works.

Ugh.

Lost Family Found, Almost Under Our Noses

Filed under: Family,Old Things — dave @ 2:49 pm 2007/11/24

I’ve been doing some research trying to find more about my family history… Uncle Runt did some work on the family tree years ago, but went only as far back as his Grandfather (my Great Grandfather), Serrill C. Thornton, born in 1852 in Whitehall, NY. His father — my Great-Great Grandfather — was also named Serrill. He was born in 1807 in either New York or Vermont, and migrated to Sioux County, IA, where he lived many years until he died in 1892. He is buried in Hawarden, IA, and I had the extreme honor of visiting his grave-site on Thanksgiving Day.

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(Click on the images to view the hi-resolution versions.)

His gravestone is very simple, apparently provided by the Federal Government in honor of his service in the Civil War. It bears only his name and the company he fought with, the 19th New York Infantry.
I don’t know much more about him than what is written above. He was a pioneer, a farmer, a husband, and a father. He lived to the age of 86 in hard, hard times. He saw two wives die, and the birth of at least two children. This much I know from the scanty records left behind; but who he really was, I can only guess at and wonder… Was he a man of faith? Did he enjoy the company of his sons? Did he laugh or smile much? What was important to him? I doubt I’ll ever know the answers to those questions unless we bump into each other in eternity.

At the same cemetery, we also found the grave markers for three other Thorntons; one was Serrill’s third wife, Emily C. It’s just a bit spooky that her name and middle initial is the same as my daughter. From what I’ve learned, the two of them were married in 1880; he was 73 and she was 51. Emily’s grave marker is very simple, consisting of a simple cast stone/concrete marker with an engraved metal plate bearing her name and the pertinent dates. That’s it. It’s so small we walked right by it a number of times without realizing that it was even a grave marker. I think thats a sign she didn’t die a wealthy woman.

All that leaves me with even more questions; was Emily widowed before she and Serrill met? Did she have children? What was her maiden name, and where was she from? What was it that made her want to marry an old guy like Serrill? Was she a woman of faith?

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The other marker that we found was for the graves of Fordie and Delia; they were born within a year of each other, and both died before their first birthdays. It’s a little odd that Fordie & Delia were buried in Hawarden, as they were children of Serrill C. and Jennie Thornton. Apparently Serrill C. farmed in the same area as his dad Serrill, and started a family there. Serrill C. & Jennie had six children, oldest of whom was Scott. Then came Arthur, Delia, Ford, Lucy and Orpha. Some of the records list Delia as Ruby Delia Thornton, so it’s interesting that her grave marker reads Delia. Also interesting is that Ford Henry was named that long before Henry Ford became a household name.

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I made a map on Google Maps showing the location of the grave-sites. They are near the southwest corner of the cemetery. The cemetery has a directory available to visitors that lists all the graves and their locations — what a great feature! We would’ve been there for hours looking if not for the directory. It’s not perfect; they had the surname for all of them misspelled; “Thorton” again! It also had Serrill listed as “Samuel”, and had two others Thorntons — Gerritt & “Infant” — listed as being in the same section and row as Serrill, Delia & Fordie. But we saw no other markers with Thornton on them, so it could be that those graves are unmarked.

Another interesting thing that I learned about the Hawarden area… The first settlement in Sioux County, Iowa, was named Calliope. I first heard about the town when I ran across some info about the children of Serrill & Jennie, and the birthplace for some was listed as Calliope, IA.

Calliope was founded by a couple of gentlemen who made arrangements with the state for Calliope to be the county seat for Sioux County, and drew a stipend for their work. They set up a courthouse there, and the community started to grow, albeit rather slowly. Not long after, some Dutch immigrants began to settle the area around the train depot near present-day Orange City, IA, and Orange City really started to take off. By the 1890′s, there were several hundred citizens near Orange City, compared to only a couple dozen near Calliope. A dispute arose between the two communities when some of the Orange City Dutchmen decided that it made more sense for the county seat to be in Orange City, but the Calliope officials didn’t think so. The Dutchmen decided to take matters into their own hands and went en-mass on bobsleds to try & convince the others that their way was best. They meant business as they came armed with rifles and revolvers, and came some 80 strong.

The stories aren’t clear what all happened in that confrontation, but the Dutchmen ended up cutting a hole in the wall of the courthouse to haul the 5,000lb safe out, and made off with all of the county papers. In the days that followed, clearer heads prevailed, and the safe & documents were returned to Calliope, and the ordeal was followed by a referendum to decide where the county seat should be located. The population density pretty much decided the question, and the decision was overwhelmingly on the side of Orange City, and that is where the county seat is to this day.

Calliope went the way of many early settlements, disappearing from the maps altogether. When the railroad extended a branch to the area, they were unable to obtain permits to build a depot in Calliope, so it ended up being built a few miles to the south; people began to settle closer to the train station, and that became known as Hawarden. Hawarden eventually grew much larger than Calliope, and Calliope was in the end annexed into the larger town. I can’t help but wonder if some of the hard feelings between Orange City and Calliope led to the railroad’s difficulty in getting permits and the town’s demise.

You can read more about Calliope here and here.

The John Deere B, aka Johnny Popper

Filed under: Cool Technology,Old Things — dave @ 8:14 am 2007/11/20

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The kids & I passed a really lazy Sunday afternoon yesterday watching one of my favorite movies, Cars. One thing that struck me while watching it is that they could have cast the herd of tractors a little better; in the movie the likeness of an old Farmall tractor was used to portray the cow-like tractors. To me, an old two-cylinder John Deere would’ve been better. The putt-putt sound of the old John Deere two-cylinder tractors is much more distinctive, and would’ve been better in the part. If you’ve never heard one run before, take a listen with the links below, or click on the YouTube links to watch the associated videos.

john_deere_1.mp3Video

john_deere_1.mp3Video

john_deere_1.mp3Video

Dad had at least one John Deere B that I knew of — among other old-timer tractors, like the Farmall Super C & H — and I have great memories of those clunky old machines. It’s funny how sounds like that will bring back a flood of memories. It’s also funny that people put so much effort in saving memories in photographs, when sounds and smells have so much stronger a connection to memory. I remember hearing those things run, with the putt-putt/pop-pop noise backed up by a whine from spinning gears and flywheels and moving parts just waiting to take off a finger or an arm.

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It seems that the old John Deere motors tended to have fewer cylinders, but those cylinders were pretty large, and the motors used massive flywheels to keep the crank turning even when a cylinder would misfire. And that was often. And that’s what gives the old John Deere’s their distinctive sound, and their nickname; Johnny Popper.

Ka’s Evil Twin — The Commercials

Filed under: Cars!,Just Stuff — dave @ 10:41 am 2007/11/18

I was reminded this morning of a couple of commercials for the Ford SportKa that I saw online a number of years ago. The SportKa is a Europe-only model that was introduced in 1996, and these commercials were broadcast for only a short time in Great Britain before being pulled because of consumer complaints.

There are two commercials in the linked video (or click here to go to YouTube); the Pigeon and the Cat. The Pigeon is hilarious & gets me every time. The cat is right there on the edge and is a bit twisted; gives me a queasy feeling, even knowing the cat’s demise is entirely computer generated. Hint: Watch the windows.

As for the point of the commercials, the SportKa is supposedly the evil twin to the Ka. The Ka being the wimpy respectable one, and the SportKa… Not so much.

Grandfather To The SUV?

Filed under: Cars! — dave @ 9:42 pm 2007/11/14

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We went to a threshing bee in Granite, Iowa, a while back, and saw lots of great old iron. One of the stars of the show for me was this 1949 Kaiser-Fraser sedan.

From the front, it looks a lot like most other cars (and trucks) from the ’40′s, but stroll around to the back…

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… and you see that the engineers were maybe a little ahead of their time. The back end opens up to allow it to be used like a pickup. How about that!

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But the pièce de résistance had to be the buffalo hood ornament. That thing is awesome. I’ll bet it weighs more than the entire hood on modern cars.

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The owner had a blown up copy of a Popular Science article on a stand next to the car.

edit: Talk about coincidences; I snapped these photos last year, and started working on this post a week or two ago. Today, Jalopnik puts up photos of a car with a tailgate that is so like the Kaiser; the Faurecia. And one of the other commenters mentioned the same thing.

A New Look

Filed under: About This Site — dave @ 9:43 pm 2007/11/13

It’s been a while since I changed the theme on this site; about 2005 to be exact. So yesterday I did some digging around amongst the freebies available at WordPress & found Upstart Blogger Minim to suit me quite well. Nicely uncluttered & clean, easy to read, three columns… what more could I ask for? I did throw in the requisite Thornton Chocolate on Sioux Quartzite header image, just to stay a little consistent. Besides, I like that photo. And the choc-o-late.

The main thing that prompted me to change was the addition of Google Adsense ads. I don’t expect to make a ton of money from advertising on my site, but I figure it can’t hurt. And it might also get my site back on the map on Google. Before I moved things to PowWeb, my post about the Hillbilly Horseshoes game would get regular visits, which hit the first page of Google results for many people searching for information & plans for it. Now, searching for the domain name www.davintosh.com only gets returns from a few more popular sites where I’ve posted & left a calling card. I’m not supposed to tell you to click the ads, so I won’t. Even if you do, I don’t think I’m any closer to retirement.

As for the new look, I hope you like it. All 7 of you who have visited today.

Ben Franklin — One Smart Fellow

Filed under: Old Things,The Deep — dave @ 3:17 pm 2007/11/12

“And have we now forgotten that powerful Friend? or do we imagine we no longer need its assistance? I have lived, Sir, a long time; and the longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this Truth, that God governs in the Affairs of Men. And if a Sparrow cannot fall to the Ground without his Notice, is it probable that an Empire can rise without his Aid?”

— Benjamin Franklin (Motion for Prayers in the Constitutional Convention, 28 June 1787)

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