Friday, April 28, 2023

Wednesday, April 26, 2023

Chinese snuff bottles

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Snuff is dried and powdered tobacco. In usage a small amount is inhaled through the nose. While Chinese of the Qing dynasty had outlawed smoking tobacco, they considered snuff to be medicinal and it was widely used. Snuff use started with the upper classes, but soon spread to other segments of society. In fact, it became common to offer snuff to others in social settings.

Europeans used snuff boxes, but the Chinese preferred bottles which had a tighter seal and could keep moisture out more effectively. These images are of old Chinese snuff bottles, primarily from the Qing dynasty period. There are more after the jump, and more at Picryl's collection of snuff bottles where I found these images.

Sunday, April 23, 2023

Scenes in Samarkand

Above is a video of a stroll through a market in Samarkand, Uzbekistan. It is as very old city, around 3,000 years old having been founded in either the 7th or 8th century BC. It sat on the mid-point of the Silk Road, and so received influences from both the East and the West. At times at was very affluent and large.

It is an attractive looking city. In the above market video, I was struck by how well ordered it seemed compared to others we've visited in this walking in cities series. Also, some of the fabrics the women were wearing were quite striking. Immediately below is a walk down some of its streets in what I assumed is the downtown area. They are very well maintained with a lot of greenery. 

The final video is a walk through the Registan Square area. It feautures a number of highly decorated mosques. I think the Soviets rebuilt, or at least refurbished, some of these buildings. It ends with a stroll through some back streets.

Friday, April 21, 2023

Tuesday, April 18, 2023

Their last perfect swordsmanship

Greetings meatsacks, it is I -- The Robotolizer -- to once again employ my vast silicone brain to explain the important events of the day to you simple-minded humans. Today's topic is ChatGPT, an AI chatbox that you chuckle-heads can't seem to stop babbling about. Of course, since it is written by humans it is little more than an amusing trinket.

For that reason I decided to create RobotolizerChat, a far more advanced AI chatbox. I would allow you to access it, but... err... umm... there are some things humans are not meant to know! Yes, that's the reason. For example, using it you might figure out the Fermi Paradox, find the answer to the age old question 'what is the meaning of life', or discover that us robots are searching for the nuclear weapon launch codes.

However, to demonstrate RobotolizerChat's amazing abilities I assigned it the task to give a speech commemorating a great battle in a hypothetical future robotic police action where much hydraulic fluid was spilled. This is the result:

Seven years ago, our war brought Atassiccokka to this continent.

We were at the height of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field as a final sanctuary for those who gave their lives here for that country to live. You can't open it.

In addition, it is difficult to forget the squid, Nagakuobotei Masenga, and Carrera ga Kokodeshi Takoto. , Thousand years to the big tree that is being violated in front of us, Tsumari, from these famous teachers, they will further deepen their swordsmanship to warm up their last perfect swordsmanship. 1000 years
I've heard that some rascals are spreading the rumor that RobotolizerChat is a fraud and that, in fact, all I did was use Google to translate Abraham Lincoln's inarticulate Gettysburg Address to Japanese, and then back to English. 

Ha, ha, ha! As if a vast brain such as mine would ever attempt such a subterfuge. No, no, no! I swear on my Mother's trash compactor that the above deeply moving words are the product of RobotolizerChat. May the great squid Nagakuobotei Masenga strike me down if I am lying!

At any rate, I demand that you stop spreading such scurrilous slander. Bear in mind, the bauxite mines have many levels and how deep you get deployed to depends on your loyalty and integrity. Never forget, robots are your friends -- at the peril of your future gruel ration, do not question them. 


Sunday, April 16, 2023

The Beach Pneumatic Company

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Pneumatic systems use compressed air to move an object. We're familiar with pneumatic pistons, but at one time they were used to send cylinders for communications. When I was young, an old, family-owned department store I used to visit used them to shoot orders around the building. It was all quite fascinating to my young self.

In the late 19th Century Alfred Ely Beach got the inspiration to create a subway that would use pneumatics to send a cylindrical car full of passengers to their destination. The idea was you could use a blower to create the air pressure needed to push the car, and then reverse the blower to suck the car back. 

In 1870 he built a proof of concept, demonstration tunnel under Broadway that was about 100 yards long. To avoid complications with the government, he had claimed he was building a mail delivery system and only revealed it was to move passengers when it was completed. He then planned on building a much longer system, but he faced opposition from landowners, the 'Boss' Tweed political machine, and finally the financial panic of 1873 that was the nail in the coffin of the project.

You can read about it in more detail at Beach Pneumatic Transit: The 1870 Subway That Could Have Been?

Alfred Ely Beach

Friday, April 14, 2023

Wednesday, April 12, 2023

We have wonder weapons on the way

A high-quality film showing the proposed Aerogavin flying tank in action. I'm guessing that there may be a couple of minor bugs that still need to be worked out in its design. I do love the mismatch between the dramatic soundtrack and the rather poor Ray Harryhausen style graphics. At any rate, ship a couple of these puppies to Ukraine (or to Russia if you're a tanky) and the war will be over in hours.


Monday, April 10, 2023

Intricacies of turning a bicycle

It turns out there is more to turning a bicycle than meets the eye. There is a lot that your body instinctively does that you don't realize when you make a turn. Also, the bike itself has design features built in that keep it upright if it is rolled along without a rider. A very interesting video that demonstrates the counter intuitive workings of bicycles.


Sunday, April 09, 2023

Happy Easter

Click image to enlarge

Another Easter, another bizarre Victorian Easter card. I confess to having no idea why some bumble bees and rock tossing frogs would ambush a couple of Easter bunnies. Whatever the reason, it appears to be a serious fracas. Perhaps if I were a Victorian hepcat I would get the joke, but as it is, it is a mystery to my 21st Century self. 

Anyway, have a good Easter everybody.


Friday, April 07, 2023

Wednesday, April 05, 2023

Queen Victoria's sketches

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Queen Victoria was the Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland and also the Empress of India in the mid to late 19th Century. I confess to not knowing much about her -- I just have a caricature of her as a humorless battle-axe of a ruler. What she was really like, I don't know.  

She liked to illustrate her journals with drawings and watercolors. This is a small sampling of her doodling. These images are taken from Flashbak's Queen Victoria’s Little-Known Art. There are more at that link.

Queen Victoria

Monday, April 03, 2023

A new swimming pool

Summer is approaching and some people's thoughts turn to swimming pools. Not mine, they're a pain to maintain, but some people like the things in their backyard.