Engineering details

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Check this out:

The US standard railroad distance between the rails is 4 feet, 8.5 inches which is a strange number. Why this distance? Because that’s the way they built them in England, and English expatriates built the US Railroads.

Why did the English build them like that? Because the first rail lines were built by the same people who built the pre-railroad tramways, and that’s the distance they used. The people who built the tramways used the same jigs and tools that they used for building wagons, which used that wheel spacing. Wagons have particular odd wheel spacing, because if they tried to use any other spacing, the wagon wheels would break on some of the old, long distance roads in England, because that’s the spacing of the wheel ruts.

Those old rutted roads were build by Imperial Rome. They built all the first long distance roads in Europe (and England) for their legions. The roads have been used ever since. The ruts in the road were formed by Roman war chariots. Because of the ruts, everyone else had to match for fear of destroying their wagon wheels.

The United States standard railroad gauge of 4 feet, 8.5 inches is derived from the original specifications for an Imperial Roman war chariot. And bureaucracies live forever.

So, the next time you are handed a specification and wonder what horse’s ass came up with it, you may be exactly right, because the Imperial Roman army were made just wide enough to accommodate the back ends of two war horses.  Crazy, eh.

Now get this —- When you see a Space Shuttle sitting on its launch pad, there are two big booster rockets attached to the sides of the main fuel tank. These are solid rocket boosters (SRBs). The SRBs are made by Thiokol at their factory at Utah. The engineers who designed the SRBs would have preferred to make them a bit fatter, but the SRBs had to be shipped by train from the factory to the launch site.

The railroad line from the factory happens to run through a tunnel in the mountains. The SRBs had to fit through that tunnel. The tunnel is slightly wider than the railroad track, and the railroad track, as you now know, is about as wide as two horses’ behinds. So, a major Space Shuttle design feature of what is arguably the world’s most advanced transportation system was determined over two thousand years ago by the width of a horse’s ass.

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25 Random Things About Me

I got tagged in Facebook to do one of these lists.  I really enjoyed reading some of my colleagues and some of my old friends from high school so i thought i’d put one together.

The rules are that once you’ve been tagged, you are supposed to write a note with 25 random things, facts, habits, or goals about you. At the end, choose 25 people to be tagged or however many you want. You have to tag the person who tagged you. If I tagged you, it’s because I want to know more about you.

Here are my items:

1. I don’t like fruit (with the exception of apples) and i’m happy that my sister’s the same way. It makes me feel less strange.

2. I tend to get around. I’ve been to 49 states and hope to get to the final one, Mississippi, sometime soon.  Since college, I’ve lived in Virginia, New York, Washington DC, Boston (sort of), and now Los Angeles.

3. I have no toenails on my 2 little toes.

4. I was born in NY, then moved to CA, then moved to Texas before i finished my youth in Minnesota.

5. I grew up in Minnesota.  When i moved east in 1996, i felt like a Midwesterner.  I then lived on the east coast for 11 years.  When i moved to California last year, i felt like an Easterner.  After a few years here, who knows who i’ll be.

6. i’ve never broken a bone. I attribute this to my love of milk.

7. I love the extended Lewis Family clan and feel so fortunate that i have such great cousins, aunts and uncles.

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8. When i was younger I used to dress up like a ninja and wonder around in the woods with my brother.

Continue reading 25 Random Things About Me

Session Beer

An Amber Ale

Got a good piece of knowledge dropped on me this weekend by Modogg.  Check out what he said:

Now, you are probably aware that beers can be grouped by the type of fermentation that produces them (ale vs. lager), their flavor (porter vs. IPA vs. amber ale), and even their strength (dubbel vs. trippel vs. imperial).  Apparently they can also be grouped by their intended drinking style.

One of the more interesting designations that exists is that of a “session beer” — a beer of ~3-5 % alcohol with a with a good balance between malt and hop characters and a clean finish that gives it “high drinkability”.  Basically, one good beer to drink when you’re drinking more than one — literally a beer designed to be consumed in high volumes without overwhelming your palate or getting you so drunk that you can’t continue drinking.

The term originated in England during World War I when factory managers imposed two allowable drinking periods on shell production workers.  They had two 4 hour sessions each day when they were allowed to take a break and hit the bar.  Since they frequently went back to work after one of these sessions, the workers sought beer that they could drink for hours on end and still remain relatively coherent.  Thus, the session beer.

Proper grammatical usage:  “I went to the liquor store and picked up an imperial porter for a night cap, but wanted a good session beer for Saturday, so I grabbed a twelver of PBR” or “let’s session some Guinness tonight”

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Be careful out there

Keep in mind that 15% of all female chickens have penises.  That’s right, they look like males but aren’t.  If you’re a professional chicken sex-finder, you get paid $700 buck a day and have to have keen sight and a steady hand.

I thought the bar scene was rough – imagine being a chicken

Pearl Jam Revisted

Today in 1991, Pearl Jam released their first album, called Ten, which was the number of NBA player Mookie Blaylock. The album sold over 10 million copies. That’s a lot. To compare, the top album of 2006 was Carrie Underwood’s which sold 3.7 million.

The band was orginally called Mookie Blaylock, but Eddie Vedder came up with the name Pearl Jam in honor of his Aunt Pearl’s homemade jam which supposedly is a natural aphrodisiac and contains peyote. (more band names explained here)

The album contains two-thirds of Eddie Vedder’s little known “Mamasan Trilogy.” In the spirit of rock opera, Vedder lays out a tale of a twisted life in the songs Alive and Once. The third song of the trilogy, “Footsteps/Times of Trouble” is on the Temple of Dog album. The story goes…the trilogy starts with “Alive” in which a young man’s Father has died and allows himself to be seduced by a older woman Mrs. Robinson type who also happens to be…err…umm…how to say this, well let’s just say maternally-related of the first order. This traumatic experience eventually causes the kid to go on a rampage falling down the ill-fated path of taking up serial homicide as a profession as told about in the song “Once” Vedder growls, “Once upon a time I could control myself.” And it all ends as our forlorn character is caught and lands on death row. “Footsteps,” finishes the trilogy off with reminisces of a doomed delinquent dallying his last days and lost in deep thought, regret, and denial from behind the bars of a jail cell.

Happy 4th

The first motion in the Continental Congress for independence was made on June 4, 1776. After hard debate, the Congress voted unanimously, but secretly, for independence from Britain on July 2. The Congress reworked the text of the Declaration until July 4, when the 12 colonies voted for adoption and released a copy signed only by John Hancock, President of the Congress, to the printers.

John Adams the unofficial whip of the independence-minded, wrote to his wife Abigail on July 3, 1776:

The second day of July, 1776, will be the most memorable epoch in the history of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival. It ought to be commemorated as the day of deliverance, by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forever more.

He forgot to mention beers, bbq’s, baseball games and fireworks – but otherwise he pretty much nailed it

Also, a song for today: Independence Day by Ani (click here)

What's Going On this Weekend? Let's Talk About What Going In!

Why go out tonight? How about 25 reasons why….

  1. If you don’t drink that booze, someone else will – now get off your ass
  2. Bad ass nicknames like “Chuggybear,” “The Alabama Hamma,” “Pukey McPukerson” are not awarded to people who stay home to do laundry (ahem: kmr)
  3. This is the one and only night your soul mate will wander into the bar. Seriously.
  4. Word on the street is the booze has been trash talking you all day.
  5. It’s far better to have a good time you won’t remember than a dull one you will.
  6. Remember your English high school teacher that you used to call “Mr. McTightass?” You are starting to remind me of him.
  7. How the hell can you walk around sober when you’re an insignificant speck in an infinite and uncaring universe?
  8. Churchill and FDR got drunk, Hitler didn’t. Need i say more?
  9. If you don’t you’ll wake up in the morning all bright eyed and bushy tailed, and who the hell wants to go through life acting like a goddamn squirrel?
  10. Your friends can’t have a good time without you.
  11. Or, even worse – your friends might have a great time without you.
  12. There is a 1000 percent better chance you will land a starring role in the upcoming Paris Hilton video Vegas Orgy.
  13. Your lawn is so much more comfortable when you’re loaded.
  14. That feisty barmaid might finally, you know, pick up on what you’re laying down.
  15. Are we down on this little place we call earth to have a good time or watch other people have a good time on TV?
  16. Your girlfriend has rented a bunch of chick flicks you can snuggle to – including Legally Blonde 3.
  17. If you don’t hunt the booze, the booze will surely hunt you.
  18. When you write your memoirs you won’t have to go through the hassle of making up a bunch of decadent adventures.
  19. Modern life is a shit storm and booze is the only umbrella without any holes in it.
  20. You did your goddamn monkey dance for the Man and now you get your monkey treat.
  21. The day will come when you will have to single-handedly face death, and there isn’t a person alive who can tell you what will happen next.
  22. Hemingway shot himself after being sober for two months.
  23. When your coworkers ask “What did you get up to last night?” you can smile all cool like and say “Maaaaaan, you don’t wanna know,” instead of chirping “I alphabetized my DVD collection and found out I have two copies of The Truth About Cats and Dogs! Two!”
  24. Remember your childhood dream of meeting a brewery heiress and jet-setting around the world on her dime? You think that’s going to happen while sitting in your goddamn apartment watching Planet Earth’s Shallow Seas?
  25. It’s so much easier to call up those your ex and explain exactly where they went wrong.

Albert’s Relative Love

This is a reminder that today is Albert Einstein’s birthday. If he were still alive in 2007, he would turn 128.

Albert Einstein tourism destinations

Few people realize that the Nobel Prize winner married his cousin, Elsa Einstein Lowenthal, after his first marriage dissolved in 1919. Elsa was Albert’s first cousin (maternally) and his second cousin (paternally). She was 3 years older than Albert, and had nursed him to health after he suffered a partial nervous breakdown combined with a severe stomach ailment. No children resulted from this marriage.

Albert stated that he was attracted to Elsa because she was “well endowed.” In fact, he postulated that if you are attracted to women with large breasts, the attraction is stronger when there is a DNA connection. This came to be known as “Einstein’s Special Theory of Relative Titty.”

I know, i know, that was bad. But i do like how Albert is not only a frickin’ genius but also the undisputed champion of incest chicken. Sorry Liz, Al wins.

Hitler's Name

Before World War II, only 2% of all people in Germany were named Adolf, and during Hitler’s reign, he forbade Germans to name children after him.  So, you are almost guaranteed to never meet anyone with the name Adolf Hitler.