Extra Dynamite

Extra Dynamite

The pictured crate of dynamite is at the NYC Transportation Museum. It is part of an exhibit that describes the digging of the subway system. It makes a nice visual, but what intrigued me more it the title of its contents. What is “extra” dynamite? It’s a different formulation that is less explosive than regular dynamite (40% strength), but can be more safely handled. But why is it called extra?

Is it because you would need more of it than regular dynamite or is it just a marketing ploy, making more out of less? That’s not the only mystery. Why is it also affiliated with the Red Cross? That doesn’t make any sense at all. As near as I can tell, Red Cross Extra is DuPont’s brand name for this type of explosive. I found a 1916 company catalog that listed this product and described it as a low freezing insensitive explosive, suitable for situations without water troubles. 


Last night, we celebrated Christmas in February, with Joanie. Why the delay? A gift that Anne had bought was on backorder and just arrived. I fixed shrimp and zucchini pasta in an alfredo sauce, with garlic bread. It turned out pretty good. We exchanged gifts and had rum bunt cake that Joanie had brought for dessert. On the eve of Valentine’s Day, we enjoyed our very little Christmas together.

Death and Taxes

British Museum Crystal Skull

This quartz skull is on display in the British Museum. Its past is murky and its authenticity is in doubt. Legend holds that this skull possesses special powers and is an ancient Aztec artifact. Its like was featured in the last Indiana Jones chronicle. The Smithsonian believes that it was manufactured in 19th-century Germany. Its material precludes carbon dating, but microscopic abrasion patterns indicate its machined origin.

Aztec Turquoise Mosaic Mask

This is not the only such skull. Enough of them were made so that its origin can be tracked to a particular town in Germany. Turquoise masks, like the one pictured are authentic Aztec and could have inspired these skulls. What I find interesting is the question of why George Lucas and Steven Spielberg chose an archeological hoax as the basis for their film. This iteration of the Indiana Jones franchise performed poorly, compared to its predecessors. So, choosing a hoax as its focus maybe isn’t all that remarkable, but is indicative of the now worn state of this once great series.


In other news, I got our taxes done. We couldn’t itemize, what with the new much larger standard deduction. Still, we came out a little better than last year. We should get money back from the Feds, eventually. With another looming government shutdown, the timing on when that will occur is questionable. We owe the state. So, there is no rush with them. I got a scare when I printed out a copy of the forms. the state’s payment forms had a watermark on them that said, “Do Not FileForms Not Final”. I had just filed our taxes. Further investigation uncovered that the state was the culprit here and not me. The offending forms are scheduled to be updated next week. Like I said there is no real rush here. 

Fleet Week

Fleet Week Car Card

New York, New York, a wonderful town
The Bronx is up and the Battery’s down
The people ride in a hole in the ground
New York, New York, it’s a wonderful town!
Song Writers: Fred Ebb / John Kander

When we were in New York City, we visited the NYC Transportation Museum. In its lower gallery are dozens of subway cars, from all eras. Many of these cars are open and still period decorated. Chief among these decorations are subway car cards. These placards are nestled in the soffits that run the car’s length and the advertising gambit. The black and white one pictured above caught my attention. It is selling the 8th Avenue subway as the way to get around and see the US Navy on parade, during its annual Fleet Week visit to the Big Apple.

This car card doesn’t mention its particular year, but it could very well be 1934. Many of the ships advertised were sunk in WW II. Most of the battleships that were then named after states were also at Pearl Harbor. Coincident with this year’s fleet week, the WPA artist Paul Cadmus painted his notorious depiction of sailors on liberty, The Fleet’s In. The debauchery portrayed so incensed the admiralty that it was pulled unseen from its scheduled WPA show and remained hidden from view for almost fifty years, until 1982. 

Then 77, Cadmus (1904-1999) expressed gratitude for getting to see his painting again. He also remarked that after so many years hidden from light, how new it still looked. He recalled, ”What I actually saw sailors and their girlfriends doing in Riverside Drive Park far exceeded anything that I could have put on canvas.”

The Fleet’s In, Paul Cadmus, 1934

Holiday Helpline Hell

Eagle-headed Protective Spirit, Assyrian

Today, I helped Harry straighten out computer problems. He was locked out of his email, Netflix and finance accounts. First up was email. After progressing as far as we could online, we called AT&T. Its automated call handling process was quickly circumvented and a real person came on the phone to help us. She was both courteous and competent. With her help, Harry and I were soon able to get his email account open. After ensuring that this account hadn’t been hacked, we progressed to Netflix. Since, we had regained access to this account’s controlling email, this chore was a piece of cake. This lulled me into a false sense of security. Yahoo’s finance page left much to be desired.

Yahoo complained that we were using an out-of-date and unsupported browser and there was an operating system update waiting in the App Store, but since I am not a Mac person, I viewed that upgrade as a bridge too far, especially over DSL. After finding my footing on this web page, I cleared out all of the old portfolios and then reentered his latest numbers. For expedience sake, I only entered whole numbers of shares, even though Harry’s cheat-sheet numbers had four digits to the right of the decimal point. I detected some disquiet on Harry’s part for this practice that was not at all allayed with my joke of planning to pocket the fractional remainders, as round-off error. I was more concerned that the Yahoo page was randomly throwing out NaN (Not-a-Number) figures. This only reinforced my opinion of its trustworthiness versus mine.

After, I had entered Harry’s life savings to the nearest share, as an exercise, call it homework if you like, I had Harry reenter his numbers the way that he likes. Tomorrow, time permitting, I’m planning on giving him a pop quiz. My efforts were justly rewarded, when afterwards, Bubs asked Harry if he had gotten his computer problems fixed. Harry answered, “Why yes, Carl was very helpful.”