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Friday, April 29, 2016

Obama's list of great American creations

An inspiring Facebook message from President Obama
If you swiped through my music collection, you'd find some Bruce, some Stevie, some Al Green. If you opened my iPad, you'd find the word puzzle games I love to play. If you looked at my bookshelf, you'd find Marilynne Robinson novels and Toni Morrison classics.

And I bet if we compared collections, a lot of you have similar favorites - all hallmarks of American culture and creativity. The thing is, so do people all over the world. American music fills cafés in Europe; American apps pepper smartphones across Asia, and American authors inspire readers from South America to South Africa to the South Pacific.

When I was at the Hannover Messe global trade fair in Germany this week, I tested out some of the latest innovations from America's best entrepreneurs. It reminded me why American ingenuity leads the world. After all, our country itself was once a creative idea conceived by independent-minded people. Today, the work of our creative and innovative industries supports more than 27 million jobs here at home and account for more than 60 percent of the goods we export to other countries. That's worth protecting from counterfeiters and thieves - and we are.

When someone in a foreign country sells ripped-off copies of an American artist's music, a writer's film, or even your favorite athlete's jersey, we all lose. But strong intellectual property protections make sure no one can undercut our economy or take advantage of America's great creators - which is why we put those protections in the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a trade agreement covering nearly 40 percent of the global economy.

With these protections in place, American innovators are free to create that unique brand of American culture that has shaped the heart and soul of this imaginative country for centuries.

When I got back from Hannover Messe, I took some time to jot down a few of my favorite works - proud examples of what Americans can create, and what we have to protect. Join me by sharing your favorites:

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

The Great Amazon Page Count Mystery

The Great Amazon Page Count Mystery

How Amazon pays authors for work included in Kindle Unlimited (KU) made headlines across the inter-webs recently. Ann Christy’s post “KU Scammers on KU – What’s Going On” even made it on to the homepage of Hacker News. The discussion raises many interesting questions about what reading data Amazon collects and how Amazon uses reader analytics.

First, a little background: Amazon introduced KU, its all-you-can-eat ebook offering, almost two years ago, not long after Oyster launched its much lauded, but now defunct, ebook subscription service. Authors were initially compensated by Amazon based on the number of ebooks downloaded, but that system was being abused by some clever folks who realized that short books, such as novellas, would earn the same amount of money as full-length novels, and that splitting a full-length book into multiple books would optimized payouts.

Readers did not like this practice, so Amazon changed its policy and introduced “pay by page” in June of last year.

However, enterprising souls once again quickly discovered another loophole, as the way in which Amazon measures pages read for KU is not what one might think. Amazon uses the “last page sync” signal, which is a feature of Amazon’s Whispersync, to determine how far somebody reads. This data point can in fact be easily manipulated to a scammer’s advantage.

For example, one could place a link early in the book promising a $100 Amazon gift voucher, but that link could take the reader to the last page of the book. If the book has 10,000 pages, Amazon would now think that the reader has actually read 10,000 pages even if the “reading” took place in a matter of seconds.

Obviously that can’t be true, but Amazon’s algorithms don’t check that. Computer code is not imbued with “common sense.

As far as I am concerned, they don't even pay.  I have never received a cent for the page counts on my report page.  If you want to read more of this interesting article, go to Digital Book World

“Digital Creativity: Culture Reimagined.”

Dear Authors,

As you may know, Tuesday, April 26, 2016 is World Intellectual Property (IP) Day, a day celebrating the important role that creativity and artistic expression play in our cultural and economic life. This year’s theme is “Digital Creativity: Culture Reimagined.”

We have been informed that President Obama will issue a formal Presidential Message celebrating our artists, our creative and innovative industries, and the importance of intellectual property in sustaining them. To further highlight the importance of the creative and innovative communities, the President is scheduled to fill out this list and share it with the world via social media on World IP Day.

The White House would like to see U.S. authors join the President by filling out the list and sharing it online using the social media platform of your choice. Fill it out by hand, take a picture, and upload it, or provide your list via video. The goal is for the globe to hear from our artists and creators on World IP Day and, with President Obama, to create a chorus of support and celebration of our artists, creators, and innovators. Authors are asked to use the hashtag #AmericaCreates to join the President in this celebration tomorrow.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Wellcome 2016 shortlist

The Wellcome Book Prize 2016 shortlist

£7.99 (rrp £9.99)
The Outrun
£11.99 (rrp £14.99)
£8.80 (rrp £11)

It's All in Your Head
£7.19 (rrp £8.99)
Signs for Lost Children
£10.39 (rrp £12.99)
The Last Act of Love
£11.99 (rrp £14.99)

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Want to model an amazing costume?

The fantastic, amazing, iconic Wellington event, World of Wearable Art, is getting geared up for 2016.

And, they need models.

Being involved in the WOW® Awards is exciting, challenging and rewarding – an achievement that you can be proud of. You will make new friends, extend your creative skills and have loads of fun along the way!

Have a question about auditioning for WOW? Learn everything you need to know about auditions below.

Our first audition will be held on:
Sunday the 8th of May 2016
Toi Whakaari, 11 Hutchison Road, Newtown, Wellington.
Registrations Open at 10.00am
Auditions are at 12.00pm
N.B.: All models must register first

Trump's fantasy friend

From the New York Review of Books

Trump’s Putin Fantasy

Donald Trump at a campaign rally, Syracuse, New York, April 16, 2016; Vladimir Putin at a meeting with journalists, Moscow, Russia, April 14, 2016
Carlo Allegri/Reuters; Maxim Shemetov/Reuters
Few foreign leaders seem enthusiastic about the prospect of a Donald Trump presidency. But there is one who should be pleased: Vladimir Putin. Or so Trump seems to think. Most prominent Republicans criticize President Obama for reacting too feebly to Russian domestic oppression, the Russian invasion of southern and southeastern Ukraine, and Russia’s growing threat to NATO in Eastern Europe. Trump, on the other hand, has praised Putin’s “strong” leadership at home, called NATO “obsolete and expensive,” and made a point of describing his friendship with Putin—though it seems to be entirely imaginary.

From the beginning of his candidacy last summer, Trump has repeatedly claimed that he would “get along very well with Vladimir Putin.” Last fall, after he was interviewed on the same segment of 60 Minutes as Putin, he warmly referred to the experience of being “stablemates” as “going well.” This was strikingly at odds with reality, since Trump was in the US and Putin in Russia during the interviews, and the two men did not in fact meet...

Picture above:  Donald Trump in Syracuse, New York, April 16, 2016; Vladimir Putin in Moscow, Russia, April 14, 2016

Read the rest of this fascinating article

Monday, April 18, 2016

Rare TITANIC poster found in attic

From the Daily Mail

A rare poster advertising the Titanic has been found on the back of a painting hidden behind a false wall by a couple renovating their home.

The lithographic print is one of three adverts produced in 1911 for the White Star Line promoting trips on the Titanic and sister ship the Olympic.

The posters were withdrawn after the Titanic sank in April 1912 with a loss of 1,522 lives – so there are few examples left.

The unnamed couple demolished a wall in the house they bought in Wales and found a landscape painting in the cavity. When they took it from the frame they found the 23in by 32in poster beneath it.

The lithographic print (pictured)  is one of three adverts produced in 1911 for the White Star Line promoting trips on the Titanic and sister ship the Olympic. It was found on the back of a painting hidden behind a false wall
The lithographic print (pictured)  is one of three adverts produced in 1911 for the White Star Line promoting trips on the Titanic and sister ship the Olympic. It was found on the back of a painting hidden behind a false wall

The colourful advert, produced by the renowned marine artist Montague Birrell Black, depicts the hulking Titanic looming into view with a number of small sailboats in the foreground looking tiny in comparison.

The print, worth £3,000, will be sold at auction house Henry Aldridge and Son in Devizes, Wiltshire, on April 23. 

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Sailing the seas again

From The Economist

We are sailing

Wind power makes another comeback

Full spin ahead

OLD technologies can return with a twist, just as airships keep threatening to and windmills and electric cars have already. Fitting ships with sails to assist with propulsion, thus saving fuel and reducing emissions, is an idea that has been around for decades. It has now gained renewed interest with a search by the Energy Technologies Institute (ETI), a British public–private partnership that promotes low-carbon uses, for suppliers and a shipowner prepared to undertake a trial of wind-driven rotors on a large cargo vessel. The plan is to gather operating data on whether rotor sails are a worthwhile investment. Depending on the routes, suitably equipped vessels could reduce fuel consumption by 5-12%. As some 90% of the world’s trade travels by sea, such savings would soon add up.

The type of sail the ETI is interested in is the Flettner rotor. These were demonstrated by Anton Flettner, a German aerospace engineer, in the 1920s. When placed on a ship the giant rotating cylinders extract energy from the wind using the Magnus effect, a force acting on a spinning body in an airstream to create a pressure difference on either side—the same effect that causes a spinning ball to curve through the air. This force can be used to help push the ship along.
Rotor sails are most suitable for ships that sail below 15 knots (28kph) on trade routes where the apparent wind (that experienced by an observer in motion) is blowing sideways across the vessel, reckons the ETI. For a rotor sail the higher the ratio of wind speed to ship speed the better. In general, the rotors produce more thrust the windier it is and the slower the ship steams.
In 1924 Flettner installed two 18.3-metre rotating metal cylinders on a converted sailing ship, the Buckau (pictured), which crossed the North Sea and the Atlantic. Other ship owners have flirted with the technology. In 2010, Enercon, a German windpower specialist, launched E-ship1 with four 2-metre rotor sails to assist its diesel engines. In 2014, Norsepower, a Finnish firm, fitted an 18-metre rotor sail to Estraden, a ferry which operates between the Netherlands and Britain. A second rotor was fitted to the ship in 2015. Norsepower reckons they produce a 6% fuel saving on average.

This is not a lot to show for more than 90 years of tinkering with the technology. But the arrival of new lightweight composite materials that enable the rotors to spin at higher speeds, together with advanced computer controls that can use sophisticated wind sensors and satellite tracking to constantly adjust the setting of the rotors, holds out greater promise of a return to sail, of a sort.

Friday, April 15, 2016

The Rubbish Truck guy

A touching post on Facebook that has gone viral

 Dad's open letter thanks 'rubbish truck guy' who makes his son's day every Tuesday.

A father in a small North Island town has raised smiles around the country with a simple Facebook post thanking a "rubbish truck guy."

The post said thank you to the rubbish collector who routinely waves at Aaron Brown's two-year-old son in the Waikato town of Tuakau.

His wife Elaine shared her husband's message to a community page, the Franklin Grapevine, where it quickly attracted thousands of likes and hundreds of shares in a day.

This is how it runs:

"We don't know your story and you don't know ours.

"I never took any notice of you over the years and like everyone else just expect our wheelie bins to be picked every Tuesday morning and left again in a tidy row for us to put away.

"Two years ago it all changed.

"All of a sudden it was a highlight for us. Every Tuesday morning we hear your big truck coming and the excitement begins. Even before he could walk or talk our son would stop what he was doing and make his way to the front door.

"I would take him out side and he would look on in amazement as you expertly guided your truck around the cul de sac and picked up each bin with what has become known as your crocodile arm.
"Now you could just carry on oblivious to a man and his son in the driveway but no.

"What you do is take a small moment of your time and wave and say out the window hi boy! With the biggest smile. It took Alex about a year but then the day he waved back you were so happy and it made Alex laugh.

"Now every Tuesday morning, Alex runs to the door and leads me out so he can watch and wave at you and as always, you wave back with a huge smile.

"This morning you even out did yourself. I take Alex to daycare every morning and some mornings are harder than others. Today he didn't want to get out of the car when we got there. Then he heard your truck. He instantly wanted out so he could see you. As you drove past you recognised us. You didn't have to, but you did. Again a huge smile and wave.

"Alex waved back and was so excited to go into daycare and tell everyone about you.

"So I thank you Tuakau rubbish truck guy. You might think it's nothing but it makes Alex so happy!!"

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Indie bestsellers April

From GalleyCat comes the latest top titles from Amazon and Smashwords.

And Romance Wins Again

Amazon Self-Published Bestsellers for the Week of April 13, 2016

1. His Princess (A Royal Romance) by Abigail Graham: “The Crown Prince took me prisoner. You read that right. Crown Prince. Castle, throne, the whole nine yards. The monarch of a totalitarian regime has locked me up in his fortress, and he demands that I marry him… and provide him with an heir!”

2. Go Long by Joanna Blake: Belinda Carmichael is uptight, prissy and the hottest girl I’ve ever seen. She’s also the head coach’s precious baby girl. And she’s entirely off limits. The trouble is, I didn’t know who she was when I met her. And she had no idea I was her daddy’s newest star player. It was her job to show me around campus, and I showed her a lot more than that. But we fumbled the ball – she never told a soul who got her pregnant.”

3. Stuck-Up Suit by Vi Keeland: “It started out like any other morning on the train. Until I became mesmerized by the guy sitting across the aisle. He was barking at someone on his phone like he ruled the world. Who did the stuck-up suit think he was…God?”

4. Still Here: A Secret Baby Romance by Laura Bell Peters and Kaylee Song: “When Wyatt Graves offers my family fifty-thousand dollars extra to buy a plot of land I can’t say no, even after I hear the catch. Ten dates, no strings, nothing physical, no promises. Sounds easy, right?”

5.  Billion Dollar Bad Boy by Nora Flite: “The package in my mail had no name, no address.
Just some sexy lingerie, and a letter telling me that I was claimed. That I already belonged to him.”

6. Cotton: Satan’s Fury MC by L. Wilder: “Becoming President of the Satan’s Fury MC was a bittersweet moment for Cotton. When his Uncle Saul died, he passed the gavel down to him, and while Cotton took his death hard, he immediately assumed the role with pride. He considered leading his brothers an honor, and the MC quickly became his main focus…”

7. Mr. and Mrs. by Alexa Riley: “Welcome to Alexa Riley Promises. This series is dedicated to old romances. It’s tropes galore, with all of our usual over-the-top alphas and sweet cheesy goodness. These short books will focus on traditional and classic tropes while sticking to the Alexa Riley code: no cheating and always with an HEA. That’s our Promise to you.”

8. Slow and Steady by Kendall Ryan: “When Greyson tosses $20 on the stage of a strip club, the last thing he expects to see are the haunted green eyes staring back at him. Finley should be home raising her infant daughter and baking cookies, not tucking singles into her G-string and giving lap dances.”

9. Full Fathom Five by Bart Davis: “The Soviet nuclear submarine Kirov has been stolen by Central American rebels to prevent a CIA invasion. As nuclear weapons aim toward the U.S. from the ocean depths, sparks begin to fly between Moscow and Washington.”

10. A Shade of Vampire by Bella Forrest: “On the evening of Sofia Claremont’s seventeenth birthday, she is sucked into a nightmare from which she cannot wake. A quiet evening walk along a beach brings her face to face with a dangerous pale creature that craves much more than her blood.”

If you are of a more serious mind, the Smsahwords list looks more promising.

Smashwords Self-Published Bestsellers for the Week of April 13, 2016

1. Strong Brains, Sharp Minds: The Definitive Guide to the MINDRAMP Method For Brain Health & Mental Development 

2. Cognitive Activity Design: Designing Creative Activities and Art-Based Projects That Promote Brain Health and Flourishing 

3. GOA. Confession of the Psychedelic Oyster 

4. Naturally Flawless: A holistic approach to clear skin 

5. Устрица раскрылась. 

6. Scrum Narrative and PSM Exam Guide 

7. Negotiating for Success: Essential Strategies and Skills 

8. A Guidebook to Inks,Paints And Functional Inks 

9. Yoga Class Plans 

10. Chaos Of A Demon War – Book Three of The Nexus Of Kellaran Trilogy – Metric Edition 

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows bought by Harpers

From the Bookseller

HarperCollins seals six-figure Erotic Stories

HarperCollins has bagged Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows in a “strong” six-figure deal after fighting off five other publishers to win the title at auction.

The novel, by Balli Kaur Jaswal, who was born in Singapore and raised in Japan, Russia and the Philippines, tells of the hidden pleasures of a group of women who are dismissed by their community, and also of the stark reality of honour killings in the UK. It follows a young woman, Nikki, who agrees to teach a creative writing course at her local temple. Through helping the women voice their desires, she begins to uncover the truth about the sudden death of a young Sikh woman in the community.

Martha Ashby, editor at HarperFiction, bought world English-language rights, alongside Rachel Kahan at William Morrow in the US, and a second title by the author, from Anna Power at Johnson & Alcock.

Jaswal’s first novel, Inheritance, was published by Sleepers Publishing in Australia in 2013 (Jaswal lived in the country for a number of years), and the novel won her the Sydney Morning Herald’s Best Young Australian Novelist award.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

HMS Pinafore

This last weekend I had the pleasure of attending the Wellington performance of the New Zealand version of Gilbert and Sullivan's first great hit, HMS Pinafore.

Down-sized and up-laughed for the local audience, it was tremendous fun.  Directed by Geraldine Brophy, HMS Pinafore featured a fine cast of singers, including George Henare as Sir Joseph Porter, Helen Medlyn (as Buttercup), Tizane McEvoy (Josephine), Tainui Kuru (Ralph Rackstraw) and Paul Barrett (Captain Corcoran).  Full marks to them all.  Not only did they have a great time, but they shared their energetic jollity with the very enthusiastic audience.

I had some private fun of my own.  Not only did Paul Barrett, as the captain who owed his rank to his social status, have a striking resemblance to Commander Dawlish, on the jacket of Antoine Vanner's latest, Britannia's Spartan, but I was acutely aware of the biting satire of the script, directed at the Royal Navy of Gilbert's time.

Sir Joseph Porter (George Henare), as First Lord of the Admiralty, sang this famous ditty:

When I was a lad I served a term
As office boy to an attorney's firm
I cleaned the windows and I swept the floor
And I polished up the handle of the big front door
He polished up the handle of the big front door
I polished up that handle so carefully
That now I am the Ruler of the Queen's Navy
He polished up that handle so carefully
That now he is the Ruler of the Queen's Navy

As office boy I made such a mark
That they gave me the post of a junior clerk
I served the writs with a smile so bland
And I copied all the letters in a big round hand
He copied all the letters in a big round hand
I copied all the letters in a hand so free
That now I am the Ruler of the Queen's Navy
He copied all the letters in a hand so free
That now he is the Ruler of the Queen's Navy

In serving writs I made such a name
That an articled clerk I soon became
I wore clean collars and a brand-new suit
For the Pass Examination at the Institute
For the Pass Examination at the Institute
And that Pass Examination did so well for me
That now I am the Ruler of the Queen's Navy
That Pass Examination did so well for he
That now he is the Ruler of the Queen's Navy

Of legal knowledge I acquired such a grip
That they took me into the partnership
And that junior partnership I ween
Was the only ship that I ever had seen
Was the only ship that he ever had seen
But that kind of ship so suited me
That now I am the Ruler of the Queen's Navy
But that kind of ship so suited he
That now he is the Ruler of the Queen's Navy

I grew so rich that I was sent
By a pocket borough into Parliament
I always voted at my party's call
And I never thought of thinking for myself at all
No, he never thought of thinking for himself at all
I thought so little, they rewarded me
By making me the Ruler of the Queen's Navy
He thought so little, they rewarded he
By making him the Ruler of the Queen's Navy

Now, landsmen all, whoever you may be
If you want to rise to the top of the tree
If your soul isn't fettered to an office stool
Be careful to be guided by this golden rule
Be careful to be guided by this golden rule
Stick close to your desks and never go to sea
And you all may be Rulers of the Queen's Navy
Stick close to your desks and never go to sea
And you all may be Rulers of the Queen's Navy

So, thought I, who was the First Lord of the Admiralty in 1878, when Pinafore was composed?  And did he really have a background so peculiarly unsuited to his role?

Well, he was none other than W.H. Smith, scion of the bookstore chain that his father had founded.  He was a bookseller! And newsagent!  Mind you, he was good at the job, as he expanded the firm and introduced the practice of selling books and newspapers at railway stations.

William Henry Smith was elected a Member of Parliament in 1868 and rose to the position of First Lord of the Admiralty less than ten years thereafter. He went on to be the Secretary of State for War, and later First Lord of the Treasury and Leader of the House of Commons, among other posts, but he never lived down the "Pinafore" reputation.

Disraeli, the PM and thus his boss, had great fun after that by calling him "Pinafore Smith."  And who can blame him?

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Bizarre Newton manuscript located

Lost Isaac Newton Manuscript Uncovered

By Maryann Yin  on GalleyCat

Sir Isaac Newton (GalleyCat)

A lost Isaac Newton manuscript has been uncovered. The famed scientist (pictured, via) wrote about a substance called “sophick mercury.”

Here’s more from The Washington Post: “A newly discovered manuscript, written in Newton’s hand, underscores his fascination with what’s now considered nothing more than mystical pseudoscience.

The document, held in a private collection for decades and bought earlier this year by the Chemical Heritage Foundation, describes how to make an essential ingredient of the Philosophers’ Stone.”

CNN reports that although Newton is known as the father of physics, he devoted a lot of time to studying alchemy. Throughout his lifetime, he wrote several notes on the subject which was then called “chymistry.” (via the National Geographic Website)

Friday, April 8, 2016

Moby-Dick charged yet again

From the New Zealand Herald

Science shows how Moby Dick could totally have sunk that whaling ship

An international team of scientists found a sperm whale could most likely use its massive noggin as a battering ram to down a whaling ship five times its size. Photo / iStock
An international team of scientists found a sperm whale could most likely use its massive noggin as a battering ram to down a whaling ship five times its size. Photo / iStock
It took Herman Melville 135 chapters to get to the part in his 1851 classic Moby Dick when the massive sperm whale and the peg-legged Captain Ahab finally do battle. No spoiler here: Moby Dick wins, smashing his enormous head into Ahab's ship, the Pequod, and sinking it.
But it took 165 years for an international team of scientists to finally probe this burning question: Would a sperm whale actually use its massive noggin as a battering ram to down a whaling ship five times the animal's size?

The short answer: It probably could - and live to tell the tale.

This question, it turns out, is "highly controversial," and "has been hotly debated" since at least 1851, according to the recent study in PeerJ. A sperm whale's huge forehead, you see, is a very bizarre thing - "one of the strangest structures in the animal kingdom," in the words of the study's lead author, Olga Panagiotopoulou, who is an evolutionary morphologist at Australia's University of Queensland and expert on the anatomy, bone biology and mechanics of large animals.

And the forehead's purpose has long been the subject of speculation.
Male sperm whales can be 60 feet long, and their foreheads make up one-third of their length and a quarter of their body mass. Inside are two oil-filled sacs, one atop the other. The spermaceti organ is on top - it holds not sperm, but the prized lubricating oil that sent Captain Ahab-types on the hunt for the mysterious deep-sea dwellers. On the bottom is the junk sac, or, as the study refers to it, "the junk."

The whale as seen by the whalemen who were "cutting in" the blubber and the head.  At the top of the head is the "case," which was the reservoir of the highly prized spermaceti oil.  Beneath this was the "junk," which was full of a waxy substance bound tightly together with fibers.  This had the consistency of a mattress, and the same buffering quality. (from Scammon).
Previous research has established that the sacs help with the whale's echolocation, and other studies have suggested that they provide buoyancy or help the whales use sonar to debilitate prey, the study says. No one, however, had ever before studied whether sperm whales can actually use their foreheads as battering rams.

That idea was popularised by Moby Dick, which was inspired in part by the real-life stories of a sperm whales accused of downing 19th-century whaling ships, including the Nantucket ship Essex in 1820. That ship's first mate, Owen Chase, wrote a book that "described the whale's head as admirably designed for this mode of attack," Panagiotopoulou said in a statement.

Panagiotopoulou also said males' heads are much larger than females, which could also be a clue that points toward a ramming function. That size difference often occurs in species in which males compete for females, such as bottle-nosed dolphins, killer whales and goats (which, amazingly, whales are somewhat related to).

So it could be that male sperm whales engage in head-ramming duels when fighting for ladies. The stakes, after all, are high: One male sperm whale can have a "harem" of up to 40 females, according to the NOAA's National Marine Mammal Laboratory.

But ramming is a controversial notion, the study notes, because the anatomy inside the forehead is so important that it might be injurious or even fatal. Would the sperm whale have evolved to do something so stupid?

To find out, the researchers - from Australia, the United States, England and Japan - did simulated sperm whale crash tests to determine whether the junk, which houses several connective tissue partitions, could actually act as a shock absorber that protects the whale when it smashes its head into something. They tested three models: One junk with 12 partitions, one with six, and one with none. In the accompanying image, the junk is outlined in blue and its partitions are the vertical blue lines; the spermaceti organ is the empty yellow part above.

Their conclusion: Ramming with the spermaceti organ could be damaging to the whale and its sonar system. But if a whale were to ram with the junk, the connective tissues act as a "protective mechanism" that can help blunt blows. That idea that they bash with the junk is supported by observations that sperm whale foreheads usually have scars on the exterior of the junk, the study said.

"This mechanism is important to reduce impact stress and protect the skull from failure," Panagiotopoulou said.

The study didn't determine whether sperm whales actually ram to fight each other - or down ships. But, it decided, they could very well do so and survive.

"Although the unique structure of the junk certainly serves multiple functions, our results are consistent with the hypothesis that the structure also evolved to function as a massive battering ram during male-male competition," the study said.

So there you have it, aspiring Captain Ahabs. The Moby Dicks out there are well-prepared to take you on.

 The sinking of the Essex, which was the inspiration for Moby-Dick, was by no means the only instance of a whaleship being sunk by a whale.  Captain John Deblois of Newport, RI, lost the Ann Alexander at the same time that Melville's book was in press.  Reportedly, Melville wondered where his "evil art" had raised the "monster."  Deblois was lucky in that he and his men were rescued by Captain Richard Gibbs of the ship Nantucket within two days.  After being landed in Paita, Peru, Deblois paid for his way home by selling the story to the papers. Another victim of whale attack was Millie Jenkins, wife of the captain of the Kathleen.  She, too, was rescued within hours, surviving to relate her story to women's groups in New Bedford.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

What did Bully Hayes look like?

No one is even sure what this notorious American looked like, and yet his impressive physical appearance is part of the Bully Hayes legend.  Most of the people who met him agree that he was six feet tall, and hefty in physique, that he had a bluff and hearty manner and a soft, persuasive voice, but otherwise descriptions vary. Some reckoned he had blue eyes, others that they were brown. Sometimes he is described as bald, while in other yarns he has long, curling hair, just as in this newspaper drawing, published not long after his gory demise. 

Everyone agrees that he had a beard, but whether it was cut to a point (like Captain Morgan) or flowing down to his belt varies according to the narrator, and whether it was brown, black or gray is equally vague. What everyone is sure about is that he loved women. Captain Bully Hayes had several wives on shore, and kept a constant stream of beautiful brown girls on board his ships. And they also say that he had a magnetic personality. Today they would call it charisma.

Not only did Hayes brag like a buccaneer, but according to a neighbour in Samoa, he dressed like a storybook pirate, too. As he strode along the Apia waterfront, the skirts of his long alpaca coat swished back from his black broadcloth trousers and black boots, revealing that his broad chest was covered with a white frilled shirt with a white flowing necktie, and that instead of a waistcoat he wore a brightly coloured sash about his waist.  A wide-brimmed black slouch hat was propped aslant his head, and his white teeth shone through his moustache and beard when he grinned.  He even smelled good, a man who knew him well testifying that he “oiled and scented himself before going on shore.”  

So, did he look like this well-dressed fellow, photographed in Apia in Bully Hayes' time?

Or did he look like Tommy Lee Jones, dressed (or undressed) for the part of the dashing buccaneer in the film called Nate and Hayes or Savage Islands, depending on where it was released:

Well, this last is pretty unlikely.  But implausible, too, is the image billed as "The only known photograph of Bully Hayes" in Frank Clune's racy biography Captain Bully Hayes, Blackbirder and Bigamist:

 Clune says that the picture was pointed out to him by the late Professor Harry Maude (co-author of a very fine book, Of Islands and Men, which has much about Bully Hayes, but chooses not to publish this picture), who -- says Clune -- "found me the photograph of Bully Hayes, the only one I have ever seen.

"It was included in a thesis on the history of the Caroline Islands written by a scholar at the University of the Philippines," Clune adds, without naming the scholar or giving the title of the thesis.

Highly unsatisfactory, in my opinion, especially as the man in the picture not only has short hair, but is also wearing a monocle -- a monocle, for heaven's sake! -- which is certainly not part of the Bully Hayes legend.

Yet this picture has been republished many times since, with no questions asked at all.