Friday Hodgepodge

Friday, September 03, 2021

Four Things

1. While I was never in the path of Hurricane Ida, I kept apprised of the storm out of concern for my mother, who lives in central Mississippi. In the process of trying to get an idea of how the storm might affect her, I learned of the Windy website/app, which I have since incorporated into the my hurricane watching suite.

The information from the National Hurricane Center was quite good, but not as fine-grained as I wanted in this case. I was pretty sure Ida wasn't going to bring hurricane conditions to my mother's neck of the woods, but I wanted to get a better idea of what it would do.

Remembering someone raving about the site nailing a hurricane ten days in advance, I went there. Windy offers four different models, projections up to ten days ahead, the ability to zoom, and a map overlay. It was easy to see that the worst-case scenario, absent a tornado, was 35 mph sustained winds for a few hours in the middle of the Monday after landfall.

I don't think my mother was as worried as I was, but my sleeping better was still worth it. Conditions proved to be within the range of the available models.

Mom was fine, although without power for a little over a day. (Katrina had left her town in dark for a week.)

And if you don't have to worry about hurricanes? Take a look, anyway. The app has all kinds of weather information and displays it very well.

Image by Mrs. Van Horn. Feel free to re-use.
2. Meet Ethel, the anhinga who took up sitting on our fence every evening a week or so ago, pictured at right. I see birds of this kind often in Florida, usually drying out their feathers by a lake. That's because they hunt underwater, where they spear fish with their long, sharp beaks -- but lack waterproofing and can't fly when wet.

But Ethel has been the first I have been able to observe up close, and for several days, I had no idea what kind of strange bird I was looking at. She stood out mainly for her long neck and ungainly movement atop the fence. But a couple of days ago, she spread her wings out to dry them on the shore of the lake, and I instantly recognized what kind of bird she was.

Among the several other names for this bird, I think water turkey suits them best.

3. In the most recent installment of the long-running saga of the dental health effects caused by a childhood accident comes a new cast member: Listerine.

I recently had to begin rinsing with it as an adjunct to the special attention I am having to pay a dental implant that was not quite correctly installed.

Naturally, after noticing that it contains something like 25% ethanol, I wondered why the state isn't trying to protect everyone from attempting to get drunk from it. In answer to that question, I found the following, upon translating my question into the cultural vernacular. Can you get drunk off Listerine?
Many mouthwashes contain compounds such as menthol, eucalyptol and thymol. These ingredients can be toxic when consumed in amounts large enough to become drunk from mouthwash. Just in case you think I'm making this stuff up, there is a case study of fatal mouthwash ingestion. [link omitted]
I believe I read elsewhere that the alcohol in Listerine, whose percentage is well below the 70% needed for it to serve as an effective antiseptic, is there as a solvent.

That said, even the newfangled flavors they sell now, as opposed to the nasty yellow flavor I recall from childhood, are so gross, I can't see how anyone would manage to drink enough of it, let alone hold it down long enough to suffer ill effects.

4. Everyone knows that gumbo is of French and African origin, but many are likely unaware of an Amerind influence. Atlas Obscura takes a look into this, noting the Choctaw origins of filé, a powder made from sassafras that is used to thicken some varieties.

There is also some discussion of a variety of gumbo made with greens, as well as a recipe towards the end.

-- CAV


Anonymous said...

Gus wrote: "I can't see how anyone would manage to drink enough of it, let alone hold it down long enough to suffer ill effects."

My grandfather ran a small grocery store in Arizona during Prohibition. (My grandparents were acquaintances of Barry Goldwater's parents who ran a department store in Phoenix.) The local drunks had to be watched for carefully as they would steal their way to the extracts aisle and drink down pint bottles of lemon and vanilla extract as fast as they could chug them. (They taste good enough as accents but the thought of chugging lemon extract makes me shudder!)

In reading two books on Prohibition; "The War on Alcohol" and "Last Call" it was astonishing what shifts people would go to in order to consume liquor and the chemical engineering that went into creating potable mixtures that would pass the specific gravity test indicating that the ethyl alcohol and been properly denatured with toxic substances. This denaturing requirement did not originate with Prohibition but from an earlier Federal tax law designed to distinguish industrial use ethanol (denatured with wood alcohol) from potable and taxable ethanol.

As the backyard chemists got better at fractioning out the denaturing elements and turning industrial into tax-free potables, the authorities doubled down on various industrial poisons used in the process. There is some evidence that someone in gov't in New York City, whether Fed, State, or Local remains unknown, returned bootleg whiskey to the black market after having spiked it with lethal poisons for the sole purpose of frightening those who weren't killed into compliance with the law. As many as 10,000 people may have been killed by this act of enforcement.

And neurological damage from such actions - and the black market attempts at passing the specific gravity test - were so prevalent that Jazz songs were written cataloguing the symptoms that the victims suffered from. "Jake Leg Blues" and "Jake Walk Papa" were regularly performed by black artists and casualties from 'Ginger Gin' alone are estimated to be in the 50,000-60,000 range.

c andrew

Gus Van Horn said...


Fascinating comment. Thanks for the stories and the disgusting examples of the state killing people for "the greater good" as they'd probably tell themselves.


Ryan G said...

Hey there, Gus. I agree with you about Windy. It lets you neatly visualize the model data with an intuitive UI. If you get value from Windy, you might also check out Tropical Tidbits. It shows you the models for hurricane intensity and track at more detail than Windy. Living on the west coast of Florida, I check them both often during hurricane season.


Gus Van Horn said...


The name rang a bell, possibly because other sources I use have mentioned it before.

I've added it to the suite. The current storms section alone looks like it will be very useful. There is more that I plan to explore on my regular daily checks.