Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy New Year!

As a year end treat, I can't resist recommending the Onion's wonderful summing up, The Top 10 Stories of the Last 4.5 Billion Years. My favorite is #5, Sumerians Look On In Confusion As God Creates World. Have a great 2010!

Sunday, December 20, 2009


Wadizit? (View 1)

Wadizit? (View 2)
If you have an idea what the item in these pictures is, post it as a comment or email me an answer at First one with a correct answer (judged by me, before midnight, Copenhagen time, 31 December 2009) will receive a gift certificate from Amazon worth $25 US (assuming there is a practical way for the winner to receive it).
Hint: it isn't a cooking appliance or an early prototype of a lunar lander.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

In Old San Juan (2)

Monumento En La Plazuela De La Rogativa, Old San Juan, PR (28 November 2009)

The bronze sculpture by Lindsay Daen (1971) commemorates a religious procession (rogativa) on the night of 30 April 1797 that saved San Juan from a siege by the British. According to the story, a bishop and women carrying torches and singing hymns fooled the British into thinking that Spanish reinforcements had reached the city. The next morning, the invaders were gone.

Monumento En La Plazuela De La Rogativa (another view).

The monument can be found on the edge of the city's west wall, overlooking San Juan Bay; it stands at the end of Caleta de las Monjas, just inside the San Juan Gate entrance.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

In Old San Juan (1)

"Polo Norte, Fabrica de Sodas" (North Pole Soda Factory), storefront facade, Old San Juan, PR (28 November 2009)

Got back recently from a conference in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Some of us arrived a day early, so a friend and I spent a few hours on a hot Saturday afternoon wandering around Old San Juan. I saw quite a few interesting tourist sights, but the one I found most interesting was this imaginative mural decorating the front of an old establishment on a street too narrow for me to get a head on photo of its entire width with my unsophisticated all-purpose lens. The inside looked gutted, and the halted parade of shipping crates in front suggested materials for an ongoing renovation of the interior.

"Polo Norte, Fabrica de Sodas" (North Pole Soda Factory), storefront facade, left panel detail, Old San Juan, PR (28 November 2009)

I found one reference to this mural on the web, accompanied by an indirect assertion that the storefront was 120 years old, but this might be a slight overestimate. A Wiki biography of Ángel Rivero-Méndez (October 2, 1856 – February 23, 1930) stated that he founded "Fabrica Polo Norte" after his retirement from the Spanish Army on 18 April 1899. So it's doubtful this store could be more than 110 years old, which is still pretty old. Rivero-Méndez seems like an interesting guy; the bio credits him with ordering the first shots fired against the US in the Spanish-American War (on 10 May 1898), as well as inventing "Kola Champagne", a drink that is apparently still popular in Puerto Rico. He had a degree in Industrial Engineering, and as a Captain in the Army, he was assigned to teach math and chemistry. He was also a politically active journalist, and was once sent to jail for an article he wrote that was critical of the government; however, he was pardoned just before the beginning of the war. Later in life he wrote a well-regarded history of the Spanish-American War, "Crónica de la Guerra Hispano Americana en Puerto Rico" (Chronicles of the Spanish American War in Puerto Rico).
According to Wiki, he was a severe chronic depressive, and "on February 23, 1930, he committed suicide by shooting himself in his house located in Trujillo Alto, Puerto Rico. His remains are buried in the Old San Juan cemetery."