A Dirty Ring Around the White House Bathtub
December 28, 2010

Rub a Dub Dub, Big Bill Taft's Bath Could Hold Four Men In a Tub

I Don't Know if Big Bill is Right because I don't think being Secretary of War counts as part of the legislative branch. Either Way, the Tub story is more fun

On This Date in History:   According to H.L. Mencken, the first bathtub was installed in the White House in 1851 by President Millard Fillmore. Mencken wrote in a New York newspaper that the first bathtub in the United States was an “elegant mahogany contraption” installed in the home of a Cincinnati businessman in 1842. He said after that point, that the practice of bathing became popular with the wealthy. He said when word reached the masses a public outcry against the “epicurean and obnoxious toy from England” was “designed to corrupt the democratic simplicity of the republic.” Mencken added that it was Fillmore was responsible for the public’s acceptance for the habit of regular bathing. On this day in 1917, Mencken was basking in the glow created by his article in the New York Evening Mail titled” A Neglected Anniversary.”

He was probably still chuckling the day after his work was published because it was an elaborate hoax. December 1917 was a time of great sadness around the world due to World War I. He decided that a spoof on bathtub history would be a good way to raise the spirits fo his readers.  And who better to include in the hoax but the historically hapless Millard Fillmore.   Mencken’s joy turned to shock when he learned that his words were taken as Gospel. In 1926, he was so uneasy with the fact that his fiction was considered to be real history that he wrote a public confession of his hoax. But, no one listened and the result of his little tale have continued to this day with some sources claiming that Fillmore did indeed install the first bathtub in the White House. The real truth is that copper bathtubs and a shower were installed in the Executive Mansion on the first floor in 1833 or 1834. A permanent bathtub was put in the second floor of the White House in 1853. Mencken would have been better off publishing a true story about the White House bathtub. President William Howard Taft was 6’2″ and weighed a rotund 300 pounds. He had once become stuck in the normal presidential tub. So, he installed a tub that was 41 inches across and 7 feet long. It is said that it could hold four regular size men. The truth was stranger than fiction and this little story may be a good example of how if a lie is told enough times by enough people, then the lie becomes the truth. It also may be a good example of how we should not necessarily believe everything that we read.  And then again, perhaps it is telling that William Howard Taft is best known for being the fattest president, having a huge bathtub, standing up in the middle of the 7th inning to begin the “7th inning stretch” tradition and splitting the ticket with Teddy Roosevelt’s Bull Moose campaign and vaulting Woodrow Wilson to the presidency.  The fact that he was the only person to serve as President and Supreme Court Chief Justice gets lost.   He was also Secretary of War.  Maybe if he’d done something more interesting while holding the important jobs then he wouldn’t be remembered as he is.  But, it could be worse, he could be remembered like Millard Fillmore who is but a footnote.  Besides, its more fun this way.

Mark Twain’s Most Profitable Book Did Not Contain a Word; Weather Radar detects smoke from fire
September 1, 2009

Smoke Plume from Fire Showed up on the Weather Radar

Smoke Plume from Fire Showed up on the Weather Radar

The Doppler radar can be set on what is known as “clear air mode.”  When it is set at this sensative level, it can pick up differences in air density and wind shifts and such.  When the radar beam detects a change in the characteristics of the atmosphere, it returns an echo to reflect the anomoly.  Early on Tuesday morning, a fire broke out at the Kentucky Fair Grounds horse barns.  Fortunately, the fair is over and the barns were empty.  But, the smoke from the fire was rather thick and it was picked up by the NWS radar.  Here are the images of  the smoke from the fire as it appeared on the National Weather Service 88-D radar.  It’s interesting to see as the smoke plume drifted into Harrison County.


By the end of his life, Twain probably wished he had listened to Bell

By the end of his life, Twain probably wished he had listened to Bell

On This Date in History:  Like most people of high profile, Mark Twain was often approached by people looking or financial backers.  Consequently, he fell victim to numerous investment scams or just plain bad ideas.  He had been burned several times when Alexander Graham Bell approached him about a stock offering in his new phone company.  Twain explained that he declined the offer because, “I said I didn’t want anything more to do with wildcat speculation.  Then he (Bell) offered the stock to me at twenty-five.  I said I didn’t want it at any price.  He became eager;  insisted that I take five hundred dollars’ worth.  He said he would sell me as much as I wanted for five hundred dollars…But Iwas the burnt child and I resisted all of those temptations-resisted them easily; went off with my check intact and next day lent five thousand of it, on an undorsed note, to a friend who was going to go bankrupt 3 days later. ”

The small investment Bell was seeking would have earned Twain $190,000. 

It is said that Twain's Scrapbook was his most profitable book and it contained not a single word

It is said that Twain's Scrapbook was his most profitable book and it contained not a single word

But, Twain did have a pretty good opportunity of his own.  He invented the self-pasting scrap book and on this date in 1871, Twain patented the invention, which he called a “great humanizing and civilizing invention.”  While he may have missed out on Bell’s offer and instead opted to pour money into a dry hole, he made a pretty nice profit with his self-pasting scrap book.  Everyone has heard of a telephone but few probably recall the self-pasting scrap book.    Nevertheless, Twain sold 25,000 copies of the book which he was quite satisfied saying that  it “was well enough for a book that did not contain a single word that critics could praise or condemn.”  By 1901, there were 57 different types of the scrap book available.  Twain had come up with  a bunch of inventions but this was the only one that produced any profit.  Too bad for Twain he didn’t invest in the invention of Bell.

Weather Bottom Line:  High pressure remains in charge so look for continued cool nights.  Our afternoon temperatures will get to the low 80’s after today but not much more than that.  Overnight lows will be going from the 50’s that we’ve seen but only inch to the low 60’s.  Humidity levels will remain low but may sneak higher heading into the weekend.  But, again…not much.

August 21, 2009


On This Date in History:

Milne, Christopher Robin and Pooh

Milne, Christopher Robin and Pooh

Hawaii became the 50th state on this date  in 1959…but the new flag with the 50th star wasn’t official until 1960. Guess the Betsy Ross’s of the day were a bit slow. On this date in 1920, the third child of Alan Alexander (AA) and Dorothy Milne and was born in London.  

Alexander Milne was a pacifist but he still ended up in the English Army during World War I. He served as a signaling officer and found himself on the front line in France for part of 1916.  He was sent home after developing a fever.  After his recovery, he was assigned to a signaling company at Fort Southwick where he remained until he was discharged in 1919.  Prior to the war, he has served as an assistant editor at Punch magazine.  With is discharge, he quit punch and decided to concentrate on writing plays.  In 1923, he wrote a poem that was published in Vanity Fair and it centered around his son, Christopher Robin.  That whetted his appetite for poetry and in 1924, he wrote a book of children’s poems. In that book, he had a poem about a teddy bear.  In the poem, the bear apparently had a weight problem because, “however hard he tries, grows tubby without exercise.”

Milne Wasn't Too Keen on his Pooh Fame

Milne Wasn't Too Keen on his Pooh Fame

In 1925, the Milnes bought a farm in Sussex, UK next to a 100 acre wood and, by that time, Christopher had accumulated a number of stuffed animals.  His first furry friend was a small bear that he received when he was about one year old. This inspired AA Milne and he wrote a bedtime story for the Christmas Eve issue of the Evening News.  It was the first time he wrote about his son, Christopher Robin and his adventures with his teddy bear, Winnie the Pooh.    That bedtime story became the first chapter of his book in 1926 called Winnie the Pooh.  The book was followed with verses called Now We Are Six and The House at Pooh’s Corner in 1927 and 1928 respectively.  But that was all.  See, Milne was concerned for the well being of his son and his work that featured Christopher Robin had created quite a bit of publicity.  So, Milne announced that The House at Pooh’s Corner would be his last featuring Christopher Robin and Winnie the Pooh. 

The Wonderful Thing about Tigger

The Wonderful Thing about Tigger


An interesting part of the story is  that Milne never read the stories to his son.  Also, his work was not designed for children but instead he wanted to connect with the child within each of us.  A A went on to write other plays, books and poems but he is best known for the limited work relating to Winnie the Pooh.  You can tell that he’s a real artist because he was not amused that he was best known for a children’s story rather than his other work.  The plays are sometimes performed today in amateur plays but rarely in professional productions.  Yet, Winnie the Pooh is still an industry to itself with books and merchandise and tv shows.  I am curious as to who wrote such staples as Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day since it was not Milne.  No mind. I’m sure that the estate enjoys the royalties, which I assume roll in.   Milne died in 1956.

Now, my mother had visions of me being like Christopher Robin. I always thought the portrayal on the TV specials was like a girl. We lived in California and we had a canyon with rattle snakes and coyotes. We played there and dug underground forts, played war and had dirt clod fights. I don’t think Chris could have hung with me and my friends. As for me, I was partial to Tigger but I wonder if Tigger was a Milne character or was he the brain child of Walt Disney?

Weather Bottom Line:  If this was winter (and it’s not) then we would probably be in store for a snowy weekend (which we wont).   The front moved through and we didn’t receive any rain at all at my house. I did not do any analysis at all but there was some inhibiting factor that prevented us from getting any rain.  My only guess is that the clouds and light rain of the morning kept the atmosphere stable and then there was a big shot of dry air from the southwest…maybe hot dry air aloft because I noted a bunch of cumulus in the afternoon without much vertical development.  Anyway, obviously, the Thursday forecast was a bust..probably one of the worst in recent memory. 

Now, this deep trof sets up for the weekend and the parent low is in the Great Lakes with a big vort lobe that will swing around.  It will produce a lot of clouds.  There is not much moisture but it could squeeze out a few showers from time to time for Saturday and Sunday.  If it were colder, it would be snow showers.  As it is, look for temperatures in the 70’s in the afternoon with the clouds and also overnight lows in the 50’s and low 60’s.

Derby Day Forecast; “Swain” Saddle-Sores and The Polish Constitution
May 3, 2008

Here is an image from the regional NWS radar at 8:38 PM on Friday night.  Note the appendage of rain and t’storms extending from Chicago into SE Illinois. That would represent the line of stuff that we’ve been talking about coming through here after midnight.  On the one hand, there is a lot of dry air around it so it would not appear that it would do much here. But, if you notice, there is also quite a bit of moisture up through the Ohio Valley.  There is a pretty SSW’erly good low level jet in that region and, even though we got worked over today, from this image I would say that the models will be correct and we will get some rain overnight.  The only caveat would be if the storms to the south cut off the moisture and potential energy(CAPE) from moving back in here.  I don’t think that what does return will be enough to bring us any real rough weather overnight but rain will  come through as previously forecast. 

 Given that, the data indicates that it will be out of here by 8 or 9 oclock in the morning Saturday.  Derby Day, the data is suggesting that we may have so much dry air that the front really could have a tough time kicking off much in the afternoon.  In fact, it’s not totally out of the question that it’s a pretty decent day with early afternoon highs in the low to mid 70’s before the temperatures cool later in the afternoon.  If the boundary is able to squeeze out any rain it wouldn’t be until 2 or 3 o’clock in the afternoon and there is a fair chance it would form to our east.  Derby Day will at least Place and may end up in the winner’s circle. But, a poncho may not be a bad idea, just in case. Remember…no umbrellas.




On This Date In History:Mark Twain lucked out in 1866 when other’s luck went up in flames.  Twain had gained some fame for his newspaper article The Jumping Frog of Calaveras County.  But, the 30-year-old former Sam Clemens didn’t think you were really worth anything in literature until you were published in a magazine or a book.  He had wandered off to Hawaii.  Meantime, the ship Hornet had left New York for San Francisco loaded with kerosene and candles.  After 108 days at sea, a nitwit sailor ignited a barrel of kerosene and the ship went up like a torch.  The crew got away in three life boats but only one was heard from again.  Forty-Three days later, one lifeboat finished its 4,000 mile odyssey on the shores of Hawaii and Twain was there to get the story, though he was almost curtailed by a bad case of saddle sores.  His problems behind him, Twain sent his story to the mainland and received $300.  He then convinced two of the survivors to give him their diaries from which he wrote a more detailed article that was published in Harper’s Weekly.  Twain had entered the world of literary writers, sorta.  His hand writing was so bad the publishers credited Mark Swain.

Another Ironic Day in History: On This date in 1947, the Japanese new constitution took effect.  It was largely written by the American Caesar, General Douglas MacArthur.  Japan has enjoyed prosperity ever since.  The Polish people weren’t so fortunate.  On this date in 1791, inspired by the United States Constitution of 1787, the people of Poland got their own form of freedom with their new Constitution that gave the people rights much like the Americans.  Like the Japanese and MacArthur, the Polish Constitution was written largely by its king who recognized that the best government was the kind that worked for the people.  But, it didn’t last too long because the Monarchies of Poland’s neighbors didn’t share the ideals of egalitarianism.  A Prussian statesman said, “How can we defend our state . . . against a numerous and well-governed nation.” Russia, Austria and Prussia all invaded and by 1795, Poland was no more. 

Good thing for the United States that we had an ocean between us and those Europeans.