Tag Archives: Thomas Edison

Waxing Nostalgic

Happy New Year’s Eve!  It’s been almost a year since I started this blog, “WTF-What The Fluffy,” and posted my first story “How To Make the Today Show,” about two rich kids in the Florida Keys who put a piano out on a sandbar and made the national news.  Then I promptly posted another story on January 27th about how the name for the blog came about in “Traveling Salesman.”  Since it’s December 31st, New Year’s Eve 2011, I thought I would wax nostalgic and review my year of writing these first 173 stories that have little in common except that I penned them all.  (Okay, I banged them out on a keyboard, but “penned” sounds more glittering.)

What does “waxing nostalgic” mean anyway?  Wax used to be a common word that was gradually replaced by “grow.”  So you could “wax” a lot of things.  Wax Poetic, for example, or wax lyrical, or wax idiotic.  So when you wax nostalgic, you grow nostalgic for the old days.  Not that January 27th could really be called the “old days,” but they’re past, so I guess you could technically wax nostalgic for them, however I don’t necessarily.  I’m trying desperately to think of something that happened last year that I will miss with any kind of  fondness.  When you wax nostalgic, you usually call to mind things you fondly remember, I guess.

My goal, and it wasn’t a New Year’s Resolution, was to force myself to write something every day.  Originally I intended these WTF’s to be short, true, and “you’ve got to be kidding me,” but it evolved in different directions.  Still, I think most of the stories fit the theme.  However, I’m no closer to defining what this blog is about than I was when I started.

I’ve got a small group of followers, some who read WTF because they want to, and some because I forced them to sign up.  I mean, come on, my own family doesn’t read my blog.  They probably hit the delete key when the email comes in.  I didn’t write something every day, as anyone with math skills higher than mine can figure out, but I stuck with it, even when I thought many times that there wasn’t any point.  No one was reading it.

In my first week I pissed off the folks over at Battlecam.com.  I thought I had been “Freshly Pressed” within three days of starting my blog.  I was getting hits from everywhere and comments.  (For those of you that aren’t “WordPress” bloggers, “Freshly Pressed” means that “WordPress” has picked your blog out of hundreds of thousands of postings to be featured on their home page.  They haven’t been impressed enough with any of my 173 posts to be so honored.)  The problem was the comments weren’t, well let’s say favorable.  They were using every four letter word in the book.  Calling me things I don’t call people, and I call people a lot of things.  I was actually getting a little worried someone might show up at my door.  I was easy to find.  

In slight defense of the majority position with the members of “Battlecam,” I had some facts wrong in the story, so I promptly fixed them.  What they were most offended by, it seemed, is that I insisted you could watch the hanging of Saddam Hussein on the Battlecam.com website.  I know it was true, because it was a featured video when I checked out the website my one and only time, and I watched it.  It was rather disturbing, but the truth, as pointed out by one offended battlecamer, was that you could watch the same thing on YouTube.  And you could.  So I took it out of the story.  For most of the year, “A New Reality Show,” had the most hits on “WTF-What The Fluffy.”

Then I wrote a story about a pot-belly pig that escaped from the owner’s backyard.  The story, “It’s Going To Involve A Lawyer At Some Point,” has received hundreds of views, but only one spam comment.  I can’t figure it out.  I’ve searched it on Google and my blog doesn’t show up.  I think it has to do with a picture that I used in the story without the proper licensing, and it draws a crowd.

My top story of 2011 is kind of interesting, and it was to me when I wrote it, but not because it has received comments like, “Thanks for helping me with my homework.”  The piece entitled “Who Invented The Light Bulb?…Wrong!” averages the most hits on a daily basis since it first appeared on June 14th.  I couldn’t figure out why.  Then I searched “who invented the light bulb” and “WTF-What The Fluffy” appears on page one of “Google” search results.  The comments are interesting too, because posters argue with me about the truth, that Thomas Edison didn’t “invent” the lightbulb.  He held patents on it, sure, but it was invented a long time before his 1880 patent was issued, and he spent some time in court defending it, or, more accurately, settling.  I guess I should search out more stories that help students do their homework.  I could post some of the political science term papers I wrote in college maybe.

“WTF-What The Fluffy,” has, at the moment I’m writing this, received 14,549 hits.  In blogdom, this isn’t really that impressive, but it is to me.  It means that people have taken a few minutes out of their day to read something I banged out on a keyboard, and I thank all of you for it.  It has kept me going over the last year, forcing me to write something almost every day, and getting me to wax nostalgic on things that happened in my life that had been long forgotten.  It hasn’t always been easy, but I’ve never suffered from “writer’s block.”  I don’t even know what that is.

Cover of "Writing without Teachers"

Cover of Writing without Teachers

In college, I was forced to read a book called “Writing Without Teachers,” by Peter Elbow.  My copy is still in my bookshelf.  The teacher who forced me to read the book, wasn’t all that interested in teaching us how to write, so he let the book do it for him.  And the books basic premise works like a charm.  If you can’t think of anything to write about you just start writing.  Write anything.  It doesn’t have to make sense at all.  Just start putting words down.  Then you do something Mr. Elbow calls “cooking”.  You read over what you’ve written and circle things that sound good and do make sense.  From there you have something to build on.  Loosely, the idea is to get you to edit after you write, not during or before.   There’s more to it, of course, but I know there is no such thing as “writer’s block.”  No writer can sit down in front of a blank sheet and not starting putting words there. “You will use up more paper,” he warns, “but chew up fewer pencils.” In all honesty, (not just some honesty), I’ve never read the entire book.  Just thought I would come clean on that, after 30 some odd years, to all the people I’ve turned on to the book.

  So I’ll be facing some more blank pages in 2012 and maybe something interesting, or funny, or “you’ve got to be kidding me” will “cook” out of it.  I’m not going to give up just yet.  I’ll get my family to read this blog sooner or later.

(Lead photograph is 2008 New Year’s fireworks in Melbourne, Australia.)


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Who Invented The Light Bulb?…Wrong!

Thomas Edison invented the light bulb.  Right?…Wrong!  We’ve all been taught that, but the truth is the actual inventor of the incandescent bulb was an Englishman.  J.W. Starr developed the light bulb using a carbon filament inside a vacuüm bulb in 1845.  After Starr died, Sir Joseph Wilson Swan continued to work on the design and patented a carbon filament bulb in 1879.  Now here’s where it gets interesting.

The idea was to find a material that could stay illuminated for a long period of time without burning up the filament.  What Swan found that would work was a carbonized piece of cotton thread.  He did this 10-months before Edison stumbled on the same idea.  Now, understand “a long period of time” was about 13 hours.  Edison later used carbonized bamboo and was able to get 1200 hours of use.  His patent was issued in 1880.

Thomas Edison

Edison made Swan a partner and eventually bought out his patent.  The idea of the electric light bulb, obviously did not spring up miraculously in Thomas Edison’s head.  He knew that it was being worked on and that some patents had already been issued.  Humprey Davy, an English chemist, really invented the electric light in 1809.  He connected two wires to a battery, put a strip of charcoal between them, and it glowed, making the first arc lamp.  In 1835, James Bowman Lindsay demonstrated a constant electric lighting system with a prototype vacuüm bulb.  That was 10 years before Swan developed his light bulb and obtained a patent, and almost a year more before Edison filed his patent.

Fast forward, and what happens next is the Edison Electric Light Company sues the  United States Electric Lighting Co for patent infringement in 1885.  Edison prevailed in 1893.  So he continued after the other competitors in the electric light business;  Beacon Vacuum Pump and Electrical Company, Boston, the Columbia Incandescent Lamp Company, St. Louis, and the Electric Manufacturing Company, Oconto, Wisconsin.

Enter Henrich Goebel for the defense.  Henrich testifies that he had seen and experimented with electric light bulbs back in Germany as far back as 1854.  He used carbonized cotton thread for light bulbs that he made for personal use.  He did not however obtain a patent.  What the defense was arguing is that Edison did not really come up with the idea of the incandescent bulb, so his patents were useless because of this “overseen invention.”  Many witnesses testified that they had seen the Goebel light bulb well before 1880.  The court held..well, there was never a final hearing in the cases.  The Edison Electric Light Company did not pursue it after the initial court decisions seemed not to favor the monopoly.  Interestingly, it wasn’t about patents at all, it was about money as it usually is.  These other companies continued to make light bulbs, but none as successfully as Edison.  Goebel got nothing for his testimony in the civil cases. 

Edison’s Original Patent

In 1906 General Electric Corporation patented a method using tungsten as a filament and this is the bulb you still see today.  High melting point and low vapor pressure made the material the clear advantage.  Plus it was cheap.

So now you know more about the electric incandescent light bulb then you ever cared to, I suppose, but I didn’t want you to go on thinking that Thomas Edison had invented it.  I’m looking out for you.


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The Real Inconvenient Truth…

Al Gore testifying.

It has been suggested that I do a little research before telling the author of “An inconvenient Truth” to KMA.  So I did.  What I discovered is that a man who said that all the money that he was making from global warming awareness was being given to a charity to help inform and educate, can’t be telling the whole inconvenient truth.  In fact he didn’t tell the truth in front of a Senate committee.  In May 2010 he bought a $9 million ocean-side property when his stated wealth in 2000 was $2 million.  He also bought the property without using his name, to avoid the certain “bad” press and the questions about how “green” his new mansion is.  He is also profiting handsomely from his investments in “green” companies whose profits are being skyrocketed by his message and the liberal press.  And if that’s not enough to question his message, he’s done all this during record unemployment and one of the worst recessions in history.     

What about the issue?  That glaciers are melting, weather patterns are getting more severe.  more sunspots, etc. etc.  Well, frankly, there’s a lot of inconvenient truth to it.  CO2 emissions have been growing at an astounding rate, (20% since 1990) and long before Al Gore saw it as a way to make millions by scaring the shit out of us with a book and a documentary film.  But the only solution to lowering GHG or Green House Gases is not driving cars, not using landfills, not raising cattle, sheep and pigs, not heating with fossil fuels, no refrigeration, and stop cutting trees down.  And that is world-wide, not just here in the US.  (You all remember the pictures of Beijing during the Olympics.)  There are some natural cycles and events that are responsible for global warming as well.

How likely is it that those things are going to happen?  In my lifetime?  In a hundred years?  In a million years?  You are going to have to flat-line population growth and do it now for one thing.  And did Al Gore have an impact on social consciousness?  Absolutely, and it was, without a doubt, a good thing.  Don’t forget though, Al didn’t do the research, he just became the spokesman.  What I have issue with is how rich he’s made himself over it.  Was it a causal effect?  To a certain extent it was.  Most of us got excited about changing our lifestyles, however insignificantly, to save the planet.  The real inconvenient truth is that those lifestyle changes will have little or no effect on the current problem.  Whether you want to admit it or not, it’s the use of fossil fuels and the mismanagement of global forests that are the paramount cause of the increase in CO2 levels worldwide.


The Big Three. Ford, Edison and Firestone.

I can’t believe that we can’t come up with a better mode of transportation than the car, or that we haven’t been able to at least create an alternative fuel, or figured out a way to eliminate CO2 emissions completely from fossil fuel combustion.  The first self-powered vehicle was invented in 1769.  That vehicle used steam.  The first gas-powered vehicle in commercial production was the Duryea Motor Wagon.  Brothers Charles and Frank Duryea first successful test of that vehicle was in 1893.  Now I ask you, in 118 years we have not been able to come up with a more efficient way of propelling a personal vehicle, or a synthetic fuel that has no CO2 emission?  Just can’t believe it.  Because, in fact, we have come up with better ways.  It’s just that they have never been commercially viable until now.  For those of you who might not know, Mrs. Clara Ford had an electric car, a Detroit Model 47 Brougham, in 1914!  Some think the failure of electric cars in the 1900’s was because they were marketed to women, and hardly anyone owned more than one vehicle, if any, in those early days.  Thomas Edison, “Mr. Electric”, as legend has it, told Henry Ford that gas-powered was the way to go.  The electric car shouldn’t be in it’s “infancy” except for the fact that gasoline was plentiful and cheap.   Not so anymore.




So, Al Gore can still KMA a long time ago.  Not because his message wasn’t important or true, but because he has managed to profit significantly from that message.  At least tell me what stocks to buy, Al.  WTF    

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