The First Annual Cars and Presidents Quiz

Do you know your cars AND your American history?  Then try your hand at our Cars and Presidents quiz.

Ladies and gentlemen – start your brains (not your search engines), and good luck!

Your questions are:

And, the envelopes please:

A. Which President shared his ride with Al Capone (not at the same time, of course)?

Answer: President Roosevelt (Franklin). 

It was an armored Cadillac that had been Al Capone’s car.  This was right after Pearl Harbor, and it was a temporary measure while the official White House car was being fortified.

B. Who was the first President to ride in a car?

Answer: President McKinley. 

That, from the admittedly short list of memorable facts about President McKinley.

C. Who was the first President to ride in a car, as President (hint:  B & C are not the same president)?

Answer: President Roosevelt (Theodore). 

Theodore Roosevelt recorded a number of firsts, though to be fair, he doesn’t seem to have too fond of cars.  Of course, they’ve improved since his day.

D. Who was the first President to go to an auto show?

Answer: President Taft. 

William Howard Taft, on the other hand, DID like cars.  In fact, he officially opened “the 1913 automobile show at the Convention Hall, Washington, D.C. … by pressing a button from the White House, igniting 150,000 lights at the hall.”  Then he went over to have a look in person.

E.  When did the White House stables give way to the White House garage?

Answer: 1909

F. Which President rode in a Lincoln?

Answer: President Truman.

Though he was only the first.  His pair of Lincoln Cosmopolitans went on to serve the next three presidents (Eisenhower, Kennedy and Johnson).

G. Which President owned an Amphicar (it was just what it sounds like)?

Answer: President Johnson (Lyndon). 

You could have had one of these too, as the Amphicar was not an official presidential vehicle (though there were only about 3800 ever made).  Johnson kept it on his Texas ranch, and liked to scare visitors by pretending to lose control and driving into a lake (where it would float).

H. Which President said, “I am a motorist myself and know what it means to travel over rough roads.”?  (And he meant real roads, not metaphorical ones.)

Answer: President Taft. (again)

I. Who was the first President to give up the traditional horse and carriage, and ride in a car to his inauguration?

Answer: President Harding. 

Looking sharp in a Packard Twin-Six.  Looking less sharp later in his administration when the Teapot Dome scandal broke.

J. And who once called out his 1950 ‘Olds in a speech?

Answer: President Nixon. 

Ok, this was a trick question.  Nixon was only Vice-President when he mentioned his Oldsmobile, as part of a description of his modest life (the “Checkers” speech).

Thanks for playing!

Leaving…on a jet plane

Planning to fly somewhere this summer?

That wouldn’t be unusual, since almost half of us got on a plane at some point last year.  (Here’s what that would look like, by the way, if you could see the whole country from high above.  Not all small planes are included):

That animation was produced by the folks at NASA, by the way.

And you know what makes all that flying possible?  The same thing that lets you drive to the supermarket for the week’s groceries.  Fuel – made from petroleum.  The same barrel of oil that’s used to produce gasoline, also produces jet fuel.

Lucky for us, since this country of ours is a big place to travel.  East to West, New York to San Francisco for instance?  About 2,900 miles. And North-South?  Almost 2,400 miles from Maine to Miami.

And while sometimes it IS all about the journey – a lot of the time, you just want to get “there” – you just want to see your mom, or your parents just want to see your kids – your daughter just wants to get to her dorm and unpack, or everybody just wants to unroll their towels on the beach.  Maybe you can’t wait to row out on that lake, or for the curtain to rise on an opera you’ve never seen before.

There are a lot of reasons we travel.  But when you want the miles in between here and there to go by as quickly as possible, say 500 miles an hour – for that, you want a plane.  And a plane, wants fuel.

For example, a Boeing 787, the new Dreamliner, takes more than 33,000 gallons of jet fuel to fill up.  Even for the newest, fuel-saving planes (and the Dreamliner is one of those),  it’s still a big job to get a few hundred people (and their luggage) 35,000 feet up in the air and across the country.

(So maybe it’s just as well that supermarkets don’t have points programs for jet fuel.  Somebody would have to eat a LOT of kale to fill one of those planes up.)

The key ingredient in that jet fuel though, is something that’s been around a long time:  kerosene.  Jet fuel is a more purified version, and there are some other things in it, like anti-freeze (it’s COLD up there at 35,000 feet).  But in principle, it’s the same kerosene that our parents’ parents’ parents’ parents might have used in a lamp, for light.

Wondering which came first, jets or jet fuel?  Jet fuel wins that race, or at least kerosene does.  In the modern era, kerosene was being distilled from petroleum by the time of the Civil War.  The first jet doesn’t take off till the 1930s.

So if you are flying on a plane somewhere this summer, enjoy your trip.  And remember, every flight starts with the jet fuel made from a barrel of oil, and the security line at the airport.

Honky Tonk Polymers: Making Music with Plastics, Part 2

Recently we told you the story of the Res-o-Glas guitar – that plastic guitar from the ‘60s with the shimmery sound, played by a long list of rock gods, from Bob Dylan to Jack White.

Plastic, Fantastic…Guitars: Making Music with Plastics, Part 1

But that’s just Chapter 1 of the plastics and music story.  You could put together an entire band, or orchestra, using instruments built with polymers (“polymer” you’ll recall, is the fancy name for plastic).

Take jazz, for instance, and the saxophone.  Among his instruments, the great Charlie Parker played an acrylic saxophone made by Grafton, and on occasion, so did Rudy Vallee (when he wasn’t singing).  And it wasn’t a Grafton, but David Bowie’s first musical instrument (he was 10 or 11 at the time) was – a plastic saxophone.

There’s a plastic trombone too – the pBone.  (And yes, there’s a pTrumpet too.)  If you’re curious about the chemistry of that music, the pBone is made from ABS plastic, made possible by petrochemicals (in this case, you take a little acrylonitrile, a little styrene, a little butadiene…and a few chemical reactions later, you’ve got a trombone).

So that brass section – “76 polymer pBones led the big parade”?  Well, maybe it works better for the music than the lyrics…

Oh, and if you know your marching band, you know the Sousaphone (named for JP, of course).  Fiberglass has been the material of choice for many of the Sousaphones serenading high school football games from coast to coast, since the 1960s.

Now, if you want some rhythm to back up those horns?  Mylar© might be more familiar as the stuff shiny balloons are made of – but for years now, it’s also been used on the snares, traps and the rest of the drum kit.  Other polymers, like Kevlar©, make an appearance on the skins, (though Kevlar is probably more familiar to most of us as body armor.  And more on THAT side of Kevlar in a future story).

Crossing over to the woodwinds – yeah, a lot of today’s clarinets, piccolos and oboes (recorders too, if you like that elementary school sound) might fairly be called polymerwinds (alright, that sounds terrible).  And if you have a budding flute player in the house – he or she might well be starting out on a jFlute (thanks, ABS).

Should you be one of our readers with a few years behind you, the name Arthur Godfrey might ring a bell.  Or more properly, might pluck a string – since he was famous for his ukulele (And famous he was.  At his peak in the early ‘50s, he had a Monday night TV show, a Tuesday night TV show and a radio talk show).  When he endorsed the Islander ukulele, made from Styron© (a Dow Chemical polystyrene), 9 million of them sold over the next 20 years.

And because these ukes were plastic, you could play ‘em in the shower, or drop them in the sink, and they’d be just fine.

Now if you like your stringed instruments a bit more in the Mozartian vein, you’ll find polymers there too.  The instrument makers Luis and Clark, for instance, make a full line of carbon fiber classical strings – from violins and violas, up to a string bass.  (And Yo-Yo Ma really likes their cello, so they must be onto something).

Plastic, Fantastic…Guitars: Making Music with Plastics, Part 1

What’s red and white and far-out all over?

A Res-O-Glas guitar, of course.

Ask Jack White or the Cure’s Robert Smith – John Fogerty or Dan Auerbach of the Black Keys –  Bob Dylan, even Eugene Strobe (we’ll get to him in a minute).  They’ve all taken the stage with Res-O-Glas at one time or another.

“Every guitar has a personality…sometimes they feedback more – sometimes they have this kind of, almost kind of toy-sound quality to them…they really have a unique sound…”

And that’s what Eugene Strobe is talking about, describing the sound he gets from HIS Res-O-Glas today.  You can HEAR what he’s talking about, in this intro to AM/FM (his band is Cosmic Light Shapes).

That sound, comes from the “Glas” in Res-O-Glas.  These guitars were made out of fiberglass, which is plastic reinforced with glass fiber.  That made them lightweight, and gave them that distinctive sound.

The original Res-O-Glas guitars go back to the early Sixties, when guitars were expensive.  Res-O-Glas wasn’t, then.  (They are, now – because they aren’t made anymore.)  And back in their day, the place you could buy these guitars, made by Valco (a long-gone American guitar maker) was – Montgomery Ward (yes, we’ll pause for a moment, while younger readers Google that name.

Back now?  We continue then.).

As groovy as Res-O-Glas guitars were, and are – it isn’t the guitar for everyone.  Oh, it’s true, for instance, that Jimi Hendrix started with one.  Then he gave it up (maybe when he discovered that fiberglass is inflammable).

Or, if you’re the DIY-type, Guitar Kits USA has what you need to build your own, and you can put the money you save toward a bass or drum kit.  Just sayin.

In Making Music with Plastics, Part 2 – if you thought plastic guitars were outta sight, we’ve got a piano for you.  A whole symphony, in fact.

Looking To Make A Little Money? Look Here.

“Most companies that pay six figures to the majority of their workers aren’t big banks or money managers, but ___________________.”

Yes, we ARE going to fill in the blank from that Wall Street Journal story.  But before we do, try and guess what comes next.  There are three industries after that “but”, and one of them might surprise you.

Ok, time’s up.  And now, here’s all of that sentence:

“Most companies that pay six figures to the majority of their workers aren’t big banks or money managers, but biotech firms that rely on medical researchers, and energy and technology companies with a large number of engineers and technical staff.”

Which is to say, as the Journal said, “More than 100 companies in the S&P 500 routinely awarded employees $100,000 or more in 2017 … Nearly half of those were in the energy industry…”

We’ve written about this before (

Petroleum engineers, of course you’d expect to find them in the petrochemical industry – but there are also chemical and electrical and mechanical engineers, structural and facilities and power solutions engineers.  Engineers of all types (ok, maybe not train engineers).  And it isn’t just engineers.  Artificial intelligence, programming, 3D-printing, drones – the petrochemical industry is putting all those tools to work as well – so if tech is your field, there IS a place for you.

These are pretty cool jobs (in case you’re young enough to be thinking about your own career, or mid-career enough to be thinking about a change).  You might be working with one of the world’s fastest supercomputers.  You might be using sound waves to map the world underground.

You might be doing your work out at sea – in the mountains – the desert – a downtown high-rise – or all of the above (just not at the same time).

And, as this week’s news tells us, you’re rewarded for doing what you what love anyhow (which makes it even better).

Got a company you’d like to know more about (maybe the one where you work now)?  You can look up the median pay here, “How Does Your Pay Stack Up?

Mo(w) better

The calendar turning to June means a lot of things:  the end of the school year, the start of summer vacations, and for a lot of us – mowing the lawn (and mowing the lawn again, and again).

We don’t have any new ideas about how to keep the kids busy, and you’ve probably already got your list of places to visit – but in case you haven’t been keeping up on the latest in lawn mowers – about that, we DO have some news for you.  And it’s good news too.

Want a lawn mower that doesn’t take up half the garage?  That would be a lawn mower that folds (the handle folds down, that is) so you can store it upright (it takes about the space of a wheeled suitcase)…with no gas or oil leaking.  (Toro makes that one.)

Tired of changing the oil in your mower (you ARE changing the oil, aren’t you?)?  How about a lawn mower engine that NEVER needs an oil change?  (Just a top-off now and then.)  Briggs and Stratton, and Kohler, both make lawn mower engines which fit that bill.

If the words “primer bulb” mean anything to you, you might be happy to know there are lawnmowers now that don’t need that anymore.  No priming, and no choke required.  Just pull, and mow.

Just like your car, your mower does best with fresh gas – but since you probably drive the car more frequently than you mow the lawn, it’s easy to run afoul there.  So here’s something new – a fuel stabilizer insert in the gas cap.  It drips a slow but steady concentrate into the mower’s tank (a fuel stabilizer helps keep your fuel fresh, and protects your engine), and when it’s empty, you just pop in a new insert.  The “Snapper” is a lawn mower with that feature.

And, this one doesn’t have anything to do with oil or gas, but – Briggs & Stratton says lawn mower engines with its Quiet Power Technology© are up to 50 percent quieter.  (But you might want to give it a listen in the store first, before you take it to the lawn some Sunday morning.)

Making gas engines work more efficiently, more effectively, even more quietly – that’s an ongoing project, from innovations in cars and trucks and planes, all the way down to the smallest engines and fuel tanks, like the ones in our lawn mowers.

“Holy hidden motorcycle!” (The return of the Batcycle?)

Yes, the Batcycle might be in your future ride.  As in, inside your future ride.

Cue the music:

Automotive News caught our eye recently with the story (“Is a motorcycle car hybrid in Ford’s future plans?”):

“Ford has filed for a patent that features a motorcycle integrated into what looks like a Focus or Escort wagon. … Ford’s bike emerges from the front of the car, a la the Batmobile, to ride to whatever location comes next.”

But even if you are not a caped crusader, there are some practical benefits to the idea.

Those of us who are city-dwellers, for instance, know how hard it can be to find parking sometimes. There’s a space, at Point A – but where you want to go, is over there at Point B. No problem. Park the car at Point A – break out the motorcycle, and ride over to Point B (you can always find a place to park a bike).

And practicality aside, there’s no doubt that parking your car, “ejecting” your motorcycle and riding off (even if it’s just up the driveway) – that’s a cool way to make an entrance anywhere.

Now, there is a looooooong distance between patent and product, so who knows when, or even if, you’ll find this in your next Ford. We can hope though. (Ford calls the idea a “multimodal transportation apparatus”, by the way, so when the time comes, you’ll know what to ask for.) And it is a reminder that for all those years the car has been with us – there is still plenty of new on four wheels.

We should say though, that if your driving companion is Robin, he may be out of luck. There’s no sidecar with this bike. Well, not yet anyhow.

Boy Scouts create magical STEM bus

No, this isn’t Pete Townshend’s “Magic Bus” (but if that put you in the mood for a little vintage Who, we’ve got you covered:  Magic Bus).

This bus has REAL magic going on though – it’s a STEM Scouts Mobile Lab.  (“STEM” being Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics.  “Scouts” being the Boy Scouts.)

(Photo from STEM Scouts)

Boys AND girls, from elementary school to high school seniors, can find magic to create on this bus, which is a project of the Samoset Council Scouts, covering a chunk of north central Wisconsin (around Wausau, if you know the state).  And this bus has a name:  Vortex.

On the bus?  Kids can work on 3-D printing or genetics – build and program a robot or build a bridge (no programming for those) – electric circuitry or “the world of goo” – learn about launch angles, with a catapult – make a paper helicopter – design (and build) a hydraulic arm that can pick up and move things – there’s even Play-Doh (as in, the chemistry of).

The STEM Scouts program is a mix of activities – hands-on science, field trips, work with STEM professionals, and in the Samoset program, a lab that comes to the kids.  Students meet weekly, and take on subjects in modules of 4 to 6 weeks.  Over the course of each module, the students rotate through the different roles on their team:  Principal Investigator, Co-PI, Project Manager and Technician—so each student, boy and girl, gets the full range of experience.  And if you’re wondering, yes, STEM Scouts DO have merit badges – they’re just electronic badges.

By the way, if you think YOUR kids might like the lab-coat-and-goggles-look, Wisconsin is just one of 23 states where STEM Scouts operates.  You can check to see if your state/city is on their list here:

(Photo from STEM Scouts)

What got this STEM bus going, was a contribution from the Paul and Ruth Schultz Foundation, in Wausau.

What gets this lab on wheels to the next generation of scientists and engineers, wherever they may be today—that’s the contribution fuels make.

Text and ASCII Torture Test

1. Long string of unbreaking text (this is actually a real word, word will appear once followed by a space followed by the word twice in a row): Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch LlanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogochLlanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch

2. Here’s a youtube link (pronunciation of the above word):

3. Some “smart” quotes and we can’t leave out the smart apostrophe.

4. Sometimes putting two dashes together makes an em dash —

5. Every web developer’s favorite escape sequence: &

6. How about some inline <b>HTML</b> code. <a href=>this should just all be plain text</a>

7. Giving Microzines™ a trademark.

8. Copyright © 2018.

9. The “registered” symbol: ®

10. One thousand US Dollars = 853.39 Euro = 746.23 British Pounds = 109,823.00 Japanese Yen = 67,100.50 Indian Rupee= 0.13 Bitcoin. Here that is using currency symbols: $1000 = €853.39 = £746.23 = ¥109,823.00 = ₹67,100.50 = ₿0.13

11. Who doesn’t love interrobang‽

12. Here are some text decoration effects we often need. This sentence should contain some strong text. This sentence should contain some bold text. This sentence should contain some emphasized text. This sentence should contain some underlined text. This sentence should contain some subscript text. This sentence should contain some superscript text. All of the text here in this section should be a continuous paragraph.

HORSE power?

Why, when the only horses most of us see are on old TV shows – why do we still measure the power of their replacements in horsepower?  Even in the newest, computerized, teched-out cars – horsepower is the measure of engine power.  In fact, some of our boss-est cars, iconic muscle cars like the Ford Mustang or Dodge Charger – are NAMED after the horse.

Ok, maybe we’re just old-school that way.  But you’re curious now, right?  What IS horsepower?  Is it REALLY how many horses equal a particular car/engine?

And, actually, yeah – kind of, it is.

Originally, horsepower was invented to have a standard measure of how much work a horse could do.  Back in the late 1600s – after some thought, and some rigging up a pulley and weights – a group of French scientists found that a horse could lift 165 pounds, a little more than 3 feet in the air, in one second.  And since that was a job that took seven men to do – one horsepower equaled seven men.

About hundred years later, James Watt (the Scottish engineer, and yes, THAT “watt”) used horsepower to measure how much work the new steam engine could do.  And that use of horsepower to measure engine power, has stuck ever since.

So today, if you were choosing between, say the 2018 Mustang, or horses – by that standard you’d need a pretty big garage (ok, technically, a stable) if you go the four-legged route, because the Mustang checks in at 460 hp.

Not to mention that even if you’re not driving a Mustang, the cost of filling up your car is a lot less than your annual bill for hay would be.  Oh, and cleaning up after your ride?  That’s definitely a plus for driving a car.

So let’s say a thank you to James Watt, for letting us use horsepower to measure the work our internal combustion engine-powered car is doing.  And let’s save the real horsepower for a night of old Westerns – or watching Sherlock Holmes  clatter through the streets of London in a horse-drawn cab.