President's Day fun, testudo, and who really invented the telephone?

Today is President's Day in the US, and I've come into the office on my day off to post for my readers (to be fair, I would have come in anyway, my home computer is unavailable at the moment). We will examine the handedness of presidents, Ronald Reagan's sex appeal, a couple of notable presidential incidents, and the list of fictional presidents as part of the celebration, as well as a common Roman infantry tactic and the Elisha Gray vs. Alexander Bell debate.

Being a southpaw isn't an easy life, as many of the small conveniences of the modern world are incompatible to the lefties. Most people generalize handedness by which hand performs writing tasks, though I myself subscribe to a more broad definition (I write strictly right, but have partial cross-dominance in that I can do some other tasks, such as shooting a rifle, equally well left-handed, though I don't consider it ambidextrousness since eye dominance does have an effect on how well I can do it). But what about presidents? Even though statistics state that about 10% of the human population are left-handed, half of the last 14 presidents (the ones whose handedness was recorded) were lefties, a significant statistical deviation, as well as many candidates in the last century. Before Hoover, being left-handed was considered a disability, and teachers would actively supress this in students learning to write (Truman and Reagan, for example, were left-dominant, but functionally ambi because of this). Some scientists and doctors have offered neurological theories behind this, often linking brain function with the traits that make an effective candidate/president, but the fact that this correlation seems to be only present in the United States undermines this.
President Obama is the latest in a southpaw club that includes Hoover, Truman, Ford, Reagan, George H.W. Bush, and Clinton.

Why I Want to Fuck Ronald Reagan is a 1968 book by English dystopian author J. G. Ballard. in it, he explores the psychosexual appeal of the then-California governor, and posits that he had a subliminal appeal. For example, this quote creeps the hell out of me:
In further studies sadistic psychopaths were given the task of devising sex fantasies involving Reagan. Results confirm the probability of Presidential figures being perceived primarily in genital terms; the face of LB Johnson is clearly genital in significant appearance--the nasal prepuce, scrotal jaw, etc. Faces were seen as either circumcised (JFK, Khrushchev) or uncircumcised (LBJ, Adenauer). In assembly-kit tests Reagan’s face was uniformly perceived as a penile erection.

The so-called "killer rabbit" incident of Jimmy Carter of April 20, 1979 remains as en axample of the fact that the modern media will make anything, no matter how obscure, newsworthy. In the same vein as the GWB pretzel incident (the article for this was deleted and I can't find any mention of it on any current article), a simple odd event on a president's off-time was inflated to preposterous proportions and plastered over the news. Simply enough, he was pond fishing by himself in Georgia, when the errant hare (supposedly chased by a predator of some kind), swam up to his canoe. When it got close, he shood it away with a paddle, and was reportedly miffed that his staffered didn't believe the story. Luckily, a savvy White House photographer had snapped the harrowing event on film, and a blow-up was made to establish the voracity of the "swamp rabbit". A staffer foolishly mentioned it to an AP reporter on a slow news day, and a scandal duly erupted. The exaggerated "hissing" and aggressiveness was complete with the Washington Post's front page article, making a JAWS parody with a cartoon titled "PAWS", yet another blight making Carter look like a hapless and weak president. The actual photo, which was later suggested to actually be a large nutria (myocastor coypus), was leaked by the Reagan Administration.
The White House photo showing Carter splashing water to shoo away the beast in the upper right.

Another presidential gaffe was in January 8, 1992, when an ill George H.W. Bush vomited into the lap of Japanese Prime Minister Kiichi Miyazawa. A state dinner at the PM's mansion was the culmination of a 12-day Asian tour for Bush, which followed an earlier tennis doubles match where Emperor Akihito and Crown Prince Naruhito beat Bush and a US diplomat. Supposedly, Bush wore himself out trying to cover for a weak partner, which escalated a minor norovirus to full blown gastroenteritis. Though Barbara tried to intervene with a napkin to her husband's face, she was too late to keep him from becoming fodder for comedians of both nationalities. It's said that the Japanese best remember GHWB for this incident.
I wonder if the White House offered to pay the dry cleaning costs?

It's kind of scary how comprehensive list of fictional U.S. Presidents is. Currently, it has five sub-pages (A-FG-MN-TU-Z, and other, the latter-most of which details unnamed men and real individuals with fictional presidencies). Seriously, I didn't even notice a president mentioned in the film I Am Legend, but he's there. Being a major Tom Clancy fan, I couldn't fail to mention Marine/CPA/investor/KCVO/CIA intelligence analyst and deputy director/national security advisor/president Jack Ryan, a man whom I would love to call my commander-in-chief if he really existed.

In Ancient Rome, the testudo formation was used by legionairres as a seige tactic. Translating as "tortiose", the formation is a heavily armored method of advancement, where each soldier overlaps his scutum (shield) over that of the soldiers in front and to his sides. The end result is that the entire group is well protected from the front and top (as well as sides and rear if necessary), and can march in line to thier destination without fear from enemy artillery. The rectancular shields were usually at least a meter in height, making them effective cover, while the semi-circular curve allowed a small enough gap for the front row to see where they were going. Because the Romans were very effective practicioners of heavy infantry, they overcame the difficulties of keeping the formation in-line and in unison (which wouls sacrifice speed as well), and unlike the Greek phalanx, made close-combat awkward whilst shielded. However, it was incredibly effective, to the point that Mark Antony used soldiers in such a formation as a temporary bridge over a ravine, and the soldiers easily supported the weight of a legion marching over their shields.
A 2006 reenactment shows how much it would suck to be selected as the unit's signifer.

Ask any schoolchild who invented the telephone, and he or she will invariably answer that it was Alexander Graham Bell. Hoever, there is ongoing controversy over the dispute between Bell and Elisha Gray, to the point that some claim that Bell stole the invention and credit from Gray. in 1874, the concept of the "harmonic telegraph" was not new, though no practical prototype had been made by that summer, when Gray debuted a device that could transmit musical tones (but not voice). On February 11, 1876, Gray drew a diagram of a working telephone in his notebook. Three days later, his lawyer filed a patent application with a similar drawing, but Bell's lawyer had hand-delivered an application earlier that day, and the Patent Office began interference proceedings to determine who was first. Bell's lawyers secured an exception to the requirement for a patent model, and his patent was issued on March 7. The next day, Bell's notebook had an entry with a diagram very similar to Gray's, and on the 10th, his prototype first worked with the famous phrase "Watson, come here!' uttered. Patent examiner Zenas Wilbur later admitted that he owed money to one of Bell's lawyers, and inadvertantly discussed with Bell portions of Gray's application during the investigation, but the crux of the discussion, the water microphone, was not used by Bell's application. The main portion of the dispute hinges on who actually filed fist (vs. who was recorded as filing first by virtue of being on top of the pile), who was first to invent (making who was first to file irrelevant), whether Wilbur was correct in advising Gray to abandon his claims, and consipracy theories regarding the lawyers and theft.
Gray's application overlays Bell's notebook.

Today's bonus: the IAI Eitan, the world's largest unmanned combat air vehicle (a UAV capable of carrying armament) at 48ft with an 86 ft wingspan, roughly the size of a Boeing 737. It's regarded as a likely platform to deliver Israel's nuclear weaponry, which as I noted on Saturday as being an open secret. Happy reading!

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