Saturday, November 30, 2013

Manhole Covers and Japanese Manhole Cover Art, Part 1

What started off, below, as a quick introduction to Japanese Manhole Cover Art ended up developing a life of its own. As I read up on the most mundane of objects, manhole covers, I became more and more fascinated by some of the information I came across. That information has become Part 1 of this post; Part 2, the art part, will be posted next week.  There may even be some more posts about manhole covers.

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According to the Online Etymology Dictionary "manhole" not surprisingly means a hole through which a person may pass. What is surprising is that it dates from 1793 by a conjunction of the words “man” + “hole”. 

An alternative explanation is that the term manhole comes from the 19th century and originally referred to a small access hole in the top or side of a boiler that was covered with a heavy metal plate bolted in place. These holes were not meant to provide access for a man to pass through, but for an arm and hand to reach the inner parts of the boiler. “Man” in this case refers not to the gender of the worker, but is from the root word that means “hand,” as in the word “manual.” Indeed, some old boiler manuals use the words “manhole” and “handhole” synonymously. Sewer manholes were probably so-called as an extension of the general term that meant “an access hole” and the gender-specific meaning followed naturally, albeit somewhat erroneously.

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The push for non-gender specific and gender-neutral language has removed a lot of the bias and stereotype reinforcement inherent in sexist language. As long as police officers were called policemen, and firefighters were called firemen, there was both a recognition that these were masculine occupations and a corresponding unspoken gender exclusion for women. Removing the sexist bias inherent in the words also removes the unspoken exclusion. There is a parallel in Orwell’s 1984 where Winston Smith works in the Ministry of Truth continually rewriting and revising history, including deletion of words from dictionaries so as to remove the concept. Words such as “manhole”, however, are more difficult to rework into gender-neutral language in that the term also denotes function and size. Nonetheless the word “manhole” and similar usages as in signs “Men at Work” reinforce the notion that such activities and activities are male activities. Alternatives that have been suggested for manhole covers are “sewer access cover” and ‘stormwater access cover”.

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Ancient Roman sewer grate made out of lime sandstone, 1st century AD, excavated at Vindobona.

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Why are manhole covers usually round?

That is the only shape that will not fall in on itself.

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The problem with that explanation is that a lot of manhole covers are not round and there are additional reasons for being round:

  • Round tubes are the strongest and most material-efficient shape against the compression of the earth around them, so it is natural that the cover of a round tube assume a circular shape.

  • A round manhole cover has a smaller surface than a square one, thus less material is needed to cast the manhole cover, meaning lower cost.

  • The bearing surfaces of manhole frames and covers are machined to assure flatness and prevent them from becoming dislodged by traffic. Round castings are much easier to machine using a lathe.

  • Circular covers do not need to be rotated to align with the manhole.

  • A round manhole cover can be more easily moved by being rolled.

  • A round manhole cover can be easily locked in place with a quarter turn (as is done in countries like France). They are then hard to open without a special tool. Also then they do not have to be made so heavy, because traffic passing over them cannot lift them up by suction.

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Because of their aerodynamic design, modern racing cars create enough vacuum to lift a manhole cover off the ground. During races on city streets, manhole covers must therefore be welded or locked down to prevent injury. 

On September 23, 1990 while participating in a world sports championship car race in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, Team Bruns driver Jesus Pareja (of Spain) had a close encounter with a manhole cover. 

Driving fairly close behind a Jaguar in his Porsche 962C, Pareja discovered the effects of the 'suction' effect race cars have on the track. The 'updraft' of the Jaguar in front of him dislodged a manhole cover and sent it flying through the air, causing it to smash through the Porsche's windshield, narrowly missing Pareja and piercing through the rear of the car, tearing the fuel tank apart. Both this and the impact with the wall caused the $750,000 car to burst into flames. Luckily Pareja came out alive. The manhole covers are now welded down for race day at that track. 

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Some manhole covers:

Modern manhole cover in Rome.
The initials SPQR come from the Latin phrase from Roman Republic days, Senatus Populusque Romanus (“The Senate and People of Rome”). It was used as an official emblem of the municpality of Rome. Its use has been revived in modern times, throughout Europe and beyond. In Rome today sewage and water supply accesses contain the label "SPQR" in recognition of the innovation in sewage and water supply realised during the Roman times.






New York






Makes one proud to come from Oz.  Eat your heart out, world!

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Friday, November 29, 2013

Funny Friday

It's Funny Friday time again but no theme this week, just a collection of some diverse humorous items.

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I came across this item during the week and it had me chuckling:

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An Australian ventriloquist visiting New Zealand walks into a small town and sees a local sitting on his porch patting his dog. He figures he'll have a little fun.

Ventriloquist: "G'day mate! Good looking dog. Mind if I speak to him?"

Kiwi: "The dog doesn't talk, you stupid Aussie."

Ventriloquist: "Hey dog, how's it going old mate?"

Dog: "Doin' alright."

The Kiwi gets a look of extreme shock on his face.

Ventriloquist: "Is this Kiwi your owner?", pointing at the Kiwi.

Dog: "Yep."

Ventriloquist: "How does he treat you?"

Dog: "Real good. He walks me twice a day, feeds me great food, and takes me to the lake once a week to play."

The Kiwis expression of disbelief doesn't change.

Ventriloquist: "Mind if I talk to your horse?"

Kiwi: "Uh, the horse doesn't talk either...I think."

Ventriloquist: "Hey horse, how's it going?"

Horse: "Cool."

The Kiwi gets even more shocked.

Ventriloquist: "Is this your owner?"

Horse: "Yep."

Ventriloquist: "How's he treat you?"

Horse: "Pretty good, thanks for asking. He rides me regularly, brushes me down often, and keeps me in the barn to protect me from the elements."

Now the Kiwi has a look of total amazement on his face.

Ventriloquist: "Mind if I talk to your sheep?"

To which the Kiwi replied, "The sheep's a liar."

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A new convert to Catholicism decided to go to confession to deal with his transgression. In the confessional, he told the priest that he had sinned.

"What was your sin, my son?" asked the priest.

"I stole some lumber, Father," replied the man.

"How much lumber did you steal?" asked the priest.

"Father, I built my German Shepherd dog a nice new doghouse."

The priest replied, "Well, that's not so bad."

The man continued, "Father, I also built myself a 4-car garage."

"Well, now, that's a little more serious."

"Father, there's more. In addition to the doghouse, the 4-car garage, I also built a 5 bedroom, 4 bath house!"

With a pause, the priest finally spoke. "That is a little more serious. I'm afraid you'll have to make a novena."

"Father, I'm not sure what a 'novena' is, but if you've got the blueprints, I've got the lumber!"

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Mother Superior calls all the nuns together and says to them: "I must tell you all something. We have a case of gonorrhea in the convent." 

"Thank God," says an elderly nun at the back of the room, "I'm so tired of Chardonnay."

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A little old Jewish grandmother gives directions to her grown grandson who is coming to visit with his wife: 

"You come to the front door of the apartment complex. I am in apartment 14T. There is a big panel at the door. With your elbow, push button 14T. I will buzz you in. Come inside, the elevator is on the right. Get in, and with your elbow hit 14. When you get out, I am on the left. With your elbow, hit my doorbell." 

"Grandma, that sounds easy, but why am I hitting all those buttons with my elbow?" 

"You're coming empty-handed?"

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Limerick Spot

Given the focus on Dallas for the last week it seems appropriate to have a limerick about a young lady from that city but be warned, it is risque . . .

There was a young lady from Dallas,
Who used dynamite sticks for a phallus.
They found her vagina
in North Carolina,
And her arsehole in Buckingham Palace.

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Thursday, November 28, 2013

Received . .

Some reader comments and contributions:

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Byter Charlie sent an email about the pic yesterday of CPO Jackson, shown in the post Historic Photographs Part 2:

Otto - if you are ever in Atlanta, Georgia, USA, go to a restaurant called Pittipat's Porch, on Peach Street, and you will see the Photo of Chief Petty Officer Jackson hanging in the lobby. At least it was there 40 years ago!

Thanks for the memory!


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Byter Sue Bramblebush (as she is known to those who love her) sent me an item that raised a smile. It is an Australian version of something that originally featured US personalities . . .

I was at the supermarket yesterday and I ran into Tarzan!

I asked Tarzan how he was going and if he was making any more movies.

He told me, “Me no longer make movies, me have severe arthritis, both shoulders and not swing from vine to tree".

I asked how Jane was going? 

He told me, "Jane in bad shape, in nursing home, has Alzheimer's and not recognizing anyone". 

How sad!

I asked about Boy.

Tarzan said, “Boy, gone big city, get with bad women, on drugs and alcohol; and only time hear from him, when he in trouble or need something". 

I asked about Cheetah.

He beamed and said, "Cheetah do good. Had plastic surgery, now going to live in The Lodge!”

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The post on the origin of "bugalugs" generated a couple of emails, one from Lapun Pinis

Again, with half my life in PNG, in the Lingua Franca of that country, ‘Pisin’, (not to be confused with Pidgin in Australia), the word for broken, unserviceable, damaged, etc., is ‘bagarup’ – pronounced almost as Bugger up. Many of the words in Pisin come from German, Indonesian, or other derivatives, but quite clearly not this one! And of course ‘bagarup pinis’ means broken beyond repair.

Lapun Pinis

and from Byter Sue, a different Sue from Sue above:

I thought it meant lugs as in luggage - meaning a child small enough to carry? Because they were as slow as a bug?

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Byter Arthur commented on the Aroma Festival, which I had never heard about, at The Rocks . . .

In 60 years of being in Sydney I never knew or heard about this. I drove taxis for a number of years as well and did not take any passengers there either. Amazing. Enjoy the day.

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Byter Kara from New Zilund commented on the UTS new building designs and looked further int Prince Phillips quote on the opening the new east wing of Vancouver City Hall in 1970: "I declare this thing open, whatever it is."

Well done Otto, with just a few local examples you have illustrated the complete lack of taste, style, or common sense in most modern architecture. Good ol' Phil (and Charlie too) I just had to see what the east wing of Vancouver City Hall looks like. What I found was this 'The east wing of Vancouver City Hall - the structure is sinking and will need to be torn down eventually due to the earthquake risk.' (from the Montreal Gazette, July 2013).. 

Keep 'em coming. 


Btw, this is a pic of the east wing of Vancouver City Hall:
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Son Thomas texted me some items . . .

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Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Outstanding Historical Photos, Part 2

Mae Questel ca. 1930’s, the voice of Betty Boop and Olive Oyl, Minnie Mouse, Felix the Cat (for three shorts by the Van Beuren Studios), Little Lulu, Little Audrey and Casper, the Friendly Ghost

Bea Arthur (née Bernice Frankel) (1922-2009) SSgt. USMC 1943-45 WW II. Enlisted and assigned as typist at Marine HQ in Wash DC, then air stations in VA and NC. Best remembered for her title role in the TV series “Maude” and as Dorothy in "Golden Girls".

In 1911, Bobby Leach survived a plunge over Niagara Falls in a steel barrel. Fourteen years later, in New Zealand, he slipped on an orange peel and died.

Emily Todd was Mary Todd Lincoln's half-sister. In 1856 she married Benjamin Helm, a Confederate general. After Helm's death in 1863 Emily Helm passed through Union Lines to visit her sister in the White House. This caused great consternation in the Northern newspapers. Emily Helm took an oath of loyalty to the Union and was granted amnesty

Three days before his 19th birthday, George H.W. Bush became the youngest aviator in the US Navy.

Market Street, San Francisco after the earthquake, 1906.

All-American Girls Baseball, 1940s

Sacajawea. Stolen, held captive, sold, eventually reunited the Shoshone Indians. She was an interpreter and guide for Lewis and Clark in 1805-1806 with her husband Toussaint Charbonneau. She navigated carrying her son, Jean Baptiste, on her back. She traveled thousands of miles from the Dakotas the Pacific Ocean. The explorers, said she was cheerful, never complained, and proved to be invaluable. She served as an advisor, caretaker, and is legendary for her perseverance and resourcefulness.

Zelda Boden, circus performer, ca. 1910.

A Confederate and Union soldier shake hands during a celebration at Gettysburg in 1913. Image from the Library of Congress. July 1-3, 2013 marks the 150th Anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg.

Geraldine Doyle, who was the inspiration behind the famous Rosie the Riveter poster:

Vintage Baked Potato Cart. A legitimate fast food lunch option back in the day.

Cyclists ride in the first running of the Tour de France, in 1903.

Sergeant Stubby (1916 or 1917 – April 4, 1926), was the most decorated war dog of World War I and the only dog to be promoted to sergeant through combat. America's first war dog, Stubby, served 18 months 'over there' and participated in seventeen battles on the Western Front. He saved his regiment from surprise mustard gas attacks, found and comforted the wounded, and even once caught a German spy by the seat of his pants (holding him there til American soldiers found him).

Nightwitches - Female Russian bombers who bombed Germany during WW2. They had old, noisy planes & the engines used to conk out halfway through their missions, so they had to climb out on the wings mid-flight to restart the props. To stop Germans from hearing them & starting up the anti aircraft guns, they’d climb to a certain height, coast down to German positions, drop their bombs, restart their engines in midair & get the hell out of dodge. Their leader flew 200+ missions & was never captured.

Marilyn Monroe meets Queen Elizabeth II, London, 1956 Both women are 30 years old.

Chief Petty Officer Graham Jackson plays “Going Home” as FDR’s body is borne past in Warm Springs, GA, where the President was scheduled to attend a barbecue on the day he died. April, 1945.

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Tuesday, November 26, 2013

How did I not know about this?

Sydneysiders will know The Rocks as that older part of the city that was the birthplace of the colony. Today it is a commercial, residential and tourist precinct with preserved buildings, works and geographic features from the early convict days. The name The Rocks derives from the original buildings having been made from local sandstone.

Until the 1870’s The Rocks was a slum area frequented by sailors, criminals and prostitutes. 

From Wikipedia: 

Today the Rocks is a partly gentrified area, but still contains a significant proportion ofHousing Commission properties, and there is still a significant problem of urban poverty and street crime in this district. As housing stock becomes dilapidated, government policy is to sell the now extremely valuable public housing units to private owners, in the expectation that they will restore the properties.

The Rocks, c 1900

What I didn't know was that The Rocks has an annual festival featuring coffee, chocolate, tea and spice, known as The Rocks Aroma Festival. 

Apparently the event is deliberately kept small and low key, with a minimum of promotion.

What is of interest to Bytes is that as part of the coffee festival in 2010 the organisers created a sculpture of Marilyn Monroe using coffee and milk for the shading and tones. The sculpture used 5,200 cups, 680 litres of milk and 780 litres of coffee. The image is from Some Like It Hot (Get it? Coffee . . . )

See it created at:

The previous year’s sculpture was of the Mona Lisa. It used 3,604 cups of coffee and 564 pints of milk.

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