Monday, October 15, 2012

The First Manned Air Flight, The Graf Zeppelin, NY Municipal Airport and The Silver Balloon Cocktail

In honor of Felix Baumgartner's Supersonic Skydive - it's an all aviation day!

On this day in 1783, brothers Joseph-Michel and Jacques-Étienne Montgolfier watched as their invention, the Globe Aérostatique (hot air ballon), lifted off the ground in what would be the first manned ascent into the sky.

Joseph-Michel Montgolfier was the first of the brothers to become interested in air flight. While watching clothes dry over a fire, he noticed how the fabric would billow with pockets of air and how the small embers of the fire would lift off and float in the air. This started him to think that perhaps there was a way to harness the smoke, or what he named Montgolfier Gas and the special properties of levity which he was sure it possessed.

Joseph-Michel would test his theory of  Montgolfier Gas by building a box measuring 3' x 3' and four feet deep and attached a lightweight taffeta fabric to its sides.  He placed it on a stand and lit some paper underneath it and watched as it rose to the ceiling of the house.  With the theory of Montgolfier Gas proved, he would enlist his brother, Jacques-Étienne, to help him build Du Globe Aérostatique, that would one day carry a man into the sky.

Many more balloons were built, each being bigger and make out of more resilient material. After partnering with wallpaper maker Jean-Baptiste Réveillon, they built a 37,500-cubic-foot envelope of taffeta coated with thin layer of fireproofing. This balloon, named Aérostat Réveillon, would carry a sheep, a duck and a rooster into the sky in September 1783, before King Louis XVI of France and Queen Marie Antoinette at the royal palace in Versailles.  Animals were used as there was some concern of the effect of high altitude on humans.  In that time, the flight was akin to space flight today.  The flight lasted eight minutes, covered two air miles and ended with the balloon landing safely.

On this day in 1783, Pilâtre de Rozier, in a 60,000-cubic-foot balloon constructed by the Montgolfiers, sailed 80 feet into the air to the roar of the assembled French crowd (including King Louis XVI who portrait adorned the tethered balloon) and history was made.

To order a paper model of the balloon:


On this day in 1928, the dirigible airship, Graf Zeppelin completes its first trans-Atlantic flight, traveling from Friedrichshafen, Germany to Lakehurst, New Jersey, in 111 hours.

The Historical Inebriant: The Silver Balloon Cocktail

2 Parts Abolut Vodka
2 Parts Grapefruit Juice
1 Part Williams Pear Liqueur
1 Part Almond Liqueur

Place ingredients in shaker along with ice. Strain into chilled cocktail glass.

On this day in 1939, The New York Municipal Airport (later renamed La Guardia Airport) is dedicated.


For the melodic metal fans out there - hear the new Godspeed You! Black Emperor album - 
'ALLELUJAH! DON'T BEND! ASCEND! on Soundcloud here:

Sunday, October 14, 2012

So what's your Superpower, The Sidecar Bar and The Sidecar #5 Cocktail

This post comes courtesy of Jennifer Oullette who writes a wonderful blog called Cocktail Party Physics for, of all places, Scientific American.  If you have time, please check out the link to Jennifer's always entertaining and informative writing style (it's also listed as one of my favs).  

She tweeted this video link today (it's quirky, but fun, and it takes place in a bar - so I'm in)


The superhero/sitcom mashup is a woefully underappreciated genre (outside of Tumblr and fanfic, that is). It’s a fun concept, which is why I was excited to see the first episode of The Sidecar: Sidekicks Only, a new web series from SNL‘s Bobby Moynihan. About a bar for sidekicks with lame powers (though being able to fracture bones with one’s mind sounds pretty cool to me), it’s Cheers meets Mystery Men, and I love me some Mystery Men, so I’m looking forward to the next episode.

While we did visit the Sidecar Cocktail in a previous post, I thought I would add a variation here.  In this one from The replaces Cointreau with Canton Ginger Liquor.

The Historical Inebriant: The Sidecar #5 


3/4 ounce Canton Ginger Liquor
3/4 ounce lemon juice
1 1/2 ounces cognac

Place ingredients in shaker along with ice. Shake vigorously. Strain/pour into chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with lemon peel or candied ginger.


The video reminded me of a segment of "This American Life" dedicated to Superpowers... which ones would you choose to have and how would you use them. My favorite parts being:

John Hodgman conducts an informal survey in which he asks the age-old question: Which is better: The power of flight or the power of invisibility? He finds that how you answer tells a lot about what kind of person you are. And also, no matter which power people choose, they never use it to fight crime.
Kelly McEvers with the story of Zora, a self-made superhero. From the time she was five, Zora had recurring dreams in which she was a 6'5" warrior queen who could fly and shoot lightning from her hands. She made a list of all the skills she would need to master if she wanted to actually become the superhero she dreamed of being. Sample items: Martial arts, evasive driving and bomb diffusion. She actually checked off most things on the list...and then had a run-in with the CIA.

You can listen to the podcast here:

If you've never listed to TAL before, please do, you are missing out on something truly enjoyable!

Hope you are all enjoying your weekend!