Tuesday, January 26, 2010

What's Worse: Chemical Warfare or Hoop Skirts?

I'm currently reading History's Worst Inventions. It catalogues inventions throughout history that are bad for a number of reasons. The invention didn't work in practice, killed its inventor, was a commercial failure, unforeseen consequences, was used for evil deeds, or was a success born of failure.

Reading this book while I'm under the weather will be catalogued in its follow up, Chad's Worst Ideas.

I've been fighting a bug for about three weeks now. Started off as a head cold. Relapsed as a chest cold. Now tonight I'm wondering if my sudden fever could be the sign that I've actually been fighting a mild flu (plague?)

Inventions? What could be so bad about inventions?

Well, if you'll settle down I'll tell you.

It's not all gunpowder and hilarious flying machines. I would say that a majority of the topics that made the list should NOT be read while you're feeling under the weather.

Here I will catalogue of what is making my head spin and stomach turn from the book that catalogues the strange shit people have brought into my little world. You'll see . . .

It all started with Chapter 2 . . .

Chapter 2: Asbestos. It started off as a funny read about Charlemagne's asbestos tablecloth that he would throw on the fire to clean after dinner to delight his guests. (I just fill mine up with wine that someone left at my house) It ended up telling of the damage asbestos has done post industrial revolution. Particularly to lungs and mesothelial linings in your body's chest, abdominal, and uhhhh . . . testicular areas. There's scarring, shortness of breath, mucous secretions. Keep in mind I'm reading this while coughing up lung butter and wiping my nose on my sleeve (like the gentleman I am). I'm now convinced I have asbestosis or maybe mesothelioma.

Chapter 5: Smoking. It used to be called "drinking smoke". Same old stuff about the lungs but with the addition of hypertension and heart disease. Now I'm recalling my days as a smoker and making mental note that even on my most stressful of days I'd rather not spend my life choking up what looks like creamed corn from my throat hole. I'll just drink away stress! teehee

Chapter 7: Arsenic. True, it's an element and not an invention - but in 1250 European alchemist Albertus Magnus isolated the compound arsenic trioxide. Odorless, tasteless, and a murderer's favorite because the symptoms were identical to food poisoning. Ready for the symptoms of arsenic poisoning? I wasn't. Stomach pains, excessive saliva, dehydration, hoarseness and difficulty of speech, excoriation of the anus (just adding insult to injury now people), burning pains in the urinary organs, convulsions and cramps, clammy sweats, pallor of the hands and feet, and delirium. Because I have half of these signs - I'm now pretty sure that I may have arsenic poisoning in addition to mesothelioma.

Chapter 9: Chemical Warfare. Leonardo DaVinci resurrected this idea that had been dead for a millenia before him, the prick. He proposed using projectiles made of chalk, arsenic, and verdigris - catapulting this big mass of shit over enemies - and letting them die of asphyxiation. Is this the same adorable man that I saw in "Ever After"??? World War I was chemical warfare's time to shine. Chlorine gas and phosgene gas were used at first to attack enemy soldier's lungs. (MORE lung stuff! I remind you people that I'm already on my death bed. How much more can I take?!) Soon, with the implement of gas masks the two popular means of immobilization were rendered useless. Enter mustard gas. Ahhh. No lung stuff. This shit doesn't need to be inhaled. If it touches your skin, hair, or clothes you will break out in puss filled sores as soon as 6 hours after exposure. If more than half of your body is affected you're probably dead. Oh - it lingers in the air for days too. I love me some mustard, but puss inducing gas? Not as much . . .

Chapter 14: Biological Warfare. Chemical warfare's evil twin. In the middle ages, before anything of bacteria and viruses was known, people would catapult diseased corpses over castle walls and moats. It could be in hopes that the "bad air" that killed the person (or livestock) would afflict the enemy or that they just ran out of conventional forms of ammunition. Europeans definitely knew what they were doing when they "donated" small pox infected blankets to the hostile Delaware tribe and killed them off. Other biological warfare used over time? Typhus, measles, whooping cough, anthrax, tularemia, brucellosis, and botulism toxin. I think I would've catapulted midgets. I may have lost a lot of wars, but at least I'd be laughing all the way. Flying midgets = gleeful giggles. Maybe both sides would have forgotten their differences. "Hahahahaha!! What were we even fighting about?!?!"

Chapter 18: The Crinoline. This one snuck up on me. It took a diminished-lung-capacity Chad by complete surprise to find that victorian undergarments could spike my fever. (Not in the hot way.) The crinoline, originally a fabric made of linen and horsehair, was what came to give victorian skirts their girth. It was accompanied by whalebone corsets and padded bustles to give you that high ass (Do they still make those? I could be in the market for that last one!) They eventually evolved into a metal cage that the skirt could fit around - but originally the crinoline was made of crinoline fabric that was made into petticoats. It would take at least six petticoats to achieve desired volume. Then you had the ankle length bloomers under that. Six layers of horsehair? In the summer? Forget the shear weight of that for a moment. Imagine the heat! Holy. Shit. On top of that these women would have their corsets pulled and tied to give them an 18 inch waist - and diminished lung capacity. Victorian women were known for fainting at the drop of a hat and now I know why. What I don't understand is why they aren't also known for being the biggest swarm of foul mouthed bitches the world has ever seen. If I had to go through this nonsense I would last about seven minutes before I started cursing, ripping off articles of clothing, and throwing the heavier pieces at people. I would be the victorian Courtney Love.

Well, I'm all showered and ready for chapter 22 - high explosives. It turns out that the first high explosive was discovered by accident when German chemist Christian Schönbein was experimenting with nitric and sulfuric acids on his kitchen table. He accidentally spilled and grabbed his wife's cotton apron to wipe the table before hanging over the stove to dry. The nitric acid/cellulose combo caused a spontaneous explosion. The book doesn't say what his wife said about his ruining her apron. I'm hoping she was the German Courtney Love and threw her shoes at Herr Schönbein.

Hey, it would take my mind off my black plague riddled body.

Anybody recommend any good books??


  1. I'll take the fainting... give me the heavy layers (I am always cold) and the 18 inch waist. HELLLLOOOOOO!

  2. I once wrote an essay on the conflict of technology for good an evil. I was explaining the part of the essay that detailed how the Nazi's were toying with rocketry and nuclear fission and how after the was was over, the US hired Warren Von Braun to work for NASA. I made the point that you never know if the technology could be used for good or evil. (sure we can make bombs but we also could make controlled amounts of energy in nuclear power plants) Later in the conversation I was called a Nazi sympathizer... I think my audience lost interest in what I was talking about. So there is my other point - people are bad listeners.

  3. Umm...Wow. You most likely don't have Asbestosis or Meso-whatever. But you might have the flu...or a cold. I would recommend not contemplating your illness much beyond that.

    And for book recommendations...or reading recommendations... I suggest anything that is easy, fun, exciting and DOESN'T deal with 'bad ideas.' Find a good kids book (that has an inspirational meaning at least). Sorry I can't help too much; all the things I'm reading right now deal with death, decay, anger, unhappiness...etc., and aren't proper for reading when sick. I don't even know why I'm reading them half the time. Ha!

  4. This is a major reason you are the only blog I read!! I highly recommend The Knife Man by Wendy Moore (especially for you, chaddy); it's a detailed account of the life & times of an 18th century surgeon and what med school & medicine was like before anesthesia and anticeptics and the general knowledge that draining a bunch of your blood helps nothing! a very good read(read it twice!)

  5. THATS the book you were reading that I was trying to remember!!!! Actually, I'd like a copy of your reading list from 2008-2009. You have such a knack for finding AMAZING books I've never heard of before!!!