Croatia – Belle of the Ball

Mad Scientist

While most have heard of Thomas Edison, the same can’t be said for his rival Nikola Tesla. Tesla was born in what is now Croatia in 1856 and the genius inventor created and theorized significantly over his life, but fell into obscurity after dying. Only in recent years, have his achievements gained more recognition with many coming to the conclusion that his alternate current (AC) electricity was in fact better and safer than Edison’s direct current (DC) electricity. So, let’s tune up some AC/DC and learn about the unsung hero:

Tesla once worked for Edison, designing and improving electrical equipment. As he relocated from France to the United States, he was aboard a ship that faced a mutiny and was nearly tossed overboard. Some of his money, luggage, and even his ticket aboard the vessel were stolen. When he arrived in New York City, he had four cents to his name. He must have hid those pennies real well!

Tesla Electrifying

The beginning of the two men’s rivalry may have occurred when Tesla began redesigning Edison’s motors and generators with the promise of a $50,000 reward. When improvements were made, Edison said he was merely joking, although he did offer a weekly pay raise to Tesla, who quit the job immediately.

The War of Currents between Edison and George Westinghouse (who employed Tesla as a consultant and used his alternate current patents and inventions) drove both men to the brink of bankruptcy. The AC current won the war, despite Edison’s smear campaign against Tesla and Westinghouse, using AC to electrocute animals in an attempt to show it as more dangerous and even inadvertently creating the electric chair method of capital punishment. Suck it, Edison!

Legends persist that Tesla and Edison were to be co-winners of the 1915 Nobel Prize in Physics, but one or both of them refused the honour thanks to their bitter hatred of each other. Some even say that Edison, who had grown wealthy thanks to his inventions, balked at the reward just to make sure Tesla didn’t receive any prize money.

Tesla's Bitch

Because of his Eastern European ethnicity and some of his concepts and inventions, Tesla gained a reputation as a mad scientist and a number of conspiracy theories center on the inventor, such as UFO and occult related notions. Some of Tesla’s papers are still classified by the U.S. government and when asked for through Freedom of Information requests, are heavily censored.

A hero of super villains everywhere, Tesla claimed to have invented a death ray, dubbed ‘Teleforce.’ Known as a “directed-energy weapon” or even a “peace ray,” Tesla insisted he had built and tested the device. When he grew suspicious of spies and other officials trying to steal the plans from him, he revealed that the entire blueprint was in his mind and had never been drawn out on paper.

Despite all the rumours, Tesla had over 700 patents to his name and can be credited with work in robotics, radar, wireless communication, lighting, and so much more. Tesla was also a showman and often invited the press to his birthday party, where he would unveil new creations and discuss his various theories. Among his greatest inventions was the Tesla Coil, which allowed the transmission of electrical energy without wires.

Tesla Coils

As it is with most brilliant people, Tesla had some quirks. He claimed to only need two hours sleep each night (although he napped, as well) and had some issues with obsessive compulsive disorder, including the cleaning of cutlery and a fascination with the number three, going so far as to wash his hands three times in a row and walk around a building thrice before entering.

Sounding like Sheldon Cooper from The Big Bang Theory, Tesla denounced marriage and sex, stating “I do not think you can name many great inventions that have been made by married men.” At least he didn’t use Sheldon’s term of coitus when he believed that getting down with his bad self would take away from his scientific achievements. Hey, the guy did create remote control, radio, and even lasers, so perhaps he was onto something.

One thing I can certainly fault Tesla for (I mean, aside from his anti-sex agenda) was his affection for pigeons. I’ve written numerous times about my disdain for the winged rats, but Tesla would go so far as to rescue injured pigeons and bring them home. He even fell in love with one, writing “I loved that pigeon as a man loves a woman, and she loved me. As long as I had her, there was a purpose to my life.” Now, that, my little sippers, is a prime example of eccentricity!

Tesla Kitten

Tesla passed away in 1943, with little to no fortune, unlike his contemporaries, Edison and Westinghouse. After dying, Tesla was cremated with his ashes being placed in a golden sphere urn, as the sphere was his favourite shape (despite reportedly hating round jewelry like pearls and even going so far as to not speak to women who wore them). The urn is on display at the Nikola Tesla museum in Belgrade, Serbia.

Posthumous honours for the scientist include the unit of measure for magnetic field strength being known as a “tesla” and an electric car company, Tesla Motors, being named in memory of the inventor. Best of all, he now has a Sip Advisor article dedicated to his work!

Croatia: Belle of the Ball

Belle of the Ball Cocktail

  • 0.75 oz Irish Crème
  • 0.5 oz Rakija
  • 0.25 oz Campari
  • 0.25 oz Jagermeister
  • Dash of Angostura Bitters
  • Garnish with Orange Slice

I’ve become interested in Tesla in recent years and it seems I’m not alone, as others become recognizant of the fact that his contributions to the world went largely uncelebrated compared to some of his partners and adversaries. This drink is made in his honour!

Sip Advisor Bar Notes (2.5 Sips out of 5):
This cocktail is pretty good… until that damn Campari bitter aftertaste kicks in and dominates the whole experience. The Rakija is pretty strong too, but not in a necessarily bad way. The cocktail measurements don’t provide a big drink, so it’s not like you’re dedicating a lot of time to it. Give it a shot if you’re curious, but it might be one recipe to avoid.

Sweden – Unforgettable Night

Prize Fights

Nobel Prizes are awarded in six fields: Peace, Physics, Chemistry, Physiology or Medicine, Literature, Economic Sciences, none of which the Sip Advisor excels in, but I’ve made peace with my shortcomings, even if all you little sippers have not. The host country for the ceremony is Sweden (home to prize creator Alfred Nobel), except for the Peace Prize which is presented in Norway. Nobel, also the inventor of dynamite, is said to have created the awards to leave a better legacy after his condemnable obituary was accidentally printed in France (nothing good ever comes out of there!) following the death of his brother. Let’s take a look at the awards and see if Nobel’s image has indeed been altered:

Alfred Nobel

The first awards ceremony took place in 1901, five years after Nobel passed away… for reals this time. Since then, the event is held annually on Dec. 10, the anniversary of Nobel’s death. Prizes don’t have to be handed out each year for every category, but each award must be tendered at a minimum of every five years. Throughout World War II (1939-43), no Nobel Prize events were held.

Nobel wrote the final draft of his will, including the Nobel Prize request on a torn piece of paper. The process was witnessed by four associates, as Nobel didn’t trust lawyers… I can’t really blame him given Mrs. Sip is one and I sleep with one eye open every night! Also, Nobel never bothered to ask any of the bodies he expected to govern the awards, whether this was something they were cool with. Nobel’s family contested the will after finding out they were shit out of luck and the cash would go towards awards for strangers. Clearly, the appeals did not work out.

There are anywhere between 100-250 nominees for each category. A person who has died can’t be nominated and will also be removed from contention if they pass away during the consideration process. If a person was selected as a winner before expiring, they are still eligible to win posthumously that year. A maximum of three people can win any one award.

Scarecrow Nobel Prize

The Nobel Prize consists of a medal, a personal diploma and money. The financial award comes from interest from Nobel’s estate (and varies each year), which is looked after by the Nobel Foundation. Prize winners are called laureates… another title you will never see beside the Sip Advisor’s name… although I’m still working on that Chemistry award with Mrs. Sip! Apparently, the cash awarded in 2013 was $1.2 million US per prize. Damn, Mrs. Sip and I really need to get that chemistry diorama finished!

While most of the prizes are well-deserved, some have been followed by protest, particularly over the Peace Prize. Some of the most controversial prize recipients include Henry Kissinger and Le Duc Tho, who were awarded the Peace Prize in 1973 for negotiating a ceasefire between North Vietnam and the U.S., although both nations were still hostile towards one another. Similarly, Yasser Arafat, Shimon Peres, and Yitzhak Rabin were handed the 1994 Peace Prize following their efforts towards harmony between Israel and Palestine, but many issues remained unsettled between the two nations. Lastly, Barack Obama’s 2009 Peace Price was controversial in that he had only been in office for 11 days when nominations closed. Obama went on to say that he was undeserving of the award.

Not every Nobel Prize winner has accepted the honour. Jean-Paul Sartre refused the Literature Award in 1964, sticking with his credo to not accept any official honours (but unofficial ones were okay) and the previously mentioned Le Duc Tho declined that controversial 1973 Peace Prize, given the ongoing strife in Vietnam.

Nobel Peace Prize

As of the 2013 ceremonies, there have been 561 Nobel Prizes awarded to 876 recipients. Only 45 of those winners have been women. The youngest recipient ever was Lawrence Bragg (1915) for physics, at the age of 25, although he did win with his father (there’s nothing like riding someone else’s coattails). The oldest was Leonid Hurwicz (2007) for economic sciences, at the ripe age of 90. The Red Cross has won three separate times (1917, 1944 and 1963). Linus Pauling and Marie Curie each won two Nobel Prizes in different categories, while John Bardeen and Frederick Sanger received two prizes in the same discipline.

Inventors Thomas Edison and Nikola Tesla never won Nobel Prizes. They were offered a joint prize, but the committee quickly rescinded the offer upon realizing that the two competitors despised one another and refused to be anywhere near each other. The same goes for Mrs. Sip and I, but I’m pretty sure the prize money would be enough of a draw for us to put aside our differences for one night.

Antonio Moniz was awarded the Medicine Prize in 1949 for his work involving prefrontal lobotomies as a treatment for schizophrenia. The practice was abolished in the 1960’s and is now looked upon with much criticism. A similar Medicine Prize debacle (retrospectively) occurred in 1926 when Johannes Fibiger received the award for “finding a cure for cancer.” It’s truly too bad that didn’t work out as well as hoped or expected.

Women Nobel Prize

When Robert E. Lucas won the Economics Prize in 1997 for his theory of rational expectations, his ex-wife was perhaps happier than he was. Her lawyer had actually written a clause into their divorce settlement for such an occasion and Lucas was forced to share his $1 million award with her. He may have been a prize-winning economist, but he clearly wasn’t good with contracts.

We’ll end things off with this little factoid, before retiring to the post-awards gala for nibbles and drinks: Oddly enough, eight different Nobel Prize recipients were born on February 28th. I think the fix is in!

Sweden: Unforgettable Night

Unforgettable Night Martini

  • 2 oz Absolut Vodka
  • 0.5 oz Chocolate Liqueur
  • Top with Coconut Milk
  • Splash of Lime Juice
  • Dash of Hot Sauce
  • Garnish with a Lime Wedge and Coconut

Mrs. Sip and I, along with members of the Sip Syndicate visited the Nobel Museum in Stockholm, Sweden and had a great time learning about the history of the awards and many of the recipients. I’ll be back one day to accept my long-awaited prize… or, at the very least, to steal one!

Sip Advisor Bar Notes (3.5 Sips out of 5):
When searching for a drink to combine with this post, I stumbled upon this incredibly interesting recipe (Coconut Milk, Lime Juice and Hot Sauce!) that had the perfect name to suit the article. I was very curious going in about how this would taste and it was pretty decent with a bit of flame at the end. The Lime Juice caused some slight curdling, but not enough to disgust the drinker.

July 14 – Guillotine

Devices of Death

Implements of execution and their history are cruel but fascinating from many perspectives. Whether you look at the technology that has gone into the design or the history behind it, there is much to learn. Here are some of the contraptions that caught my attention after making today’s drink:

Guillotine

People are always looking to make things more efficient and the French nailed it when they took the age old act of beheading someone and mechanized it. Out were the days of needing multiple hacks of an often worn blade to sever a victim’s head, and in were the new days of “humanitarian” beheading. The guillotine became a popular image of the French Revolution, particularly the “Reign of Terror” period, which caused much upheaval in the country and saw the executions of King Louie XVI and Queen Marie Antoinette, among others. The best nickname for the Guillotine had to be ‘The National Razor’. The Sanson family of France was a six-generation dynasty (is that the right word for this!?) of executioners and Charles-Henri Sanson was largely responsible for making the guillotine the country’s next great killing machine.

guillotine

Electric Chair

With the modernization of many death machines, designers were bound to harness the power of electricity for executions. As Thomas Edison worked to launch his direct current (DC) electricity, he publicly electrocuted an elephant and other animals using George Westinghouse’s competing alternating current (AC). The campaign to discourage the use of AC worked in at least one way: it was used for electric chairs beginning in 1890. The chair lost favour with many quickly (including Westinghouse) due to its high degree of cruelty and its failure to execute a criminal quickly. A photo of Ruth Snyder’s execution in 1928 was snapped by photojournalist Tom Howard, who was wearing a camera strapped to his ankle. It has become one of the most famous newspaper photos of all-time. While ‘the chair’ is rarely used today, it is still an option for many death row inmates, depending on the state they are incarcerated in.

Hangman’s Noose

The legendary device depicted in so many western movies and used around the world to end the lives of the guilty and sometimes innocent. Victims were more likely to have their necks snapped, rather than asphyxiation through being strangled by the rope. After a series of failed hangings (one dude survived three separate trips to the gallows, earning the nickname ‘The Man They Couldn’t Hang’) in the late 1800’s, a committee was formed to solve the issue and developed the ‘Official Table of Drops’ which examined just how much rope was needed, depending on weight, to terminate a criminal by breaking their neck in the process. Ah, science at its best. If the hangman’s noose had never been invented, we may never have discovered auto-erotic asphyxiation, so I guess you have to thank the device for that!

gallows

Euthanasia Coaster

When I used to play Rollercoaster Tycoon, sometimes for fun you’d build a ride that would launch passengers flying through the air and into a deadly crash landing. While, that’s not exactly what would happen with the Euthanasia Coaster (still a hypothetical invention), the ride has been designed to kill people who wish to end their lives. Using G-force to cause an insufficient supply of oxygen to the brain, most people would be brain dead after two of the seven vertical loops. Most interesting about the ride’s design is that they’ll have a body unloading zone… how many people do they expect to go through this? Although, admittedly, it would be my preferred way to go.

Drink #195: Guillotine

Guillotine Drink Recipe

  • 1 oz Butterscotch Schnapps
  • 1 oz Irish Crème
  • 1 oz Fireball Whiskey
  • Garnish with Strawberry (preferably headless)
  • Add some Strawberry Syrup for blood effect!

I picked this drink partly because it fits with celebrating Bastille Day (France’s National Holiday), but also because I find these execution devices to be quite intriguing… providing I never end up in or on one.

Sip Advisor Bar Notes (4 Sips out of 5):
Poor little Strawberry all decapitated and all… this was a Sip Advisor art project, and I think it went reasonably well. I wish I had put half the effort I did into this posed photo into my schooling days… maybe I`d be more than a blog jockey then. The drink itself was quite enjoyable with notes of Cinnamon and an underlying Butterscotch flavour.