Friday Fun Facts - 3/29/2013

Here are this week's Friday Fun Facts about Diana Gabaldon's books.

1) Here are some poison ivy leaves showing their autumn colors.  (Click on the photo for a bigger view.) Can't you just imagine Jamie, spotting these brilliantly colored leaves along the trail leading up to the Ridge, and on impulse deciding to add them to the bouquet he made for Claire?
"Ye might have told me, Sassenach.” Jamie glowered at the table near the bedroom window, where I’d set his bouquet in a cup of water. The bright, blotchy red of the poison ivy glowed, even in the dimness of the firelight. “And ye might get rid of it, too. D’ye mean to mock me?”

“No, I don’t,” I said, smiling as I hung my apron from the peg and reached for the laces of my gown. “But if I’d told you when you gave it to me, you’d have snatched it back. That’s the only posy you’ve ever given me, and I don’t imagine I’ll get another; I mean to keep it."

(From THE FIERY CROSS by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 18, "No Place Like Home". Copyright© 2001 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
Oh, well.  At least his intentions were good! <g>

According to Wikipedia,
Toxicodendron radicans, commonly known as poison ivy (older synonyms are Rhus toxicodendron and Rhus radicans), is a poisonous North American plant that is well known for its production of urushiol, a clear liquid compound found within the sap of the plant that causes an itching, irritation and sometimes painful rash in most people who touch it.
My dad is very sensitive to poison ivy, and can't venture into the woods without covering up as much as possible, even in the middle of summer.

2) This is a replica of a British rotary dial telephone from the 1970's.  According to the site where I found it,
This telephone was the final version of the GPO746 and was released in this format when STD dialling became widespread throughout the UK. In circulation from the 1970's, this telephone was the GPO's standard rental instrument until the privatisation of the telephone network when the new generation of push-button telephones were introduced.

I like to think that this might have been the specific phone model that Jamie saw in his dream.
"There was a...thing...on the table. I couldna say what it was; I’ve never seen the like.”

He held his hands about six inches apart, frowning at them. “It was maybe this wide, and just a bit longer--something like a box, maybe, only sort of...humped.”

“Humped?” I said, puzzled as to what this could be.

“Aye, and it had a thing on top like a wee club, only wi’ a knob to each end, and the club was tied to the box wi’ a sort of black cord, curled up on itself like a piggie’s tail. Jem saw it, and he reached out his hand, and said, ‘I want to talk to Grandda.’ And then I woke.”

He leaned his head back farther, so as to look up into my face.

“Would ye ken what a thing like that might be, Sassenach? It was like nothing I’ve ever seen."

(From A BREATH OF SNOW AND ASHES by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 121, "Across the Abyss". Copyright© 2005 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)

3) This is what a hammerhead shark looks like.  Click on the photo for a bigger view.
The shark was easily twelve feet long, a dark, sinuous shape keeping pace with the ship, barely visible through the storm-stirred gray waters. It had appeared abruptly just before noon, startling me badly when I looked over the rail and saw its fin cut the surface.

“What’s amiss with its head?” Jamie, appearing in response to my startled cry, frowned into the dark water. “It has a growth of some sort.”

“I think it’s what they call a hammerhead.” I clung tight to the railing, slippery with spray. The head did look misshapen: a queer, clumsy, blunt thing at the end of such a sinisterly graceful body. As we watched, though, the shark came closer to the surface and rolled, bringing one fleshy stalk and its distant cold eye momentarily clear of the water.

(From AN ECHO IN THE BONE by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 30, "Ships That Pass in the Night". Copyright© 2009 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)

Here's a brief video about hammerhead sharks, from NatGeo Wild.  I think the eyes are extremely bizarre-looking! Look here for more interesting facts about hammerhead sharks.

4) I had never heard of a pelican distillation apparatus before I read A BREATH OF SNOW AND ASHES.
"Oh, look,” I said, enchanted. I held in my hands the fruit of Mr. Blogweather’s artistry: a globe of glass, the size of my head, blown to perfect symmetry and lacking even the hint of a bubble. There was a faint blue tinge to the glass, and I could see my own distorted reflection, wide-nosed and bug-eyed, like a mermaid peering out.

“Aye, mum,” said Bobby, dutifully peering at the retort. “It’s, er...big, in’t it?”

“It’s perfect. Just perfect!” Rather than being cut off cleanly from the blower’s pipe, the neck of the globe had been drawn out into a thick-walled tube about two inches long and an inch in diameter. The edges and interior surface of this had been...sanded? Ground? I’d no idea what Mr. Blogweather had done, but the result was a silky, opaque surface that would form a lovely seal when a similarly finished piece was inserted into it.

(From A BREATH OF SNOW AND ASHES by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 20, "Dangerous Gifts". Copyright© 2005 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
According to the site where I found the photo:
The Pelican is a circulatory distillation vessel with two side-arms feeding condensed vapors back into the body. It resembles a pelican pecking at its breast to feed its hatchlings with its own blood, and thus is a symbol of the sacrifice the original solution goes through to give up its essence in the experiment. The alchemists believed that compounds could be created in the Pelican that no other apparatus could produce.

This type of device was used by alchemists for centuries, as you can see from these illustrations from a book published in 1500.

5) The photo above shows the Easter vigil at the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris. It looks very much as Jamie remembers:
"The church was all dark,” Jamie continued, “but the folk coming for the service would buy small tapers from the crones at the doors. It was something like this”--I felt, rather than saw, his motion at the sky above--“a great space above, all ringing wi’ the silence, and folk packed in on every side.” Hot as it was, I gave an involuntary shiver at these words, which conjured up a vision of the dead around us, crowding silently side by side, in anticipation of an imminent resurrection.

“And then, just when I thought I couldna bear the silence and the crowd, there came the priest’s voice from the door. ‘Lumen Christi!’ he called out, and the acolytes lit the great candle that he carried. Then from it they took the flame to their own tapers, and scampered up and down the aisles, passing the fire to the candles o’ the faithful.”

(From DRUMS OF AUTUMN by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 2, "In Which We Meet a Ghost". Copyright© 1997 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
Happy Easter to all of you who are celebrating this week!

I hope you enjoyed these Friday Fun Facts! Look here to see all of my Friday Fun Facts blog posts. And please come back next week for more!


kyooty said...

beautiful discriptions.

Anonymous said...

Nice catch, that movie on hammerhead sharks. Thanks.


Chrissie said...

Enjoyed the pelican photograph-what a setup! And the Cathedral-here on Good Friday, it's especially evocative. Thank you for sharing.

BTW, would you happen to know/remember why it is that Jonathan "Black Jack" Randall is buried in St. Kilda's kirkyard, instead of in a graveyard in Sussex, from which he hails? I just finished re-reading DIA for umpteenth time, and really caught that reference and canNOT remember it having been explained.


Karen Henry said...

Kyooty - thannks! Glad you liked it!

Jerry - I always get a kick out of the references to marine life in these books, because of Diana's background in marine biology. I had no idea the hammerheads had eyes like that, though! :-) Glad you liked it!

Chrissie - No, we don't know why BJR is buried at St. Kilda's. Maybe we'll find out in the next book?


Mrs Cookie said...

We used to have one of those phones only ours was beige. They also came in avacado green and if you were really lucky you managed to get a red one! It used to take ages to dial a number on one especially if you had to add the area code.

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