gets tiresome listing all the things you want to change about yourself
but know in your heart youíre bound to fail. Again. Like you do every
year. My resolutions were getting too elastic anyway. I kept resolving
to not get hysterical every time I got lost while driving somewhere
new, and then I loosened it to blaming Map Quest and then loosened
it further to shrieking at my new GPS because it didnít know left
from right. Whatís the point of making these resolutions?
Instead of doing that this year, Iím going to thank the unsung heroes
who invented things that will continue to make life easier for yet
The Whistling Tea Kettle
Since I tend to be absent-minded when concentrating on a topic to
write about, or if Iím on a phone call, or if I find myself deliriously
embedded on the Internet researching a story, I wouldíve burned the
house down years ago, if not for that shrill whistle, alerting me
to water reaching the boiling stage. So I consider English inventor
Sholom Borgelman (changed to Borman) a hero for inventing the whistling
tea kettle in London just after World War I.
I can remember my dad starting up our old Buick for at least ten wintery
minutes before a trip, so the engine would cooperate. Then along came
a miraculous thing called antifreeze, which keeps the engine warm
in winter and cool in summer. I canít get over that. Dad mustíve been
a tad behind the times though, since I just found out that antifreeze
was first prepared, and called ethylene glycol, in 1859 (the family
Buick wasnít quite that old) by a French chemist named Charles Adolphe
Ball Point Pens
Believe it or not, there was a time between the quill and the crayon
where a dark liquid called ďinkĒ was sucked into a fountain pen so
your ancestors could write a letter on something called ďpaperĒ. This
method considerably predates texting and was much easier on the eyes.
(Ink was also used to dip the long hair of the schoolgirl sitting
in front of you into the inkwell on your desk.) Then came the ballpoint
pen, not nearly as much fun but way neater. It took more effort to
stain your shirt with a ballpoint pen than it did with a fountain
pen, but thatís o.k. because the ballpoint pen lasted longer and you
didnít have to carry a bottle of ink all over town in case someone
asked you for your autograph or something. The first day ball points
went on sale in the United States, they were guaranteed to write for
two years without refilling, and were instantly sold out at a cost
of $12.50 each. The inventor of this time-saver was, technically,
American John Loud back in 1888. Well, heís the one who patented the
idea but couldnít make it practical. In 1935, it took Hungarian brothers
Ladislas and Georg Biro, plus the president of Argentina, to get the
ball rolling again. Eberhard Faber paid the Biros half a million for
the rights, later selling them to Eversharp. Chicago businessman,
Milton Reynolds ran with the ball over the finish line.
You probably think they always came on cars, but they didnít. In fact,
some taxis today, at least in Mexico, have them but they donít work
and when it rains, the cabbie has to hang out the driverís window
and swipe at the windshield with a greasy rag. So next time youíre
driving in the rain, say thanks to a lady from Alabama, Mary Anderson,
who invented and patented the windshield wiper in 1905. I only wish
they put one on each of the side view mirrors.
Stephanie Kwolek of Pennsylvania has saved the lives of countless
police officers wearing bulletproof vests made of her invention, Kevlar.
Perhaps she saved your life, too, since Kevlar is used in brake linings,
parachutes, skis, and boats. And, without his Kevlar vest, Jack Bauer
wouldíve been killed in Series 1 of 24, instead of lasting all the
way through Series 8. Not only that, but America as well as the rest
of the world would have been blown up by evil-eyed villains. Weíd
all be pushing up daisies, had Jack not worn his Kevlar vest, five
times stronger than steel, for protection. While some people might
prefer Superman, Man of Steel, Iíll take Jack Bauer, Man of Kevlar.
So, instead of elastic New Yearís resolutions, I offer the following
thanks to Sholom for the whistle that may keep my house from burning
down, Charlie for the car that starts in winter, John for the pen
I write with, Mary for letting me see through the rain, and Stephanie
for the life of Jack Bauer.
Happy New Year!