1 - Demetrius Grumbly-Growler
Following an email from Stephen Pálffy in Hungary, it turns out that Demetrius is a more common name for bears than is expected:
"Everybody [well, almost...] who grew up hereabouts -- Hungary -- in the first half of the 20th century, my parents before me as much as I, was thoroughly familiar with the adventures of Dörmögð Dömötör the antropomorphic bear, whose name could be rendered into English as Demetrius Grumbly-Growler, recounted in several successive volumes -- these days, alas, out of print -- by Sebðk Zsigmond.
This authentic and original Demetrius, a full adult by the 1890s, may have growled and grumbled, but was at heart a good and friendly bear, of the Carpathian brown bear variety, especially fond of children, only tending to get into trouble owing to ignorance of the modern world of his days (railways, electric lighting, etc) and naive trust in all he met on his travels, for he was an inveterate traveller. Quite-quite different from the pseudo-Demetrius of NS-4!"
2 - Oil from Grass Clippings
Following an email from Linda Lavine, it seems that McGuffin's grass clippings to oil experiments are not entirely farfetched:
What is cellulosic ethanol?
by Mark Steil, Minnesota Public Radio
September 13, 2006
Most ethanol is currently made from corn. But as demand goes up, other types of plant materials may become sources for ethanol production. Here's how the process works.
There are two ways to make cellulose ethanol. The first is a biological process which separates sugar from plant fiber. Virtually any type of plant material can be utilized. Wheat straw, corn stalks, switchgrass and wood chips are all on the list.
The material is chopped into pieces two inches or less in length. The chopped-up vegetation is soaked into a mud-like consistency. Next, enzymes are added to the solution. Enzymes force a chemical reaction in the solution, converting certain molecules into another type of molecule.
Finding the right types of enzymes is an important part of the development of cellulose ethanol. That is the focus of an extensive research program linking government, academic and private business researchers. The enzymes attack the plant matter and turn it into glucose, a sugar. The sugar is then fermented into ethanol.
The second method of making ethanol from plant fiber is non-biological. Instead, it uses available gasification technology. Under high pressure and high temperatures, cellulose is converted into a gas. The gas is then run through a special type of catalytic converter. The converter combines the molecules in the gas to make ethanol.
3 - Friedland Chymes Bell
Following an email from Claus Colloseus, Friedland Chymes is more than we thought:
The small town of Friedland in Lower Saxonia has been the site of the main "border passage camp" for displaced persons through the last 60 years. (see pictures HERE.) Originally, after World War II, prisoners of war released from the Soviet Union were brought there before going home to their families. In later years, it was a venue for those leaving the german minority communities in Eastern Europe where they were prepared for their integration into domestic society.
In the cold war atmosphere of the fifties, the release of prisoners from communist rule was a highly emotional matter (apart from the truely heavy burden of many women waiting for news from their husbands or sons sometimes for ten years!) So a little story, somewhere in the middle between a myth and a ritual, fitted the public mood just right: Every time a transport of homecoming men arived at Friedland, the big bell at the entrance of the camp was chimed as an expression of joy.
Not only became the bell an iconic photo motive (click here), but from the mid fifties on, the bell was taken on tours through Germany and displayed to raise money for the organisations engaged in relief for POW's and displaced persons. One organisation even made a film titled "Die Glocke von Friedland". The bell became a well-known symbol for the case of the "Heimatvertriebene" (expellees) and their political goals - help for countrymen "behind the iron curtain" and restitution of their homeland in the former German East (well, at least what they think should be german).
The ironic end of it is: my own doorbell turns out to be produced by Friedland Chymes. I never had seen that, did not even know a company by that name existed before I read The Big Over Easy...
If you have a Nextian coincidence - just email it to the usual address: jasper(at)jasperfforde.com
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