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Useless Facts

More “Useless Facts for Inquiring Minds.”

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— 90 percent of Earth’s population lives in the Northern Hemisphere.

— Eric Clapton is the only musician named to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame three times. He was inducted in 1992 as a member of The Yardbirds, in 1993 as a member of Cream, and in 2000 as a solo performer.

— Female African elephants are pregnant for 22 months before they give birth, the longest gestation period of any mammal.

— For decades, the helmets worn by pro football players were plain brown leather with no markings. That changed in 1948 with the Los Angeles Rams. Rams halfback Fred Gehrke, who was an industrial design artist in the off-season, sold management on the idea of painting the helmets dark blue with yellow ram horns.

Rams helmet

— The Greek philosopher, engineer, and mathematician Thales (624-546 BC) is famous for trying to explain the natural world through science instead of mythology and religion. Thales calculated the heights of the pyramids by measuring the length of their shadows at the moment when the length of his own shadow was equal to his height.

But Thales lived in olden times, when science was pretty spotty. He believed, for example, that life exists in magnets, as evidenced by their power to attract and repel.

He also believed that all living things are connected through a “world soul,” which is a lot like George Lucas’ concept of The Force.

— Arizona, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands don’t do Daylight Savings Time.

— Abraham Lincoln is the only President with a U.S. patent registered in his name. In 1849, Lincoln patented a device to lift a boat over shoals or other obstructions in a river without unloading the cargo. It consisted of a series of air bladders affixed to the boat. Inflating the bladders lifts the vessel enough to clear the obstruction. The device was patented, but never manufactured.

— The world’s largest rodent is the capybara, a semi-aquatic herbivore native to South America. Adults can be up to four feet long and two feet tall and can weigh 145 pounds. Capybaras live in groups of 10-20 and are excellent swimmers, having evolved webbed feet. Their closest relatives are guinea pigs (which, as you know, are not pigs. but rodents).

Capybaras

— Brian May, lead guitarist of the rock band Queen, was working on his PhD in physics when the band was formed in 1970. In 2007, he completed his studies at Imperial College in London, and he now holds a doctorate in astrophysics.

— The F. W. Woolworth Company was founded in 1878, and in the first half of the 20th century, grew to become one of the world’s largest retail chains. In 1997, Woolworth’s closed the last of its stores and became the Venator Group, which focused on the sporting goods market. In 2001, Venator morphed into Foot Locker.

— The first product imprinted with a bar code and electronically scanned was a 10-pack of Wrigley’s Juicy Fruit chewing gum. It happened in 1974 in Troy, Ohio. The 10-pack is now on display at the American History Museum in Washington.

— V8 Vegetable Juice, introduced in 1933, got its name from being a mixture of the juices of eight vegetables. Specifically, V8 consists of 87 percent tomato juice concentrate, to which is added a second concentrate that is a mix of juices from carrots, celery, beets, parsley, lettuce, watercress, and spinach. Salt and a spice extract also are added.

Water is removed to make the concentrates, then is added back to achieve the proper consistency. For the record, V8 juice is a nutritional dud, and a single glass contains more salt than an order of McDonald’s French fries.

V8

 

Headline Bloopers

More headlines that were botched by assorted newspapers over the years. Proofread and think, people!

 

Milk Drinkers are Turning to Powder

Farmer Bill Dies in House

Lawmen from Mexico Barbecue Guests

Panda Mating Fails, Veterinarian Takes Over

Bloopers 2-1

If Strike Isn’t Settled Quickly It May Last a While

Blind Woman Gets New Kidney from Dad She Hasn’t Seen in Years

Man Fatally Slain

Something Went Wrong in Jet Crash, Experts Say

Bloopers 2-2

Squad Helps Dog Bite Victim

Enraged Cow Injures Farmer with Ax

Never Withhold Herpes from Loved One

Child’s Stool Great for Use in Garden

Bloopers 2-3

Dr. Ruth to Talk About Sex With Newspaper Editors

Autos Killing 110 a Day — Let’s Resolve to Do Better

Miners Refuse to Work After Death

Soviet Virgin Lands Short of Goal Again

Bloopers 2-4

 

The Robber Baron

William Andrews Clark, Sr. (1839-1925) isn’t the best-known of the American robber barons, but he’s a classic example of men of his era who became wealthy through ingenuity and ruthlessness.

Clark made a fortune in mining, railroads, banking, newspapers, and other businesses. He is among the 50 richest Americans of all time, and he rose to the top by being shrewd and unscrupulous and never looking back.

Clark was born in Pennsylvania, and as a young man, briefly taught school in Iowa. In 1862, he headed west to seek his fortune mining gold.

Clark-1

William Clark (right) in Bannack, Montana, 1863.

During the Montana Gold Rush, he had modest success panning for gold. But he saw greater potential in supplying goods and services needed by the prospectors and miners.

He also began loaning money to the men of the boom towns. When a miner defaulted on a loan, Clark repossessed the man’s claim. Thus, he found himself in the mining business. Within a decade, he had expanded into smelting and transportation.

In Montana, he bought several played-out silver mines, which the owners were relieved to sell for next to nothing. He then made vast profits by mining them for copper.

At its peak, Clark’s copper mine in Jerome, Arizona, yielded some $400,000 per month. Clarkdale, Arizona, is named for him.

When he needed a watering stop on his rail line from California to Jerome, he built it next to a remote trading post in Nevada. The spot grew to become Las Vegas. Clark County, Nevada, is named for him.

By the 1890s, Clark had developed political ambitions. At a time when senators were appointed by state legislatures, he pressured Montana legislators to send him to the U.S. Senate. In 1899, they did.

But soon, proof went public that Clark had bribed many of the legislators with envelopes of thousand-dollar bills. Clark’s response: “I never bought a man who wasn’t for sale.”

Clark-2

Senator Clark speaking to a crowd in 1905.

The result of the Clark bribery scandal was the 17th Amendment, adopted in 1913, which provided for the election of senators by popular vote.

Clark has the distinction of being the first person caught using bribery to become a U.S. Senator, but, in fact, the scheme didn’t work. When the truth came out two months into his term, the Senate ejected him.

Clark promptly ran for the Senate again, supposedly without resorting to bribery this time. He secured the appointment and served in the Senate from 1901 until 1907.

In 1911, Clark moved to New York City, and he set out to build the most elaborate, most magnificent mansion money could buy. The structure was indeed elaborate, with 25 guest bedrooms, 35 rooms for servants, and all the outlandish adornments Clark could dream up. He spent several years personally massaging and revising the plans to make the building more opulent.

But when his dream house was finally completed, New York society ridiculed it mercilessly. Critics called it tacky and out of style. It was “an architectural aberration,” “inexcusable,” and “an appropriate residence for the late P. T. Barnum.” The building came to be known as “Clark’s Folly.”

Clark died in his mansion in 1925. His widow promptly sold the building and moved away. It was demolished in 1927 and replaced with a luxury apartment building.

Clark-3

“Clark’s Folly” at Fifth Avenue and East 77th Street.

William Clark was a product of America’s Gilded Age, when enterprising men took advantage of the country’s feverish expansion, wild-west mentality, and rapid industrialization to amass great wealth by any means, ethical or otherwise.

Even then, Clark was a larger-than-life villain, reviled for his shady, underhanded tactics in business and politics.

And it’s only natural to compare him to Donald Trump. The similarities between Clark and Trump in personality and behavior are striking: swaggering, self-absorbed, braggadocious, combative, ostentatious, amoral. No sense of shame or regret. Masters of conspicuous consumption.

I don’t mean to suggest that Trump is a modern-day robber baron. That would be an insult to robber barons. Trump lacks the necessary competence and focus.

In truth, Trump has more in common with P. T. Barnum, who once said, “I am a showman by profession, and all the gilding shall make nothing else of me.” That’s a perfect description of Trump, and we all know it.

But back to my comparison of Clark and Trump. The differences between the two men are interesting, too.

— Clark started with nothing and clawed his way to the top; Trump was born rich and has made a career of keeping himself in the public eye.

— Clark, probably for reasons of ego, sincerely wanted to be a U.S. Senator; Trump, I suspect, also ran for office for reasons of ego, but never thought he would be elected President. He probably longs to have his old life back.

— Clark was known for his intellect, attention to detail, and an uncanny sense of when to take a risk; Trump is known for a stunning lack of curiosity, shooting from the hip, and a history of business failures*.

In 1907, William Clark’s final year in the Senate, Mark Twain published an essay entitled “Senator Clark of Montana.” He assessed Clark this way:

He is as rotten a human being as can be found anywhere under the flag; he is a shame to the American nation, and no one has helped to send him to the Senate who did not know that his proper place was the penitentiary, with a ball and chain on his legs. To my mind he is the most disgusting creature that the republic has produced since Tweed’s time.

I wonder how Twain would assess Donald Trump.

Clark-4

William Clark, the quintessential American robber baron, and his Trumpian hair.

* Trump is now indebted, to a degree we don’t yet know, to a host of international banks and foreign interests, including a number of Russian oligarchs. Putin and the oligarchs are, in case you don’t know, literal gangsters, ruling Russia like a criminal enterprise to line their own pockets. The fact that Trump does business with them and mixes with them socially is a disgrace. There. I feel much better now.

 

This Just In

ST. PAUL, MINNESOTA — A late-night police chase ended last month when a GMC Yukon Denali ran off the road and four men escaped into the darkness. When officers searched the vehicle, they found a goat tied up with an electrical cord.

The goat was identified as Gordy, a member of a herd rented by the St. Paul Parks and Recreation Department to eat invasive plants on a bluff along the Mississippi River. Earlier that day, several goats had escaped through a break in a fence, and all but Gordy had been found.

Two 29-year-old men later were arrested in connection with the crash. They were charged with gross misdemeanor theft and fleeing police.

A police spokesman said the department’s Facebook post about the incident has received an unusual amount of attention. Among the comments: “It was a ‘kid’-napping” and “Stealing really gets my goat.”

Gordy

ALBUQUERQUE, NEW MEXICO — While a TV news crew taped footage for a story about an increase in crime in downtown Albuquerque, a thief drove away in the station’s news truck.

The news director of KOB-TV said the crew saw the vehicle being stolen, but could not prevent it. The vehicle was equipped with a GPS tracking device, and it was found abandoned about 30 minutes later, undamaged. It was locked, and the keys were missing.

“I have a rule that you can never be the lead of your own newscast,” said the news director. “So this violates that rule.”

News truck

PARIS, FRANCE — French performance artist Abraham Poincheval succeeded in hatching a basket of chicken eggs with his own body heat after personally incubating them for three weeks.

The incubating occurred inside a glass vivarium at a Paris art museum. For the endeavor, Poincheval sat on a chair, wrapped in a traditional Korean cloak, with the eggs in a container beneath him. He left the chair for no more than a total of 30 minutes per day.

A spokeswoman for the museum said nine of the 10 eggs hatched, and the chicks were taken to a farm.

Earlier this year, Poincheval lived for a week inside a large piece of limestone with a space carved out for his body. He explained that he was trying to escape from human time and experience mineral speed.

Incubator

 

One day back in 2002, my mom called and said excitedly, “Rocky, have you heard that new Johnny Cash song, ‘The Man Comes Around’?” I had not.

“Oh, you need to hear it. Johnny Cash is always good, but this song is something else. It’s… biblical.”

She tried to explain, but it was futile. I had no idea why the song had her so amped.

When I finally heard it, I understood her enthusiasm.

The song was the title tune on Johnny’s 2002 album “American IV: The Man Comes Around.”

Wikipedia explains it thusly:

“There are numerous biblical references in the lyrics. A spoken portion from Revelation 6:1–2 in the King James Version introduces the song. The passage describes the coming of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, each heralded by one of the ‘four beasts’ first mentioned in Revelation 4:6–9.

“The musical portion then begins with Cash reciting that ‘the man’ (Jesus Christ) will one day come to pass judgment. The chorus indicates that these events will be accompanied by trumpets, pipers, and ‘one hundred million angels singing.’ The voice of the Lord in Revelation is often likened to the sound of a loud trumpet. Revelation 5:11 states that John saw that there are millions of angels in Heaven.

“The song also alludes to the Parable of the Ten Virgins from the Gospel of Matthew with the lyrics ‘The virgins are all trimming their wicks,’ a reference to the virgins’ preparation of the Second Coming of Christ.

“The phrase, ‘It’s hard for thee to kick against the pricks’ cites Acts 26:14, where Paul the Apostle describes meeting Jesus while traveling to Damascus. It is a reference to a Greek proverb where a kicking ox only injures himself by attempting to kick against a goad, intended to represent the futility of resisting the Lord.

“Elsewhere, the song mentions the wise men who bow before the Lord’s throne, and cast their ‘golden crowns’ at the feet of God. Revelation 4 refers to elders who worship the Lord and ‘lay their crowns’ before Him. ‘Alpha and Omega’ refers to Jesus Christ. ‘Whoever is unjust… etc.’ is a quote from Revelation 22:11.”

Mom was right. Johnny Cash going Old Testament biblical is something else.

The Man Comes Around

The Man Comes Around

By Johnny Cash, 2002
Written by Johnny Cash

And I heard, as it were, the noise of thunder:
One of the four beasts saying: “Come and see.” And I saw.
And behold, a white horse.

There’s a man goin’ ’round takin’ names.
An’ he decides who to free and who to blame.
Everybody won’t be treated all the same.
There’ll be a golden ladder reaching down
When the man comes around.

The hairs on your arm will stand up
At the terror in each sip and in each sup.
Will you partake of that last offered cup
Or disappear into the potter’s ground
When the man comes around?

Hear the trumpets, hear the pipers.
One hundred million angels singing.
Multitudes are marching to the big kettle drum.
Voices callin’, voices cryin’.
Some are born and some are dyin’.
It’s Alpha and Omega’s Kingdom come.

And the whirlwind is in the thorn tree.
The virgins are all trimming their wicks.
The whirlwind is in the thorn tree.
It’s hard for thee to kick against the pricks.

Till Armageddon, no Shalam, no Shalom.
Then the father hen will call his chickens home.
The wise men will bow down before the throne.
And at his feet they’ll cast their golden crowns
When the man comes around.

Whoever is unjust, let him be unjust still.
Whoever is righteous, let him be righteous still.
Whoever is filthy, let him be filthy still.
Listen to the words long written down
When the man comes around.

Hear the trumpets, hear the pipers.
One hundred million angels singing.
Multitudes are marchin’ to the big kettle drum.
Voices callin’, voices cryin’.
Some are born and some are dyin’.
It’s Alpha and Omega’s Kingdom come.

And the whirlwind is in the thorn tree.
The virgins are all trimming their wicks.
The whirlwind is in the thorn tree.
It’s hard for thee to kick against the pricks.

In measured hundredweight and penny pound.
When the man comes around.

And I heard a voice in the midst of the four beasts,
And I looked, and behold: a pale horse.
And his name that sat on him was Death.
And Hell followed with him.

 

A trip to Walmart, if you’ll permit me this peculiar analogy, is a bit like going to the Mos Eisley spaceport in “Star Wars.”

Not because it’s a wretched hive of scum and villainy. Au contraire, mes amis. Rather, because Walmart is a societal and cultural melting pot, teeming with activity, always poised to surprise and entertain.

When in Walmart, a person should be observant, because sometimes you strike gold.

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So, there I was at Walmart, in the electronics department, perusing the laptops that hadn’t been vandalized yet.

A few yards away, a young man and woman in their 20s were rifling through the DVDs in a large bin marked “$3.74.”

Strapped to the young woman’s chest was a googly-eyed infant dressed in pink. The baby was trying gamely to snag one of the DVDs from the bin, emulating Mom and Dad.

Twice, the child succeeded and began to gnaw on the corner of the DVD. Each time, the mom snatched it away and sailed it back into the bin.

After a time, this exchange ensued:

DadHey, look. Alien. That’s an oldie.

MomWe got that already. You paid too much for it. I told you that.

They continued digging.

DadOh, wow! The Terminator! Another classic!

MomWe got that, too.

Dad — I know. I’m just sayin’ it goes way back. Schwarzenegger made The Terminator before he was President.

Mom — Honey, for God’s sake! Schwarzenegger wadn’t never President!

Dad — He damn sure was. He was President of California.

Mom — That is so dumb! Listen, he wadn’t PRESIDENT of California!

Dad — He damn sure was.

Mom — No, he wadn’t! He was MAYOR of California!

Dad — You sure?

Mom — Hell, yes!

Dad — Mayor, President. Same thing.

$3.74

 

Pix o’ the Day

More random photos I’ve taken over the years that still make me smile.

Tanks

Warning sign

Socks

Opposable thumbs

Blonde power