Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘History’

Useless Facts

More “Useless Facts for Inquiring Minds.”

————

— The thin strip of paper protruding from the top of a Hershey’s Kiss is called a niggly wiggly.

— The board game Clue (known in the UK as Cluedo) was invented in 1944 by a British musician, Anthony Pratt, as a diversion for people waiting it out in London air raid shelters.

— In the 1983 “Dirty Harry” movie Sudden Impact, Clint Eastwood snarled, “Go ahead, make my day.” The phrase was later voted #6 of the top 100 movie quotes of all time. In truth, the line was first used in the 1982 film Vice Squad by Gary Swanson, who sneered, “Go ahead, scumbag, make my day.”

— In 1972, Andy Warhol released a rather ghoulish print of Richard Nixon with “Vote McGovern” beneath it. Warhol was audited by the IRS every year from 1972 until he died in 1987.

Vote McGovern

— Opera singer Luciano Pavarotti, a superstitious fellow, was obsessed with finding a bent nail backstage before every performance. Usually, a stagehand was assigned to scatter a few bent nails between the dressing rooms and the stage to make sure Pavarotti found one.

— Only two animal species wage war on their own kind: humans and ants.

— In 2014, the Food and Drug Administration banned the importation of certain classic French cheeses that contain high levels of bacteria. The ban affects such soft, unpasteurized cheeses as Roquefort, Brie, and others that depend on bacteria to create the desired flavor and consistency.

Critics of the ban point out that cheese lovers have consumed these products for centuries with no ill effects. The FDA has stood firm, however. Today, the only Roquefort you can get legally in the U.S. is made from pasteurized goat’s milk. Most agree that, compared to the real stuff, it sucks.

— In 1996, to celebrate the production of the one hundred billionth Crayola crayon, TV’s Mister Rogers poured a ceremonial batch of limited-edition “blue ribbon” crayons. They were wrapped in foil and quickly became collectibles.

Mr. Rogers

— The Bronx, one of the five boroughs of New York City, is named after the Bronx River, which flows south through the borough. Originally, the river was called “Bronck’s river” after Jonas Bronck, who settled the area in 1639, but the name evolved to Bronx.

Rafflesia arnoldii, a plant found in the Indonesian rain forests, is called the “corpse flower” because it emits an odor disturbingly similar to that of decaying flesh. It’s also the largest flower on earth, with blooms up to three feet wide.

— When you speak, you spray microscopic saliva droplets into the air. On average, you spew about 2.5 droplets per word or 300 droplets per minute.

— The motor scooter, a type of motorcycle with a flat platform for the rider’s feet, was invented in 1946 by the Italian manufacturer Piaggio. WWII had left Italy’s economy and roads in ruins, so Piaggio created the Vespa, an efficient, low-cost mode of transportation for the masses. Vespa is Italian for wasp.

Vespa

 

Read Full Post »

We don’t rely on American banks. We have all the funding we need out of Russia.”

— Eric Trump, 2014

———

For a host of obvious reasons, most Americans did not vote for Donald Trump in the 2016 election.

Of course they didn’t. Nobody with their wits about them would want such a flawed person, who has dangerous connections to our enemies, to lead the country.

But, astonishingly, enough people voted for him, in just the right places, to give him an Electoral College victory.

Why? The reasons varied.

Some did it because Trump was the Republican nominee, and they are loyal to the Republican team, no matter how far the party descends into fantasy, delusion, and paranoia.

Some did it because of the vague notion that Trump would “shake things up in Washington.” Nothing gets done anyway. Maybe a trainwreck is what we need.

Some did it to give a middle finger to the snooty, holier-than-thou liberals — those annoying left-wingers they perceive, sometimes correctly, to be looking down on working-class conservatives.

Some did it because they hate the lazy, whiny black and brown people who get a free ride from government, at the expense of hard-working, God-fearing, patriotic white people who just can’t get a break.

Some did it because they were taught to loathe Hillary Clinton by people they watch and listen to — you know, like Fox News, Limbaugh, Beck, and all those right-wing televangelists.

I get all that. Intellectually, I understand the motivations, as naive and wrong-headed as they are.

Still, it baffles me that all those Trump voters, knowing about the guy’s character, his history, his ties to foreign adversaries, his conflicts of interest — knowing all that, they were willing to risk the safety, security, and well-being of the country for reasons that are, frankly, trivial and infantile.

And risk it they did. They saddled us with a president who, in the eyes of the rest of the world, is a dangerously unpredictable buffoon.

They saddled us with someone erratic and impulsive enough to pick a fight with a madman like Kim Jong Un. The two of them are playing nuclear chicken, and if you aren’t frightened by that, you need to pay attention.

They saddled us with a man who is beholden to an unknown degree to Vladimir Putin, the evil little despot who single-handedly dragged the world back into a Cold War.

Eventually, I expect, proof will surface that Russian money has bailed out Trump and his businesses multiple times, starting back in the 1990s.

I expect we’ll discover that Trump is indebted to Putin, the oligarchs, and the banks they control, not just for coming to his aid when he needed it financially, but for stacking the deck by meddling in America’s campaign and elections.

There are rumors that Russia has dirt on Trump for unsavory personal behavior. They’re only rumors. They could be false, they could be exaggerated.

But if they’re even partly true, Trump knows the Russians could damage him, or at least embarrass him, by releasing the evidence. If that’s so, he is bought and paid for.

———

In case you missed it, Trump got 63 percent of the votes of white men and 53 percent of the votes of white women.

The white male vote isn’t too surprising, but the white female vote certainly is. 53 percent of white women voted for one of the most infamous misogynists on the national stage. Unbelievable.

For all of his adult life, Trump has disparaged, objectified, and leered at women as a matter of routine. Probably, in his mind, this makes him manly and clever.

In a rational world, his record of shameful behavior towards women automatically would have doomed his chances with woman voters.

When the “Access Hollywood” video came out before the election, in which Trump made his infamous grab-’em-by-the-private-parts remarks, I was convinced his campaign was over. I couldn’t see how any woman could vote for him after that.

By all rights, that incident should have sent Trump back to private life in disgrace. It should have guaranteed that no self-respecting female would dream of voting for him.

But 53 percent of white women voted for him anyway.

It appears that my confidence in the wisdom and maturity of the electorate was sadly misplaced.

AH video

 

Read Full Post »

Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our assets. We see a lot of money pouring in from Russia.”

— Donald Trump, Jr., 2008

———

In the waning months of 1991, the Soviet Union officially disbanded. Collapsed. Imploded. Over the years, a myth has taken shape among conservatives that Ronald Reagan, that clever rascal, tricked the USSR into bankrupting itself.

He did no such thing. The Soviet Union fell apart because half its member states were in open rebellion and others were poised to follow. The empire was too sprawling and unwieldy to control. The handwriting was on the wall.

The Soviet leader, Mikhail Gorbachev, understood that the end was inevitable. Ultimately, he did the world a favor, declared that the USSR was no more, and went home to his native Russia.

In place of the former Soviet Union were 15 independent countries. By far the largest and most influential was the Russian Federation, which took home most of the nukes.

Print

Gorbachev didn’t last long as President of the new Russia. He was succeeded by Boris Yeltsin, a construction worker who rose through the ranks as a Communist Party loyalist. Yeltsin was mediocre and crude, but he garnered a reputation as a maverick and a straight-talking man of the people.

As President, Yeltsin was determined to transform Russia from socialism to a market economy. Throughout the 1990s, he instituted a series of radical policies designed to shock the economy and force the desired changes. Most of the industries controlled by the government were privatized.

Whereupon, the Russian economy descended into chaos. By the time a measure of stability was restored, most of Russia’s wealth — its property, transportation, media, manufacturing, mining and more — had fallen under the control of a small group of “oligarchs,” an opportunistic bunch who took advantage of the chaos to amass great wealth and power.

———

Vladimir Putin joined the KGB in 1975 and left in 1990 to transition into local politics. He excelled in that environment and worked his way up. In 1997, Yeltsin named Putin to his personal staff.

In 1998, Putin was appointed Director of the Federal Security Service, the successor to the old KGB. Yeltsin also made it clear that he wanted Putin to succeed him.

Yeltsin, who suffered from heart disease and alcoholism and faced corruption charges, resigned as President in 1999. Putin became Acting President, and he promptly signed an order declaring that no corruption charges would be pursued against Yeltsin.

Putin was elected to his first term as Russian President in 2000, and he remains in office today. He has successfully allied himself with the oligarchs, and together, they not only control Russia’s government and economy, but they also conduct business around the world with a range of corporations and countries.

Some of their business is legitimate — normal transactions as part of the world economy. But, because, Putin and the oligarchs are quite literally a gang of crooks, a large part of their financial dealings involves dirty money — their take from bribery, kickbacks, skimming, payoffs, and theft.

Accordingly, they need a regular supply of willing and seemingly honest business partners around the world for money-laundering purposes. Right now, investigations are underway to determine the connections, if any, of Donald Trump and his companies in this regard.

No one knows Putin’s net worth. However, through his ties to the oligarchs and his stakes in numerous Russian companies, he probably is a billionaire many times over. He may well be the wealthiest human ever.

In 2012, Putin was cornered into reporting his income for the first and only time. With a straight face, he claimed an annual income of $113,000. Seriously.

———

Donald Trump was in the public eye for decades before he stumbled into politics. We all were well aware of his standing as a professional showman, clown, and loudmouth.

His shtick, his role on the national stage over the years, was that of an insult comic. He reveled in being outrageous and provocative. The fact that he came across as an egotistical gasbag? No problem. That was part of the routine.

Lots of people thought Trump was entertaining, in an Archie Bunker kind of way. Others, like me, found him shallow and vulgar and tried not to think about him. Let him rant and fire people on TV. Nothing says you have to watch.

Clearly, a person of this caliber is completely unsuited to lead the country. Trump, in fact, is one of the least qualified persons of all time to serve in public office.

But here we are, well into a presidency that was destined to be a trainwreck and is fulfilling its promise every day.

The fact that Trump is an obnoxious jerk does not, of course, disqualify him from serving. Politics is heavily populated with jerks. But other factors should have disqualified him — and, I submit, still do.

Factor number one is his personal and business ties to Putin and the oligarchs. No American President should have ties of any kind to any foreign country, let alone Russia. Russia! My God!

Someday, we’ll find out the extent to which Trump and people close to him are in bed with Putin and his gangster friends. We’ll be able to see how dirty money was laundered, and by whom.

Someday, we’ll also understand the extent of Russia’s dirty-tricks campaign to help Trump win the 2016 election.

When we do, minds will be blown.

A second disqualifying factor is that Trump’s global business interests and foreign entanglements present spectacular conflicts of interest that simply are unsolvable. Already, he and his businesses are profiting greatly because he is in office.

And, sadly, even if heads eventually roll, we’ll probably never know the extent to which Trump, his family, and his cronies have cashed in.

A third factor, which is almost trivial in the overall scheme of things, is the matter of Trump’s incompetence. He isn’t capable of doing the job, isn’t interested in doing the job, and has no intention of learning to do the job.

In other words, being incompetent is his least egregious fault.

In my next post, a few words about the people who voted for Trump.

Maher board

Putin and Trump

 

Read Full Post »

The Questions…

1. What is the sport of eukonkanto?

2. Encyclopedia Britannica published its last print edition in 2010. EB is now “Britannica Online,” plus “Britannica Online for Kids,” plus special services for schools and libraries. Back in the day, how much did a 32-volume set of Encyclopedia Britannica weigh?

3. In 1861, the United States government badly needed money for the war effort against the Confederate States. What was the solution?

4. What do the words abhors, accent, access, almost, biopsy, billow, chintz, effort, and ghostly have in common?

5. To what does the medical term diastema refer?

The Answers…

1. Eukonkanto, also known as “wife-carrying,” is a contest originating in Finland in which male competitors try to carry a female teammate through an obstacle course in the fastest time. Fins say the competition was inspired by a gang of thieves in the late 1800s who kidnapped Finnish women from remote villages, carrying the victims away on their backs.

2. 129 pounds.

3. The solution was a tax on personal income. The Revenue Act of 1861 created the position of Commissioner of Internal Revenue and the framework for the federal income tax.

4. In those words, the letters are in alphabetical order.

5. Diastema is the condition of having a gap between two teeth, typically the front teeth.

Eukonkanto

Terry-Thomas

 

Read Full Post »

Useless Facts

More “Useless Facts for Inquiring Minds.”

————

— For the last 10 years of his life, Ludwig van Beethoven was completely deaf, yet he continued to compose music. To compensate for his loss of hearing, he worked seated on the floor in front of a legless piano, so he could feel the vibrations.

— Jimmy Carter was the first U.S. president born in a hospital.

— In 1958, international jewelry kingpin Harry Winston donated the fabled Hope Diamond to the Smithsonian Institution. The 45.52-carat mega-diamond, which is worth $250 million, was packed in a plain brown wrapper and sent by first class mail at a cost of $145.29. The postage was $2.44, and the rest was for $1 million in insurance.

— The world’s fastest land insect is the Australian tiger beetle, which can skitter at 5.6 MPH. Compare that to the speed of the average spider (1.1 MPH) and house mouse (8 MPH).

Australian Tiger Beetle - fastest running insect

— A “capitonym” is a word that has a different meaning, and sometimes a different pronunciation, depending on whether or not it is capitalized. Examples:

August (the month)
august (majestic)

Cancer (the constellation)
cancer (the disease)

March (the month)
march (as in forward, march)

Mercury (the planet)
mercury (the chemical element).

Polish (from Poland)
polish (furniture polish)

— When Bill Clinton won the 1992 presidential election, the first telephone call he took was from President Bush. The 2nd call was from Vice President Quayle. The 3rd call was from Whoopie Goldberg.

— Buckingham Palace in London, the home of the Queen and a symbol of the British monarchy, has 775 rooms. 78 are toilets.

— Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield, the founders of Ben & Jerry’s, originally intended to open a bagel shop. When they discovered the high cost of bagel-making equipment, however, they went to Plan B, an ice cream parlor. The business opened in an old gas station in Burlington, Vermont, in 1978.

Ben and Jerry's

— Roy Sullivan (1912-1983), a ranger at Shenandoah National Park, survived being struck by lightning seven times, more than any person known. The strikes happened between 1942 and 1977, mostly while he was on duty in the park, a storm-prone area in a storm-prone state.

Naturally, Sullivan got spooked when bad weather threatened, and often he would leave the area. The lightning got him anyway. Several of the strikes set his hair on fire, so he carried a container of water with him at all times.

— Based on scientific research, the 10,000 laborers who built the Great Pyramids of Giza in Egypt subsisted on a diet of meat, bread, and beer to keep them healthy and productive. Massive bakeries and great herds of sheep, goats, and cattle were maintained near the work sites. The daily rations included the equivalent of about a dozen 12-ounce bottles or beer per man.

— In 1907, teenagers James Casey and Claude Ryan borrowed $100 to start the American Messenger Company in Seattle. They employed several other teens to make deliveries with bikes and on foot. Business was good, and by 1913, they purchased their first delivery vehicle, a Model T Ford.

In 1919, the company expanded to Oakland, California, changed its name to United Parcel Service, and hasn’t slowed down since.

— The full name of the Spanish artist Picasso (1881-1973) was Pablo Diego José Francisco de Paula Juan Nepomuceno María de los Remedios Cipriano de la Santísima Trinidad Ruiz y Picasso. The names were in honor of assorted relatives and saints.

Picasso

 

Read Full Post »

The Questions…

1. How old was Louis Braille when he introduced his reading/writing system for the blind?

2. Slaughterville, Oklahoma, founded in 1889, is named for its founder, James Slaughter. In 2004, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) offered to give $20,000 worth of veggie burgers to the school system if the town would change its name to what?

3. The color puce is a sort of dark red or reddish brown with maybe a hint of purple. Think of a spot of dried blood on a white t-shirt. How did this rather yucky color get its name?

4. What is cerumen?

5. When the British Army put the first tanks on the battlefield during World War I, they officially called them “landships.” So, where does the name “tank” come from?

The Answers…

1. 15. Braille lost his sight at age three and started working on the dot system at age 12.

2. PETA suggested Veggieville. The citizens of Slaughterville declined.

3. The word puce is French for “flea.” It was first used in the 1770s to describe the color of a flea as well as the blood upon which it feeds.

4. Earwax.

5. When the prototypes were under development, British Intelligence referred to them as a “water tanks” to mislead the Germans, and the name stuck.

Braille

Tank

 

Read Full Post »

More “Useless Facts for Inquiring Minds.”

————

— 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

 

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »