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Posts Tagged ‘Miscellaneous’

The Questions…

1. Before they formed the Beatles, John Lennon, Paul McCartney, and George Harrison were members of what group?

2. In olden times, what was Ethiopia called?

3. What do former presidential candidates Samuel Tilden, Grover Cleveland, Al Gore, and Hillary Clinton have in common?

4. On a standard keyboard, all of the vowels except one are on the top row. Which one is not? No fair peeking.

5. A male donkey is called a jack. What is a female donkey called?

The Answers…

1. The Quarrymen.

2. Abyssinia.

3. All four won the popular vote, but lost in the Electoral College.

4. The letter A is the leftmost key on the second row.

5. A jenny.

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Sins and Virtues

In olden times, all religions had a seriously Old Testament mindset, and the masses were lectured vigorously about the basics: behaviors to avoid and behaviors to emulate.

To codify the message for easier consumption, two handy lists evolved: the “Seven Deadly Sins” and their mirror image, the “Seven Heavenly Virtues.”

Neither list is mentioned in the Bible, but over the centuries, they nonetheless became well known and influential, and they remain so today, dear to the hearts of religious conservatives.

To refresh your memory, the Seven Deadly Sins are pride, greed, wrath, envy, lust, gluttony, and sloth.

The Seven Heavenly Virtues are humility, charity, patience, kindness, chastity, temperance, and diligence.

I certainly agree that greed, gluttony, and all that are negative behaviors, and that humility, kindness, etc. are solidly positive. I do not, however, find it necessary to sit people down and explain it to them. Everyone understands basic morality perfectly well by the time they are five.

On the other hand, if folks are not gathered in a group, you can’t pass the collection plate.

The Seven Deadly Sins,” attributed to Hieronymus Bosch, circa 1500.

Aerodynamics

The game of golf as we know it originated in Scotland in the 1500s. It probably evolved from either the Roman game of paganica or the Chinese game of chuiwan, both of which involved using a stick to knock a ball into a hole in the ground.

When the Scottish version arose, golf balls were fashioned by hand of beech wood. They were more or less round, but often were off-balance, making them maddeningly unpredictable in flight.

Sometime in the 1600s, a slight design improvement appeared: a leather ball stuffed with feathers. This version was better balanced and thus less erratic. But a dry ball did not behave like a wet one. Plus, the feathers had to be boiled and softened prior to stuffing, making the process labor-intensive and costly. And still, the balls were round in only a general sense.

In 1848, a Scottish clergyman discovered that the rubbery sap of the sapodilla tree could be heated, placed in a round mold, and allowed to harden into a sphere. With this “gutta percha” ball (translation: Sumatran latex), the mass manufacturing of cheap, reasonably aerodynamic golf balls finally was made possible.

Fifty years later, the sap was replaced by a core of tightly-wrapped rubber thread. Further, someone discovered that adding dimples to the ball improved control of the ball’s trajectory.

Fast forward to the present. The governing bodies of the game closely control the specifications and manufacturing of all golf equipment. Worldwide, an estimated 1.2 billion golf balls are manufactured each year.

Annually, in the US alone, some 300 million golf balls are lost.

Keep Calm

Keep Calm and Carry On is the perfect slogan to be corrupted into memes. I mean, it practically begs to be parodied.

Keep Calm and Carry. Keep Calm and Carry On My Wayward Son. Keep Calm and Carry Hand Sanitizer, Keep Calm and Have a Cupcake. Freak Out and Run.

The slogan originated in 1939 on a motivational poster created by the British Ministry of Information to boost public morale as World War II approached. The idea was to call upon the British self-image of remaining calm and resolute when facing adversity.

Actually, the government designed three posters and was poised to distribute millions of copies if a German attack came. Each poster featured the Tudor crown, a symbol of the state.

Immediately, the government was criticized for wasting money and patronizing the public. Very few of the posters were distributed, and the program soon was canceled. According to one historian, the effort was a “resounding failure” by clueless bureaucrats.

The posters essentially were forgotten until 2000, when copies were discovered in an English bookshop. Only a few original prints were know to have survived until Antiques Roadshow turned up a batch of 15 prints in 2012.

I think the criticism of the project was misplaced. Patronizing? Baloney. To me, the posters seem perfectly “stiff-upper-lip” British. Straight out of a Churchill speech.

The critics should have just, you know, kept calm.

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Useless Facts

More “Useless Facts for Inquiring Minds.”

● The human nose has about six million scent receptors. A dog’s nose has about 300 million.

● In 1962, Wilt Chamberlain of the Philadelphia Warriors set the record for the most points scored by a player in a professional basketball game: 100 points against the New York Knicks.

In 1983, the Detroit Pistons defeated the Denver Nuggets 186-184 in triple overtime. The combined score of 370 points is the most points scored in a single pro game.

● If you drove your car straight up at 60 mph, you would reach “outer space” in about one hour.

● The water of Lake Hillier, a salt water lake on an island off the west coast of Australia, is the color of bubble gum. The cause is a red dye created when algae in the water combine with the salt. Other than the pink color, the water is normal and harmless.

● Gravity varies with mass, so a person weighing 200 pounds on Earth would weigh 505 pounds on Jupiter and 13 pounds on Pluto.

● John Quincy Adams, who was President from 1825 to 1829, kept a daily journal from age 12 until his death at 80. It revealed that during his term as President, he arose each morning between four and five AM, walked two miles around the city, and, when the weather was nice, went skinny-dipping in the Potomac River.

● In the mid-1960s, the CIA launched Project Acoustic Kitty, a plan to implant tiny microphones and transmitters in cats and train them to eavesdrop on the Soviets. After a few years, the agency decided the project was impractical and canceled it. The implants worked fine, but no one could train the cats.

● In the late 1880s, Gustave Eiffel proposed building the Eiffel Tower in Barcelona, Spain, and was told to get lost. He then approached Paris, and the city agreed to let him erect the tower for the 1889 World’s Fair.

The tower was not popular with Parisians, who considered it just plain ugly. One critic called it a “metal asparagus.” After the exposition, it was scheduled to be dismantled and sold for scrap, but it was spared because the French army found it useful as a communications tower.

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More favorite photos I’ve taken over the years.

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BEAVERTON, OREGON — A car thief who discovered a toddler in the back seat of the vehicle returned the child to the mother, chastised her for leaving the child unattended, and took off again with the car.

According to police, the woman went inside a meat market, leaving her four-year-old in the car with the engine running and the vehicle unlocked. While she was in the market, a young white male stole the car.

When the thief saw the toddler in the back seat, he immediately returned to the market. A police officer said, “He actually lectured the mother for leaving the child in the car and threatened to call the police on her.”

The vehicle was found later in Portland. Police are still searching for the thief.

CINCINNATI, OHIO — An Ohio man marked Lent by giving up solid foods and getting most of his nourishment from beer.

Lent is an observance among Christians leading up to Easter Sunday, during which believers pray, repent, and perform acts of denial and simple living.

Del Hall of Cincinnati said his Lent diet consisted only of beer, water, black coffee, and herbal tea. He said he drank three to five beers per day.

Hall completed Lent beer diets in 2019 and 2020 and lost about 50 pounds each time. He also said his blood pressure and cholesterol levels improved.

“The human body is an amazing thing,” Hall said. “We’re used to going through life as hunter-gatherers — feast and famine. The problem is we don’t go through the famine anymore.”

SAND LAKE, MICHIGAN — Milo, a springer spaniel who wandered away from home, was found 44 days later and 20 miles away at the bottom of an abandoned grain silo.

A Sand Lake resident told Kent County animal control officers he heard barking and feared a dog had fallen into the old silo. The officers responded and found Milo inside the 10-foot-deep structure.

The officers used a rope to lasso Milo and haul him to safety.

During his ordeal, Milo endured snow storms and frigid temperatures, and he suffered significant weight loss and dehydration. He was reunited with his family and has no permanent injuries.

Milo in the silo.

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The modern conservative is engaged in one of man’s oldest exercises in moral philosophy; that is, the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness.

John Kenneth Galbraith

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It is not what we profess, but what we practice that gives us integrity.

Francis Bacon

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When a man loves cats, I am his friend and comrade without further introduction.

Mark Twain

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Social media gives legions of idiots the right to speak when they once only spoke at a bar after a glass of wine, without harming the community. Then they were quickly silenced, but now they have the same right to speak as a Nobel Prize winner. It’s the invasion of the idiots.

Umberto Eco

Galbraith

Eco

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Tama the Station Master

In January 2007, the manager at the railway station in Kinokawa, Japan, gave the title of Station Master to his cat Tama, with the primary duty of greeting passengers.

At the time, ridership was down. The station was operating with reduced staff, and Wakayama Railway had considered closing the operation. But after Tama was appointed, ridership increased. The company joyfully stepped in, creating a gold name tag for Tama’s collar and designing a special station master’s hat for her.

Thereafter, Tama appeared in the news regularly, usually when she received a promotion or award. Tourists flocked to see her. A ticket booth in the station was converted into her office.

In 2010, Tama’s mother Miiko and sister Chibi were named Assistant Station Masters. In 2012, a deputy named Nitama (“Second Tama”), was appointed.

Tama died in 2015 and was succeeded by Nitama, who remains in office today.

According to a study, Tama generated about one billion yen for the local economy. A newspaper pointed out that she was the only female in a managerial position at Wakayama Railway.

The White Bridge

In 1926 in my adopted town of Jefferson, Georgia, a concrete arch bridge was built across Curry Creek, replacing an old wooden covered bridge. At the time, reinforced concrete was the latest thing in bridges — practical, cheap, and versatile.

Curry Creek Bridge is its official name, but, as I learned when I moved to Jefferson in 2006, the locals call it the White Bridge. I had to accept that description on faith, because the bridge needed a serious cleaning. Like most aging concrete bridges, it was an unsightly, moldy gray. It was, like, the Ugly Bridge.

Finally, late last year, the Highway Department gave the bridge some attention. Structural repairs were made, and the entire thing was sandblasted and stripped of accumulated grime.

When the project was completed and the tarps removed, I drove downtown to see the White Bridge restored to its former glory.

Alas, nine decades of exposure to the elements had taken a toll. Yes, the bridge looks much better, but it isn’t what you’d call white. It’s more the color of a banana (the fruit, not the peel). Or eggnog. Or mayonnaise.

I guess the Mayonnaise Bridge is better than the Ugly Bridge.

Seven Wonders

The ancient Greeks were big on the number seven. To them, seven somehow represented perfection and held the promise of personal enrichment (lucky seven). Hence, when some Greek deep thinkers decided to make a list of the wonders of the world, the list was bound to be seven wonders long.

The Seven Wonders of the Ancient World are/were the Great Pyramid of Giza, the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus, the Temple of Artemis at Ephesus, the Colossus of Rhodes, the Lighthouse of Alexandria, and the statue of Zeus at Olympia.

All seven are located in the Mediterranean region, the back yard of the Greeks. The rest of the world? Meh.

The list isn’t official or binding in any way, of course, and over the centuries, it has been modified regularly. Frequent additions were the Roman Colosseum, Stonehenge, the Great Wall of China, the Taj Mahal, etc.

In 1997, in an interesting twist, CNN listed the Seven Natural Wonders of the World. Named were the Aurora Borealis (northern lights), Grand Canyon, the Great Barrier Reef, Mount Everest, Victoria Falls, Brazil’s Rio de Janeiro Harbor, and the Paricutin volcano in Mexico.

Regarding the last two: the harbor at Rio de Janeiro is the world’s largest natural harbor. It has 130 islands and is ringed by mountains. Paricutin volcano erupted unexpectedly in 1943 in a farmer’s field, grew to 1,400 feet tall, and went dormant in 1952, leaving a cinder cone that is now a popular tourist attraction.

The Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.

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The Questions…

1. During WWII, how were the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and the Declaration of Independence safeguarded?

2. What company owns, among other brands, Lamborghini, Audi, Porsche, Bentley, Bugatti, and Ducati?

3. By what name is the painting “La Gioconda” better known?

4. How long is an eon?

5. In parts of Europe, and in many countries that once were part of the British Empire, what is the day after Christmas called?

The Answers…

1. After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, the documents were moved to the US Bullion Depository at Fort Knox, Kentucky. After the D-Day landings in 1944, they were returned to Washington, DC.

2. Volkswagen AG.

3. The Mona Lisa. The painting by Leonardo da Vinci is believed to be a portrait of Lisa Gherardini, an Italian noblewoman whose husband, rich businessman Francesco del Giocondo, was a big shot in the Silk Guild.

4. In common usage, an eon usually is an indefinite, very long period of time. In astronomy and geology, however, it is one billion years.

5. “Boxing Day,” which originated eons ago in the UK. It probably is connected to an old tradition of giving gifts to people working service jobs or to the poor. Boxing may refer to a Christmas box given to the needy or to church donation boxes.

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The London new wave band The Dream Academy was formed in the mid-1980s, intending to make their mark using uncommon instruments and sounds. One item on their list was to create a song with an African-style chorus.

They did it in the band’s first, biggest, and only real hit, “Life in a Northern Town.”

Nick Laird-Clowes wrote the lyrics after working in the port city of Newcastle, where many workers were left unemployed when the shipyards closed down. The melancholy feel of the song reflects how the lives of the locals were affected.

The Dream Academy broke up in 1991, but still tours now and then.

The Dream Academy: Kate St. John, Nick Laird-Clowes, and Gilbert Gabriel.

Life In A Northern Town

By The Dream Academy, 1985
Written by Nick Laird-Clowes and Gilbert Gabriel

The Salvation Army band played.
And the children drunk lemonade.
And the morning lasted all day, all day,
And through an open window came,
Like Sinatra in a younger day,
Pushing the town away. Oh.

Hey-oh-ma-ma-ma
Dee-dew-dee-ny-ya
Hey-oh-ma-ma-ma
Hey-ya
Life in a northern town.
Hey-ma-ma-ma-ma

They sat on the stony ground,
And he took a cigarette out,
And everyone else came down to listen.
He said “In winter 1963,
It felt like the world would freeze
With John F. Kennedy
And The Beatles.”
Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Hey-oh-ma-ma-ma
Dee-dew-dee-ny-ya
Hey-oh-ma-ma-ma
Hey-ya
Life in a northern town.
Hey-ma-ma-ma-ma
Hey-oh-ma-ma-ma
Dee-dew-dee-ny-ya
Hey-oh-ma-ma-ma
Hey-ya
All the work shut down.

The evening turned to rain,
Watched the water roll down the drain,
As we followed him down to the station.
And though he never would wave goodbye,
You could see it written in his eyes
As the train rolled out of sight.
Bye-bye.

Hey-oh-ma-ma-ma
Dee-dew-dee-ny-ya
Hey-oh-ma-ma-ma
Hey-ya
Life in a northern town.

Hey-ma-ma-ma-ma
Hey-oh-ma-ma-ma
Dee-dew-dee-ny-ya
Hey-oh-ma-ma-ma
Hey-ya
Life in a northern town.

Hey-ma-ma-ma-ma
Hey-oh-ma-ma-ma
Dee-dew-dee-ny-ya
Hey-oh-ma-ma-ma
Hey-ya
Life in a northern town.

Hey-ma-ma-ma-ma
Hey-oh-ma-ma-ma
Dee-dew-dee-ny-ya
Hey-oh-ma-ma-ma
Hey-ya

Hey-ma-ma-ma-ma
Take it easy on yourself
Hey-oh-ma-ma-ma
Dee-dew-dee-ny-ya
Hey-oh-ma-ma-ma
Hey-ya

Hey-ma-ma-ma-ma
Take it easy on yourself
Hey-oh-ma-ma-ma
Dee-dew-dee-ny-ya
Hey-oh-ma-ma-ma
Hey-ya

https://rockysmith.files.wordpress.com/2021/01/life-in-a-northern-town.mp3

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