Posts Tagged ‘Miscellaneous’

Boot Lake

A decade or so ago, Jackson County purchased a square-mile tract of land north of Jefferson, my fair city, and built a new courthouse. Soon, other county facilities went up nearby: the health department, sheriff’s office, senior center, etc.

Being the location of so much high-level government activity, everything there that isn’t woods — roads, lawns, swales, parking lots, sidewalks — is meticulously maintained by county crews.

Also on the tract, tucked behind the Head Start building, is Boot Lake, a half-acre pond dating back to an old farm or whatever. It is so named because it’s shaped vaguely like a boot.

Boot Lake has the good fortune of being on county property and thus is maintained in top condition, from regular mowing and trimming of the banks to monitoring of the water quality.

No swimming or fishing is allowed; just strolling and enjoying. It’s an especially handsome and restful spot. And in the spring, impossibly green.

Just a Skosh

You may be familiar with the slang word skosh, which means a small amount, as in Gimmea skosh more of them taters.” It’s used much like the word smidgen or its derivative smidge.

Skosh comes from the Japanese word sukoshi (skoh-shee), which means small amount/tiny bit/not too much. American soldiers stationed in Japan after WWII brought the word skosh home with them. Sometimes, they also used it as a nickname for a short person.

Skosh and sukoshi have been in my vocabulary since the early 1950s, when Dad was in the Air Force and we Smiths lived in Tokyo. I also can tell you that the opposite of sukoshi in Japanese is takusan (tahk-sahn), which means a large amount.

We kids learned both terms in the school cafeteria. When we went down the serving line, we had to tell the Japanese servers what size portions we wanted of the foods they were ladling onto our trays. “Hey, boy-san! You want takusan? Sukoshi?”

The Florida Problem

In 1819, Spain decided that the territory of Florida was more trouble than it was worth, so it gave Florida to the US. That’s quite amusing, but is, in fact, how we ended up with the place.

In those days, Spain was taking a beating on many fronts. It was fighting Napoleon in Europe, losing territory to rebellious natives in Central and South America, and in real danger of losing Mexico. The cost of financing garrisons and settlers in Florida simply was too much.

So, Spain ceded Florida to the US in exchange for finally agreeing on the boundary between the two countries from Texas to the Pacific Ocean. Ironically, Mexico kicked out the Spaniards soon after, and the US had to make a new border deal with Mexico.

Technically, we didn’t pay Spain for Florida, but we agreed to cover $5 million worth of lawsuits pending against Spain from American citizens.

In retrospect, Spain wasn’t very good at colonialism.

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MADRID, SPAIN — A Spanish high court has ruled that the city of Aldaia wrongfully fined a man for walking naked on a public street, citing the fact that public nudity has been legal in Spain since 1988.

Earlier, the fine levied against Alejandro Colomar, 29, was struck down by a lower court, but officials in Aldaia appealed the ruling on grounds that a city ordinance forbids public nudity. The high court said the national law took precedence and observed that Colomar’s nudity did nothing to harm “citizen security, tranquility, or public order.”

Colomar said he began going naked in public in 2020 and has received more support than insults, although he once was threatened with a knife.

Colomar, who arrived in court wearing only a pair of hiking boots, was asked to wear pants to enter the building.

ZAGREB, CROATIA — A restaurant in Zagreb is the first in the world to serve meals prepared by robot chefs — completely from scratch, using fresh ingredients.

Bots & Pots Sci-Food Bistro features some 70 different one-pot meals prepared by robotic “GammaChef” cooks. The only human involvement is loading the devices with ingredients. So far, customers have praised the quality of the food.

According to the owners of the restaurant, the head chef programmed the five GammaChef machines to cook the dishes on the menu unassisted. Each GammaChef can cook four meals in 15 minutes, so technically, the restaurant can serve almost 100 meals per hour.

The owner said one restaurant with five robots can be run by a single person. “Our final goal is to create a ‘no waiter, no chef, no cash’ space where you order, get, and pay for food without human contact.”

CALDWELL, IDAHO — Members of the Caldwell Fire and Police Departments rescued a dog from the upper branches of a tree following a squirrel-chasing episode that went wrong.

Izzy, a pit bull-husky mix, followed a squirrel up the tree and, when he couldn’t figure out how to get down, froze. When Izzy’s owner discovered him, she placed an emergency call.

Ultimately, the rescuers positioned a ladder in the tree, and a firefighter carried Izzy to the ground.

The owner noted that Izzy was “never even close” to catching the squirrel.

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The Questions…

1. Khalas, barhi, medjool, sukkary, rutab, and halawi are varieties of what fruit?

2. What are the names of the two moons of Mars?

3. People from Spain, Germany, and Norway are called Spaniards, Germans, and Norwegians, respectively. What are people from Denmark called?

4. According to Polish folklore, what power does mistletoe have?

5. What was the original name of the Subway sandwich chain?

The Answers…

1. Dates, of which more than 200 varieties are cultivated.

2. Deimos and Phobos. They were discovered and named by American astronomer Asaph Hall in 1877. Oddly, Deimos and Phobos are the sons of Ares, the Greek version of the Roman god Mars. Why Hall didn’t name the moons Romulus and Remus, the sons of Mars in Roman mythology, is a good question.

3. Danes.

4. The ability to ward off evil.

5. Pete’s Super Submarines.

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If a political party does not have its foundation in the determination to advance a cause that is right and that is moral, then it is not a political party; it is merely a conspiracy to seize power.

Dwight Eisenhower


All cruelty springs from weakness.

Seneca the Younger


The truth has no defense against a fool determined to believe a lie.

Mark Twain


If machines produce everything we need, the outcome will depend on how things are distributed. Everyone can enjoy a life of luxurious leisure if the machine-produced wealth is shared, or most people can end up miserably poor if the machine-owners successfully lobby against wealth redistribution.

Stephen Hawking



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NANAIMO, BRITISH COLUMBIA — Police officers responding to a report of a man spray-painting the floor of a Tim Hortons restaurant arrested the man after they caught him spray-painting their patrol car.

Constables of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police were taking evidence photos of the restaurant floor when a bystander said a man in the parking lot was spray-painting their vehicle.

As the constables approached, the man was standing on the hood of the vehicle “meticulously painting the windshield.” He hopped down and delivered a final blast of paint to the side of the cruiser before being subdued.

Officers said they found a small quantity of crystal meth in the man’s possession. The 24-year-old local resident was charged with mischief and possession of a controlled substance.

DÜSSELDORF, GERMANY — The curator of a Dϋsseldorf art museum has discovered that an abstract work on display there has been hanging upside down for 75 years.

“New York City I,” created in 1941 by Dutch artist Piet Mondrian, features colored tape on a white background. As displayed since 1980, the work is oriented so that more lines of tape are at the bottom of the work than at the top.

Museum curator Susanne Meyer-Büser said she recently found a 1944 photograph of the work on an easel in Mondrian’s studio, and it is positioned with more lines of tape at the top.

The error will not be corrected, Meyer-Büser said, because of the work’s age and condition. Much of the tape is “hanging by a thread,” she said, and turning it right side up likely would damage it.

“New York City I” does not bear Mondrian’s signature, which would have indicated how the work was to be displayed.

LAREDO, TEXAS — US Customs and Border Protection officers recently seized a massive shipment of cocaine disguised as packages of baby wipes.

Officials said drug-sniffing dogs discovered the cocaine at the Laredo Point of Entry during a routine inspection. A northbound truck was carrying 1,935 packages labeled as baby wipes, but actually containing 1,532 pounds of cocaine.

The drugs have a street value of about $11.8 million, making it the largest cocaine bust in Laredo in 20 years.

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The Question

For a time, a question bobbed around in my head, but went unaddressed because loftier thoughts prevailed. When it finally rose in the hierarchy, I gave the matter some attention.

The question is this: why have humans subjected dogs to selective breeding so vigorously, to the point that over 300 breeds exist in a wide range of sizes and shapes, many of which are, I submit, senseless and cruel, YET the 40-odd recognized breeds of housecat have been subjected to very little selective breeding, and cats vary in appearance only in minor ways?

The answer, which I probably should have known, is simple and logical.

Dogs, in addition to being companions, are capable of performing many useful services for us. Hence, we have bred them accordingly — to herd, to guard, to hunt. The many and varied goals of selective breeding gave us today’s many and varied dog breeds. Poor choices and all.

Cats, on the other hand, perform only two tasks: they serve as companion animals, and they control pests (and, of course, murder an appalling number of harmless and useful living things). For those two tasks, cats perform perfectly well as they are; we had no need to modify them.

Simple and logical.

Origin Story 1

Is the world’s longest river the Nile or the Amazon? Well, it depends on how, and by whom, the measuring is done. And the answer is debatable.

For a long time, the Nile was considered the longest at about 4,200 miles from headwaters to mouth, compared to the Amazon at 4,100 miles. But even the experts can’t agree on a precise methodology for identifying a river’s source. For example, does a source count if the flow halts in dry seasons?

In addition, previously unknown sources keep popping up. In 2014, a team identified a spring in Peru as an overlooked headwater of the Amazon. Its discovery, they say, makes the Amazon longer than the Nile by about 80 miles.

It’s probably just a coincidence that the 2014 study was partially funded by the Brazilian government.

Origin Story 2

Wild cabbage (Brassica oleracea) is a hardy plant native to the rugged coasts of Europe. In most habitats, other plants easily muscle it out, but it thrives unchallenged along sea cliffs due to its high tolerance for salt and lime.

Wild cabbage is notable for producing a flower spike that is up to seven feet tall and topped with bright yellow flowers. It is even more notable for being the origin plant of a boatload of nutritious vegetables that are super rich in such good things as vitamins and fiber.

The ancient Greeks and Romans probably were the first to develop new varieties of B. oleracea. Today, its cultivars fall into eight groups: (1) cabbage, (2) collards and kale, (3) broccoli and cauliflower, (4) Chinese broccoli, (5) Brussels sprouts, (6) kohlrabi (turnip cabbage), (7) sprouting broccoli, and (8) Portuguese cabbage.

So, chow down on your choice of the many healthy cultivars of wild cabbage. I recommend kielbasa and cabbage, or roasted Brussels sprouts, or baked cauliflower. With cheese sauce.

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The Questions…

1. In bowling, what do the terms turkey and hambone describe?

2. What was the maiden name of Eleanor Roosevelt, wife of Franklin Delano Roosevelt?

3. November 11 has been observed as Veterans Day in the US since 1954. However, the holiday actually dated back several decades under another name. What name?

4. In the play Romeo and Juliet, who was the Montague and who was the Capulet?

5. What is a group of foxes called?

The Answers…

1. Three and four consecutive strikes, respectively. The terms probably date back to times when food was presented to tournament winners.

2. Her maiden name was Eleanor Roosevelt; she and FDR were fifth cousins.

3. Armistice Day, which marked the armistice with Germany that ended World War I. Memorably, on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918.

4. Romeo was a Montague, Juliet was a Capulet.

5. A skulk or, less commonly, a leash. FYI, a female fox is a vixen, and a male is a tod.

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Despair is anger with nowhere to go.

Mignon McLaughlin


Is there a religion today that would not benefit from calling home its missionaries and setting them to work among its hypocrites?

Robert Brault


A skeptic doubts the best authority; an enthusiast is likely to accept the poorest.

James Lendall Basford


All the Negro asks is that the door which rewards industry, thrift, intelligence, and character be left as wide open to him as for the foreigner who constantly comes to our country. More than this he has no right to request. Less than this a republic has no right to withhold.

Booker T. Washington



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