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Posts Tagged ‘Miscellaneous’

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The Questions…

1. What is the world’s oldest continuously-inhabited city?

2. In the art world, what is bricolage?

3. What was the first country to give women the right to vote?

4. No major league baseball team uses the number 24 to honor what legendary player?

5. What does BMW stand for?

The Answers…

1. Probably Damascus, Syria. Evidence of habitation there dates back 11,000 years.

2. Bricolage is art created from non-standard material — junk, metal parts, etc. — or mixed media. A collage of photos, for example. The word bricolage comes from the French verb bricoler, which means “to tinker.”

3. New Zealand, 1893.

4. Jackie Robinson.

5. In English, Bavarian Motor Works. In German, Bayerische Motoren Werke.

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More favorite photos I’ve taken over the years.

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Ethics

Museums are wonderful things, except for their ugly history of acquiring artifacts through illegal or disreputable means. Countless items in museum collections were obtained by theft, coercion, bribery, deceit, etc.

Colonialism had a lot to do with it. For centuries, the European powers felt free to help themselves to the treasures of the countries they occupied, and regularly did.

But now, hopeful signs are appearing. Museums here are there actually are returning purloined artifacts to the rightful owners.

A new policy adopted this year by the Smithsonian Institution, the largest museum complex in the world, is especially welcome. The Smithsonian now is actively working to identify and return objects that were wrongfully obtained.

First on the list is a group of Nigerian plaques and sculptures known as the Benin Bronzes. Hundreds were stolen by the British in the 1890s, and over time, some found their way to the Smithsonian. The museum has identified 29 items as among those looted by the British and plans to return them to Nigeria.

Refreshing.

Booze of Choice

In 1994, on my first raft trip down the Colorado River through Grand Canyon, I observed that four of the five river guides drank alcohol, and all four drank the same thing: Jim Beam Original white label bourbon.

Not Jim Beam Black, or Jim Beam rye, or the bonded or single barrel versions, or any of Beam’s (yuck) fruity liqueurs. The guides drank Jim Beam Original white label.

I’ve now rafted Grand Canyon four times with two different outfitters. On all four trips, the pattern was the same: the guides who drank alcohol drank Jim Beam white label.

Every evening, after the passengers were fed and the chores were done, the guides usually gathered somewhere to relax, chat, and have a nightcap or three. The nightcap was always Jim Beam white label.

Although I didn’t inquire while on the trips, I can imagine how Beam became a thing. Maybe the alpha male guides preferred Beam — relatively cheap, fairly smooth, a reasonable 80 proof. Peer pressure kicked in, and, voilà, a tradition was born. When new guides were hired, they naturally followed the tradition.

I should mention, too, that after my 1994 raft trip, I switched from Jack Daniels Old No. 7 black label to Jim Beam Original white label. Which remains my booze of choice to this day.

Being Real

In the early 1800s, most runaway slaves in the US famously went north to freedom, but many fled south to Mexico, where slavery was newly banned. Mexico readily offered asylum, and Mexican troops were quick to confront slave catchers who pursued the runaways.

Back then, the Mexican territory of Texas was mostly populated by Anglos, and its economy was deeply dependent on slavery. Slaves not only worked farms and plantations, but also served widely as tradesmen and household servants. The economic importance of slavery was a key reason why Texas declared its independence from Mexico in 1836.

Mexico’s opposition to slavery and willingness to protect runaways isn’t well known, but it had consequences. It prompted more slaves to escape, and it aggravated friction in the US between north and south. The Civil War probably came sooner as a result.

I didn’t learn all that in school, but I know it now because I’m curious and open to the facts.

As we all should be. Conservatives get apoplectic when anyone challenges the comforting myths about America’s exceptionalism, superiority, and glorious history. As usual, the conservatives are full of it.

Fairy tales are a waste of time. Better to view the past honestly and try to understand how and why things happened. If it hurts your feelings, that’s probably a sign you learned something.

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More “Useless Facts for Inquiring Minds.”

● Thomas Edison held a total of 2,332 patents worldwide. Today, the president of a semiconductor lab in Japan holds the world record — 5,843 patents and counting.

● English has more words than any other language.

● The average human sheds some 600,000 particles of dead skin per hour, or about 1.5 pounds per year.

● When viewed from the Earth, the Moon goes through eight phases as it progresses from new moon to full moon and back to new moon, as shown below. (The word gibbous refers to being more than half lighted, but less than full, which is the opposite of a crescent.)

● British author Agatha Christie (1890-1976) featured her famous detective Hercule Poirot in 33 novels, 50 short stories, and one play. Christie was honest about the character. She once described Poirot as “a detestable, bombastic, tiresome, egocentric little creep.”

● The word karaoke comes from the Japanese words karappo, which means empty, and oke, a shortened form of okesutura, which means orchestra.

● July 4 is the day in 1776 when the Continental Congress formally adopted the Declaration of Independence. However, the vote to do so took place on July 2. John Adams and several other founding fathers believed that we chose the wrong day to honor.

● The average adult bald eagle weighs 14 pounds and is about three feet long. Its wingspan, however, is a full seven feet.

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Kate Chopin (1850-1904) was a supremely gifted writer. A superb talent. I’ve featured three of her short stories on this blog, most recently this one. That post has information about her, plus links to the other stories.

Below is another Chopin gem. My hat is off in admiration.

———

Dr. Chevalier’s Lie

By Kate Chopin
Published in Vogue Magazine, October 1893

The quick report of a pistol rang through the quiet autumn night. It was no unusual sound in the unsavory quarter where Dr. Chevalier had his office. Screams commonly went with it. This time there had been none.

Midnight had already rung in the old cathedral tower. The doctor closed the book over which he had lingered so late, and awaited the summons that was almost sure to come.

As he entered the house to which he had been called he could not but note the ghastly sameness of detail that accompanied these oft-recurring events. The same scurrying; the same groups of tawdry, frightened women bending over banisters — hysterical, some of them; morbidly curious, others; and not a few shedding womanly tears; with a dead girl stretched somewhere, as this one was.

And yet it was not the same. Certainly she was dead: there was the hole in the temple where she had sent the bullet through. Yet it was different. Other such faces had been unfamiliar to him, except so far as they bore the common stamp of death. This one was not.

Like a flash he saw it again amid other surroundings. The time was little more than a year ago. The place, a homely cabin down in Arkansas, in which he and a friend had found shelter and hospitality during a hunting expedition.

There were others beside. A little sister or two; a father and mother — coarse, and bent with toil, but proud as archangels of their handsome girl, who was too clever to stay in an Arkansas cabin, and who was going away to seek her fortune in the big city.

“The girl is dead,” said Doctor Chevalier. “I knew her well, and charge myself with her remains and decent burial.”

The following day he wrote a letter. One, doubtless, to carry sorrow, but no shame to the cabin down there in the forest.

It told that the girl had sickened and died. A lock of hair was sent and other trifles with it. Tender last words were even invented.

Of course it was noised about that Doctor Chevalier had cared for the remains of a woman of doubtful repute.

Shoulders were shrugged. Society thought of cutting him. Society did not, for some reason or other, so the affair blew over.

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The Questions…

1. What flower bulbs once were used as currency?

2. What is a fipple?

3. The best-selling novel of all time was written in Spain in the early 1600s. What is it?

4. In ancient Egypt, what served as pillows?

5. What is the largest known cave system in the world?

The Answers…

1. Tulip bulbs. In the Dutch Republic in 1634, tulips were a new thing, and a wave of “tulip mania” swept the country. Certain varieties of tulip became coveted luxury items that soon were accepted as currency. The speculative bubble burst in 1637, and the fad fizzled.

2. The mouthpiece of a wind instrument.

3. “Don Quixote” by Miguel de Cervantes. Over 500 million copies sold.

4. Chunks of wood or stone.

5. Mammoth Cave in Kentucky. People have explored 400 miles of it, and national park officials believe another 600 miles is out there. Also, scattered around the region are some 200 smaller caves not connected to the Mammoth system.

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Time Does Not Bring Relief

By Edna St. Vincent Millay

Edna St. Vincent Millay (1892-1950)

Time does not bring relief; you all have lied
Who told me time would ease me of my pain!
I miss him in the weeping of the rain;
I want him at the shrinking of the tide;
The old snows melt from every mountain-side,
And last year’s leaves are smoke in every lane;
But last year’s bitter loving must remain
Heaped on my heart, and my old thoughts abide.
There are a hundred places where I fear
To go, — so with his memory they brim.
And entering with relief some quiet place
Where never fell his foot or shone his face
I say, “There is no memory of him here!”
And so stand stricken, so remembering him.

———

Always Marry An April Girl

By Ogden Nash

Frederic Ogden Nash (1902-1971)

Praise the spells and bless the charms,
I found April in my arms.
April golden, April cloudy,
Gracious, cruel, tender, rowdy;
April soft in flowered languor,
April cold with sudden anger,
Ever changing, ever true —
I love April, I love you.

———

The Summer Day

By Mary Oliver

Mary Jane Oliver (1935-2019)

Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean —
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down —
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?

———

A Question

By Robert Frost

Robert Lee Frost (1874-1963)

A voice said, Look me in the stars
And tell me truly, men of earth,
If all the soul-and-body scars
Were not too much to pay for birth.

———

If I Can Stop One Heart From Breaking

By Emily Dickinson

Emily Elizabeth Dickinson (1830-1886)

If I can stop one heart from breaking,
I shall not live in vain;
If I can ease one life the aching,
Or cool one pain,
Or help one fainting robin
Unto his nest again,
I shall not live in vain.

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Landlords grow rich in their sleep without working, risking, or economizing.

John Stuart Mill

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I am not a product of my circumstances. I am a product of my decisions.

Stephen Covey

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The moral crisis of our age has nothing to do with gay marriage or abortion; it is insider trading, obscene CEO pay, wage theft from ordinary workers, Wall Street’s continued gambling addiction, corporate payoffs to friendly politicians, and the billionaire takeover of our democracy.

Robert Reich

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I am fed up to the ears with old men dreaming up wars for young men to die in.

George McGovern

Mill

McGovern

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All in the Family

Among the memorable early Romans was Julia Agrippina (15-59 AD), described by history as smart, ambitious, and calculating. Not to mention lethal, allegedly.

Agrippina was the daughter of Germanicus, a Roman general, and the granddaughter of Augustus, the first Roman emperor.

The second Roman emperor was Tiberius (brother of Augustus, uncle of Germanicus). Germanicus hoped to succeed Tiberius, but instead, Caligula (son of Germanicus, brother of Agrippina) was named emperor three.

Caligula was assassinated, and Claudius (brother of Germanicus, uncle of Agrippina) became emperor four. Claudius then married his niece Agrippina and adopted her son Nero, whose father Domitius had died suddenly when Nero was two.

Claudius, incidentally, was Agrippina’s third husband. Her second husband Passienus had died a few years earlier, by some accounts poisoned by Agrippina.

Agrippina wanted her son Nero to succeed Claudius so she could retain her power and influence. Soon — oops — Claudius was poisoned, and Nero became the fifth Roman emperor at age 16.

As Nero matured, Agrippina’s influence waned. Ultimately, a nasty power struggle ensued between mother and son, ending in Agrippina’s death at age 44. Nero almost certainly was responsible, but conflicting historical accounts make the truth elusive.

To sum up, Agrippina was at various times the granddaughter, great niece, niece, sister, wife, and mother of the first five Roman emperors. Plus, all three of her husbands died early and mysteriously. Wow.

Equine Slumber

If you’re a horse, you have a unique sleep problem. Namely, you aren’t built to lie down and get back up easily. You do so with great difficulty and are left vulnerable to predators.

As a result, horses have evolved special sleep behaviors. First, they take naps several times a day while standing. This is made possible by specialized tendons and ligaments that allow the horse to lock the major joints of its legs, so it can snooze without toppling over.

But horses also need deep sleep — REM sleep — just as you do. For that, they lie down and recharge for real, usually in short intervals totaling several hours a day.

Yes, they are vulnerable while lying horizontal and unconscious, but other horses always remain awake and on sentry duty.

Whack

Most of the time, my dog Jake is calm and mellow. He gets excited, of course, on such occasions as our morning walk, or when he lights out after a cat, but otherwise, his world is pleasant, and life is good.

There are, however, exceptions. Occasionally, a local redneck goes hunting in the woods, and we hear gunfire in the distance. In which case, Jake’s happy face disappears, and he retreats to the back of my bedroom closet. He won’t come out until the noise stops.

His reaction is the same with fireworks and other loud noises. At the first boom, he heads for the sanctuary of the closet.

Furthermore, he dislikes/fears my flyswatter. If a fly lands somewhere and I whip out the flyswatter, Jake exits the room as soon as he sees it. Apparently, he is upset by my display of violence and the loud whack as I dispatch the fly.

I usually can conceal the flyswatter from him, but the telltale whack can’t be disguised.

Although I feel bad for Jake, the flyswatter is here to stay. And frankly, I find the whack to be oddly satisfying.

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