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Posts Tagged ‘Miscellaneous’

The Questions…

1. In a traditional deck of playing cards, three of the kings and two of the jacks sport mustaches. Which king and which two jacks are not mustachioed?

2. Which U.S. Presidents and Vice Presidents have won Pulitzer and Nobel Prizes?

3. What is a piccolo trumpet?

4. What is cryptozoology?

5. What color is “falu red”?

The Answers…

1. The king of hearts, the jack of clubs, and the jack of diamonds are clean-shaven.

2. John F. Kennedy won a Pulitzer in 1957 for his book Profiles in Courage. Four Presidents have won Nobel Prizes: Theodore Roosevelt in 1906, Woodrow Wilson in 1920, Jimmy Carter in 2002, and Barack Obama in 2009. Vice President Al Gore won a Nobel in 2007.

3. A piccolo is a small trumpet pitched one octave higher than a standard trumpet. A piccolo trumpet was used in Penny Lane by the Beatles.

4. Cryptozoology sounds scientific and serious, but it’s really a pseudoscience that ponders the existence of mythical beings such as Bigfoot, the Yeti, and the Loch Ness Monster. No real science here, folks. In this usage, “crypto” means hidden.

5. It’s the shade of red typically known as “barn red,” similar to “brick red.” The color comes from hematite, an iron oxide found in rocks and soil. The pigment that creates the color was discovered in the copper mines of the Falun province of Sweden.

Cards

Falu red

 

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Random observations / recollections / stories...

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Staredown

For at least a year after I adopted Jake, I didn’t allow him out of the house off-leash. But I slowly began to trust him, and it was obvious he wasn’t going anywhere. Now I allow him to wander freely while I work in the yard, take out the trash, etc. He never strays far, and all is well.

A few days ago, I heard the familiar sound of the mail truck in the cul de sac, and I said, “Hey, dude, wanna go check the mail?” He executed a vigorous happy dance.

So we walked up the driveway, and I got my mail. When I turned to go back to the house, I was surprised to see Jake in full alert mode. He was fixed in a slight crouch, stock still, eyes blazing, staring at something behind me. I turned to look.

It was a cat, a coal black adult cat, sitting next to a car across the street. He was barely 15 yards away, returning Jake’s stare with murderous yellow eyes. Whether he was confidently standing his ground or afraid to run for it, I can’t say.

Jake,” I said calmly, “Don’t do it. Stay.” He remained frozen, staring at the cat.

Forget it. Stay here,” I told him, taking one step toward the house. “That cat would hurt you. Let’s go.” I took another step.

As if a switch were thrown, Jake emerged from his trance and relaxed. He turned and trotted ahead of me back down the driveway.

I was very proud.

Jake-3-20

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Disappointment

I’ve been good lately about staying home, physical distancing, wearing a mask, etc., but I still take Jake on regular morning walks somewhere around Jefferson. Also, since the restaurants have switched to takeout, I’ll often pick up lunch somewhere and go find an empty picnic table at one of the parks or schools.

Not long ago, the idea of having a couple of Krystal hamburgers popped into my head. The nearest Krystal is 10 miles away, but, hey – my schedule can handle that. So I drove to Commerce and ordered two Krystals and French fries at the drive-through.

Commerce has a large outlet center whose stores are closed, so I decided to go there to enjoy my Krystals.

Five minutes later, I was sitting on a sidewalk bench at the outlet center, looking out at the empty parking lot, enjoying lunch and listening to the silence.

I wasn’t alone for long. I heard footsteps and looked up to see a uniformed sheriff’s deputy walking toward me. He was a white guy in his 40s or 50s. He carried a long silver flashlight, I assumed making security rounds.

When he got within speaking distance, we exchanged greetings. I made a sweeping gesture toward the parking lot. “This is weird,” I said. “I’ve never seen this place empty.”

Me either,” he said. “But it’s nice and quiet.”

For the next several minutes, we chatted about the new normal, the abundance of birds hopping around the pavement, the warm weather, and the puffy spring clouds.

What would you be doing today if this coronavirus thing hadn’t happened?” he asked.

I gestured toward the row of stores on the other side of the parking lot. “I’d probably be here anyway, browsing in Marshall’s,” I said.

Then the conversation went south.

I’ll be honest,” he said, “I don’t trust the news media. I wonder if this virus is being blown out of proportion – if it’s really as bad as they say.”

Oh, crap. A Fox News type. Jerry Falwell, Jr. is probably his source of information about the pandemic. Man, I thought, are the infection rates and the deaths a fiction? Are the videos of patients and doctors and nurses staged?

But, instead of calling him a moron, I just said, Well, viruses can mutate. They can become harmless or become worse. You never know.”

What a disappointment. We were having a nice conversation, and he spoiled it.

Yeah, anything could happen,” he said. “But I think the news media will do anything to hurt the President. I can see them exaggerating this.” I reached into the bag for the other Krystal and didn’t respond.

Well,” he announced, “I’ll let you finish your lunch. Nice talking to you.”

I nodded, and he walked on.

I finished lunch in a funk. What a disappointment.

Tanger

Weird.

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Green Anoles

At the corner of my house, beside the garage door, is an aluminum downspout that sits flush to the wall. No light shows behind it. The wall itself is covered with overlapped horizontal siding.

This arrangement, I discovered, has created an ecosystem of nooks and crannies behind the downspout. I know this because one day, I noticed a small green lizard peeking out at me.

Specifically, it was a green anole, a common lizard in these parts. When I was a kid, we would catch one of the little guys, tie a piece of thread around its neck, and tie the thread to a buttonhole on your shirt.

The lizard would sit stoically on your shoulder, or sometimes wander around your back, until you got bored and let him go. Typically, anoles don’t bite, but they’re capable of it, and those little jaws are surprisingly strong.

Anyway, it was a green anole peeking out from behind the downspout, and when I got too close, he retreated into a crevice, out of sight.

After that, I regularly looked for him when I passed the downspout. During the warmer months, he always seemed to be there.

Just when I was about to give him a name, I discovered that he wasn’t my only resident lizard. Several times, I saw two of them sunning themselves.

The lifespan of a green anole in the wild, I learned, is about three years. Because my first lizard sighting was several years ago, it’s possible the original fellow is still around.

This year, now that warm weather is back, my lizards are out again.

Anole

 

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Vermont

Score

Anybody else

Qualifying

 

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One of the most horrible features of war is that all the war-propaganda, all the screaming and lies and hatred, comes invariably from people who are not fighting.

George Orwell

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Success is the ability to go from failure to failure without losing your enthusiasm.

Winston Churchill

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If you can’t explain it to a six-year-old, you don’t understand it yourself.

Albert Einstein

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I like nonsense. It wakes up the brain cells.

Dr. Seuss (Theodor Seuss Geisel)

Orwell

Orwell

Geisel TS

Geisel

 

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HEALDSBURG, CALIFORNIA – In February, a storage tank at a Sonoma County winery sprung a leak, sending thousands of gallons of Cabernet Sauvignon gushing into a creek and downstream into the Russian River.

The winery said the spill involved 20 to 25 percent of the contents of a 97,000-gallon tank, or about 20,000 to 25,000 gallons of wine.

State authorities said all wine in the tanks on the property was relocated, and the tanks are being inspected. The winery also assigned a contractor to pump wine out of the river.

Officials said the Russian River is noted for swift currents and muddy water in the winter, which will help dilute the spill. No fish kills have been reported, but the acidity of the wine is expected to kill some insect and plant life.

An investigation is underway to determine possible charges and penalties.

Winery

OWOSSO, MICHIGAN – A Michigan man who paid $20 for a used couch at a thrift store discovered more than $40,000 in cash hidden inside a cushion.

Howard Kirby bought the couch at the Habitat for Humanity ReStore for his man cave. He noticed that one spot on a cushion was lumpy, so he opened a seam to investigate. Inside were envelopes of cash totaling $43,170.

Although the money legally was his, Kirby said he wasn’t comfortable with keeping it. He got the name of the couch’s donor from ReStore, contacted her, and gave her the money.

The woman said the couch had belonged to her grandfather, who died recently. She said the grandfather always preferred to pay cash, but no one knew about the money.

To thank Kirby for doing the right thing, neighbors and local businesses re-roofed his house.

Couch money

ORLANDO, FLORIDA – An Orlando man on his way to go boating stopped at a 7-Eleven to gas up, but pumped the fuel into a fishing pole holder instead of the gas tank.

Police said the man pumped $60 worth of gasoline into the holder and onto the floor of the boat, then put another $40 worth of gas, correctly, into the fuel tank of his truck.

When the sloshing fuel in the boat was discovered, the station made an emergency call to Orange County Fire Rescue. A hazmat team responded and siphoned out most of the gasoline. No injuries were reported.

Fuel spill

 

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More “Useless Facts for Inquiring Minds.”

In 1909, a portion of Woodward Avenue in Detroit became the first road in the United States to be paved. Woodward Avenue was built in 1805, following the route of an Indian trail between Detroit and Pontiac.

The Tower of London, built in 1066, was used as a prison from 1100 until 1952. Its first prisoner was a financial minister to King Rufus, Ranulf Flambard, who became a scapegoat for the financial crimes of his bosses.

The last prisoners were London mobsters Ronnie and Reggie Kray who, in 1952, refused to report for service in the Royal Fusiliers. They were held in the Tower until they were court-martialed. They were given dishonorable discharges, which probably hurt their feelings real bad.

Virginia was founded in 1607, when Jamestown became the first permanent English settlement. Over the next 200 years, the Commonwealth lost substantial territory as new states were created. Areas that once were part of Virginia now belong to Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, West Virginia, Maryland, and Pennsylvania.

The novel This Side of Paradise by F. Scott Fitzgerald used the words “T-shirt” and “daiquiri” in print for the first time. It also included the first known use of the word “wicked” to mean cool or excellent.

This Side

Delaware Bay, the outlet of the Delaware River between New Jersey and Delaware, is the country’s second-busiest waterway (after the Mississippi River). Its wetlands make it an important breeding site for many aquatic species.

The bay is prime oystering ground and home of the world’s largest concentration of horseshoe crabs. Each spring, thousands of horseshoe crabs come ashore to lay their eggs, which provide food for bird migrations.

Elvis Presley had naturally blond hair that turned sandy brown by the time he was a teenager. When he started singing professionally, he dyed his hair black because he thought it made him look edgy and cool.

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

In 2007, 100 million people voted and declared the New Seven Wonders of the World to be the Great Wall of China, the statue of Christ the Redeemer in Brazil, the ruins of the Incan city of Machu Picchu in Peru, the ruins of the Mayan city of Chichen Itza in Mexico, the ruins of the Arab city of Petra in Jordan, the Roman Colosseum, and the Taj Mahal.

Flamingos are born with gray feathers, but the feathers gradually turn pink because of beta carotene, a natural dye occurring in their diet of brine shrimp, algae, and larvae.

Flamingos

Spain got its name from the Roman word Hispania, which is the Roman name for the Iberian Peninsula (Spain and Portugal). The origin and meaning of the word Hispania is unclear.

Some experts think the Romans borrowed the word from an earlier language, and we may never know. Others believe it means “Land where metals are forged,” “Land of the setting sun,” and “Land of rabbits.”

A 150th anniversary is called a sesquicentennial because the Latin prefix sesqui- means “one and a half times.” Likewise, a person given to using long words (by implication, in a pretentious manner) is called a sesquipedalian.

The Roman poet Horace once cautioned young writers to avoid “sesquipedalia verba” — which literally means words a foot and a half long.

A tetrachromat is an organism with four color receptors in the eyes instead of the usual three (trichromat). Four receptors allows more vision on the color spectrum. This abnormality, or superpower, occurs in some fish, birds, insects, and mammals, including humans.

Women are more likely to be tetrachromatic than men. One study found that 50 percent of women and eight percent of men are tetrachromatic to some degree.

A nut is a type of fruit consisting of an edible seed inside an inedible shell. Almonds, pecans, walnuts, etc. all qualify. Peanuts, however, are not nuts. They are legumes, related to beans and peas. Rule to remember: nuts grow on trees, legumes grow underground or on bushes.

Peanuts

 

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The Questions…

1. The Taser stun gun was developed in 1974 by NASA researcher Jack Cover. “Taser” is an acronym for what?

2. It’s probably no surprise that Americans eat more food on Thanksgiving than any other day of the year. What day comes in second, consumption-wise?

3. What is the longest-running show in Broadway history?

4. For which Granny Smith is the apple named?

5. Who is the Prudence in the 1968 Beatles song “Dear Prudence”?

The Answers…

1. Jack Cover’s childhood hero was the fictional character Tom Swift. Taser is loosely based on the book title Tom Swift and His Electric Rifle. Cover added an A to make TSER less confusing.

2. Super Bowl Sunday.

3. The Phantom of the Opera by Andrew Lloyd Webber. The show opened in 1988 and still is performed eight times a week today.

4. Maria Ann Smith, who operated a fruit farm in Australia with her husband. In 1868, she discovered a “chance seedling” that arose from a pile of discarded apples and propagated it. She died in 1870, but left behind numerous trees for future cultivation. Experts think the Granny Smith is a hybrid of the Paradise apple and the European crab apple.

5. Prudence Farrow, the younger sister of Mia Farrow. The Farrow sisters were in India with the Beatles in 1968 studying Transcendental Meditation. Prudence was so dedicated to practicing TM techniques that she rarely socialized. John Lennon wrote the song to try to get her to lighten up.

TASER

Prudence

 

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Don’t raise your voice. Improve your argument.

— Desmond Tutu

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Remembrance of things past is not necessarily the remembrance of things as they were.

— Marcel Proust

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I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I needed to be.

— Douglas Adams

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Those who say it can’t be done should get out of the way of those who are doing it.

— Anne Lamott

Lamott-A

Lamott

Tutu-D

Tutu

 

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Useless Facts

More “Useless Facts for Inquiring Minds.”

Virginia is the birthplace of eight U.S. presidents, the most among the states. Seven presidents were born in Ohio, five in New York, four in Massachusetts, and the remaining presidents were from 17 other states. Six states have produced none.

During the Apollo 14 moon mission in 1971, astronaut Alan Shepard brought out a folding 6-iron and drove two golf balls into the lunar distance. He shanked the first drive, but the second traveled about 200 yards. Shepard got the okay of his NASA bosses in advance.

Eleanor Roosevelt was First Lady of the United States from 1933 until 1945. In 1935, she began writing “My Day,” a syndicated newspaper column about issues of the time. The popular column was published six days a week until 1961, when the schedule was changed to every other day due to her failing health. Her last column appeared in 1962, two months before her death.

In days of yore, humans measured time with the clepsydra or water clock. Clepsydra is Greek for water thief. The device measures the flow of water through an opening, and marking on the container show the passage of time.

Two versions existed: one measured outflow, and one measured inflow. Their accuracy was… fair to okay. The pendulum clocks that replaced them in the 1600s were much more accurate.

Clepsydra

The real name of lead singer Bono of the rock band U2 is Paul David Hewson. “Bono,” he says, is derived from the Latin word “bonavox,” which means good voice.

La Brea Tar Pits in Los Angeles is a seep of natural asphalt. Because the tar preserves the bones of the unlucky animals who died there, La Brea has been a fossil excavation site and a popular tourist attraction since the early 1900s.

“La Brea” is Spanish for “the tar,” so technically, “The La Brea Tar Pits” means “The the tar tar pits.”

When the first president of Israel died in 1952, the Israeli prime minister asked Albert Einstein to become president. Einstein would have to relocate to Israel, but would be free to continue his scientific work. Einstein said he was “deeply moved,” but declined on grounds that he lacked “the natural aptitude and the experience” for the position.

The “Temple of a Million Bottles” in Thailand is a complex of buildings constructed by Buddhist monks to keep beer bottles out of landfills. The original temple was completed in 1986. Today, the site consists of 20 buildings and some 1.5 million bottles. The monks use green and brown bottles for the construction, and they use bottle caps to create mosaics.

Temple

Commercial coffee growers raise two varieties of beans: Robusta and Arabica. Robusta accounts for 30 percent of world production. It is hardier, easier to grow, harsher in taste, and higher in caffeine. The other 70 percent of plants are Arabica, which require more attention, but produce a higher-quality brew.

Robusta is used to make instant coffee, and cheaper brands mix it, to varying degrees, with Arabica. Lesson: check the label and go with Arabica.

When the singer Pink (technically, P!nk) was a young teenager, her friends teased her by saying she looked like Mr. Pink, the character played by Steve Buscemi in Reservoir Dogs. She reacted by embracing the name and later used it professionally. Her real name is Alecia Beth Moore.

In 1960, while performing Verde’s La Forza Del Destino (The Force of Destiny) at the Metropolitan Opera in New York, baritone Leonard Warren suffered a cerebral hemorrhage and dropped dead on the stage.

His last words were the opening lines of an aria that begins “Morir, tremenda cosa,” which means “To die, a momentous thing.”

“The world’s narrowest house” is the Keret House in Warsaw, Poland, built in the four-foot space between two adjacent building. It consists of three levels containing a bedroom, a bathroom, and a kitchen. The structure is considered an art project because it doesn’t fully meet building codes.

Keret House

 

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Magic Mud

In 1920, in a baseball game with the New York Yankees, Cleveland Indians batter Ray Chapman was hit in the head by a pitched ball. Witnesses said Chapman apparently lost sight of the ball, because he made no attempt to move or duck.

Hours later, he died. Chapman is the only major league player ever killed in this manner.

The condition of the ball was considered a factor in Chapman’s death. In those days, pitchers were expected to “break in” new baseballs, which are glossy and slick and hard to grip. Pitchers rubbed the baseballs with anything handy — dirt, mud, spit, tobacco juice, shoe polish. They nicked the leather with blades and roughed it up with sandpaper.

As a result, game balls varied widely in condition. They could be damp. They could wobble in flight. Worse, they tended to be dark and mottled in color, making them harder to see.

After the Chapman incident, Major League Baseball was motivated anew to find a way to season new baseballs without the negative side effects. Nothing surfaced.

Finally, in the late 1930s, a third-base coach for the Philadelphia Athletics, Lena Blackburne, found a solution that wasn’t quite magic, but came close. His method is still used today by every MLB team and most minor league and college teams.

Blackburne grew up in Palmyra, New Jersey, a small town on the Delaware River just north of Philadelphia. He knew from his childhood that the river mud near Palmyra is unique. It has an unusually smooth, creamy, clay-like consistency and holds minimal moisture. He decided to try the mud on a baseball.

Blackburne found that a tiny amount of the river mud — one finger dipped in the stuff — was enough to spread over a baseball and work the magic. The mud seasoned the leather, eliminated the gloss, and slightly roughened the surface, all without discoloring the ball. Baseballs looked the same before and after treatment.

Blackburne’s rubbing mud was an instant hit with the Athletics. Word soon spread around the league, and other teams began asking Blackburne for a supply of the river mud.

At that point, Blackburne officially went into the business of selling Lena Blackburne’s Baseball Rubbing Mud — Baseball’s Magic Mud.

Experts say the mud gets its characteristics from the type and amount of clay in the soil and the chemistry of the river. The Delaware is a “blackwater” river, rich in iron oxide, and it flows through highly acidic soil.

It’s also a fact that mud from anywhere along the river won’t do. Blackburne found that only along about a one-mile stretch of the river do ideal conditions for the rubbing mud exist.

Blackburne kept the location secret. He confided only in his friend John Haas, who became his partner in the business.

The process Blackburne and Haas developed was to collect the mud in buckets, run it through a strainer to remove leaves and other debris, add water, and let it sit in large cans.

Periodically over about six weeks, excess water was drained, and the mud was strained several more times. When no water remained and the mud was perfectly smooth — reduced to the consistency of cold cream or pudding — it was ready to be packaged.

Blackburne and Haas prepared the mud over the fall and winter and were ready to supply the teams the following spring. By the 1950s, every team in baseball was rubbing the magic mud on every baseball.

The mud was a big deal for baseball, but certainly not a money-maker for Blackburne. The market is limited, and a couple of containers will last a team all season. Blackburne’s enterprise was a service to the game and a labor of love.

(Each team needs about two one-pint containers of the mud per year. In 1981, a container sold for $20. The price today is $100. The mud business currently nets about $15,000 to $20,000 per year.)

Blackburne died in 1968 and left the company to Haas. Haas continued the business, still keeping the location secret. When he retired, his son-in-law, Burns Bintliff, took over.

Like Blackburne and Haas, Bintliff ran the mud business in his spare time, holding a job elsewhere to pay the bills. Eventually, he passed the business along to his son Jim, who runs the company today.

Jim Bintliff and his wife Joanne both worked for a small printing company and ran the mud business on the side. Joanne said they were married five years and had two children before Jim finally revealed to her the secret location where the mud is collected.

Eventually, their youngest daughter Rachel is expected to take over the business — if demand for the mud continues.

In 2016, MLB asked the equipment manufacturer Rawlings to develop a ball that didn’t need rubbing mud — a ball that is broken-in and ready to use upon delivery. The rubbing mud, they said, is a hassle for equipment managers, and Mother Nature could decide to stop making it available.

Rawlings continues trying to create a pre-seasoned baseball, but so far has struck out. Pitchers are accustomed to the feel of Lena Blackburne‘s Magic Mud, and the chemists and engineers at Rawlings haven’t been able to replicate that feel to the players’ satisfaction.

Mud is mud,” said Mike Thompson, Chief Marketing Officer at Rawlings. “But, obviously, mud isn’t mud.”

Meanwhile, Jim Bintliff has been working on another angle for the business. The mud, it seems, works just as well on a football. Many NFL teams now place regular orders.

Mud-1

Jim Bintliff at work.

Mud-2

 

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