Apr 30, 2013

Cheesy Facts

The root of the English word cheese comes from the Latin caseus, which also gives us the word casein, the milk protein that is the basis of cheese. In Old English, caseus was c?ese or c?se, which became chese in Middle English, finally becoming cheese in Modern English. Caseus is also the root word for cheese in other languages, including queso in Spanish, kaas in Dutch, käse in German, and queijo in Portuguese. Caseus Formatus, or molded (formed) cheese, brought us formaticum, the term the Romans employed for the hard cheese used as supplies for the legionaries. From this root comes the French fromage and the Italian formaggio.

Cheese consumption predates recorded history, with scholars believing it began as early as 8000 BC, when sheep were first domesticated, to as late as 3000 BC. It is believed to have been discovered in the Middle East or by nomadic Turkic tribes in Central Asia, where foodstuffs were commonly stored in animal hides or organs for transport. Milk stored in animal stomachs would have separated into curds and whey by movement and the rennet and bacteria naturally present.

monks were responsible for inventing some of the classic varieties of cheese we know today. According to the British Cheese Board, Britain has approximately 700 distinct local cheeses. It is thought that France and Italy have perhaps 400 each. The varying flavors, colors, and textures of cheese come from many factors, including the type of milk used, the type of bacteria or acids used to separate the milk, the length of aging, and the addition of other flavorings or mold.

The United States is the top producer of cheese in the world, with Wisconsin and California leading the states in production. Although the US produces the most cheese, Greece and France lead the pack in cheese consumption per capita, averaging 27.3 and 24.0 kilograms per person in 2003 respectively. In the same year, the average US citizen consumed around 14.1 kg, although cheese consumption in the US has tripled since 1970 and is continuing to increase.


These are permutations of common proverbs, often towards a humorous end. Another name is Perverbs.

There are dozens of ways of altering proverbs, and the general gist of an anti-proverb is taking a known saying and twisting it around.

It’s been suggested that the original meaning of the term perverb was to describe two proverbs that had been spliced together like a sort of whole-sentence portmanteau. Take the perverb “every dog has a silver lining,” a combination of “every dog has its day” and “every cloud has a silver lining.” As with the further examples below, you can see that the two hybridized proverbs are not random; rather, they follow a certain format that both have in common:
“A fool and his money is a friend indeed.”
“The road to hell is the spice of life.”
“Don’t count your chickens in midstream.”
“A penny saved is a penny taxed”
“Slaughter is the best medicine.”

Air Traffic Control Tower Windows

Air traffic control towers always have windows that slope toward the tower at the base. Many people assume that they are designed that way to prevent the sun's reflection or glare from blinding incoming pilots.

The benefit is not for those outside the tower, but those inside it. Ordinarily, we see reflections in glass all the time, as from computer screens, TVs, or car windows. Air traffic controllers must not have any distracting reflections as they monitor flights. By tilting the glass away, any errant light from inside the tower, such as video screens, lights, etc. are reflected up onto the ceiling, which is painted black.

Diamonds are Formed from Coal Myth Debunked

According to evolutionists and geologists, diamonds were formed about 1 to 3 billion years ago, much earlier than any known record of Earth’s first land plants. Coal is formed from the dead remains of vegetation like trees and other plants. The formation of coal takes millions of years and can be traced back 300 to 400 million years, but not a billion years.

Coal is an amorphous form of carbon and at the most can change its chemical composition and transform into its nearly purest form which is Graphite, but not diamond. The conversion of coal into diamond is almost impossible due to its impurities and the fact that coal is rarely found at depths greater than two miles which is not conducive to the formation of diamonds.

Natural diamonds require depths of 87 to 120 miles in the Earth’s mantle, very high temperatures, and resulting pressure that exists at those depths to form. Unlike other gems which are formed by a combination of elements, diamonds are made up of one single element, Carbon. Carbon-containing minerals present in the Earth at those depths, crystallize to form diamonds, because of the immense pressure together with the heat from molten magma.

The diamond crystals, along with other minerals are transported to the earth's surface during deep-source volcanic eruptions in the magma. This is quite a rare occurrence as diamonds are formed at depths usually 3 to 4 times deeper than normal volcanoes originate.

Diamonds color is influenced by impurities and can be blue (boron), yellow (nitrogen), brown (lattice defects), green (radiation exposure), purple, pink, orange, red, and grades of those colors. Red diamonds are the rarest and most exotic diamonds. They are also the most expensive. Here are examples of a red and orange diamond.

When this magma cools, it forms igneous rocks known as kimberlites and lamproites, used as an indicator by geologists that diamonds may be found in the area. The Kimberlites form narrow pipe shaped fissures which are also referred to as diamond pipes. Many of the pipes are also rich sources of garnets. The most prominent kimberlites are located in South and Central Africa, which contribute almost half of the natural diamonds mined in the World. Over 500 kimberlite deposits have also been found in Northern Canada.

Africa, Russia, Australia, and Canada are the largest diamond producing countries. BTW - Diamonds are not in short supply and are a terrible investment because there is no aftermarket.

Apr 26, 2013

Happy Friday

“The only real conflict you will ever have in your life won’t be with others, but with yourself.”

There is never a conflict when it comes to having a Happy Friday!

Idaho and Iowa

It is possibly the only state named due to a hoax. Lobbyist George Willing suggested the name “Idaho” for the new territory claiming it meant 'Gem of the Mountains' in a Native American language. It was later revealed Willing made up the name and the original Idaho territory was re-named Colorado because of it. Eventually the controversy was forgotten, and modern-day Idaho was given the made-up name when the Idaho Territory was formally created in 1863.

Des Moines, Iowa has an even more interesting origin. Two stories persist, the first that it was given the name La Rivière des Moines, literally meaning 'River of the Monks', by early French explorers. The second is that Peoria Indians told the first white settlers their rival tribe living in that area was named the Moingoana, which became the root of Des Moines. 

Indiana University researchers studied the extinct Miami-Illinois language and discovered that Moingoana, translated literally, meant 'shit faces' and agrees with the commonly held notion that the 'Moines' in Des Moines is a French derivation of Moingoana Since neither can be proven, I'll go with the second.

Six Uses for Nail Polish

Apply clear nail polish to the frayed screen to seal the hole.

Apply bright colored nail polish to mark levels (inside or outside) on buckets and containers.

Apply to screws, nuts and bolts with clear nail polish to prevent rusting, especially outside.

Mark the perfect shower temperature on the handle. It is waterproof.

Apply clear nail polish to secure screws, repair small wood fractures, or re-set jewelry stones.

Use a drop of clear nail polish on the glasses screws to stop them from coming loose.

Time Tip

This should take us back to school and something most understand, but wonder what it actually means. The 12-hour clock can be traced back as far as 1560 BC.

Outside of English-speaking countries, the terms a.m. and p.m. are seldom used and often unknown. In most countries, computers by default show 24-hour time.

The letters after numbers when talking about time: a.m. stands for “ante meridiem”, which is Latin for “Before Midday”; p.m. stands for “Post Meridiem”, which is Latin for “After Midday”.

Depending on the style guide referenced, the abbreviations are variously written in small capitals, uppercase letters ("AM" and "PM"), or lowercase letters ("am" and "pm" or "a.m." and "p.m."). Guides also suggest the use of a space between the number and the am or pm abbreviation.  It is time for me to be done with this.

Wordology, Eggcorn

An eggcorn is a change in pronunciation and/or spelling which results in a new word or phrase that still makes a certain amount of sense, but deviates from the original. That is the difference between an eggcorn and a malapropism, which is an error in speech that results in something similar, but nonsensical.

“That is mind-bottling.”
“That man has old-timer’s disease.”
“I'll have a glass of skimp milk?

Eggcorns are completely or or nearly equal, from a phonetic standpoint. The listener may not even realize that an eggcorn has even been uttered.

Say, 'Texas has a lot of electrical votes'. This is not an eggcorn. Although it sounds almost the same, any connection to the original meaning of “electoral” is gone.

The term “eggcorn” was coined by linguist Geoffrey Pullum in 2003. He used the example of a woman who said “egg corn” rather than “acorn” which sound almost identical, depending on pronunciation.

Apr 23, 2013

Where Ricin Comes From

A while back, mail containing ricin was sent to the president and to a congressman, so I went looking to find out about it. Ricin is a naturally occurring toxin in castor beans, which come from castor-oil plants. It can be extracted from the beans or the waste leftover after castor oil is made from them.

Castor beans can be crushed to extract oil, or processed to make ricin. In its purest form, ricin is a white powder and dissolves in water.

Someone can be poisoned with ricin by inhaling the powder or a mist of dissolved ricin, or by injection. The purified toxin from a single castor bean is lethal enough to kill a thousand people.

Ricin blocks the ability of cells to make proteins and can kill in a matter of days. There is currently no antidote for ricin poisoning.

Facts About Olives

Did you know the main difference between green and black olives is when they were picked? Green olives are picked before they are ripe, while black olives are allowed to ripen on the tree.

After that, green olives are soaked in a solution containing lye, then fermented in brine for anywhere between 6 to 12 months after being picked. The longer the olive is fermented, the less bitter and more flavorful it becomes. Green olives are usually pitted, and often stuffed with items such as pimientos, anchovies, jalapenos, garlic or onions.

Black olives are also soaked in lye to lessen their bitterness, then cured in brine, but rarely stuffed. Green olives contain about twice as much sodium as black olives, while black olives contain more oil than green.

Olive oil  has been considered sacred since ancient times and is still used in religious ceremonies today. It was used to anoint kings in ancient Greece, for grooming bodies and hair in Ancient Rome, burnt in sacred lamps of temples, rubbed on the first Olympic athletes to cure muscle aches. Victors in Olympic games were crowned with wreathes made of olive branches and leaves.

Olive trees can live for over a thousand years.

Speaking of Olives and long living, Popeye's friend Olive Oyl was the main star of the comic strip for ten years before Popeye took top billing. She was also the supposed fiancee of Harold Hamgravy before Popeye stepped into her life.

Olive's family included  her brother, Castor Oyl, Castor's estranged wife, Cylinda Oyl, their mother, Nana Oyl (after banana oil), their father, Cole Oyl. Olive's nieces Diesel Oyl and Violet Oyl, her two uncles, Otto Oyl and Lubry Kent Oyl and cousin, sultry blonde Sutra Oyl.

Ant Facts

Spring is here and the ants have come out. Worker ants are foraging for food, looking after the colony's young, and defending their home for unwanted intruders. One nest in South America has had up to 700,000 members.

Ants are clean insects. Some worker ants are given the job of taking the rubbish from the nest and putting it outside in a special rubbish dump. Each colony of ants has its own smell. In this way, intruders can be recognized.

Black Ants and Wood Ants have no sting, but they can squirt a spray of formic acid. Some birds put ants in their feathers because the ants squirt formic acid which gets rid of parasites.

The Slave-Maker Ant raids the nests of other ants and steals their pupae. When these new ants hatch,they work as slaves within the colony. Worker ants keep eggs and larvae in different groups according to ages.

Ants undergo complete metamorphosis from egg, to larva, to pupa, to adult. Each ant colony begins with, and centers around the queen, whose sole purpose is to reproduce. Although the queen may copulate with several males during her brief mating period, she never mates again. She stores sperm in an internal pouch, where sperm remain immobile until she opens a valve that allows them to enter her reproductive tract to fertilize the eggs.

The queen ant lives a significantly longer life than her workers. A queen of the species Lasius niger in Europe lived for 29 years in captivity. Queen ants lay the eggs that grow into worker ants. A leafcutter ant queen in South America lived for 14 years and bred over 150 million worker ants in her lifetime.

The queen controls the sex of her offspring. Fertilized eggs produce females, either wingless workers seldom capable of reproduction, or reproductive virgin queens, which are produced only when there are sufficient workers to allow for the expansion of the colony.

Unfertilized eggs develop into winged males who do no work, and exist solely to fertilize a virgin queen. The queen produces myriads of workers by secreting a chemical that retards wing growth and ovary development in the female larvae.

After mating, queen ants and male ants lose their wings. The queen scurries off in search of a site to start her new nest. If she survives, she digs a nest, lays eggs, and single-handedly raises her first brood that consists entirely of workers.

Whoopee Cushions

The whoopee cushion is a classic design that has not changed since its launch in 1932.

The idea of sitting down to make a funny noise is much older, Queen Victoria was given a musical bustle in 1887 for her Golden Jubilee which played 'God Save the Queen' when the wearer sat down. The Roman Emperor Elagabulus used an early version of the whoopee cushion at his dinner parties.

The Quad City Mallards ice hockey team hold the world record for the largest simultaneous whoopee cushion sit with 3,614 sitters taking part at Moline, Illinois, USA.

Whoopi Goldberg (Caryn Elaine Johnson) got her stage name from her childhood flatulence and the fact that it made her sound like a whoopee cushion. She adopted the traditionally Jewish surname 'Goldberg' as a stage name, because her mother felt that Johnson was not "Jewish enough" to make her a star. Well, that's about the end of it.

Apr 19, 2013

Patriot's Day

Patriots Day April 19 - America had remained neutral in the war until April 6th of 1917 when President Wilson and the U.S. Congress made a declaration of war. This poster calls for the American people to get on board with the war efforts.

Political Bonus

We tend to think the people in Congress today are a bit looney, but it all started way earlier.

In 1936, Democrats took over Rhode Island’s state senate and began giving out $100 bonuses to veterans. A Republican was concerned at this liberality and quietly recommended a bonus for Sgt. Evael O.W. Tnesba of the Twelfth Machine Gun Battalion. A Democrat seconded the bill and it passed immediately, sending a ripple of laughter through the chamber.

Sensing they’d been had, the Democrats referred the bill to a committee for study. There they discovered that Evael O.W. Tnesba spelled backward is Absent W.O. Leave.

Racing Right

Races are usually run counterclockwise because it is believed to be easier for right handed people, who make up the majority of world population. Putting their right foot forward and leaning into a turn feels more comfortable and provides more power and balance than the reverse direction, say physicists.

Going counterclockwise also looks more natural, with runners passing the observer in the way most people perceive, think, and read; that is left-to-right. Easy to understand why counterclockwise was chosen standardizing international competitions.


The oriental mustard plant originally started growing in the foothills of the Himalayas, but migrated to the USA, UK, Denmark, and Canada.

Mild white mustard grows wild in North Africa, the Middle East, and Europe and has also spread. Black mustard is grown in Argentina, China, the US, and Canada.

Canada and Nepal are the world's major producers of mustard seed, between them accounting for about 57% of world production in 2010. The United Sates receives 43% of Canada's total output of mustard seeds.

Get Rid of Smells

If you get something really smelly on your hands, like mustard, garlic, or cheap cologne, try rubbing your hand on some stainless steel under running water. This combination should mostly wipe out the bad smells.

Another tip for removing odors from fish, onions, or garlic is to rub your hands across the blade of a stainless steel knife. You can even buy stainless steel 'soap', which is just a piece of stainless steel about the same shape and size as a bar of normal soap.

There is not much scientific data about how stainless steel removes odor and other types of odors are not affected by contact with the metal.

Eight Geography Quick Facts

  1. Scranton, Pa., was formerly called Skunk’s Misery.
  2. No point in Great Britain is more than 75 miles from the sea.
  3. On a map North East, Pennsylvania, is in northwest Pennsylvania and Northwest, Virginia, is in southeast Virginia.
  4. There is one spot on earth from which, within an hour’s driving time, you can visit Athens, Belfast, Belgrade, Bremen, China, Denmark, Dresden, Frankfort, Limerick, Lisbon, Madrid, Mexico, Naples, Norway, Oxford, Palermo, Paris, Peru, Poland or Vienna. The spot is in the county of Sagadahoc, Maine, US. It is surrounded by towns bearing these names.
  5. No building in Washington, D.C., is taller than the Washington Monument. The city enacted a height restriction in 1899 to protect Thomas Jefferson’s vision of an “American Paris” with “low and convenient” buildings on “light and airy” streets.
  6. Canada’s coastline is six times as long as Australia’s.
  7. Weirton, W.Va., is the only town in the United States that borders two different states on opposite sides. It borders Ohio directly on the west and Pennsylvania on the east.
  8. Vatican City occupies about 4,736,120 square feet. The Pentagon, by comparison, has a total floor area of 6,636,360 square feet.

Apr 17, 2013

Four Person factory

Dirk Vander Kooij's furniture-making company, Studio Dirk Vander Kooij, in the Netherlands needs only a skeleton crew of four people. The hard work is carried out by an old industrial robot that Vander Kooij fashioned into a 3D printer. He converted an old industrial CNC (computer numerical control) extruder into an interfaced mechanical arm that prints, level after level, continuous layers of low-resolution plastic into furniture.

Using plastic recycled from old refrigerators, the machine "prints" furniture the way an ordinary printer uses ink to print documents. Many analysts expect 3D printing to revolutionize manufacturing, allowing more small firms like his to make products without hiring many people.

De-oxygenated Blood Turns Blue Myth

The common misconception that blood which lacks oxygen turns blue probably comes from the fact that veins appear blue and blood in the veins is typically heading back to the lungs, hence depleted of oxygen.

People who perpetuate this myth often claim that the reason we never see blood in its blue form is that the instant we get cut, the blood is exposed to oxygen and instantly turns red. However, when you get blood drawn from your veins that isn't exposed to air, it is dark red.

When blood is deprived of oxygen it actually just turns dark red. When it’s oxygenated, it turns a brighter red. The red color primarily comes from the hemoglobin, which contains four heme groups. These heme group’s interactions with various molecules end up giving it the dark red or light red color we see. The hemoglobin itself is a protein that binds with oxygen to be distributed throughout the body in blood.

Veins are very close to the surface of skin. This location under the skin is largely why veins appear blue despite the fact that the blood is dark red. This is from the way light diffuses in the skin. Veins appear blue from the way subcutaneous fat absorbs low-frequency light. This permits only high frequency blue and violet wavelengths to penetrate through the skin to the vein, with the other wavelengths getting filtered off from the pigmentation of your skin.

If a person has darker or lighter skin the veins tend to appear green or brown. People with extremely light skin, such as an albino, will typically have veins that show up as dark purple or dark red, more closely resembling the actual color of the blood running through the veins.

Wordology, Ullage

The space in a bottle of wine that is not occupied by wine. In other words, the amount the bottle lacks in being full. Pronounced ull ij.

Salt Myth Debunked

There continues a myth that originated in the 1940s when a professor used salt-reduction to treat people with high blood pressure. Science has since found out that there is no reason for a person with normal blood pressure to restrict salt intake.

Decades of scientific research have failed to prove any benefits of a low-salt diet, and in fact tend to show the opposite. Studies have also failed to prove salt's connection to heart disease.

Salt is essential for life. Natural salt is important to many biological processes, including:
Being a major component of your blood plasma, lymphatic fluid, extracellular fluid, and even amniotic fluid;  Carrying nutrients into and out of your cells;  Increasing the glial cells in your brain, which are responsible for creative thinking and long-term planning; and  helping your brain communicate with your muscles, so that you can move on demand via sodium-potassium ion exchange.

A Scottish Heart Health Study, was launched in 1984 by epidemiologist Hugh Tunstall-Pedoe and colleagues at the Ninewells Hospital and Medical School in Dundee, Scotland. The researchers used questionnaires, physical exams, and 24-hour urine samples to establish the risk factors for cardiovascular disease in 7300 Scottish men. This was an order of magnitude larger than any intrapopulation study ever done with 24-hour urine samples. The BMJ published the results in 1988: Potassium, which is in fruits and vegetables, seemed to have a beneficial effect on blood pressure. Sodium had no effect.

A review published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. University of Copenhagen researchers analyzed 114 randomized trials of sodium reduction, concluding that the benefit for hypertensives was significantly smaller than could be achieved by anti-hypertensive drugs, and that a "measurable" benefit in individuals with normal blood pressure of even a single millimeter of mercury could only be achieved with an "extreme" reduction in salt intake.

Recent studies, including those cited by Harvard University at St. George’s Medical School in London, have shown that potassium rich foods are an essential defense in helping to relieve high blood pressure. Potassium is an essential mineral that enables the body to maintain a healthy fluid and electrolyte balance, while also promoting optimal nerve and muscle functions.

If a person has high blood pressure he or she may become salt-sensitive. Hypertension is actually promoted more by excess fructose than excess salt. This can be relieved by reducing salt intake or increasing potassium intake, because it is the balance of the two that is important. Eating more potassium is probably more important than reducing salt.

Potassium is found in orange colored fruits and vegetables, including pumpkins, carrots, and apricots. Tomatoes and bananas are another source of high potassium. It is also found in artichokes, avocados, broccoli, dark chocolate, spinach, potatoes, yogurt, fish, and and a variety of beans.

Apr 13, 2013

Happy Friday

I always enjoy a Happy Friday for a whole nychthemeron!

Benjamin Franklin

Benjamin Franklin was one of the Founding Fathers of the United States. Franklin was polymath, a leading author, printer, political theorist, politician, postmaster, scientist, musician, and inventor. Next week is the anniversary of his death.
Born: January 17, 1706, Boston - Died: April 17, 1790, Philadelphia

In his will, the left 1,000 pounds each (about $4,400 at the time) to the cities of Philadelphia and Boston, but the cities were not given access to the money immediately. Franklin required that the money be held in trust for 100 years after his death. After that, the cities could remove a portion of the trust money to establish a trade school, but not all of the money could be withdrawn; some had to remain for another 100 years.

When the trusts became due in 1990, Philadelphia’s was worth $2 million. Philadelphia used the $2 million windfall to provide scholarships for area high school children. Boston’s trust, which withdrew less money during the trust’s second century, was worth $5 million. Boston used the $5 million to fund the Benjamin Franklin Institute of Technology, which was established out of the trust’s funds which were withdrawn 100 years earlier.

Wordology, Arcuate

The back pocket of Levi jeans has a double arch design called the Arcuate for which the company holds a trademark. Arcuate means 'curved like a bow'.

During World War II, the US government ruled that the design served no practical purpose, was only decorative, and due to wartime rations involving cotton, did not allow the company to use extra thread to create the arcuate. To maintain the trademark during those years, the company painted the design on the jeans.

Renminbi and Sterling

Now that Australia joins a host of nations that are bypassing the US Dollar as the world's "reserve currency" and trading currency directly with China, I thought it might be good to discuss confusion about the name of the Chinese currency.

Renminbi is the name of China’s currency, but yuan is the denomination of bills. It is equivalent to Britain’s currency, which is sterling with its pound as denomination of bills. The number of renminbi per dollar or sterling per dollar is incorrect. Renminbi and Sterling are the currency, but not a unit of the currency.  Prices and exchanges are measured in yuan and pounds, not Renminbi or Sterling.

The primary unit of renminbi is the yuan. One yuan is subdivided into 10 jiao , which is subdivided into 10 fen. Renminbi banknotes are available in denominations from 1 jiao to 100 yuan and coins have denominations from 1 fen to 1 yuan.

During the past two years - China and Japan economies bypass dollar and engage in direct currency trade, China and Russia drop dollar for direct trade, China and Iran bypass dollar, India and Japan bypass dollar, Iran and Russia replace dollar with rial and ruble in trade, India and Iran transact directly in rupees, Brazil bypasses dollar for direct China currency, Australia and China bypass dollar for direct currency trade.

How to Raise a Genius

Laszlo Polgar was a Hungarian psychologist who decided to make his children part of an educational experiment. Polgar believed that "geniuses are made, not born" and argued that children could achieve exceptional things if trained in one subject from an early age. He set out to turn his children into prodigies of whatever they showed interest in. The goal was to make the children happy with what they achieved

Laszlo wrote a book on how to raise a genius and proved the hypothesis by raising three chess grandmasters, two of them became record-breakers and one became the first female to beat the top ranked male.

He and his wife Klara raised three daughters, and decided that their specialist subject would be chess. He trained the girls in chess from when they were very small. Despite their intense training, the girls were happy and well adjusted.

Their youngest daughter, Judit, was a child prodigy. At age five, she beat a family friend in chess without even looking at the board. She started competing in tournaments at age six. Eventually at age 15, Judit achieved the status of Grandmaster and became the youngest person to do so.  She has beaten Anatoli Karpov, Garry Kasparov, Boris Spassky, and six other world champions. Her older sisters are Grandmaster Susan and International Master Sofia.

Judit Polgár was ranked number 36 in the world on the July 2012 FIDE rating list with an Elo rating of 2709, the only woman on FIDE's Top 100 Players list, and has been ranked as high as eighth in 2005. Last month, March 2013 she was awarded the Order of Merit of the Republic of Hungary Commander's Cross with Star.

Hypnic Jerk

That feeling of falling when you are about to go to sleep is called a hypnic jerk. You are just between awake and asleep when suddenly you are falling. Then you jerk awake and maybe even experience a quick hallucination or two.

When you wake up suddenly for whatever reason, your brain reacts by searching for stability under your hands and feet. It doesn't detect it because you are likely lying down. This leads to a panic reaction similar to falling. Scientists think the brain is simply misinterpreting your muscles relaxing as falling.

Graham Cracker Facts

During the 1820s, Sylvester Graham created the eponymous cracker as part of his diet plan thought to increase physical wellness, sexual purity, and spiritual health. The Presbyterian minister's mission was to rid the world of sexual immorality. He believed a vegetarian diet, devoid of spices and sugars, combined with avoiding foods made with overly processed flours would do away with the greatest evils of his day, lustful thought and masturbation. Of course, neither Graham crackers nor his diet have ever been shown to cure sexual urges.

Graham flour is essentially a type of non-bleached, finely ground whole wheat flour. Among other things made with this flour, Graham made bland crackers. They were not the sweet treat we enjoy today.

Nabisco began making Graham crackers with bleached white flour and oils. The germ is rarely used today so the crackers have a longer shelf life.

Dr. John Harvey Kellogg and his brother Will found the minister’s ideas useful at their Sanitarium in Battle Creek Michigan. Dr. Kellogg imposed the vegetarian diet on his patients with the belief that it could cure some of their troubles.

The brothers made their own Graham crackers on the premises. Once, Will left out some prepared wheat used to make Graham crackers. When he came back to finish the cooking, the dough had become hard and stale. Because he could not afford to waste a whole batch’s ingredients, he used it in the baking process anyway. Rather than get thin wafers after extruding the dough through rollers, he ended up with hard crispy flakes, similar to the corn flakes we eat today. Now you know how Graham crackers and Kellogg's corn flakes are related.

Origin of Marshmallows

 I would be remiss if I mentioned Graham crackers and did not speak about marshmallows at the same time. Marshmallows date back to as early as 2000 BC and Egyptians made individual marshmallows by hand by extracting sap from a mallow plant and mixing it with nuts and honey.

The official name of the mallow plant is Althea officials and it is a pink-flowered plant. Marshes are the native growing ground for the mallow plant; hence the name marshmallow. Mallow plants are native in Asia and Europe and are also grown in eastern United States.

During the 1800s, candy makers in France took the sap from marshmallow plants and combined it with egg whites and sugar. The mixture was whipped by hand and took the form of the marshmallow we know today.

Candy makers replaced the sap taken from the marshmallow plant with gelatin, which enabled the marshmallow mixture to maintain its form and reduced the labor intensive process of extracting sap from the mallow plant. The gelatin was combined with corn syrup, starch, sugar, and water to create the fluffy texture of the marshmallow. The gelatin ingredient is essential for extending the shelf life of marshmallows because of the moisture it infuses into the candy. Thus, by replacing the previous egg whites with gelatin, marshmallows maintain their elastic and spongy qualities much longer than they had previously.

The marshmallow made its way to the United States in the 1900s and grew in popularity in the 1950s when it was used in a variety of recipes. Even though Americans were a little behind when it came to the marshmallow, they are now the number one consumers of the fluffy candy, buying more than 90 million pounds per year.
In 1948, Alex Doumak created an extrusion process to make marshmallows. Through this process, the marshmallow substance was pressed through tubes, cut into equal pieces, cooled, and then packaged - just the perfect size for s'mores.

The Booth Brothers

On April 14, 1865, just days after the end of the American Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln attended a play at Ford’s Theater in Washington, D.C. and was shot. He died the next day.

Before the assassination, John Wilkes Booth was well known as a stage actor. He was the son of a famous actor, Junius Brutus Booth, and two of his brothers, Edwin and Junius, Jr., were also actors. Edwin was more famous than John Wilkes, before the assassination.

Months before the assassination of Lincoln, Edwin Booth was on a train platform in New Jersey. A young man was waiting in line to buy a ticket. He was pushed up against the idle train car and as the train began to move, the lad fell into the gap between the platform and the train. Booth grabbed him by his coat collar and brought him safely back onto the platform.

The young man knew who Edwin Booth was, but it was a few months later that Edwin Booth learned that the young man, whose life he saved was Robert Lincoln, the oldest son of Abraham and Mary Todd Lincoln. History suggests that Edwin was comforted by his deed as he was a staunch supporter of the North.

Apr 5, 2013

Happy Friday

"Write it on your heart that every day is the best day in the year.”

My heart tells me that today is the best day to have a Happy Friday!

Origin of Umbrellas

As the old song says, "Though April showers may bring the rain. . ." It sent me looking for facts about the lowly umbrella. Jonas Hanway appears to be the first person who had the courage to hold an umbrella over his head while walking along the streets of London during the mid-1700s.

Apparently people in Paris used umbrellas in hot weather to defend them from the sun and save them from the snow and the rain. Someone wrote that Jonas was in delicate health and used the umbrella to protect his face and wig. During that time only dainty beings, then called “Macaronis,” would carry an umbrella.

Bringing it forward a few years gets us to the song, Yankee Doodle. It began as a pre-Revolutionary War song originally sung by British military officers to mock the disheveled, disorganized colonial Yankees.
"Yankee Doodle went to town  riding on a pony;
"He stuck a feather in his hat and called it macaroni."

The Macaroni wig was an extreme fashion in the mid-1700s and became contemporary slang. The Macaronis adopted feminine mannerisms, and the men were deemed effeminate. In the song, the British were insinuating that the colonists were not very masculine.

Macaroni and cheese has been around since the 15th century, but became widely popular in the late 1700s and does not seem to have any relation to the wig style or derision. In the United States, July 14 is "National Macaroni and Cheese Day.

One current variation on the recipe is the state fair staple, deep fried mac and cheese. Some folks now cover it with bacon. Isn't it amazing how we can get from umbrellas to bacon in a few short paragraphs!

Hurricanes and Storms

Umbrellas do not provide protection from hurricanes and storms. During the rainy season we also have many types of storms. The word “hurricane” is thought to have come from the Mayan name for the god of storms “Hurukan”.

When a storm has wind speeds of 38 mph it is called a tropical depression. It is called a tropical storm if it has wind speeds between 39-73 mph. Above 74 mph it is called a hurricane. Anything above 111 mph is known as a major hurricane.

Hurricanes are classified differently depending on what country you live in. In the United States, typically the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale is used, classifying the hurricanes from Category 1 through Category 5, based on their sustained wind speeds. This scale was developed by Herbert Saffir and Bob Simpson, in 1971.

Saffir developed the scale trying to estimate the amount of property damage a specific hurricane would do, primarily looking at damage the wind would do to structures. Simpson added flood damage. What they came up with is the following table:

    Category 1: 74-95 mph
    Category 2: 96-110 mph
    Category 3: 111-129 mph
    Category 4: 130-156 mph
    Category 5: 157 mph and up

Bruce Lee's Speed

If you think a hurricane wind  has speed, one man was possibly faster. Bruce Lee was challenged by a man who had a grudge against him and Lee agreed to fight the man who practiced karate and had a black belt in judo.

The fight was to be three two-minute rounds and held at the YMCA handball court. Jesse Glover was the referee and Ed Hart was the time keeper.

The fight started and Lee deflected an initial kick with his right forearm and simultaneously punched the man in the face with his left hand. He deflected a couple more punches and landed several of his own until he had the man pinned against the wall.

The man tried to grab Lee’s arm, but instead he received a double fist punch to the chest and face by Lee and then a kick to the nose. The man’s nose started bleeding, he was knocked out by the kick, and Glover stopped the fight.

Ed Hart said the fight lasted exactly 11 seconds and Lee landed 15 punches and a kick. A well known fact is that they had to slow down the speed for some movie scenes because Lee's actions were too quick.

Not so Sandy Deserts

Believe it or not, most of the Earth’s deserts are not composed entirely of sand. Much, about 85% of them, are rocks and gravel. The largest, the Sahara, fills about 1/3 of Africa and still growing, which would nearly fill the continental United States.

Apr 3, 2013

Calories and calories

Deserts do not have Calories, but desserts do. Of course, getting your just deserts means getting what you deserve. So getting your deserts and getting your desserts might be the same thing. No wonder there is such confusion about the words.

Calories share the same type of confusion. A calorie is a unit of measure required to increase the temperature of one kilogram of water one degree Celsius. A food Calorie is actually 1,000 calories compared to calories in chemistry. Usually calories are spelled with a small "c" and food Calories spelled with capital "C".

Food Calories are counted,  according to the National Data Lab, based on an indirect calorie estimation made using the Atwater system. The total caloric value is calculated by adding up the calories provided by the energy-containing nutrients: protein, carbohydrate, fat and alcohol. Because carbohydrates contain some fiber that is not digested and utilized by the body, the fiber component is usually subtracted from the total carbohydrate before calculating calories. The label on a food item that contains 10 g of protein, 20 g of carbohydrate and 9 g of fat would read 201 kcals or Calories.

Wordology, Pilcrow

The pilcrow was used in the Middle Ages to mark a new train of thought, before the convention of physically discrete paragraphs was commonplace.

The pilcrow originated as a letter C, for capitulum, or chapter in Latin. This C was the symbol that replaced in the function of marking off paragraphs the Greek-style paragraphos, and other symbols including the section sign.

It is now used in word processing software and page layout programs to mark the presence of a typewriter style carriage return control character at the end of a paragraph. Most programs allow the user to turn on or off the symbol to visualize page layout.

Twenty Texas Facts

The great state of Texas is interesting and its people have always liked to brag. Here are some interesting facts about the great state.

  1. Beaumont to El Paso: 742 miles - Beaumont to Chicago: 770 miles
  2. El Paso is closer to California than to Dallas.
  3. World's first rodeo was in Pecos, July 4, 1883.
  4. The Flagship Hotel in Galveston is the only hotel in North America that was built over water.
  5. The Heisman Trophy is named after John William Heisman who was the first full-time coach for Rice University in Houston.
  6. Brazoria County has more species of birds than any other area in North America.
  7. Aransas Wildlife Refuge is the winter home of North America 's only remaining flock of whooping cranes.
  8. Jalapeno jelly originated in Lake Jackson in 1978.
  9. The first word spoken from the Moon, July 20, 1969, was "Houston."
  10. King Ranch in South Texas is larger than the state of Rhode Island.
  11. Tropical Storm Claudette brought a US rainfall record of 43 inches in 24 hours in and around Alvin in July, 1979.
  12. Texas is the only state to enter the US by treaty, known as Constitution of 1845 by Republic of Texas to enter the union, instead of by annexation. This allows the Texas flag to fly at the same height as the US flag, and allowed to divide into 4 States.
  13. A Texas Live Oak tree near Fulton is estimated to be 1,500 years old.
  14. Caddo Lake, a 25,400 acres lake and wetland located on the border between Texas and Louisiana, in northern Harrison County and southern Marion County in Texas and western Caddo Parish in Louisiana is the only natural lake in the State.
  15. Dr Pepper was invented in Waco in 1885. (There is no period after the Dr in Dr Pepper)
  16. Texas has had six capital cities: Washington-on-the-Brazos, Harrisburg, Galveston, Velasco, West Columbia, Austin.
  17. The Capitol Dome in Austin is the only dome in the U.S. that is taller than the Capitol Building in Washington D.C. (by 7 feet).
  18. The name Texas comes from the Hasini Indian word "tejas" meaning friends. Tejas is not Spanish for Texas.
  19. The State animal is the Armadillo. Armadillos always have four babies. They have one egg, which splits into four, and they either have four males or four females.
  20. The first domed stadium in the U.S. was the Astrodome in Houston.

Atlas Obscura Day

Sorry I missed a few Atlas Obscura Day celebrations this year, but here is a site where you can catch up on the latest happenings. LINK