Dec 25, 2015

Happy Friday

Laughter is food for the body. Smiles are food for the soul.

I always keep well fed in body and soul on a Happy Friday, and even more so on a Happy Christmas Friday!

Christmas Thought

Did You Know?

Christmas and the following New Year's Day (Jan 1) are always one week apart and fall on the same day. However, within any calendar year, Christmas and New Year’s Day always fall on different days.

Boxing Day

It is celebrated in the UK, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand on the first weekday after Christmas. Boxing Day is always the day after Christmas and traditionally occurs on December 26, but is not a fixed-date public holiday, meaning it is celebrated on the next weekday if the 26th is on a Saturday or Sunday. December 26th is also Saint Stephen’s Day, but will be celebrated December 28. I love extending holidays.

Bacon Day

Bacon Day is celebrated annually on December 30th. Bacon is a very popular food and you can find many items also flavored or scented with bacon including popcorn, soap, candles, air fresheners and many more. #bacon

Eating Together

Cornell professors found that firefighter platoons who eat meals together have better group job performance compared with firefighter teams who dine solo. The study is in the Harvard Business Review's December issue.

"Eating together is a more intimate act than looking over an Excel spreadsheet together. That intimacy spills back over into work," said the study's author, Kevin Kniffin. "From an evolutionary anthropology perspective, eating together has a long, primal tradition as a kind of social glue. That seems to continue in today's workplaces."

Over the course of 15 months, Kniffin and his colleagues conducted interviews and surveys in a large city's fire department, which included more than 50 firehouses. The researchers asked the department's 395 supervisors to rate on a scale of zero to ten the performance of their platoon compared to other fire companies in which they served. The supervisors were also asked how often the platoon eats together in a typical work week. The platoons who ate together most often also received higher marks for their team performance. Conversely, the platoons that did not eat together obtained lower performance ratings.

In interviews, firefighters said daily group meals were a central activity during their shifts. Some firefighters who worked a shift that started at 6 p.m. often ate two dinners, one at home and a second at the firehouse. One firefighter said you don't want to dis the wife by turning down the food she prepared and implied that it was just as important to avoid disrespecting his co-workers. "To me, that's a good example of the importance of the group. It's comparable to his family," said Kniffin.

The researchers noted firefighters expressed a certain embarrassment when asked about firehouses where they did not eat together. "It was basically a signal that something deeper was wrong with the way the group worked," Kniffin said.

Pronouncing the Letter X

Did you know there at least eight ways to pronounce the letter X? The first is for today:
as kris in Xmas
as eks in x-ray
as gz in exist
as gzh in luxurious
as ks in sex
as ksh in anxious
as z in xylophone
or not at all as in faux pas.

Bacon Mashed Potato Waffles

To make this holiday leftover treat, add crumbled bacon, butter, garlic powder to mashed potatoes and cook in a waffle iron. Add more bacon and cheese on top, then broil until cheese melts. Ah, post holiday ambrosia!

Origins of Christmas Carols

In 1816, a Catholic priest wrote the poem Stille Nacht! Heilige Nacht! while stationed at a pilgrim church in Mariapfarr, Austria. When he transferred to St. Nicholas' two years later, he asked Gruber to help him write guitar music for the poem, which the two performed on Christmas Eve of 1818. Silent Night was translated into English more than 40 years later by Episcopal priest John Freeman Young, who is responsible for the version Americans favor. The song has been translated into 142 languages to date.

Santa Claus Is Coming to Town, was written by James Gillespie. This tune was first performed on American singer Eddie Cantor's radio show in 1934. The inspiration came from a place of grief. Gillespie was a vaudevillian-turned-songwriter who had fallen on hard times, both financially and personally. Gillespie received a call to write a Christmas tune just after learning his brother had died. However, on a subway ride, while recollecting his childhood with his brother and his mother's warnings that Santa was watching changed his mind. He finished the lyrics in fifteen minutes, then called in composer John Coots to make up the music that would become a big hit within 24 hours of its debut.

Hark! The Herald Angels Sing was originally sung to several different tunes, including 'New Britain'. The up tempo it is sung to today came from German composer Felix Mendelssohn. More than 100 years after it was written, English musician William H. Cummings paired the carol to Mendelssohn's cantata Fetgesang. The carol was a poem written in 1739 by Charles Wesley, brother of John Wesley, the founder of Methodism. The original opening line as it appeared in his collection Hymns and Sacred Poems was "Hark how all the welkin rings," using a rarely used term for heaven. The Anglican preacher and friend George Whitefield tweaked the opening line to the one we know today.

Deck the Hall originally dates back to sixteenth century Wales, where its melody and much of the lyrics were copied from the New Year's Eve song 'Nos Galan'. Lines like "Oh! how soft my fair one's bosom/ Fa la la la la la la la la," were transformed into Yuletide wishes like "Deck the halls with boughs of holly/ 
Fa la la la la la la la la." This musical makeover was done by Scottish folk music scribe Thomas Oliphant. His version is not the one most commonly sung today. Now, lines like "Fill the mead cup, drain the barrel," have been changed to "Don we now our gay apparel." This variant became popular from revised music sheet printings made in 1881.

Jingle Bells was not originally conceived for Christmas time. It was written by James Lord Pierpont in 1850s Savannah, Georgia. The song originally titled 'The One Horse Open Sleigh' was intended to celebrate Thanksgiving. The local Unitarian church where he would later play the song on the organ boasts historical markers declaring it the birthplace of the song. However, some sources say Pierpont was singing the memorable melody when he still lived in Medford, Massachusetts. "Jingle Bells" was renamed in 1857 when its lyrics and notes were first published. Decades passed before it rose to prominence.

Christmas Carols for the Challenged

Schizophrenia: Do You Hear What I Hear?
  Amnesia: I Don't Know if I'll Be Home for Christmas
  Narcissism: Hark the Herald Angels Sing About Me
  Paranoia: Santa Claus Is Coming to Get Me
  Obsessive Compulsive: Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells.

Wordology, Nimbus

An indication of radiant light drawn around the head of a saint. Also, A dark grey cloud bearing rain.

Safe to Eat Foods

OK, it is Christmas and food is on my mind. I found this interesting.

Shubsthoughts Blogviews

The top ten viewers to my blog this past month in order were: United States, Russia, Germany, France, Ukraine, Canada, Portugal, United Kingdom, India, and Poland.

Thank you to all of my new friends from around the globe.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! Hope you continue to enjoy the content next year and please let me know what you think about it.

Dec 18, 2015

Crass Personal Promotion

It was the late Lenore Hershey, a prominent editor of women's magazines, who once offered this bit of wisdom about Christmas shopping: "Do give books - religious or otherwise - for Christmas. They are never fattening, seldom sinful, and permanently personal."

My never fattening, seldom sinful, always fun, and permanently personal books are available here Thanks.

Happy Friday

Happiness brings smiles and smiles bring happiness.

Happiness and smiles also share a Happy Friday!

Mark Twain Christmas Wish

In 1890 the editor of the New York World invited Mark Twain to offer a message of holiday goodwill to its readers. Twain sent this, "It is my heart-warm and world-embracing Christmas hope and aspiration that all of us - the high, the low, the rich, the poor, the admired, the despised, the loved, the hated, the civilized, the savage - may eventually be gathered together in a heaven of everlasting rest and peace and bliss - except the inventor of the telephone."

Wordology, Pundit

A pundit is a person who offers mass media their opinion or commentary on a particular subject area (typically political analysis, social sciences, technology, or sport) about which they are (supposed to be) knowledgeable.

Islam, ISIS, ISIL, Islamism, and Muslim

Many headlines are littered with these terms and I have noticed that many reporters use them incorrectly. So, I went searching to find the most succinct way to define each. I kept spelling of the words consistent, but many variations apply, depending on the writer's origin.

Islam is a religion. Islam is generally used in conversation to denote the religion or community of believers as a whole, such as, "The Islamic community responded to press release."

A Muslim is a person who follows the religion of Islam, a monotheistic religion based on the Quran (Koran). Muslims consider the Quran to be the verbatim word of Allah (God) as revealed to the Islamic prophet Muhammad.

All people who accept the religion of Islam are Muslim, but not all Muslims follow the religion of Islam, just as all Methodists, etc. do not practice their religion.

Muslims agree that Allah is One, Muhammad is His last Prophet, the Quran is His last Book for mankind, and that one day Allah will resurrect all human beings, and they will be questioned about their beliefs and actions. Nearly one quarter of the world population are Muslim.

Muslims are mainly broken down into two sects: Shia and Sunni. The great majority of Muslims are Sunnis, estimated to be about 85% to 90%. Both Sunni and Shia Muslims share the most fundamental Islamic beliefs and articles of faith. The differences between these two main sub-groups within Islam initially stemmed from political differences. Throughout history, Shia Muslims have not recognized the authority of elected Muslim leaders, choosing instead to follow a line of Imams which they believe have been appointed by the Prophet Muhammad or Allah (God) Himself.

Islam is the act of submitting to the will of God. Muslim is person who participates in the act of submission.

All Sunni are Muslims, but not all Muslims are Sunni, just as all Catholics are Christian, but not all Christians are Catholic.

Islamists do not represent religious Islam. They believe Islamic law should be implemented as a political system or theocracy. Islamism is an extremist, and at times violent ideology that seeks to ground its legitimacy in Islam and focuses its recruitment efforts almost entirely on Muslims. Islamism wants to create a new world order, grounded in the imagined past of 7th century deserts.

Current manifestations of Islamism include a variety of Islamist movements, such as the (mostly) non-violent Muslim Brotherhood, violent Boko Haram, and the violent Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). Although these groups employ different tactics, at their core they share a common political ideology.
Although ISIS/ began as part of Al-Qaeda. It has since broken relations and Al -Qaeda has not pledged allegiance to ISIL.

Not all Muslims are Islamist, but virtually all Islamists are Muslims.

Islam good - Radical Islamist bad!

The Islamic State of Iraq and ash-Sham (ISIS) or simply Islamic State - On 8 April 2013 changed its name from ISIS to ISIL (although most journalists ignore this).

The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), also known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.

Levant is a geographic term including  Cyprus, Israel, Palestine, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and more.

Da'ish (Daesh) is another name used by others for ISIL and is considered derogatory to it.

A caliphate is an Islamic government operating under Sharia law. It is led by a caliph (currently Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi), who is a political and religious leader and successor (caliph) to the Islamic prophet Muhammad. His power and authority is absolute. In June, 2014, ISIL announced it has established an Islamic caliphate across Syria and Iraq. It currently claims to control 10 million people.

On 14 May 2014, the United States Department of State announced its decision to use Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) as the group's primary name. However, in late 2014, top US officials shifted toward using Daesh (da eesh or Dash), because this is the name a growing number of countries and Arab allies prefer to use. US officials still variously refer to all three.

Incidently, 90% of Syrians, 97% of Iraqis, 98% Turks, 99% of Iranis, 99.8% Afghanistanis, 96% Pakistanis, 94% Egyptians, and 88% Indonesians are Muslim.

Many US football and basketball players are Muslim. American Muslims include: Dave Chappele, Casey Kasem, Doctor Oz, Mike Tyson, Muhammad Ali, Fareed Zakaria (TV), Busta Rhymes, Ice Cube, Huma Abedin, Jermaine Jackson, and Snoop Dogg, among others.

Hope this makes it a bit less confusing.

Psy New Videos

In case you missed it, Psy has another fun video out. Might not reach the mass views that Gangnam Style did, but this one is still worth a watch. LINK He also has another crazy video called Daddy. LINK

Sandwich Origins

Club - The Club Sandwich consists of three slices of white toast making two layers, each holding bacon, lettuce, tomato, and mayonnaise on top of either turkey, chicken, or roast beef. Most agree that this classic originated in resorts and country clubs in the late 1800s. One of the first documented records of the sandwich appeared in an 1889 menu at the Steamer Rhode Island restaurant, where it was called as we know it today, a Club Sandwich.

Croque-Monsieur - Originating in a café on the Boulevard de Capucines in Paris in 1910, the Croque-Monsieur is essentially a grilled ham and cheese sandwich. It is generally made with lean ham, Gruyere or Emmentaler cheese, and covered in a warm béchamel sauce. French for Crusty or Crispy Mister, depending on whom you ask, this sandwich is as famous for its variants as well as its original. With added tomato, it is the Croque-Provencal, and with mustard and topped with a fried egg, it is a Croque-Madame. The Croque Auvergnat replaces the mild cheese with a Bleu, and the Croque Norvegien uses salmon in place of the ham.

Dagwood - Named after Dagwood Bumstead in the popular comic strip Blondie, the Dagwood Sandwich was first seen in the 1930s. The only requirement is that it be comprised of a wide variety of ingredients from leftovers and other things in the kitchen. Although no formal recipe exists, some have tried. Emeril Lagasse has one with 19 ingredients, and iChef’s version includes cold spaghetti, 2-day old fish, lobster tail, and bacon.

Grinder/Hero/Hoagie/Sub - Like the Dagwood, there are an infinite number of combinations of meats, cheeses, condiments, vegetables, and pickled things.
The Grinder arose in New England and, according to one account, was named after the dockworkers whose jobs involved a lot of noisy grinding to repair and refurbish the ships. Others attribute the name to the amount of chewing and grinding it took to work through the crusty Italian bread and tough meats on the typical sandwich. Many believe the Hero Sandwich was named by food columnist, Clementine Paddleworth in 1936 when she noted, “You had to be a hero to eat it.” However, the Oxford English Dictionary credits the naming to armored car guards. Philadelphia chose the name Hoagie for its version. Most claim that the name came originally from Al De Palma who thought that a person “had to be a hog” to eat such a large sandwich. When he opened his own sandwich place during the Great Depression, he called his big subs “hoggies.” It is assumed that the strong Philadelphia accent changed the pronunciation, and eventually, the spelling. Although the Oxford English Dictionary notes that the Submarine Sandwich was around by 1940, many, especially in Connecticut, believe it originated in New London during World War II (then home to a Navy shipyard). Reportedly invented by an Italian shopkeeper who crafted the sandwich out of oblong bread, its resemblance to the nearby submarines was not lost on his patrons.

Gyro - Greek for 'turn', the Gyro (pronounced yee-ro) derived its name from the method used to cook the meat, which revolves on a vertical spit. The typical sandwich includes a large portion of thinly sliced gyro meat, tomato, onion, feta cheese and tzatziki sauce, rolled into an oiled and lightly grilled, thick pita. Gryo meat is traditionally made with lamb, onion, garlic, salt, pepper, and herbs, ground together into a paste, then packed together and slow cooked. Tzatziki sauce is made by straining yogurt and mixing it with finely chopped and strained cucumber, garlic, lemon juice, dill, and salt.

What's in a Name, Zoolophone

Like xylophones and glockenspiels, the Zoolophone is an instrument with tuned metal bars that produce sound when struck. The tone and amplification it makes depends on the shape of the instrument itself.  A zoolophone can be thought of as a xylophone with keys shaped like animals, where different shapes have different sounds.

Most zoolophones require hand-crafting to get resonant frequencies and amplification correct. They use rigid geometries, like bars and hand-drilled dimples on their undersides to create predictable sounds.


(Literally Knocking Night or loosely, Knocking Day) In Germany on the four Thursdays before Christmas, children in rural parts of Southern Germany dress up in masks and go door to door chanting rhymes that always start with the word 'knock'. They make noises as the go from house to house, singing carols, cracking whips, clattering dishes, and ringing cowbells. This commotion is supposed to drive away evil spirits. Children offer or receive treats such as fruit, candy, or coins. Think of it as the opposite of Halloween trick or treat.

Dec 11, 2015

Happy Friday

A smile is a sign of joy. A hug is a sign of love. A laugh is a sign of happiness.

Smiles, hugs, and laughs are also all signs of a Happy Friday!

Sprinkles and Jimmies

If you are from the Northeast you likely call those chocolate little things that are sprinkled on ice cream as Jimmies. Most of the rest of the US calls them sprinkles.

Jimmies were invented by the Just Born company in 1930
and named after an employee, Jimmy Bartholomew, who worked the chocolate pellet machine. Born marketed the freshness of his line of daily-made candy with a sign that declared, “Just Born.”

Samuel Born (no relation to Jason Bourne) was a Russian immigrant who invented the machine that inserted sticks in lollipops, the machine that coats chocolate on ice cream and the extruder that makes Easter 'peeps'. Before his machine, each peep was made by hand squeezing marshmallow in with a pastry tube. Other notable goodies from the company include  including MIKE AND IKE® chewy fruit flavored candies, spicy, cinnamon-flavored HOT TAMALES®, and TEENEE BEANEE® gourmet jelly beans. The "Just Born" company no longer manufactures jimmies.

Space Myth, Weightless

People assume that being on a space station or spaceship means that you are totally weightless. This is a common misconception, because even space has something called microgravity. This minute version of gravity is the pull you feel between two objects while you are in space. For example, even though you are not on the Earth’s surface, there is still a gravitational pull coming from the Earth that is extremely strong. There would also be gravitational forces from the Sun and the Moon, among others acting on you.

What this means is that even on a space station, you actually do not weigh that much less than you would on Earth. The reason people float on a space station is because of the way the station orbits the Earth. Technically, the people onboard are actually in a form of constant free fall, and the way the station curves around the Earth during its orbit keeps them floating. This effect can be replicated with certain airplanes in our own atmosphere. These planes what they use to train astronauts.

Cookie Cutter Face

Here is an interesting way to impress/scare the relatives for the holidays. Get your face made into a cookie cutter. Etsy company CopyPastry will make a cookie cutter from a picture for about $50, and you are ready to begin sharing your face with everyone.

Oatmeal raisin might be especially scary or maybe cranberry cookies for Halloween. Why not get one made of your significant other and you can bite their head off when you feel the need. The site even suggests getting your logo done, so you can pass out cookies instead of business cards. Here is the LINK.

Holidays and Flatulence

Every time we swallow, we gulp in air too. Fizzy drinks compound this. Bicarbonate in the saliva and pancreatic juices react with stomach acid to produce carbon dioxide and many of our gut bacteria react with whatever is passing through to produce methane, hydrogen and more C02. All of these cause wind, but it is the tiny amounts of sulfur containing gases that make it smell.

Things to avoid as much as possible when dining with relatives and friends for the holidays - go easy on food with a high proportion of the un-absorbable carbohydrate that provide a feeding frenzy for lower gut bacteria. These include beans, peas, broccoli, cauliflower, sprouts, artichokes, root vegetables, prunes, apples, and fruit juice (which is heavy in fructose).

Fizzy drinks, gulping, eating too fast, and overeating pump the gut with wind that will escape either up or down, as does smoking and chewing gum. Tight clothing and restrictive underwear give your bowel gas fewer options.

A brisk outdoor walk is a great way of reliving the pressure and a charcoal biscuit or tablet from pharmacies can minimize the smell. Chemists have other anti-flatulence products and in extreme cases, Under-Tec pants have a carbon filter gusset that deals with the odor.

Disparate vs. Desperate

Disparate means different or distinct in quality or kind; disparate attractions as grand opera and game fishing.

Desperate means arising from or marked by despair or loss of hope. It also means showing extreme courage; a desperate cry for help or a desperate criminal.

Increase Sperm Count

Researchers at the universities of Manchester and Sheffield found that smoking cannabis can have a severe effect on male fertility, yet other lifestyle choices such as drinking alcohol and wearing tight briefs were not considered to cause problems, despite earlier reports suggesting otherwise.

Sperm quality has been in decline for decades, and scientists are unsure as to the exact causes. Last month a report published by Ohio’s Cleveland Clinic, following analysis of 12 studies conducted by different groups around the world, found that consumption of lycopene improved the quality, mobility, and volume of sperm dramatically, increasing sperm count by up to 70 per cent. Lycopene is an essential nutrient found commonly in red fruit and vegetables such as tomatoes, strawberries, cherries, and peppers.

A 2009 Spanish study by the Andalusian Center of Sports Medicine and the University of Las Palmas found that a prolonged spell on your bike can severely affect the shape and quality of sperm. After monitoring 15 Spanish triathletes with an average age of 33 the study found that "those that systematically cycled 300 kilometers a week, had a fertility problem."

In 2003, researchers from Sao Paolo University in Brazil studied 750 men and concluded that drinking coffee can improve the swimming speed of human sperm, although whether this means pregnancy rates are higher among coffee drinkers is unclear.

In 2012, a research team at the University of California published the results of a study which showed that men who consumed 75g of walnuts each day experienced a marked improvement in sperm vitality, motility and morphology.
Their conclusion was that there is a direct link between an increase in the consumption of polyunsaturated fatty acids (which exist at high levels in nuts) and an improvement in sperm quality among healthy men eating a western diet.

Like walnuts, almonds are rich with arginine, an amino acid that has been shown to increase sperm production. Peanuts contain high levels of zinc, which is also associated with an increase in sperm count and motility.

Another Yosemite Sam

Somewhere in the New Mexico desert, possibly on the Laguna Indian Reservation outside of Albuquerque, there is a radio transmitter first noticed in 2004, that occasionally sends a mysterious burst of transmissions. These transmissions, called the Yosemite Sam transmission do not appear to make sense.

Spynumbers has a great post  that says beginning in December 2004, the FCC began getting reports of the Yosemite Sam transmission, which begins as an 800 millisecond data burst, similar to the sound a Blu-Ray player might make when it makes some horrible error. That is immediately followed by a clip of an arch nemesis of Bugs Bunny’s, Yosemite Sam, announcing, “Varmint, I’m gonna blow you to smithereens!”

Radio geeks/conspiracy trackers/curious people pinned down the phrase from the 1949 Bugs Bunny cartoon, “Bunker Hill.” Why it is attached to a burst of compressed information, often used by intelligence community is mysterious. That it is transmitted in on four frequencies - 3700, 4300, 6500, and 10,500 kHz - for a full two minutes without any missed time mark tends to make it even more mysterious.

These are the numbers stations - radio stations on shortwave that broadcast some sort of repetitive noise followed by strings of numbers. Amateur tech geeks first identified the stations after World War II. No one is sure what their purpose is.

Lawyers and Law School

Well-known American lawyers who did not go to law school or who did not finish
Patrick Henry (1736-1799) governor of Virginia
John Jay (1745-1829) first chief justice of the Supreme Court
John Marshall (1755-1835) chief justice of the Supreme Court
Daniel Webster (1782-1852) secretary of State
Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865) president, did not go
Stephen A. Douglas (1813-1861) representative, senator from Illinois
Clarence Darrow (1857-1938) defense attorney in Scopes trial of 1925, dropped out
Benjamin N. Cardozo (1870-1938) justice of the Supreme Court
Strom Thurmond (1902- ) US senator, governor of South Carolina
John Adams
Thomas Jefferson.

Dec 4, 2015

Happy Friday

"If one were to build the house of happiness, the largest space would be the waiting room." -Jules Renard

I never wait to be happy, especially on a Happy Friday!

Christmas Books

If you were thinking of picking up a few books for Christmas presents, Bacon Orgazmia and Amazing Facts II - Tons of Trivia now have "look inside" on Amazon, which offers a free peek inside to see what you are getting before you buy. To see some of the other books, just type shubnell in the search box and my Amazon author page comes up. PS - if you do read any of the books, please leave a review. I appreciate it.

Bacon Orgazmia LINK

Amazing Facts LINK

Happy National Cookie Day today, December 4, 2015

The English word "cookie" is derived from the Dutch word "koekje," which means little cake. Dutch bakers used to test oven temperatures with small amounts of batter so that they would not waste the entire cake mix if the temperature was not right. Soon, they discovered these tiny pieces of cooked batter were actually quite tasty.

Happy Hanukkah

Hanukkah 2015 begins at sunset on Sunday, December 6, and ends on Monday, December 14.

Hanukkah is the Festival of Lights. It commemorates the victory of the ancient Israelites over the Syrian Greek army, and the subsequent miracle of restoring the menorah in the Holy Temple in Jerusalem. The miracle of Hanukkah is that only one vial of oil was found with just enough oil for one day, and yet it lasted for eight full days.

Some celebrate Hanukkah at home by lighting the menorah (candelabrum with nine branches) each night, light one additional candle to the number from the previous night, playing dreidel (spinning top), and eating special foods unique to Hanukkah. Some people also sing Hanukkah songs or exchange gifts after lighting the menorah.

Many Hanukkah foods are deep-fried in oil, symbolizing the oil from the menorah used in the Temple. These include latkes, or potato pancakes, and jelly doughnuts. Many also make the Sephardic delicacy bimuelos (deep fried dough balls) and use applesauce as a topping.
If anything is deep fried, it must be good .

Did You Know

December is the month with the shortest daylight hours of the year in the Northern Hemisphere and the longest daylight hours of the year in the Southern Hemisphere. December starts on the same day of the week as September.

Apple Brandy vs. Calvados

Fall is the time when apple harvesting is at its peak. Along with that comes fresh apple cider (and usually fresh warm doughnuts). Apple cider is a drink made from crushed apples, and sometimes fermented (hard cider).

randy is distilled from fruit, but if it is made from anything other than grapes, it is specified so, like apple brandy. US guidelines say this drink must be made from at least twenty percent apple brandy that has been stored in oak for no less than two years. To create a lighter profile, apple brandy is blended with a neutral spirit.

Like tequila and champagne, the French have Calvados, a legally protected appellation, which means that it must come from a specific geographic location, this is the Lower Normandy region of France. It also must be aged in oak casks for at least two years. Calvados tends to taste 'oakier' and slightly less apple than its American counterpart.

Dust to Dust

Several companies offer environmentally friendly coffins. Some are biodegradable and made from recycled paper or bamboo. I wonder what kind of sinkholes this might cause when the practice becomes widespread.

Grocery Store Tricks

If meat is packaged under the watch of federal inspectors, supermarkets cannot change the date on the package, but if retailers butchered and packaged the meat themselves, they can change the label any time they choose. In fact, 30 states do not regulate the expiration dates for most items.

Some stores use special lighting to make bananas look more appealing. They filter an ambient light to highlight the bananas so they appear more yellow. Water sprayed on produce makes veggies look fresh, but keeping them wet actually makes them rot faster. It also makes produce heavier and therefore pricier.

Salty Fact

Morton Salt is the US leader in salt sales. Initially, salt was sold in bags, then boxes. There was a problem with the salt clumping, because of moisture. Morton discovered that adding magnesium carbonate to absorb moisture solved that problem, but, salt tended to get stuck in the corner of boxes, so the company came up with a round container. It costs more and that cost gets passed on to the consumer. All other salt companies have copied the round shape to sell salt. Morton sells salt in bulk, in other kinds of containers to institutions.

Egg Terms

There are many terms grocers use to sell us eggs and many of them do not mean much. The one that most strikes me is 'vegetarian diet'. Since chickens are omnivores, feeding them a vegetarian diet is unnatural.

  • Farm fresh: Means nothing and is only used to make the eggs sound more appealing.
  • No hormones: Means nothing and is completely misleading, because it is illegal to give poultry hormones.
  • Free-range: Means the hens are cage-free, but only have "access to the outdoors." Usually a small screened off patio or enclosure.
  • Pasture raised: Pasture-raised birds spend most of their life outdoors, with a fair amount of space, plus access to a barn. Many are able to eat a diet of worms, insects, and grass, etc.
  • Cage Free: The hens do not live in cages. They usually live in aviaries: massive industrial barns that house thousands of birds. Each bird has, on average, 1 square foot of space.
  • All Natural: This phrase has no real meaning, because [conventional chickens] are raised in the least natural conditions.
  • No Antibiotics:  Antibiotics are rarely used in the egg industry.  However, chickens  raised for their meat do commonly get antibiotics to fend off disease and increase animal growth.
  • Vegetarian Diet: Chickens are not vegetarian. They are omnivores and in the wild, get most of their protein from worms, grasshoppers and other insects. Hens that are fed a "vegetarian diet" are probably eating corn fortified with amino acids.
  • Omega-3:  Hens are likely given a bit of flaxseed mixed in with their corn feed. This could possibly lead to higher levels of omega-3 in their eggs.
  • Organic: This means something more specific, and egg producers who use it are subject to USDA regulation. Organic eggs must come from hens that are free-range, fed organic feed (no synthetic pesticides), and receive no hormones or antibiotics (most do not get these anyway).

Free College Living

Humanitas is one of the Netherlands’ main social services organizations. It provides support to people who are temporarily unable to manage on their own, and one of its major areas of focus is elder care.

Social isolation and loneliness is a chronic problem for the elderly, but a Humanitas nursing home has come up with a unique solution. The home offers free housing to local students if the students agree to spend a minimum of 30 hours per month interacting with the 160 elderly residents. The time can be spent doing anything from helping with meal preparation, shopping trips, teaching seniors to use computers, playing games, or just sitting and talking. The students might also learn a thing or two in the process.