Jul 27, 2012

Happy Friday

An old saying is 'to forgive is to forget'.

You do not need forgiveness for never forgetting to have a Happy Friday!


Saltiness is one of the five primary basic tastes the human tongue can detect. Those five tastes being: salt, bitter, sweet, sour, and umami (it is from glutamic acid, which is found in many foods, particularly some meats, and is the basis of the flavor enhancer monosodium glutamate, also known as MSG).

Extra salt has other effects, beside simply making things more salty it helps certain molecules in foods more easily release into the air, thus helping the aroma of the food, which is important in perception of taste.

Adding a bit of salt will also decrease the bitter taste perception in food, which is why it is often sprinkled on grapefruit.

Salt does not suppress sweet or sour flavors as with bitter flavors, but balances out the taste by making the perceived flavor of sugary candies or lemons, less one dimensional.

Sticky Tip

Use nonstick cooking spray in votive candle holders and the remaining wax after burning will easily slip out.


This unpleasant term is used these days to refer to an immoral or sexually promiscuous woman, but the origin of the term had a more innocuous meaning. It actually meant a woman who did not keep her room tidy. Another early meaning was kitchen maid or drudge. Only later did it begin to mean immorality of a sexual type. In Thomas Hoccleve’s 1402 Letter to Cupid, “The foulest slutte of al a toune.”

In Victorian English, sluts wool referred to the little piles of dust that gather on the floor if it was not swept.

Joe Shlabotnik

Charlie Brown’s favorite baseball player is a guy whose career was anything but spectacular. After batting .004 in one season in the majors, Joe Shlabotnik was sent back down to the minor leagues, where his most notable highlight was throwing out a runner who fell down between first and second base.

When Shlabotnik became the manager for the Waffletown Syrups, Charlie Brown finally got to meet his hero. While in the stands, Charlie Brown snagged a foul ball, and he wanted Shlabotnik to sign it. Unfortunately, Shlabotnik had been fired in the middle of the game.

Like all adults, he is never actually seen in Peanuts.

Hires Root Beer

Like several other soft drinks, Hires Root Beer (now owned by Dr Pepper Snapple) was developed by a pharmacist. According to one of the many stories behind the origin of America’s oldest root beer, Philadelphia’s Charles E. Hires discovered an herbal tea made of roots, berries, and herbs while on his honeymoon.
Hires introduced a root beer powder mix that consumers could use to make their own root beer at the 1876 U.S. Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia, where Alexander Graham Bell showcased his telephone. Charles developed a soda fountain syrup version of his root beer in 1884 and began bottling the drink in 1893. Only Detroit's Vernor's Ginger Ale is older, introduced in 1866 and is now also owned by Dr Pepper Snapple.

His decision to market the beverage as a beer rather than a tea, as he had originally considered doing, appealed to the Pennsylvania miners and added to Hires’ popularity during Prohibition. Incidentally, the R-J on the bottle stood for Root Juices.

Get Sick Saving the Planet

Plastic grocery bags may harm the planet. Paper grocery bags deplete the forests. Reusable grocery bags may contain lead and also cause illness from germs and cross contamination.

Los Angeles became the largest US city to ban the use of plastic grocery bags, along with four dozen other California municipalities. Every county in Hawaii also prohibits them. Austin goes them one better and passed one of the broadest bag laws in the nation, agreeing to ban disposable paper and plastic bags starting in March 2013 in favor of reusable bags.

Reusable grocery bags carry E. coli germs along with a variety of other bacteria and some bags contain seven times the lead limit of many states. According to one study,  Grocery shoppers must us their reusable bags 131 times to see the environmental benefits touted by global warming zealots. To be safe, reusable bags need to be washed and preferably bleached to prevent cross contamination, especially bags that transport meat, fish, fresh vegetables, or fruit.

Another source of potentially dangerous infectious comes from the checker scanning foods over the same surface of the scanner that everyone else's food passes over.

Many people reuse plastic bags for garbage, pet cleanup, transporting wet clothing, etc., so not using them causes these people to buy plastic garbage bags, which helps defeat the purpose of bag bans.

Lower priced reusable bags found in stores are either plastic themselves or made from 100% non-woven polypropylene. In 2010, a study found that over half are contaminated with bacteria, some even with E. coli, because 97 percent of shoppers say they never wash their totes.

Wash counters and cabinets where bags are stored and never let them rest on the floor, because they pick up germs from food packaging, shopping carts, car trunks, etc. Some suggest putting reusable bags in a microwave for a minute or two after each use to sanitize them.

An average family of four would need to keep at least a dozen or more bags for a normal shopping trip.

What's in a Name, Balaclava

It has been a favorite headgear of skiers and robbers and before that was worn by British troops unaccustomed to the bitter cold Russian weather during the Crimean War. They were also used as helmet liners as they could be rolled up to just cover the head.

It started being called Balaclava almost 30 years later and the name comes from the town of Balaclava in present-day Ukraine where an important battle in the Crimean War was fought.

Cups and Balls

Sometimes it takes a new twist to make things interesting again. Here is a master of the cup and balls illusion. LINK

Caskets and Coffins

The words coffin and casket are often used interchangeably to describe a box used to bury a dead body in. Although the general purpose of each is the same, there are small differences between the two.

The term coffin has been used since the early 16th century to describe a container that holds a dead body for burial. The shape of a coffin typically resembles the shape of a body and has six or eight sides. It is wider at the top for the shoulders and gradually decreases in width toward the end where the feet are placed. The shape is considered to save wood for construction and can be cheaper than a casket. The word coffin is derived from the Greek word kophinos, meaning basket.

A casket originally described a box used to store jewelry and other small valuable items before coming to have an additional meaning with coffin around the mid-19th century. A casket is typically a four-sided rectangular box and, when used for burying people, often contains a split-lid for viewing purposes.

Interestingly, it is thought that the word casket was adopted as a substitute word for coffin because it was deemed less offensive, especially when morticians and undertakers began operating funeral parlors instead of mortuaries. The shape of a casket also was thought to be less dismal because it did not depict the shape of a dead body.

The main difference between a coffin and a casket is essentially just the shape. A casket may still refer to a jewelry box and not necessarily a box to bury a body in.

When a coffin is used to transport a deceased person, it can also be called a pall, a term that also refers to the cloth used to cover a coffin. The word pall bearers comes from those carrying the pall or coffin.

Jul 20, 2012

Happy Friday

Maturity is gratification delayed, opportunity parlayed, and self-denial repaid.

I have delayed a week but parlayed the delay and repaid myself with a Happy Friday!


The crwth (Prounouced Crooth) is also called a crowd and is an archaic stringed musical instrument, associated particularly with Welsh music, once widely-played in Europe.

Played like a violin.  It has six strings tuned e e' a' a b' b'' and a flat bridge and fingerboard. It has begun to make a mini comeback in folk music circles.

'Merica Burger

Received this from my niece and a friend on Facebook. Too good not to share. LINK

California burger chain Slater's 50/50 has a menu that features a burger made of 100 percent ground bacon and comes topped with a slice of thick-cut bacon, bacon island dressing, and bacon flavored cheddar cheese. It's only non-bacon topping is a sunny-side-up egg. Alas, it is only offered in July and it is called 'Merica

Its regular flagship burger is made of half ground beef and half ground bacon.

The 'Merica follows previous burgers-of-the-month, including a Pulled Pork Burger and a Chili Cheese Frito Burger. Slater's offers several other bacon-themed goodies, including a bacon brownie and the Bakon Mary, a twist on the Bloody Mary cocktail featuring bacon-infused vodka, a rim of bacon salt and a slice of thick-cut bacon as garnish. Almost makes me wish I was still back there, except for the fact that it is California.

Looking at Tomorrow

There are two islands known as the Diomedes, about two and a half miles apart in the middle of the Bering Strait, between Siberia, Russia and Alaska. One of them, Little Diomede, belongs to the US, and has a population of about 150. The other island, Big Diomede belongs to Russia and is uninhabited, except for Russian border guards.

The space between these two islands marks not only an international border, but the International Date Line as well, making it possible for the folks on Little Diomede to wake up on a Sunday and look across the water to Big Diomede, where it’s already Monday. I guess this means the Russians are ahead of the US, at least by a day.

Four Fun Food Facts

NECCO Wafers - New England Confectionery COmpany.

The Quaker Oats guy's name is Larry.

Barbie’s full name is Barbara Millicent Roberts.

Kool-Aid was originally marketed as “Fruit Smack.”

Going Dutch

Some pejorative expressions using Dutch were created through cultural enmity between the English and the Dutch during their fight for naval supremacy in the seventeenth century. Some included: Dutch reckoning (a bill presented without any details and which gets bigger if you argue), Dutch widow (a prostitute) and Dutch feast (an alcohol-fueled event in which the host gets drunk ahead of his guests).

Others, including Dutch courage and Dutch uncle, Going Dutch, Dutch lunch, Dutch treat, Dutch party, and Dutch supper, all with closely similar meanings, are American creations from the nineteenth century.

They were used in the literal sense of a meal reflecting a particular culture. The evidence shows they were more correctly German, as in Pennsylvania Dutch. A newspaper report in 1894 mentions that for a Dutch supper to be successful everything must be “consistently expressive of the fatherland” and mentions rye bread, cabbage salad, Wienerwursts (hot dogs), and beer. Americans invented the terms based on their observations of the habits of the immigrants. Early users applied them as straightforward descriptions and not as derogatory terms. So, let's do lunch, Dutch treat.

Chantilly Lace

Some of you might remember the Big Bopper’s hit of the same name in 1958. LINK

Some will remember what it looks like. This style of lace-making dates to the 1600s. While the majority of the lace was actually produced elsewhere, it gets its name from the town of Chantilly, France.

Jul 19, 2012

Sons of the Desert Convention

The 18th annual (held every other year) international convention is being held July 17 - 22 in Manchester New Hampshire. It is attended by folks who love a good time and follow Laurel and Hardy. I have attended a few and had a great time. During one convention in California, we staged a pie fight to commemorate a scene from another of L&H movies. It turned out to be the largest pie fight in the world and we were on the TV show 'Real People'. Took me days to get the lemon custard out of every nook and cranny of my body.

The 'Sons of the Desert' name is taken from a lodge that the boys belonged to in the movie of the same name. It is an international fraternal organization devoted to lives and films of comedians Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy. Each participating city has a "tent" with the name taken from one of their movies. The exception is Detroit, which took the name 'Dancing Cuckoos' from the theme song.

The group is loosely formed and has never approved the bylaws, which Stan Laurel said must maintain a 'half-assed dignity'. Meetings consist of watching their old movies and enjoying drinks and popcorn. Each year the bylaws are brought up for vote and ceremoniously ignored. The leader of the group has the title 'Exhausted Ruler', also taken from one of the movies. It was formed in 1964.

Six Types of Collectors

Deltiologists study and collect postcards.

collect matchbooks and other match-related items. The world’s top phillumenist has a collection of over 700,000 different labels.

Pannapictagraphists collect comic books and probably can't even spell what they are.

Vexillophiles collect and display flags.

Plangonologist are collectors of dolls.

Arctophiles collect teddy bears.

What's in a Name, Wedgwood

Josiah Wedgwood may be remembered today in his eponymous pottery, but his life was far more exciting than that association would lead one to think.

In his day he was a prominent abolitionist, and his pottery company made a medallion with the design of a black slave on his knees with the motto, “Am I not a man and brother?” He produced large quantities of the medallion and distributed them for free through the Society for the Abolition of the Slave Trade. Fashionable women started wearing them as jewelry and men smoked pipes with the image on the side. It became the most widely recognized image of a black person during the 1700s. Josiah died before slavery was abolished in England.

He also has the distinction of being the grandfather of Charles Darwin

Olympic 3D

While the 2008 Olympics were the first to be broadcast entirely in HD, the 2012 Olympics are the first to broadcast in HD as well as 3D. The games were first televised in Berlin in 1936 and played on big screens about the city. Then came the first games to enter households, strictly in London in 1948, followed by the first internationally televised games during the 1960 Olympics in Rome.

Jul 13, 2012

Happy Friday

Take Risks - If you win you will be happy, if you lose you will be wise.

I am happy that I am wise enough to enjoy a Happy Friday!

History of Mooning

Some sources have cited mooning, or baring one’s butt at another as an insult that stretches back to the Romans, but the gesture as we know it today seems to have started in the Middle Ages.

Wikipedia claims that the first known instance of mooning was recorded by the famous Roman-Jewish historian Josephus in the 1st century A.D. According to Josephus’ account in The Wars of the Jews, a Roman soldier bared his rear to an audience of Jews celebrating Passover, and incited a  riot that killed “upwards of thirty thousand.” However, a closer examination of Josephus’s account shows that the soldier was not mooning the crowd, but rather farting in their general direction. Josephus puts it more delicately, “One of the soldiers, raising his robe, stooped in an indecent attitude, so as to turn his backside to the Jews, and made a noise in keeping with his posture.”

One of the earliest known instances of mooning happened during the Fourth Crusade around 1203, when Western Europeans attempted to take Constantinople. As the crusaders’ ships pulled away after the failed attack, the Byzantines hooted and hollered and “showed their bare buttocks in derision to the fleeing foe.” Another account tells of the Italian nobleman and troubadour Alberico da Romano, who was so indignant at losing his favorite falcon during a hunt that he “dropped his trousers and exposed his rear to the Lord as a sign of abuse and reviling."

Though it was a worldwide phenomenon by the 19th century, mooning didn’t get its name until the 1960s. The Oxford English Dictionary dates moon and mooning to student slang of the 1960s, when the gesture became increasingly popular at American universities. The term derives from the use of moon or moons as slang for the bare buttocks.

Wordology, Lunule

The white, crescent shaped part at the top of a nail.

Nitpicking, Bigwigs, and Perukes

By 1580, syphilis had become the worst epidemic to strike Europe since the Black Death. Without antibiotics, victims developed open sores, nasty rashes, blindness, dementia, and patchy hair loss.

Powdered wigs, called perukes saved the day. Victims hid their baldness, as well as the bloody sores that scored their faces, with wigs made of horse, goat, or human hair and coated with powder scented with lavender or orange, to hide the odor. Wigs were not necessarily stylish, just a shameful necessity.

When Louis XIV was only 17 his hair began thinning. He hired 48 wig makers to save his image. Five years later, the King of England, Louis’ cousin, Charles II, did the same thing when his hair started to gray. Other aristocrats immediately copied the two kings. They sported ostentatious wigs, and the style trickled down to the upper-middle class.

The cost of wigs increased, and perukes became a scheme for flaunting wealth. An everyday wig cost about 25 shillings, a week’s pay for a commoner. The bill for large, elaborate perukes could cost as much as 800 shillings. The word 'bigwig' was coined to describe snobs who could afford big, flowing wigs.

At the same time, head lice were everywhere and nitpicking was a painful and time-consuming chore. Wigs curbed the problem. Lice stopped infesting people’s hair, which had to be shaved for the wig to fit, and moved to the wigs. Delousing a wig was much easier than delousing a head of hair. A wig-maker would simply boil the wig to remove the nits.

Facts About Television

The first time color TV sets outsold B&W was in 1972. That was also the first year that broadcast satellite TV began, although cable had been around for years before that. Only 20% of U.S. households had two or more sets at the time, and almost all portable TVs (usually the choice for a second set) were still black and white due to the technology involved for color. By 1979 no more black and white consoles were made. About six channels were available for watching and the average screen size was 22 inches.

During the 90s the average screen size was 27 inches and the 'giant size screens' were 40 inches. The average TV screen size is about 37 inches today and expected to average 60 inches by 2015.

Later this year super HiDef will be coming at four times the 1080p of today and the TV set definition will be 16 times greater by 2015, likely with prices to match.

Jul 11, 2012

Social Site Facts

Twitter has 901 million users, Twitter has 555 million users, Google+ has 170 million users, and Linkedin has 150 million users. The average user spends 405 minutes on Facebook, 89 minutes on Twitter, 3 minutes on Google+, and 21 minutes on Linkedin.

Presidential Height Index

Did you know that in the past 27 US presidential elections, the shorter candidate has won only six times? Handlers for Jimmy Carter (5' 9") went to great lengths to prevent him from standing next to the taller Gerald Ford (6'). It worked, Carter won.

The tallest President elected to office was Abraham Lincoln at 6' 4" and George Washington was 6' 2". Eighteen presidents have been 6 foot or taller. James Madison was the shortest at 5 foot 4.

Mitt Romney is 6’2” and Barack Obama is 6’1”.

Michigan is the only state that has a statute prohibiting height discrimination. (Maybe because Jimmy Hoffa was 5'5").

YouTube Free Movies

Have you seen any free movies on YouTube? Check these out. LINK If you have a big monitor or can hook your PC to your TV, as you can do with most flat screens, this is a cheap alternative to pay-for-view.

Is It Cheaper

When offered the possibility of 33% off a product or the same product with 33% more quantity, which would you choose?

The Economist sums up the results of a new study published in the Journal of Marketing, which reveals that most consumers view these options as essentially the same proposition, but they are not. The discount is by far the better deal. The Economist says, most shoppers don’t realize that a “50% increase in quantity is the same as a 33% discount in price.”

In one part of the study, the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management, asked undergraduate students to evaluate two deals on loose coffee beans, one with 33% more beans for free and the other at 33% off the price. The students viewed the offers as equal.

The initial price is $10 for 10 oz. of coffee beans or $1 per oz. An extra 33% more free beans would bring the total up to 13.3 oz. for $10. That $10 divided by 13.3 oz. give us a unit price of $0.75 per oz. With a 33% discount off the initial offer, though, the proposition becomes $6.67 for 10 oz., for a unit price of $0.67 per oz.

In another marketing experiment involving hand lotion in an actual store, researchers sold 73% more when it came in a bonus pack than when it was priced at a discount with the same exact unit price. Caveat Emptor and go for the discount.

Jul 6, 2012

Who was Charlotte Braun

She was written as a female version of Charlie Brown. In fact, she looked just like him, except she had curly hair. She was also ostracized by her peers, but it was because she was loud and obnoxious, a fact she constantly pointed out during her appearances in the comic strip.

Shortly after her introduction in 1954, Schulz received a letter from Elizabeth Swain, a young fan in Pittsburgh, who told him to get rid of Braun because Swain found the character annoying and unfunny.

Schulz wrote Swain a letter saying that he would soon “discard” Braun as requested. He added a touch of dark humor by saying that Swain would “have the death of an innocent child on your conscience. Are you prepared to accept such responsibility?”

Next to his signature, he included a sketch of Charlotte Braun with an ax stuck in her head. Braun showed up in the comic one more time, but then never returned. He really did have a sense of humor.

Wordology, Petrichor

This word describes the scent of rain on dry earth. The word is constructed from Greek, petra, meaning stone + ichor, the fluid that flows in the veins of the gods in Greek mythology.

The term was coined in 1964 by two Australian researchers, Bear and Thomas, for an article in the journal Nature, where the authors describe how the smell derives from an oil exuded by certain plants during dry periods and is absorbed by clay-based soils and rocks. During rain, the oil is released into the air along with another compound, geosmin, producing the distinctive scent. Now you have a name for that great aroma.

Interesting Facts about Taxis

Back in England, the Hansom cab was a kind of two wheel horse-drawn carriage designed and patented in 1834 by Joseph Hansom, an architect from York. The vehicle was developed and tested by Hansom in Hinckley, Leicestershire, England. Originally called the Hansom Safety Cab, Hansom's design was modified by John Chapman (not Johnny Appleseed and not Dallas' John Chapman) and several others to improve its practicability, but retained Hansom's name. Hansom also set up a company in New York in 1869.

Hackney was an area of London, England and before Hansoms, hackney was also a name for carriages for hire to get around the city. It is also where we get the name 'hack' for modern cab drivers.

Harry Nathaniel Allen of The New York Taxicab Co., who imported the first 600 gas-powered New York taxicabs from France, coined the word "taxicab" as a contraction of "taximeter cabriolet", with cabriolet reflecting the design of the carriage.

There are essentially four distinct forms of taxicab, which can be identified by slightly differing terms in different countries:

1 - Hackney carriages, also known as public hire, hailed or street taxis, licensed for hailing on the street. Hansom's were Hackneys.
2 - Private hire vehicles, also known as minicabs or private hire taxis, licensed for pre-booking only.
3 - Taxibuses, also known as Jitneys, operating on preset routes typified by multiple stops and multiple independent passengers.
4 - Limousines, specialized vehicle licensed for operation by pre-booking.

Taxi service is typically provided by automobiles, but various human-powered vehicles, such as the rickshaw or pedicab and animal-powered vehicles, or boats, such as water taxis or gondolas are also used

The first taxi service in Toronto was established in 1837 by Thornton Blackburn, an ex-slave from the US. He designed and built a red and yellow box cab named 'The City', drawn by a single horse, and able to carry four passengers, with a driver in a box at the front, which he, himself, would operate. It became the nucleus of a taxicab company, the city's first, a successful venture

The firm Checker, which also made cars in addition to the eponymous cabs, came into existence back then, and stopped manufacturing cabs in 1982. It continued operation at partial capacity making Cadillac parts for General Motors until January 2009 when it declared bankruptcy.

Taximeter and Flag Falls

Taximeter is the device that calculates the charge and has been a device with a flag that a cab driver pushes down to start the charge count. The origin is a minimum charge for hiring a taxi, to which the rate per kilometer or mile is then added. It dates back to the old mechanical taximeters, which were equipped with a flag-like lever that could be seen from outside the cab. Think tax (charge) by the meter, as in kilometer.

Flagfall or flag fall is a common Australian expression for a fixed start fee, especially in the haulage and railroad industry. From the Australia mobile phone industry, the expression has recently begun to spread to other English language countries, as business jargon for an initial fixed fee for establishing each phone call. It is also beginning to find its way into other businesses as a synonym to 'start fee'.

Jul 4, 2012

Fuel Gauge Arrow

Have you ever noticed a little arrow on your gas gauge? Did you know the symbol pointing left means the gas filler cap is on the left side of the car and vice versa. This little arrow is on nearly every car sold in the US during the past few years.

The vast majority of new cars have this arrow. In older, arrow-less cars, the hose part of the gas-pump symbol sometimes indicates the side of the car that has the filler cap. Handy to know when renting or borrowing cars.

Lawyers Get Automated

Being a lawyer isn't perhaps as much fun as it seems in the movies, in reality involving weeks of reading incredibly boring documents. Now a recent court ruling suggests that computers can take over part of their job for them.

A US judge has approved the use of "predictive coding" software which can sift through millions of documents and spit out only those the lawyer might need for use in a case.

Thomas Gricks, the lawyer who was pushing for the use of predictive coding, wanted to use the software to sift through two million emails in a case defending aircraft-hangar operator Landow Aviation against private-jet owners seeking compensation after a roof collapse in 2010.

He estimated that the email would take twenty thousand person hours to sift though, in the process costing two million dollars. Now, the software will provide just a couple of thousand relevant documents, cutting the time investment to two weeks, and slashing the cost by 98 percent.

In a recent study, pitting lawyers against the software over the course of 800,000 Enron emails, the software came out on top. In fact, it even manged to spot relevant details that the humans didn't.

Spiral Cut Hot Dogs

Something I learned today, if you spiral cut your hot dogs before grilling, they taste better. Here is a LINK  that shows how to do it. Interesting.

Origin of Breath Mints

Bad breath in ancient Egypt often was a symptom of poor dental health. Seems the stones they used to grind flour for bread contributed a lot of sand and grit to their diet, which wore down tooth enamel to expose the pulp of the tooth and making it vulnerable to infection.

The Egyptians didn't have dentists to fix their deteriorating teeth and gums. Instead, they simply suffered, and scientists who examined mummies have found severely worn teeth and evidence of abscesses, even in youthful Egyptians. To cope with the unpleasant odors from their rotting mouths, Egyptians invented the first mints, which were a combination of frankincense, myrrh and cinnamon boiled with honey and shaped into pellets.

Archaeologists also found toothpicks buried alongside mummies, apparently placed there so that they could clean food debris from between their teeth in the afterlife. Along with the Babylonians, they're also credited with inventing the first toothbrushes, which were frayed ends of wooden twigs.

The Egyptians also contributed toothpaste. Early ingredients included the powder of ox hooves, ashes, burnt eggshells and pumice. They also found what appears to be a more advanced toothpaste recipe and how-to-brush guide written on papyrus that dates back to the Roman occupation in the fourth century A.D. It explains how to mix precise amounts of rock salt, mint, dried iris flower, and grains of pepper, to form a "powder for white and perfect teeth"