Sunday, March 07, 2010
......once again my brain has unexpectedly gone on another vacation. And so: IT'S TRIVIA POST TIME ~El Salvador is the only nation named for Jesus Christ. ~Henry VIII of England decreed wearing a beard a taxable offense to the crown. ~Einstein's first published scientific paper was about drinking straws. In particular, he looked at the capillary forces acting on a drinking straw. It was in 1901 and it was an important point in his life. He had graduated the year before from the Polytechnic in Zurich, where he met his future wife, the program's only female student. That year, he also earned Swiss citizenship. But his job search went badly and he ended up working as a patent examiner. ~The line "make my day" actually appears in the 1983 movie "Sudden Impact," not in "Dirty Harry," although Clint Eastwood is playing Harry. ~The tiny town of Hibbing, Minn., has a lot to be proud of. The Greyhound bus line, for example, was founded there to shuttle people to Alice, Minn. But in addition to that, many hometown boys have gone to fame and glory. In sports, you have Roger Maris and Kevin McHale. There is Vincent Bugliosi, who prosecuted Charles Manson, and wine guru Robert Moldavia. Last but not least, Bob Dylan lived there from age 7 to age 18. ~Lots of French people were born in Paris, of course, but so were some people you might not have guessed, such as Sweden's King Oscar I, director Roman Polanski, writer George Sand, actor Herve Villechaize, cellist Yo-Yo Ma, fashion designer Oleg Casino, composer Paul Dukas, Bush advisor Karen Hughes, rock star scion Jade Jagger, actor Emma Watson and talk-show host Kathie Lee Gifford. ~Neptune was discovered in 1846, but it still hasn't finished a complete orbit around the sun since its discovery. That won't happen until 2011. Incidentally, because of Pluto's strange orbit, from Jan. 21, 1979, to Feb. 11, 1999, Neptune became the furthest planet from the sun. It has resumed that position, now that Pluto has been demoted to the kids' table of planets. ~Aluminum is now considered one of the "poor metals", but it was once considered more precious than gold, so much so that Napoleon III used it to make knives, forks and plates for his honored guests. ~July 1st is Canada Day, but originally it was called Dominion Day, because Britain promoted some of its colonies to a semi-independent status called "dominion." Now that Canada is fully independent, the July 1 holiday is called Canada Day, but many older, grumpier Canadians insist on calling it Dominion Day, with all its anglocentric connotations. ~It'd be enough that Sarah Josepha Hale badgered Lincoln into creating Thanksgiving. That alone would earn her a footnote place in American cultural history, but she also published "Mary Had a Little Lamb," about the real Mary Sawyer and her pet. As the editor of Godey's Lady's Book, she was also an influential voice for 19th-century feminism and abolitionism. ~ The word 'flashlight' was coined American Electrical Novelty & Manufacturing Company in 1898. The company later changed its name to Eveready. "Flashlight" came from the nature of batteries and bulbs at the time. They had very short life spans, therefore, it was common practice to switch the light on for a few seconds at a time only, just long enough to light up what you needed to see. It was this on-off 'flashing' that led to the name. ~In 1915 Eveready cemented its place as the #1 flashlight maker after developing batteries and bulbs that allowed the light to shine for over an hour of use. ~In December 1953, Marilyn Monroe appeared, fully dressed, on the cover of the debut issue of Playboy ~Oddities of Victoria Day in Canada. Unlike Australia, India and every other bit of the old British Empire, including Britain itself, Canada still commemorates a monarch who has been dead for a century. Mostly, they open their cottages or have barbecues. In Quebec, they find it so odd that the date is known as Patriots Day, in honor of an 1837 rebellion ... against Victoria. ~Alfred E. Neuman of 'Mad' magazine was known as both Mel Haney and Malvin Koznowski before he was named for the nerd on the Henry Morgan radio show. That character, in turn, was named for the real-life composer and arranger for such movies as "The Hunchback of Notre Dame" and "The Grapes of Wrath." His face is somewhat more mysterious: when 'Mad' was sued over it, it asserted that the image came from various materials dating back to 1911. So basically 'Mad's' response was, "What? Me worry?" ~The 1973 model of the AMC Gremlin, the first American subcompact, came with an option for nylon "blue jeans" seat covers. ~Since sound travels through helium nearly three times faster than it does through air, inhaling it makes you sound all squeaky. What's actually happening is that the pitch of your voice is changing due to sound speed. Normally, the amount of vibration in the vocal folds affects your voice's pitch, and the amount of air in your vocal tract influences timbre. ~Shaun (as in the famous style of cooking) Province in China roughly translates as "area of four rivers and gorges." ~In 1911, Paul Langevin, a married scientist, was sued for divorce when his wife found out about his alleged affair with Marie Curie. By that time, Pierre Curie was dead, killed not by his experiments with radioactive materials, but by a horse-drawn cart that ran him over on a rainy Parisian day. Interestingly, today, the respective grandson and granddaughter of Paul and Marie, Helene Langevin-Joliot and Michel Langevin, eventually married each other. ~The Colorado mining town of Telluride, now known for its film festival, also has a place in scientific history, as it is where George Westinghouse and Nikola Tesla demonstrated alternating current, thanks to the world's first AC hydroelectric plant. This sparked the current wars between the pair of them and Thomas Edison, who had been backing direct current. The resulting high drama and skulduggery would make a great movie. ~Born in the Faeroe Islands, a Danish comedian named Jacob Haugaard promised the voters better weather and more money for beer, not to mention a right to impotency. With an evident sense of humor, the Danes elected him in 1994 to their Folketing parliament. Most joke parties don't do as well. Canada's "Rhinoceros Party" folded under the weight of onerous election eligibility requirements, but Britain's "Official Monster Raving Loony Party" carries on. ~General Electric helped found RCA in 1919, when it reorganized American Marconi as part of a patriotic effort to secure U.S. Navy radio communications. RCA in turn yielded NBC, one of the first great networks. In fact, RCA was so big that GE was forced to let it go in the 1930s, only to buy it back in 1986, only to get rid of it again. The only bit of the RCA empire that GE kept was NBC, which is why GE is often the butt of jokes on NBC's "30 Rock." ~The 'V' in 'DVD' stands for 'Versatile', NOT 'video' as is commonly believed. ~If you are in the nosebleed seats of a big-enough stadium and the concert is being broadcast, it is technically possible to hear it on a radio before you hear it live, as the sound is turned into radio waves, which travel faster. ~If your high school reunion were being held on Reunion Island, you'd be headed to the Indian Ocean. Just as Hawaii is part of the United States, Reunion is part of France, which also makes it the outermost region of the European Union and the furthest east. When the euro came online, the first one was used to buy some fruit in Reunion. ~In 1882, while mass murderer Jesse James was standing on a chair fixing a picture, he was shot in the back of the head by Robert Ford, so that Ford could collect a $10,000 reward. Ten years later, Ford was killed in a tent saloon as he turned to face Edward O'Kelley, who blew him away with both barrels of his shotgun. And 12 years after that, O'Kelley was killed while trying to shoot a policeman. ~In 1943, Ignacio Anaya was serving the wives of some U.S. airmen at his restaurant in Piedras Negras, Mexico,when he improvised fried tortilla chips topped with melted cheese and jalapenos. Since he was nicknamed Nacho, that became the name of the food, too. And since Piedras Negras is on the Texas border, the dish spread quickly through Texas and from there to the rest of North America. ~French novelist Pierre Boulle had been a secret agent in Southeast Asia during World War II and used the experience to write "The Bridge on the River Kwai." The movie version won him an Oscar for the screenplay, even though he somehow managed to write it without speaking any English. (It was actually written by two blacklisted writers.) Boulle also, weirdly, wrote "Planet of the Apes," which also became a hit movie. ~Cardinal Jamie Sin of Philippines actually WAS a Roman Catholic Cardinal. ~As the story goes, Buddha called the animals of the world to his side, but only 12 showed up. In their honor, he named a year for each of them. Traditionally, Chinese years were numbered, not A.D. or B.C., but based on the number of years the current emperor had been in charge. When the emperor was deposed in 1912, years were numbered for the Republic. In 1949, the 38th Year of the Republic, the communists switched to the Western system. ~Some say that Chinese explorer Zheng He might well have discovered Europe, if a nervously conservative imperial court hadn't called him home. On his return, explorer Zheng brought back a ki-lin, or unicorn. Actually, it was a giraffe. Incidentally, Zheng He appears to have been a Muslim. And today, China celebrates July 11 as Maritime Day in his honor. Until next time, be well and stay safe.