Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Gettin' by with a little help from...

I seem to have hit a mental block on the post I meant to do, so I enlisted the help of the always willing office crew for this offering.
Some More Absolutely Useless Information From Our Junk Boxes:
-Gertrude Ederle was still a teenager when she became the first woman to swim the English Channel on August 6, 1926. Not only did she swim the channel, but she broke the speed record held by a man. -The Sears Tower contains enough phone wire to wrap around the earth 1.75 times and enough electrical wiring to run a power line from Chicago to Los Angeles. -In 1985 child prodigy Ruth Lawrence achieved a starred first in Mathematics at Oxford University. The 13-year-old was the youngest British person ever to earn a first-class degree and the youngest known graduate of Oxford University. - American naval hero John Paul Jones was born in 1747 at Kirkcudbrightshire on the south-west coast of Scotland. -The Bledowska Desert, in Poland is the only true desert in Europe. -Sixty-two degrees Fahrenheit (16.6C) is the minimum temperature required for a grasshopper to be able to hop. -Badminton was first recognized as an official sport in the Olympic Games during the 1992 Summer Games. More than 1.1 billion people watched badminton's Olympic debut on TV.
-The word 'verb' is a noun. -Country comedienne Minnie Pearl always wore a hat with a price tag hanging from it when she performed. The amount ascribed on the price tag was $1.98. -Most landfilled trash retains its original weight, volume, and form for 40 years. -The first spacecraft to send back pictures of the far side of the Moon was Luna 3 in October 1959. The photographs covered about 70 percent of the far side. -The Jumbotron scoreboard at the SkyDome in Toronto, Ontario, measures 33 feet by 115 feet and has 420,000 light bulbs, the largest scoreboard in the world. Home of the Toronto Blue Jays, the SkyDome has a 348-room hotel located in center field. Seventy of those rooms have views of the field. The apex of the retracted dome is 310 feet, making it the tallest in Major League baseball. The SkyDome opened in 1989.-Radio towers are always painted with alternating red and white stripes. If the tower is over 700 feet tall, every stripe is 100 feet high. If it's under 700 feet, the tower will always have seven stripes. The top stripe on a tower is always red. -There are 1,783 diamonds on the Britain's Imperial State Crown. This includes the 309-carat Star of Africa. -Gene Simmons, of the shock-rock group Kiss, earned a B.A. in education and speaks four languages. -The three-toed sloth of tropical America can swim easily, but it can only drag itself across bare ground. -The Ruby-throated Hummingbird's wings beat at over 60 times per second, its heart beats aproxximately 1260 times per minute, and it completes one in-out breathing cycle 250 times per minute. -The word 'verb' is a noun. -There are over 2,000 species of firefly averaging one inch/2.54cm in length and having an average lifespan of 2 months in the wild. -A 'phthisiologist' specializes in the study & treatment of tuberculosis. -The nation of Chile's name is from an Indian word, Tchili, meaning 'the deepest point of the earth'. -Sunbeams that shine down through clouds are called crepuscular rays. -Most landfilled trash retains its original weight, volume, and form for 40 years. -In 1984 the state of New York became the last of the United States to put photographs on drivers' licenses. -The pyramids in Egypt contain enough stone and mortar to construct a wall 10 feet high and 5 feet wide running from New York City to Los Angeles. -The liver stretches across almost the width of the body, occupying a space about the size of a football. It weighs more than 3 lbs. -There is a town in Sweden called "A" and a town in France called "Y." -Mike is a slavedriver and a cheapskate! -The first color photograph was made in 1861 by James Maxwell. He photographed a tartan ribbon. -In September, 1962, the Beatles recorded their first single 'Love Me Do' for the Parlophone label. The rest, so they say, is history. -The pyramids in Egypt contain enough stone and mortar to construct a wall 10 feet high and 5 feet wide running from New York City to Los Angeles. -In the 1900 Sears Roebuck company catalog, a piano cost $98.00 - FOB Chicago. -According to purist Italian chefs, ingredients that should never appear on an authentic Italian pizza include bell pepper, pepperoni, or chicken.

This unique post was brought to you by Mike's wonderful, loving, friendly, and underpaid team of 'Spellcheck Kitties' from Kitty Komputer Korporation, Inc.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

In The Good Old Summertime....

A portion of the actual river
A fairly long time ago, in a place not so far from where I sit writing this, lived a young boy who had far too much curiosity, energy, bravado, and spare time on occasion for his own well being. To complicate matters more, he was pretty much a loner with the exception of about four other lads who shared the same traits and who would join together in a loose knit group at times to pursue adventures that were often not well advised, planned, or executed.
On those days (or nights) that they all found themselves restless and lacking any real plans for their rare 'free time', they seemed to possess a hunger for adventures that were usually not 'really' forbidden, either by lack of rules prohibiting the behavior, or a tacit understanding that their efforts at having fun would not be well received should the activities in question 'come to the attention of ' certain people, namely adults. While never really harming themselves (too badly) or destroying anything (beyond repair), the group nevertheless garnered the oft-employed name 'usual culprits' when their actions came to be discovered, which was more often the case than not. Let us say they were not masterminds at 'covert operations'. They'd have been caught more often had there not existed at that time a sole Town Constable who worked evening weekdays only. His time was generally spent snoozing in his Chevy, which substituted for a real patrol vehicle.
Having known these boys in passing, their shenanigans were not unfamiliar to me, especially the ones involving the local 'spur' line of the railroad which ran to their town from the neighboring country which is very fond of maple leaf emblems. At the upper edge of the log booms feeding the local mill on the river was situated an iron railroad bridge which crossed into the other country without benefit of customs inspectors or regular (or irregular) border guards on either side. This was well prior to the modern era of border security attempts. Being just up-river of the booms meant that during most of the warmer days of the short summer the water beneath the iron bridge was clear for diving and swimming, sort of. It was also very irksome to the train crews who came through at regularly scheduled times to have those young scofflaws wave happily at the passing trains while leaning on the railroad company's 'No Trespassing Under Full Penalty of The Law' signs.
They weren't usually too happy about kids climbing their bridge either. Something about 'getting sued', a term most were pretty unfamiliar with in those days, other than knowing the guy who lost his leg in the wood room of the mill sued and didn't work, yet drove a new car to his nice house.
As for the actual danger involved, that's true if you count the 'deadheads', logs saturated with water on one end and partially sunken like an underwater picket fence. Needless to say, these were rather hazardous to divers descending from the top girders of the bridge to the dark waters below. For this reason, if swimming was the agenda, twine and small plastic bottles, usually old bleach bottles, were deployed in and around the diving area like so many fishing bobbers to mark the positions of the deadheads. One flaw in this system was that the current was rather strong, the water rather deep, and the 'de-barking' plant only a short way up-river and out of sight of the bridge. The de-barker and bark piles leached a continual flow of tannin-like bark juices into the river and greatly hindered visibility and the ability to find all the deadheads in the area. This also doesn't take into account the fact that additional partially sunken logs continued to drift a few feet below the water surface toward the mill's chutes downriver. This meant that the de-barking plant missed a great many of these which then passed under the rail bridge. Add the lack of EMS, an ambulance, or phone service near the bridge, and you can see why the ever unreasonable adults attempted to discourage any swimming in the very waters and conditions which they themselves had enjoyed at those ages. Plus, now there were white plastic bottles, which they did not have, relying instead on pieces of rags attached to sticks by twine as buoys. The 'new' system was obviously far superior to theirs. There was always the warning that you'll 'break your necks' falling from the upper girders with your wet, slippery feet. All of which the kids were well aware and blissfully dismissed as so much 'grown-ups not wanting them to do anything fun'.
I just recalled this as I was watching the local train cross over the iron bridge here in our present 'hometown'. It also stirred up some old memories I hope to share in the future for any who are interested. Until next time, take care and be well.

Monday, September 01, 2008

A Bit O' Irishness.....

Since my eyes still aren't up to much use, here's a little information from an Irish Newsletter I subscribe to. I'm a great fan of Ale, Scotch, AND Irish Whiskey. Perhaps my having a great grandfather who was half Irish would account for that. Or, maybe I was just blessed with the ability to recognize quality beverages. After all, I'm also a big Moxie soda fan. I'll leave you to the reading as I seem to have developed an over-powering thirst for some Jameson's. The tradition of hanging signs inside and outside pubs is well established in Ireland but dates back to the fourteenth century when the English King Richard II decreed that landlords were compelled to place signs outside their commercial establishments, pubs, hotels, etc. Irish public houses did not comply as readily as their English counterparts and often the name of the owner alone adorned the tavern front. Irish pubs also acted as 'spirit grocery' shops and some even acted as insurance agents and undertakers, a tradition which can still be found in some Irish towns in Ireland today. Signs began to develop and became more elaborate and decorative. Many of the earliest signs would not have included any text as the majority of the population were illiterate. Symbols and pictures were thus used to illustrate the function of the business displaying the sign. In latter years the name of the landlord was added. It was not uncommon (and is not uncommon in Ireland in modern times) for public houses to display the family coat of arms either on their pub-sign, or on the window of the establishment. Great battles and historical events also proved popular subjects for both pub signs as well as for naming the public house in question. Heroes of Irish literature such as Yeats, Kavanagh, Shaw, Joyce and Beckett also provide a great source of pub naming and signage. A fine example of this naming tradition is the 'Bleeding Horse' pub which is located on Camden Street in Dublin city centre and dates from 1649.

One explanation of the name is that horses used to be 'bled' after arriving at this stopping point as a means of reducing their blood pressure and calming them after their journey. Another legend relates to the 1649 Battle of Rathmines when injured horses were put to death nearby after the battle. A further explanation of the name tells how a bleeding horse wandered into the tavern after the Battle. The tradition of Irish pub signs was brought to the new world during the mass emigrations of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The subjugation of the Irish people in certain eras is also evidenced by the use of (by now infamous) derogatory signs such as 'Help Wanted - No Irish Need Apply!'. Many of the modern Irish signs outside of Ireland reflect the tradition of the emigrants and can display a certain amount of wit or sentimentality. Shamrocks and Harps, the great symbols of Ireland, are often found on such signs.

Sign at a pub in Canada

For more information on Ireland, Irish goods for sale, and most things you'd need to link to, these things & much more can be found at: free Irish resources

You can even find links to where you can get nifty Irish Pub signs for your own 'Pub Room". Take care.