Assorted Miscellany

It has been a while since I have published anything on the site. Sometimes I am simply too busy to sit down and write (especially, as you may have noticed, my articles tend to clock in at least 2,000 words, which is not an insignificant time commitment), and sometimes I am simply not in the mood to write. I find, often, that I cannot force myself to write if I am not duly inspired. Sometimes I try to inspire myself by reading – I will comb the Internet for any sort of fact, concept, or just a reminder of something that interests me. In fact, I have multiple blogcats that are half-written on my computer that I just haven’t “felt” like finishing. Especially for my longer articles, if I don’t finish it in one sitting, I find that I have a hard time reacquiring the frame of mind in which I started the piece. Too, it happens that I get an idea for a post but, usually because I am busy at work, I don’t have time to write down a synopsis and I end up forgetting.

I say this, of course, with no real direction for this post. Currently I don’t feel like finishing one of my works-in-progress, and I am not presently inspired by anything in particular. I had an inkling to write about the Boston Marathon tragedy, but at this time we still don’t know the facts (the motivations of the bombers are still mysterious, despite what you might hear from morons on Facebook muttering about “them dirty Muslims”), and I don’t think it is worth the time to write a 5 page essay that becomes immediately refuted by some revelation that comes out tomorrow.

As I said, I comb the Internet for any sort of motivation to write. I have a text document on my computer that is just a list of bullet points. Hundreds of bullet points. I have decided that I have enough raw material to constitute a blogcat in its own right, without the need for me to elaborate further on any particular one. These are simply a collection of facts and truths that I have learned at some point, in some manner, that I thought interesting enough to specifically make note of, but that have not yet panned out into a dedicated post.

So, maybe this feels like a cop-out, because I am basically just regurgitating information gleaned from a variety of sources and passing it out as my own. But, hey, at least I am saving you hours of aimless Googling until you learned all of this on your own. In no particular order, enjoy:

  • Only humans are affected by poison ivy. The active compound is the oil urushiol (which, incidentally, can also be found in mangoes and cashews). It only takes a millionth of an ounce of the chemical to cause a reaction (though actual sensitivity to it varies between people; some are immune completely). It only affects humans because the reaction is trigged by the human T-cell. Deer, goats, horses, cattle, rats, and some bird species all feed on poison ivy (or poison oak/sumac, which also contain urushiol). The purpose of the oil is mostly unclear, but it seems to be used as to seal wounds in the plant stem and retard the growth of infectious fungi.
  • In American folklore, we have the legend of werewolves. That is, cursed people who turn into either an animal or an animal-like demon (depending on the story in question) when the moon is full. However, this type of legend is prevalent throughout the world, the difference being the object of the transformation. The animal that this person turns into varies as a function of geography and culture; usually corresponding to the top (non-magical) predator in that region. In northern Europe they have legends of were-bears, in India the legend are about were-tigers, Africa has were-leopards, South America were-jaguars, Japan were-foxes, Polynesia were-sharks, etc.
  • Abraham Lincoln is in the National Wrestling Hall of Fame. When he was a young man in Illinois, he was considered to be the fiercest frontier wrestler. According to one contemporary report, “He can outrun, outlift, outwrestle and throw down any man in Sangamon County.” Reportedly, after one match in which he disposed of his opponent with a single toss, he shouted at the crowd,  “Any of you want to try it, come on and whet your horns!” (Nobody stepped forward). He has only one recored defeat during his 12 years of wrestling. George Washington, too, was a renowned grappler: at the age of 47, he defeated seven consecutive soldiers in a wrestling match. William Taft, clocking in at 225 lbs, was the undergraduate wrestling champion at Yale, having mastered a move called “the Flying Marc”, which involved grabbing the opponent’s wrist and elbow, then turning around and flipping him over his head.
  • Vatican City is about 4,736,120 square feet in size. The Pentagon, by comparison, has a total floor area of 6,636,360 square feet.
  • The sum of the numbers on a roulette wheel is 666. Clearly, the casinos are not even trying to hide the fact that they are pure evil.
  • On Aug. 10, 2004, Cincinnati Reds first baseman Adam Dunn hit a home run. It left the park and landed on Mehring Way, 535 feet from home plate, hopped another 200 feet or so, and came to rest on a piece of driftwood on the edge of the Ohio River. That part of the river belongs to Kentucky. This makes Dunn the only player in major league history to hit the ball into another state.
  • The French poet Gerard de Nerval (1808-1855) had a pet lobster, which he adorned with a blue ribbon and took on walks through the streets of Paris. He once wrote, “I have a liking for lobsters. They are peaceful, serious creatures who know the secrets of the sea and don’t bark.”
  • 20% of all the fresh water in the world can be found in a single lake. Lake Baikal, in the eastern reaches of Siberia, is over one-mile deep and at least 25 million years old (making it the oldest, deepest, and most voluminous freshwater body in the world). A submersible is required to reach the bottom. The lake is home to over 1,200 species of plant and animal that are found nowhere else, including the world’s only freshwater seal.
  • The average American consumes more than 9 pounds of coffee each year. The average Finn consumes more than 25. On another note, the average Australian consumes about 60 gallons of beer a year.
  • The founder of Portland, Oregon, was William Overton. In order to found the settlement in 1843, he needed to borrow money from two benefactors (Asa Lovejoy from Boston and Francis Pettygrove from Portland, Maine). Both benefactors wanted the right to name the new city, Lovejoy wanted to name it Boston, Pettygrove wanted to name it Portland. Unable to decide, they flipped a coin. Pettygrove won 2 out of 3 and the city was named Portland. The penny used for the flip is on display at the headquarters of the Oregon Historical Society.
  • Everybody knows that Alaska is the northernmost and westernmost state. However, it is also (technically) the eastern-most. The Aleutian Island chain extends so far that it crosses the 180 degree line of longitude. Due to practical concerns, the International Date Line (which is defined as the 180 degree line) veers west to exclude the islands.
  • The most common birth date in the United States is October 5. Approximately 9 months after New Years Eve. Just saying.
  • A falling person reaches a top speed of around 120 miles per hour. Once that speed is reached, the height of the fall becomes irrelevant. That is, a fall from 2,000 feet is the same as the fall from 10,000 feet (if you ignore the whole ‘no oxygen’ thing). The world record for the highest fall survived? 33,000 feet. In 1972, a Serbian passenger jet was blown up by Croatian terrorists; one stewardess survived the fall, only suffering temporary paralysis and a 27-day coma.
  • A roadrunner’s top speed is around 20 miles per hour. A coyote’s top speed is almost 40. Someone go tell our old friend Wiley E.
  • In 1963, the average cigarette consumption by an adult in the United States was 12 per day. In 2004, it was 14. It turns out that although the number of people that smoke cigarettes has steadily declined, the rate at which smokers consume them has increased (though studies show it is beginning to trend downwards).
  • During World War II, Fort Knox held enough gold to make 90 Statues of Liberty, over 20,000 metric tons. This represents approximately 13% of all the gold ever refined in human history. It also held a copy of the Magna Carta, the Hungarian crown jewels, and 68,269 pounds of raw opium.

Those are the gems from my list. Next time I have writer’s block I’ll post another batch.

One response to “Assorted Miscellany

  1. I’m just getting to reading this now, and it’s awesome. The Abraham Lincoln as a wrestler fact is absolutely amazing; I even sent 5 people from work an e-mail about it.

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