One book leads to another...

Thursday, April 30, 2020

A to Z Historic Trivia - Z


Growing up in Zanesville, Ohio, a city founded by his maternal grandfather, Zane Grey, enjoyed baseball, fishing, American history, and reading adventure stories like Robinson Caruso and dime novels featuring Buffalo Bill.  Zane wrote his first story when he was fifteen, but his father, a dentist, did not approve of Zane writing anything at all and tore the manuscript to bits.

After an embarrassing financial setback, the elder Grey moved the family to Columbus, where Zane and his brother helped rebuild their father’s dental practice. Before, after, and between work, fishing and baseball, Zane wrote every day, effectively bringing the rugged wild west to vivid life on paper.

After four consecutive rejections, Harper & Brothers finally published Heritage of the Desert in 1910, and two years later, the publication of Zane’s all-time best seller Riders of the Purple Sage put his books in the hands of readers everywhere. Harper accepted everything Zane submitted after that and continued releasing from a stockpile one story each year for more than twenty years after his death.

It’s estimated that Zane, one of the first authors to become a millionaire, wrote more than nine million words in his career. In all, he wrote more than ninety books, not only westerns but hunting and fishing guides and children’s stories as well. There were over a hundred story-based films produced, many of which were shot at locations described in Zane’s books.

I can’t tell you exactly how many fictional characters are named “Zero” because I lost count at 30. Let’s see, there was one in “Holes,” a ghost dog in “Nightmare Before Christmas,” an assassin in “John Wick” as well as a thief in “Grand Theft Auto.” Can you think of any others?

You don’t have to be great to start, but you have to start to be great.”  ~ Zig Ziglar

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

A to Z Historic Trivia - Y


Arriving in usual splendor, the summer of 1816 held the promise of bountiful crops and the scent of spring flowers before making a sudden drastic return to winter. Temperatures dipped then plummeted. Hail hammered blossoms from the trees. The skies over Europe and the United States seemed permanently overcast. The lack of sunlight was so complete and lasted so long that crops began to fail during typical months of growth. Food shortages were reported on both sides of the pond. Thomas Jefferson, who had by then retired to his farm in Virginia, lost all his crops as well.  By mid-June, uneasy concessions appeared in newspapers such as this one in New Jersey:  

On the night of 6th instant, after a cold day, Jack Frost paid another visit to this region of the country, and nipped the beans, cucumbers, and other tender plants. This surely is cold weather for summer.”

New England states were most affected as red suns rose rayless in skies obscured by fog. So much of our crops had failed that even the livestock went hungry. Understanding a need for alternative (horseless) transportation, inventor Karl Drais created a primitive version of the bicycle.  As strange and unsettling as things were, it would have been natural to wonder if there were peculiar occurrences elsewhere.

In London, prolonged twilight skies of brilliant orange or red were not enough to warm the chill of 120 days of cold rain.  Potato crops failed in Ireland, and famine ensued. Mary Shelly wrote “Frankenstein” while stranded with friends during Switzerland’s frigid summer.  Delayed monsoon and late torrential rains hastened the spread of Cholera in India. Overwhelming floods in the Yangtze Valley devastated rice production in Yunnan, China.

As winter came calmly in October, conversations about what had occurred turned to questions of why they’d just experienced what would be known as the infamous Year Without a Summer.

There was some speculation about the influence of sunspots. Still, it would be more than a year before the entire world knew that volcanic ash from the eruption of Mount Tambora (in Indonesia), one of the largest ever recorded, had disrupted weather patterns across the globe.

Dating back to 1940 – 45 (?), Yardbird is a term for a prisoner, an army recruit, or a soldier confined to camp for violation of rules.  

Yardbirds, on the other hand, is a British band from the sixties with a knack for picking outstanding guitarists.

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

A to Z Historic Trivia - X


The word “Xanadu” has fascinated me ever since I first heard the title of the 1980 film starring Olivia Newton-John.  For the most part, the name is a noun, a place, to be exact. And typically a very nice place, at that. For instance, a palace in an 1816 poem, a mansion featured in the 1941 film “Citizen Kane,” or the one owned – and named – by Bill Gates. There is the Xanadu Beach Resort in the Grand Bahamas, and a highly reflective area on the leading hemisphere of Saturn’s moon (Titan) also bears the name Xanadu.
In Mayan mythology, Xibalba is “a place of fear” and considered the ultimate underworld ruled by the 16th century Maya Death Gods and their helpers. One entrance to Xibalba was reputed to be a cave in central Guatemala, another in nearby Belize. Still, others believed that the Milky Way was a more direct route to (cosmic?) Xibalba. No matter the chosen path, willing visitors may have been hard to come by as long as the Twelve Lords of Xibalba, with names like “Flying Scab” and “Sweeping Demon,” were anxious greeters at the underworld gate.
The earliest citation of the term: “X Marks the Spot” is in a letter written by Maria Edgeworth in 1813. The phrase was often used in romantic pirate stories denoting hidden treasure marked on a map.
Thought to have originated in the late 1500s, the phrase X Factor means an outstanding or extraordinary ability, a variable in a given situation that could have the most significant impact on the outcome, or of any unpredictable and great influence.
Inspired by the likes of Twilight Zone and Night Stalker, X-Files is an American science fiction television series, involving investigations of extraterrestrial and paranormal activity. The show aired between 1993 and 2002. While not exactly in the historic category – yet, several iconic items from the show have been placed in the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History. And the eerie theme sound heard at the start of every show came as a pleasant surprise to even the composer, Mark Snow, when in frustration he put his arm on the keyboard, turning on the delay effect which produced the iconic echo.

Xcaret, Mexico

Monday, April 27, 2020

A to Z Historic Trivia - W


Ahead of tomorrow, I gather today
the wool of a thousand webs
Silvery threads with which to crochet
Hope, for despair must end.

Woolgather: to daydream
Dubbed the “largest roadless wilderness in the lower 48 states,” it was well worth the time it took to get to Idaho by car. Besides, our dearest friends had recently moved there, and a trip to cooler, unknown territory sounded appealing. Talk of our having brought record-breaking heat along with us notwithstanding, it was a tremendously fun vacation. When we weren’t out sight-seeing, the kids enjoyed our hotel pool.  One of our all-day adventures led us to the Hell’s Canyon area of the Snake River for an unforgettable white-water rafting adventure. Four kids, four adults (5, including our guide), make at least eighty white knuckles, the way I see it. Compared to the heat of the day, the water was bracing, the views breathtaking. The resort village of McCall is every bit as beautiful as it looks in magazine pictures. However, we were convinced there must have been a special event going on that day as we never did find a place to park.
Founded by F.W. Woolworth, the first Woolworth’s five-and-dime store in 1879. The fact that the store didn’t do so well at first didn’t bother Mr. Woolworth one bit. He brought his brother, who had an affinity for customer service, onboard and by the 100th Anniversary (according to Guinness Book) Woolworth’s was the largest department store chain in the world. I used to think they served the best French fries in the world!
Walgreens grew from 20 retail stores to nearly 400 during prohibition when the government allowed pharmacies to distribute whiskey.

 Popular video game designer Will Wright created “The Sims” after his house burned down during the Oakland Firestorm of 1991, and he needed to draw up new plans.

Arthur Wynne created the crossword puzzle in 1913 for the “Fun” section of the Sunday edition of the New York World Newspaper.  Remember the one in the TV Guide?

Saturday, April 25, 2020

A to Z Historic Trivia - V


While the following subjects would have fit right in with yesterday’s underwater segment of the letter U, I purposely saved them for today’s letter, V.   

An extreme example of deep sea dwellers (as in lightless depths of 2 -3000 feet), the Vampire Squid resides in regions known as Oxygen Minimum Zones, where these small creatures are somehow able to breathe normally in 3% oxygen saturation situations. Characteristics such as black or dark red coloring combined with a unique webbing that connects all eight arms like a cloak, and those beady blood-red eyes, all contributed to the naming of the distinctive creature.  Not as one might imagine, a penchant for late-night snacks of blood. In reality, they feast exclusively on Marine Snow, which may explain the ability to (when agitated) eject clouds of bioluminescent mucus containing numerous orbs of blue light lasting long enough to dazzle the fins off of any would-be predators.
In contrast to the mild-mannered bottom-dwellers, predacious and teensy Violet Sea Snails float – upside down - on rafts of their own mucus and air bubbles, quite on the surface of tropical and subtropical oceans, feeding on hydrogens such as the deadly Man O’ War.
I took a fascinating Virtual Tour of Venice, Italy, and learned that it is part of a cluster of 118 small islands separated by canals and connected by more than 400 bridges. Venice was built on a shallow lagoon sometime during the 9th century. The city is considered to have been the first international financial center. It’s been a wealthy city throughout history. Lord Byron himself named “The Bridge of Sighs” for the last view convicts would have of Venice on their way from court to prison.  It’s one of the many highlights of Venice, which hosts as many tourists each day as people who live there year-round. Amazing. There are 417 bridges in Venice, 72 are private. There are at least 500 luxuriant gardens scattered around the “City of Water,” though as far as I can tell, only one near St. Mark’s square is open to the public.  There is talk that Venice may be nothing more than an amusement park by 2030 as the city is sinking at a rate of 1-2 millimeters per year, and the population decline (over half in the last 50 years) does not seem to be slowing down.

During his lifetime, Vincent Van Gogh sold only one painting. Though in less than ten years, he painted over 900 pieces. In addition, he wrote 800 letters, mostly to his brother.

So, if you had to choose a favorite sea creature…ah, just kidding. Have you taken any virtual tours lately?

Friday, April 24, 2020

A to Z Historic Trivia - U


In a world as fascinating and sometimes frustrating as ours, it’s refreshing to realize that beneath this wild and crazy place lie other, equally crazy, though often enchanting worlds. For instance, the underwater world is host to perhaps three million sunken ships, lost treasures, forgotten cities, and public parks like the one in Austria called Green Lake, which is not accessible during summer – due to flooding.  There are underwater waterfalls and rivers, such as the one flowing under the Black Sea through the Bosphorus Strait. Every so often, the sea offers up surprises we didn’t have to look for like the cobalt blue, grapefruit-sized eyeball that appeared on Florida’s Pompano Beach.  An expert’s best guess is that the eye once belonged to a 10 ft. long Swordfish.
The underground world is a resting place for just about anything departed, discarded, or discreetly defended.  America’s oldest (1638) maintained cemetery is the Myles Standish Burial Ground, wherein lie a few of the original pilgrims who sailed here on the Mayflower. Underground storm shelters and panic rooms are a must for both weather events and war situations, though only the latter necessitates secrecy. There is an underground city in Derinkuyu, Turkey, built in the 14th century BCE that can accommodate 20 thousand people with plenty of room left for stores and livestock. Arizona (U of A) operates an education facility called San Xavier Underground Mining Laboratory, which boasts the only working vertical shaft in the United States. In addition to training, the facility offers health and safety programs and occasional public tours.
In some circles, the Underworld is where folks without a ticket to Heaven go at closing time. Most Americans consider it the stomping grounds of organized crime, its members' purveyors of how to get around anything prohibited.  They were some of the best secret-keepers in the country. But they didn’t always escape justice. Vincente Gigante was a mob boss who, for 30 years, wandered around Greenwich Village (NY) wearing pajamas and mumbling incoherently, earning the nickname “The Oddfather” all for the purpose of appearing, as well as pleading insane to avoid prosecution for racketeering. He was eventually sentenced to 12 years.

According to sources, Ulysses S. Grant had no idea what the middle S in his name stood for. It seems it was nothing more than a clerical error when a friend of Grant’s father nominated him for enrollment at West Point.


Thursday, April 23, 2020

A to Z Historic Trivia - T


I love a good thunderstorm, the kind that rattles the windows, flickers the lights when raindrops sound like marbles on the roof. There’s typically a radical wind ahead of any storm system that sweeps the desert sand into funnels, whipped into sinewy strands of erratic motion. You never know which way it will go, and it’s not always safe to be still. But, we don’t call them Twisters. Here, they are Dust Devils.

Twenty-seven million years ago, a massive volcano eruption shook the Chiricahua Mountains, laying down two thousand feet of siliceous ash and pumice, which eventually fused into rock that, over time, eroded into spires and unusual stone formations in the area of Turkey Creek. We’d been kicking around up near Cochise Stronghold, taking in a few trailheads when we noticed thunderheads rapidly building above. Rain had just begun to fall at Turkey Creek as we hightailed it out of the mountains,  headed for blacktop. For a time, we drove against strong winds that threatened to rip the canvas top right off the little vehicle I call the Jeepy-thing. It’s actually a Tracker, first built by Chevrolet in 1988 or 1989. Ours was likely the first one to roll off the assembly line, but I digress.  
I had just remarked how like a kamikaze bug looking for a windshield, it felt to be racing down that backroad when Hubs said: “Look!”  Barreling straight toward us was the biggest tumbleweed I’d ever seen in my life! It was every bit as big as the Jeepy-thing and solid enough to do some damage if we hit head-on.  With oncoming traffic on the left, and boulders on the right, we braced ourselves for impact as a sudden violent gust yanked the terrifying jumble of shrub bones sideways so that it exploded off the right front fender. The rest of the drive was pleasantly uneventful ;-)

No, we don’t usually have much more than dust devils here, but for the folks in the Midwest on a Wednesday in March of 1925, a terrifying tragedy took place in the form of The Tri-State Tornado. Documented as the deadliest tornado in United States history, and longest ever recorded, what was likely a combination of several tornados rolled into one, ripped across three states, including Missouri, Illinois, and Indiana that afternoon. Nearly 700 people were killed, thousands more injured, and over a billion (today’s dollars) in damages was caused. “To this day, there is no single meteorological factor that can explain the exceptional path length or duration of the Tri-State Tornado.”  FactsforKids

There is no specific timezone at the South Pole.
There is a hedgehog café in Tokyo.

Just so ya know ;- )

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

A to Z Historic Trivia - S


Deborah Sampson disguised herself as a man for two years in order to serve as a continental soldier in the Revolutionary war.  Wounded in battle, she dug a bullet out of her own leg. Her true gender remained a secret to most until, many years later, when she was gravely ill, a necessary exam exposed the truth. She was honorably discharged from service, and her husband became the first man to receive a widow’s pension.

Located at the American Philosophical Society in Philadelphia is a chair that not only made but changed office furniture history. The chair once belonged to Thomas Jefferson, third president of the United States, who modified a Windsor chair into what we call a Swivel Chair – though without those handy wheels that have enabled many a clandestine chair race. It has been said that Thomas Jefferson sat in that very chair when he drafted the United States Declaration of Independence in 1776.

One evening in 1936, Sylvan Goldman, owner of the self-serve supermarket chain “Humpty Dumpty,” using a folding chair and two baskets wired together, came up with an idea to facilitate customer movement of (more) groceries. The idea, now known as the Shopping Cart, wasn’t widely accepted at first. Men thought it was too effeminate, while women thought it suggestive of a baby carriage. Nonetheless, savvy marketing paid off and made Goldman a millionaire. 

Carved by the waters of the mighty Snake River, Hell’s Canyon is the deepest gorge in the United States and the largest North American river that empties into the Pacific Ocean. Shoshone Falls, in southern Idaho, is sometimes called “Niagara of the west,” though it is 45 feet higher and flows over a rim almost a thousand feet wide. Sign language used by Native American Shoshones to represent swimming salmon was misinterpreted to mean snake, giving the river its name. There is much to see and do, and even more to learn along - and about - the Snake River. I’ll tell you more about our unforgettable visit when the letter W comes around ;-)

Happy Blogging!

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

A to Z Historic Trivia - R


Once majestic and vibrant, over the years, our dear old “Running Man” had basically run his course. He’d seen his share of birds and bats and bobcats long before we arrived with kids and dogs and bobcats of the construction variety to rearrange the desertscape into something he probably didn’t recognize, and we could only imagine. Behind the skeletal remains, and across the city, mountain ranges are visible. On clear days, I count at least five – all the way into Mexico.

Egg Races

The most popular version of the song “Rags to Riches” was recorded by Tony Bennett in 1953. It became a gold record that year. Several years ago, I took my dad to a casino where Tony was performing right outside of town. On the drive home, Dad fondly reminisced the many times he’d seen the singer perform, and thanked me for the latest memory. I figured it was mine as well, and glad to share ;-)

Ralph Lauren had a one-word answer when questioned about his future goals: “Millionaire.”

R.W Rueckheim – Introduced his Cracker Jack snack at the 1st Chicago World’s Fair in 1893 – Toys (inside the box) were added in 1912. Frito-Lay bought the brand in 1997

Rudyard Kipling wrote, “The Jungle Book” in 1894, and in 1897, a poem entitled Recessional. Here is an excerpt:

     If, drunk with sight of power, we loose
      Wild tongues that have not Thee in awe,
     Such boastings as the Gentiles use,
      Or lesser breeds without the Law—
     Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet,
     Lest we forget—lest we forget!

Happy blogging!

Monday, April 20, 2020

A to Z Historic Trivia - Q


Quacksalver. Now there’s a word I bet you haven’t heard in a while, if ever. As far back as 1579, folks were sometimes skeptical of medical professionals. Isn’t it good to know there’s a lot more education required these days?

Quackenbush Rifles were created by Henry (not to be confused with Dennis) Quackenbush and sold as “Boys Rifles” between 1893 and 1920, along with several other models of air guns. Depending on model and condition, these rifles fetch a pretty (resale) penny.

Quicksilver is another name for mercury. Used as a verb, it could mean rapid or unpredictable movement or change. The Latin term is literally living silver. I may have to rethink the title of one of my books. Sigh.
Fresh out of art school, an ambitious young Londoner named Mary Quant began designing and making such unique clothing for herself that others couldn’t help noticing. Orders poured in, and before long (1955), she opened a boutique called Bazaar on Kings Road. With a focus on accessible clothing at an affordable price, her clients were more like colleagues to whom she gave full credit for the iconic Mini Skirt idea she claims they came up with as they demanded the creation of shorter and shorter skirt and dress lengths.
When I poked around for Quid Pro Quo examples – other than the sort we seem to always hear about, I didn’t expect to be surprised or interested in the results. Then, I ran across a paragraph I doubt I’ll ever forget:

In 1654, the expression quid pro quo was used to generally refer to something done for personal gain or with the expectation of reciprocity in the text The Reign of King Charles: An History Disposed into Annalls, with a somewhat positive connotation. It refers to the covenant with Christ as something "that prove not a nudum pactum, a naked contract, without quid pro quo." Believers in Christ have to do their part in return, namely "forsake the devil and all his works."
I feel reasonably fortunate having never seen a porcupine up close. Did you know that each quill is equipped with a topical antibiotic to prevent accidental infection of the porcupine? Evidently, you never know where those barbs are going go, and each quill has overlapping barbs, which makes removal all the more painful.

Happy Monday!

Saturday, April 18, 2020

A to Z Historic Trivia - P


Since before I read my first one, I knew I wanted to be a Paperback Writer. Possibly because of this song by the Beatles;  “It’s a thousand pages give or take a few, I’ll be writing more in a week or two,

The history of paperback books could easily inspire someone to pick up a pen, I think.

After a no-doubt pleasant weekend in the country with Agatha Christie, chairman of the British publishing house Bodley Head, Allen Lane searched the station racks for something enjoyable to read on the train back to London. Finding little more than trendy magazines, frustration led to brainstorm, and the idea of quality books being available for reasonable prices at places such as train stations began to form. 
When his proposal for a new imprint at Bodley Head was met with disinterest, Lane used his own capital and called his new house Penguin. He then acquired the reprint rights to ten highly acclaimed titles and proceeded to knock on non-bookstore doors. A subsequent order from Woolworth’s for 63 thousand books or so confirmed the viability of Lane’s brainchild. His books sold for under $3.00, and Lane knew sales volume would be crucial to financial success. The first ten wisely chosen titles by well-known authors, as well as a uniquely designed cover scheme which emphasized the Penguin brand ensured the sale of over three million copies in the first year. By 1937, Penguin expanded its imprint to include original nonfiction titles under the name Pelican.

The smaller size even made paperbacks popular with soldiers during WWII. It was said you could always tell a reader by the bulge in his hip pocket.

In 1938, The United States entered the softcover scene with the creation of Pocket Books.

Happy Saturday!

Friday, April 17, 2020

A to Z Historic Trivia - O

I don’t think my great-grandma ever quite approved of the butter alternative known as Oleomargarine. I think she thought it was bogus. Often, she called it Oleo for short in much the same tone as she’d tell a begging dog to go lay down.  But, as no one else seemed to mind the spreadable mixture of beef fat and milk, she begrudgingly placed it on the table for us at every meal. I wonder if she knew the alternative dairy product idea almost didn’t make it out of the lab.

Two French chemists tried to develop and sell it, to no avail, before Napolean III came along in 1869, and even he had little success. When at last a Dutch company, experienced in marketing, realized that a substitute for butter should at least look like butter, a yellow dye was put into use, and there was no looking back until they tried to sell it in America.

Dairy Farmers of America were outraged and demanded that higher than average taxes be assessed on the product, and successfully lobbied for restrictions that banned the use of yellow dyes that made margarine look more appealing. By 1900, artificially-colored butter was contraband in 30 states. The only country with stronger restrictions was Canada, which banned the product altogether. Once wartime butter shortages forced a switch to Oleo, people decided it wasn’t so bad after all, and by 1950 most bans and restrictions were lifted in both countries, with the exception of Canada’s prohibition of yellow dye which was lifted in 2008.

Interestingly, my great-grandma was French-Canadian!
When I began this post without a specific topic to talk about, I figured it would be a sort of hodgepodge or Olio, the vintage word for mixture, or mixed-bag of say, topics for the letter O! Now that I’ve “gone on” a bit, I’ll leave it at two ;-)

Twenty years ago, 400 shards of pottery found in Sicily were painstakingly pieced together to form what turned out to be a jar containing remnants of 700-year-old Italian Olive Oil!

Optimism is not only good for physical and emotional well-being; it’s contagious. By all means, let’s share!

It’s been a beautiful day here in the desert. I hope it was where you are too!

Thursday, April 16, 2020

A to Z Historic Trivia - N


Besides plain strawberry, Neapolitan is my favorite ice cream because I like the assortment. The idea of combined flavors was Introduced in 1870 by immigrants from Naples known for their excellent frozen desserts. Early recipes used a variety of flavors, but the use of only three at a time was a tribute to the Italian flag. Chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry happened to be American favorites at the time, and thus became standard Neapolitan flavors.
I was intrigued to find that Neapolitan is also a (mainly) southern Italian Romance Language, dating back to the 1500s. While the language has no official status and is not taught in Italian schools, it has, over the years, enjoyed a rich musical, theatrical, and literary history.
Luigi Negrelli  was a Tyrolean civil and hydraulic engineer who designed many bridges and railways throughout the Austrian Empire, including the highly debated Suez Canal which was the possibly the last project he ever planned before his untimely death. However, prior to his death, Negrelli did provide a compelling response to questions regarding the necessity and feasibility of his vision: “Connection of two seas by a maritime canal, shortening the route between Europe and rich countries of the Old World located at the Indian Ocean,”
Nabisco certainly has a long and storied history.  In 1792, a family of bakers set about providing durable sea biscuits for sailors on long journeys. By 1889, the family had incorporated additional bakers, created a crispy wafer they dubbed the “Cracker,” and were exploring better packaging options for their growing list of products. Within a year, forty more bakeries had joined the conglomerate, and by 1898, the newly formed National Biscuit Company had an impressive total of 114 bakeries on board.
Over the next several decades, Nabisco kept expanding not only their own product line but in the acquisition of numerous companies, other products as well, including Milk-Bone, and Shredded Wheat. In 1981, they acquired the maker of Planters Nuts and merged with R.J. Reynolds, adding Grey Poupon and A-1 Steak Sauce to their portfolio.
October 1988 saw the beginnings of the most expensive takeover battles in history waged against RJR Nabisco. The drawn-out debacle is grippingly detailed in a book entitled: “Barbarians at the Gate: The Fall of RJR Nabisco” as well as in a Made-for-TV film by the same name.

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

A to Z Historic Trivia - M


A “Month of Sundays” sounds like an awfully long time. The phrase has been in use hyperbolically since about 1759, with the underlying connotation being a long, dreary time, since fun and games on a Sunday were frowned upon back then. 

Mathematically, it’s only 30 weeks or so, but it can seem like an eternity when you’re waiting for the rain to stop so you can go out and mingle again. Rather than brood, I prefer to keep busy working, watching movies, or – and herein lies the method to my madness - pondering such things as the absence of monkeys and apes on the island of Madagascar. For some reason, when Madagascar broke away from the continent of India and became the fourth largest island in the world, the aforementioned primates were not on board. Lemurs (Latin for “ghosts”), however, did make the shift – likely by rafting over on clumps of vegetation – to perhaps a hundred million years of isolation. Without competition from monkeys and such, lemurs evolved into seventy different species that, in addition to flora and fauna, are not found anywhere else on earth.
When I heard of a 29-story building without any windows in Manhattan, I had to know why. I didn’t have to dig too deep to find out that AT&T built it to accommodate telephone switching equipment in 1974. But that was then. Reputable sources now report the National Security Agency as the current occupant.   Manhattan is also the location of the world’s wealthiest individual church parish, which established in 1696, encompasses 14 acres, and is valued at 2 billion. What I found even more astonishing is that a humble hot-dog vendor, working just outside Central Park Zoo, pays $289,500 annually for space rent. I wonder how much those hot-dogs cost?

I admit to being mystified at how in one of the most densely populated places on earth (72K per square mile), nearly half of the people live alone.

Happy blogging!

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

A to Z Historic Trivia - L

In the 1940s, Latchkey kids could be as young as six when they came home from school to an empty house. Primarily due to soldier fathers and working mothers, the eldest Latchkey was often the family cook and babysitter as well. It was common for Latchkey kids to wear their house-keys on a string around their neck, and no one worried about safety. Or did they?

The 70s and 80s saw a dramatic increase in Latchkey safety concerns as crime increased. Experts declared the “lonely life of a Latchkey” a national disgrace, and finally, someone thought to ask the kids how they felt about it. While a few kids felt anxious, even neglected, most had no idea what the fuss was all about.  Most enjoyed the freedom, as well as the confidence-building responsibility that came with getting yourself a snack and having homework done before going outside to play each day.
Experts were also concerned about long-term effects. Were Latchkey kids scarred for life? Most survivors think not. In contrast, experts point out non-latchkey, highly-educated intellectuals who can’t make a decision for themselves without first consulting a parent.
With a name like Laughing Gas, it’s no surprise that in the late 1700s, Humphrey Davy’s experiments with nitrous oxide would eventually be used for recreational purposes for its euphoric effect. Laughing Gas parties were all the rage in circles of British upper-class.  By 1863, the gas was commonly being used by dentists for its analgesic qualities. One of the earliest US commercial producers of nitrous oxide was George Poe, cousin to poet Edgar Allen Poe. These days, use of the product is restricted (in varying degrees) in nearly every state of the United States.

So, what do you think? Were you a Latchkey kid? Are you a Latchkey or Helicopter parent? Have you ever tried Laughing gas (at the dentist’s office, of course)?

Monday, April 13, 2020

A to Z Historic Trivia - K


The seventh of sixteen children, Will Keith Kellogg’s first vocation was working in his father’s broom manufacturing plant at the age of thirteen. Discovering in himself an aptitude for business, it wasn’t long before he enrolled in a three-month course at a Business College in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Meanwhile, Will’s brother, John, had completed medical school and taken a job at the Adventists Health Reform Institute, where Will later joined him as his business manager.
While John worked mainly on developing vegetarian meals for his patients, Will explored possible uses for wheat flakes and discovered how to toast them into nutritional breakfast products. Realizing the potential, the Kellogg brothers expanded the product to include oats, rice, and corn, and in 1879 started a company called Sanitas Food Products. Dr. John Kellogg expressly promoted the cereals as healthy breakfast options, while business manager Will wanted the process kept a secret. Unconcerned of possible consequences, John allowed anyone to view the production of Kellogg breakfast products, including one C.W. Post, who copied the process and started his own company. An infuriated Will Kellogg then parted ways with his brother and founded his own private company: Battle Creek Toasted Corn Flake Company in 1906.
By 1930 The Kellogg Company, as it was called, became the first food business to include nutrition labels on packaging, as well as small gifts for kids inside the cereal boxes. Mindful of the needs of his country and the people who worked for him, Will restructured his plant operations to work in four shifts to facilitate more jobs during the Great Depression.
Throughout his life, Will had a passion for Arabian horses. He purchased a 377-acre ranch in Pomona, CA, where he owned and bred the finest in America. The Kellogg Ranch was also the location of the largest privately-owned airport in the country from 1928 to 1932.
Stephanie Kwolek invented a uniquely strong and light-weight polymer solution in anticipation of a gasoline shortage while working for DuPont Chemical Co. in 1965.  The first commercial usage of Kevlar was to replace the steel in racing tires in 1970.    Since then, over 200 applications, including (but not limited to) armor, racing, safety, cryogenics, shoes, drumheads, and construction materials, have been introduced. Ms. Kwolek was inducted into the National Inventor’s Hall of Fame and awarded DuPont’s Lavoisier Medal for outstanding technical achievement, as well as the eternal gratitude of every soldier and first responder whose life her invention has saved.