Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Interesting Fact of the Day

     The Romans used fascinums as a way to ward off sickness, disease and the evil eye.  A fascinum is a "divine penis."  Basically, they would wear penis amulets - young, old, male & female.  They would also make them into windchimes.  
     What makes it interesting today is the fact that the modern English word 'fascinate' comes from this word.  So, everytime you say something is fascinating, you're talking about a penis.  😀

Friday, December 23, 2016

So, Old Santa Claus Lives?

The Columbia Herald., December 10, 1897

OLD SANTA CLAUS LIVES.
----
He Exists as Certainly as Love and Generosity and Devotion Exist.

     In this day of cynicism and frivolity, when little children are treated as young grown up people, and have never heard of Mother Goose and Uncle Remus, and have never been taught that sweetest faith is Santa Claus, it is like finding a sunbeam on a dark day to come accross [sic] this acticle [sic] in the New York Sun.  It should take the old married people back to their childhood and make them look more carefully into their nurseries and hear the children's chatter, whether they believe in Santa Claus:
     "We take great pleasure in answering at once and thus prominently the communication below, expressing at the same time our great gratification that its faithful author is numbered among the friends of the Sun:
     " 'Dear Editor:  I am 8 years old.  Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus.  Papa says 'If you see it in the Sun it's so.'  Please tell me the truth;  is there a Santa Claus?
     "VIRGINIA O'HANLON.
     " '115 West Ninety-fifth street.' 
     "Virginia, your little friends are wrong.  They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age.  They do not believe except they see.  They think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible by their little minds.  All minds, Virginia, whether they be men's or children's, are little.  In this great universe of ours man is a mere insect, an ant, in his intellect.  As compared with the boundless world about him, as measured by the intelligence capable of grasping the whole of truth and knowledge.
      "Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.  He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to you life it's highest beauty and joy.  Alas!  how dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus.  It would be as dreary as if there were no Virginias.  There would be no childlike faith then, no romance, to make tolerable this existence.  We should have no enjoyment except in sense and sight.  The eternal light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished.
     Not believe in Santa Clause!  You might as well not believe in fairies!  You might get your papa to hire men to watch in all the chimneys on Christmas Eve to catch Santa Claus, but even if they did not see Santa Clause coming down what would that prove?  Nobody sees Santa Claus, but that is no sign that there is no Santa Claus.  The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see.  Did you ever see fairies dancing on the lawn?  Of course not;  but that's not proof that they are not there.  Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable in this world.
     "You may tear apart a baby's rattle and see what makes the noise inside, but there is a veil covering the unseen world which not the strongest man, nor even the united strength of all the strongest men that ever lived, could tear apart.  Only faith, fancy, poetry, love, romance, can push aside the curtain and view the picture the supernal beauty and glory beyond.  Is it all real?  Ah, Virginia, in all this world there is nothing else real and abiding.
     "No Santa Claus!  Thank God!  he lives, and he lives forever.  A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay, ten times ten thousand years from now, he will continue to make glad the hearts of childhood."


 The Song


 If you'd rather not read it, here's a video of
Virginia herself reading the famous reply to her letter.



And lastly, you can see the original letter being appraised on Antiques Roadshow by clicking here.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Flower of the Week

Wikimedia Commons
     This, as we all know, is a poinsettia.  It's very common this time of year because of it's classic Christmas coloring or red and green.  This particular plant is from Mexico, and was named after the first US Minister to Mexico - Joel Roberts Poinsett.  In Mexico and Guatemala they call it Flor de Noche Buena, Christmas Eve Flower.
     What you may not realize at this isn't actually a flower at all.  The red "petals" are actually just leaves.  They also aren't just red.  Sometimes they're orange, cream, pink, marbled, or a paler green.  The native plants look a lot different than the ones we know, we wouldn't even recognize them. 
     According to Wikipedia:
     "The plant's association with Christmas began in 16th-century Mexico, where legend tells of a girl, commonly called Pepita or Maria, who was too poor to provide a gift for the celebration of Jesus' birthday and was inspired by an angel to gather weeds from the roadside and place them in front of the church altar.  Crimson blossoms sprouted from the weeds and became beautiful poinsettias.  From the 17th century, Franciscan friars in Mexico included the plants in their Christmas celebrations.  The star-shaped leaf pattern is said to symbolize the Star of Bethlehem, and the red color represents the blood sacrifice through the crucifixion of Jesus."
Wikimedia Commons
     Other names for this plant include:
  • Aztecs called it Cuitlaxochitl - flower that grows in residues or soil
  • In Spain it's called Flor de Pascua or simply Pascua - Easter flower 
  • Chile and Peru call it the flower of the Andes
  • Turkey calls it Ataturks flower after its founder Ataturk.  He really liked them.
  • Hungarians call it Santa Claus' Flower
Merry Christmas, everyone!

Friday, December 9, 2016

Critter of the Week

     This weeks critter is quite adorable.  It sort of reminds me of a ferret and cat mixed together.  It's called a Cape Genet and it lives in South Africa.  
     These are little guys, smaller than a house cat.  Males weigh 3.5 - 4.6 pounds and females are a little smaller.  They mostly stick to the trees and can sometimes be found in caves and overhanging rocks.  They prefer to live near streams or other water sources with tall vegetation around for hiding and sneaking.
Image Source.
     Cape genets are not social animals and are nocturnal.  They mark their territory with anal secretions, yummy, but it's not known if they fight over territory or not.  An interesting thing about them is that they tend to pick a spot and use it as a regular toilet area.  Other animals just tend to go wherever they happen to be.
     These cuties are mostly carnivores, but sometimes eat grass and seeds.  They are good at catching lots of different mouse and rat varieties that run around in the leaves and underbrush.  They are not picky eaters, though, they'll eat what they can catch or scavenge, including grasshoppers, crickets, termites, scavenged fish, spiders, and even scorpions.
Image Source.
      Mating seems to happen in the warm summer months, as pregnant females are seen from September to November.  Gestation is usually about 70 days and mommies usually have two babies.  The babies open their eyes at around ten days and get their canines at about a month old.  By two and a half months they are weened and by seven they are hunting for themselves.  These guys live for about 15 years in captivity and are sometimes kept as pets.
    

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

So, What's Up With Daylight Saving Time?

George Hudson  Image from Wikipedia
     The idea was first thought up in 1895, by a New Zealander named George Hudson.  However, it wasn't introduced nationwide anywhere until April 30, 1916 in Germany and Austria-Hungary.  It was done in order to maximize the use of daylight for activities.  Some think that it saves energy because we don't have to turn on the lights as early, but that's never been proven.
       Basically, people who worked 9-5 jobs wanted to have more daylight when their work day was over.  You know, to do more work at home or enjoy the outdoors.  Benjamin Franklin wrote, "Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise."  George Hudson liked to collect insects and wanted to have time to 'hunt' when he got off from work, and others wanted time to hunt for food.  Hudson actually wanted to shift the time by two hours, and he purposed it to the Wellington Philosophical Society twice - in 1895 and 1898.  Apparently it didn't take because most people credit William Willett with the concept.
William Willett  Image from Wikipedia
     He didn't steal the idea from Hudson, he just thought it up on his own in 1905.  He was apparently an early-bird and was astonished at how much of the summer day people spent sleeping.  He also enjoyed golf and was annoyed when he had to cut his game short because he could no longer see the ball.  Unlike George Hudson, William Willett got someone to take him seriously.  He had friends in high places, so to speak.  Robert Pearce was a member of parliament and introduced a bill to the House of Commons on February 12, 1908.  It didn't pass and neither did several more over the years.  Willett kept trying, but died in 1915 - before it came to pass. 
     On April 30, 1916 the German Empire decided to try it out.  It was wartime and they wanted to conserve as much coal as possible.  After that other countries in Europe decided it was a good idea and started doing it too.  Russia  joined in 1917, with the US finally giving it a go in 1918.  After the war it was mostly abandoned, until WWII.  Then it was again, abandoned. 
     The 1970's oil was harder to come by because of the Iranian Revolution and the Yom Kippur War, aka the 1973 Arab-Israeli War.  Basically it meant that oil prices were really high because less petroleum was being acquired and shipped out of the middle east.  Prices also went up dramatically because people were worried they'd run out altogether.  So, DST was again put to use in order to conserve time and energy.  This time the idea stuck for good and most countries still use some variation based on their needs. 
    



Sunday, November 6, 2016

Critter of the Week

My Beloved Cat, Audrey

     During the spring of 2002 I went went to a vets office to pick up my grandmothers dog, Lady.  Lady was a pekingese who thought she was tough and had picked a fight with a rottweiler.  Well, she ended up needing surgery on her belly.  Luckily, she was actually pretty darn tough and pulled through.  
     While my mom was talking to the vet I was paying more attention to the crate of kittens next to the door.  When I opened it up one literally jumped out and into my lap.  I was hooked.  I asked if I could keep her, but Mom said no and we left.  On the way back home I started tearing up. Mom turned the car around and we went back and got her.  Thanks Mom.
     I was dating a guy named Mark at the time and told him about my new kitten.  I was really happy, but it turned out his day wasn't such a good one.  It was the anniversary of his aunts death, and he was really upset.  Her name was Audrey, and the name just felt like the right one for my new little girl.
     She was a great cat, and she was smart.  She was also very obedient.  I had parakeets, mice and fish in my room and she'd stare and watch them, but she knew they were my pets too.  All the ones outside, though, were fair game.  She was quite the hunter.  Mice, moles, birds, rabbits - you name it.  My mom told me she brought home an owl once!
     When she was about 9 months old she got pregnant.  When time was getting near I set up a spot for her in my bedroom closet.  A few nights later I was awoken by a tiny little meow.  She was doing a great job, but I helped her by cutting a few umbilical cords for her.  She was cleaning and feeding four when I fell asleep.  When I woke back up there was a fifth.  They were, of course, adorable.  She was a great mommy.  In fact, we had been bottle feeding an older kitten for a while and she decided that she wanted to take care of him instead.  It was funny seeing this bigger boy in with the small ones, but she loved every minute of it.  She was constantly purring.   
     I worked at the local pet store at the time and found good homes for all of them.  My now husband actually ended up with an orange male.  Unfortunately, mother and son didn't quite see eye to eye during their reunion a few years later, and he ended staying with his mom.  He died a few years ago now.
     At my parents house she was allowed to go in and outside as she pleased, but when I got my first apartment she had to stay inside.  I was worried that she would get restless and bored of being stuck inside all the time, not getting to catch critters and such.  She didn't seem to mind at all, though.  She was a happy girl.
     After a few years in the apartment we moved back to the hill where I grew up, just next door really.  I was sure she would be happy to get back outside again, climb trees, hunt.  But she was apprehensive.  So I literally pushed her out the door, and before you knew it it was like she'd never left.  She was so happy that she brought a lovely dead mouse - then ate it in front of me.  
     She spent the rest of her life coming and going as she pleased.  Most of the warm months she spent all her time outside, only coming in when it was raining or snowing.  She loved the outdoors, but she was a sucker for a comfy chair, too.  
     I knew her time was growing short about a year ago when her weight started to drop.  She also seemed to be having trouble grooming herself.  We got her special food to try to fatten her up, and it worked for a while.  We tried to keep her brushed, but she hated it.  She'd let you do it for a few minutes, but then she'd get fed up and let you know with a bite or two to the hand.  
     About a month or two ago she stopped eating.  So, we went to the store and bought all kinds of different things for her to try.  It worked out, we found some things that she liked a lot and she began to perk again.  But it didn't last.  I guess it was a last burst of energy, or the calm before the storm.  About five days ago her eating slowed down, and then stopped completely.  I knew it was time.  All we could do was try to make her comfortable and be there for her.  
     Last night I put her on a heating pad and blanket in the bay window so she could look outside.  At 4:30 am she was gone.  We buried her in the yard next to my other baby, Butter, and wrapped her in a pink towel so she'd be comfortable.  I cut some of her hair and put it into a baggy so I can be buried with it someday and gave her a lock of mine.  Tomorrow I'll plant a rosebush over her to mark her grave.             
2002 - November 6, 2016
     She will be missed dearly.  She was my baby.  I can only hope that she enjoyed the life she had.  I can't help but think that there was more I could've done to make her life better, but there's nothing I can do about that now.  But I can make sure that the rest of my babies have the best lives I can give them.  And I hope to see them all again someday. 







Rest in Peace, Sweet Baby.

Friday, November 4, 2016

Discoveries of the Week

Energy Drinks Linked to Liver Inflammation

     There was a construction worker who drank 4-5 common energy drinks every day for three weeks.  An insane amount!  He was throwing up and feeling flu-like for about two weeks, but figured it would just pass on it's own.  They didn't.  He's pee turned dark, his eyes were noticeably yellow and his skin yellowed too.  He figured it was time to go see a doctor.
     It turned out that he was suffering from severe hepatitis and possibly sustained liver damage.  Now, it doesn't say which energy drink he was consuming, only that the excessive niacin, or vitamin B3, from the energy drink was the cause of his problems.  After three days in a hospital bed his symptoms were gone, and on the sixth day he was released.  Doctors told him to stay away from any edibles containing niacin, I think that's good advice.

Wasp Virus Threatening Honey Bees

     As if these guys weren't having a hard enough time, a virus found in yellow jackets is threatening to kill them off, too.  The virus was discovered in Hawaii and it's been names Moku meaning "island."  I'm not sure I get the meaning behind the name, but the threat is very real.  
     Yellow jacket wasps actually eat honey bees, which is how the virus is spread.  What the virus does, however, doesn't seem to be completely understood yet.  It is apparently related to another virus which causes the honey bees front legs to become paralyzed.  The virus is being compared to when the Spanish introduced smallpox and measles to the Incas and Aztecs.  Basically, this thing could be catastrophic.

 Cursed Well Rediscovered in England

     Saint Anne's Well was found on a farm after centuries of being filled with dirt.  It's square, made of local sandstone, four feet deep and supposedly holy.  It was built near a long gone priory and Saint Anne had supposedly bathed in it.  After that, people from all over came to bathe in the well in the hope of healing their afflictions.
     The well was built close to the property line of the priory and another land owner, and they argued over the rights.  Some things never change.  Well, Hugh Darcy was the estate manager for the other land owner, and he pretty much told Father Delwaney that he wouldn't be in control of the well much longer.  Two days later the priory and well were taken away by the king's commissioners.  It was obvious that the commissioners knew Mr. Darcy.
     Father Delwaney was very upset and cursed Mr. Darcy.  He said that within a year and a day Darcy would be dead, then the Father collapsed and died.  Three months later Darcy's son suddenly died from an illness.  He also started losing money and drinking.  He disappeared after drinking at a tavern one night only to be found in the well - dead.  His head had been crushed in.  The Fathers curse, I guess.
     It's been decided to preserve the well and place a wooden edging around it.  They want to make sure that people can visit the well and it won't be damaged by heavy farm equipment.  Hopefully the story will survive also.