Thursday, March 1, 2012


In the Middle Ages in Europe, one Valentine's Day custom was for young men and women to draw names from a bowl to see who their valentines would be. They would then wear these names on their sleeves for one week. “To wear your heart on your sleeve” now means that it is easy for other people to know how you are feeling

Popcorn was banned at most movie theaters in the United States in the 1920s because it was considered too noisy

Horned lizards eat ants. They wait in areas where ants are working and when one passes by, they flick out their tongue, catch their prey, and swallow without chewing
A horned lizard sunning on a dead tree branch
North Dakota is the nation's top sunflower grower, producing 50 percent of the U.S. crop. Germany uses kernels heavily in making bread and is the largest export market for U.S.-produced sunflower kernels, accounting for more than half of all kernel exports. Spain is the largest export market for U.S. in-shell sunflowers

Your brain is more active sleeping than it is watching TV

The average rainfall around the world is 40 inches per year

It is estimated that a healthy individual releases 3.5 oz. of gas in a single flatulent emission, or about 17 oz. in a day

The first 12-ounce aluminum soda can was introduced in 1964 by Royal Crown Cola. Coke didn't start using aluminum until 3 years later, and that same year Pepsi came out with a seamless can

In Scotland, New Year's Eve is called hogmanay - There are many customs, both national and local, with the most widespread national custom being the practice of 'first-footing' which starts immediately after midnight. This involves being the first person to cross the threshold of a friend or neighbor and often involves the giving of symbolic gifts such as salt (less common today), coal, shortbread, whiskey, and black bun (a rich fruit cake) intended to bring different kinds of luck to the householder. Food and drink (as the gifts) are then given to the guests. This may go on throughout the early hours of the morning and well into the next day (although modern days see people visiting houses well into January). The first-foot is supposed to set the luck for the rest of the year

In ancient Egypt, when merchants left the country on business trips they carried small stone models of themselves. If they died while abroad, these figures were sent back to Egypt for proxy burial

A house in Rockport, Massachusetts is built entirely of newspaper. The Paper House at Pigeon Cove, as it is called, is made of 215 thicknesses of newspaper.  The only other materials are the brick and mortar chimney and wooden railings
Mountain goats grow luxurious winter coats — more than three inches of cashmere-quality wool, overlaid with long hollow hairs. The hardy animals can endure winter temperatures as low as minus 50 degrees F, and powerful winds up to 100 miles per hour

The great cathedral of St. Sophia at Constantinople (Istanbul) has sustained for 1,600 years what was, until very recent times, the largest self-supporting dome ever constructed. Moreover, it has done so in an active seismic region 

The Chinese, during the reign of Kublai Khan, used lions on hunting expeditions. They trained the big cats to pursue and drag down massive animals — from wild bulls to bears — and to stay with the kill until the hunter arrived

Beards are the fastest growing hairs on the human body. If the average man never trimmed his beard, it would grow to nearly 30 feet long in his lifetime

Adélie penguins employ yawning as part of their courtship ritual

The speed at which Earth moves around the Sun makes it is impossible for a solar eclipse to last more than 7 minutes and 58 seconds

In fourteenth-century England, the number of males named Robert, William, Henry, John, or Richard averaged 2 out of every 3

Miami, Florida, is the most southerly major city in the continental United States, sitting about two degrees north of the Tropic of Cancer

Dr. Samuel Langley was able to get many model airplanes to fly, but on December 8, 1903, Langley's "human carrying flying machine," the aerodrome plunged into the Potomac River near Washington D.C., in front of photographers who were assembled to witness the event. Reporters around the country made fun of the idea that people could fly
The crash of the model plane was captured by several photographers in 1903, including this shot
A lion in the wild averages 20 kills a year   
One out of every three British males between the ages of 17 and 35 was killed in World War I

A 4-inch-long abalone can grip a rock with a force of 400 pounds - Abalone (from Spanish abulón) are small to very large-sized edible sea snails  
A northern abalone clings to a rocky surface to eat algae
Born on November 14, 1963, the island of Surtsey off the coast of Iceland, achieved permanence in 1965 when volcano lava spread over its surface, protecting it from erosion  
The island continued growing through eruption until 1967, and has been shrinking ever since
Thanks to a loophole recently sanctioned by the Iowa Court of Appeals, Matt Danielson and his wife Jamie
now own their home in Ankeny, Iowa, outright (value: $278,000) after making just one monthly mortgage payment. Iowa law regards a home mortgage by a married couple as automatically void if only one spouse has signed it, and a thusly-voided mortgage is treated as fully satisfied. (The purpose was to prevent one estranged spouse from exploiting the other, but the voiding is automatic regardless of the circumstances.) Legislators are currently trying to change the law to leave the discretion of voiding up to judges 

Harold Luken, 45, was arrested on April 8th in New York City near a Bank of America after his attempt to rob it failed badly. According to police, Luken walked in at 1:50 p.m. and announced that he had a gun and intended to rob the place - but then merely got in a line and said he would wait for a teller. When he finally got to the window (with police apparently on their way), Luken restated his intention and, as if narrating, announced the handing over of the robbery note. When the teller refused to respond, Luken asked to check the balance in his own account, but the teller again declined, provoking Luken to walk away and shout, "OK, I will go to Citibank [and] rob them instead!"  He was arrested minutes later 

Tonya McDowell, 33, an off-and-on homeless person in Bridgeport, Connecticut, USA was arrested in April by police in nearby Norwalk and charged with felony theft--of $15,686 worth of "services" from the city. McDowell's crime was enrolling her 6- year-old son in Norwalk's Brookside Elementary School when she actually "resided" (as much as a mostly "homeless" person can "reside") in Bridgeport. McDowell has also "resided" at times in a Norwalk shelter but was crashing at a friend's apartment in Bridgeport when she registered her son. The head of the Norwalk Board of Education acknowledged that the usual consequence for an unqualified student is merely dismissal from school 

In March, jurors in New Orleans convicted Isaiah Doyle of a 2005 murder and were listening to evidence in the penalty phase of the trial when Doyle decided to take the witness stand (as defendants sometimes do in a desperate attempt to avoid the death penalty). However, Doyle said to the jurors, "If I had an AK-47, I'd kill every last one of ya'all with no remorse." (The jury recommended lethal injection)

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