2006.10.11 Useless Knowledge from The Factoid File

Written by David Green.

By RICH FOLEY

In the course of writing this little communiqué, I often stumble across strange facts too good to ignore, but too limited to inspire an entire column. Not wanting to be wasteful, but not minding being lazy, I’ve carefully assembled (OK, thrown together) some of the best for your enjoyment.

For example, guess what the most requested food is among death row prisoners eating their last meal? The answer, supposedly, is french fries.

I’m guessing that’s because they are a great side dish for those soon to have no worries about fat, calories or sodium. No matter what the main choice is, fries go with it: Hamburgers and fries, electrocution and fries, lethal injection and fries, etc.

JUMPING back a bit in history, I recently read a weird explanation for the invention of window screens. The article in question claims they were conceived shortly after the end of the Civil War as a means of using up hair from all the horses killed during the conflict. After the huge supply of dead horses was exhausted, wire mesh then began to be used.

Even if that is true, what did they do with the rest of the horse?

HERE’S one to think about for a minute. What state has, per capita, the largest amount of strip clubs in the country? Give up? The answer is West Virginia. Insert your own joke here.

A COUPLE of odd facts from Field & Stream magazine. Number of deaths annually in the United States attributed to snakebites: 9 to 15. Average number of people who choke to death on a ball point pen: 100. Does that mean it’s safer to write with a snake than a pen?

HOW about a little trivia about our nation’s first ladies? First, the case of Margaret Taylor, wife of Zachary. A private woman, she spent most of her time in the family’s living quarters at the White House. She never sat for a painting, and even though photography was available by that time, no photos of her are known to exist. To this day, no one can say what she looked like.

Then there’s Ida McKinley, wife of William. She was prone to having seizures on a regular basis, along with several other health issues. The President had her seated next to him at state dinners. When she had a seizure, he would cover her face with his handkerchief until it passed, then go on with his conversation.

When he was assassinated, he was said to have blurted out the words, “My wife, be careful how you tell her!” Surprisingly, Ida McKinley maintained her composure through the funeral and never had another seizure the rest of her life.

AND then there’s news from the world of carrots. Carrots historically were white, yellow, green and even purple in color. The orange carrot we now eat today was developed by the Dutch during the 17th century.

The baby-cut, or mini-size already peeled carrots, are a much more recent development, first hitting retail shelves in 1989. Since that time, consumption of carrots in the United States has increased to about 11 pounds per person yearly, nearly four times the rate before the ready-to-eat variety entered the market.

THE world’s biggest book? “Bhutan: A Visual Odyssey Across the Last Himalayan Kingdom” weighs 133 pounds and measures 5 feet by 7 feet. It is available by special order at $15,000 per copy.

QUICK, how many Great Lakes are there? No, the answer, according to some experts is four, since lakes Michigan and Huron are considered to be one giant lake, together over 40 percent bigger than Lake Superior (which now also probably needs a name change).

Those supporting this theory point out that Michigan and Huron are at the same elevation and are connected by the Mackinac Strait, also at the same elevation. Water flows in either direction through the strait, allowing what are two giant sections of the same lake to equalize. The strait is considered a narrowing of one giant lake, not the divider of two smaller ones.

Of course, because explorers hundreds of years ago didn’t realize this and gave separate names to the combined lake’s east and west sections, we can’t change history now, can we?

If you don’t think so, go talk to the rock in outer space formerly known as the planet Pluto.

   - Oct. 11, 2006

 

  • Front.train
    WRECKAGE—Morenci Fire Department member Taylor Schisler walks past the smoking wreckage of a semi-truck tractor on the north side of the Norfolk and Southern Railroad tracks on Ranger Highway. The truck trailer was on the south side of the tracks
  • Front.sculpta
    SCULPTORS—Morenci third grade students Emersyn Thompson (left) and Marissa Lawrence turn spaghetti sticks into mini sculptures Friday during a class visit to Stair District Library. All Morenci Elementary School classes recently visited the library to experience the creative construction toys purchased through the “Sculptamania!” project, funded by a Disney Curiosity Creates grant. The grant is administered by the Association for Library Services to Children, a division of the American Library Association.
  • Funcolor
    LEONIE LEAHY was one of three local hair stylists who volunteered time Friday at the Morenci PTO Fun Night. Her customer, Aubrey Sandusky, looks up at her mother while her hair takes on a perfect match to her outfit. Leahy said she had a great time at the event—nothing but happy clients.
  • Shadow.salon
    LEARNING THE ROPES—Kristy Castillo (left), co-owner of Mane Street Salon, works with Kendal Kuhn as Sierra Orner takes a phone call. The two Morenci Area High School juniors spent Friday at the salon as part of a job shadowing experience.
  • KayseInField
    IN THE FIELD—2004 Morenci graduate Kayse Onweller works in a test plot of wheat in Texas. She’s part of Bayer CropScience’s North American wheat breeding program based in Nebraska, where she completed post-graduate work in plant breeding and genetics.
  • Front.winner
    REFEREE Camden Miller raises the hand of Morenci Jr. Dawgs wrestler Ryder Ryan as his opponent leaves the mat in disappointment. Morenci’s youth wrestling program served as host for a tournament Saturday morning to raise money for the club. Additional photos are on the back page.
  • Front.bank.2
    SHERWOOD STATE Bank opened its Fayette office at a grand opening Friday morning, drawing a large crowd to view the renovated building. Above, Burt Blue talks to teller Cindy Funk, while his wife, Jackie, looks around the new office. The Blues missed the opening and took a quick tour on Tuesday. Few traces remain of the former grocery store and theater, however, part of the original brick wall still shows in the hallway leading to the back of the building. The drive-through window should be ready for customers later in the month.
  • Front.make.three
    FROM THE LEFT, Landon Wilkins, Ryan White and Logan Blaker try out their artistic skills Saturday afternoon at the Morenci PTO’s first Date to Create event. More than 50 people showed up to create decorated planks of wood to hang from rope. The event served as a fund-raiser for miscellaneous PTO projects. Additional photos are on the back of this week’s Observer.

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