2013.10.30 Impress friends with Factoid File wisdom

Impress friends with

Factoid File wisdom


With holiday gatherings bearing down on us, you may have been thinking about what to say to captivate your family and friends. Why not amaze them with your trivia knowledge? Here’s a few suggestions, straight from the Factoid File.

For example, who wouldn’t be shocked to learn that the Slinky is the Official State Toy of Pennsylvania? Unless, of course, there happen to be relatives from Valley Forge in the room. In that case, save that fact for another day.

Did you know that James Arness was shot 30 times during the run of his television series, “Gunsmoke?” It’s a good thing Doc Adams was always close by to keep Marshall Dillon among the living. In another piece of trivia from the series, Gary Busey played the last bad guy killed by Dillon.

In 2010, a 1988 Volkswagen Scirocco powered by coffee made a 209-mile trip from London to Manchester, England. The coffee was heated by a charcoal fire, which broke it down into carbon monoxide and hydrogen. The hydrogen was then used to power the engine.

Unfortunately, the process used the equivalent of 56 espressos worth of coffee per mile and nearly 12,000 for the trip. I don’t think that will become an alternative for fossil fuel anytime soon, no matter how much the Starbucks people might wish it did.

During World War II, the French Navy scuttled 73 ships on November 27, 1942 to avoid their capture by German forces. Ships sunk on purpose included 30 destroyers, 16 submarines, eight cruisers, two battleships and an aircraft carrier.

Giant African pouched rats are trained in Tanzania to sniff out land mines. The rats face little danger as they are too light to trigger most mines. Once trained, a pair of rats can clear in two hours an area that would take a team of humans an entire day.

Over 18 million people around the world share your birthday. On a less happy note, about 160,000 people will die the same day as you.

According to the Guinness World Records Book, the average person will eat 8.3 tons of potatoes during their lifetime. That’s an average of 200 pounds a year for 83 years. I’m having a tough time believing that little fact.

It’s been a long time since I’ve been to Washington, D.C., but if I ever go again, I’m making a visit to the recently opened National Museum of Health and Medicine. Items on display include the amputated leg of Civil War general Dan Sickles, who used to visit it when it was on exhibition at the Walter Reed Army Hospital.

Relics from dead presidents are also on display, including the bullet that killed President Lincoln, a piece of spine from President James Garfield, and the brain and partial skeleton of Charles Guiteau, who assassinated Garfield.

Next, some little-known history concerning Henry Ford. One of his early ventures was the Henry Ford Company, which he owned with several investors. Things went south quickly as Ford argued with almost everyone in the company.

Ford’s partners brought in as a troubleshooter  Henry Leland, a Detroit machine shop owner. Leland, whose shop was building parts for the 1902 curved dash Oldsmobile, the country’s first mass-produced automobile, soon was assigned to the Ford shop floor.

When Leland and Ford clashed, Ford’s partners took Leland’s side and Ford was bought out, just four months after the formation of the company. With his settlement money, he started the Ford Motor Company, which had a much better outcome for Ford. His former company didn’t do that bad, either. Forced to change the name after his departure, the car originally slated to be named after Ford hit the marketplace with its new name, Cadillac.

After Cadillac joined General Motors, Henry Leland left Cadillac and formed the Lincoln Motor Company. When Leland’s company hit hard times in 1921, old foe Ford came to the rescue. Ford’s success in the intervening years had softened his feelings toward Leland, and several members of the Ford and Leland families had become friends. Ford bought the Lincoln company, making him a hero to Leland’s investors and workers and adding a luxury car to his product line.

I seem to be running short on space, so I hope I’ve shared enough information to make you a hit at holiday parties. If, however, you notice people starting to avoid you, it may be time to shut up. And, for now, so will I.