Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Girl's Best Friend

The word "carat" originated from the "carob tree". Because seeds from the fruit of the carob tree have a uniform weight of about-one fifth of a gram, they were used to measure diamonds. On average, there are about 120 million carats of diamond being mined worldwide annually. This figure totals about 24 tons, which could fit snugly inside the back of a single 18-wheel truck. Only about 50% of these mined diamonds end up as jewelry, however, with the rest serving industrial uses such as drill bits for deep-earth exploration. Uncut, these diamonds has the value of about $7 billion. In finished jewelry, however, that value rises up to $58 billion.

The largest rough diamond ever found on earth has 3,106 carats. Called the "Cullinan", the rock was discovered on Jan 26, 1905 in the Premier mine of South Africa. It was cut into nine major diamonds and hundreds of smaller ones, including the Great Star of Africa - the largest cut diamond in existence at 530.2 carats, now in the royal scepter of the British Crown Jewels.

The largest diamond ever found in the universe has 10 billion trillion trillion carats! Discovered in February 2004 by scientists at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for the Astrophysics, the diamond is 50 light-years away in the constellation Cetaurus. "It's the mother of all diamonds," said one of the discoverers. At 2,600 miles across, it certainly is.

Going back to Earth, diamonds, of course, is the most popular gem used for engagement or wedding ring. In fact, the odds that an American woman receives a diamond engagement ring is 8 in 10, and the average size is 0.8 carats. The first recorded diamond engagement ring given was in 1477 when Archduke Maximilian of Austria presented Mary of Burgundy with a gold band crowned with a piece of sparkling carbon. The ring was placed on the third finger of Mary's left hand, the finger that ancient Egyptians believed held the vein of love.

Other noteworthy celebrity diamond rings:
  • 5 carats: Bruce Willis to Demi Moore
  • 6 carats: Ben Affleck to Jennifer Lopez (JLo returned the ring)
  • 10 carats: Michael Douglas to Catherine Zeta-Jones
  • 16 carats: Victor Luna to Liz Taylor
  • 22 carats: Howard Marshall to Anna Nicole Smith
  • 29 carats: Mike Todd to Liz Taylor
  • 40 carats: Aristotle to Jackie Kennedy Onassis
  • 69.4 carats: Richard Burton to Liz Taylor
For her engagement, Princess Diana briefly popularized alternatives to the diamond ring when she received a sapphire ring surrounded by diamonds from Prince Charles.

Celebrities usually borrow diamond jewelries to wear during Oscar awards ceremony. The first time it was done was in 1943 when movie produced David Selznick asked Harry Winston if he would lend jewelry to Jennifer Jones who was nominated for best actress that year for her role in "The Song of Bernadette". Winston agreed, and Jones won. Today 20-30 percent of the nominees will eventually buy the pieces they borrow.

In 1998, Gloria Stewart, nominated for best supporting actress for her role in Titanic wore a 15-carat blue diamond necklace inspired by the fictional "Heart of the Ocean" diamond in the movie. Stewart was flanked by two security guards throughout the ceremonies. To date, that jewelry was the most expensive jewelry ever worn to the Oscars, with value of $20 million.

And in 2002 Whoopi Goldberg was wearing a $6 million 80-carat yellow diamond on a necklace borrowed from Harry Winston while hosting the Oscars. During a commercial break, Goldberg noticed that the diamond was gone. After a frantic search, a Winston security man noticed that the diamond was hidden in Whoopi's cleavage.

Random Odds & Ends:
  • Most diamonds found in nature are 1-3 billion years old.
  • Stories of diamonds being poisonous have been widely circulated throughout history to discourage the practice of stealing diamonds by swallowing them.
  • Dating back to 1304, “The Koh-i-Nur” is oldest known diamond and is now kept in the Tower of London.
  • The only active diamond mine in the United States is in Arkansas.
  • Most gemstones contain several elements. Diamond is an exception - it's all carbon.

Monday, August 13, 2007

All Shook Up

ElvisThis coming August 16 is the 30th death anniversary of Elvis Presley, and so it is only fitting that I would post some odds & ends about the "King".

At around 2:30 in the morning on Aug 16, 1977, Elvis was found sprawled on the bathroom floor, his pajamas below his knees, by then girlfriend Ginger Alder. He had had a heart attack while on the toilet, reading a book entitled "The Scientific Search for the Face of Jesus". Doctors found 10 drugs in Elvis's system, including morphine, phenobarbital, methaqualone, Valium, Carbrital and Demerol, but no cause of death was ever established.

Elvis was actually buried twice - he was originally laid to rest in Memphis's Forest Hill Cemetery on Aug 18, 1977, entombed in a large mausoleum. In the early morning hours of Aug 29, three men were arrested for trying to steal Elvis's body. As a result, Presley's father had his body disinterred and reburied on the ground of Graceland on Oct 2, 1977.

Even so, a survey made in 2002 showed that 7% of Americans believe that Elvis is still alive. On Elvis's grave, his middle name Aron is misspelled as Aaron, giving Elvis conspiracy theorists reason to conclude that Elvis Aron Presley is not buried there. In Wright City, Mo, there is even an Elvis is Alive Museum. The museum, run by Bill Beeny, claimed to have DNA tests conducted on tissue samples he got from doctors in Memphis, which he said resulted in negative match.

At the time of Elvis's death, there were only about 50 known Elvis impersonators. By 2003, the number is estimated at around 35,000 and there are impersonators all over the world. It is truly amazing for someone's image to be that popular worldwide considering the fact that Elvis only performed outside the U.S. three times - all of which are in Canada (Vancouver, Toronto and Ottawa, all in 1957). And the only time Elvis set foot in England was during a refuelling stop on the way back from army service in Germany. Yet as of 2004, Elvis had spent more weeks on the British singles charts that any other artists - including the Beatles and Cliff Richard.

All over the world, there are places and streets named after Elvis. And in Abu Ghosh, Israel stands the largest Elvis statue. Looming over the Tel Aviv-Jerulasalem highway, the 22-foot high statue of Elvis is the centerpiece of the Elvis Inn, a highway stop whose walls and ceiling are covered with Elvis memorabilia.

Elvis's popularity is even more amazing when you consider all the negative reviews he got when he was first starting out his singing career. The New York Times described him as "unspeakable untalented and vulgar" after his first national TV performance. In addition, the Times also wrote "Mr. Presley has no singing ability". The Daily News called him "appalling musically... tinged with the kind of animalism that should be confined to dives and bordellos", and the Rev. Billy Graham was quoted to said "I would not let my daughter cross the street to see Elvis Presley."

The amount Elvis got for his first record contract was $5,000. In addition, he also got a penny and a half for each record sold. At the time of his death, Elvis estate is worth $4.9 million and in 2004, Elvis earned $40 million, most of it goes to his daughter, Lisa Marie, who owns his estate. A visit to Graceland cost $27, and the average annual number of visitors is 700,000. White House averages around 1,250,000 visitors, but it charges no fee.

Thats it... Elvis has left the building!

Random Odds & Ends
  • Elvis did not like to wear jeans because he had to wear them when he was a child.
  • Elvis's famous Pink Cadillac was originally colored blue. He had it custom-painted for his mother.
  • Elvis is a natural blonde. He dyed his hair jet black when he went into acting.
  • Elvis had a twin brother, Jessie Garon, who was stillborn, leaving Elvis as an only child.
  • John Lennon's sons Sean and Julian were asked to introduce Elvis into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1986.
  • Elvis was a direct descendant from Abraham Lincoln's great grandfather.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

A Rewarding Post

Just a couple of weeks ago, the U.S. have doubled the reward to Osama Bin Laden's capture, or to any information that may lead to his capture, to $50 million, making it the largest reward ever offered for a fugitive. In announcing the original reward in 2003, which was then $25 million, President Bush said, "There's an old poster out West, as I recall that said: 'Wanted: Dead or Alive.' All I want, and America wants is him brought to justice."

Actually, current U.S. law limits federal rewards to $25 million except when personally authorized by the Secretary of State "if he [or she] determines that offer or payment of an award of a larger amount is necessary to combat terrorism or defend the Nation against terrorist attacks."

That is really a large sum of money, one that may even turn Osama's close ally against him. Who knows, maybe Bin Laden can even turn himself in and claim that reward himself. While, you may think that is funny, it actually happened before. On March 1995, Gerald Lydell Voyles, suspected in a 1981 murder, walked into the Polk County Prison in Bartow, Florida and asked about the $3,000 reward for his capture. He was arrested after giving his real name. "We believe he was serious about the reward," said the local sheriff. "He will not be eligible."

Here are some other interesting rewards offered:

In 1994, O.J. Simpson offered $500,000 reward for information leading to the "real killer or killers" of Nicole Simpson.

$30 million was awarded to the unidentified person who tipped off U.S. forces that Saddam Hussein's sons were in a home in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul in July 2003.

Robert Holmes, a 47-year-old car repairman from Tacoma, Washington was given $350,000 after he tipped off the FBI about the possible identity of the D.C. sniper, John Allen Muhammad. In contrast, Whitney Donahue, who called police after he spotted Muhammad's car at a Maryland rest area on Oct 24, 2002 received only $150,000.

People providing information to the IRS regarding tax cheaters receive up to 15% of the additional taxes collected, depending on the value of their information. In 2003, IRS shelled out a total of $4.1 million to reward people who turned in tax cheats. The record year was 2000, when IRS handed out some $10.8 million to informants.

In 1994, the Drug Enforcement Agency (D.E.A.) offered $25,000 reward for the return of an object they couldn't describe. The object was stolen from an unmarked D.E.A. vehicle in Wilmington, N.C. "For security reasons, I can't say what it looked like," said the DEA agent-in-charge. "It does work in the manner in which you would think, by looking at it, it would work. Obviously, I can't say how it works, but it works. It's also very expensive, and we want it back."

In November 2003, Microsoft launched an Anti-virus rewards program and offered $250,000 for information leading to the creators of the "mydoom", "msblast" and "sobig" viruses. None of the virus creators has been captured.

In the fall of 2002, Warren Patabendi of New York offered $25,000 reward for the return of Bugsy, his parents' German shepherd, making it the largest reward ever for the return of a lost dog. Patabendi raised the reward to $25,000 after signs offering a $10,000 reward drew no interest.

And finally, the most popular bounty in history: 30 pieces of silver was awarded to Judas for the betrayal of Jesus.

Random Odds & Ends:
  • The F.B.I. was founded on July 26, 1908. On 1909, there were only 9 agents of FBI. By the year 2004, the number rose to almost 12,000.
  • The FBI's 10 most wanded criminal list started on 1950. By the year 2000, a total of 478 criminals made it on the list, only 7 of which are women.
  • Prior to having the cool nickname "Air Force One", the U.S. presidential aircraft was called "Sacred Cow".
  • Secret service code names for past presidents - Nixon: "Searchlight", Carter: "Deacon", Reagan: "Rawhide", Clinton: "Eagle" and George W. Bush: "Trailblazer".
  • There are 4 levels of U.S. government document secrecy: 1-confidential, 2-secret, 3-top secret, and 4-sigma 16. Sigma 16 are documents "containing nuclear weapons design specifications that would permit the reproduction and function of the weapon."

Friday, July 27, 2007

Tomato: Fruit or Vegetable?

Today, we are going to have a veggie quiz. The first question is the post title itself - Are tomatoes fruits or vegetable?

If you answered fruit, you are absolutely correct. If you answered vegetable, you are correct too... well, sort of.

The word "fruit" means the fleshy meat growing from the ripened ovary of a plant, and contains the seeds. So, by definition, tomatoes are fruits. The same goes with cucumbers, eggplants, peppers, string beans - all of which are widely mistaken as vegetables. However, for Americans, the tomato was, in fact, declared as a vegetable. In the 1893 case Nix v. Hedden, tomato importers sought to challenge a 10% tax imposed on tomatoes by claiming that tomatoes were a fruit (which was not subject to tax) rather than a vegetable. Though the U.S. Supreme Court found that the tomato was technically a fruit, since Americans ate it with the main meal rather than dessert, it could be taxed as a vegetable.

Ok, here's another veggie question for you: If Bugs Bunny was alive in 15th century, what would be the color of that carrot that he's munching? If you answered orange, sorry, you are wrong.

It was not until the 17th century that carrots turned orange, when growers from Denmark (the royal family of which was know as the House of Orange) crossed yellow and red carrots to create what has become the vegetable's universal color. Before that, carrots are colored white, purple, black, green and red.

Ready for one more veggie-related question? Here it is: How many vegetarians were there before 1847?

The answer is... zero! Sure, there are non-meat-eating folks during that time, but they are not known as "vegetarians". That term was coined in 1847 by the first members of the Vegetarian Society of Great Britain to describe people who did not eat meat, poultry, or fish. Some suggest that the word comes from the latin "vegetus" meaning "full of life" though the prevailing view is that it comes from its obvious source - the word "vegetable".

Before the word "vegetarian" was coined, non-meat-eating people are called as "pythagoreans". Named after the famous mathematician Pythagoras who was converted into this diet after studying with members of an Egyptian sect who abstained from eating meat. Today, if you use the term "pythagoreans", people would be thinking about their nightmare with geometry and trigonometry tests during their school days.

Speaking of vegetarians, India currently has the largest vegetarian population in the world (220 million). Made up mostly of Hindus (but also Buddhists and Jains), which prohibits the killing of anything living or with the potential for life. Indian vegetarians eat milk products but not eggs.

K.D. Lang, a famous singer who is a vegetarian, once said on national television that "meat stinks". This caused an uproar and her records were banned from most radio stations in the U.S. and Canada. Even in her own hometown of Consort, Alberta, people persecuted her for airing her views. A sign announcing "Home of k.d. lang" was defaced with the words "Eat beef, dyke". It was extremely frightning for her mother that she was forced to move.

If you think that was intense, take the case of Mani. Founder of a religious movement in the 3rd century, called Manichaenism, he was tortured and executed by the leaders of Persia in 276 AD because the movement espoused meatlessness. In the 4th century, Timothy, the Patriarch of Alexandria, tested Christian clergies in Alexandria by requiring them to eat meat. Those who refused were interrogated.

Random Odds & Ends
  • Egyptians used to worship cabbage heads as gods, and even enthroned them on elaborate altars.
  • In ancient Greece, the winner of an athletic event was given a bunch of celery, just like flowers are given today.
  • Corn is a member of the grass family - so it's not really a vegetable - it's a grain.
  • Christopher Columbus was the first to introduce peppers to Europe.
  • Even though the Spanish explorers brought tomatoes to Europe from South America, they only used them as decoration, fearing they were poisonous.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

You Got Mail

Despite the popularity of email, postal mail service is still widely used worldwide. In fact, according to CNN in 2004, there were 425 billion pieces of mail sent annually around the world. India has the world's largest postal system, with 154,000 post offices and 60,000 postment delivering 53 million pieces of mail each day. China is second with 57,000 post offices. The U.S., by comparison, has only 38,000 post offices.

Before stamps were introduced in America, mailing a letter cost about 25 cents during that time when the average salary was $1 a day. In 1847, the post office introduced a 5 cents stamp featuring Benjamin Franklin, which could be used for letters mailed 300 miles and a 10 cents stamp with George Washington, which could get your letter across the U.S. Once stamps allowed postage to be paid beforehand, street corner mailboxes became possible and at a suggestion of a novelist and postal employee named Anthony Trollope, the first four were installed on the isle of Jersey on November 23, 1852.

When email became popular, postal mail got the monicker "snail mail" which is meant to show that postal services is too slow compared to the immediate delivery of messages thru email. If the usual week-long delivery of letter is deemed "snail" nowadays, I wonder how the following should be called:
  • Bearing a 3-cent stamp and a February 17, 1936 postmark, the letter from a grandmother in Weirton, Pennsylvania was finally delivered in 1994. That was 58 years. In the letter, she is promising the recipient that she will come see her newborn grandchildren.
  • A valentine card posted in 1932 reached a young couple living in the former addressee's house in 1998, or 66 years after. Coincidentally, they were to be married the next day.
  • Postmarked Feb. 6, 1908, a black-and-white postcard addressed to Fanny Myers of Jersey Shore, Pennsylvania, asked her to send a cashmere sweater to her sister. On Oct. 22, 2001 (94 years after), the postcard was found in a batch of letters to be deliverd at the Jersey Shore Post Office.
Speed has always been an issue with postal services, and even before email, people are trying to figure out a way to deliver mail faster. On June 8, 1959, the U.S. submarine Barbero conducted the first and last test of so-called "Missile Mail". This is to use a warhead-less Regulus cruise missile to carry postal containers, in hope to make the delivery of mail faster.

While email obviously have the speed advantage, postal mail has its own advantages. For one, you can only send messages, photos, music or any sort of file thru email. While, you can virtually send anything thru mail (depends on your country's laws, of course).

Most postal employee can tell you lots of stories about weird objects being sent thru mail, but the strangest of all was a 5-year old kid. On February 19, 1914, the parents of May Pierstorff paid 50 cents to have her mailed from Grangeville to Lewiston, Idaho, to avoid the higher train fare. Similary, the Chicago Tribune reports that a 28-year old midget once mailed himself from New York to Los Angeles, paying $68.15 in postage.

In 1916, a merchant named W.H. Coltharp mailed an entire bank building in individual pieces from Salt Lake City to Vernal, Utah. During that time, there was no road between the two cities, and Coltharp figured he'd save money by mailing all 80,000 of the building's bricks over the 427-mile route. That's 40 tons! Shortly after, the post office put out an advisory saying that "it is not the intent of the U.S. Postal Service that buildings be shipped through the mail," and banned the practice.

Random Odds & Ends
  • An average American receives about 572 junk mail annually, and 44% of those are being thrown without being read.
  • In the U.S., there are, on average, 8 cases of dog attacks on mailmen per day.
  • The world's first stamp issued was the British Penny Black on May 6, 1840.
  • ZIP (Zoning Improvement Plan) code, a five-digit code had been assigned to every address throughout the country was first used in the U.S. on July 1, 1963, and in 1967, the Post Office required mailers of second-class and third-class bulk mail to presort by ZIP Code.
  • In February 1911, a French pilot, named Henri Pequet, flew with 6,500 pieces of mail in a biplane from Allahabad, India to Naini (a distance of 6 miles). This flight was the first official Air Mail in the world.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Sneaking Sneakers

Sneakers have become a multi-million industry worldwide. In 2004 alone, Americans spent $16 billion on sneakers, 28% of which is for sneakers made for running, while 23% is for basketball. Somehow, it has become a status symbol and a fashion statement.

The word "sneaker" comes from the shoe's rubber sole, which allows wearers to "sneak" around noiselessly. In 1862, a book titled "Female Life In Prison" said that prisoners referred to the rubber-soled shoes worn by a correction officer as "sneaks." Several years later, the use of "sneaks" to refer to rubber-soled shoes gained wide acceptance and in 1873 store ads started referring to these shoes by the name "sneaker".

The best selling sneaker of all time is the Converse All Stars. Introduced in 1917, the All Star was the first sneaker designed for basketball and an estimated 580 million pairs of the sneaker have been sold to date.

Nike, the current sneaker company giant, started in 1964 by Phil Knight, a former University of Oregon runner and CPA, and Bill Bowerman, the track coach at Oregon, who made running shoes in his garage on the side. Nike's original name was "Blue Ribbon Sports", and changed name only in 1972, after much deliberation against another proposed name "Dimension 6". In 1964, Nike's sales revenue was $8,000. By 2003, it has rose to $12.3 billion.

Somehow, Nike had been blessed with a series of good fortune that helped to propel its business. First it was the amazingly simple but effective "Swoosh" logo. In 1971, Carolyn Davidson, a graphic design student at Portland State University, was approached by Nike founder Phil Knight and asked to design a logo. When Davidson presented the swoosh design to Knight, his response was, "Well, I don't love it but it'll grow on me". Davidson received $35 for her services. In 1982, 11 years later, Nike issued some stocks to Davidson as a measure of the company's appreciation.

And of course, Nike's success can be hugely attributed to Michael Jordan. In 1984, Jordan, who was only beginning his career in basketball signed an endorsement contract with Nike. At that time, Nike was almost an unheard brand and Jordan who was a big fan of Adidas wanted to sign a deal with them. Jordan selected Nike only because Adidas did not come to his terms. In 1985, Nike released MJ's signature shoe, the Air Jordan. Originally, the NBA banned this new shoe because it didn't match the league's dress code, but the ban only gave publicity to the shoe and became even more in-demand with the youths of that generation. Nike revenues reached $1 billion for the first time in 1986 and the rest, as they say, is history.

Air Jordans continue to be one of the most popular sneakers and was mainly responsible for at least 3 riots:
  • On March 3, 2001, after 400 customers waiting to purchase the new Air Jordan Retro 11s broke the security gate of a sneaker store in Alexandria, Louisiana, police were called in and used pepper spray to disperse the crowd. "It was like an animal attacking a bloody piece of meat," one customer said.
  • In a separate incident in Sacramento, California also on March 3, 2001, 60 police officers in riot gear were called in to quell disturbances by 200 customers fighting for 80 pairs of Jordan Retro 11s in a local mall.
  • And on Feb. 14, 2004, Charlotte police were called in to a shopping mall after 200 people waiting to purchase the new Jordan Retro 12 sneakers started pushing and fighting, resulting in one injury and one arrest.
Following Nike's success, sneaker companies are now careful not to miss the boat on signing athletes and celebrities for endorsement that could potentially be a big boon for advertising. Reebok, for example, signed Allen Iverson to a lifetime contract on November 28, 2001. Iverson, a talented and popular NBA player, but often in trouble with law, gets a reported $7 million a year from the company. Reebok also almost signed LeBron James to a $75 million-dollar contract, until Nike snatched him up for $90 millions.

And in 2003, Reebok signed a 3-year-old basketball prodigy named Mark Walker after seeing a video of the kid filmed by his parents making 18 consecutive free throws on an 8-foot hoop. In a press release Reebok referred to Walker as "short of everything but talent."

Random Odds & Ends
  • The Air Force 1 debuted in 1982 and was the first basketball shoe to make use of air technology.
  • The largest sneakers in NBA history is Shaquille O'Neal's size 23, followed by Will Perdue's size 22-4A.
  • Jerry Seinfeld owns over 500 pairs of mint condition white sneakers.
  • Nike make sure to release new Jordans on Saturdays so that kids won't skip school to get them.
  • K-Swiss's five-stripes has a purpose other than design: it helps prevent stretching.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007


A lot of bloggers, when faced with the dilemma of having no idea what to blog about, often come out with the following:
  1. Write about the food they ate last night,
  2. Write about their cat,
  3. Post a photo of the food they ate last night, or
  4. Post a photo of their cat
Well, this week I have no clue what to write on this blog, so I think, I will choose option 2 above. Although that may be a problem because I have no pet cat. So, I think, I will just write about cats.

Do you know that cats outnumber both dogs and children in the US? In 2001, there are estimated 77.7 million cats in the US. Despite this, 73% of Americans still believe that dogs are the "better" pet, and even among cat owners, 35% rate dogs as better.

A cat has a life expectancy of 15 years. A cat will spend 62% of that lifetime sleeping, and 12% grooming. That leaves 26% for the other activities which may include eating, purring, rubbing on your legs, chasing birds, being chased by dogs, posing for photographs, and of course, coughing up hairballs - which a cat would cough up about 180 times on its lifetime.

For an animal that sleeps too much, it only follows that it would dream a lot. According to Stanley Coren, a professor of psychology at the University of British Columbia, an average cat may dream as often as every 12 to 15 minutes. By contrast, dogs dream only once every 65 minutes or so, while the average dream cycle for people is about 90 minutes. So what do cats dream about? Of course, something that they were genetically to do: pouncing and stalking prey.

Still, there are lots of reasons cat owners love their cats. In fact, according to a 1999 findings by Houston Chronicle, 11% of people who ended their relationship is because of their cat. 84% of cat owners are women, and 30% of cat owners let their cat sleep in their bed. Also, 58% of cat owners buy their cats Christmas presents and 37% hang stockings on Christmas in the name of their pet cat.

The most cats owned by one person is 689, which is held by Jack Wright of Kingston, Ohio.

For rich and famous celebrity cats (not including animated ones like Sylvester or Garfield), there is Morris, who made 58 commercials for 9Lives cat food between 1969 and his death in 1978. Rescued from a Chicago animal shelter, Morris was so popular that he has a secretary hired to answer his mail. He was also featured on the show Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous.

Then there is Tinker - the world's wealthiest cat. A one-time common alley cat, Tinker befriended a well-to-do British widow named Margaret Layne. When Ms. Layne died, Tinker inherited it all: a swank London home valued at $562,000 and $160,000 trust fund to ensure the caviar keeps coming.

Cats also have the tendency to leave home and not come back. However, if you lost your pet cat, try looking on the first 3 houses next to yours. 77% of cats who escape are found within three houses of their homes. This is not the case though for a tabby named Skittles. In September 2001, Charmin Sampson lost her cat while on a family trip to Wisconsin. On Jan 14, 2002, the cat showed up on the Sampson's doorstep in Hibbing, Minnesota, five months later. Skittles was skinny and his paws were raw, but otherwise in good shape after his 350-mile journey.

Random Odds & Ends
  • As a sign of mourning, ancient Egyptians shaved off their eyebrows when their cat died.
  • A cat will return to its bowl an average of 36 times a day.
  • A cat's vision is six times better in the dark than humans.
  • Cats have 5 toes on front paw and 4 toes on back paws. Some cats, called polydactl, are born with 6 or 7 front or back toes.
  • Sir Isaac Newton discovered principles of mechanics and gravity, formulated laws of motions and physics, developed calculus... and invented the cat door.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Close Encounters

In a survey done by Life Magazine in 2000, it was found out that 30% of Americans believed that aliens have visited the earth, 7% said they or someone they know has seen one, and 21% say that they would board an alien spacecraft if invited. New Mexico is the state with the most UFO sightings, followed by Wisconsin, where on a lonely stretch of road outside a town called Dundee, sightings are so common that there is a tavern named Benson's highway and UFO bar.

So, do UFO's really exists?

As of 2001, there are actually 56 reported cases of near misses between airplanes and UFO's. Here are some of incidents that are recorded by the National Aviation Reporting Center on Anomalous Phenomena (NARCAP):
  • In 1981, Capt. Phil Schultz was piloting a TWA flight over Lake Michigan when a large silver object descended directly toward his airplane, avoiding it only by making a high speed turn at the last second.
  • In 1995, an Aerolineas Argentinas flight was approached by a luminous object as it tried to land at Bariloche Airport. Before the UFO disappeared, the lights at the airport mysteriously went out and instruments in the control tower started fluctuating wildy.
  • In 1997, a Swissair 747 over Long Island narrowly avoided a glowing white object approaching the plane.
You can find more incidents from this report published by NARCAP.

And on Jan 26, 2001, the crew of a cargo aircraft refused to take off due to a glowing object hovering over Barnaul Airport's runway in Siberia. Crew of another craft refused to land for the same reason, taking their cargo to a nearby airport instead. The UFO vanished some 90 minutes after first appearing.

There are even American presidents who claimed to have seen UFOS:

During a routine flight while he as governor of California, Ronald Reagan reported seeing a bright white light zigzagging through the sky. After having his plane give chase for a few minutes, Reagan told in an interview that "all of a sudden to our utter amazement it went straight up into the heavens."

Jimmy Carter had a similar experience in 1969, 7 years before he was elected president. "It was the darndest thing I've ever seen," Carter said during the 1976 campaigh. "It was big, it was very bright, it changed colors and it was about the size of the moon. We watched it for 10 minutes, but none of us could figure out what it was. One thing's for sure, I'll never make fun of people who say they've seen unidentified objects in the sky."

Then, there is the case of an alleged meeting between President Dwight Eisenhower and aliens. Eisenhower was on vacation in Palm Springs when, on the night of Feb 20, 1954, he made an unscheduled departure from where he was staying. Several hours later, the Associated Press reported that "Pres. Eisenhower died tonight of a heart attack" but then retracted the story minutes later. On the following day, officials claimed he was only at the dentist fixing a chipped tooth. American University professor Michael Salla and other researchers believed that Eisenhower secretly met with aliens that evening at Edwards Air Force Base. The claim has been repeatedly made in UFO books and the media, and emphatically denied by those close to Eisenhower.

Random Odds & Ends
  • A UFO sighting occurs somewhere on the planet every three minutes.
  • In April 1962, NASA pilot, Joseph Walker, filmed five cylindrical and disc-shaped objects from his X-15 aircraft. NASA refused to reveal any evidence that might substantiate the pilots' claims -- photographs or films were never released.
  • The first documented UFO sighting is in the Bible. The prophet Ezekiel described a "great cloud with fire enfolding itself, a wheel in the middle of a wheel that descended and fired lightning bolts into the earth."
  • The first photograph of a UFO was taken in 1883 by astronomer Jose Bonilla in Zacatecas, Mexico.
  • On Feb. 25, 1942, a large, dark object over the Los Angeles coastline was mistaken for a Japanese attack and drew a barrage of anti-aircraft fire. Memos to President Roosevelt confirmed the existence of unidentified aerial objects.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Harry Potter and Other Books

The 5th installment in the Harry Potter series "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix" will be on theaters worldwide July 11, and a lot of movie fans are already excited to see it on the big screen. This book by J.K. Rowling is the fastest-selling book of all time, selling 5 million copies in the U.S. and another 1 million copies in the U.K. within the first 24 hours it was released. The book went on sale June 21, 2003 at 12:01 a.m. and Barnes and Noble sold the book at a rate of more than 80 copies per second. By midnight of June 22, 1 in every 60 americans had bought a copy of the book.

A true Harry Potter fan, 16-year old Emerson Spartz flew from Chicago to London on June 21, 2003 for the sole purpose of buying a copy of the same book, putting him in the world record as having to made the longest distance ever traveled to buy a book (3,950 miles). As Spartz told the Los Angeles Times, "I want to feel the weight of that book". Spartz is also the founder of the Harry Potter fansite MuggleNet.

The 4th book in the Harry Potter series, "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire" ranked as the second fastest-selling book, having sold 3 million copies in the first 48 hours. The Harry Potter books were really good to its author, J.K. Rowling, and made her one of the world's richest. She is now richer than Queen Elizabeth II.

Harry Potter books not only ranked as the fastest-selling books, it is also ranked as the most frequently banned book in america. Not only it was banned, it was also, at times, burned. Jack Brock, pastor of the Christ Community Church in New Mexico called the Potter books "a masterpiece of satanic deception" as his congregation burned them in December 2001. Another congregation in Greenville, Michigan, relegated Harry Potter books and other "witchcraft items" to a bonfire in August 2003.

While Harry Potter books are the fastest-selling books of all-time, the best-selling copyrighted book of all time is "Guiness Book of World Records". The book that records all amazing feats and records got listed on its own page in 1974 when 23.9 million copies were sold, and had cracked the 100 million sales threshold on November 2003. The book was originally conceived on a 1951 hunting trip when an argument ensued about what was Europe's fastest bird. No book held the answer, so Norris and Ross McWhirter wrote one.

The best-selling non-copyrighted works, in order are (1) The Bible, (2) The Koran, and (3) Mao Tse Tung's Little Red Book.

The world's most prolific author is Brazilian Jose Carlos Ryoki Inoue. After abandoning a medical career in 1986, Inoue has authored a staggering 1,070 books. Using 39 different pseudonyms, Inoue wrote mostly pulp fiction, detective stories and westerns. Aside from these books, he had written over 38 million words in his diary during the span of over 2 decades. He can write a chapter during a trip to the bathroom, and a 195-page novel in one day. Inoue once said, "Truthfully, I haven't even read all the books I've written".

The Book of Psalms is the world's oldest bound book. Discovered in 1984 in a Christian cemetery 85 miles south of Cairo, Egypt, the 490-page manuscript dates back to the 2nd half of the 4th century A.D. The Moravian Book Shop in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania is the world's oldest bookstore that is still in operations. It was originally founded in 1745.

And, lastly, here are the original titles of some famous books:
  • Catch-18 (Catch-22) - Heller changed the title because Leon Uris had released a book titled Mila 18 on the same year.
  • Pansy (Gone With The Wind) - In earlier drafts, Scarlett was named Pansy O'Hara, hence Mitchell's aborted title for the book. Other titles he thought of were "Tote the Weary Load" and "Tomorrow is Another Day".
  • 1805 (War and Peace) - Tolstoy originally meant to call it "1825", then published it as "1805" before changing it to War and Peace.
  • Trimalchio in West Egg (The Great Gatsby) - Another title Fitzgerald considered was "The High Bouncing Lover".
  • The Last Man in Europe (1984) - Orwell thought "The Last Man" title was too bleak and instead switched the last two digits of the year it was completed (1948) to come up with the title.
Random Odds & Ends:
  • The first public library in the U.S. opened in 1698 in Charleston, South Carolina.
  • Dorothy Straight was only 4 years old in 1964 when she wrote the book How the World Began, for her grandmother. Her parents sent it to the publisher who thought the book was good enough to be published, thus making her the youngest published author.
  • A.A. Milne used his son as the inspiration for the character Christopher Robin in his Winnie the Pooh book series. His son, also named Christopher Robin, grew up hating the books because his schoolmates teased him.
  • Agatha Christie (1890–1976) is the world’s best-selling fiction writer. She wrote 78 crime novels that sold more than 2 billion copies.
  • J.J. Audubon's The Birds of America, published in 1840, is the most expensive book in the world. In March 2000, it was sold for $8,802,500 — the highest price ever paid for a book. You can find hardcover copies in Amazon for less than $10.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Highway To Hell

I don't know if our planet is really being affected by global warming, but it really seems like it is getting hotter and hotter every summer. This year was no exception, and to where I'm living people are really getting impatient of the hot weather, and often you will hear them say something like "Its hotter than hell in here". Well, I know that its just an expression, but it did make me wonder... what is the temperature in hell, anyway? So, as soon as I got to my trusted PC, I get online and find it out.

According to a 1998 study made by two physicists from University of Santiago in Spain, the temperature of Hell is 833°F (445°C). How did they come up with this figure? By referencing to a passage in the New Testament that says "the fearful and unbelieving... shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone." (Revelation 21:8). According to the two physicists, in order for such a lake to exist, the temperature must be below the boiling point of sulfur, which is just under 833°F. If the temperature is higher than that, the brimstone would vaporize into gas.

Surprisingly, heaven was first thought of being even hotter than hell. In an article in the Journal of Applied Optics in 1972, it was concluded that heaven reached temperature of 976°F (524°C). A 1998 study, however, determined the previous study was faulty and that the real temperature of heaven is 448.43°F (231.35°C). Still very hot, but cooler than hell. Physicist Jorge Perez, who was involved with that study, said "It's good that the bad people know that hell is hotter than heaven".

A lot of Americans believe in hell and in the devil. In fact, according to a study in 2000, in an average year, there are 10 to 15 exorcisms being performed in the New York archdiocese. According to traditional Roman Catholic belief, Beelzebub, the leader of the angels who rebelled against God, is incapable of overcoming the Almighty but is capable of possessing individual souls. That is when an exorcist is called in, and the Vatican has had a how-to guide for exorcists since 1614 and recently updated in 1999.

In a Gallup poll conducted in 2004, 81% of Americans believe in heaven, and 70% believe in hell. 4% of those Americans also believed they have a good chance of ending up in hell. Actually, you can visit Hell now... there are 3 places in the world named "Hell" - a town in Michigan, a village in Norway and a tiny community in Grand Cayman Islands.

In 2003, the New Mexico legislature changed the name of US Route 666 to 393. The number 666 is referred to in the Book of Revelation as "the number of the beast". The road, which starts in Gallup, New Mexico and runs into Colorado and Utah, has an extremely high accident rate, which is reason enough to be superstitious and have the name changed.

Lastly, in case you place a call to Kleberg County, Texas, don't be surprised if the one who answer the phone greet you with "Heaven-o". In 1997, a resolution was passed to use "Heaven-o" as the official county greeting instead of the usual "Hello" which contains the word, you guessed it, hell.

Random Odds & Ends
  • The longest name in the Bible is Mahershalalhashbaz (Isaiah 8:1)
  • The word 'God' appears in the bible 3,358 times. The word 'Lord' appears 7,736 times.
  • The Bible is the world's best-selling book, it's also the world's most shoplifted book.
  • Seven suicides are recorded in the Bible.
  • In a 1631 printing of the Bible, an English printer made a mistake of leaving 'not' from the Seventh commandment, causing it to read - 'Thou shalt commit adultery'. This edition was called as the Wicked Bible.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Hair Day

Male-pattern baldness is a dilemma that a lot of middle-aged men face and try to beat. Millions of dollars are spent on different drugs, cosmetics, shampoos and various operations that offers to cure or prevent baldness. Though some of them may have some positive effect on some men, there is actually, only one effective way to prevent male-pattern baldness. And I am going to reveal this method to you before the end of this post. No, I am not selling an ebook or going to advertise a product. I will give you the secret, all for free. But first, let me tell you some odds and ends about hair.

Do you know that during early ages, barbers, in addition to cutting hair, are also practicing surgery? Barbers began performing surgery in 1163 because monks, who had traditionally done so, had to relinquish any bloody duties (deemed unholy) to secular citizens. Since barbers were already adept at wielding sharp instruments, they were the natural choice. The red stripes on the modern-day barber pole come from that earlier times when bandages were aired out to dry. It was only in 1745 that surgeons were separated from barbers.

Today, barbershops seems to be dwindling in numbers as more and more people prefer to go to salons for their hair cut. In 1963, there were about 106,000 barbershops in the U.S. By the year 2001, the number was estimated to be just 45,000.

In 2004, most salon in the U.S. charges between $10-$25 for a haircut. Sally Hershberger set the going rate when she raised her price to $600 at her Manhattan salon in 2003, but was soon outpriced by Orlo, a new salon opened by Orlando Pita in New York. The said salon charges $800 for an 80-minute cut, making it the world's most expensive regular haircut. Pita defended the price by saying, "You can spend a lot on clothes, but you wear you hair every day."

By the way, if you are planning to have a haircut, the full moon is the best time to do it. According to ancient superstitions and still hold true to some people (mostly Italians), cutting hair during a full moon will make it grow back faster and fuller.

Humans have an average of about 100,000 number of hairs on his or her scalp. Redheads tend to have less - about 90,000 hairs, whereas blonds typically have about 140,000 hairs, with brunettes falling somewhere in between. About 100 hairs fall out every day, to be replaced by 100 new sprouts.

The animal with the most hair is sea otter, which have 170,000 to 1 million hairs per square inch. Humans seem bald in comparis0n - we have only about 1,000 hairs per square inch.

Popular people can also earn money with their hair. Here are the cost of strands of celebrity hair on some recent auctions:

Abraham Lincoln (2004) - $3,750 (for 40 strands)
King Louis XIV (1998) - $5,636
Mickey Mantle (1997) - $6,900
Beethoven (1994) - $7,300 (578 strands)
Napoleon (1998) - $9,200
Marilyn Monroe (2004) - $11,500
Elvis Presley (2002) - $115,120

And of couse, everyone knows about Britney Spears shaving her head earlier this year and apparently finding its way getting auctioned at ebay with starting price of $1 million. Ebay pulled the auction off saying that it was a fake, but re-surfaced again by setting up its own website - buybritneyshair.com. While that website is now closed, a lot of other websites popped out claiming to have britney's hair, and now a few locks claiming to be part of that are being auctioned in ebay.

Ok. so now it's time to tell you what I promised - the best preventive measure against alopecia (clinical term for male-pattern baldness). Because testosterone is the reason and the trigger of this baldness, the best way to prevent is... castration. Yes, that will stop men from producing testosterone and therefore no cause for the said baldness. The only question is, would you rather have a full set of hair or a full set of balls?

Random Odds & Ends
  • Hair is the fastest growing tissue in the body, second only to bone marrow.
  • Hair grows faster in warm weather.
  • The number of disulfide bonds between hair proteins is the reason why some people have curly hair while others have straight. The greater the number of links, the curlier the hair.
  • There was once a law in Ireland that a man must have all facial hair above his mouth shaved in order to be recognised as an Englishman. This law was kept for 200 years.
  • Razors were found among relics of the Bronze Age (circa 3500 BC) in Egypt.
  • For world's longest hair records, click here.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Casino Royale

casino gamblingThe first casino in the U.S. was opened by John Davis in 1827 at the corner of Bourbon Streets in New Orleans and kept it open for 24 hours a day for betting. The first high-profiled casino was one called The Palace of Fortune which opened in 1832 on Pennsylvania Avenue, just a short distance from the U.S. Capitol. The casino was patronized by government officials, and when the casino owner died, then US president James Buchanan attended the funeral along with several congressmen.

The first casino in Las Vegas was the Northern Club, which opened in 1931 with only one dice table, two blackjack tables, and one table for poker. Vegas's first casino hotel and resort was the El Rancho Vegas, which opened in April 1941 with 63 hotel rooms, a casino, and a 250-seat showroom.

According to a 2003 census, the population of Las Vegas was 535,000. On that same year there were about 150,000 slot machines in Las Vegas. It means that the ratio was about 3.5 people for 1 slot machine.

The slot machine was the most popular gambling method in Las Vegas. Invented in San Francisco in 1900 by a mechanic named Charles Fey, the first slot machine featured playing cards and the Liberty Bell. Three bells paid the largest jackpot which on that year was 20 nickels. On March 21, 2003, a 25-year old software designer from L.A. hit the jackpot at Las Vegas's Excalibur Hotel and Casino. He had put about $100 into the machine before the magic numbers hit. His total jackpot prize: $39,718,982.25! In Atlantic City, the largest jackpot ever won was $8.5 million in 1994.

Now, before you pack your suitcase and fly to Las Vegas, consider this: the average slot machine makes $100,000 each year after subtracting payouts. That means that the odds are really not on your side. In fact, according to New York Times, gamblers lost $6.1 billion in 2003. Put it simply, that's $696,000 lost every hour of every day!

While the rich people go to casino to unwind and relax, the large percentage of people (75%) gamble to win "a really large amount of money". The average Vegas visitor had a gambling average budget of $480 with which they hoped to amass quick wealth. But that was not the case of computer programmer Chris Boyd. In 1994, after saving $220,000 from working over 3 years, Boyd sat down at the roulette table at Binion's and bet the entire amount on the red. Red hit, and Boyd left the casino with $440,000.

Then there's the story of William Lee Bergstrom. In 1980, Bergstrom come to Binion's Horeshoe Casino with a suitcase filled with $777,000 in cash which was reportedly lent to him by a bank. He put the suitcase on the craps table without even bothering to change the cash into chips, and bet the entire sum on a woman's roll, and won. However, on Nov. 16, 1984, Bergstrom did the same stunt, this time with $1 million. He lost on a single roll of the dice. In 1985, he was found dead of drug overdose.

Random Odds & Ends
  • Most casinos don't have clocks or windows. This makes the players lose all sense of time and play longer which inccreases the odds of the casino winning.
  • The oldest known dice with regular sides were discovered in northern Iraq. They were made of baked clay and were estimated to date to about 3,000 B.C.
  • The kings in playing cards represent real leaders and conquerors from history, although not all of them had the title of "king". Based on cards designed in 15th-century France, the kings are: spades -Biblical King David, clubs - Alexander the Great, hearts - Charlemagne and diamonds - Julius Caesar.
  • In 1966, Howard Hughes stayed at the Desert Inn in Las Vegas. Annoyed after being asked to leave by the hotel management, Hughes purchased the Desert Inn on the same day.
  • It would take 288 years for one person to spend one night in every hotel room in Las Vegas.
  • About 150 couples get married in Las Vegas every day.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Rockin' and Rollin'

The term "rock and roll" was derived from its original usage as an African-American street slang expression for sex during the late 20's to early 30's. It was Cleveland disc jockey Alan Freed who in the 1950s first used the term in reference to music. The first rock and roll song was a song aptly titled "Rock and Roll". Released in 1949 by Modern Records, the R&B 78 rpm single by Wild Bill Moore was the first song to use the term "Rock and Roll" and sound like it too. However, a lot of music historians consider the first true rock and roll song to have been recorded is "Rocket 88" by Ike Turner in 1951. While the first rock and roll song to reach #1 position in the charts is "Rock Around the Clock" by Bill Haley and the Comets in July 1955.

The first Rock and Roll concert was held March 21, 1952 in Cleveland. The event titled as "The Moondog Coronation Ball" was organized by Alan Freed and promised performances from the Dominoes, saxophonist Paul Williams and guitarist Tiny Grimes, among others. A riot erupted after the police shut down the concert due to extreme overcrowding.

The most famous and historic rock concert was the 1969 3-day concert at Woodstock. Billed as "Three Days of Peace and Music", the concert promoters expected 50,000 people maximum, but 500,000 showed up. Actually, the event was not even held in Woodstock, but a few miles away on a farm in Bethel, N.Y. During those 3 days, 3 people died in the audience - one from a heroin overdose, another one from a ruptured appendix, and one was ran over by a tractor. There were also 2 pregnant women among the audience who gave birth during the event.

Guitar smashing is a common stunt during rock concerts. The first one to ever did this act was The Who in 1964. Performing at a stage in Railway Hotel in Harrow, England, the ceiling was so low that Pete Townshend often hit his guitar against it. Losing his cool, Townshend smashed the guitar to pieces. Another Who incident, this time on The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour in September 1967, Keith Moon's base drum exploded when a pyrothechnics effects went awry. It left Pete Townshend partially deaf.

Another bizarre concert incident was when an audience threw a live bat onstage during a 1982 Black Sabath concert. Thinking it was a fake, Ozzie Osborne bit the head of the bat and afterwards was forced to undergo a painful round of rabies shots. And in a 1969 Alice Cooper Toronto concert, a chicken found its way on the stage. Not knowing that chicken could not fly, Cooper threw the chicken into the audience. The audience got hold of the chicken and like savages, tore the animal to pieces.

Rock songs have the reputation of having hidden or subliminal messages within it. The Beatles' "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" was banned from the airwaves by BBC, thinking that the song, with initials LSD, was about drugs. John Lennon insisted that it was inspired by a drawing Julian Lennon had done of a friend named Lucy. And during the early 70's the U.S. army, on order by then President Nixon, compiled a list of songs and warned radio stations not to play any of the songs in the list or risk losing their license. Among the songs is "Puff, the Magic Dragon" by Peter, Paul and Mary, which many thought is a euphemism for smoking marijuana. However, the group insisted that the song is merely about a boy, his mystical magic dragon, and growing up.

The most extensive investigation regarding a song was a 2-year investigation of the song "Louie Louie" done by FBI from 1963. Rumors circulated that the song contained dirty words that were intelligible only when the record was played at a slower speed. After the extensive examinations, FBI concluded "Louie Louie" was "unintelligible at any speed".

Random Odds & Ends
  • The first music video was "Bohemian Rhapsody" by Queen, which was shown on the British show Top of the Pops in 1975. The first video shown on MTV was "Video Killed the Radio Star" by the Buggles, aired on August 1, 1981 at 12:01 am when MTV first signed on the air.
  • Elvis Presley earned $5,000 on his first record contract. In 2004, Elvis earned $40 million, most of it goes to his daughter, Lisa Marie, who owns his estate.
  • 2 Live Crew was arrested in 1990 when a federal court declared their 80-minute LP to be "obscene." The said album contains 226 uses of F-word, 87 descriptions of oral sex, and many references to female and male genitals.
  • Led Zeppelin's "Stairway to Heaven" is the most famous Rock song of all time but never charted because it was never released as a single to the general public. Radio stations received promotional singles which quickly became collector's items.
  • Phil Collins was one of the school kids brought in as extras for a scene in the Beatles movie "A Hard Days Night." He didn't make the cut, but years later, the film's producer gave Collins the outtake footage with him in it and had Collins add commentary to the DVD release.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Lost In Translation

Babelfish is one of the most famous translation tool in the web. It had been around for some time and is very useful when translating phrases or even entire websites into another language. It can be funny sometimes too - for example, try translating "Would you be shocked if I put on something more comfortable?" into korean, then copy the korean text and translate it back to english.

Advertisers even do worse when it comes to translation. For example, I have mentioned in previous post that KFC's slogan of "Finger Lickin' Good" was initially translated into chinese as "eat fingers off". Another one is Pepsi's "Come Alive with the Pepsi Generation". The chinese translation came out as "Pepsi will bring your ancestors back from the dead". And Coors's "Turn It Loose" was loosely translated to mexican as "Suffer from diarrhea".

Then there is the case of Salem's 3-word slogan campaign: "Salem - Feeling Free". In Japanese, advertisers translated this as "When smoking Salem, you feel so refreshed that your mind seems to be free and empty".

Sometimes the brand names are the ones that gives translation headache. In 2003, Buick tested their car "Lacrosse" to a group of teenagers in Quebequois, Canada and everytime the car name is being mentioned, the teens giggled. The company found out that Lacrosse means "to masturbate" in French Canadian slang. Another car, the Ford Pinto means "small genitals" in Brazilian. Ford renamed the car the Corcel which means horse or steed.

In Italy "sega" is a popular slang for male masturbation. So, the popular videogame makers SEGA Enterprises, attempting to disassociate SEGA from sega, changed the pronunciation to "see-ga" in their ads. Many Italians are surprised to learn that SEGA is not pronounced see-ga, but say-ga, outside of Italy.

When Coca-Cola first entered the chinese market in 1928, they found out that there is no representation of the name in chinese characters. The company did an extensive research to be able to come-up with something that sounded like "ko-ka-ko-la". However, before they come up with the official characters, chinese shopkeepers began putting up signs that would sound as "ko-ka-ko-la". However, the sign meant "Bite the wax tadpole" when read. Read more.

Movies face the same predicament when it was shown in foreign countries. "Dumb and Dumber" was called "Two Stupid, Stupid People" in Spain, "Blair Witch Project" was "Night in the Cramped Forest" in China, "Boogie Nights" was "His Powerful Device Makes Him Famous" in China, and "Pretty Woman" was titled "I'm Rich but I like Cheap Prostitutes" in Germany.

Even famous world leaders are guilty of mistranslations. In 1963, John F. Kennedy made a trip to the Berlin Wall and made his famous announcement, "Ich bin ein Berliner." He had meant to say "I am a citizen of Berlin", which would be "Ich bin Berliner" (without the ein). Ein Berliner is a popular jelly doughnut. So what JFK actually said was, "I am a doughnut". In 1989, nearly 30 years after JFK's Berliner speech, Ronald Reagan said the same phrase and made the same mistake.

In a trip to Poland after the fall of the Soviet empire, US president Jimmy Carter offered aid to the Poles, saying that he wanted to know their desires, but the translator used the word for "lust" instead. The translated sentence came out as "I lust for Poles."

Random Odds & Ends
  • An American t-shirt maker in Miami printed shirts for the Spanish market which promoted the Pope's visit. Instead of the desired "I saw the Pope" in Spanish, the shirts proclaimed "I saw the Potato." ("Papa" with capital P means "Pope", "papa" with an accent on the last "a" means father, "papa" means potato).
  • Odds that a new york city driver was born in the U.S. - 1 in 10
  • Ray Charles endorsed Coke in 1969 and Pepsi in 1989.
  • Stalin deemed crossword puzzles bourgeois and degenerate and was once banned in Soviet Union.
  • Because of the shortage of Arabic translators, an arabic wiretap recorded by NSA on September 10, 2006 was translated only after 2 days later -September 12. The message was translated as "tomorrow is zero hour."

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Secret Recipes

Here are three of the most-guarded secret recipes in the world:

Krispy Kreme Doughnut:

When people talk about a Krispy Kreme doughnut, they're usually referring to the signature variety - the Original Glaze - which was created by Joe LeBeau, a New Orleans cook, in 1933. The recipe is now being kept in an envelope inside a combination lock at the company's headquarters in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. To ensure that it will remain confidential, three separate groups of workers prepare separate portions of the doughnut and then mixed together at the plant.

KFC Chicken:

The recipe for the Colonel's chicken is locked in a vault at Kentucky Fried Chicken headquarters in Louisville, Kentucky and is accessible to only 2 people. As with Krispy Kreme, KFC has two separate companies that prepare half of the portion of the recipe, thereby ensuring secrecy. It is then blended in a way, which according to KFC, cannot be reverse engineered.

In 2000, a couple purchased the Colonel's house in Kentucky and claimed to have discovered the secret recipe in a book written by the Colonel which is hidden in the Attic. KFC quicky sued the couple, but later dropped it after determining that the ingredients were not the actual KFC recipe.


Better known as "Merchandise 7x" by the Coca-Cola employees, the formula for Coke is kept in a bank vault in Atlanta, Georgia, and is very seldom seen. The company's bylaws specify that only 2 high-ranking executives will know the formula at any one time, and is passed down only by word of mouth. The company even have a policy that those 2 executives cannot fly on the same plane at the same time.

In 1954 a rumor spread through Morocco that Coca-Cola contained pig's blood, which would have made it taboo among Muslims. The beverage remained under suspicion until the sultan's son publicly drank a Coke. The company eagerly publicizes one fact about its ingredients — that the glycerine used is extracted from vegetable matter, not pork.

In 1977, the Indian government demanded Coca-Cola to disclose the soda's ingredients. Rather than submit, Coca-Cola stopped its business and left the country, only returning in 1993.

So the next time you are in KFC and having a combo meal of original recipe chicken with Coke, remind yourself that you are putting in your stomach two of the world's top secrets.

Random Odds & Ends:
  • When KFC first translated its advertising slogan "finger lickin' good" into Chinese, it came out as "eat your fingers off."
  • KFC products are the most popularly requested items for US death row inmates' final meals.
  • On May 15, 1950, Coke became the first product ever to appear on the cover of Time Magazine.
  • The first Coca-Cola was sold on May 8, 1886 at a soda fountain in Jacob's Pharmacy in Atlanta. It was originally marketed for its medicinal qualities.
  • Krispy Kreme produces enough doughnuts in about a week to make a line of doughnuts from New York City to Los Angeles.
  • The hole in the center of the doughnut is credited to a young boy named Hanson Gregory, who, in 1847, suggested to his mother that she put a hole in the middle of her “fried cakes” to ensure the cake was fully cooked in the middle.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Body Art

The word "tattoo" comes from the tahitian word "tatau" which means "to mark something". It may have been picked up by sailors — the first to popularize tattoing in the West — who likely learned techniques from their travels at sea. The actual origins of tattooing are unknown, since evidence traces it to nearly all ancient cultures, from Maori tribesmen to the Thracian women of fifth-century Greece, to the Ainu of Japan, to the indigenous tribes in polynesia. In fact, "Oetzi, The Iceman" - the oldest and best-preserved frozen mummy ever found - had 57 tattoos.

Tattoos have served as rites of passage, marks of status and rank, symbols of religious and spiritual devotion, decorations for bravery, sexual lures and marks of fertility, pledges of love, amulets and talismans. Ancient Greeks marked criminals and slaves with tattoos as a form of punishment.

Tattooed Roman soldiers popularized the art form, spreading it across the Roman Empire. However, roman emperor Constantine banned tattooing after deeming it un-Christian.

Prior to 2004, tattoing is illegal in South Carolina and Oklahoma. In 1999, there was a sensational case of illegal tattoing in South Carolina, as Ronald White appeared on TV tattoing a customer. 10 days after that, police officers dressed in full combat gear and bulletproof vests arrested him at his home. White was then sentenced to a year in prison and a $2,500 fine. It was later reduced when White appealed that tattoing is a form of art and should be a part of the first ammendment. The tattooing ban was lifted in 2004 in South Carolina and in 2006 in Oklahoma.

In 1936, 10 million Americans have tattoos. Today, the figure rose to 40 million. However, 17% of those people regret getting a tattoo, but a mere 2% only actually have it removed.

Some of the historical world leaders with tattoos are: Winston Churchill (anchor), Joseph Stalin (death's head) and Franklin D. Roosevelt (family crest).

If you are aspiring to become a tattoo artist, you should be aware that you could be sued for misspelling. Dan O'Connor was sued when he misspelled "Fighting Irish" as "Fighing Irish". Another tattoo-related lawsuit arose when Joseph Beahm misspelled "Why not, everyone else does" as "Why not, everyone elese does". And Lee Beck got sued for inking chinese characters which are supposed to say "Love, honor and obey", but made a frank by inking letters that actually said "This boy is ugly".

Now, if you need extra money, you can use your head as a billboard space. Jim Nelson in 2003, for example, put his head on eBay for auction, which was won by CI-Host, a web hosting company based in Dallas entitling it to tattoo its bright orange and blue logo onto Nelson's head. The fee was $7,000.

Random Odds & Ends
  • Humans shed about 600,000 particles of skin every hour - about 1.5 pounds a year. By 70 years of age, an average person will have lost 105 pounds of skin.
  • The Nazis, during the Holocaust, used human skin as a substitute for leather in the manufacture of lampshades and shoes, among other things.
  • A fetus acquires fingerprints at the age of three months.
  • Every person has a unique tongue print.
  • Every time you lick a stamp, you're consuming 1/10 of a calorie.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

The Cyberworld

The Internet has become a part of our society and our daily life. More and more people are becoming dependent on this technology, primarily on seeking information, but also for other purposes as well, such as business, communication, entertainment, and of course, sex.

Internet and sex seems to go hand in hand, and there is even a joke that the Internet was invented primarily because of sex. In fact, according to a recent survey, the odds that an internet search includes the word "sex" is 1 in 300. As there are about 200 million searches performed in Google everyday, that is around 660,000 "sex" searches everyday in Google alone. Other terms as "porn", "nude" and "xxx" are also in the top 20 search terms.

The birth of the Internet, actually can be traced as far back as September 2, 1969. On that day, several graduate students at UCLA hooked up an Internet Message Processor with a computer in the school, the first instance of data being sent back and forth through a central processor. The school put out a press release announcing "UCLA to be the first station in nationwide computer network". Not one newspaper thought it was important enough to print.

The first actual communication between two computers happened on October 29, 1969, when a computer at Stanford was hooked up to the same Internet Message Processor in UCLA. The word "L-O-G-I-N" was typed at UCLA; Stanford received "L-O-G" before it's computer crashed, ending the first message sent across cyberspace.

Email had its beginnings in 1971 when Ray Tomlinson devised a program called SNDMSG that allowed users on a computer in Cambridge, Mass. lab to send messages to other computers in the same lab. While the Guiness Book of World Records says the first email message was "QWERTYUIOP", Tomlinson said that he doesn't remember what he wrote, only that he was afraid of being caught by his boss. Tomlinson is also the one who invented using "@" to address email recipients.

Today email messages around the world travels at about 10,000 miles per second, and is widely used for personal, business and spam - the term used for unsolicited email advertisement. The term "spam" was only coined in 1994 but the first actual spam email was sent on May 3, 1978 when the marketing department of Digital Equipment Corp (DEC) sent out email to some 600 individuals announcing an event at which the company's new computer would be showcased.

In 1995, there were only about 1.3 million total number of web pages. By the end of 2004, there were about 8 Billion. Domain names itself becomes an asset. For example, the domain name Business.com was sold for $7.5 million, AsSeenOnTv.com for $5.1 million, and Altavista.com for $3.3 million.

Speaking of domain names, be careful if ever you select one for yourself. Make sure it can not be presented in a way with another meaning. For example PenIsland.net seems a good name for a website that specializes in custom-made pens. But then again, one would read the name as PenisLand.net. Or, if you are looking for a family or marriage therapist, TherapistFinder.com seems a good way to start. Unless you misread it as TheRapistFinder.com.

Domain names are limited to 63 characters (excluding suffixes), and currently the two sites using all 63 characters are the website for the longest name of town which I mentioned in previous post, and this site about the longest things in the world.

Random Odds & Ends
  • The original name for the computer mouse is "x-y position indicator for a display".
  • In 1988, there are only 6 known computer viruses. By the end of 2003, there are 137,529 viruses identified.
  • In 1976, Ron Wayne sold his 10% stake in Apple to Steve Jobs for $500. Today, that 10% stake is worth $1.3 billion.
  • ENIAC, the world's first computer weighed 30 tons and can perform 5,000 calculations per second. Today, the fastest computer can do 41 trillion calculations per second.
  • 41% of computer users have considered physically assaulting their computers. 7% have actually done so.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

The Gum Story

About 5 years ago, there was a scientific study that claims that chewing gum improves one's memory by about 35%. The researchers were not sure why, but their finding is that a test group that chewed gum recalled more and performed better on exams than another group that did not. One theory is that chewing gum releases insulin which stimulates the part of the brain related to memory.

Could this mean that people in Singapore are more forgetful? This Asian country outlawed the sale of chewing gum in 1992 as a way to reduce littering, and violators are actually jailed. In 2004, the ban was lifted (due to US government pressure), but now only allows the sale of gum for medicinal purposes from drugstores. Today, you cannot buy gum in Singapore unless you give your name and identification.

This is quite the opposite in the U.S. where the people love chewing gum. Recent statistics show that an average american will chew about 300 pieces of gum in a year. There is even a place in San Luis Obispo, California called "Bubble Gum Alley". Here, two facing walls have been decorated with thousands of wads of used chewing gum deposited by passersby over several decades. Now an attraction, the site have about 300 visitors a day.

In University of Arizona dental museum, there is a chewing gum on display. This gum was the one chewed by gangster John Dillinger (a known gum chewer) when he was captured. And in 2002, Curt Mueller paid a whopping $10,000 for a gum that was chewed and spit out by baseball all-star Luis Gonzales. So, next time you are in MLB or NBA game, collect those gums spit out by star players, put them in a glass, and auction it in eBay. Who knows, maybe this is your opportunity to get rich and not rely too much on Google AdSense or affiliate marketing.

It is still debatable as to how chewing gum was invented. Some people claimed that it was invented by the Mayans over 300 years ago. They boiled the sap of the sapodilla tree and chewed it. The earliest known (named) chewing gum sold in the U.S. is "State of Maine Pure Spruce Gum". It was created by John Curtis, who, in 1848 brewed up a batch of the gum by using pulp from a spruce tree. The sales was not too successful, apparently because the gum tasted like, well, spruce tree. It was in 1872 that the first flavored gum came out. Named "Black Jack", it is also the fist gum to be sold in sticks.

Today, Wrigley is the biggest manufacturer of chewing gums. It was, however, not the original product sold by the company. In 1891, William Wrigley, started selling scouring soap and as a marketing scheme, he offered baking soda to customers. When Wrigley found out the consumers cared more about the baking soda, he started selling it as his principal product and giving chewing gum as bonus. Again, the gum proved to be more popular so Wrigley switch to gum for his business and never looked back.

Wrigley was, actually, a marketing genius. In 1915, he mailed out gum to every person listed in US phone directory (about 1.5 million homes), and did it again in 1919 to 7 million households. Today, Wrigley continues the tradition of innovation, with producing numerous flavors on one single product and devising ingenious marketing schemes. The company had actually created a gum to treat erectile dysfunction, but they have to wait until Viagra patent expires in 2011 before they can sell the product. I'm guessing we can see an increase to the number of men chewing gum even more.

Random Odds & Ends
  • Americans eat the equivalent of 100 acres of pizza each day, or about 350 slices per second.
  • Ancient Greeks believed that drinking beer would cause leprosy.
  • Hawaii is the only state in the U.S. that grows coffee.
  • Denmark ranks as the largest per capita consumer of candies. An average Dane would consume 35.1 pounds of candy per year.
  • Honey is believed to be the only food that does not spoil. Honey found in the tombs of Egyptian pharaohs has been tasted by archaeologists and found to still be edible.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

First Ladies

Nov 2008 will be the next presidential elections in the US. While we are yet to find out if Hillary Clinton will be the first woman president of the US, it is worth to know other women who were first in different interesting areas.

Geraldine Ferraro was Walter Mondale's running mate for US presidency in 1984 and was the first ever female US vice-presidential candidate.

The first ever female prime minister was Sirimavo Bandaranaike. Known affectionately in Sri Lanka as "Mrs. B", she was prime minister for 12 years, serving in two separate terms 1960-65 and 1970-77.

In 1896, Alice Guy became the first woman to write and direct a movie film, La fee aux choux (The Cabbage Fairy). She was actually working as a secretary and was only allowed to direct as long as it didn't interfere with her secretarial work. She ended up making about 800 films.

Sabiha Gocken was the first female combat pilot. She earned her pilot wings in 1937 and in the same year, took part in bombing campaigns against rebels in eastern Turkey. In 2001, an airport in Istanbul was named after her. In the US, the first female fighter pilot to see action was Lt. Andrea Quy, who piloted an F-14 and bombed a target in Iraq on Dec. 18, 1998.

On June 16, 1963, Valentina Tereshkova was launched into orbit by the Soviet Union, becoming the first woman in space. Actually, another woman (Tatyana Morozycheva) was initially chosen by Russia's space agency, but she became pregnant before the scheduled launch date. It wasn't until 1983 that US launced Sally Ride, its first woman into space.

Hiding behind a mask and going by the name Senorita X, Juanita Cruz became the first woman bullfighter in 1933. She wore the mask to prevent her parents from recognizing her.

In sports, Roberta Gibb was the first woman to run the Boston marathon. Her application was initially declined as race officials refused, saying women couldn't run such long distance.

In 1931, Jackie Mitchell, pitching for the Chattanooga Lookout, stuck out baseball legends Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig. It was only an exhibition game, but nonetheless, she became the first woman to pitch in a proffessional baseball game.

On Sept 1992, Manon Rheaume played as goalkeeper for the Tampa Bay Lightning in a preseason game against St.Louis Blues, becoming the first woman to play in an NHL hockey game. She made seven saves and allowed two goals. In September 1979, the Indiana Pacers invited Anne Meyers to try out for the team during a rookie free-agent camp. She became the first woman to try out for an NBA team.

Finally, South African Ruth Tapscott caused a stir when in 1927 she went bare-legged (no stockings) at Wimbledon. Lili De Alvarez was the first woman to play wearing shorts in Wimbledon in 1931.

Random Odds & Ends:
  • The average woman uses up approximately her height in lipstick every five years.
  • Today, Japan leads the world in condom use. Like cosmetics, they're sold door to door, by women.
  • A Saudi Arabian woman can get a divorce if her husband doesn't give her coffee.
  • America's first nudist organization was founded in 1929, by 3 men.
  • Women shoplift more often than men; the statistics are 4 to 1.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

What's Your Address?

I was filling up some paper forms the other day, and I was really annoyed, as I don't enjoy doing a lot of handwriting. What makes it worse is that some of the forms have to filled up in duplicates. I was actually wondering if there is a way I could somehow do a ctrl-c, ctrl-v with my hands.

I easily get impatient writing, especially those long address. But it made me smile thinking I don't live in that famous town on Anglesey, Wales, which is named Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch. That's 58-letters, in case you counted. Actually, some character groups in Welsh are considered as one letter (i.e. ll, ng, ch) - so officially, that is only 51 letters long.

Literally it translates to: "Saint Mary's Church in the hollow of the white hazel near a rapid whirlpool and the Church of Saint Tysilio of the red cave". It is generally agreed that this name was adopted in the mid-19th century, solely to have the distiction of having the longest name of any town in Britain. It was during this period that the railway came to town and the locals decided to instigate a campaign to attract more visitors and tourists.

The official name of the place is Llanfair­pwllgwyngyll, commonly abbreviated to Llanfairpwll or the somewhat jocular Llanfair PG. But do yourself a favor - learn to say the longer name so that next time you're at a party, you will amaze other people by saying you been to the place called Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch.

In case your wondering, the place has an official website. Just for fun, I won't give you a link to it that you can click. type "http://www." then the name, then add ".co.uk". Don't use Ctrl-C!

In New Zealand, there is a hill named as Taumatawhakatangihanga- koauauotamateaturipukakapikimaungahoronukupokaiwhenuakitanatahu (85 letters. I have to hyphenate that, or it will mess up my blog layout). While in the U.S. there is a lake in Webster, Massachusetts named Chargoggagoggmanchauggagoggchaubunagungamaugg (45 letters),

A very famous place in the U.S. is named "El Pueblo de Nuestra Señora la Reina de los Ángeles del Río de Porciúncula," ("The Town of Our Lady the Queen of the Angels on the River Porciúncula"). Or in case you're wondering why I said famous, well, that place is also known as Los Angeles. Still, a lot of people find that name too long so they abbreviate it as L.A.

For the shortest name of places, the following are tied in first place:

Å - several places in Norway and Sweden
D - a river in Oregon, United States
O - name of several farms in Norway
Ö - name of four places in Sweden.
U - a place in Panama
Y - a place in Alaska, United States and in Somme, France

Random odds & ends:
  • The formal ceremonial name for Bangkok, Thailand is "Krung Thep Mahanakhon Amon Rattanakosin Mahinthara Ayuthaya Mahadilok Phop Noppharat Ratchathani Burirom Udomratchaniwet Mahasathan Amon Piman Awatan Sathit Sakkathattiya Witsanukam Prasit"
  • Q is the only letter that does not occur in the names of the states of the U.S.
  • There is only one word beginning with X in Noah Webster's first dictionary (1806). The word is XEBEC.
  • The letters Q and U are not used for naming hurricanes.
  • The road intersecting Interstate 15 near Baker, California is named ZZYZX.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Friday the 13th

This coming Friday is the 13th day of the month of April, and for those who are superstitious, it usually means being extra cautious and as much as possible avoiding activities which may be dangerous.

Although the number 13 has long been held as an unlucky number (a lot of buildings don’t have a 13th floor), it is still widely debated as to why Friday the 13th was considered unlucky day. The most common beliefs are:
  • A lot of bad events in the Bible happened on a Friday – Jesus’ crucufixion and death, Adam & Eve eating the forbidden fruit, Cain killing Abel. Some people even assert that the Great Flood started on a Friday.
  • It was Friday, October 13, 1307, when King Philip IV had many Templars arrested and executed (as mentioned in Dan Brown’s novel Da Vinci Code).
  • In Britain, as well as in Ancient Rome, Friday was known as "Hangman's Day" because that was when those condemned would be executed by being hanged. Tradition says that there were thirteen steps to the platform from where one would be publicly hanged.
Some people are so paralyzed by fear that they are simply unable to get out of bed when Friday the 13th rolls around. The clinical term for this is "paraskavedekatriaphobia"

It is actually very common occurrence for the 13th day to fall on a Friday. In fact, every year has at least one and at most three Fridays the 13th, with 48 occurences in 28 years –or an average of 1.7 times per year.

Random Odds & Ends
  • In spite of handling massive amounts of funds, the Knights Templar were scrupulously honest. Any type of fraud or theft is punishable by death.
  • On Easter in 1722, Admiral Roggeveen discovered an island filled with huge, mysterious stone heads. He named it Easter Island.
  • The Easter bunny as we know it originated in Germany in the 1500s.
  • Hindus do not eat eggs because they believe them to be a valuable source of life.
  • The name Easter owes its origin from Eastre, the Anglo-Saxon goddess who symbolizes hare and egg.