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 "". 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.