Sunday, June 30, 2019

Fourth Of July Holiday—And A Fireworks Safety Quiz

July 4, Independence Day—on this date in 1776, the Declaration of Independence was approved by the Continental Congress, setting the 13 colonies on the road to freedom as a sovereign nation. The U.S. Constitution, the document that emerged from the 1787 Philadelphia Convention, is the oldest national constitution in the world.

As always, this most American of holidays will be marked by fireworks, parades, and backyard barbecues. Fireworks displays are common throughout the world and are the focal point of many cultural and religious celebrations. Fireworks were invented in ancient China to scare away evil spirits, as a natural extension of the Chinese invention of gunpowder.
With 4th of July fireworks comes the concern for safety. A reality for the holiday is that fireworks cause thousands of injuries, and even some deaths, in addition to enough fires to make July 4 the day with the most reported fires across the United States according to the National Fire Protection Association.

So…how much do you know about fireworks safety? Here's a 9 question quiz to test your knowledge. Correct answers are at the end.

1)  How hot does a sparkler burn?
            a:  212 degrees
            b:  600 degrees
            c:  950 degrees
            d:  1200 degrees

2)  What portion of 4th of July fires are caused by fireworks?
            a:  10 percent
            b:  35 percent
            c:  50 percent
            d:  90 percent

3)  Which age group has the most injuries reported from fireworks?
            a:  under 20
            b:  20 – 40
            c:  40 – 60
            d:  60+

4)  You should skip buying fireworks in brown paper packaging as that could be a sign that they're made for professionals, not consumers.
            a:  true
            b:  false

5)  If a pack of fireworks has not fully functioned, you should cautiously relight it.
            a:  true
            b:  false

6)  What's the best way to dispose of used fireworks?
            a:  throw in trash
            b:  use hose or bucket of water to soak them then throw away
            c:  bury them

7)  Last year what was the most common fireworks injury?
            a:  fractures and sprains
            b:  contusions and lacerations
            c:  ear injuries
            d:  burns
            e:  eye injuries

8)  According to a U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission investigation, which of these were common reasons for fireworks injuries?
            a:  holding fireworks in the hand
            b:  mischief
            c:  debris or smoke from a malfunction
            d:  errant flight path from a malfunction
            e:  early or late ignition from a malfunction
            f:   all of the above

9)  Never light more than how many fireworks at a time?
            a:  1
            b:  2
            c:  3

And now, for those of you who want to see how well you did on the quiz—

1)         the correct answer is d…1200 degrees F, hot enough to burn certain metals and ignite clothing.

2)         the correct answer is c…50 percent, when shooting fireworks keep a bucket of water or sand available.

3)         the correct answer is a…under 20, children 10 – 14 are more than twice as much at risk for fireworks injuries.

4)         the correct answer is a…true.

5)         the correct answer is b…false, any malfunctioning fireworks should be soaked in water and then thrown away

6)         the correct answer is b…use hose or bucket of water to soak them and then throw them away

7)         the correct answer is d…burns

8)         the correct answer is f…all of the above

9)         the correct answer is a…light just 1 at a time.

Happy…and safe…holiday to everyone.

Sunday, June 23, 2019

Did Butch Cassidy Survive?

We've seen the Paul Newman-Robert Redford movie, Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid, where they supposedly die in a shoot out with the Bolivian army in 1908.  At the end of the movie, they rush out of the building with guns blazing and are surrounded by soldiers unleashing a barrage of bullets.  The scene freezes with them still on their feet and the closing credits roll across the screen.  We never actually see them die, but it's implied in the same way that the real life story of Butch Cassidy alludes to him having died in South America.

But, to paraphrase Mark Twain, perhaps the story of his death was greatly exaggerated.

For decades rumors have persisted that Butch survived the shoot out, returned to the United States, and lived in quiet anonymity in Washington state under an assumed name for nearly thirty years.

And swirling at the center of the controversy is a 200 page manuscript titled Bandit Invincible: The Story of Butch Cassidy written in 1934 by William T. Phillips, a machinist who died in Spokane, Washington, in 1937.  A Utah book collector and a Montana author believe that the manuscript is not a biography of the famous outlaw, but actually an autobiography and that Phillips was really Butch Cassidy.  They insist the manuscript contains details that only the real Butch Cassidy could have known.

As with all speculative versions of history, there are always detractors to the theory, historians who claim the manuscript is not an accurate portrayal of Cassidy's life…or at least his life that is known.

Everyone pretty much agrees that Butch Cassidy was born Robert LeRoy Parker in 1866 in Beaver, Utah.  He was the oldest of 13 children in a Mormon family and robbed his first bank in 1889 in Telluride, Colorado.  He served a year and a half in the Wyoming Territorial Prison in Laramie followed by most of the next 20 years spent robbing banks and trains with his Wild Bunch gang.

A Cassidy historian disagrees with the speculative conclusions about the nature of the Bandit Invincible manuscript.  He suggests that the reason Phillips knew so many details about Butch that others wouldn't have known was because the two men actually knew each other rather than Phillips having been the real Butch Cassidy.

In 1991 a grave was dug up in San Vicente, Bolivia, reputed to contain the remains of Butch and Sundance.  DNA testing revealed that the bones did not belong to the two outlaws.  However, the Cassidy historian still insists his research confirms that Butch and Sundance died in that 1908 shoot out in Bolivia.

There are stories about the Sundance Kid living long after his time in South America, but they are outnumbered by the many alleged Butch Cassidy sightings.  A brother and sister of Butch's insisted that he stopped in for a visit at the family ranch in Utah in 1925.  Phillips' adopted son believed that his stepfather was the real Butch Cassidy.  Since Phillips was cremated following his death in 1937, there's little possibility of being able to obtain any type of a DNA match.

So the mystery continues…

Sunday, June 16, 2019

Dark Origins Of Fairy Tales

The origins of fairy tales dates back thousands of years. The history of fairy tales or fairy stories have fantasy creatures and talking animals. Enchantments and far-fetched events are also usually part of the plot. Unlike legends and folklore tales, they seldom contain any references to religion, actual places, persons or events. The term "once upon a time" is used rather than an actual reference to a date. Early oral fairy tales and folklore were for adults as much as for children. The early written fairy tales of the literary type definitely contained strictly adult material. In many instances, they were quite gruesome. They became more children's fairy tales in the 19th and 20th centuries.

There are two theories that have attempted to explain the common elements in the text of the different fairy tales found spread over many continents. One theory is that a tale comes from a single source and spreads from culture to culture over time. A good example of this is the story of Aladdin, his flying carpet, magic lamp, and the genie. Disney made an animated movie of the tale and a live action film was just made. We all associate the story and the characters with the mideast/Arab world. In reality, the original tale came from China. The other theory is that these tales reference common human experience from many cultures and over time evolved into tales of similar human experiences. The first written fairy tales were from ancient Egypt and occurred around 1300 BC. It is amazing to find very similar stories/plots occurring in the folklore from different countries at different times and in totally different cultures.

Many of our most pervasive stories can be found in tales of the Brothers Grimm and even earlier, and have changed a great deal along the way. All the blindings, sexual misconduct, and death has been mostly scrubbed away in the last century or so. None of the stories with people getting nailed into barrels and thrown down hills or into ponds have really made it into the mainstream. Take a look at a few terrifying, gruesome, often bizarre early versions of ubiquitous fairy tales. Warning—the original versions of these fairy tales contain grisly details.

Sleeping Beauty:
In one of the very earliest versions of this classic story published in 1634, the princess does not prick her finger on a spindle, instead getting a sliver of flax stuck under her fingernail. She falls down, apparently dead, but her father cannot face the idea of losing her, so he lays her body on a bed in one of his estates. Later, a king out hunting in the woods finds her, and since he can't wake her up, rapes her while she's unconscious, then heads home to his own country. Some time after that, still unconscious, she gives birth to two children, and one of them accidentally sucks the splinter out of her finger, so she wakes up. The king who raped her is already married, but he burns his wife alive so he and the princess can be together. To keep everything "morally sound," the wife tries to kill and eat the babies first. Not exactly the type of story to tell children at bedtime.

Little Red Riding Hood
The Brothers Grimm actually made this story a lot nicer than it was when they originally got their hands on it. In the original version from 1697, there is no intrepid huntsman. Little Red simply strips naked, gets in bed, and then dies, eaten up by the big bad wolf. In another even darker version, she eats her own grandmother first. In the Chinese version of the story, it is a tiger instead of a wolf that is the villain and eats the girl.

This story is pretty simple. The miller's daughter is trapped and forced to spin straw into gold or be killed. A little man appears to her, and spins it for her, but says that he will take her child in payment unless she can guess his name. In the Grimm fairy tale, when she finally figures out Rumpelstiltskin's name, he yells, "The Devil told you that! The Devil told you that!" He stamps his right foot so hard that he drives it into the ground right up to his waist. Then he takes hold of his left foot with both hands and tears himself in two. Again, certainly not acceptable fare for children, whether bedtime or not.

In the Grimm story, not only do the stepsisters cut off parts of their feet in order to fit into the glass slippers where the blood pooling in their shoes gives them away, but at the end, they have their eyes pecked out by doves, just for good measure.

Snow White
In the original 1812 Grimm Brothers version, the evil Queen is Snow White's actual mother rather than her stepmother, which makes the story more terrifying. The Disney version also left out the fact that the Queen sends the huntsman out to bring back Snow White's liver and lungs, which she then means to eat. In the Grimm version, she's not in a deep sleep when the prince finds her—she's dead. The prince, being an enthusiastic participant in necrophilia, is taking her dead body to his castle when his servant trips, jostles the coffin, and dislodges the poison apple from her throat. And once again, the Brothers Grimm gave the story a gruesome consequence for the villain. When the queen shows up at Snow White's wedding, she's forced to step into iron shoes that had been cooking in the fire, and then dances until she falls down dead.

Hansel and Gretel
The version of the story we know is already pretty gruesome—the evil stepmother abandons the children to die in the forest, they happen upon a cannibalistic witch's cottage who fattens them up to eat They outwit then kill the witch and escape. The Grimm version is basically the same, but an early French version, called The Lost Children, has an even more gruesome ending.

Rapunzel, Rapunzel, let down your hair. In the Grimm version, she does just that for a prince on numerous occasions and winds up pregnant. She innocently mentions to her jailer witch that her clothes feel too tight. The witch doesn't want any competition so she chops off Rapunzel's hair and magically transports her far away, where she lives as a beggar with no money, no home, and after a few months, two hungry mouths to feed. As for the prince, the witch lures him up and then pushes him from the window. Some thorn bushes break his fall, but also poke out his eyes. But, surprisingly, there is a happy ending.

Goldilocks and the Three Bears
In this tale's earliest known incarnation, there was no Goldilocks—only the three bears and a fox named Scrapefoot, who enters the three bears' palace, sleeps in their beds and messes around with their salmon of knowledge. In the end, she either gets thrown out of the window or eaten, depending on who's telling the tale. Interestingly, it has been suggested that the use of the word vixen to mean female fox is how we got to Goldilocks, by means of a crafty old woman in the intervening story incarnations.

Sunday, June 9, 2019

Weird Origins Of 12 Beloved Nursery Rhymes

Nursery rhymes and fairy tales—many have dark and disturbing origins.  This week's blog talks about nursery rhymes. Next week's blog will put a light on fairy tales.

You have to admit that there's something a little strange about a group of toddlers chanting a nonsensical nursery rhyme. But if you stop and examine the lyrics of these iconic ballads, you’ll notice the songs barely conceal their wicked origins.

Behind most nursery rhymes lurks hundreds of years of history that we routinely ignore. But the veil of light hearted fun has been lifted revealing their dark origins.

1. Mary, Mary Quite Contrary: Vivid images of a sweet little gardener pruning rose bushes leap to mind. However, the Mary in question was far more sinister than a flower enthusiast. Mary I of England, otherwise known as Bloody Mary, was given the gruesome nickname due to her ruthless persecution of Protestants. In the rhyme, the cockleshells and silver bells refer to instruments of torture. Not so kid friendly!

2. Three Blind Mice: Queen Mary was so bloodthirsty she inspired several nursery rhymes chronicling her behavior. The knife-wielding farmer’s wife mentioned in the story? Yep—it's Queen Mary I again.

3. Here We Go Round The Mulberry Bush: Kids on the playground skipping in circles and singing the familiar tune don't realize is was created by the female inmates of England’s Wakefield Prison. Doing laps around the mulberry bush was the daily exercise routine for prisoners. In fact, the bush in question still exists on the grounds of Wakefield.

4. Pop Goes The Weasel: If you grew up in the U.S., this rhyme was lumped together with Mulberry Bush which makes sense as they use the same musical tune. In England, children were familiar with different lyrics… “Half a pound of tuppenny rice, half a pound of treacle; That’s the way the money goes,” were the weekly groceries paid for by pawning off Dad’s suit, or “Pop! goes the weasel.”

5. Rub-A-Dub-Dub: As far as bath-time songs go, it’s a safer bet to teach your kids Ernie’s “Rubber Duckie” tune from Sesame Street. The nursery rhyme Rub-A-Dub-Dub is the opposite of squeaky clean. In the 18th century, embarrassed butchers, bakers, and candlestick makers had to endure the shame of their indiscreet recreational behaviors being revealed such as visiting peep shows and bathhouses and being immortalized in song. No one is quite sure how it ended up as a nursery rhyme.

6. Goosey Goosey Gander: Running through the lyrics you'll discover that the song describes a moral enforcer who busts into women’s rooms and tosses their unmarried, and therefore sinful, partners down the staircase. This one doesn’t bother pretending to be kid friendly. But it still has a more layered meaning. Back in the 16th century when Goosey Gander emerged, the Protestants offered rewards for Catholic Priests’ heads. Apparently, the rhyme details the popular execution method reserved for the clergyman.

7. Rock-A-Bye Baby: Believe it or not, the gentle lullaby stems from the scandalous family drama surrounding King James II’s first son. Rumor had it the King and his second wife, Mary of Modena, arranged to take in someone else’s baby and presented him as their male heir.

8. Jack and Jill: This one is definitely not about a pair of clumsy siblings. Jack falling down, and subsequently breaking his crown, was the twisted spin on France’s King Louis XVI’s death by guillotine. Jill, now known to be King Louis XVI’s wife Marie Antoinette, went the same way as her husband. The nursery rhyme paints her grim guillotine ending as “tumbling down after.”

9. Baa Baa Black Sheep: This baaad boy sheep was presenting his “yeah, you know I’ve got wool” face. But even with a hefty coat like the one wrapped around this fluffy guy, somebody is going home wool-less. “None for the Little Boy that cries in the lane,” seems like a harsh snub for that poor child. That’s exactly what the originators intended since the rhyme was a commentary on the high wool taxes in medieval England.

10. Georgie Porgie: The crude rhyme poked fun at the weight of George IV of England, who apparently had a habit of stepping outside of his marriage. Georgie notoriously fathered many illegitimate children and recognized a second wife, ignoring the public perception.

11. London Bridge Is Falling Down: Over the years, there hasn’t been a definitive explanation of this bizarre yet cheery song of structural collapse. However, in 1844, a travel writer named Samuel Laing spotted a big clue while translating a Norwegian text. Tracing through the Norse text he found a verse about Viking King Olaf II leading a brutal attack on the famous bridge in the years 1009 or 1014. However, this was never confirmed.

12. Humpty Dumpty: If you take a quick look at the lyrics, you’ll notice there’s not even one example of identifying Humpty as an egg-like creature. Nevertheless, everyone is sure he’s an egg. However, there’s more to the story. Humpty Dumpty represents two different subjects: one human, one weapon. The man: King Richard III, nicknamed The Hunchback King. The device: a trusty English Civil War cannon.

Sunday, June 2, 2019

10 Incredible Scientific Discoveries About Dogs

Dogs—commonly referred to as man's best friend. Somewhere between 11,000 and 15,000 years ago, dogs were among the first of the animals to be domesticated by man and are well known for being loving and loyal. They also have many lesser-known and quite fascinating traits.

Here's a list of 10 of those qualities.

10) They have 3 eyelids. Like people, dogs have top and bottom ones that move up and down. They also have one that originates in the corner of the eye and moves side to side. Its purpose is to clear mucus and debris from the eye, something we humans do with our hands.

9) Dogs really do love their humans. MRI scans reveal that when presented with the scents of various people and canines, the reward centers of the dog's brain is most responsive to the aromas of their human companions.

8) They're just as smart as toddlers. Specially designed IQ tests show that dogs' capabilities are on par with the typical 2-year-old. That means they're capable of learning over 150 words and gestures.

7) Dog paws often smell like snack foods. There's some debate as to whether the particular scent is popcorn or corn chips, but either way the cause of it has been linked to a bacteria dogs pick up while walking.

6) Canines possess the ability of night vision. It's not on the same level as cats, but it is superior to that of humans. A dog's pupils are larger and their central retinas have more cells dedicated to light sensitivity than to color detection. That gives them an upper hand when it comes to making out objects in dim light.

5) Every nose is unique. The Canadian Kennel Club has been using nose prints as a means of individual identification since the 1930s and many organizations have followed suit.

4) They most likely dream. Proof isn't at the 100 percent mark, but there is an abundance of support backing the claim. Much of it is based on brain attributes and behaviors that dogs and humans share. Among them are structure and the occurrence of electrical impulses during the deep sleep stage.

3) Fur isn't just about warmth. In the summer it acts as insulation, keeping heat from reaching their bodies. Fur also protects their skin from the sun's damaging rays.

2) They really do listen when you talk. Even better, they've been shown to understand a lot of what's being said. Though they're not able to decipher the words, dogs can interpret certain sounds and the message's overall emotional tone.

1) Dogs aren't nearly as sweaty as humans. That's largely because rather than having sweat glands all over the bodies, as people do, dogs only have them in their paws. To cool off, they rely mostly on panting.