Monthly Archives: January 2009

58 across: Portuguese man-o-war (01/30)

Once again, I am working on a crossword and I get stuck. Except this time I know that I know the answer or knew it before, but I was blocked.

I tried to go to the next clue but I couldn’t do it. It was as though I couldn’t move on without looking up the clue which I will share with you now:

Portuguese man-of-war

The 9 letter answer: jellyfish

The interesting thing about that answer is that it is NOT a jellyfish, although it is often mistook for one.


Looks can be deceiving...

Here are some facts thanks to National Geographic:

Anyone unfamiliar with the biology of the venomous Portuguese man-of-war would likely mistake it for a jellyfish. Not only is it not a jellyfish, it’s not even an “it,” but a “they.” The Portuguese man-of-war is a siphonophore, an animal made up of a colony of organisms working together.

The man-of-war comprises four separate polyps. It gets its name from the uppermost polyp, a gas-filled bladder, or pneumatophore, which sits above the water and somewhat resembles an old warship at full sail. Man-of-wars are also known as bluebottles for the purple-blue color of their pneumatophores.

The tentacles are the man-of-war’s second organism. These long, thin tendrils can extend 165 feet (50 meters) in length below the surface, although 30 feet (10 meters) is more the average. They are covered in venom-filled nematocysts used to paralyze and kill fish and other small creatures. For humans, a man-of-war sting is excruciatingly painful, but rarely deadly. But beware—even dead man-of-wars washed up on shore can deliver a sting.

Muscles in the tentacles draw prey up to a polyp containing the gastrozooids or digestive organisms. A fourth polyp contains the reproductive organisms.

Man-of-wars are found, sometimes in groups of 1,000 or more, floating in warm waters throughout the world’s oceans. They have no independent means of propulsion and either drift on the currents or catch the wind with their pneumatophores. To avoid threats on the surface, they can deflate their air bags and briefly submerge.

Why does the fact that it’s not even an “it,” but a “they” still creep me out?

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Under Lake Michigan (01/29)

I have been hearing bits and pieces about a story of a discovery of an underwater stone henge, but not enough to put it all together.

So I let my fingers do the walking typing and I got to the bottom of the story.

And as it turns out, I am not the only blogger interested in this topic.

Stonehenge Beneath the Waters of Lake Michigan, Geoff Manaugh of BLDGBLOG writes:

Mark Holley, a professor of underwater archaeology at Northwestern Michigan University College, discovered a series of stones–some of them arranged in a circle and one of which seemed to show carvings of a mastodon–40-feet beneath the surface waters of Lake Michigan. If verified, the carvings could be as much as 10,000 years old–coincident with the post-Ice Age presence of both humans and mastodons in the upper midwest.

While there is obviously some doubt as to whether or not that really is a mastodon carved on a rock – let alone if it really was human activity that arranged some of the rocks into a Stonehenge-like circle – it’s worth pointing out that Michigan does already have petroglyph sites and even standing stones.

The standing stomes beneath Lake Michigan

The standing stones beneath Lake Michigan

Too bad the only interesting thing our generation will leave for future archaeologists is plastic. Way to go us.

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Woody Allen’s Woodwind (01/28)

So I was looking for images of Woody Allen for a project at work and wouldn’t ya know it – I learned something new!

Woody Allen plays the clarinet and joined the Preservation Hall Jazz Band and the New Orleans Funeral Ragtime Orchestra in performances that provided the film score for his 1973 comedy Sleeper.


But that wasn’t enough for me, so I decided to find out about other unknown (to me) actor/musicians.

Here is a list:

Charlie Chaplin played the accordion.

Bob Hope played the saxophone.

Dustin Hoffman and Anthony Hopkins play the piano.

Meryl Streep plays the violin.

and last but certainly not least,

Alyssa Milano plays the clarinet AND oboe.

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What’s Up Doc? (01/27)

Time for a game of true or false…


Bugs Bunny likes carrots.

Bugs Bunny likes carrots.

Answer: TRUE


Carrots are the preferred nose for snowmen world wide.

Carrots are the preferred nose for snowmen world wide.

Answer: TRUE


Carrots are orange.

Carrots have always & only been orange.

Answer: FALSE

Now you are probably confused. Well don’t worry, I just learned this fact myself. Here is how the orange carrot came to be.

(it’s the little carrot that could!)

Carrots date back 5000 years and were originally white, purple, red, yellow/green and black and a little on the bitter side.
The sweet orange carrot that we know and love is a product of selective breeding.

Why was the carrot chosen for selective breeding, you ask?

Well, there were some very patriotic Dutch agricultural scientists and growers and they wanted to create a carrot in the color of the House of Orange, the Dutch Royal Family. In an attempt to “nationalize” the country’s favorite vegetable they began experiments on improving the pale yellow versions by cross breeding them with red varieties. These varieties contain beta carotene to produce orange-colored roots This was developed to become the dominant species across the world – wonderful, sweet orange. (according to the Carrot Museum.)

Now that isn’t to say that other varieties have ceased to exist, I even hear that purple carrots make a great juice.

Looks like they like it!

Looks like they like it!

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Word of the Day… (01/26)

Often before going to bed, I like to read a book until I get drowsy. Still other times I enjoy playing a good game of Scrabble on my phone, such was the case last night.

It was during this game that the computer decided to play the word: FIAT

one can not 'fiated'

one can not 'fiated'

This frustrated me because I play by the rules and you CAN NOT use proper nouns. OK – I didn’t really think that the computer was trying to use a proper noun, I just didn’t know what the definition was. I wasn’t too upset about it as I did end up winning the game (318 – 211).

After gaining the satisfaction of winning, I decided to also gain the knowledge of a new definition – and here it is:

a formal authorization or proposition; a decree : adopting a legislative review program, rather than trying to regulate by fiat.
• an arbitrary order : the appraisal dropped the value from $75,000 to $15,000, rendering it worthless by bureaucratic fiat.

ORIGIN late Middle English : from Latin, ‘let it be done,’ from fieri ‘be done or made.’

Now I encourage you do use the word in a sentence this week or at least use in your next game of Scrabble.

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In like Flynn (01/25)

As I grow older, I catch myself questioning sayings that I or others around me are saying.

For instance, ‘In like Flynn’ came up in a conversation at the movie theater on Sunday. I asked aloud if Flynn refers to the swashbuckling actor, Errol Flynn, when my companion did not know- I decided to take action.

wicked, wicked ways

wicked, wicked ways


After scouring the internet (or at the least the first page of google) I discovered the following:

Apparently, “in” was used in for quite some time in regard to an individual’s success. The first time that we saw “in like Flynn” in print was in the 1946 edition of American Speech. The intention of the phrase has been explained two ways.

The PG version:

“In like Flynn, everything is O.K. In other words, the pilot is having no more trouble than Errol Flynn has in his cinematic feats.”

This version was said to be used by pilots in WWII and is the example cited in the 1946 edition of American Speech.

The Rated R version:

“Relax. You’re there. She’s practically eating out of your hand. Just buy her another drink and you’ll be in like Flynn.”

This version has more of a modern twist and refers to sexual exploits (just in case you didn’t figure that out on your own…). Supposedly Mr. Flynn was well endowed and really not ashamed in the least about it. You might say he gladly shared the – ahem- “gift” that was given him.

I was satisfied with knowing the above because it proved that my guess was correct.

However, there is one more less likely source to this saying – political organizer Edward J. Flynn.

Edward J. Flynn (R)

Edward J. Flynn (R)

Edward J. Flynn (AKA Boss Flynn) was a New York City political boss who became a campaign manager for the Democratic party during FDR’s presidency. “In like Flynn” may have been used as a political saying to boost the prominence of Boss Flynn. However, this research only surfaced after etymologists began looking in the origin.

It really becomes a what came first, the chicken or the egg – but in this instance I think its safe to say Errol came first.

Further reading:

The Straight Dope

Urban Dictionary

The Phrase Finder

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Long Live the Queen (01/24)

Just catching up from the weekend here…

Before leaving the house on Saturday for a friend’s 30th birthday, I caught a bit of a documentary on the English Parliament because nothing pumps you up  for a Saturday night out like The Queen of England.

Put your hands in the air!

Put your hands in the air!

However, it’s good thing that I took those few moments because it afforded me the opportunity to learn something new.

The Queen is Head of State of the UK and 15 other Commonwealth realms*.

*(a Commonwealth Realm is any one of the sixteen sovereign states within the Commonwealth of Nations that recognize Elizabeth II as their respective monarch.)

The realms originally were self governing Dominions* within the British Empire. This status changed with the granting of full independence to each realm.

*(Dominions refers to one of a group of semi-autonomous polities that were nominally under British sovereignty, constituting the British Empire and British Commonwealth, from the late 19th century)

The realms are as follows:

Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Jamaica, Barbados, the Bahamas, Grenada, Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, Tuvalu, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Belize, Antigua and Barbuda, and Saint Kitts and Nevis

Inadvertently, this has helped me to solve the mystery of the Canadian 20 dollar bill:

Now it makes sense, eh?

Now it makes sense, eh?

I can’t even count the number of times that I have held one these in my hands. Although, at the time I was more likely distracted by the fact that I gave the currency exchange $20 American dollars and they gave me $24 Canadian dollars back. (Why that was a whole drink for free!)

It is probably the fault of the libations consumed that I never questioned the Queen of England presence on this beautifully colored currency. Oh the memories…

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Swallowing Gum…(01/23)

Growing up you hear plenty of urban legends/myths.

My favorite from childhood is if you swallow gum it will stick to your ribs…which is just preposterous!

again I say preposterous!

again I say preposterous!

We are always quick to scoff at things that we once believed to be true, even moments after the discovery is made

Well here is another one for the books…

The Great Wall of China, although great, is not visible from outer space. Of course it isn’t! It’s right up there with the gum sticking to your ribs, if you spend a moment thinking about it makes obvious sense. Nevertheless, this myth was busted for me this morning on my car ride to work. How does the Great Wall of China come up during a morning commute, you ask? When listening to the audio book version of the World Without Us, of course.

After further researching this myth, I came across the opinion of Arthur Waldron, author of The Great Wall of China: From History to Myth. He has speculated that the belief might go back to the fascination with the “canals” once believed to exist on Mars. What will we think we see next – a puddy tat?

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Mae I ask you a question? (01/21)

Part I

Everyone knows Mae West. Even if you have never seen a her in a film, I am sure you  know at least one of her famous lines.

i.e. “Why don’t you come up an see me sometime..ooh”

Grant & West in She Done Him Wrong

Grant & West in She Done Him Wrong

Part II

Everyone knows who Roseanne is – (that’s why she doesn’t even need a last name!)

And when we think of her we probably remember her like this:


Lookin' good Arnolds!

Part III

Well here is what I learned: Mae West is one of Roseanne’s favorite comedians (Redd Foxx is her other fave). Not entirely interesting or surprising, but news to me.

Part IV

What is interesting is that learning part III of this entry makes me believe a little theory of mine even more…

About a year ago I saw my first Mae West film, She Done Him Wrong. As I was watching I couldn’t help but to be reminded of post plastic surgery Roseanne.

I had forgotten all about that thought until I watched Myra Breckinridge the other day and now I am sure (or at least there is a good chance) that Roseanne’s goal was to look a little more like her idol.

Am I right?

Am I right?

The resemblance is uncanny, if you ask me.

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Word of the Day (01/20)

I think it’s safe to say that I do at least (or at least attempt to) do one crossword a day. It can be enjoyable and relaxing, but other times I haven’t the faintest idea on what they want from me. For instance, how am I supposed to know what is ‘not decumbent’ when I don’t even know what decumbent is?

So to help you (and me) in future crosswords and/or life here is the definition:

adjective Botany
(of a plant or part of a plant) lying along the ground or along a surface, with the extremity curving upward.

ORIGIN late 18th cent.: from Latin decumbent- ‘lying down,’ from the verb decumbere, based on de- ‘down’ + a verb related to cubare ‘to lie.’


(by the way, the answer to this crossword clue was – erect) Use that tid bit any which way you please.


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