Mayday Mayday (MAY)

Remember when Ferris Bueller said:

Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.


Well, it’s true and that is pretty much what happened to May for me. I learned many things that have either been integrated or forgotten, but with June,  I begin anew!

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Walking and Auking (04/30)

I have always thought that the Auk was a flightless bird.

You call those wings?

You call those wings?

However, that is only true for the Great Auk which is now extinct (and pictured above). The Auks that are around today certainly enjoy their evolved wings…

Go Little Bird Go!

Go Little Auk Go!

BONUS FACT: The Great Auk is was the only species in the genus Pinguinus, a group which included several flightless giant auks from the Atlantic, to survive until modern times!

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So What if I Learned This From a Movie Trailer (04/29)

I saw a preview for the movie, Music Within, which is based on the true story of Richard Pimentel, the man who is credited with championed the Americans with Disabilities Act, into becoming law.


Here is summary of his life story as found on

Richard Pimentel was pronounced dead at birth in the delivery room. In a miraculous turn of events, he lived. His mother, who had experienced three miscarriages before his birth, left him in an orphanage, unable to come to terms with his existence. After his father’s death, he was raised by his impoverished grandmother and deemed “retarded” by a school guidance counselor. He never spoke a word until age six.

After his mother abandoned him again for a new boyfriend, Richard was left homeless and roamed from friend’s homes to his father’s old workplace, a strip bar. He lived and slept in the dressing room. During these hard times, he managed to win two national high school speech championships and was offered a college scholarship by College Bowl founder, Dr. Ben Padrow. Richard arrived on campus only to hear Dr. Padrow tell him to come back when he had “something to say.”

Richard followed Dr. Padrow’s advice and quit school. Soon after he was drafted to Vietnam, where he survived a volunteer suicide mission and became an acknowledged war hero. During his brief celebration, a stray bomb exploded in his bunker and ravaged his hearing. Not only did Richard lose his hearing, he developed tinnitus, a constant ringing in the ears. The government dismissed his dreams of college and public speaking, insisting his fate was one of insanity and rage due to his condition.

Richard refused to accept this fate. He returned to college where he met Art Honneyman, “the smartest and funniest man he has ever known,” who just happened to have a severe case of cerebral palsy. No one could understand Art due to his wheezing, garbled speech—-except for Richard, who could hear Art’s true voice due to his hearing loss.

At 3 AM, in celebration of Art’s birthday, Art and Richard sat down in a local restaurant for a pancake breakfast. Their waitress threatened to call the police, deeming him the “ugliest, most disgusting thing” she had ever seen. They refused to leave and were arrested under the “Ugly Law,” a statute that prohibited public appearances of people who were “unsightly.” This injustice propelled Richard, with the help of Dr. Padrow and a host of friends, headlong into the nascent disability movement

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The Black Madonna (04/28)

Although I am 75% Polish AND grew up in a Polish neighborhood (most of my childhood friends have last names that end in ‘ski’) AND went to a Catholic school – I never learned about the Matka Boska Częstochowska (The Black Madonna of Częstochowa).

410px-CzestochowskaNot only is it  a holy icon of the Virgin Mary, that is both Poland’s holiest relic and one of the country’s national symbols.

Read more here.

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Things I Learned in Portland…(04/24 to 04/27)

My sister and I visited our good friend in Portland. These are the fun facts that I learned on that trip.


While walking along the beach (after a mile and a quarter hike), my friend mentioned that when she was at the same beach the week before there were a lot of jellyfish washed ashore. Then my sister added that she recalled learning that sometimes after a full moon, the number of jellyfish increases. So I looked up why…

Some types of jellyfish have reproductive jelly gatherings 8 to 10 days after a full moon, thus there is an increase in the number of jellyfish found at that time.

As it turns out the full moon in April was on the 9th. (if you don’t believe me, look here) and my friend was at the beach exactly eight days later.


We visited Portland’s Rogue Brewery and sampled a flight of beers. I can’t recall all of the beers I tried, but I do know that this one was among them:

What is soba?

What is soba?

Morimoto Black Obi Soba – it was quite delicious but I was unaware of what soba was. Here is what soba is: a Japanese noodle made from buckwheat flour.

For fun I have also included the etymology for the word ‘buckwheat’

1548, from M.Du. boecweite “beech wheat” (cf. Dan. boghvede, Ger. Buchweizen), so called from resemblance between grains and seed of beech trees. Possibly a native formation on the same model as the Du. word.


I couldn’t walk by this particular port-a-potty without noticing its name, nor could I resist taking a picture:

I thought it was an odd name for such a device, until I learned, well, that it wasn’t.

A bucket that is used in place of a flush toilet in communities that lack a water-borne sewage system.

The honey bucket sits under a wooden frame affixed with a toilet seat lid. The honey bucket gets its name from the actual five–gallon buckets which were once used as containers for honey.


AKA Skunk Cabbage

AKA Skunk Cabbage

While driving to the coast, I noticed these yellow flowers from the highway. They added a nice splash of color amid the trees and swamps. While going on a walk with my sister, friend and her sister, I asked about the flowers. My friends sister said that they were called ‘skunkavich’ – interesting,  I thought.

Of course, the interesting thing turned out to be my hearing as the real name of the plant is SKUNK CABBAGE. The reason why becomes evident the closer you get to the plant. Let’s just say that they are prettier at a distance.

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Getting Closer…(04/19 – 04/23)


How often have you walked by a tree and wondered what type of a tree it was? Often, I presume. Such was the case with me and this tree:

Catalpa Tree

Catalpa Tree

It is sometimes called the “Cigar Tree” because the pods visible in the picture above continue to brown. (thus looking like cigars)

The Catalpa tree is found in forests from southern Illinois and Indiana to western Tennessee and Arkansas. First cultivated in 1754, the wood was used for fence posts and railroad ties because of its resistance to rot coupled with the fast growth rate of the tree. In the south, Catalpa trees are traditional sources of fish bait. Catalpa worms, the larvae of Catalpa Sphinx Moths, are eagerly sought in early summer by anglers.

Catalpa Worms

Catalpa Worms

And my Mom would be happy to know that hummingbirds visit these trees.

BOOK IT (04/20)

I learned a bit about book binding:

signature |’signə ch ər; – ch oŏr|

3. Printing a letter or figure printed at the foot of one or more pages of each sheet of a book as a guide in binding.
• a printed sheet after being folded to form a group of pages.


LOOK UP! (but I don’t see anything!)* (04/21)

Perseids |’pərsēidz| Astronomy
an annual meteor shower radiating from a point in the constellation Perseus, reaching a peak about August 12.


Read more at BBC’s website.

*title in reference to an old Detroit Edison commercial featuring Isiah Thomas.

OH DEERE! (04/22)

While sitting in a concept meeting for a book about the John Deere company I learned the following:

The first John Deere tractor was not made until 1912. However, the company began in 1837 selling plows and parts

to read a full chronological history visit


I have always love sand dollars. In fact, I remember learning about them in grade school (Catholic School) and something religious being taught about them. (which I found a poem explaining this here.)


Recently, sand dollars came up in a conversation and their genus was questioned. (My guess was there were related to a sponge, I was wrong.)

Sand dollars are of the Phylum Echinodermata, class Echinoidea. They, like the sea urchin, have no arms or legs but move around by tiny spines on their body. Sand dollars are usually found lying in a bed buried under a layer of sand. If a sand dollar is found alive it will appear to have a layer of very fine hair on its body. These are the spines. They are a slow moving grazer that feeds on disintegrating organic material found within their sand beds.

read more.

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Ketchup time…(04/12-04/18)

I have been traveling lately and have fallen behind on these postings, but I have been keeping up in my journal. Here is a weeks worth in one post:


I learned about this Saint from a homily on Easter Sunday & it’s quite a story.

A sealed glass vial containing a dark unknown substance, allegedly the clotted blood of San Gennaro (St Januarius), is shown several times a year to a packed crowd in the Cathedral of Napoli (Naples). Whilst the container is being handled during a solemn ceremony, the solid mass suddenly liquefies before everybody’s eyes.

read more.


In 1988, Wrigley Field was the last major league park to install lights for night games.

August 8, 1988

August 8, 1988

It wasn’t for lack of trying though, lights were to be installed for the Cubs 1942 season. But after Pearl Harbor was attacked, all of the equipment was donated to the United States Armed Forces.

(The following 3 “WORD OF THE DAY” entries were learned from Dr. Oliver Sack’s book Musicophilia)


daven |’dävən|
verb (davened, davening) [ intrans. ]
(in Judaism) recite the prescribed liturgical prayers.

ORIGIN Yiddish.


bonhomie |’bänə,mē; ‘bänə,mē|
cheerful friendliness; geniality : he exuded good humor and bonhomie.

ORIGIN late 18th cent.: from French, from bonhomme ‘good fellow.’


dyskinesia |diski’nē zh ə|
noun Medicine
abnormality or impairment of voluntary movement.

|-‘netik| adjective



CHICORY (Cichorium intybus)

I learned all about the chicory flower from my sister (&, who recently became fascinated with the flower.

It’s best known for its association with coffee.

At many points through history, coffee has become unavailable or too costly. During these times, people have often turned to roasted chicory as a substitute. Folks also used to make coffee from roasted acorns, yams and a variety of local grains.

There is no caffeine in chicory, and it produces a more ‘roasted’ flavor than coffee does. Many coffee producers offer blends with up to 30% chicory, which cuts down on the caffeine content of your cup. (It cuts down on the bitterness, too)


This is a theory that I was not aware of and will now share it with you…

One suggestion is that there was a good living to be made on the sea shore for any ape that left the forests to exploit it. Gradually adopting an upright stance would have been useful since it would free the hands to poke around and find food, while maybe also allowing the ape to wade into deeper water. Some suggest that a semi-aquatic past can also explain many modern human peculiarities (reduced body hair, subcutaneous fat, and our descended larynx for example).

read more theories here.

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Don’t Get Hysterical (04/11)

I knew hysteria was a medical condition, thought to be particular to women. However, I didn’t know the etymology of the word.


1615, from L. hystericus “of the womb,” from Gk. hysterikos “of the womb, suffering in the womb,” from hystera “womb” (see uterus).

Originally defined as a neurotic condition peculiar to women and thought to be caused by a dysfunction of the uterus. Hysterics is 1727; hysteria, abstract noun from hysteric, first recorded 1801 as a medical term.

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Number Game (04/10)

While at Opening Day at Comerica Park I was viewing the statues of Ty Cobb, Charlie Gehringer, Hank Greenberg, Willie Horton, Al Kaline and Hal Newhouser. I started to wonder about the numbers of some of Detroit’s finest players and then I learned the following:

There had been a couple of attempts to use numbers in the major leagues before the idea caught on. In 1916, and again in 1917, the Cleveland Indians experimented with numbers on their sleeves, as did the Cardinals in 1923.

On January 22, 1929, the Yankees became the first team to use numbers regularly, thinking that fans could recognize players more easily that way. Initially, players were given numbers based on the batting order – for example, Babe Ruth batted third, so he wore No. 3. It took until 1937, however, for every team to have their numbers on all their shirts – the last to change being the home uniforms for the Philadelphia A’s.

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The Edge of Space (04/09)


Are we there yet?

In case you have always wondered where outer space begins, scientists have found the answer….

With data from a new instrument developed by scientists at the University of Calgary, scientists confirmed that space begins 73 miles (118 kilometers) above Earth’s surface.


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