The name trivia is a bit of trivia itself, as it should be. Way back when all roads led to Rome, the Romans would leave news bits at the junctions in the roads, at the tri (triple) and via (ways), places where three ways met. This piece of interesting but useless information along with the following are some of the many things cluttering up my few remaining tequila soaked brain cells.
I live in the Chihuahuan Desert along with a bush that I find fascinating (tells you a lot about my life), the creosote bush. These guys are amazing for a couple of reasons. First, they naturally space themselves in the desert so that a field of creosote resembles a man-made orchard. Each bush does this by hogging all of the water within many feet of their stalks. Nothing else can grow near a creosote bush including another creosote because the older plant’s roots will suck up all of the available water. Secondly, these bushes and their clones are the oldest living things on earth. They reproduce by cloning themselves into new bushes. One creosote plant, named “King Clone”, in California has been carbon dated to be 11,700 years old. The oldest redwood tree is a mere 2,200 years old. Aren’t you glad that you know this now?
These cuddly looking Australian marsupials wouldn’t be noteworthy if it were not for a couple of really unique and cool characteristics. They have a rump so tough and a tail so short that when a dingo chases them down a hole the dingo can’t bite into their hardened rear ends. You’ve heard the term “hard-ass” before and now you know where it must have come from. They also have a rear opening pouch so that the baby wombat doesn’t get a pouch full of dirt when mom is digging holes, which is how she spends most of her time. But the thing I like most about these big guinea-pig-looking creatures is that they are the only mammal that I know of that crosses a river by walking across on the river bottom. You would have thought that they would have learned to swim a long time ago, but no; they just wade, if that’s the right word, across on the bottom.
With all of the Hollywood pretty girls I don’t know why she interests me so much. Maybe it’s because Natalie was my fantasy sweetheart when I went through puberty in the 1950s. But that’s another story. What makes Natalie unique to me is she was born Natalia Nikolaevna Zakharenko to Russian parents who could barely speak English and yet she became a child actress at four, successfully transitioned from child star into a teen star and later into an Academy Award winning adult actress. At 25 she was the youngest actress to be nominated for 3 Academy Awards. But it was her role as Judy in Rebel Without a Cause, when she was only sixteen, that forever endeared her to me. Did you know she was only five feet tall and that Elvis wanted to marry her, but his mother didn’t like Natalie? And, as everybody knows she was drunk and drowned in the water off Catalina when she was only 43. What Christopher Walken was doing on the boat with Natalie’s husband, Robert Wagner while she was drowning remains a secret to this day? The pallbearers at her funeral were Rock Hudson, Frank Sinatra, Laurence Olivier, Elia Kazan, Gregory Peck, David Niven, and Fred Astaire. Wow!
If you’re like me you enjoy a glass or two of Shiraz or as the French say, Syrah. This wonderfully full-bodied soft red wine with its hints of juicy cherry and black pepper goes really well with red meat of all kinds, especially steaks. When I worked in our local winery’s tasting room (one that makes a wonderful Syrah by the way) I told anyone that would listen how the Shiraz grapes came to France from Shiraz, Iran and were later exported to Australia where they flourished. Later the European vines suffered from some sort of disease and the French had to import vines back from Australia. That’s why we think of Shiraz as being primarily an Australian wine. Anyway, that’s all bunk and I’d like to correct that story right here and now. DNA typing has shown that Shiraz/Syrah grapes come from the Rhone region of France, as they should. The confusion all stems from the name, Shiraz and there are all sorts of legends as to how this grape became named after a city in Iran. But nobody knows the answer. Can you live with that? Syrah vines were taken to Australia in the early 19th century and soon became the most important variety Down Under. Today Shiraz/Syrah wines are made in France, Australia, South Africa, United States, Argentina and Chile. Stick that in your ear Iran.
Any of you who have ever lived in the country or spent any amount of time there know all about the washboard effect of gravel and dirt roads. It seems like any unpaved road develops this wash boarding no matter how often it’s graded. Why is that, you ask? If you don’t know, don’t feel bad, nobody else seems to know either. The predominate theory is that the up and down motion of our vehicle’s suspension systems create the washboards as the speed of the vehicle crosses some slow but critical point. Others have argued that suspension systems play no part in wash boarding and have demonstrated this by using suspension-less vehicles. So where does that leave us? I’ve got this theory about the moon’s gravitational pull on the grains of sand in the road that …. How about one of you figuring this out?
Everyone knows that Scuba is the acronym for Self Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus but did you know that Radar is an acronym for RAdio Detection And Ranging and Sonar is very similar as SOund Navigation And Ranging. Laser is one of our cooler acronyms and is a much easier way of saying Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation. And, we’ve all had a CAT scan but did you know that you’ve had a Computerized Axial Tomography scan. But my absolute favorite is Posh which requires a little story. When the English used to travel across the equator to India by sailing vessel first class passage was a cabin on the port side to India and a cabin on the starboard side on the return voyage. This soon became abbreviated to Port Out, Starboard Home or POSH. Interestingly enough my online Merriam-Webster dictionary lists posh’s origin as unknown but defines it as 1 - elegant, fashionable and 2 - British: typical of or intended for the upper classes. Maybe we finally know something that Webster doesn’t?
It amazes me how little we know about flatulence. Most people only know that some foods seem to produce more gas than others. My dear mother-in-law actually believed that mashing her beans released their gas. She must have thought that beans were tiny gas balloons to be deflated before we ate them. Who am I to contradict my mother-in-law but I’ve since learned that our intestinal gas comes from three sources. The smallest contributor is air, the air that we ingest when we eat. Next comes the fermentation by yeast residing in our systems but the biggest generator of gas by far is the secondary digestive process by microorganisms living naturally in our colons. Beans for instance travel through our stomach and small intestine pretty much untouched. But when beans hit our colons the bacteria that hang out there vigorously devour it producing lots of flatus (gas). Okay, got it? The next time you fart remember it wasn’t you; it was those hungry little parasitic microorganisms living in you that produced that gas, not you. Why we put up with them is beyond me.
W. C. Fields
How can you not love someone whose real name was William Claude Dukenfield? And, although he reportedly said when asked what he wanted his epitaph to read, “On the whole, I’d rather be in Philadelphia,” he was born in Philadelphia. He only had four years of formal schooling but he had a world of experience on the streets and midways. He ran away from home at eleven and lived in a hole in the ground before he landed his first regular job delivering ice. By the time he was thirteen he was a skilled pool player and juggler earning him his first job as a comedic juggler and soon a gig at Fortescue's Pier in Atlantic City. At age nineteen he moved to stand-up comedy and a long run with the Ziegfeld Follies. We remember W. C. primarily as a movie actor but did you know he didn’t make his first movie until he was thirty-six. Having a medical syndrome named after him, the W.C. Fields syndrome, characterized by rhinophyma (rosacea of the nose) associated with alcoholism may be his most lasting contribution. And, who can forget such perils of wisdom such as: “Twas a woman drove me to drink. I never had the courtesy to thank her” or “Always carry a flagon of whiskey in case of snakebite, and furthermore always carry a small snake.” Rest in peace William Dukenfield, wherever you are.
Okay, this was today’s lesson in totally useless information. Our quiz will be on Wednesday.