"Next to the dog, the wastebasket is man's best friend."
-- Penny Press
Now that the presidential inauguration is over and President Bush is safely ensconced in his legally certified second term, we can finally declare the election of 2004 fait accompli.
While some disgruntled voters whose choice for president wasn't inaugurated last week may still be trying to re-count the votes in Ohio, bring suit against the Diebold Co. for making Republican-leaning voting machines, and tar and feather a few secretaries of State for both voting for President Bush and certifying their state's electoral votes, for the first time in months the rest of us are finding ourselves without a cause.
Withdrawal, I think it's called. Nothing to do. Winter on top of it all. So, it may be time for a little nonsense, something to cure the winter doldrums, like one of those endless, I'll-bet-you-didn't-know-this lists to bring a smile, start a conversation, or fill your trivia basket with enough tidbits to get you ready for Jeopardy, should Alec Trebek ever call.
You can thank one of my Christmas-card correspondents for the following, which is guaranteed to raise your IQ by at least half a percentage point. Forgive me, but I haven't done the due diligence to see if these facts are honest-to-goodness-correct. I am merely paraphrasing the Fox News mantra of, I report, you count, measure, check, or go figure.
One for the money: A dime has 118 ridges around the edge; all 50 states are listed at the top of the Lincoln Memorial on the back of a $5 bill; there are 293 ways to make change for a $1 bill; and the flag flying over the Parliament Building on a Canadian $2 bill is an American flag. (Should we tell them?)
Those amazing creatures: A cat has 32 muscles in each ear; a shark is the only fish that can blink both eyes; tigers have striped skin and not just striped fur; and a snail can sleep for three years. (Sound like any other "creatures" you know?)
Time will tell: A jiffy is an actual unit of time equaling 1/100th of a second; if you are an average American you will spend six months of your life waiting at red lights; and if the population of China walked past you in single file the line would never end because of their rate of production. (Anyone want to check this last one out?)
Talk about handicaps: A crocodile can't stick out its tongue, a goldfish has a memory span of only three seconds, and it's impossible for humans to sneeze with our eyes open.
Sounds nutty to me: Almonds are a member of the peach family, and peanuts are one of the ingredients in dynamite.
For the record: February, 1865, is the only month in recorded history not to have a full moon; the winter of 1932 was so cold that Niagara Falls froze solid; "typewriter" is the longest word that can be typed on one row of the keyboard; and "stewardesses" is the longest word that can be typed with just the left hand.
Inventive solutions: The microwave oven was invented after a researcher walked by a radar tube and a chocolate bar melted in his pocket, and the artist Leonardo Da Vinci invented the scissors. (Do you suppose he also ran with them?)
For the birds: An ostrich's eye is bigger than its brain, and there are more chickens in the world than people. (Was that before last Sunday's dinner or after?)
And, finally, for the wordsmiths: "Dreamt" is the only word in the English language that ends in "mt"; there are only four English words that end in "dous": tremendous, horrendous, stupendous and hazardous; and just two words use all five vowels in alphabetical order: abstemious (something you must be if you're on a diet) and facetious.
Now your education is complete -- and your winter doldrums should be shortened by at least a jiffy.
(Barbara Seaborn is a local freelance writer. E-mail comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.)
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