Tuesday, August 3, 2010

50 Amazing Facts

I love facts (I know, I'm a nerd), so when I saw Mental Floss' list of 50 facts for their 50th issue I had to share.

I've included some of my favorites below. To check out the whole list, click here.

1. In 1943, Philip Morris ran an ad acknowledging “smokers’ cough.” They claimed it was caused by smoking brands other than Philip Morris.

2. In the 1970s, Mattel sold a doll called “Growing Up Skipper.” Her breasts grew when her arm was turned.

4. On the 2001 New Zealand census, 53,715 people listed their religion as “Jedi.”

5. Only female mosquitoes will bite you.

9. In 1999, Furbies were banned from the National Security Agency’s Maryland headquarters because it was feared the toys might repeat national security secrets.

11. There was a long-lost fourth member of the Snap/Crackle/Pop gang. “Pow” represented Rice Krispies’ explosive nutritional value.

12. Kool-Aid was originally marketed as “Fruit Smack.”

24. As part of David Hasselhoff’s divorce settlement, he kept possession of the nickname “Hoff” and the catchphrase “Don’t Hassle the Hoff.”

27. The string on boxes of animal crackers was originally placed there so the container could be hung from a Christmas tree.

32. Alaska is the only state that can be typed on one row of keys. (Go ahead and try typing the other 49 states. We’ll wait.)

34. Johnny Cash’s “A Boy Named Sue” was penned by Shel Silverstein, the beloved children’s book author who wrote Where the Sidewalk Ends.

39. That thing you use to dot your lowercase “i” is called a tittle.

44. In 1991, Wayne Allwine, the voice of Mickey Mouse, married Russi Taylor—the voice of Minnie.

45. The sum of all the numbers on a roulette wheel is 666.

47. Utah’s State Bird is the California Seagull.

50. Oscar the Grouch used to be orange. Jim Henson decided to make him green before the second season of Sesame Street. How did Oscar explain the color change? He said he went on vacation to the very damp Swamp Mushy Muddy and turned green overnight.

For more cool content, check out The What WHAAAT.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

The average weight of a newborn baby is 7lb 5oz (and the winner is...)

The average weight of a newborn baby is 7lb 5oz - and as usual, I come in above average (haha).

How far above average? Check out the video below, where the one who knows best, my mom, shares how much I weighed at birth:

Yes! A healthy 8lb, 4oz. - making the winner, according to Price is Right rules, Mike Scic with a guess of 8lb, 3oz!!

Congrats to Mr. Scic, who will receive a reusable Dunkin Donuts cup and a DD gift certificate. I'm sure he will make the right decision as what to do with it ::wink::

Thanks to all who participated!!! And a very special thanks to my mom for her video contribution.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Is a tomato a fruit or a vegetable?

Well that really depends on whether you are a chef or a botanist. As defined by science, a fruit is classified as the ovary and seeds of a flowering plant. The tomato with its seedy interior and juicy red fruit that develops from a flowering plant fits this description.

However, the tomato is not like other fruits because it isn't sweet, nor is it typically served for dessert (unless you are on Iron Chef) so the culinary community classifies the tomato as a vegetable.

Where do I stand on the issue? While I am not a professional chef, I know my way around a kitchen, and my kitchen has never produced a dish where the tomato was used as a fruit. On the other hand, while I am no botanist (though I do appreciate good greenery haha) the tomato does fit quite snugly into the fruit category. Final answer? I'll side with science. It's a fruit.

Now that we have figured out what a tomato is, lets learn how to make one grow. I was purchasing salad items today (note, the tomatoes at Shop Rite have their OWN kiosk/section placed conveniently in between the fruit and vegetables) and thought, wouldn't it be nice if I could grow my own tomatoes? So after the store I drove down to Metropolitan plant where a very nice man helped me pick some basil and tomato plants. Then, he potted them for me. And carried the pot to my car (if only he had paid too).

The end result...

My balcony tomato/basil garden.

I asked a friend of mine who happens to be a plant farmer what I need to do to keep a plant alive...
Encyclopedia Branigan: I'm buying plants. Any suggestions on how to not kill them?
Farmer Friend: Hmm water and sun help out. What kind of plants?
Encyclopedia Branigan: Tomato and basil
Farmer Friend: Ohh nice. Tomato will need fertilizer.
Encyclopedia Branigan: What. Why?
Farmer Friend: Because they get hungry.
Encyclopedia Branigan: Ok what do I feed them?
Farmer Friend: Tomato food, what else?
Encyclopedia Branigan: Ketchup?
Farmer Friend: That's like feeding your dog ground dog meat dude.
So what should you do to help tomatoes grow into delicious caprice salad? Here are some tips...
  1. Don't crowd them - as you can see there is only one tomato in that GIANT pot. The basil's roots won't grow as deep
  2. Go deep - tomato plants can grow roots out of their stems, so plant them far down into the soil
  3. Give them lots of sun (something mine will not get as the balcony is covered)
  4. Water them a lot (another problem mine might have. I remember to water the dog, that's enough) if they are too dry the fruit can crack and become yucky.
  5. Be a stalker - tomatoes are vines, and need something to keep them upright as they grow. A nice stick and some twine should do the trick. Garden stores also sell wire cones if you feel like being fancy.

That's it. Cross your fingers, it will take more than silver bells and cockle shells to make my garden grow.

Friday, April 30, 2010

The average 25-year-old has taken almost 200 million breaths (and likes to give away free stuff)

The average 25-year-old has taken almost 200 million breaths and has had approximately 9.5 billion heartbeats since birth, according to the Beats & Breaths Calculator from Discovery Health.

On May 10, 2010, I will 25 years old. Yessss - the big 2-5. I've come a long way from this...

So to celebrate, I've decided to give away some free stuff! What, you ask, am I giving away to commemorate such a special occasion?

If you work with me, you know I am completely in love with unsweetened iced tea (sorry diet lemon Snapple iced tea, its o-v-e-r). On my recent trip to Puerto Rico I developed a severe addiction to the beverage and have not looked back.

Ok, back to the free stuff, since I run on Dunkin and care about recycling and such , I am giving away a reusable Dunkin Donuts cold beverage and a gift certificate to fill it with whatever delicious DD product you desire!

How do you win? Simple. Last year I asked you to guess what time I was born. THIS year, you have to guess my birth weight to win!

Enter your estimate in the comments section. Please include your guess in pounds an ounces (for example, 47lb 9oz - not plausible baby weight). Please no duplicates. Closest guess wins, Price is Right rules. No cheating and asking my mother. Contest closes on May 7 at 11:59 AM.

Ready, set, guess!

Friday, March 5, 2010

And the winner is...

...Digital Ice with his guess of $7.38!! In a close second, Joanna with $6.34 and C.O. Jones with $6.22.

The actual amount of money in the cup? $9.47.

Congrats to the winners, and thanks to everyone who participated.

Happy St. Patrick's Day!!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

More than 13 million pints of Guinness are consumed on St. Patty's Day (along with some free stuff)

More than 13 million pints of Guinness are consumed on St. Patty's Day, opposed to the usual 5.5 million pints that are consumed on any other day of the year. This is just one of the many reasons that St. Patrick's Day is one of the BEST holidays of the year (aside from May 10).

Since I will not be in the continental US on March 17 (no worries, I'll be celebrating with a green margarita under a green palm tree) I am holding my second annual St. Patty's Day contest now. All you have to do is guess how much treasure is in my Pot O' Gold (below).

Guess correctly and you win... an ENCYCLOPEDIA BRANIGAN drinking pack for two, because lets face it, its not (as much) fun drinking alone.

The rules:
  • Please list your guess in dollars and cents - $0.00 - with a valid e-mail address (unless you KNOW I know you)
  • No duplicate guesses
  • Submit your entry in the comments section below
  • You must submit by 11:59 AM EST on Friday, March 5. The winner will be announced that afternoon (just in time for Hoboken!)
  • Price is Right rules - guess over and you lose!
  • NEW RULE - No partnering (JEREMY)
  • NEW RULE TWO - People who attend the PRSA 3-on-3 Hoops Tournament will receive an extra guess!
There are no tricks, no $20s hidden in the back of the cup or fake coins.

Good Luck!!!

Pluto is not (is!) a planet

According to Neil deGrasse Tyson, director of the American Museum of Natural History's Hayden Planetarium and author of The Pluto Files: The Rise and Fall of America's Favorite Planet, Pluto is not a planet.

Tyson's theories on the ball of gas floating somewhere around the orbit of Neptune have been a topic of debate in the scientific community (you can even buy "I Miss Pluto" T-shirts!). Tonight at 8PM EST, PBS will dive deeper into the saga of Pluto with the premier of “The Pluto Files”on NOVA.

Neil deGrasse Tyson gives Pluto an astronomy lesson. Gene Duncan ©Walt Disney World

Little known fact from the producer of the film, Terri Randall (who also happens to be my Aunt, love of sharing information runs in the family): Pluto was discovered in 1930 by Clyde W. Tombaugh at the Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff Arizona. Around the same time, Walt Disney created his legendary character, Pluto the Dog. While it is not documented in the Disney archive, Tombaugh’s family (including his 97 year old wife) claim Walt called Clyde to ask him permission to name the dog after his planet. Many astronomers attribute Pluto the planet’s popularity to the popularity of Pluto the Dog.

So remember to tune in tonight (or TIVO, that is also acceptable) at 8PM to watch this star-studded (haha, sorry puns also run in the family) program.

Check your local listings for more details or visit http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/pluto/.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Cat got your tongue? Blame Paul Broca...

...it's his area of your brain that isn't functioning properly. Back in 1846, French neurosurgeon Paul Broca identified an area in the left hemisphere of the brain which is responsible for speech production, including articulation, proper word usage and pronunciation. Broca's area was the first area of the brain to be associated with a specific function.

Why am I writing about Dr. Broca and his area? I was walking out of work today, trying to explain to my lovely co-worker Joanna how my new bootleg purse came with a certificate of authen...authent...ugh, the word ends in "tion"...authenticicication...I know what I want to say...WHATEVER.

I got into my car, feeling rather stupid that I could not pronounce a simple word. I'm a college educated (summa cum laude, has to count for something) adult (hah). Speaking should not be so difficult. Five minutes into my ride home I realized the word I meant to use. Scientific reason for this slip up? I won't pretend to be a doctor, but I would guess it was because I had worked all day, and my brain was a little tired.

Or, it could be that many of the words in the English language are difficult to pronounce? On the list of the most commonly mispronounced words, you will find everyday works like ask, business and realtor. Since you are reading an encyclopedia, I have picked some ridiculously words that you may find a little more difficult to wrap your tongue around. If you click on the word, the link will lead you to a page which will read the word correctly.


Oh, and just in case you were curious, it's authentication.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

The average Internet user watches 182 online videos per month

Make this video number 1 of the 182 online videos you watch in March.

JESS3 / The State of The Internet from Jesse Thomas on Vimeo.

via Buzzfeed

Thursday, February 25, 2010

The quality of a diamond depends on the C's

The quality of a diamond depends on the C's - four of them actually - the 4C's of diamond grading rate the carat weight, color, clarity and cut of a diamond. This grading system was created by the Gemological Institute of America, and has become the industry standard for rating diamonds. While each of the 4C's is important, it is the combination of all that determines the value of each diamond.

Carat Weight
Carats measure the actual weight of a diamond (one metric carats is equal to 0.2 grams). As the weight of a diamond can have a significant impact on its price, they are usually weighed to the thousandth of a carat.

The color of a diamond can range from no color (D, highest quality) to yellow color (Z, lowest quality), with the exception of fancy colored diamonds, which can be found in many colors including blue, pink, yellow and chocolate.

The clarity of a diamond refers to the presence or absence of blemishes (external faults; scratches or pits) and inclusions (internal faults; knots). Diamonds free of imperfections are the most valuable. There are 11 grades of clarity, ranging from FL (flawless) to Is (imperfect).

The cut of a diamond determines its shape. A brilliant round diamond (the classic cut) has 58 facets. The quality of proportions, symmetry and polish determine the value of a cut diamond.

Once a diamond is chosen, it is usually set within gold (yellow, white, rose) or platinum, which also impacts the cost of and quality of a ring. If looking for an engagement ring (note, I'm not hinting at anything - only right hand rings for me) one of the most famous engagement and anniversary ring retailers is Tiffany & Co. Checkout the Tiffany & Co. Diamond guide for more information on these gorgeous gemstones.

Who could say no to a turquoise box?
Another popular option (at least in the NY Metro area) is to visit the Diamond District, where you can pick out a ring a la carte, choosing every aspect of the ring from stone to setting.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Fresh snow is the most reflective natural surface on earth

Fresh snow is the most reflective natural surface on earth because it has the highest albedo, or how strongly an object reflects light from other light sources (i.e. the Sun). At first thought you might think that water would be the most reflective surface on earth - on sunny days a body of water (with an albedo of can look like a mirror of the sea, and snow just remains white - but water allows some of the light absorb below the surface, while snow reflects almost all light back to the sky.

Sample Albedos

Surface Typical Albedo
Fresh asphalt 0.04
Worn asphalt 0.12
Bare soil 0.17
Green grass 0.25
Desert sand 0.40
New concrete 0.55
Ocean Ice 0.5–0.7
Fresh snow 0.80–0.90

Still don't get it? Check out this diagram...

The albedo of snow drops significantly as the snow gets older. As snow its on the ground it gets dirtier and the surface becomes rough, leaving room for the light of the sun to be absorbed. This is why ski goggles are so important - without them the snow would be blinding. Last weekend I visited Shawnee Mountain in PA to give skiing another chance, and I'm thankful that my Aunt had some ski goggles to lend me, because there was a lot of fresh snow (the only thing brighter than the snow was Jeremy's lime green jacket and matching snowboard).

I had a pretty good time and enjoyed a couple of good runs (conquering the Little Chief trail in one try and created a new method for skiing called "Fauxhawk and Blowout") until my knee started to hurt.

Little Chief

Then I retired to the lounge, enjoyed a Bud Light (or two) and listened to live music courtesy of Steve McDaniel (of the Steve McDaniel Band). Steve did an awesome cover of Johnny Cash's A Boy Named Sue, and was nice enough to give me a CD. Check him out on MySpace Music.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

How to build a snow sculpture

The Northeast was hit with a lot of snow last week. For some people, that means shoveling, digging out cars and walking to CVS during a blizzard because your dog ate her tail (sigh). For others, mainly children and unemployed adults, snow provides an opportunity to go skiing, snowboarding or just to play outside.

This particular snow accumulation is wet, perfect for packing and sculpting. So take a break from deicing the driveway and use the piles of white stuff as an opportunity to exercise your creativity.

Here's how to do it...

Step 1: Dress warmly. Gloves would be a good idea as you will be handling snow.

Step 2: Go outside (if not already there).

Step 3: Locate a GIANT pile of snow that has been firmly packed - think plow piles.

Step 4: If GIANT pile cannot be found, fill a trashcan with snow, pack firmly and turn over onto the ground. The bigger the better. Your sculpture will only be as big as your base.

Step 5: Decide what you want to make and add additional piles accordingly (for example, if you were making a giant snow turtle, you would need one big lump for the shell and little lumps for the appendages.

Step 6: Start sculpting from the top down. Use garden tools for large areas, and spoons and spatulas to create details.

Step 7: If you are really creative, use water dyed with food coloring to add color to your sculpture.

Step 8: Once complete take a photo of your sculpture and send to EVERYONE and post on every social media community you belong to, even if it looks terrible

Step 9: Hope no one comes along and destroys your masterpiece i.e. high school students or the sun
Step 10: Repeat steps 1 - 9 over and over

Step 11: Compete in the U.S. National Snow Sculpting Competition

Step 12: Win competition, thank Encyclopedia Branigan for the instructions.

I was walking my dog tonight and came across a GIANT Tiger and Dragon...made of snow. This guy was carving them (on Valley Rd. in Montclair, right after Claremont) to promote his Web site Bubbalon.com. I was able to snap a few pitcures...check them out...

The Tiger was dyed orange, and had actual lights for eyes.

LOOK at its teeth! It even has wings...and he wasn't done yet.

If you live in the area, I would recommend checking them out before they melt away, which according to Phil will be in about 6 weeks.

Happy sculpting!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The English serve their omelets with an extra dash of T and E

The English serve their omelets with an extra dash of T and E - the letter T and E that is. Just this morning, my co-worker called me and said "Lila, don't think I'm stupid, but how do you spell 'omelette?' I am looking at this menu, and I think it is spelled wrong." Which started a cube-wide debate on the proper spelling of the word (as publicists, sometimes it is imperative that we answer random questions before we can go on with our day, such as Can you eat only pizza for seven days?...What was the best line on last night's Jersey Shore?...Where's Johnny?... Is it a man or a woman?... or How many coats a person wear at once?).

According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, "beaten eggs cooked without stirring until set and served folded in half" are defined as an O-M-E-L-E-T. WHAT? Nooo, that looks wrong. Omelette is spelled with two Ts and an E, right?

Wrong. If you enter O-M-E-L-E-T-T-E into the good ol' Merriam-Webster, it automatically redirects you to omelet. Need more proof? When typed into a BlackBerry, spell check calls out omelette as incorrect. Even spell checking this post, every omelette is highlighted as misspelled.

Ok, so where did we go wrong? The word omelet comes from the latin word lamina which means "a thin plate," which the fancy Romans decided to beef up into lamella, which means "a small thin metal plate." Then, the French decided it needed to be fancier, and created la lemelle, which translates into "the blade of a sword or knife." Somehow, a word referring to a knife transformed within the French language to l'alemelle, then alumelle and then alemette, which means "beaten eggs fried until set without stirring." Sometime around the 17th century the British borrowed the term, translating it as omelette. This was well before the American trend to make everything GIANT and flashy and flossy. So when they got hold of omelette, they downsized, dropped the T and E and turned it into omelet.
If you didn't know this, don't feel bad, you're not the only one...

No worries IHOP, I still love you...

Turns out there are a variety of everyday words in the English language where the British, Canadian and American spelling differ. Linguistic Issues specialist Karen Bond has created a handy-dandy chart of them, just in case you ever need to go on a spelling bee road tour of the US, GB and Canada. Everyone knows color/colour and favor/favour, or that we canceled out the second L in cancelled, but did you know that in Britain, tire is spelled tyre? Or that they put a Y in pyjamas?

Now you know.

Monday, January 25, 2010

More than 20,000 people have visited Encyclopedia Branigan

More than 20,000 people have visited Encyclopedia Branigan. According to Google Analytics, encyclopediabranigan.com has received 20,070 unique views since my first post on October 12, 2008.
Twenty Ten is starting out to be a promising year, with 1,900+ unique viewers since January 1. Who are these lovely people? I don't really know...but I'm guessing that my biggest fans are from New York...

Thank you (thank you, thank you) viewers! It's really exciting to know that people actually read, and possibly benefit from my fact-based banter. The ultimate reward? To see "Encyclopedia Branigan" cited as a reference source on some delinquent student's essay. Haha.
Stay tuned :)

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Americans eat 100 acres of pizza a day

Americans eat 100 acres of pizza a day, which is consumed at approximately 350 slices per second. To put it in perspective, that's the same as 100 football fields. That's a lotta pizza!

Now, out of the 93% of Americans who partake in this massive pizza-eating endeavour each month, 36 percent prefer to top their pies with pepperoni, approximately 251,770,000 pounds per year.

So how much pizza do you think you could handle in a week? One of my co-workers is about to find out. Starting tomorrow, January 25, Nicky has been challenged to eat nothing but pizza for 7 days straight. Breakfast, lunch, dinner. Nothing else. He has started a blog to track his progress this week. Check it out at supersliceme.blogspot.com. The bet ends on February 1 at a pizza party lunch.

Pizza is not a significant source of vitamins or minerals, and weighs in at about 140 calories per medium cheese slice and contains only around 7 grams of protein (since Nick has opted to only eat plain pizza, and can only drink water, he might want to look into a multi-vitamin).

Think Nick will make it all week? While I have faith in his ability to eat the same thing all week, I have seen other food-related Coyne bets end in pain (you gave it your best JP!).

Good luck Nick!

Friday, January 15, 2010

Do you like ENCYCLOPEDIA BRANIGAN? Then maybe you should check out the HOT SHEET...

The Coyne PR Hot Sheet is a weekly recap of the best campaigns, promotions, advertisements and ideas of the week - peppered with a touch of pop culture and a dash of the latest social media technology news.

I definitely recommend you check it out - it's pretty Hotsheet. haha. If you really like it, you can subscribe to get a copy in your mailbox every week.

Really really like it? Send the editors some love, I'm sure they would appreciate it ::wink wink::

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Turtles, tortoises and terrapins are all reptiles

Turtles, tortoises and terrapins are all reptiles, contrary to the common belief that turtles and terrapins are amphibians due to the amount of time they spend in the water. So, what is the difference between these three shelled animals?

Turtles, tortoises and terrapins differ in their habitats and behaviors.
  • Turtles spend most of their time in the water and have webbed feet, perfect for swimming. They can be found in fresh or salt water and like to eat fishes.

  • Tortoises live on land in dry, hot areas and have stumpy rugged feet which are idea for digging burrows to hide from the sun. They eat shrubs, grasses and cacti (be careful Paul).

  • Terrapins are more like turtles as they spend their lives in and out of the water, but they are not found in salt water.
Recently their have been claims that a "turtle" has been kidnapped in my office. Based on the above information, I feel that the kidnapee was not a "turtle" but a tortoise. Why? "Clarence" or "Tommy" has thick, stumpy legs, has not eaten any of John's fishes and has not been spotted in or around any bodies of water. Furthermore, turtle shells are typically flat and streamlined so they can move quickly through the water, whereas tortoises, such as the aforementioned kidnapee have bulky rounded shells.

If you have any information about the disappearance of this tortoise, please let the kidnapper know that their "turtle soup" threats are irrelevant.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Microearthquakes occur 8,000 times a day

Microearthquakes occur 8,000 times per day. These tiny tremors register below 2.0 on the Richter Scale - the universal measurement system of earthquakes which assigns a number to each quake based on the seismic energy it releases.

On January 12, at around 5 PM EST a 7.0 earthquake shook southern Haiti. The massive quake only lasted 30 seconds, but the damage was devastating. CNN reports that the capital city of Haiti, Port-au-Prince lays in ruins, with many buildings and homes completely collapsed, including a hospital. There is no total number of fatalities at this point, but a representative U.S. State Department expects there will be a "serious loss of life."

The dust has not yet settled in Haiti to reveal the full extent of damage, but there are already ways to help those effected by this disaster. Haiti is the poorest nation in the western hemisphere, and much help will be needed to rebuild and restore.

Below is a list of just a few non-profit organizations you can get involved with to help the victims of today's earthquake:

Monday, January 11, 2010

A "coon's age" is approximately 7 years

A "coon's age" is approximately 7 years (I found a number of variations this number, and 7 was the average). Back in the day, in the early 1800's people believed that raccoons had long lives, around 5-7 years and referred to that length of time as a racoon's age, slurred into "coon's age."

While the raccoons can live up to 20 years, most wild raccoons only make it to about 3 years old. Contrary to the belief that the majority of raccoons are killed by reckless drivers (I once hit a raccoon on the way up to the "haunted" Clinton Road in high school - I felt terrible) The most common cause of death for raccoons in North America is distemper, a multi systemic viral disease that is fatal in raccoons as well as dogs, foxes and skunks.

Another common cause of death? Obesity. Yes. Even the raccoons in the US are overweight. Such was the case with "Bandit" - the world's fattest raccoon. Raccoons usually weight around 25 lbs, but bandit weighed in at around 75 lbs.

Growing up on the edge of the South Mountain Reservation, we had plenty of raccoons in our backyard. Sometimes we would have them trapped, and I always thought the little babies the trapper was going to take "to the country" were sooo cute, that is until their mad momma would jump out of our garbage cans. Some people keep them as pets - hmmm maybe its time for Chloe to get a friend...

And the winner is...

Using Random.org, with Nick Dimichino as my witness, a random number of 49 was drawn, making Johnny the winner of the Albums are released on Tuesday because of Billboard Magazine contest. Johnny will win a custom made copy of the premier album of Max Randall Branigan, "I Do Not Know" by Person Man.