Thursday, December 25, 2008

The state of Connecticut hates bowling

Well, ninepin bowling. In 1841, the state of Connecticut banned the owning of ninepin bowling lanes due to the sport's connection with gambling. In order for the clever gamblers to get around this ban, they added a pin to the game, creating the tenpin game we play today (oh, so clever).

The game stuck and is now a national pastime. According to the Brunswick website, over 600,000 kids celebrate their birthday at a bowling alley each year (technically, the correct term is "bowling center" because of advancements in the design and features of bowling alleys--oops, centers).

I myself visited a bowling center (yes center, because trapper keeper like decor makes it a center versus an alley) on a well-known birthday (hint, today). I beat my opponent 2 out of 2 with a high score of 106, very nice (haha, sorry Simon)!


Check out that form!


For more information on the history of bowling, visit the International Bowling Museum.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Happy Holidays!


A happy and a healthy to you and yours!

- Encyclopedia Branigan

Jews eat Chinese food (on Christmas) to keep "kosher"

One of the main reasons that Jews eat Chinese food on Christmas Eve (and Christmas Day. For me it's Christmas Eve because I'm a mutt, and celebrate Christmas Day with my dad's side) is because it's usually the only thing open (and it's quite delicious. I've gone to fishy feasts on Christmas Eve, and while the food was lovely, I would take Buddha's Delight over Scungilli sala any day, I don't eat legs).

Jews and and Chinese are the largest non-Christian immigrant groups the in US, thus leaving Chinese restaurants open when most others are not, and giving Jews a place to eat on Christmas.

There is another reason why Jews have a love affair with Chinese food, which dates back to the early 1900's when there were a large number of Jews and Chinese migrating into New York City. Jewish immigrants felt safe eating in Chinese restaurants where meat and dairy are rarely mixed.

Most Chinese restaurants were not kosher and often used non-kosher ingredients like piggy and fish in shells (bleh), but the Jewish immigrants were willing to turn a blind eye because they were chopped up in tiny pieces and stir fried. According to David Siegel, if they couldn't tell what it was, it was ok to eat.

So this Christmas, give thanks for Chinese restaurants, Ralpie does. After all, what would "A Christmas Story" be without a little bit of MSG?

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Smart people pet proof the holidays

Every year emergency animal hospitals are packed with pets suffering from holiday related injuries. Here are a few holiday hazards to avoid to insure you and your pet a smooth season (don't end up like me, flying to the emergency animal hospital because the dog has a taste for shiny glass balls).

No ham for you dog...

  • Watch out for holiday foods. Many of our favorite holiday meals are filled with fats, and can lead to pancreatitis and other side effects that you will not want to clean up.
  • Pets love eating plants, but Christmas flora can be deadly for pets. Make sure to keep mistletoe, holly berries and poinsettias far away from your furry friend's reach.
  • Oh Christmas tree! Oh Christmas tree, your ornaments look so...yummy! The bright colors and flashing lights of your tree look just like something your pets a promoted to play with -- their toys! Make sure to buy pet-safe plastic ornaments, not glass ones which can cause the pet to internally bleed if ingested (they will look just as pretty without the trip to the doggy ER). Also, be sure to tether your tree to the wall. Christmas trees can easily be tipped over, possibly causing damage to you, your pet and your pad.
  • You may wait to unwrap your presents until its time to open, but your pet wont, especially if the shiny pretty package is filled with tasty treats like chocolates. Don't let your perfect wrapping job be ruined by a prowling pooch -- keep your gifts out of their paws.

If you have a holiday related pet emergency, be sure to visit your nearest animal hospital ASAP. While a late night visit might be costly (I know what I am asking Santa for this year; pet insurance), it could save your best friend's life.

video

Your pooch probably isn't a fan of holiday dog clothes either.


For more information, visit the ASPCA.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Tattoos, getting underneath the skin for 5,200 years

The first known tattoo was found on an iceman discovered on the Italian-Austrian border, according to an article in Smithsonian Magazine. The tattoo consisted of small dots located on points of stress on the body, leading scientists to believe the tattoos were for therapeutic purposes.

Ancient Egyptian women also rocked ink. There is a picture of some Peruvian mummy ink if you follow the link above. I would post it, but it really grosses me out. The mummy hand, not the tattoo.

However, there are many people living today with a tattoo they aren't proud of. Approximately 20% of people agree with Jimmy Buffet when he described a tattoo as a "permanent reminder of a temporary feeling." There are entire books devoted to stupid tattoos.


That will look awesome when you're 70


I'm not knocking tattoos (I have one, just one, never another. I don't regret it, I'm just not a fan of pain or losing bets), I'm just saying if you plan on getting one done, make sure it's something you really want because it could last a lot longer than you anticipate, 5,200 years longer.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

The first Rockefeller Center tree was only 20' tall

The first Rockefeller Center tree was only 20' tall and was erected by construction workers. It was decorated with strings of paper, cranberries and tin cans.


Seventy six years later, this years tree stands 72' tall and weighs nearly eight tons. The ginormous Norway spruce was decorated with five miles of energy-efficient LED lights and was topped with a 750-pound star made of 25,000 Swarovski crystals (I'd say yes to anyone who gave me one of those. Who needs a diamond when you've got 750 lbs of crystal that glows?).



I recently visited the tree after attending the New York Palace Hotel's Christmas tree lighting (So beautiful!!!). My picture doesn't do the tree justice (it was raining and gross), so I recommend taking a trip in and seeing it for yourself. The tree isn't the only entertainment in the center. We had a great time seeing the angels, watching the ice skaters and the Saks Fifth Avenue Snowflake light show and meeting up with characters like Santa, Big Bird and the boys in blue...


...who informed me that people take just as many pictures of them as they do of the tree. Rockefeller Center is a tourist hot spot during the holiday season, and under the influence of the hundreds of people around me snapping their disposable cameras I was compelled to take a few shots. I am from Jersey...


For more information on the tree, visit TheTreeNYC.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Yawns are more contagious for primates who care

YAWWWNNN. All vertebrates yawn, but primates are the only ones who catch them. Back, back in the day, primates may have used yawning for social bonding, according to researchers. Now a days, a yawn is interpreted as a sign of boredom, or a good night out.



These same researches showed that people who are more empathic are more likely to be contagious to yawns.


I must be very emphatic, because I can't....YAAAWWWNNNN...stop yawning.

Yawning can also be used as a tool to see if anyone is watching you. The theory is that anyone who watches you yawn will not be able to resist yawning themselves (sorry creepers, you're caught.)



So, how many of you yawned while reading this??? Please, comment below.

Thanks to John "Snake Child" for making me YAWN all day.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Sweet Potato Pie made of yams is not a Sweet Potato Pie

It would be a Yam Pie. That is because while they are similar in color and shape, sweet potatoes and yams are not related.

The library of congress puts it best:

"Yams are a monocot (a plant having one embryonic seed leaf) and from the
Dioscoreaceae or Yam family. Sweet Potatoes, often called ‘yams’, are a dicot (a
plant having two embryonic seed leaves) and are from the Convolvulacea or
morning glory family."


The topic of sweet potato vs. yams was recently covered on an episode of the Food Network's Unwrapped.


Oh Marc Summers, its been a long time since Double Dare...

Thanks to John for bringing this to my attention.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Smart people adopt pets

A year ago today I adopted an eight week old puppy named Chloe from the Jersey Animal Coalition.


On our one year anniversary I would like to remind everyone of the importance of adoption. There are millions of pets out there without homes and unless they are adopted many of these helpless animals will be put to sleep.

It isn't easy having a dog but it is very rewarding. While I may not have gotten to sleep late in this past year, and the beast has eaten many of my possessions (most recently my iron; not the cord, she actually removed the buttons and left the rest intact), I am so glad she is mine and I can't imagine my life without her.




To find a shelter near you, visit Pet Finder.

Friday, November 21, 2008

What is a Crownie?

A Crownie is a hybrid of a cookie and a brownie. Developed in 2008 by Katie Foley and Lila Branigan, Crownies have become a popular dessert in northern New Jersey which is enjoyed as a breakfast, snack or dessert.

The creators of the Crownie have plans to release a reduced-fat version of the hybrid in early 2009.


Barney Rubble needs career counseling

Barney Rubble of the Hanna-Barbera cartoon, "The Flintstones" did not have an official occupation for the first few years of production. He held odd jobs from TV repossession to short-order cooking until he finally landed a job with his buddy Fred at the quarry.




For more info on Barney's career path, visit The Straight Dope and avoid less accurate answers like this one.

Thanks to John for this question submission.

"Fug" boots helped fight WWI/WW2

Sheepskin boots were commonly used by shepherds in Australia and New Zealand, where the boots were originally developed and given the name "Ugg" boots, for "Ugly Boot".

These boots were also popular amongst aviators in WW1 and WW2 because of their ability to keep feet warm in non-pressurized planes at high altitude. (They are also helpful for shielding my feet from the cold at 6 AM when my dog decides she needs to go out.)

These brave soldiers called their sheepskin boots "FUG" boots. (Yes, there is more to learn about world wars than what one gets from late nights playing Call of Duty alone in their room.)

For more information about these wonderful foot protectors, click here. To read the words of a hater (whose blog I no longer follow), click here.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Bamboo is the fastest growing grass in the world

Bamboo is the largest, fastest growing evergreen grass in the world. There are about 1,000 species of bamboo worldwide. Some bamboo can grow up to .5 - 1 ft per day! Since bamboo is a grass, it keeps its leaves year round; even in the snow.

How do I know this? Growing up, my next door neighbors kept a traditional Japanese backyard complete with a forest of bamboo (my dad has spent the last 23 years trying to stop it from expanding into our yard). During bad ice storms the bamboo would bend with the weight of the ice, forming little caves on our yard, but it would never break.



Bamboo is very flexible and is used to build earthquake resistant housing. For more information on bamboo, visit TreeHugger.com.

Earthworms don't have lungs

Earthworms breathe through their skin. Oxygen combines with mucus on the outside of the worm and then enters the worm's blood vessels. The skin has to be wet in order for the oxygen to enter, but not too wet.

If the worm is too dry then it will die, if it is too wet then it cannot absorb the oxygen and then suffocates, and dies. Very sad. This is why whenever it rains the sidewalk is covered with earthworms -- watch your step!!

For more information on earthworms, click here. Link

Monday, November 3, 2008

Smart people vote

That's right. Smart people vote. Especially tomorrow.

If you aren't sure where to vote click here to find your local polling place.

Thanks to Bill for the helpful link.

The quarter test

The quarter test is a method of measuring the tread on your tires.

How do you do it? Take a quarter and place it Washington's (not Lincoln's head. Back in the day this test was preformed with a penny. To be super safe the test now uses a quarter, because it is bigger. I think.) head first into the tire tread. If you can see his whole head, it is time to get a new tire.

How do I know this? Last Thursday the automotive team at work hosted an educational experience on tires and tire maintenance. They taught us all about tires and how to change them. This would have been helpful a few months ago when I got a flat on 80 on my way to work...


Thank you AAA.

For more info about tires, check out these handy tip sheets courtesy of the Auto team.


Tuesday, October 28, 2008

That Sea-Monkey® is such a shrimp...

Literally. Sea-Monkeys® are actually just the brand name for a variety of brine shrimp. These fishies (actually crustaceans) can live in suspended animation for years if kept in an oxygen free environment, which is what allows the period sized (.) eggs to be shipped to your front door and still hatch.
Brine shrimp have a life span of only one year. Could you imagine? Your entire life in one year.

Click here for more information on the original Sea-Monkeys®.

Thank you Miss Kelly for inspiring this post.

Let me pick your brain...

Yes, my knowledge of random facts is vast, but even I could learn something new. Feel free to send your own random tidbits or questions to be answered to LRBranigan@gmail.com.

Monday, October 27, 2008

A red car does not mean higher car insurance, or more speeding tickets

No need to avoid buying a red car for insurance reasons. Insurance companies will not give you higher premiums for the color of your car, and cops will not pull you over if you sport a red ride (any police out there to verify? please comment...) According to Snopes it is actually gray/silver cars that get the most tickets (sorry Pep).

How do I know this? I was a red car owner myself. My insurance was not higher than any of the other cars on our plan (because of the color of my car at least). Despite the fact that it was a modest bright red C-RV, I got pulled over just as often as anyone else.

Odds are if you are driving a red car and get pulled over, it's probably because you deserved it (as I did; don't tell my mother that...). And depending on the red car, you might be compensating for something as well...

A bulldozer tire weighs 700 lbs

The average bulldozer tire weighs 700 lbs. Off-the-road (OTR) tires, including tractor tires, are built with extra internal reinforcement to withstand harsh conditions and heavy loads. These heavy duty tires can cost up to $50,000.

How do I know this? Master mulch/mum/pumpkin/assorted plant farmer Jeremy Halper of Cornell Farms in Belle Meade, NJ educated me on these massive tires during a visit to his farm.

Another fact about the bulldozer tire...it is about 5'2"tall. Just like me!


Sunday, October 26, 2008

Who has better dreams, your dog or a duck-billed platypus?

Ever seen your dog start to wag, whimper, or wiggle around during sleep? That means your dog is dreaming. Dogs are mammals, and like other taller, less furry mammals (humans) they experience REM sleep, the section of the sleep cycle where we dream.

The duck-billed platypus experiences more REM sleep than any other mammal. They also lay eggs. And have bills. Go figure.

What does your dog dream about?

Mine has a reoccurring dream of becoming a smurf...


Beat that platypus!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Super glue is no match for nail polish remover

If your skin (or someone else's) is stuck together with super glue never fear, it can be easily removed with nail polish remover.

How do I know this? Well, its pretty obvious that I was gluing something and my fingers happened to get glued together. It happens.

I have discovered that nail polish remover is useful for much more than making my nails pretty. It can be used for stain removal (like when you spill nail polish on the floor of a hotel in Tampa and make your brother go down to the gift shop to pick up an overpriced bottle of nail polish remover so your mother doesn't see) and to get rid of permanent marker mishaps (like when someone writes "for a good time call" and your number).

Check out some more uses courtesy of Sandra.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Pineapples are berries, and clearly not apples or mini pine trees

That's the biggest berry I've ever seen... Pineapples are actually a mass of berries which have fused together creating a central fruit.

The pineapple, the only edible fruit of the Bromeliaceae family (There are other pineapple looking plants that you don't eat like the one I bought my friend as a gift. I was wondering why it never grew...), is not in any way related to apples or pine trees.

Pineapples were brought to Europe for the first time in 1493 by Christopher Columbus himself (carried it the whole way... not really, well he could have). The Spaniards thought it looked like a pine cone, and named it "Pine of the Indies". At that time in Europe, the English, being so creative, referred to most fruit as "apples". Mix the two together, TA DA, pineapple!

Don't believe me? Well prepare to be schooled by Union County College.

Thank you Cakers for bringing this to my attention.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Fish do sleep, and have sleeping problems

Fish sleep regularly just as people do, but their eyes remain open. Why? Because they don't have eyelids! Sleeping habits of fish depend on breed; some seem to be still in open water while others hide under rocks or logs. Fish are very light sleepers, and will wake with the slightest ripple of water.

Some fish even have sleep disorders, like insomnia (such as the Dave Attell Fish, ha ha). Check out these Zzzz-less zebrafish.

This topic was submitted by Laura Johnson

Bees are the only insects that make food for humans

Honey Bees are the only insects that make food for humans.

Not only do they make us food, but 1/3 of the human diet comes from insect pollinated plants -- 80% of which is the work of bees. Personally, I am not a fan of bees (I am terrified) but I do like plants and food, so I guess they aren't that bad.

Thank you Snapple cap for bringing this topic to my attention. For more info visit Herbs N' Honey.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

The largest pickle factory in the world is in Holland, MI

The largest pickle factory in the world is the Heinz Pickle Factory in Holland, Michigan.

How do I know this? Every summer of my childhood we would spend a week or so at my grandparents cottage on Lake Macatawa in Holland. This cottage was built by my great grand father, and my grandmother and father spent all of their summers in this cottage. When it was built, the was nothing but forest around it, and as the area developed, the cottage remained the exactly the same. Well, on that same lake is the Heinz Pickle Factory. My uncle spent time one summer working dumping salt and vinegar into the large pickle vats. Before a storm, when the wind changes, all you can smell is pickles, and I happen to love pickles.

For more information on the factory, click here.

Gnats go to the highest point on your body

Hands up! (Baby, hands up!) This day camp favorite song was good for more than spirit day, it was also a great way to keep gnats out of your face.

Why, you ask? Gnats (those annoying little swarming bugs that seem to have no purpose) always target the highest point on your body, so by "raising up" you send the gnats up in the sky and out of your face. My softball team may laugh at me, but I'd rather look silly than deal with flies in the outfield.

While I haven't found a scholastic source to verify this fact, there are plenty of websites that agree. Check this one out.

Why Boston is called Beantown

Boston is called Beantown because of baked beans.

Back in colonial times Boston was part of the triangle trade, resulting in mass amounts of sugar cane which was made into molasses. Molasses is a key ingredient of Boston Baked Beans, a favorite dish of the times. This mass of molasses turned deadly when a molasses tank burst open and killed 21 people during the The Great Molasses Flood of 1919.

Why do I know this? One of my co-workers asked me why Boston was called Beantown, and the information just stuck...like molasses.

Click here for more information on Beantown.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Peanuts are not nuts

Peanuts are not nuts, they are legumes.

How do I know this? A good friend of mine is allergic to nuts. Whenever she was asked about her allergy, she would explain how all nuts would kill her, but not peanuts because they are legumes. She was so allergic to nuts that on Halloween her father followed us trick or treating to make sure she didn't eat anything. We were 12.

For more information visit the Peanut Institute.