Thursday, December 31, 2009

New Year's resolutions are for farmers

New Year's resolutions are for farmers - a little over 4,000 years ago, ancient Babylonians made the first New Year's resolutions when they pledged to return borrowed farming equipment in time for the new year. Back then, the start of the new year coincided with the start of the agricultural season on March 23.

Early Romans adopted this start time as well, making the start of their year March 1. Then along came Julius Caesar, who changed the first day of the year to January 1 in honor of the god Janus, thus creating our modern New Year's day. The Roman god Janus had two faces, so he was able to look back (on the old year) while looking forward (on the new year).

So now, in 2009, it is once again time to make New Year's resolutions. More than a new year, we are also on the brink of a new decade (hence in influx of 'best of the 2000's list - click here, and here, here, here and here for some of my favs), so its a good time to think about what you might like to resolve to do in the next 10 years. Unfortunately, according to some individuals (who decided to leave me a voicemail message sharing their perspective, no lie) the world is going to end in 2012, so if you have a resolution for the new decade, you better get on that.

Here are my possible resolutions for 2010...
  1. Take better care of myself i.e. sleep more, worry less, buy good foods, refrain from mixing beer and liquor, work it out
  2. Keep a neater apartment (no, its not a huge mess, but the dishes to have a tendency to pile up when I'm busy)
  3. Help my dog get unfat - she's getting a little Spunkyish

When it comes to New Years resolutions, try to choose things you will actually be able to accomplish. To quote What About Bob?, take baby steps. The majority of people forget their resolutions by the beginning of February. Lets take my resolutions and break each one down into a smaller obtainable goal:
  1. Stop eating truffles
  2. Buy paper plates
  3. Switch to diet dog food
See! Three very easy-to-accomplish resolutions! Now you try. First, list the stereotypical "lose weight" and "be a better person" resolutions. Then, take a closer look and find one aspect of reaching that goal and resolve to do that one thing. Next, enjoy success! Need some extra help achiving your goals? Check out the Count on Yourself program by Risa Olinsky.


Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The anchorages of the Brooklyn Bridge were once used as wine cellars

The anchorages of the Brooklyn Bridge were once used as wine cellars. Back in the day (around 1883), the vaults located in the bridge anchorages were rented out offset some of the cost of the bridge construction. City records show that space was rented out for wine storage.

But why store wine in a bridge?

The 60,000-ton granite anchorages of the Brooklyn Bridge contain dark, cold spaces which reach up to 50ft in height, and maintain a temperature of approximately 60 degrees - an ideal temperature for storing some wines.

Sorry winos, the chambers of the Brooklyn Bridge are no longer used to stockpile vino. Nowadays the vaults are filled with bridge maintenance equipment.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Happy Birthday Mom!

Happy Birthday Mom!

Thank you for being a wonderful mom and an incredible friend. Hope you enjoy your special day :)

Monday, December 7, 2009

People who play dreidel like winning free stuff

People who play dreidel like winning free stuff. What is dreidel you ask? It is a game played by children (or gambling adict adults) during the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah (the festival of lights). The dreidel is significant because the Hebrew letters written on each side are an acronym for the miracle of Hanukkah, "A Great Miracle Happened There" or if you are playing in Israel, "A Great Miracle Happened Here."

The game consists of a special four-sided top called a dreidel and gold foil covered coins called gelt (can be substituted for other counters such as coins, peanuts or Benjamin's if that's how you roll). The object of the game is to win all the tokens. Here is how you play:

1. Split the gelt evenly among all players

2. Everyone puts one in the middle

3. Player 1 spins the dreidel

4. If the dreidel lands on:
NUN - do nothing
GIMMEL - take everything in the pot
HEY - take half the pot
SHIN/PEH - add to the pot

5. Spin and repeat 2-5 until one player has everything

Still don't get it? Check out this video tutorial:

Since it is December, and has snowed, I believe it is time for a holiday contest. As I celebrate both Hanukkah and Christmas, I felt it was best to incorporate both into my contest. Here is how it works. Below there is a picture of my Hanukkah setup. All you have to do is guess how many coins are in my Hanukkah cup (yes, there are coins that are NOT visible).

Guess correctly and you win....

A CHRISTMAS SUPER AWESOME FUN PACK! Inside you will find everything you need to have a Holly Jolly Christmas this year including...

* Giant Ho! Ho! Ho! pen
* "You've Been Naughty" coal
* "I Heart Santa" socks
* Reindeer Antlers
* A horrific pet costume
And more!

You will also win the Hanukkah gelt and a dreidel of your own (if I can find one, apparently no one is capitalizing on Hanukkah this year, because I went to TWO stores and there was NO Hanukkah merchandise). Runner ups will also receive goodies for their participation.

To enter, post your guess in the comments section below with your name and e-mail address by 11:59 PM on Friday, December 11 - the first night of Hanukkah! The winner will be announced on Saturday. One guess per person. Please no duplicate guesses.

Good luck!!!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

There is a 23 percent chance that it will be a 'White Christmas' in New Jersey

There is a 23 percent chance that it will be a 'White Christmas' (1 in of snow on the ground) in northern New Jersey based on data collected by the National Climatic Data Center (NCDC).

Based on years of data, there are only three locations the US which are guaranteed that classic blanket of snow on Christmas morning, Marquette and Sault Ste Marie in Michigan, Hibbing and International Falls in Minnesota, and Stampede Pass in Washington.

Seeing a 'White Christmas' at home is something that people in the southern states will rarely ever experience. Whenever my southern relatives would visit during the winter we would always hope it would snow for them, and when it did, they would run out and enjoy it, even if it was just a dusting.

Every Christmas, my family on my Dad's side gets together and we sing Christmas carols. Old and new, we all know every word and have our favorites, giving each song a special meaning. As each year passes, it is singing these favorite tunes that help us remember the people who are no longer here, but who we will always keep alive in our hearts.

My Aunt Sarge lived in Florida, but was originally from South Dakota where it isn't rare to wake up to blanket of white on December 25th and her favorite carol was "White Christmas." While there are many versions of the song, she would ask me to sing it for her, by myself, in front of my family. She made me feel so special. This was a common side-effect of being around her, as she always made it very clear how much she cared for the people around her.

As "I'll Be Home for Christmas" will always be dedicated to my grandfather, "White Christmas" will now forever be sung the memory of my Aunt Sarge.

This post is dedicated to the memory of Cynthia Sarge Branigan. You will be missed.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

If turkeys were more useful they wouldn't be Thanksgiving dinner

If turkeys were more useful they wouldn't be Thanksgiving dinner. According to the story of Thanksgiving, when the Mayflower showed up at Plymouth Rock the Pilgrims had a harvest feast with the local Native Americans, which supposedly included a big juicy turkey.

But why Turkey? The answer to that question is not based in Thanksgiving folklore, but in economics. Turkeys have no purpose. I know, that's pretty harsh, they have a purpose, being DELICIOUS. Back in the day before 24 hour supermarkets (I know, hard to believe people survived) people had to hunt for their own food so choice of holiday main course depended on what was practical. Cows and chickens are more valuable alive, as they supply milk and eggs, geese were expensive to keep and pork was not considered special. Then there was turkey - cheap to own, easy to maintain and great for feeding large groups of people... the rest is history.

Thanksgiving isn't all about the gobble gobble. Oh no, you can't forget the sides and desserts. Let me share with you two of my favorites, so good that you'll have your relatives asking for more, in advance...

Now, these are not my personal recipes, but I always add my own little touches to make them special. Let's start with the stuffing...

Apricot Grand Marnier Stuffing Recipe

Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 35 minutes

* 1-1/2 cups Grand Marnier® or other orange liqueur, divided use
* 1 cup dried apricots, diced
* 4 cups chicken broth
* 3 large ribs of celery, diced
* 1 yellow onion, diced
* 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
* 1/4 teaspoon ground sage
* 1 pound turkey or pork bulk sausage
* 1 cup coarsely-chopped apple
* 16 ounces coarse bread crumbs (may use stuffing mix)
* Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Heat 1 cup of Grand Marnier® until small bubbles form around the edge. Pour over the apricots and let steep to plump. Set aside.

Bring chicken broth to the boil in a medium saucepan. Add celery, onions, thyme, and sage. Simmer for 5 minutes until vegetables soften a bit but not to the mushy point. Set aside.

Saute sausage in a skillet until cooked through, stirring often to break it up into chunks. Drain off any excess oil.

Place bread crumbs or stuffing mix in a large bowl. Add apricots with Grand Marnier®, onion and celery in chicken broth, sausage, apples, and remaining Grand Marnier®. Toss gently to combine thoroughly. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

To bake stuffing separately, pour into a casserole dish and bake at 375 F for 30 minutes to brown the top.

If you use the stuffing inside poultry, be sure the stuffing has come to room temperature before stuffing the bird cavities and roast immediately.

Yield: 6 to 8 servings

Since this stuffing is in high demand, I usually double or triple the recipe. I also add dried cranberries in with the apricots. Since there are a number of vegetarians in my family, I mix in the sausage last, that way I can keep some meat-free stuffing to the side.

And now, dessert...

Top Secret Drunken Rum Cake

Submitted by Queen of Quips

1 1/2 cup pecans

1 yellow cake mix with no pudding in the mix

1 (3 1/2 oz) package instant vanilla pudding

4 eggs

1/2 cup water

1/2 cup vegetable oil

1/2 cup dark rum (Bacardi's Select Rum works

1/4 lb butter
1 cup sugar
2 tbls water
1/2 cup rum

Butter and lightly flour a bundt cake pan. Chop 3/4 cup of pecans and sprinkle on bottom of pan. Mix together all cake ingredients. Bake at 325F for 1 hour or until golden and cake pulls away slightly from pan sides. Cool on wire rack about 10 minutes, then remove from pan (inverted) and place on cake plate.

To make the glaze, melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the sugar and stir well. Add just enough water to liquefy the sugar. Continue to cook until glaze
is bubbly and slightly thickened. Remove from heat and stir in rum. Brush over cake, going around 4 or 5 times, until cake is darkened with glaze. Now, the best part! Mix remaining pecans into glaze while still warm. Let soak 1/2 hour. Pour pecans and extra glaze into center of cake.

I strongly recommend using a cake plate or platter with a rim because the glaze can be runny. Also, definitely make this the night before serving to let cake absorb as much
of the glaze as possible.

To be completely honest, I never use the same recipe (mostly because I forget to bookmark the page I got it from, which I believe had something to do with the Ya-Ya sisterhood book) but its always delicious - its soaked in rum. To make it special, I dye the cake a reddish color and bake it in a rose shaped pan. This recipe also makes great cupcakes and leaves everyone with a smile on their face.


Friday, November 13, 2009

Men have been sporting moustaches since 300 BC

Men have been sporting moustaches since 300 BC - the first documentation of a moustache was found in an ancient Iranian artifact which depicted a man on a horse with a handlebar moustache.

Thousands of years later, moustaches are more than a fashion statement and symbol of manliness...with the launch of Movember, a campaign to raise awareness for men's cancers, the moustache is now a symbol of unity amongst men. During Movember, men all around the world are challenged growing crazy moustaches for this very important cause.


Movember is an annual, month-long celebration of the moustache, highlighting men’s health issues - specifically prostate and testicular cancer.

Watch a short intro to Movember by clicking on the video image below:

The idea for Movember was sparked in 2003 over a few beers in Melbourne, Australia. The guys behind it joked about 80s fashion and decided it was time to bring the moustache back. In order to justify their Mos (Australian slang for moustache), they used their new looks to raise money for prostate cancer research… never dreaming that facial hair would ultimately lead to a global movement that would get men talking about a taboo subject – their health.

A Mo Bro starts Movember – the month formerly known as November – clean shaven, and grows a moustache all month long, garnering support from friends and family in the form of donations. What’s more, a Mo Bro is a walking billboard for the cause as his new look opens the door for him to talk about cancers affecting men – making the moustache a symbol, much like the pink ribbon is for breast cancer. Each Movember culminates in a Gala Partè in major cities around the globe where Mo Bros dress up to match their Mo, channeling the likes of Tom Selleck, Gandhi and Ron Burgandy, vying for the ultimate accolade: Man of Movember.

While growing a Mo is left to the guys, Mo Sistas (women who support their guys) form an important part of Movember by recruiting Mo Bros, helping to raise funds and attending the highly anticipated Gala Partés.

A bunch of guys from my office are participating.

Don't have a moustache but want to help out? Here's how...

To make a donation, you can either:

Click this link and donate online using your credit card or PayPal account , or

Write a check payable to Movember Foundation™, referencing my Registration Number 302082 and mailing it to: Movember Foundation, PO Box 2726, Venice, CA 90294-2726.

All donations are tax deductible to the extent permitted by law.

The Prostate Cancer Foundation will use the money raised by Movember to fund research to find better treatments and a cure for prostate cancer.

The Lance Armstrong Foundation will use the money raised by Movember to fund:
The LIVESTRONG Young Adult Alliance program which has the goal of improving survival rates and quality of life for young adults with cancer between the ages of 15 and 40.
Research initiatives to further understand the biology of adolescent and young adult cancers.

For more details on how the funds raised from previous campaigns have been used go to:

Thursday, November 12, 2009

You can't sit in row 13 on most airplanes (Happy Friday the 13th)

You can't sit in row 13 on most airplanes, mostly because it doesn't exist. Many aircraft creators have done away with row 13 because people believe it is unlucky and refuse to sit in it.

I'm sorry to burst your superstitious bubble, but unless they tape off a row and leave it empty, row 13 is still there. It's just called 14 now. Sorry. My biggest concern on my last flight was not my row, but that my headphones broke in the middle of Up when my rowmate crushed them with his ass. Thanks to the very nice stewardess, I was able to obtain a new pair. Unfortunately the plane landed before I could finish the movie. No, I was not in row 14. I was in 9.

Airline row omission goes beyond the infamous row 13 (which is also left out of buildings from time to time) - in Japanese culture rows 4 and 9 are also omitted as they are considered unlucky in Japanese culture.

For more information on superstition and Friday the 13th, check out Romans are the reason a broken mirror means seven years bad luck and People who fear Friday the 13th suffer from Paraskavedekatriaphobia.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

And the winner is...

Encyclopeidacs, you voted, and you chose...

Jon with Little cop!!

Two days, 63 votes, here are the results:

Thanks for your participation!


Wednesday, October 28, 2009

And the finalists are...

Thank you for your comment and e-mail submissions! Just for fun, and because I can, I have expanded it to four top entries. Hereeee they are!

White Goodman, submitted by Maven

Napoleon Dynamite, submitted by Testanator

Man Elmo, submitted by James

And last but not least...

Little Cop, submitted by Jon

Also, creating her own category, LJ gets the award for best pumpkin submitted!

Here is where the popularity part comes in, whichever costume has the most votes by October 30 at 11:59 pm wins the glorious pumpkin head full of Kudos!!

Ready, set VOTE!!!

The winner of the ENCYCLOPEDIA BRANIGAN Halloween costume contest should be...
White Goodman
Napoleon Dynamite
Man Elmo
Little Cop
ugg boots

When you vote a little window will pop up, it means your vote was counted. Just close it up and continue with your day :)

Monday, October 26, 2009

The Atlantic City boardwalk was the first in the U.S.

The Atlantic City boardwalk was the first in the U.S.. Built in 1870, the boardwalk was eight feet wide, one mile long, and one foot above the sand. Today the boardwalk is little over four miles, 60 feet wide at it's widest point and sits 12 feet above sea level.

Personally, when I visit AC, I'm not spending my time strolling the time is spent in the casinos. There are 11 glorious casinos in Atlantic City. Now, I'm not much of a gambler, but I can't resist spending $20 on my beloved video poker.

There are a couple of reasons (aside from video poker)why I love AC...

* When you arrive in AC, you pull up to the valet and from that moment on you pretty much don't have to worry about much else.
* No one has to drive.
* Everything you need is right there in the casino, from food to entertainment and everything in between.
* The people! Such a mixed bag - where else will you see old ladies in sweatpants right next to dolled up young ladies? There truly is something for everyone.
* I can get dolled up. And then go change into sweats if I feel like it.
* There is no time. You get there and clocks don't exist. I stayed out till 5? Really?
* The sound of slot machines - glorious.

Most of all...

* The nightlife!!!

I paid a visit to Harrah's this weekend to celebrate my friend Adam finishing his first semester at medical school (or something involving a white coat) and had the an amazing time.

Congrats Adam!

We went to The Pool, which is Harrah's indoor pool turned into a nightclub. Love it. Everything about it, from the lighting, to the music, to the WONDERFUL staff is perfect. With palm trees and natural moonlight from the domed ceiling, it reminded me of sitting by a pool in the Dominican.

Another great thing about Harrah's, checkout is at 12. And trust me, you'll need it...

I did.

Celtics made their New Years resolutions on Halloween (and they also had free stuff)

Celtics made their New Years resolutions on Halloween (and they also had free stuff). Halloween originated over 2,000 years ago with a Celtic festival called Samhain, which was also their new year. They believed that on the night before the new year, the worlds of the living and dead would combine, and dead people would come back to life. To celebrate, they would make a BIG fire, make plant and animal sacrifices and dance around in costumes of animal skin.

Two thousand years later, this once sacred day has become a day of scandalous costumes and overindulgence in first candy, then as you grow older alcohol and then even older your children's candy.

I love it.

Which is why I have decided to give away... FREE STUFF!

Yes. Here it is, the first annual ENCYCLOPEDIA BRANIGAN Halloween costume contest! Here is how to enter, in the comments section below, post a link of you in your best Halloween costume (if you don't have a linkable photo, email it to lrbranigan AT gmail DOT com). You must post by October 28 at 11:45 PM. Top three costumes will be posted and voted on. Winners will be announced on Halloween. The grand prize winner will receive...


I know. It's an awesome prize. I might have outdone myself this time. Ready, set, POST!

UPDATE: you can post up to 2 links, but only one can be included in the top 3.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The Queen of Sheba loved nuts

The Queen of Sheba loved nuts, but not just any nuts, Pistachios. She loved them so much that she decreed all pistachios in Assyria be kept for her and her court, and could not be grown for private use.

I don't blame her. I can't stop eating them. I didn't even know I liked pistachios, and then I saw a certain commercial.... I bought them (they got me! it must be subliminal messaging) - except I bought CVS Gold Emblem, HaHA! But now I'm hooked.

My first thought about nuts is fat and calories. However, many nuts, including pistachios have great nutritional value. Check it out...

* Pistachios have more antioxidants than green tea
* They contain a appetite suppressing compound called oleoylethanolamide
* Lower phytosterol (bad cholesterol) more than any other nut
* Have more potassium than half a banana
* Trans-fat free
* The green part contains lutein, a compound which helps prevent blindness
* Higher in fiber than any other snack nut

Not bad! I have also decided that you burn calories when opening them, bonus!

For more info on the healthy benefits of pistachios, visit Pistachio Health.

The FTC is the buzz kill of the Blogosphere

Yeah, maybe there are a number of bloggers who post ANYTHING for a bit a swag but most bloggers just enjoy blogging, sharing their opinions and thoughts with others. But now, all that self expression could cost you thousands of dollars.

Now I don't know about anyone else out there, but ENCYCLOPEDIA BRANIGAN doesn't make a dime on its quest to share random knowledge - this is a non-profit reference source, there are no ads (truthfully I couldn't figure out how to use Google Ads)and I haven't received any swag (doesn't mean I wouldn't accept it - who doesn't like presents??), but I don't really like the thought of a large fine, so I better come clean.


Yes! It's true. I've never hidden my profession, I've even written about the wonderful (award winning - wink) agency I work for multiple times, even posted video. If you Google me, you can see I blog for my company too - I'm pretty Hotsheet (hehe). From time to time I will post about something one of my clients is doing. No one has ever asked me to do this. I include them in posts because I think they are interesting and can fit into my format.

So to make sure the FTC doesn't fine me for misleading the consumers of America, whenever a post includes one of my agency's clients I will link to this article.

And that's all I have to say about that.

Monday, October 12, 2009

More than 11,000 people have checked out Encyclopedia Branigan, and most of those people like to read about

More than 11,000 people have checked out Encyclopedia Branigan, and most of those people like to read about catfish! Yes, the post with the most pageviews in the first year of Encyclopedia Branigan was "A catfish has approximately 100,000 taste buds".

So in the Encyclopedia Branigan one year blogversary contest, the winner is...

LAUREN MACKIEL GORY, who will receive a $15 Barnes & Noble gift certificate and a 2010 Encyclopedia Branigan calendar.

Katie and Beth will also win calendars for guessing the correct answer.

Thanks to all who participated!!

Monday, October 5, 2009

More than 11,000 people have checked out Encyclopedia Branigan

More than 11,000 people have checked out Encyclopedia Branigan since October 12, 2008. That's right, on Monday, October 12 it will be one year since the first post on Encyclopedia Branigan, Peanuts are not nuts.

I can't believe it. I started this blog a year ago as a work assignment, and never ever in a million years thought people would actually read it. But they have!

And I thought, maybe they are just my friends...but I don't have 11,000 friends... 118 places all over the world.

So how should I celebrate this momentous occasion? How about by giving away FREE STUFF!

Yes! All you have to do is guess which of the following posts has generated the most pageviews.

Easy right? Everyone who guesses the correct post will win... official, limited edition, only available here, ENCYCLOPEDIA BRANIGAN 2010 wall calendar. I know. SO exciting.


Because I care about continuing education, the first person to guess the post with the most pageviews will also receive a $15 gift certificate to Barnes and Noble.

Here are the posts:

A. Peanuts are not nuts
B. What is a crownie?
C. Tattoos, getting underneath the skin for 5,200 years
D. Cheese balls were originally made out of livestock feed
E. A catfish has approximately 10,000 taste buds
F. Yawns are more contagious for primates who care
G. There is a 1 in 40 chance of winning the mega millions
H. Earthquakes in New Jersey are Ramapo's fault

Post your guess in the comments section below. Please include your e-mail address or you can't win. Tell me which post on all of Encyclopedia Branigan is your favorite, and you get TWO guesses.

The deadline for entry is Sunday, October 11 at 11:59 PM. Winners will be announced on Monday, October 12.

Ready, set, go!

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Utah had the highest rate of volunteerism in 2008

Utah had the highest rate of volunteeriam in 2008, with more than 43% of the state participating in some kind of giving back activity. Disappointingly, the Garden State was ranked #46 out of the the WHOLE country, with only 21.1% participation.

Come on Jersey! least we beat New York, who came in LAST with only 18.7% of people volunteering. As a matter of fact, none of the Tri-states made it into the top 10. Lets change that. "But How," you ask?

One day at a time - one Disney day.

The Mouse has teamed up with HandsOn Network - the largest volunteer network in the country - to encourage volunteerism in 2010 with the "Give a Day, Get a Disney Day" program. While volunteering is rewarding on its own, Disney Parks has sweetened the deal and is giving away 1 MILLION park tickets to people who give back next year. Just go to to find out more.

You heard the man!

There are more than 250 HandsOn Network affiliates around the country, all with great opportunities to get involved, give back to your community and make this world a better place.

Tri-State area, I officially challenge you to become one of the top 10 volunteering states in 2010. Ready, set, GO!

Monday, September 21, 2009

It is possible to eat half a sheet cake in 11 minutes

It is possible to eat half a sheet cake in 11 minutes, but not in 10, as demonstrated by the one and only Joe Perri...

That was the most amazing eating competition I had seen since I watched Kobayashi...take on a Kodiak bear.

According to my sister, it is almost impossible to eat a pita (just one) in one minute.

I smell a challenge...

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Today we're gonna party like it's 5770

Today we're gonna party like it's 5770 - which it is, according to the Jewish calendar. That's right. It's Rosh Hashanah (which literally translates into "head of the year") the Jewish new year and start of the High Holy days.

I know, according to your mcblackberry it's 2009 but the Jewish calendar started a couple thousand years before the CE, so the year count is a little higher. The calendar also has a different start date and subsequently a different new year.

To celebrate the new year, Jews (like myself) get together, go to temple, eat apples and honey (to symbolize a sweet new year) and round challah (round to symbolize a year), say L'Shana Tova (translates to "for a good year") and blow the Shofar.

Blow the what?! The Shofar, a special rams horn which was originally sounded off to let people back in the day (before Outlook reminders) know that it was the new year.

Wow. Talk about lungs.

Rosh Hashanah, like Passover , lasts for two days so that there was time to celebrate even if you weren't first to hear the Shofar.

The purpose of Rosh Hashanah is to celebrate the start of a new year, but its not all fun and games. From now until Yom Kippur (the day of atonement) Jews have to reflect upon their lives, seek forgiveness from those they may have hurt, and forgive those who have wronged them in an effort to start with a clean slate and be a better person in the coming year.

I see myself as more conceptual than religious (I don't go to temple regularly, I don't keep kosher and I have a tattoo), I believe it is the meaning behind the religious practice that is important - not the practice itself.

I try to use Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur as an opportunity to look at my life and my choices and make sure that I am doing everything I can do to be the best person I can be, not only for the people around me, but for myself. Yeah, I make a new year's resolution in January - usually something along the lines of becoming less fat - but this is different, more of a reflection of what you have done than a resolution of what you are going to do.

I challenge anyone reading this, Jewish or not, to think for a few minutes about the last year of your life, the kind of person you have been, and the kind of person you would like to be.

And then go celebrate :)

Thursday, September 17, 2009

The world's tallest man also holds the record for largest feet and hands

The world's tallest man also holds the record for largest feet and hands. At 8' 1.5", Sultan Kosen was recently crowned the world's tallest living man.

The tallest man of all time was Robert Wadlow. Robert, also known as the Alton Giant (because he was from Alton, IL), reached 8' 11.1" inches and 490 lbs.

Want more? BuzzFeed posted a great list of the 30 tallest people ever. Check it out here.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

There are more than 200 places to eat in Walt Disney World

There are more than 200 places to eat in Walt Disney World ranging from Asian-fusion to African to American cuisines. There are also over 150 attractions. With so much to do, and eat, how does one choose what to fit into a four day vacation?

I am currently planning a December Disney weekend getaway for me, my mom and my sister. While guidebooks and Web sites are a help, as an influencer I like to get my advice in first person, and what better place to get park-savvy perspective than from the Walt Disney World Moms Panel. The panel provides thousands of answers to Walt Disney World questions - a great resource for anyone planning a trip to see the Mouse. There are also helpful videos including one on how to enjoy the park as an adult (like enjoying a touch of the bubbly in France).

Moms Panel Search

Do you have some advice for planning the perfect Walt Disney World vacation? Have you been there more times than you have fingers? Guess what! Walt Disney World is now looking for 10 new moms/dads/grandparents to join the panel - to find out more visit

Monday, September 14, 2009

Pusan and Busan are the same city

Pusan and Busan are the same city in South Korea. Back around 2000, the government of South Korea decided to adopt a Romanization system, representing a symbol as written text.

When switching to such a system the English spelling and pronunciation of a word will can change, as is the case with Pusan becoming Busan.

Busan is the largest port in South Korea with a population of more that 3.6 million people. It is also the latest stop on the "Where in the world is Francis James" world tour.

According to the New York Times, South Korea makes the best bootleg purses in ALL of Asia.

I am partial to Coach...just in case anyone in South Korea was wondering ;)

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Olive oil can be used for baking

Olive oil can be used for baking instead of butter or shortening. Olive oil is free of cholesterol, and is significantly lower in fat making your favorite baked goods a little bit healthier without losing any delicious taste.

When swapping your butter or shortening for olive oil amounts must be changed - check out the handy conversion chart below:

I know what your thinking...and no, it will not make your crownies taste like olives as long as you use extra light olive oil.

I sampled a brownie made with olive oil from the Bertolli booth at the Feast of San Gennaro in New York City, and it tasted nothing like olives and everything like a delicious chocolaty brownie.

The Feast of San Gennaro is the longest running and largest religious festival in the United States. This year it will take place from September 10 through September 20. I would definitely recommend taking a trip to Little Italy and checking it out.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

In 9 years, 2 cats (and their babies) can generate more than 11,000,000 kittens

In 9 years, 2 cats (and their babies) can generate more than 11,000,000 kittens, according to the Greenville Humane Society. That's a lot of kitty!

How is that possible, you ask? Well, cats will have approximately 3 litters per year, if not spayed, with about 4 kittens per litter. So that's 12 new cats, which could potentially each create 12 new cats, and each one of them 12 more cats and on and on and on...

Eeek! Make it stop!

Unless you are some kind of cat lady, the thought of 11,000,000 uncontrolled cats roaming the neighborhood is not an attractive one (I have frequently expressed my feelings on cats).

How can you prevent 11,000,000 cats from being generated over 9 years? As Bob Barker always said...

If you have adopted a pet that is not spayed or neutered, contact the shelter you adopted it from to find out about discounts. If you purchased your pet, contact your vet. If you live in the area, try mine.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

A cold or the flu is contagious a day or so before symptoms occur

A cold or the flu is contagious a day or so before symptoms occur, however, contagiousness reaches its peak about three days after contracting the virus. Let me take this opportunity to apologize in advance if anyone I have seen Thursday through today gets sick - I'll bring you some sympathy soup.

So, how does one know if they have a cold or the flu?

Being the responsible adult that I am, I took a trip to the local Minute Clinic to find out, and to make sure I didn't have the, dare I say it... dun dun dahhhh... swine flu.

Upon my arrival to the clinic the nurse-lady gave me a handout which clearly explained the difference between cold and the flu:

Had I had this chart ahead of time, I would have probably stayed on my couch... but the trip did give me the chance to pick-up some medicines and the BEST tissues in the world (be careful, they are addictive).

But its always better to be safe than sorry - and since I believe everything I see on TV, you should be really careful this year, wash your hands ALL the time, carry sanitizer and don't talk to ANYBODY (kidding).

For some tips on avoiding sickness this fall, click here.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Smart people don't eat anything in Japan...

Smart people don't eat anything in Japan...because their food speaks. What does it say? It tells them random facts.

Yes, it's true. Proof? Check out one of the (slightly disturbing) trivia videos I found on BuzzFeed:

And there are a bunch of them, and they share random facts like that a flamingo's mothers milk is red, a squid has three hearts and that Mandarin ducks break up once they finish their nest. I checked it out... they are true. I'm not really sure how I feel about this - I'm half intrigued, half creeeeped out.

Turns out Mameshiba are not really talking food - they are just little dog faced bean creatures (kinda like Hello Kitty or Pokemon) that like to hide in what you are about to eat and share knowledge with you.

To see more, visit their the Mameshiba YouTube channel.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Tomato juice does not remove the smell of a skunk

Tomato juice does not remove the smell of a skunk, it just masks it. The only way to really remove a skunk's spray is through oxidation - basically removing the odor from the skin though the chemical process of removing one compound (skunk stink) from another (your skin).

But if you're not keen on conducting science experiments on you or your pet, you can try the tomato sauce method - and here's how to do it.

1. Remove stinky clothes (assuming that you were wearing them) - you could try to bleach them, but your best bet is throwing them away, far far away
2. Fill a bathtub with water and enter it
3. Wash yourself off with soap (carbolic is best) to remove dirt and maybe some smell
4. Next wash yourself with equal parts vinegar and water
5. Get a large amount of tomato juice, like you might have to Costco it, and pour it all over your body
6. If you still smell, rinse and repeat

Generally I avoid skunks when I can, I saw one while walking along the Hudson in Edgewater last night, and I contemplated jumping into the river. I had never seen one so close (alive) and it was kinda cute. Some people think they are really cute and even turn them into pets.

No worries - that one is descented. Interested? To find your own black and white buddy visit OOPS, or Owners of Pet Skunks.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Candy Land was created as a treament for Polio

Candy Land was created in 1949 as a treatment for Polio , not for the physical illness, but for mental health. Sick children who played the game were able to take their mind off of their sickness and fly away to another world - a delicious world of candy!

Sixty years later, the world of candy is still helping children in need - to celebrate Candy Land's birthday, Hasbro invited children from a local hospital to play the game on a life sized board down the crookedest street in the world - Lombard Street, in San Francisco. Check it out:

How could you NOT love Candy Land? With an age range of 1 - 100 and a setup time of under 3 min, its truly a game for everyone - well accept if you are color blind, then you might need a friend to help (but you can still play!). I remember playing as a kid, and while I always wanted to look like Queen Frostine, my favorite character had to be Gloppy the molasses monster.

Look how happy he is! Not a care in the world...but melting.

Who is your favorite Candy Land character?

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Nine out of 10 U.S. bills are covered in "blow"

Nine out of 10 U.S. bills are covered in "blow," or cocaine, according to a recent CNN article featuring data released by the American Chemical Society.

What. Really? That can't be true
, you think. It is, and it gets worse. In the following highly populated urban areas - Detroit, Michigan; Boston, Massachusetts; Orlando, Florida; Miami, Florida; Los Angeles, California - 100% of U.S. bills contained traces of cocaine.

Oh my. Wash your hands. Don't eat money.

It can't be that every American is using illegal drugs - so how did it get there? The majority of bills are contaminated when being used in drug transactions and as a tool to inhale the toxic powder (hugs not drugs!). The money then gets passed around, through restaurants, ATMs, stores etc. bringing the residue with it. Thankfully the amount on each bill is not enough to be a health risk.

The American Chemical Society also reported that $1 bills were the least likely to contain traces of residue because drugs are much more expensive than that (see Dope Wars - great game).

This information is eyeopening to the problem of drug use in America. Maybe one day we can be like Zhuzhou, China where money is 100% cocaine free.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Are you a mosquito magnet? Blame your mother...

Are you a mosquito magnet? Blame your mother...(or father) 85% of what attracts mosquitoes to you is hereditary. One of the hereditary traits that will make you more attractive to the flying bloodsuckers is your cholesterol, not necessarily high cholesterol, but the amount in the top layer of your skin.


They are also attracted to people who omit high levels of certain acids, carbon dioxide - the bigger you are, the more you omit - and steroids (so maybe lay off the juice). When it comes to their dinner, mosquito taste is only skin deep, and they will track their specific victim from up to 50 meters (164 ft) away.

Mosquitoes have been on the planet for over 170 MILLION years, and have evolved into over 175 versions, each more terrible than the last. Clearly, they are not going anywhere.

They even look stupid.

SO. What can you do?

To prevent bites...
*Stop running around. The more you move, the more you breathe, the more carbon dioxide you omit. Sweating doesn't help either.

*Use bug spray with DEET in it. Yeah it's a poison, but how else do you expect to get rid of something that survived DINOSAURS.

*Invest in an electric tennis racket. I have one, and its quite fun (I hope PETA doesn't count insects as animals).

*Eliminate standing water around your home - that's where the demons multiply.

*Cover yourself. The more you wear, the less skin to bite (sorry prostatots)

I heard that keeping a dryer sheet in your pocket keeps insects away. It doesn't, I tried.

Once you have been bitten...
*To treat topically, try using some cortisone cream

*To treat orally, try taking an antihistamine.

Note, do not actually blame your mother or father. They are probably being bitten too.