Wednesday, February 25, 2009

The first St. Patrick's Day parade did not take place in Ireland (nor did they give away free stuff)

The first St. Patrick's Day parade did not take place in Ireland, it took place in New York City on March 17, 1762. Two hundred and forty-seven years later the New York City St. Patrick's Day Parade is now the world's oldest civilian parade. With 150,000 participants, it is also the largest in the U.S.. Other major cities have similar parades such as Boston, Chicago and Philly.

I loveee St. Patrick's Day parades (and St. Patrick's Day -- no wonder as my last name supposedly translates as a drunken brawl, ask Amelia) I would go to everyone in the area (if I could be in two places at once). While each parade is unique, there are a few things that stay the same; beer and public intoxication, corned beef and cabbage and of course, PARADE SWAG!

St. Patrick's Day Parade Package

Yes! There is no better way to celebrate this joyous holiday (might be my favorite of the year) then covering yourself in green clothing and glittery light-up accessories. So I figured, why not start the party a little early and give out some gaudy green gloriousness before the parades start (then maybe you won't have to chase the Guinness girls down for a 2 cent necklace. I did get lovely St. Patty's suspenders last year, thank you Heineken).

Here's how it is going to work, below is a beautiful Pot o' Gold (ok, it's a Solo Cup o''s a recession).

Solo Cup o' Change - click on the image and it will appear bigger in a new window, if you want to be all exact and actually count the change.

Now all you have to do is guess how much change is in the pot (aka Solo cup) and you win the St. Patty's Day Parade Package! Awesome right! I thought so (and no, I did not get these last year at the bar - they are new, with tags). Simple enough... here are a few rules (follow them, or else!).
  • Your guess must be in the following format: $0.00. This is not the gas station, no fractions of cents.
  • You cannot guess a number someone has already guessed (there are enough numbers for all of you)
  • You must MUST include your e-mail address in anti evil robot format i.e. lrbranigam AT gmail DOT com - entries without e-mail addresses are disqualified, you can't win if I can't e-mail you
  • Submit your entry in the comments section below
  • You must submit by 11:59 PM EST on Thursday, March 5. The winner will be announced on Friday, March 6
  • Closest number wins (rounded up, for example, if the number is 12 and there is an 11 and a 13, 13 wins)
There are no tricks, no $20s hidden in the back of the cup or fake coins. Just take a stab at it. Ready, set, GO!

For more information of the history of St. Patrick's Day visit

Beer pong can leave you with more than a good buzz

According to a recent report on Fox and Friends, beer pong can leave you with more than a good buzz, it can also leave you with the flu (ugh), mono (bummer) or herpes (ewwww).

Click here to watch the segment. It's pretty funny.

That is exactly why I prefer flip-cup (or maybe it's because I am terrible at beer pong, haha).

All balls in this game were sanitized before use, and no cups were shared or reused

Best line of the segment: "There is bacteria on my ball!"

If anyone has an embedded link to the video, please share!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The world's strongest magnet weighs more than eight hummers

The world's strongest magnet weighs more than eight hummers. This magnet system, named the 45T / 32mm Hybrid Magnet (Cell 15) is housed at the High Magnetic Field Laboratory at Florida State University.

It generates a field of 45 tesla (not Testa, tes-la) which is the unit of measure for magnets fields. This is over half a million times stronger than the magnetic pull of the Earth (something I really wouldn't screw with). Super magnets, like the 45T, help scientists with research that leads to advancements in medicine, material research and understanding nature.

These magnets are safe for humans to visit, but at a 30ft distance (unless of course you have a metal plate in your head or are using a pacemaker - then it would most likely kill you). It will however destroy the magnetic strips on your credit cards and ruin your electronic devices (so as you enter the room, please leave all your credit cards and electronics with me for, um, safekeeping...).

Your everyday refrigerator magnet generates a magnetic field of .01 tesla. I have recently started to acquire various magnets for my empty fridge, here is what I have so far...

Saddest collection ever

For more information on magnets, click here.

This post was inspired by the thought of starting a collection I used to justify buying an overpriced chotchka Atlantic City magnet.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Prisioners were not the only ones living on Alcatraz

Prisoners were not the only ones living on Alcatraz, the Rock was also home to guards, ground keepers and their families (Have you met the new neighbor? He seems like a straight shooter).

About 200 civilians lived on the island including around 50 children. According to Claire Rudolf Murphy, author of Children of Alcatraz, children on the island lived relatively normal lives; playing sports, hanging out at the corner store, attending dances and visiting 'lovers lane.' Many of the buildings which housed the civilians were destroyed by fires during the Native American occupation of the island from 1969-71.

Other famous big houses like Soledad and San Quentin also had civilian populations.

Alcatraz Island is now a tourist attraction. I would definitely check it out when visiting San Francisco, but remember to make your ferry reservations in advance.

Yeah, I did some time...

For more information on Alcatraz, visit

Thanks to The Rock for inspiring this post and the best Sean Connery line ever.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Americans spend 100 hours a year commuting to and from work

Americans spend 100 hours a year commuting to and from work, according to the recent U.S. Census Bureau American Community Survey.

Hmm, well let's do the math (note I was a communications major for a reason). My commute is about 20 min each way. That is 40 min a day in transit. So if work 5 days a week, 52 weeks a year, minus 20 days for holidays and time off that is 240 days a year. Take that 240 days and multiply it by 40 min and then divide by 60, I spend 160 hours a year driving to and from work.

(40 min) x (240 work days a year) / (60 min to an hour) =
160 hours a year

I guess that makes me above average (as usual, haha). Feel free to try it yourself. Maybe you are above average too (if you are an Encyclopedia Branigan reader, then that is a given).

Yup, that's how I roll to work...or would if I knew how to drive stick.
I can feel my dad shaking his head as I type this...

To take it a step further, if my commute is about 14 miles (lets round to make my life easier, thanks) and gas is about $2 a gallon (again rounding for ease) then I drive 28 miles a day, times 240 days, and my beautiful truck gets about 24 miles per gallon highway (let's pretend I don't drive erratically) on a 19 gallon tank (this is getting complex)...

(28 work miles per day) x (240 work days a year) /
(24 miles per gallon) x (19 gallon tank) x ($38.00 per tank) =
$560.00 per year on work gas

I don't know where that stands with averages...but I'd say my commute isn't bad at all. Give it a try. Thankfully, I get to spend that 20 min peacefully driving by myself. The same cannot be said for this poor guy...

Be sure to vote for his terrible commute in the Quaker State World's Worst Commute contest at

Thanks to Mr. Perri for making me love my borat-bluetooth-drunkard-smoke free commute.

Monday, February 16, 2009

And the winner is...What is scarier, Hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia or having to spell it?

Yes! Congrats to Sham and her word, Hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia.


Part of Speech: n
Definition: fear of long words

I loved the irony of the word and its meaning. I did a little research on the word, and while some sources claim it is a fake word, if Webster's says its a word, that's good enough for me.

And the runner ups...

Testanator takes second with pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis


/ˈnumənoʊˌʌltrəˌmaɪkrəˌskɒpɪkˈsɪlɪˌkoʊvɒlˌkeɪnoʊˌkoʊniˈoʊsɪs, ˈnyu-/ Show Spelled Pronunciation [noo-muh-noh-uhl-truh-mahy-kruh-skop-ik-sil-i-koh-vol-key-noh-koh-nee-oh-sis, nyoo-] Show IPA Pronunciation
an obscure term ostensibly referring to a lung disease caused by silica dust, sometimes cited as one of the longest words in the English language.

I love this word. I also love antidisestablishmentarianism. I learned that one in 7th grade.

I loved the mention of antidisestablishmentarianism, a word I would fear if i had Hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia (ahhh applying the vocab words already!).

And in third place, JAG with uvula

(pronounced /ˈjuːvjələ/) is the conic projection from the posterior edge of the middle of the soft palate, composed of connective tissue containing a number of racemose glands, and some muscular fibers (musculus uvulae).[1]. It is frequently confused with the epiglottis[1] and the tonsils.

Just to show that size is not the only thing that matters when it comes to vocabulary words, it's what you learn from them. I always wondered what that hanging thing was called. Now I know.

This is not the end! Keep learning and expanding your vocabulary with the word of the day.

Thank you to all who participated! Keep an eye out for the next Smart people love free stuff contest.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

War, not love, is why we celebrate Valentine's Day

War was the driving force behind Valentine's Day.

There are a number of legends behind Valentine's Day, but the most popular surrounds a Roman emperor and his priest. Back, back, back in the day (the 3rd century, Rome) Emperor Claudius II decided that young single men made better soldiers than men with wives and children. So, Claudius outlawed young men to get married in an effort to strengthen his troops. Some people weren't too thrilled with this decree, one of these people being a certain priest, Valentine.

Valentine decided to secretly marry people anyway. Naturally, this pissed Claudius off, and Valentine was whacked. All of this is said to have happened in the middle of February, which is why Valentine's Day is celebrated on the 14th of February.

While some people love to hate this candy coated, rose petaled, love filled, commercial holiday, others can't wait to celebrate tonight with their sweeties. To all of you who will be "celebrating" I wish you a Happy Valentine's Day.

Someone who doesn't love me on V-day, my dog...

To all the fabulous singles out there (33% in NYC), think about all the money you saved being single on V-Day, and then go utilize the President's Day sales and spend it on yourself.

For more information on the history of Valentine's Day, visit

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Peanut Butter and Jelly is another amazing creation of WW2 GIs

Yes! Peanut Butter and Jelly is another amazing creation of WW2 GIs.

I was consuming my peanut butter and jelly breakfast (and lunch) sandwich (I will go food shopping today Mom, I promise) and I thought to myself, Who is responsible for this most amazing creation?

During WW2, soldiers were given peanut butter and jelly as part of their rations. It is believed that WW2 soldiers may have been the first to mix these two condiments, and are the geniuses behind this delicious breakfast/lunch/dinner treat. Thank you!

Another source reports that the PB&J sandwich was first documented in 1901:

"The first located reference to the now immortal peanut butter and jelly
sandwich was published by Julia Davis Chandler in 1901. This immediately became
a hit with America's youth, who loved the double-sweet combination, and it has
remained a favorite ever since.... During the early 1900s peanut butter was
considered a delicacy and as such it was served at upscale affairs and in New
York's finest tearooms. Ye Olde English Coffee House made a 'Peanut Butter and
Pimento Sandwich.' The Vanity Fair Tea-Room served its peanut butter with
watercress.... The Colonia Tea-Room served peanut butter on toast triangles and
soda crackers. That peanut butter could be combined with so many diverse
products demonstrated that it was a relatively neutral platform providing a
nutty taste and a sticky texture that bound together various

Peanut butter sandwiches moved down the class structure as the
price of peanut butter declined due to the commercialization of the industry.
Peanut butter's use also moved down the age structure of the nation as
manufacturers added sugar to the peanut butter, which appealed to children. The
relationship between children and peanut butter was cemented in the late 1920s,
when Gustav Papendick invented a process for slicing and wrapping bread. Sliced
bread meant that children could make sandwiches themselves without slicing the
bread with a potentially dangerous knife. As a consequence of low cost, high
nutrition, and ease of assembling, peanut butter sandwiches became one of the
top children's meals during the Depression."

Source: Peanuts: The Illustrious
History of the Goober Pea, Andrew F. Smith. University of Illinois Press,
Urbana. 2002.

Regardless of who what where when why how, I loveeee it, especially on potato bread.

To some people PB&J is more than just food, it's a science. There is even a ratio of peanut butter to jelly that will produce the perfect sandwich (I once had to explain to a non PB&J eater that such a ratio existed...well here is proof! hah!).

Ratio courtesy of

Thanks to my breakfast for inspiring this post.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Smart people have large vocabularies (and love free stuff)

Yes! It's true. Smart people have large vocabularies! Very large. You know what else smart people have that's large?

A desire for free stuff! So since I am in a terribly good mood, and you are all such lovely readers, I have decided to host another contest (yay!).

Here's how it goes, in the comments please post:
  1. A word you know
  2. The definition
  3. An e-mail address where you can be reached (and as super smart Maven taught me, post it like this "lrbranigan AT gmail DOT com" so the spammy evil robots don't get your e-mail address)
That's it. Really? Yes. Short and sweet this time. Entries will be judged on how interesting the word is, so don't post something you use every day (and please, keep it PG). Make your comments by Friday, February 13 (ugh, unlucky day) at 11:59 PM EST. The winner will be announced Monday.

And what do you get if you are the winner?

A beautiful handcrafted anklet designed by jeweler Lori Rae which features Swarovski crystals and a sterling silver chain (only the best for my readers).

I always wanted to be on QVC (no lie), but its easy to see why I'm not with these hamburger/sausage hands. It's no wonder I type with two fingers (thanks for nothing PAWS).

The winner and two runner ups will receive a certificate from the University of Branigan (You can ask Paul Z., it's pretty awesome).

Ready, set, GO!

Thanks to Beth Randall Branigan (yes relation), representative for Lori Rae, for donating the anklet. You are especially lovely.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Did you know...

...that the total number of text messages sent and received every day exceeds the total population of the planet?


That is just one of the awesome facts in a video on information technology researched by Karl Fisch, Scott McLeod, and Jeff Bronman.

Check it out...

What?!? Do you believe it?

Thanks to my Dad for bringing this video to my attention.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

What do the Mad Hatter and Jeremy Piven have in common? Mercury poisoning!

The Mad Hatter and Jeremy Piven both may suffer from illness due to mercury poisoning.

Back, back in the day (the 19th century) "hatters" (those who make hats) used mercury as part of the hat making process. Inhalation of the mercury vapors eventually sickened the "hatters" causing them to display the symptoms of mercury poisoning, which include emotional changes, lack of coordination, twitching and tremors and impaired speech. Apparently, back in the day, a person who had these strange symptoms was believed to be "mad," thus creating the phrase "mad as a hatter." The name of the character, the Mad Hatter, of Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland is believed to be influenced by this phrase.

But did the Mad Hatter really suffer from mercury poisoning, or was he just plain mad? He did not display the medical symptoms of mercury poisoning, so I believe he was just plain crazy (maybe there was something in the tea...hugs not drugs kiddies). The same has been speculated of Mr. Piven (but how could you not love Ari Gold? Entourage come back!).

For more information on mercury poisoning, click here.

This post was inspired by my darling brother Max, who showed me this Alice in Wonderland video remix.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Earthquakes in New Jersey are Ramapo's Fault

There are earthquakes in New Jersey.

Tonight at 10:34 pm EST a 2.9 earthquake shook Morris County, NJ (around the same time, coincidentally, my dog flipped out like John Travolta in Phenomenon). The earthquake was caused by movement around the Ramapo Fault (I have lived in NJ my whole life and didn't know it existed).

According to the Earth Institute at Columbia University,
"The Ramapo Fault is part of a system of north-east striking, southeast-dipping faults, which are mapped from southeastern New York to eastern Pennsylvania and beyond. These faults were active at different times during the evolution of the Appalachians, especially in the Mesozoic when they served as border faults to the Newark Basin and other extensional basins formed by the opening of the Atlantic Ocean approximately 200 million years ago."

I can't find News 12 on my TV, so I'm not sure the extent of any damage caused by the quake, but I hope that everyone is alright.

For instructions on what to do during an earthquake, visit the FEMA website.

And the winner is...You are never more than 6 feet away from a spider

Yes! After hours of deliberation, my expert panel (I really did get other people read them...well kind of bombarded them, but whatever...) put in their votes and I can now name the winner of the "Smart people love free stuff" contest.

drum roll please...


I was honestly freaked out by this fact. Kudos for mentioning Law and Order, I'm a huge SVU fan (oooh Christopher Meloni).

A random fact
You are never more than 6 feet away from a spider.

(Since Paul didn't provide a photo, I took the liberty of including a picture of the only spider I ever remotely liked.)

How you know the fact
Kelly and Anderson Cooper spoke about it this morning on Live with Regis and Kelly.
Regis had the day off. Also as per my research it was on some episode of Law and Order.

Proof that the fact is true:
at exactly 9:20 on January 23rd
also . . . .
3rd paragraph.

BUT there is more! Second place goes to...

Shana R!

Who doesn't love a good WDW fact? I feel like that is something my dad would have told me. Love it.

Random Fact: There are 11,324 triangles on Epcot’s Spaceship Earth

How I know this fact: When I was at Epcot, my family and I were walking past Epcot, and my younger brother asked, “how many triangles do you think are on that thing?” We all took our guesses, trying to see who could guess closest to the actual number. When we got home, I googled it, and found that the answer was only 1,324 more than what I guessed. For the record, I had the closest guess.


Andddd last but not least....third place goes to...

Lindsey S!

You can tell by the length of this post Lindsey really did her homework. "A for Effort" goes to you and your exceptional post. You make me want to go to

Stendhal syndrome, Stendhal's syndrome, Hyperkulturemia, or Florence syndrome- is a psychosomatic illness that causes rapid heartbeat, dizziness, fainting, and even hallucinations, due to being exposed and overcome by art. Usually this art will be breathtakingly beautiful, or plentiful in one single area. The name "Stendhal" or "Florence" syndrome was coined due to this phenomenon's first and most common place of occurance (Florence, Italy), and the first person to have said to experience such an incredible sensation during an 1817 sojourn to Italy. (19th CenturyFrench author Henri-Marie Beyle or his penname- Stendhal) After his journey he completed the book- Naples and Florence: A Journey from Milan to Reggio.

Italian psychiatrist Graziella Magherini, observed and described more than 100 similar cases among tourists and visitors in Florence. The syndrome was first diagnosed in 1982.

Stendhal Syndrom has been noted or used as a plot in the following:

# Graziella Magherini. La Sindrome di Stendhal. Firenze, Ponte Alle Grazie, 1989. [1]
# Frieze Magazine Article
# Cameron in Ferris Bueller's Day Off may be having a episode of the syndrome in the museum scene.
# In Chuck Palahniuk's novel Diary, Stendhal Syndrome is an important element of the plot and is referenced several times throughout the book

* The Stendhal Syndrome (2007)- Staring Asia Argento, and Thomas Kretschmann Director: Dario Argento

I can personally attest to the accuracy of this Random Fact, not only through extensive research, but I myself have experienced such sensations- Heavy breathing, crying, and shaking upon seeing The Roman Colosseum, Various parts of Venice, The Palio of Siena, and the Original works of Botticelli at the Uffizi in Florence. During my 8 period study period in Firenze, I had a number of profs tell me stories of how they've seen tourists being taken to the nearby hospital because they fainted in a museum, church, or along Ponte Vecchio. Of course... for this reason the Florentines take pride in their city and can be uber-pretentious when speaking of their history... I GUESS if I could call my place of birth the center of the Renaissance and have possible familial ties to Da Vinci or Dante Alighieri, I'd be a snob too.

Thank you to everyone who participated and to my distinguished panel of judges. You are all lovely.