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Fact of the Day - SLEEP PARALYSIS

 

Did you know... that recurrent isolated sleep paralysis is a parasomnia?  A parasomnia involves undesired events that come along with sleep.  Sleep paralysis causes you to be unable to move your body at either of the two following times: 

 

  • When falling asleep (hypnagogic or predormital form)
  • When waking up from sleep (hypnopompic or postdormital form)

 

Normally your brain causes your muscles to relax and be still as you sleep.  This is called “atonia.” Sleep paralysis seems to be when this atonia occurs while you are awake.  Sleep paralysis is “isolated” when it appears without any other signs of narcolepsy. 

An episode of paralysis may cause you to be unable to speak.  It can also make you unable to move your arms and legs, body, and head.  You are still able to breathe normally.  You are also fully aware of what is happening. An episode can last for seconds or minutes.  The episode usually ends on its own. It may also end when someone touches you or speaks to you.  Making an intense effort to move can also end an episode.  Sleep paralysis may occur only once in your life. It may also happen many times in a year.

It can be very scary when you are unable to move.  You may feel anxious and afraid. Some people also hallucinate during an episode.  They may see, hear or feel things that are not there.  They may even think that another person is in the room with them.  These hallucinations may also appear without the sleep paralysis.

Sleep paralysis tends to first appear in the teen years.  It then occurs most often when you are in your 20s and 30s.  It may continue into your later years. It is not a serious medical risk.

Sleep paralysis can be one sign of narcolepsy.  Other signs include disturbed sleep at night and falling asleep suddenly during the day.  Recurrent isolated sleep paralysis does not disturb your sleep.

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Fact of the Day - MARIE CURIE

 

Did you know.... that Marie Curie, best known for the development of the theory of radioactivity, was a Polish and naturalized-French physicist and chemist?  In 1903, Marie Curie made history when she won the Nobel Prize in physics with her husband, Pierre, and with physicist Henri Becquerel for their work on radioactivity, making her the first woman to receive the honor.  The second Nobel Prize she took home in 1911 was even more historic.  The second Nobel Prize she received recognized her discovery and research of two elements: radium and polonium.  The former element was named for the Latin word for "ray" and the latter was a nod to her home country, Poland.  With that win in the chemistry category, she became the first person of any gender to win the award twice.  She remains the only person to ever receive Nobel Prizes for two different sciences.

 

The research that won Marie Curie her first Nobel Prize required hours of physical labor.  In order to prove they had discovered new elements, she and her husband had to produce numerous examples of them by breaking down ore into its chemical components.  Their regular labs weren't big enough to accommodate the process, so they moved their work into an old shed behind the school where Pierre worked.  According to Curie, the space was a hothouse in the summer and drafty in the winter, with a glass roof that didn't fully protect them from the rain.  After the famed German chemist Wilhelm Ostwald visited the Curies' shed to see the place where radium was discovered, he described it as being "a cross between a stable and a potato shed, and if I had not seen the worktable and items of chemical apparatus, I would have thought that I was been played a practical joke."

 

When Marie was performing her most important research on radiation in the early 20th century, she had no idea the effects it would have on her health. It wasn't unusual for her to walk around her lab with bottles of polonium and radium in her pockets.  She even described storing the radioactive material out in the open in her autobiography.  "One of our joys was to go into our workroom at night; we then perceived on all sides the feebly luminous silhouettes of the bottles of capsules containing our products[…]  The glowing tubes looked like faint, fairy lights."  It's no surprise then that Marie Curie died of aplastic anemia, likely caused by prolonged exposure to radiation, in 1934. Even her notebooks are still radioactive a century later.  Today they're stored in lead-lined boxes, and will likely remain radioactive for another 1500 years.

 

Her desire to help her adopted country fight the new war didn't end there.  After making the donation, she developed an interest in x-rays—not a far jump from her previous work with radium—and it didn't take her long to realize that the emerging technology could be used to aid soldiers on the battlefield.  Curie convinced the French government to name her Director of the Red Cross Radiology Service and persuaded her wealthy friends to fund her idea for a mobile x-ray machine.  She learned to drive and operate the vehicle herself and treated wounded soldiers at the Battle of the Marne, ignoring protests from skeptical military doctors.  Her invention was proven effective at saving lives, and ultimately 20 "petite Curies," as the x-ray machines were called, were built for the war.

 

Following World War I, Marie Curie embarked on a different fundraising mission, this time with the goal of supporting her research centers in Paris and Warsaw.  Curie's radium institutes were the site of important work, like the discovery of a new element, francium, by Marguerite Perey, and the development of artificial radioactivity by Irène and Frederic Joliot-Curie.  The centers, now known as Institut Curie, are still used as spaces for vital cancer treatment research today.

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Fact of the Day - CONSTRUCTION INDUSTRY

 

Did you know... that in China, a construction company has claimed to be the fastest builders within the construction industry after building a 57-Storey skyscraper in just 19 days?  The companies engineer stated, “With the traditional method they have to build a skyscraper brick by brick, but with our method, we just need to assemble the blocks”.  They even created a time-lapse video whilst building this mini-city sky-scraper which has become incredibly popular on Chinese video sharing sites ever since it was first uploaded. [Check it our here]  This company is now trying to build the world’s tallest skyscraper – building around 220-stories within 3 months. Sounds impossible, right? Apparently not.  

 

The smallest skyscraper?  The Newby-McMahon is the smallest skyscraper to this day, measuring to about 40 feet tall. In 1919, a man called J.D. McMahon was able to raise about £200,000 so he would be able to build a 40ft tall building in a small town called Wichita Falls in Texas.  J.D was able to do this because he never stated how tall the building was going to be.  On the blueprints, he wrote 480” – meaning 480 inches, not feet. Sneaky, right?  The investors never noticed it or questioned J.D. – they just assumed that they were going to get a beautiful 480ft skyscraper.

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Fact of the Day - INDEPENDENCE DAY

 

Did you know... that Congress made Independence Day an official unpaid holiday for federal employees in 1870?  In 1938, Congress changed Independence Day to a paid federal holiday.  Only John Hancock actually signed the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776.  All the others signed later.  The Declaration of Independence was signed by 56 men from 13 colonies.  The average age of the Signers of the Declaration of Independence was 45.  The youngest was Thomas Lynch, Jr (27) of South Carolina.  The oldest delegate was Benjamin Franklin (70) of Pennsylvania.  The lead author of The Declaration, Thomas Jefferson, was 33.  he only two signers of the Declaration of Independence who later served as President of the United States were John Adams and Thomas Jefferson.  The first Independence Day celebration took place in Philadelphia on July 8, 1776.  This was also the day that the Declaration of Independence was first read in public after people were summoned by the ringing of the Liberty Bell.  

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Fact of the Day - OSTRICHES

 

Did you know... that ostriches are large, flightless birds that have long legs and a long neck that protrudes from a round body?  Males have bold black-and-white coloring that they use to attract females.  Females, on the other hand, are light brown.  Ostriches are bigger than any other bird in the world.  They can grow up to 9 feet (2.7 meters) tall and can weigh up to 320 lbs. (145 kilograms), according to the African Wildlife Foundation, and an ostrich's eyes are 2 inches (5 centimeters) in diameter — the largest of any land animal.  The ostrich is the only bird that has two toes on each foot. All other birds have three or four toes, according to the American Ostrich Association.  

 

It may seem amazing that an ostrich's thin legs can keep their large bodies upright.  Their legs are perfectly placed so that the body's center of gravity balances on top of its legs.  Their thin legs give them great speed and maneuverability, too.  They can run up to 40 mph (64.3 km/h) for sustained periods of time, according to the American Ostrich Association.  Contrary to popular belief, ostriches don't bury their heads in the sand, but they do lie down with their heads against the ground when they feel threatened.  It only looks like the ostrich has buried its head because its head and neck blend in with the color of the sand.  Ostriches fight with their feet. They kick forward because that's the direction in which their legs bend, according to the American Ostrich Association.  A solid kick can kill a lion.  Ostrich feathers look shaggy because they hang loosely and don't hook together like feathers on other types of birds.

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Fact of the Day - SPACE WASTE

 

Did you know... that on October 4th, 1957, the world — and the space around it — changed forever?  With the successful launch of Sputnik by the Soviet Union, the space age began.  But this triumphant feat of engineering also launched a different type of problem – space waste.  What is space waste?  According to NASA, it is defined as space debris that encompasses both natural particles (think meteoroids) and artificial particles (like the things those of us on Earth make).  The Inter-Agency Space Debris Coordination Committee further narrows this definition as any man-made object in orbit around the Earth that doesn’t serve a useful function.  In our decades of space exploration, we’ve launched more than 8,593 spacecraft around the world. From rocket ships to satellites and even cars, each launch leaves behind a piece of debris in orbit.  That comes out to more than 170 million pieces of debris orbiting our planet, thousands of those pieces are slightly bigger than a softball.  The U.S. Department of Defense, in collaboration with NASA, currently monitors about 50,000 of these objects, both small and large.  Space waste can stay in orbit for centuries so long as it’s above the Earth’s atmosphere.  So far, the biggest and oldest surviving man-made debris is a piece of the American Vanguard 1 launched in 1958.  And if we’re not careful, it’s theorized that the ever-colliding debris will cause disaster collisions.  

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Fact of the Day - SAKURA TREES

 

Did you know... that sakura bloom and die fast?  The flower petals fall down constantly, making the ground of the sakura tree area filled with white or pale pink petals.  This feature is often admired and said to be the appeal of sakura.  There is a name for the state when the sakura petals have all fallen down and the leaves are budding.  This state is called hazakura (葉桜). This seems strange at first, because there are no sakura flowers, yet 'sakura' is in the name.  This may reflect the fact how much the Japanese people love every state of sakura.  There are more than 600 species of sakura in Japan.  This number includes endemic and hybrid species in Japan.  Sakura is known for a plant frequent mutation, which shows in the change of petals, the size of the flower, change in color, the decrease or increase in fruit, and so on.   From this reason, many hybrid species were made.  Sakura can easily rot.  Sakura rots from cuts in their bark or roots. Once it starts rotting, it could easily spread to the whole tree, and die. This is why you need to pay attention where you put your sheets or blankets during hanami.  You may easily be shortening the tree's life.  Image above is the treatment made to the Sakura in order to prevent rotting.  

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Fact of the Day - THUNDERSTORMS

 

Did you know... that thunderstorms are produced in cumulonimbus clouds, which are some of the largest clouds in the atmosphere?  The base of these clouds is usually between 300m metres and 1km above the ground, but they can grow to a height of 10 to 20 kilometres!  You can spot these clouds by their sheer size, towering column shape, and their anvil-shaped top.  Cumulonimbus clouds can pack in a much energy as 10 Hiroshima-sized atomic bombs.  They get this energy from the movement and circulation of warm air, known as convection.  In this process, warm and humid air rises from the ground into the upper atmosphere, where it cools, condenses and falls to form the cloud.  This process continues as more humid air rises and cools, creating a cycle that causes the cloud to grow in size.  

 

Thunderstorms form quickly, and they can take as little as one hour to form.  They are also very common in places where the air is hot and humid - it is estimated that on average, lightning strikes the Earth 44 times every second.  Although meteorologists uses lots of advanced technology to monitor and track storms, you can easily figure out how far a thunderstorm is yourself using a stopwatch and some simple maths.  As soon as you see flash of lightning, start a stopwatch and measure the time it takes until you hear the thunder.  Then take the number of seconds you timed between the lightning and thunder, and divide that by three, giving the distance of the storm is from you in kilometres.

 

Big cities can actually create stronger thunderstorms.  Research has found the extra heat generated around cities can make thunderstorms more intense.  This is thanks to the phenomenon known as the urban heat island effect. Heat from activities such as driving cars, and the vast amount of heat-absorbing concrete in cities means that the air there is warmer.  This extra heat means more hot and humid air rises to form clouds and thunderstorms.  One study in the United States found that rainfall in Phoenix, in the state of Arizona, increased by 12 to 14 per cent as the city grew larger.

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Fact of the Day - CANADA'S ABORIGINAL PEOPLE

 

Did you know... that there are 1,172,790 First Nations, Metis and Inuit people in Canada, collectively called aboriginal, making up to 3.8 percent of Canada’s total population?  Between 1996 and 2006, the aboriginal population grew by 45 percent, compared with 8 percent for the non-aboriginal population.  There are over 50 aboriginal languages spoken in Canada, of these, only Cree, Inuktitut and Ojibway have a large enough population of fluent speakers to be considered viable to survive in the long term.  There are 78,855 fluent speakers of Cree.  Ontario has the largest concentration of aboriginal people at 242,495.  Six Nations is the largest reserve in Canada, with over 21,000 members.  The Iroquois Confederacy, or Six Nations, was originally made up of only five tribes: the Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, Cayuga and Seneca.  The Tuscarora joined later, becoming the sixth nation.

 

First Nations – also known as Natives and Native Canadians – are an Aboriginal group in Canada and one of the country’s original inhabitants.  Today, their history lives on through cultural centers, museums, and festivals. Here are nine things you may not know about Canada’s First Nations.  In Canada, the term Aboriginal peoples refers to First Nations, Inuit, and Métis, which was determined in Section 35 of the Constitution Act of 1983.  Each of these groups were the country’s original inhabitants, and they all have very different histories.  The First Nations have been in Canada for at least 12,000 years, but it could be for much longer.  

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Fact of the Day - ORIGAMI 

 

Did you know... that Yoshizawa Akira is regarded as the grandmaster of origami?  Origami, as probably everyone knows, is the ancient Japanese art of paper folding.  The name origami is derived from the Japanese words 'oru '(to fold) and 'kami '(paper). The name 'origami' was coined in 1880. Before that, the art was called  'orikata' (folded shapes).  Origami is equally popular in China and other parts of Asia.  Initially, the art of paper folding was restricted only to ceremonial occasions, because paper was scarce and expensive.  In ancient times, the designs were transmitted via oral communication.  Traditionally, the recreational designs were passed from mother to daughter.  As no written material was available, only the simplest designs were popular.  The old origami figures mainly included animals, costumed people, and typical ceremonial designs.  When paper and origami were first introduced into Japanese culture, certain origami models were incorporated into religious (Shinto) ceremonies.  There are hundreds of such interesting origami facts that have left enthusiasts stunned.

 

In Japan, people usually acquire origami skills quite early during childhood.  As origami requires 'following precise directions', it has gained a widespread following as a hobby among adults too.  The folding process often involves a number of concepts that are relevant to the study of mathematics.  It is not only a craft designed for children's amusement, but it is also intended for adults.  Many of the origami forms involve complicated steps, and are difficult to make.  

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Fact of the Day - PUFFERFISH

 

Did you know... that pufferfish are some of the more recognized species in the sea, known for their ability to inflate into a thorny balloon that all but screams, “Get away!”?   When not agitated, these creatures are rather curious about divers, swimming closely with what appears to be a permanent grin, watching your every move.  Most of the 120 species of pufferfish are poisonous.  These fish are found in tropical freshwater and saltwater habitats across the globe.  Unfortunately for anything threatening them, most carry the extremely dangerous tetrodotoxin, which can be over 1,000 times stronger than cyanide.  

 

In addition to altering their texture, pufferfish can also change colors. Much like a chameleon, pufferfish can adjust the pigment of their skin depending on the immediate environment.  Thanks to their excellent eyesight, they can quickly adjust in response to potential predators if they’d rather blend in than puff up.  One of the stranger facts about pufferfish is that they only have four teeth.  Their family name, Tetraodontidae, is derived from the Greek words for ‘four’ and ‘tooth’, and the teeth sit at the foremost top and bottom of their mouths.  Pufferfish prefer crunchy foods, including coral, shellfish, and other hard substances to keep their teeth trimmed.  

 

In Japan, pufferfish are treasured not for their quirky behaviors, but for their flavor.  A dish called fugu consists of paper-thin fillets of pufferfish meat, with great care taken to avoid the glands that harbor tetrodotoxin.  For this reason, it is a delicacy prepared only by highly trained chefs, who must train for three years before being allowed to serve fugu.  Even with these precautions, some have still died from consuming pufferfish, which is said to be part of the thrill in ordering it to begin with.

 

You might think pufferfish move easily in water since they’re fish, but they’re actually very poor swimmers.  This is part of the reason scientists believe pufferfish use camouflage and inflation as primary defense mechanisms, as sharks are the only species that are immune to tetrodotoxin.

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Fact of the Day - LED LIGHTS

 

Did you know... that many people think of LEDs as expensive bulbs?  What they do not know is it has many features on top of being a thrifty light source. For one, LEDs do less environmental harm than the common incandescent light bulb.  According to research, this absence of mercury is one of the reasons why people need to support this product.  It is not harmful to humans and it does not have harmful effects on the environment once thrown away.  And as a bonus, about 95% of all LEDs are recyclable so nothing goes to waste.  

 

LEDs can last anywhere between 12 to 22 years.  So can you imagine if you had a baby right now?  He will be in high school or college before your LED goes off.  In fact, LEDs last up to 25 times longer than the common light bulbs and CFLs.  If you install an LED light in your baby’s room now, it will still be there by the time he is a grown up.  LED stands for Light Emitting Diodes.  These bulbs produce light but not in the same efficiency as a common light bulb.  A common light bulb will eat electricity but only converts 10% of that electricity into light.  The other 90% is wasted energy. An LED, however, converts 100% of the energy into light.  

 

Studies show that if LEDs were used enough, they can save 348 TWH of electrical power in 15 years.  Just for some perspective, this amount of power is enough to power 44 large electrical power plants.  In terms of money, this cost –savings amounts to a whopping $30 billion.  There is this thing called thermal shock.  When this happens, your typical light bulb can shatter to pieces without warning.  So it is basically like an exploding grenade with shrapnel.  An LED bulb cannot be so severely damaged so much as to burst like a light bulb.  They do not shatter like CFL. If a CFL or incandescent bulb shatters and you get hit, you need to go to a hospital to get treated not only for physical wounds but for mercury contamination too.

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Fact of the Day - CHRISTMAS TREES

 

Did you know... that the Early church did not like them?  Evergreen trees used to be seen as hedonistic, pagan symbols that had no place in connection with a religious celebration.  As far back as 1647, preacher Johann Conrad Dannhauer of the Strasbourg Cathedral criticized trees as “child’s play” that were getting more attention “than the word of God and the holy rites.”  In the U.S., puritan governor William Bradford railed against the tree’s “pagan mockery.”   The trees’ connection with the celebration of the winter solstice, which generally fell on December 21 or 22, was seen as antithetical to a proper Christian gathering.  But as the tradition persisted, church leaders decided that if they couldn’t beat the decorated trees, they would co-opt them as part of their own Christmas celebration.

 

The use of evergreen trees to celebrate the winter season occurred before the birth of Christ.  However, the first written record of a decorated Christmas Tree comes from Riga, Latvia in year 1510.  Men of the local merchants’ guild decorated a tree with artificial roses, danced around it in the marketplace and then set fire to it.  The rose was used for many year and is considered to be a symbol for the Virgin Mary.  There is a record from 1530 in Alsace, France (then German territory), that trees were sold in the marketplace and brought home and set up undecorated. Laws limited the size to “8 shoe lengths” (slightly over 1.2 meters or 4 feet).  The first printed reference to Christmas trees appeared in Germany in 1531.  Besides evergreens, other types of trees such as cherry and hawthorns were used as Christmas trees in the past.  Using small candles to light a Christmas tree dates back to the middle of the 17th century.

 

 

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Fact of the Day - THE GREAT SPHINX

 

Did you know... that the most famous Sphinx is the Great Sphinx of Giza?  It is one of the largest and oldest statues in the world.  Archaeologists believe that it was carved around 2500 BC and that the head is meant to be the likeness of the Pharaoh Khafra.  The Great Sphinx faces the sunrise and guards the pyramid tombs of Giza.  The Great Sphinx is huge!  It is 241 feet long, 20 feet wide, and 66 feet high.  The eyes on the face are 6 feet tall, the ears over three feet tall, and the nose would have been nearly 5 feet long before it was knocked off.  It is carved out of the bedrock in a trench at the Giza site.   

 

Over the past 4500 years weather and erosion have taken their toll on the Great Sphinx.  It is really amazing that so much of it is left for us to see.  The original Sphinx would have looked a lot different.  It had a long braided beard and a nose.  It also was painted in bright colors.  Archaeologists think that the face and body were painted red, the beard was blue, and much of the headdress was yellow.  That would have been an amazing site!   

No one is entirely sure exactly how the nose got knocked off.  There are stories that Napoleon's men accidentally knocked off the nose, but that theory has proven untrue as pictures have been found without the nose prior to Napoleon's arrival.  Other stories have the nose getting shot off in target practice by Turkish soldiers.  Many people now believe that the nose was chiseled off by someone who considered the Sphinx evil.  

 

After the Sphinx was built, over the course of the next 1000 years it fell into disrepair.  The entire body was covered in sand and only the head could be seen.  Legend has it that a young prince named Thutmose fell asleep near the head of the Sphinx.  He had a dream where he was told that if he restored the Sphinx he would become Pharaoh of Egypt.  Thutmose restored the Sphinx and later became Pharaoh of Egypt. 

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Fact of the Day - EARTHWORMS

 

Did you know... that earthworms are hermaphrodites.  Each has both male and female sex organs, but they cannot fertilize themselves.  Earthworms spend most of their lives underground, creating complex burrow networks.  They make an essential contribution to soil fertility and are therefore very important in gardens and of farm land.  There are thought to be 4,400 species of earthworm!

 

As the earthworm spends most of its life underground, ploughing through the soil and creating complex burrow networks (that may extend 2m or more beneath the surface), their bodies are basically like a tube of muscle arranged in two layers.  One set of fibres run lengthways and another run widthways like a corset around its body.  Tightening the ‘corset’ forces the worm’s head forward.  A wave of contractions then passes back down the body, squeezing more of the worm forward until the long muscles take over to pull up the tail.  Earthworms have tiny retractile bristles along the body which help give it grip and a slippery mucus covering, allowing the worm to move through even the hardest earth.  The thin-skinned earthworm has no resistance to the sun’s ultra-violet radiation, so daylight can be fatal and they will usually only be found on the surface in dull, wet weather.

 

Earthworms will anchor their tail in its burrow and at any sudden noise it will slither back into the earth.  They are attracted to one another by scent.  Their mating ritual involves the two worms lying head-to-tail on the surface of the soil and exchange sperm while bound together in a mucus covering.  Earthworms can contain up to 20 eggs which are sealed up to form a cocoon and which can survive extreme weathers, but usually only one worm emerges from it.  If an earthworm loses one end of its body it may grow a replacement, however, if it is cut in half, it dies. 

 

Contrary to common belief, they do not become two new worms.  Some gardeners poison earthworms to eliminate worm-casts (droppings).  This damages the lawn and animals and birds preying on the worm more than it damages the earthworm population.  Fossilized worms, similar to earthworms, have been found in rocks laid down 600 million years ago. 

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Fact of the Day - VANILLA

 

Did you know... that vanilla is the only edible fruit of the orchid family, the largest family of flowering plants in the world.?  There are over 150 varieties of vanilla plants.  Just like grapes that make wine, no two vanilla beans are the same in flavor, aroma, or color.  Vanilla is still the most favorite ice cream flavor in the US.  The vanilla vine is an orchid which is indigenous to South Eastern Mexico.  Dating back to Cortez’s conquest of the Aztec Kingdom in 1519, it is one of the most ancient flavors.  Many people have tried to re-locate the vanilla plant but initially failed because those locations did not have the Melipone Bee.  Now, in other parts of the world, humans must hand-pollinate the vanilla vines.   A stick, the size of a toothpick is used to hand-pollinate the vanilla beans.  It is possible to grow the same vanilla vine in Madagascar, Indonesia, Tahiti, Papua New Guinea and India, but all five cured beans have their own distinctive flavor due to differing soil and climate conditions.  

 

The United States is the world’s largest consumer of vanilla, followed by Europe – especially France.  Vanilla is not only used as a flavor in foods and beverages but also in perfumes.  Vanilla has many industrial applications such as a flavoring for medicines and as a fragrance to conceal the strong smell of rubber tires, paint and cleaning products.  About 2,000-2,500 tons of vanilla beans are produced worldwide each year.  Spiders don’t like vanilla.  Use whole vanilla beans to drive away those eight-legged creatures.

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Fact of the Day - ANCIENT EGYPTIAN JEWELRY

 

Did you know... that the first simple jewelry pieces were crafted from seashells, bone, and animal skin?  In the years since our ancestors first left the African continent, Egypt has become a dominant civilization in ancient history.  They were empowered by advances in technology, and access to gemstones and precious metals.  They were inspired by the culture of royalty and nobles who had a deep appreciation for luxury and it wasn’t long before they became the leading force in manufacturing jewelry and creating long lasting trends.  

 

The ancient Egyptians valued personal adornment highly and Egyptian jewelry was worn by women and men, and of all social classes.  Their statues of gods and kings were decked with lavish jewels.  The deceased were adorned in jewelry for their send off into the afterlife.  All types of Egyptian jewelry were popular, including bracelets, earrings, collar pieces, anklets, armbands, and rings.  Golden jewelry became a status symbol in pre-dynastic Egypt.  It was a symbol of power, religion, and status. It enabled it to before a greater focus for families of nobility, and royals. This created a larger demand for elaborate pieces. 

 

In addition to gold and materials commonly found throughout Egypt, other materials were imported.  The favored material for the Egyptian Scarab was Lapis Lazuli, a semi-precious stone.  High grade Egyptian jewelry was a majorly desired trade item in the ancient world.  Their craftsmanship was found across territories including Turkey, Rome, ancient Persia, and Greece.

 

The Egyptian nobility favored bracelets, necklaces, amulets, pendants, belts, and hair beads.  They loved pieces that had been designed with scrolls, tigers, scarab beetles, winged birds, jackals, antelopes, and tigers.  One of the more interesting materials that was commonly used is colored glass.  It was first discovered in Egypt and upon its initial discovery it was incredibly expensive due to its rarity.  Colored glass can be found in Egyptian jewelry depicting birds.  The glass was used to represent the feathers.  The nobles wore their expensive jewelry in death as well, and this tradition of securing it in difficult to reach places has allowed archaeologists to discover large quantities of this wealth, perfectly preserved.

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Fact of the Day - SCARLET PIMPERNEL

 

Did you know... that scarlet pimpernel is a low-growing annual wildflower that has square stems, and its oval pointed leaves are black-dotted underneath?  The flowers are rarely more than 10 to 12 mm across and have five sepals (commonly referred to as the petals).  It's distinct orange colour makes it easy to spot if it is in bloom.  It is a plant whose low-spreading habit causes it to creep over the ground rather than grow upright, scarlet pimpernel's bright flowers provide a twinkling cloud of color. A blue form (A. a. caerulea) gives the same light, airy effect.  It will rarely grow more than 4 to 5 inches high.  Scarlet pimpernel thrives in full sun in ordinary garden soil, but favors sandy, well-drained conditions.  Plant 6 inches apart after danger of frost has passed.  It will continue blooming all summer.  

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Fact of the Day - THE SCOTTISH KILT

 

Did you know... that although associated with Celtic culture now, originally the word 'kilt' may have come from the Nordic word 'kjalta', first recorded back in the 9th century?  Early in it's history, Scotland was invaded by several countries (including Romans, Vikings and Scandinavians).  'Old Norse' was the original language of the Scandinavians.  These invaders all dressed differently, in a variety of tunics, robes, shirts and cloaks.  It's not clear exactly how the kilt evolved but it's believed that it's a combination of all of these, adjusted to suit the climate and lifestyle of the hardy, warlike inhabitants of the Scottish Highlands.  During the 16th century, the first Scottish Kilts known as 'Feileadh Mhor' (meaning 'Great Kilt' and pronounced 'feela mor') appeared, and are also referred to now as the 'belted plaid'.  

 

On a side note: Although Mel Gibson wears a Great Kilt in the movie Braveheart, in reality these didn't exist during the 13th century (which is the timeframe the movie represents).

 

Traditionally the Feileadh Mhor was made from one length of a thick, wool cloth known as 'breacan' (a Gaelic word meaning speckled or partly colored). This cloth was usually about 5ft wide and could be up to 21ft long.  Several feet of the fabric was folded into loose pleats and wrapped around the wearers' waist, then fastened in place with a thick, leather belt.  The rest of the cloth was thrown over the shoulder, and tucked into the belt at the back.  This spare material could also be pulled up over the head and shoulders to protect whoever was wearing it from cold winds, and heavy rain or snow.  The whole thing was worn over a long sleeved tunic, which reached the knees.

 

Over a hundred years later, around the middle of the 17th Century this early, heavy and rather awkward, version of the kilt began to be replaced by the 'Feileadh Beag' (also known as the 'Philabeg' and pronounced 'feela beg').  This was basically the lower half  of the Feileigh Mor and consisted of a single (shorter) length of breacan, loosely folded, wrapped around the waist and again secured by a thick belt.  There was no 'extra' cloth to throw over the shoulder or use as a cloak, and this variation was also known as the 'Walking Kilt'.  In the 18th Century, the loose folds were widely being replaced by pleats that were sewn into the fabric, making the whole outfit much easier to wear.  For a while both styles were worn by Highlanders, but over time the older Great Kilt disappeared from everyday wear as the more comfortable Walking Kilt took it's place .  By this point in history it was much more recognizable as the ancestor of today's kilt.

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Fact of the Day - LABOR DAY

 

Did you know... that the first Monday in September is celebrated nationally as Labor Day?  So how did we get the holiday and why is no one quite sure who created it?  The Labor Day holiday grew out of the late 19th century organized labor movement, and it quickly became a national holiday as the labor movement assumed a prominent role in American society. 

 

In September 1882, the unions of New York City decided to have a parade to celebrate their members being in unions, and to show support for all unions.  At least 20,000 people were there, and the workers had to give up a day’s pay to attend.  There was also a lot of beer involved in the event.  Other regions started having parades, and by 1887, Oregon, Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, and Colorado made Labor Day a state holiday.   

 

On May 4, 1886, a bomb exploded at a union rally in Chicago’s Haymarket Square, which led to violence that killed seven police officers and four others.  The incident also led to May 1 being celebrated in most nations as Workers Day.  The U.S. government chose Labor Day instead to avoid a celebration on May 1 and New York's unions had already picked the first Monday in September for their holiday.  Two people with similar names are credited with that first New York City event.  Matthew Maguire, a machinist, and Peter McGuire, a carpenter, have been linked to the 1882 parade.  The men were from rival unions; in 2011, Linda Stinson, a former U.S.  Department of Labor’s historian, said she didn't know which man should be credited - partially because people over the years confused them because of their similar-sounding names.  

 

Grover Cleveland helped make Labor Day a national holiday.  After violence related to the Pullman railroad strike, President Cleveland and lawmakers in Washington wanted a federal holiday to celebrate labor - and not a holiday celebrated on May 1.  Cleveland signed an act in 1894 establishing the federal holiday; most states had already passed laws establishing a Labor Day holiday by that point. Sen. James Henderson Kyle of South Dakota introduced S. 730 to make Labor Day a federal legal holiday on the first Monday of September.  It was approved on June 28, 1894.

 

The holiday has evolved over the years.  In the late 19th century, celebrations focused on parades in urban areas. Now the holiday is a celebration that honors organized labor with fewer parades, and more activities.  It also marks the perceived end of the summer season.

 

Can you wear white after Labor Day?  This old tradition goes back to the late Victorian era, where it was a fashion faux pas to wear any white clothing after the summer officially ended on Labor Day.  The tradition isn’t really followed anymore.  EmilyPost.com explains the logic behind the fashion trend – white indicated you were still in vacation mode at your summer cottage.

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