Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Apple #85: Birthdays

Someone might be celebrating a birthday on this date.

I tried to find information about when people started celebrating birthdays in the way we do today, but I haven't been able to find much that's specific. Probably because birthdays are another one of those cultural things that now everybody does, and nobody paid much attention as it slowly became pervasive.

What I've found, generally, is it wasn't until pretty recently -- probably the early 1900's -- when regular people started celebrating their birthdays. Until then, kings and queens, pharaohs, dignitaries, the people with money and power got to have birthdays.

I would bet that children started to get presents for their birthdays only after child labor laws were passed during the Industrial Revolution. (In the US, those laws really started to take hold in the 1910's and 1920's.)

But now, there's cake, and there are songs, and presents, and cards from old friends, and you get to wear funny hats if you want to, and maybe the dog will bark during the singing, and you might take a trip to the zoo, or to the ball park, and you might talk to people you haven't talked to in far too long, there might be hugs all around, and maybe a beverage of choice or two, there might be more songs and maybe a little more cake, and you might just have a good day through and through.

Famous people born on June 29:
  • Julia Clifford Lathrop, social worker, 1858 (worked with Jane Addams in Chicago, helped found the first juvenile court, headed the US Children's Bureau)
  • Antoine Saint-Exupery, French aviator and writer, 1900 (The Little Prince)
  • Leroy Anderson, musician, 1909 (Syncopated Clock)
  • John Toland, writer, 1912 (Pulitzer Prize for The Rising Sun: The Decline and Fall of the Japanese Empire)
  • Slim Pickens, actor, 1919 (Dr. Strangelove, Blazing Saddles)
  • Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle, actor, 1933 (Keystone Comedies, Mabel & Fatty)
  • Harmon Killebrew, baseball player, 1936 (Washington Senators, Minnesota Twins, Kansas City Royals)
  • David Jenkins, Olympian, 1936 (figure skating, 1960 Olympics)
  • Gary Busey, actor, 1944 (The Buddy Holly Story, A Star is Born)
  • Dan Dierdorf, NFL football player and sportscaster, 1949 (offensive tackle for U of Michigan and St. Louis Cardinals; Monday Night Football)
  • Fred Grandy, actor and politician, 1948 (Gopher on The Love Boat, Rep. R-Iowa, 1986 to present)
  • Ian Pace, musician, 1948 (White Snake, Deep Purple)
  • Colin Hay, musician, 1953 (vocals for Men at Work)
  • Don Dokken, musician, 1953 (Dokken)
  • Pedro Guererro, baseball player, 1956 (Los Angeles Dodgers, St. Louis Cardinals)
  • Leslie Browne, ballerina, 1958 (Turning Point)
  • Sergey Kopylove, Olympiad, 1960 (cyclist, 1980 Olympics)
  • Jean Francois Sencal, Olympiad, 1961 (rifle shooter, 1992 and 1996 Olympics)
  • Angela and Amy Lakeburg, US Siamese twins, 1993, (separated August 20th)

Happy Birthday, Gopher!

Sources, Famous Birthdays
Any Day in History, June 29 birthdays
Infoplease Almanad, Today's birthday
World Almanac for Kids, Historical Birthdays for June
Waterboro, Maine Public Library, June literary birthdays
photo of Gopher from "Why don't you dance with me -- I'm not limburger!"

Friday, June 24, 2005

Apple #84: Detroit & Dachshunds


Preparing to leave for a trip, I have just a few tidbits for you:
  • The word "Detroit" is French for "straits."
  • Detroit was established in 1701 as a trading post on the Detroit River by a Frenchman named Antoine de Lamothe Cadillac.
  • In 1763, Chief Pontiac, a leader of the Ottawa tribe, held Detroit in a siege during a rebellion after the French & Indian War.
  • There have been three race riots in Detroit, one in 1863, one in 1943, and most recently, one in 1967, one of the worst race riots in our country's history. Notably, all occurred during wartime.
  • Detroit is the 8th most populated city in the country, with 5.5 million people.
  • The Detroit River provides drinking water to over 5 million people.
  • The concert locale now called DTE Energy Music Theater (formerly known as Pine Knob) was the number 1 summer concert venue in 2003.
  • MC5, from Detroit, is often credited as the forerunners of heavy metal, while the Stooges, also from Detroit, are considered the godfathers of punk. Detroit also claims to be the birthplace of techno music in the mid-1980s.
  • Other musicians forged in Detroit include Bob Seger, Eminem, Kid Rock, Ted Nugent, Madonna, George Clinton, Aretha Franklin, Anita Baker, Diana Ross, Stevie Wonder, Smokey Robinson, and Marvin Gaye.
  • Oh yeah, and Detroit is home to the automobile industry, with Ford, GM, and DaimlerChrysler's headquarters located here, along with countless of their parts manufacturers.

Okay, after that, take a look at these pictures:

what's this?

tail wagger

group photo

Source, Definition of Detroit

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Apple #83: Full Moons, Orange and Otherwise


Last night there was a full moon, and it looked orange. I asked the person standing next to me if he knew why the moon was orange. He thought a minute, and said no, he didn't. Maybe, he said, pointing to the orange shirt he was wearing, it was because of his shirt?
  • It is the scattering of light by the earth's atmosphere that makes the moon appear orange, especially when it first rises.
  • Early in the moon's ascent, it is still pretty close to the surface of the earth, from our vantage point. This means we have to "look" through a lot more of the atmosphere.
  • The air molecules in the atmosphere scatter away the pieces of visible light that are blue, green, and purple. So when we look through a lot of the atmosphere toward the moon, which is white, we see it as yellow, orange, or red.
  • Sometimes when the moon is directly overhead, it will still appear to be orange in color. This can be because there is a lot of dust or smoke or pollution in the air.
  • Also, the Harvest Moon in the fall appears to be orange. This is for two reasons. First, during some months of the year, the atmosphere contains more dust particles than others. In the fall, many farmers are harvesting their crops, and there is also a lot of pollen floating around. Second, the moon also rises at a lower angle to the horizon in the fall. Thus, at the autumn equinox, you'll see a big fat orange moon, the Harvest Moon.

The Harvest Moon. Photo by Brian D. Buck


This reference to the Harvest Moon reminds me, I've always liked the fact that each month's full moon has a different name, but I can never remember what they are, and I'd also like to know why they are so named. As it turns out, most of the names come from Native American tribes and refer to weather, growing, or hunting conditions at the time of the full moon.
  • January: Wolf Moon
    • Wolf packs, hungry, howl together in snowy January.
  • February: Ice or Snow or Hunger Moon
    • Heaviest snow or ice falls during this month. It's hard to hunt or find plants to eat, so this is also a hungry time of year.
  • March: Worm or Crow or Full Sap or Lenten or Crust Moon
    • With the first thaws, earthworm casts begin to appear in the soil, signaling the return of robins and the beginning of spring. The crows caw to signal the end of winter, the sap begins to run, and for Europeans, it's time to start fasting for Lent. Another name, the Crust Moon, referred to the fact that snows melt and freeze again at night, making a crust on top of it.
  • April: Growing or Pink Moon
    • The pink herb moss, or wild ground phlox, which is one of the earliest spring wildflowers, appears at this time. It also signals the first plants beginning to grow.
  • May: Hare or Flower or Corn Moon
    • Flowers bloom abundantly at this time, rabbits are born, and it's time to plant corn.
  • June: Mead or Strawberry or Rose Moon
    • Time to harvest the strawberries, make the mead, and in Europe, pick the roses.
  • July: Hay or Thunder or Buck Moon
    • Buck deer begin pushing out new antlers, it's time to mow hay, and lots of thunderstorms happen in July.
  • August: Corn or Sturgeon Moon
    • In the Great Lakes, sturgeon are abundant and easy to catch, and it's time to pick the corn. Some tribes also called this the Full Red Moon, which would make sense, given that some things are being harvested in August.
  • September: Harvest Moon
    • This moon may actually be in October some years, as it appears closest to the autumnal equinox. Often, farmers are working at the harvest until late at night at this time of year, and the moon appears to be orange because of all the dust and pollen they work up.
  • October: Blood or Hunter's Moon
    • After the harvest, the deer and fox and other animals are fattened and easier to spot, and it is time to hunt. Blood runs from the animals hunted, but also perhaps the moon still appears red in the sky.
  • November: Snow or Beaver Moon
    • This is the time of the first snow, and time to set the beaver traps before the swamps freeze, to ensure a warm supply of furs for winter. The beavers themselves are also preparing for winter.
  • December: Cold Moon
    • Nights are getting longer, and colder, and it's just plain cold.
One moon fact I never really thought about before: though the time of the full moon's appearance may differ, everyone in the world will see the same full moon on the same evening.

Keith Cooley, Keith's Moon Page, "The Orange Moon" This is an extremely cool site, by the way. You can see what the phase of the moon was on any day of the year going back to 1800. You can find out what your weight would be on the moon. Find out when the next blue moon will be. Learn about eclipses, moon landings, the tides, and how the moon determines when Easter falls.

University Corporation for Atmospheric Research - Windows to the Universe - Quickie Questions - Moon Madness

Farmer's Almanac, Full Moon Names and Their Meanings

Friday, June 17, 2005

Apple #82: Hush Puppies

There's a Long John Silver's near my house. I don't like fish very much, and especially not fried fish, but often when I drive by, I wonder, "What the heck is a hush puppy?"
  • Hush puppies are balls of corn meal, seasoned with garlic, onion, and spices, and then fried. Often they are served with fried fish, but not necessarily.
  • Supposedly this dish originates from the Southern US, but really they are a variation on a much older dish, fritters, which were made by the ancient Greeks and Romans.
  • Fritters were flour mixed with milk, eggs, spices, and honey, and then deep fried. This simple and tasty dish was passed down through the generations, and eventually one variation became hush puppies.
  • The term "hush puppies" seems to have appeared around 1915. One story of how these things got their name is that when people were about to cook their meal, the dogs got all excited and started barking. To quiet the dogs, people tossed them the balls of corn meal, saying, "Hush, puppies!" This sounds a little too cute to be true, but that's the story most people tell.
  • Another story about their name is that in the South there was a salamander, often called a "water puppy," that people used to catch and deep fry with cornmeal dough in stick shapes. The fried water puppy was then called a "hush puppy" because they were considered a lowly and poor thing to eat, something you wouldn't want anybody to know you were feeding your family.
  • There's also a brand of shoe called Hush Puppies. The guy who made these shoes in 1958 heard the story about hush puppies the food, and how they were used to quiet barking dogs. He thought of the phrase "my dogs are barking" that people use to describe tired or sore feet and decided that Huhs Puppies would be a great name for his shoes that soothed your feet.

The hush puppies are the little round fried things on the left, between the dishes of cole slaw
(You can order this from Skippers)

This is Jason, the basset hound that became the mascot for Hush Puppies brand shoes

Lynne Olver, editor, Food Timeline
Food Facts & Trivia, Hush Puppies
Welcome to Hush Puppies, History of Hush Puppies
Jason's Hush Puppies Scrapbook

Apple #81: Tears II


I was going to add on to the previous entry, but I've found enough other interesting facts from the book I purchased that it seemed an additional entry is in order.

Crying: A Natural and Cultural History of Tears
by Tom Lutz

To recap, my question was, why when we feel sad or otherwise extremely emotional, is it our body's response to cry? Why not some other physiological response, such as sneezing, for example, or hiccuping? In reading a book by Tom Lutz called Crying: A Natural and Cultural History of Tears, I came across several interesting facts about tears, but not the answer to my question. But tonight, I found the passage where he addresses my question.
  • Several researchers have suggested that tears help to eliminate toxins or other chemicals that build up in times of stress. One study of emotional tears versus reflex tears found that the emotional tears had 20 to 25 percent more protein than reflex tears.
  • Another study found four times as much potassium in emotional tears than plasma, and 30 times the manganese in blood. This last finding may be significant because high concentrations of manganese have been found, upon autopsy, in the brains of people who had chronic depression.
  • Yet another study found that emotional tears have high concetrations of a particular hormone that is an especially accurate indicator of stress.
  • The upshot of all these studies is that people think that tears are a way to remove toxins from the body, and once a person has finished crying, the tears have eliminated enough toxins to return the body to equilibrium.
  • Lutz points out, however, that there is a problem with this theory in that much of the tears that our eyes produce do not exit the body but rather drain back into it, through the puncta or duct in the corner of the eye. This duct in turn drains into another duct that leads to the nose. So really, compared to other methods such as sweating or urinating by which the body removes toxins, crying isn't that great at expelling something from the body.
  • While Lutz doubts that toxin removal is entirely the reason for crying, he doesn't offer an alternative possibility. So it looks like this theory is the best we have to go on for now, but it's probably not the whole answer.
  • In the meantime, here are a few other interesting facts:
    • The average American adult cries for about five minutes at a time, about three or four times a month. That's an average of men and women together. In general, women cry more often than men; one study found that women averaged 64 crying episodes per year, while men cried only 17 times per year, or 4 times less often.
    • Paradoxically, women suffer more frequently than men from various conditions and diseases which result in dry eye, or inadequate production of basal tears. In the majority of conditions, the lack of tears is caused by not enough of a hormone called androgen, which is a typically "male" hormone. This is why many women suffer from dry eye especially during lactation, because they are producing less androgen.
    • However, men can also suffer from dry eye if their bodies produce too much testosterone. Those hormones. They win either way, whichever sex you are.
    • As we age, the large gland responsible for most of our tears, a.k.a. the lacrimal gland, shrinks. By age 65, the body makes 40 percent fewer tears than it did at age 20, and by age 80, the gland makes 70 percent fewer tears. To compensate for less continual moisture from basal tears, the various glands around the eye produce more reflex tears. This is why older people seem to have watery eyes a lot of the time.
    • At the other end of the spectrum, babies cry a lot. Studies suggest that babies normally cry anywhere from half an hour to two hours each day (can you imagine crying for even half an hour each day?). Anything over two hours a day is generally considered excessive, and attributable most times to colic. Everybody assumes that colic comes from some kind of digestive disorder that's making babies unhappy, but nobody really knows what's the problem. Poor things.
Tom Lutz, Crying: A Natural and Cultural History of Tears, W.W. Norton & Company, 1999

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Apple #80: Tears


Every once in a while it occurs to me to wonder, why when we feel sad, is it important to our bodies to cry? That is, what physiological good do tears do? How come our bodies make tears in response to sorrow, instead of something else, like tingling hands or sneezing or something like that? I wasn't sure I'd find an answer to this, but then today, lo and behold, I spotted a book called Crying: A Natural and Cultural History of Tears, by Tom Lutz. In it is a chapter on the biology of tears. Reading it, I am amazed and thrilled by what I'm learning.

Crying: A Natural and Cultural History of Tears
by Tom Lutz

  • Tears are made up of three major parts: water, various oils to keep them from evaporating too quickly, and a layer of mucin, essentially a lubricant. They also contain hormones and proteins.
  • There are also three kinds of tears, each for its own function. The kinds of tears don't just appear given different circumstances, they are also different from each other chemically. The three types are:
    • Basal tears - this is the moisture present in your eyes all the time. These tears keep everything lubricated, and, since the surface of the eye is actually irregular and wrinkled and even pocked in places, they help smooth out the surface and make it possible for us to see without distortion.
    • Reflex tears - these are the tears your eyes make in response to some physical stimulus, such as smoke in your eyes, or fresh-cut onions, or pepper.
    • Emotional tears - these are produced in response to strong emotion, like sadness or fear or even sweet joy.
  • Surrounding the eye are all types of glands that are involved in the production of the three types of tears. The largest gland, the lacrimal gland, is just above the eye and below the brow bone. This one goes to work big-time when your eye wants to make reflex or emotional tears.
  • In the pink part in the corner of your eye is a little duct called the puncta. It is through this duct that the basal tears drain regularly. The puncta can only handle a little bit of moisture at a time. This is why we're not all walking around with tears streaming down our faces on a regular basis. But when we cry, or when we get our eye poked pretty good, the glands make way more moisture than the puncta can handle, and the tears overflow and spill out of the eye. This is why, when somebody starts crying, you see the tears "well up" as people like to say, but then if the person is able to check the emotion, the tears seem to disappear. Really, they just drain out through the puncta.
Obviously, there's a lot more in this book than I've paraphrased here. I'm still reading through the chapter (currently, he's discussing which comes first, emotions or the physical response. If you think about it, it's not always absolutely certain which triggers which.). I'm hoping to find what benefit emotional tears give to your body. As soon as I discover the answer -- and it may be that the answer is "nobody knows yet" -- I will report it to you here. So don't cry, I'll be back!

Tom Lutz, Crying: A Natural and Cultural History of Tears
, W.W. Norton & Company, 1999

Sunday, June 12, 2005

Apple #79: Shark Ray


Starting this month, the Newport Aquarium in Newport, Kentucky will open its shark ray exhibit -- the only shark ray on display in the Western Hemisphere.

This shark ray looks a lot like the one at the Newport Aquarium
Photo from the Underwater Times

  • Shark rays are quite rare. They live in the Indo-Pacific oceans, especially in waters around Australia and Taiwan.
  • They are rays, with gills on the underbelly, but with the more powerful body of a shark.
  • They have horn-like ridges on their back, and large spiracles (breathing holes) just behind their eyes.
  • Shark rays do not pose a threat to humans. They use their flat, "pavement-like teeth" to crush and eat crabs and other shellfish.
  • Sweet Pea, pictured above, weighs forty pounds and is about four feet long. Shark rays can grow to be nine feet long.
  • Sweet Pea was caught in a trap in Taiwan and was eventually acquired to live at the aquarium, in hopes of studying and helping to support conservation of this rare species.
  • Shark rays are in a family which also includes guitarfishes. (I'm going to have to find out about those, too, someday.)
Newport Aquarium press release, "First shark ray in America tests the water at Newport Aquarium," June 8, 2005
Australian Museum Fish Site, Find a Fish, Shark Ray
American Museum of Natural History, Seminars on Science, "Sharks and Rays: Myth and Reality," Week 4, Nostrils of Shark Ray
Shark Ray Jaw,

Thursday, June 9, 2005

Apple #78: Pastrami

Today, a friend told me this: "Did you know that pastrami is a process? And that any meat can be pastramied?" I HAD to know more.

That's pastrami on the right, brisket on the left. Pastrami has the tell-tale blackened spices on the outside.
(Photo from Off the Broiler)

  • Pastrami = smoked corned beef. Corned beef is from a brisket, usually beef. A brisket is two pieces of meat separated by a layer of fat. The brisket is soaked in a salt brine, along with some sugar and other spices like garlic, pepper, cinnamon, cloves, allspice, and coriander. This gives you the corned beef part.

  • Corn is not involved at all, by the way. That word actually refers to a phrase, that one should use salt the size of a kernel of wheat, which in British parlance is "corn."

  • After the brisket soaks for 1 to 3 weeks, then it is put either into a smokehouse or into a home smoker, for about 45 minutes per pound. Comparatively speaking, it doesn't take long to smoke because the soaking process has already tenderized the meat. Once it reaches the essential internal temperature of 165 degrees, you have pastrami.

  • You can make pastrami using turkey, or ham, or salmon, or venison. You can also make a vegetarian pastrami using seitan, which is protein-rich wheat gluten.

This is short ribs that has been pastramied. Or, pastrami made with short ribs.

(Photo and recipe from inuyaki)

  • Once you have pastrami, you can make reuben sandwiches. If you want to get hungry for a reuben, look here.

Howstuffworks, "What exactly is pastrami?"
Ask Yahoo, "What is pastrami?", Derrick Riches, "Pastrami: Yes, you can make your own at home."

Wednesday, June 8, 2005

Apple #77: Mallard Ducks


The other morning, I saw a male mallard duck sitting in a parking lot, in an empty parking space. I pulled up near it, to the space where I wanted to park, and the duck did not move. He eyed my car with some suspicion, but he did not even stand up. I thought he might have been hurt, or perhaps just holding the parking space for someone, but after quacking softly to himself for a while, eventually he stood up, flip-flapped his duck feet a ways away from me, and then took off, flying high over the buildings.

These ducks are from Fergus Falls, Minnesota

  • Mallards are the most common duck in the United States and Europe. They have the largest breeding range of any bird in North America.
  • Mallards live near water, in areas throughout North America and Europe, where the climate is not too severe.
  • In the winter, they migrate as far south as the Tropic of Cancer, and also to Africa, as far as South Africa.
  • Taxonomists recognize seven races of mallards.
  • The males are called "drakes" and the females are called "hens."
  • Mallards are among the most vocal of all waterfowl. The hen makes a variety of quacking noises, and the drake's quacking has a higher, reedier pitch. During mating season, he also makes a single or double-noted whistle.
  • They eat seeds from all kinds of plants, especially from trees that grow alongside water, but they will also eat corn, wheat, and barley. In addition to seeds, they eat snails, insects, small fish, tadpoles, fish eggs, and frogs. They may travel up to 25 miles to find food.
  • Their method of dunking their heads under water to eat has earned them the nickname "dabbling ducks."

These ducks are from Scotland

  • After the drake and hen mate, the hen lays her eggs and the drake takes off. At this time, she forms a group with other drakes, and they all guard the nest while she lays one egg a day, from 9 to 13 days.
  • The eggs are gray-green and are incubated for about 28 days. The ducklings all hatch within 24 hours of each other, mostly during the day. Hatching typically occurs between late April and early June.
  • If a predator (possum, skunk, raccoon, crow, snake, fox, largemouth bass, or snapping turtle) destroys her clutch, the hen may lay another the same summer.
  • The ducklings are led to water soon after they are born. In general they mature quickly, sometimes mating as young as 12 months old.
  • Later in the summer, the ducks move to larger waters, where the drakes molt and then court the females. Once they've paired off, the ducks eat like crazy in preparation for the fall migration. After the winter spent in warmer climates, the ducks return north to nest.
  • In the wild, mallards can live from 7 to 9 years.
  • Most domesticated ducks, the kind that people buy as pets especially in the springtime, are descendants of the mallard. Also, many domesticated ducks have interbred with wild ducks, so that it is now difficult to find a pure, wild mallard.

Here are some mallards in downtown Branson, Missouri

Ducks of the World, page by Maurice Houston Field, Curator of the Waterfowl and Chenoa, University of Tennessee
BBC Science & Nature Wildfacts pages, the Mallard
Chuck Fergus, Pennsylvania Game Commission, Mallard Ducks
Ducks Unlimited Canada, The Life Story of the Mallard
Christyan's page on the Mallard Duck, Warner Elementary School

Sunday, June 5, 2005

Apple #76: Epsom Salts


I got a sliver in my palm, and somebody suggested I soak my hand in warm water and Epsom salts. I haven't seen Epsom salts much at all in recent years. In fact, the last time I really remember seeing them in action was when my brother once upon a time stepped on a rusty nail while crossing a baseball diamond barefoot, and the nail went just about through his foot. Afterwards, he soaked his foot in a big pan of milky-looking water while my mom quietly had a conniption fit in the background.

Anyway, the recent mention of Epsom salts got me wondering, what are they exactly?
  • Chemically speaking, Epsom salts are hydrated magnesium sulfate.
  • This compound occurs naturally, dissolved in sea water, and also in mineral waters, especially those from Epsom, England (where the salts get their name), and in a few other mineral springs in Europe.
  • Soaking in warm water and Epsom salts supposedly draws toxins -- and splinters -- from your body, reduces swelling, relaxes muscles, and soothes the nervous system. However, if you have high blood pressure, or heart or kidney problems, it is recommended that you don't soak in Epsom salts.
  • You can also use them as an exfoliant -- a way to scrub off the old skin cells -- or in a compress to take the sting out of insect bites.
  • You can use them to make your hair less oily, to make your own hair spray, or, when mixed with conditioner, as a hair volumizer.
  • Amazingly enough to me, Epsom salts can be ingested, and used as laxatives! All that stuff like Metamucil, Ex-Lax, Dulcolax, Correctal, all that stuff is technically Epsom salts. Or I guess, magnesium sulfate in one form or another.
  • You can also use the salts, I think in the form of an injection, to inhibit contractions in premature labor, and to reduce the effect of poisons that have been swallowed (especially when combined with potassium iodide, they can help eliminate lead from the system). They are used to help lung function in people with asthma, and they are becoming an increasingly popular way to treat heart palpitations, especially ones that result from overdoses of antidepressants.
  • Outside of medicine, Epsom salts are used to stiffen and give cotton fabrics more weight, and as a fixing agent in fabric dyeing.
  • In agriculture, they are used for topdressing (covering or fertilizing) clover hay.
  • You can also use Epsom salts in your garden, to help fertilize your vegetables or your lawn.

Epsom salts in crystal form

Epsom salts from the drug store


So, that sliver I had in my palm? I got some salts, dissolved them in warm water, and soaked my hand until the water turned cool. The sliver hadn't moved a bit. So much for drawing out splinters, or even softening the skin enough that the splinter would be easily accessible.

I got it out the best way I know, poking the skin away very carefully with a needle, until I could push it out with the needle's tip. Then I poured hydrogen peroxide on the spot. Done.

Ask Yahoo, What are the medicinal benefits of soaking in epsom salts?, 13 Wonderful Ways to Use Epsom Salts, Epsom salts drug information
CureZone, What are Epsom salts?
1911 Love to Know Encyclopedia, Epsom salts
There's also the Epsom Salt Industry Council, but this website didn't work when I checked it.

Wednesday, June 1, 2005

Apple #75: Peanut Butter & Jelly Sandwiches

I've recently been eating these more often, when I get up too late in the morning to have a real breakfast, so I make a PB&J because it's quick, and eat it in the car on the way to work. I'm struck anew, how tasty this combination is, and how filling. It makes me marvel, "Whoever thought this up was a genius!"

I figured that I wouldn't be able to find the name of one particular person who made the first Pt. But. & Jel. a reality. But what I didn't count on was realizing just how many other inventions had to come first, in order for the PB&J to come into being.

(Photo of PB&J sandwich from

  • The sandwich: John Montagu, the Fourth Earl of Sandwich, is widely credited with inventing this. In fact, he did not invent it, but rather made it popular. One day while at the gambling table in 1763, he ordered that slices of meat be brought to him between slices of bread, so that he could eat and still continue gambling for 24 hours without stopping.
  • The bread: The first mechanical bread slicer was patented in 1927, but the sliced loaves were unappealing to customers and didn't sell, until St. Louis baker Gustav Papendik (yes, that's his name) put the sliced loaves in cardboard trays for support within the wrapper. Then that sliced bread sold like hot cakes.
  • The jelly: Jellies, in general, are old, old, old. European crusaders brought jellies home with them from the Middle East in 1000-1200 A.D. Before that, all anybody knows for sure is that cane sugar, which would have been necessary to make jelly, was available in Baghdad in 700 A.D. Who knows who came up with jelly in the first place.
  • The peanut butter: No, it was not invented by George Washington Carver, who was doing peanut research in the early 1900's. Peanut butter was most likely invented by a St. Louis doctor (again, St. Louis!) whose name has since been lost to posterity. He got the idea that ground-up peanuts would make a cheap, easily digested, protein-rich food. He got a local merchant named George Bayle, Jr., to ground the peanuts for him. The first commercially-manufactured peanut butter was patented and sold by John Harvey Kellogg, of cereal fame.
  • The peanut butter & jelly sandwich: Nobody knows who first put them all together. The only things people can say for sure are 1) The US military used PB&Js in their Army Rations during World War II. It is possible that GI's first came up with the combination, out of the elements given to them in their rations, and the military then formalized it into a sandwich. It is also possible that the military came up with it themselves, or got the idea from someplace else. 2) No advertising or any other public mention of PB&Js has been found before the 1940s.
I'm just now realizing how mysterious the PB&J actually is. Nobody knows, really, who made the first ever sandwich. Where was the first jelly made, no one knows that either, let alone who was its first architect. And what was the name of the doctor who came up with the idea of peanut butter? And could the US Department of Defense be behind the first peanut butter and jelly sandwich, or did they have some other mind working for them behind the scenes? No one can say for sure...

And remember the Amazing Mumford, who used to be on Sesame Street and whose magic phrase used to be, "A la peanut butter sandwiches?" He seems to have gotten mysteriously squeezed out by the Count von Count, who used to laugh "Ah! Ah! Ah!" when he finished counting something. He no longer does this because the People in Charge at Sesame Street thought this made him too scary for today's children -- or was it because he had triumphed over Mumford and no longer needed to celebrate his victory?

Smuckers, The History of Peanut Butter and Jelly
Suman Bandrapalli, "How a PB&J Came to Be,"
Christian Science Monitor, March 3, 1998
"What is the history of the peanut butter and jelly sandwich?" Ask Yahoo