Stuff You Wonder About!

January 17, 2015

Is there stuff you wonder about? For me the answer is a big YES, and the more trivial the better. (Many years ago a friend shared with me her bucket theory of the brain. Because of limited capacity, she said, I needed to keep filling, sifting, and refilling/positioning, to make sure I was only holding the best stuff. I took a pass, clearly!)

So … ever wonder why Bambi’s a male deer, and in the real world only women use that name? In fact, Felix Salten wrote Bambi, A Life in the Woods in 1923 in Austria. Earlier, in 1914, Marjorie Benton Cooke wrote Bambi, a novel about a young American heiress. The name stuck, but it has nothing to do with the young deer.

SPAM is a canned meat product, developed in 1937 by Hormel Foods. (As an aside, aficionados of Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House—a great Myrna Loy-Cary Grant-Melvyn Douglas flick, and a must see if you’re building a home—may recall the ending, which may have its origins in the naming of SPAM.) So, I wondered, what’s the connection between the pork and the junk that clutters up our computers? Thank Monty Python and the skit Spam, and here’s what seems like a pretty authoritative source for the information.

Familiar with a Kevin Bacon Number? At The Oracle of Bacon you can plug in the names of any two actors and find out how many times they have appeared together in a movie or, and this is the cool part, how many actor links are necessary to connect them. For example, take Dorothy Gish and Reese Witherspoon. Ms. Witherspoon has a Gish number of three, which means Ms. Gish was in a movie with an actor who was in a movie with Ms. Witherspoon.

So, why a Kevin Bacon Number? David Greene of National Public Radio’s Morning Edition went in search of the answer in The History of “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon” and you need to read or listen to the story. (Short answer:  Three guys found themselves in a hotel room in the middle of a Kevin Bacon marathon on television. And yes, there appears to have been alcohol in the mix.)

What I know from electricity you can fit in a thimble, with room left over for whatever you put inside a thimble. (What are thimbles for anyway? Next time.) I’ve heard of volts, watts, amps, and even ohms. But what are they?

At How Stuff Works I got the answer, in What are Amps, Watts, Volts, and Ohms?  The piece is short, and I can’t figure out how to translate it, and I’m not at all sure I’m any more enlightened, but for the fact that electrical power can be compared to plumbing.

Last May my daughter and I visited DC and NYC. In DC we went to the National Museum of Natural History. (Somehow, Ms. J and I raised a scientist!) Anyway, we checked out the gemstones and, after we left, we got into a discussion about karats/carats. In short order we had a failure to communicate situation, which ended amicably when we realized we had our Ks and Cs confused. (There was also the part about “I was clueless” but the Ks and Cs saved me.)

A karat is a measure of gold in an object. 24 karat gold is pure, 18 karat gold is 75% gold and 25% something else, and you can do the percentages on 14 karat gold.

And carats? They are a measure of gemstone weight. A carat equals 1/5 of a gram, or 200 milligrams.

That’s all for now!

OK, OK, one more. Heard about fantasy baseball? It’s a game in which players assemble a team and use real player stats in several pitching and hitting categories to beat the competition. (I played for five years. Won in my first season, after selling half the team to my bro!) Now, have you heard of Rotisserie baseball? As it happens, the two are one and the same, as fantasy baseball was invented/started at the La Rotisserie Française, a restaurant in Manhattan. And the prime inventor? Daniel Okrent, who later became the first ombudsman for the New York Times and is a terrific writer. Here’s Q&A: Fantasy Baseball Creator Daniel Okrent from Vanity Fair in 2008.

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