Sunday, October 9, 2011


Hi guys, I’m sorry for not posting sooner! Last weekendwhen I should have been postingI was having the best time. I learned how to waltz, polka, and rumba. I also learned several different English Country Dances. I didn’t realize how many different ones there are! Mind you, my knowledge of the aforementioned dances is still very basic.  
     Some of our readers had rather random rhetorical questions, (boy that’s a tongue twister!) so I thought I’d answer a few today.

     Q. When was the first paper air plane made?
A. Folded paper gliders, or paper airplanes, are thought to have originated in China and Japan. Paper was being manufactured on a large scale in China in 500 BC and origami became very popular within a century of that, around 460 to 390 BC.

     Q. What is the definition of a Sonata?
A. A composition for one for more solo instruments, one of which is usually a keyboard instrument, usually consisting of three of four independent movements varying in key, mood or tempo.
     Q. What are Coptic Christians and how did they start?
A. Copts are native Egyptian Christians; they claim that Saint Mark came to Alexandria during the reign of the Roman Emperor Claudius, around 42 AD and introduced Christianity to Egypt. Copts were the majority religion in Egypt during the 4th -6th centuries AD until the Muslim conquest but still make up about 10-20% of Egypt’s population and in fact are the largest minority religion in the entire Middle East. They founded the Catechetical School of Alexandria around 190AD; one of the teachers, Origen, is considered the father of theology. The question-and-answer method of commentary began there, and also had a wood carving technique by which blind scholars could read and write, 15 centuries before Braille.
     Q. What does “the proof is in the pudding” mean and where did it come from?
A.  To fully test something you need to experience it yourself. 'The proof of the pudding' is just shorthand for 'the proof of the pudding is in the eating'. That longer version makes sense at least, whereas the shortened version really doesn't mean anything - nor does the often-quoted incorrect variation 'the proof is in the pudding'. The continued use of that meaningless version is no doubt bolstered by the fact that the correct version isn't at all easy to understand.
The meaning becomes clear when you know that 'proof' here is a verb meaning 'test'. The earliest printed example of the proverb that I can find is in William Camden's Remaines of a Greater Worke Concerning Britaine, 1605:"All the proof of a pudding is in the eating."
It is worth remembering that, as the phrase is quite old, the pudding wouldn't have been a sticky toffee pudding from the sweet trolley, but a potentially fatal savory dish. In Camden's listing of proverbs he also includes "If you eat a pudding at home, the dog may have the skin", which suggests that the pudding he had in mind was some form of sausage. The Oxford English Dictionary describes the mediaeval pudding as 'the stomach or one of the entrails of a pig, sheep, or other animal, stuffed with a mixture of minced meat, suet, oatmeal, seasoning, etc., and boiled'. Not quite sure what we would now eat for dessert!
     Q. What did Eve use as diapers for her children?

     As you can see, the ‘Answer’ is blank. Wonder why that is?

Monday, September 12, 2011

Professor Brainbridge

The time has finally come for you to meet the mysterious and quirky stranger know as PROFESSOR BRAINBRIDGE! 
                   (Applause track plays)

Professor BB is a world-renown expert on useless, life-saving facts. He has taught at several universities around the world, is the proprietor of Notown’s newspaper, owns almost as many books as the Library of Congress, and is an advocate of well-polished shoes.
     I will be asking the Professor some thought provoking questions about life, education and empty rooms.
     Me: I am very excited to have you on my little blog! You’re such a respected and well know figure. Do you mind if I ask you a few questions so our readers can get to know you?
      P Bb: Not at all! Thank you for inviting me to your blog.
      Me: Tell us a little about your very interesting and sometimes dangerous life in the Wild West town of Notown. What experience stands out in your mind you would like to share?
     P Bb: Hmm. Well just last week a band of ship-wrecked pirates held the entire town for ransom.
     Me: Oh my goodness! How did you escape?
     P Bb: I didn’t my dear girl. You see, there is a good-hearted old lady in town who made meals for our captors. However as good as this lady’s heart is, her cooking is not. Suffice it to say the pirates deemed that ten million dollars was not worth eating another one of her meals for and left us post haste.
    Me: But Professor, how did shipwrecked pirates hold the town for ransom? Isn’t Notown in the middle of the desert of Nowhere?
     P Bb: You know your geography quite well Miss Daye! 
     Me: Um, never mind. Professor Bb, last week we looked briefly at the history of Charles Martel. What can you tell us about the Merovingian dynasty of Austrasia and Pepin the Short?
     P Bb: Ah, the Merovingians! They were also known as the Merovings. They were descended from the Salian Franks who lived north of the Roman limes—that is frontier or boundary –and were a rather war-like people. From about the 3rd century they were allies of Rome and formed an agreement with them to settle in Toxandria, that is in the modern day area of the Netherlands and Belgium. Now as the Salians – also known as Salii- became the Merovingians, they were still quite an aggressive group, often in civil war amongst themselves.
     Pope Zachery finally put an end to their selfish nonsense in 752 AD by deposing Childeric III and crowning Pepin the Short, Charles Martel’s son, King in 754. Childeric was a rather interesting fellow. No one is quite certain why he was chosen to become king in the first place…
     Me: Yes, thank you Professor. Could you perhaps tell our readers why Pepin was important to history?
     Prof Bb: Why of course! Pepin was actually crowned TWICE. Once in Soissons by an archbishop and again in Paris by the Pope, adding to his title ‘The Patrician of the Romans’. This was actually the first recorded time a civilian ruler was crowned by a Pope.
     Well, in those days people lived such dreadfully short lives that Pepin asked the Pope to also anoint his sons: Carloman and Charles who later became Charlemagne. Pepin’s rule ended the Merovingian dynasty and began the Carolingian dynasty that both he and Charlemagne would expand dramatically over the next several years.
     Although Pepin’s rule brought about the continuation of the then new-fangled feudal system, drove out the Iberian Muslims, built up the heavy cavalry which his father had begun and which became the predecessors to knights, and spread the Frankish church, his work was lost in the shadow of his son Charlemagne who founded the Holy Roman Empire. Rather sad, but history is rather fickle.

     Me: Um, yes. Thank you for those fascinating pieces of information Professor. I’m sure it will save our lives one day. I think perhaps next time we’ll discuss plankton or something.
     P Bb: Interesting critters those! Do you know ‘plankton’ is actually from the Greek planktos which means--
     Me: Er, yes. Thank you. Until next time Professor.


Monday, September 5, 2011

Hammerhead Facts

     Random question: Do you think that riding a giant dragonfly would be more fun than a riding a roller-coaster?

     The author of last week’s quote is Aristotle, and the definition of last week’s word is ‘THE FEAR OF DIRT’.
       And now a short biography of...Charles the Hammer.
      Charles Martel (aka Charles the Hammer) was a Frankish military and political leader and is remembered for his military genius. He was born roughly around 688 AD and died in the 740’s.
     Charlie is famous for winning the Battle of Tours (Oct. 10, 732 AD) which stopped the invading Muslims from taking over Europe. He helped with the development of feudalism and knighthood and was the grandfather of Charlemagne.

     He served as “Mayor of the Palace” in Austrasia (modern eastern France, western Germany, Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands) and ruled the Merovingian dynasty “de facto during an interregnum (737–743 AD) using the title “Duke and Prince of the Franks”.
     Quote of the Week:  A society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in. ~Greek proverb
     Useless, Random Fact: The Romans thought that because walnuts are shaped like the brain, they could cure headaches.
     Words of the Week:  De Facto –“In Fact” In practice but not necessarily ordained by law.
     Interregnum- Time in between one reign and the next.
      The mysterious and quirky stranger will appear next week, so you better ask your questions this week!