An Occurrence That Renewed My Love Of Reading

“Fight Against Stupidity And Bureaucracy”

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One of my blog friends, Kenton over at the Jittery Goat, wrote a post recently as part of the daily prompt series about the first book/story he read that gave him an interest in reading and writing. His choice was a good one, “To Kill A Mockingbird”.  

On a few occasions I have been asked the same thing and it is a very good question to put to anyone who is interested in either reading or writing or both.

When I was growing up the main influence as regards reading and writing was school. I’m sure that is the same for many of you. I was both fortunate and unfortunate here.

For a few years I had an excellent English teacher. Someone who was interested in the subject she taught, but someone who was equally interested in passing on her enthusiasm for reading and writing to her pupils. She was a great teacher and a great influence on her pupils. One could not but develop a taste for English literature, for exploring other writers and for writing too.

Now for the bad news.

As happens in schools, as you progress through the grades sometimes your teachers change. And unfortunately mine did.

I got lumbered with the most awful teacher there has probably ever been. Another woman, but this woman was one of those self-absorbed dullards who would probably have made any subject the most boring and tedious thing in the world.

She could take the most exciting story and just drain the life out of it. With poetry she did the very same, just killed it stone dead with her monotonous voice and her complete lack of feeling for the subject.

Watching the proverbial paint drying or concrete setting was real exciting stuff compared to this woman’s classes!

The result?

Sadly, for a few years she turned me, and I would guess almost all her pupils completely off both reading and writing. I will never forgive her for that.

However time passed and although I’m not sure how exactly it happened, I got the urge to start to read again. Perhaps to ease myself back into it I decided to start with some short stories rather than a long book or novel.

And what a great choice that turned out to be.

The first story I read in my new life as a reader once again was called “An Occurrence At Owl Creek Bridge”. It was a tale set during the American Civil War and was written by Ambrose Bierce, who himself was a veteran of that war, and a gentleman of whom you will hear a lot more in future fasab posts.   

And so I have been reading and writing ever since, mostly for my own amusement and occasionally, as in this blog, also for the amusement of others.

I’d be interested to find out what you make of this story so I have reproduced it below. If you are unfamiliar with it, or want to refresh you memory if you have read it before, grab a cup of coffee and enjoy.

And when you are finished let me know what you make of it.

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AN OCCURRENCE AT OWL CREEK BRIDGE

by

Ambrose Bierce 

An Occurrence At Owl Creek Bridge

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A man stood upon a railroad bridge in northern Alabama, looking down into the swift water twenty feet below. The man’s hands were behind his back, the wrists bound with a cord. A rope closely encircled his neck. It was attached to a stout cross-timber above his head and the slack fell to the level of his knees. Some loose boards laid upon the ties supporting the rails of the railway supplied a footing for him and his executioners–two private soldiers of the Federal army, directed by a sergeant who in civil life may have been a deputy sheriff. At a short remove upon the same temporary platform was an officer in the uniform of his rank, armed. He was a captain.

A sentinel at each end of the bridge stood with his rifle in the position known as “support,” that is to say, vertical in front of the left shoulder, the hammer resting on the forearm thrown straight across the chest–a formal and unnatural position, enforcing an erect carriage of the body. It did not appear to be the duty of these two men to know what was occurring at the center of the bridge; they merely blockaded the two ends of the foot planking that traversed it.

Beyond one of the sentinels nobody was in sight; the railroad ran straight away into a forest for a hundred yards, then, curving, was lost to view. Doubtless there was an outpost farther along. The other bank of the stream was open ground–a gentle slope topped with a stockade of vertical tree trunks, loopholed for rifles, with a single embrasure through which protruded the muzzle of a brass cannon commanding the bridge. Midway up the slope between the bridge and fort were the spectators–a single company of infantry in line, at “parade rest,” the butts of their rifles on the ground, the barrels inclining slightly backward against the right shoulder, the hands crossed upon the stock.

A lieutenant stood at the right of the line, the point of his sword upon the ground, his left hand resting upon his right. Excepting the group of four at the center of the bridge, not a man moved. The company faced the bridge, staring stonily, motionless. The sentinels, facing the banks of the stream, might have been statues to adorn the bridge. The captain stood with folded arms, silent, observing the work of his subordinates, but making no sign. Death is a dignitary who when he comes announced is to be received with formal manifestations of respect, even by those most familiar with him. In the code of military etiquette silence and fixity are forms of deference.

The man who was engaged in being hanged was apparently about thirty-five years of age. He was a civilian, if one might judge from his habit, which was that of a planter. His features were good—a straight nose, firm mouth, broad forehead, from which his long, dark hair was combed straight back, falling behind his ears to the collar of his well fitting frock coat. He wore a moustache and pointed beard, but no whiskers; his eyes were large and dark gray, and had a kindly expression which one would hardly have expected in one whose neck was in the hemp. Evidently this was no vulgar assassin. The liberal military code makes provision for hanging many kinds of persons, and gentlemen are not excluded.

The preparations being complete, the two private soldiers stepped aside and each drew away the plank upon which he had been standing. The sergeant turned to the captain, saluted and placed himself immediately behind that officer, who in turn moved apart one pace.

These movements left the condemned man and the sergeant standing on the two ends of the same plank, which spanned three of the cross-ties of the bridge. The end upon which the civilian stood almost, but not quite, reached a fourth. This plank had been held in place by the weight of the captain; it was now held by that of the sergeant. At a signal from the former the latter would step aside, the plank would tilt and the condemned man go down between two ties. The arrangement commended itself to his judgement as simple and effective. His face had not been covered nor his eyes bandaged. He looked a moment at his “unsteadfast footing,” then let his gaze wander to the swirling water of the stream racing madly beneath his feet. A piece of dancing driftwood caught his attention and his eyes followed it down the current. How slowly it appeared to move! What a sluggish stream!

He closed his eyes in order to fix his last thoughts upon his wife and children. The water, touched to gold by the early sun, the brooding mists under the banks at some distance down the stream, the fort, the soldiers, the piece of drift–all had distracted him. And now he became conscious of a new disturbance. Striking through the thought of his dear ones was sound which he could neither ignore nor understand, a sharp, distinct, metallic percussion like the stroke of a blacksmith’s hammer upon the anvil; it had the same ringing quality.

He wondered what it was, and whether immeasurably distant or near by– it seemed both. Its recurrence was regular, but as slow as the tolling of a death knell. He awaited each new stroke with impatience and–he knew not why–apprehension. The intervals of silence grew progressively longer; the delays became maddening. With their greater infrequency the sounds increased in strength and sharpness. They hurt his ear like the trust of a knife; he feared he would shriek. What he heard was the ticking of his watch.

He unclosed his eyes and saw again the water below him. “If I could free my hands,” he thought, “I might throw off the noose and spring into the stream. By diving I could evade the bullets and, swimming vigorously, reach the bank, take to the woods and get away home. My home, thank God, is as yet outside their lines; my wife and little ones are still beyond the invader’s farthest advance.”

As these thoughts, which have here to be set down in words, were flashed into the doomed man’s brain rather than evolved from it the captain nodded to the sergeant. The sergeant stepped aside.

II

Peyton Farquhar was a well to do planter, of an old and highly respected Alabama family. Being a slave owner and like other slave owners a politician, he was naturally an original secessionist and ardently devoted to the Southern cause. Circumstances of an imperious nature, which it is unnecessary to relate here, had prevented him from taking service with that gallant army which had fought the disastrous campaigns ending with the fall of Corinth, and he chafed under the inglorious restraint, longing for the release of his energies, the larger life of the soldier, the opportunity for distinction. That opportunity, he felt, would come, as it comes to all in wartime.

Meanwhile he did what he could. No service was too humble for him to perform in the aid of the South, no adventure to perilous for him to undertake if consistent with the character of a civilian who was at heart a soldier, and who in good faith and without too much qualification assented to at least a part of the frankly villainous dictum that all is fair in love and war.

One evening while Farquhar and his wife were sitting on a rustic bench near the entrance to his grounds, a gray-clad soldier rode up to the gate and asked for a drink of water. Mrs. Farquhar was only too happy to serve him with her own white hands. While she was fetching the water her husband approached the dusty horseman and inquired eagerly for news from the front.

“The Yanks are repairing the railroads,” said the man, “and are getting ready for another advance. They have reached the Owl Creek bridge, put it in order and built a stockade on the north bank. The commandant has issued an order, which is posted everywhere, declaring that any civilian caught interfering with the railroad, its bridges, tunnels, or trains will be summarily hanged. I saw the order.” 

“How far is it to the Owl Creek bridge?” Farquhar asked.

“About thirty miles.” 

“Is there no force on this side of the creek?” 

“Only a picket post half a mile out, on the railroad, and a single sentinel at this end of the bridge.” 

“Suppose a man–a civilian and student of hanging–should elude the picket post and perhaps get the better of the sentinel,” said Farquhar, smiling, “what could he accomplish?” 

The soldier reflected. “I was there a month ago,” he replied. “I observed that the flood of last winter had lodged a great quantity of driftwood against the wooden pier at this end of the bridge. It is now dry and would burn like tinder.” 

The lady had now brought the water, which the soldier drank. He thanked her ceremoniously, bowed to her husband and rode away. An hour later, after nightfall, he repassed the plantation, going northward in the direction from which he had come. He was a Federal scout.

III 

As Peyton Farquhar fell straight downward through the bridge he lost consciousness and was as one already dead. From this state he was awakened–ages later, it seemed to him–by the pain of a sharp pressure upon his throat, followed by a sense of suffocation. Keen, poignant agonies seemed to shoot from his neck downward through every fiber of his body and limbs. These pains appeared to flash along well defined lines of ramification and to beat with an inconceivably rapid periodicity.

They seemed like streams of pulsating fire heating him to an intolerable temperature. As to his head, he was conscious of nothing but a feeling of fullness — of congestion. These sensations were unaccompanied by thought. The intellectual part of his nature was already effaced; he had power only to feel, and feeling was torment. He was conscious of motion. Encompassed in a luminous cloud, of which he was now merely the fiery heart, without material substance, he swung through unthinkable arcs of oscillation, like a vast pendulum. Then all at once, with terrible suddenness, the light about him shot upward with the noise of a loud splash; a frightful roaring was in his ears, and all was cold and dark. The power of thought was restored; he knew that the rope had broken and he had fallen into the stream. There was no additional strangulation; the noose about his neck was already suffocating him and kept the water from his lungs. To die of hanging at the bottom of a river! — the idea seemed to him ludicrous. He opened his eyes in the darkness and saw above him a gleam of light, but how distant, how inaccessible!

He was still sinking, for the light became fainter and fainter until it was a mere glimmer. Then it began to grow and brighten, and he knew that he was rising toward the surface — knew it with reluctance, for he was now very comfortable. “To be hanged and drowned,” he thought, “that is not so bad; but I do not wish to be shot. No; I will not be shot; that is not fair.” 

He was not conscious of an effort, but a sharp pain in his wrist apprised him that he was trying to free his hands. He gave the struggle his attention, as an idler might observe the feat of a juggler, without interest in the outcome. What splendid effort! — what magnificent, what superhuman strength! Ah, that was a fine endeavor!

Bravo! The cord fell away; his arms parted and floated upward, the hands dimly seen on each side in the growing light. He watched them with a new interest as first one and then the other pounced upon the noose at his neck. They tore it away and thrust it fiercely aside, its undulations resembling those of a water snake. “Put it back, put it back!” He thought he shouted these words to his hands, for the undoing of the noose had been succeeded by the direst pang that he had yet experienced. His neck ached horribly; his brain was on fire, his heart, which had been fluttering faintly, gave a great leap, trying to force itself out at his mouth. His whole body was racked and wrenched with an insupportable anguish! But his disobedient hands gave no heed to the command. They beat the water vigorously with quick, downward strokes, forcing him to the surface. He felt his head emerge; his eyes were blinded by the sunlight; his chest expanded convulsively, and with a supreme and crowning agony his lungs engulfed a great draught of air, which instantly he expelled in a shriek!

He was now in full possession of his physical senses. They were, indeed, preternaturally keen and alert. Something in the awful disturbance of his organic system had so exalted and refined them that they made record of things never before perceived. He felt the ripples upon his face and heard their separate sounds as they struck.

He looked at the forest on the bank of the stream, saw the individual trees, the leaves and the veining of each leaf–he saw the very insects upon them: the locusts, the brilliant bodied flies, the gray spiders stretching their webs from twig to twig. He noted the prismatic colors in all the dewdrops upon a million blades of grass.

The humming of the gnats that danced above the eddies of the stream, the beating of the dragon flies’ wings, the strokes of the water spiders’ legs, like oars which had lifted their boat — all these made audible music. A fish slid along beneath his eyes and he heard the rush of its body parting the water.

He had come to the surface facing down the stream; in a moment the visible world seemed to wheel slowly round, himself the pivotal point, and he saw the bridge, the fort, the soldiers upon the bridge, the captain, the sergeant, the two privates, his executioners. They were in silhouette against the blue sky. They shouted and gesticulated, pointing at him. The captain had drawn his pistol, but did not fire; the others were unarmed. Their movements were grotesque and horrible, their forms gigantic.

Suddenly he heard a sharp report and something struck the water smartly within a few inches of his head, spattering his face with spray. He heard a second report, and saw one of the sentinels with his rifle at his shoulder, a light cloud of blue smoke rising from the muzzle. The man in the water saw the eye of the man on the bridge gazing into his own through the sights of the rifle. He observed that it was a gray eye and remembered having read that gray eyes were keenest, and that all famous marksmen had them. Nevertheless, this one had missed.

A counter-swirl had caught Farquhar and turned him half round; he was again looking at the forest on the bank opposite the fort. The sound of a clear, high voice in a monotonous singsong now rang out behind him and came across the water with a distinctness that pierced and subdued all other sounds, even the beating of the ripples in his ears.

Although no soldier, he had frequented camps enough to know the dread significance of that deliberate, drawling, aspirated chant; the lieutenant on shore was taking a part in the morning’s work. How coldly and pitilessly — with what an even, calm intonation, presaging, and enforcing tranquility in the men — with what accurately measured interval fell those cruel words:

“Company! . . . Attention! . . . Shoulder arms! . . . Ready!. . . Aim! . . . Fire!” 

Farquhar dived — dived as deeply as he could. The water roared in his ears like the voice of Niagara, yet he heard the dull thunder of the volley and, rising again toward the surface, met shining bits of metal, singularly flattened, oscillating slowly downward. Some of them touched him on the face and hands, then fell away, continuing their descent. One lodged between his collar and neck; it was uncomfortably warm and he snatched it out.

As he rose to the surface, gasping for breath, he saw that he had been a long time under water; he was perceptibly farther downstream — nearer to safety. The soldiers had almost finished reloading; the metal ramrods flashed all at once in the sunshine as they were drawn from the barrels, turned in the air, and thrust into their sockets. The two sentinels fired again, independently and ineffectually.

The hunted man saw all this over his shoulder; he was now swimming vigorously with the current. His brain was as energetic as his arms and legs; he thought with the rapidity of lightning:

“The officer,” he reasoned, “will not make that martinet’s error a second time. It is as easy to dodge a volley as a single shot. He has probably already given the command to fire at will. God help me, I cannot dodge them all!” 

An appalling splash within two yards of him was followed by a loud, rushing sound, DIMINUENDO, which seemed to travel back through the air to the fort and died in an explosion which stirred the very river to its deeps! A rising sheet of water curved over him, fell down upon him, blinded him, strangled him! The cannon had taken an hand in the game. As he shook his head free from the commotion of the smitten water he heard the deflected shot humming through the air ahead, and in an instant it was cracking and smashing the branches in the forest beyond.

“They will not do that again,” he thought; “the next time they will use a charge of grape. I must keep my eye upon the gun; the smoke will apprise me–the report arrives too late; it lags behind the missile. That is a good gun.” 

Suddenly he felt himself whirled round and round — spinning like a top. The water, the banks, the forests, the now distant bridge, fort and men, all were commingled and blurred. Objects were represented by their colors only; circular horizontal streaks of color — that was all he saw. He had been caught in a vortex and was being whirled on with a velocity of advance and gyration that made him giddy and sick. In few moments he was flung upon the gravel at the foot of the left bank of the stream — the southern bank — and behind a projecting point which concealed him from his enemies. The sudden arrest of his motion, the abrasion of one of his hands on the gravel, restored him, and he wept with delight. He dug his fingers into the sand, threw it over himself in handfuls and audibly blessed it. It looked like diamonds, rubies, emeralds; he could think of nothing beautiful which it did not resemble. The trees upon the bank were giant garden plants; he noted a definite order in their arrangement, inhaled the fragrance of their blooms. A strange roseate light shone through the spaces among their trunks and the wind made in their branches the music of Aeolian harps. He had not wish to perfect his escape — he was content to remain in that enchanting spot until retaken.

A whiz and a rattle of grapeshot among the branches high above his head roused him from his dream. The baffled cannoneer had fired him a random farewell. He sprang to his feet, rushed up the sloping bank, and plunged into the forest.

All that day he traveled, laying his course by the rounding sun. The forest seemed interminable; nowhere did he discover a break in it, not even a woodman’s road. He had not known that he lived in so wild a region. There was something uncanny in the revelation.

By nightfall he was fatigued, footsore, famished. The thought of his wife and children urged him on. At last he found a road which led him in what he knew to be the right direction. It was as wide and straight as a city street, yet it seemed untraveled. No fields bordered it, no dwelling anywhere. Not so much as the barking of a dog suggested human habitation. The black bodies of the trees formed a straight wall on both sides, terminating on the horizon in a point, like a diagram in a lesson in perspective. Overhead, as he looked up through this rift in the wood, shone great golden stars looking unfamiliar and grouped in strange constellations. He was sure they were arranged in some order which had a secret and malign significance. The wood on either side was full of singular noises, among which — once, twice, and again–he distinctly heard whispers in an unknown tongue.

His neck was in pain and lifting his hand to it found it horribly swollen. He knew that it had a circle of black where the rope had bruised it. His eyes felt congested; he could no longer close them.

His tongue was swollen with thirst; he relieved its fever by thrusting it forward from between his teeth into the cold air. How softly the turf had carpeted the untraveled avenue — he could no longer feel the roadway beneath his feet!

Doubtless, despite his suffering, he had fallen asleep while walking, for now he sees another scene — perhaps he has merely recovered from a delirium. He stands at the gate of his own home. All is as he left it, and all bright and beautiful in the morning sunshine. He must have traveled the entire night. As he pushes open the gate and passes up the wide white walk, he sees a flutter of female garments; his wife, looking fresh and cool and sweet, steps down from the veranda to meet him. At the bottom of the steps she stands waiting, with a smile of ineffable joy, an attitude of matchless grace and dignity. Ah, how beautiful she is! He springs forwards with extended arms. As he is about to clasp her he feels a stunning blow upon the back of the neck; a blinding white light blazes all about him with a sound like the shock of a cannon — then all is darkness and silence!

Peyton Farquhar was dead; his body, with a broken neck, swung gently from side to side beneath the timbers of the Owl Creek bridge.

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If you prefer to listen while you do something else, here is an audio version of the story:

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An Occurrence At Owl Creek Bridge by Ambrose Bierce, narrated by Robert Englund, part one of four

   

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An Occurrence At Owl Creek Bridge by Ambrose Bierce, narrated by Robert Englund, part two of four  

   

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An Occurrence At Owl Creek Bridge by Ambrose Bierce, narrated by Robert Englund, part three of four  

   

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An Occurrence At Owl Creek Bridge by Ambrose Bierce, narrated by Robert Englund, part four of four  

 

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Today Was Either A Post-Election Post About Politics Or Show You Some Photos – Guess Which One I Chose?

“Fight Against Stupidity And Bureaucracy”

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You lucky people!

Yes, for today let’s forget about politics and the looming fiscal cliff toward which we all now seem to be heading and do something a little unusual for this blog – look at some photos.  

I like to take photos, and I’m not the worst photographer in the world but I’m not the greatest either, not by a long way, and I don’t seem to often find myself in ‘the right place at the right time’ to get award winning shots.

Other people, however, do. And I collect some of them and use them as wallpaper on my computer screen.

Here’s a selection of my favorites, some to make you smile, some to make you cry, but all of them impressive in their own way. Unfortunately I don’t know the source of most of these otherwise I would happily acknowledge them.

Hope at least some of them are new to you and that you like them too. 

Enjoy.

 

2007_1203 Winter Wonder Land 012

boat tropical clear water

Look what Santa brought for Christmas

Nature takes over

Floral arch

Reflections on a life

Oh my goodness!

Lost opportunity

Climbing high

Isabela

Did you hear about what happened in number 42?

Stranded

Take me to your leader

A bird in the hand

The beauty of nature

Relief

Terraces

Old life and new

Art imitates nature

Scaring you scaring me

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A Tribute To Peanut Butter, Yum! – Oh, And A Lot Of Things You Probably Didn’t Know About Peanuts

“Fight Against Stupidity And Bureaucracy”

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I must admit to not having much time for nuts with allergies, er… to nuts. But I’ve always liked the edible variety, particularly peanuts and peanut butter. Liked it when I was a kid, still like it today. One of the best culinary inventions ever, in my opinion.

Mr Peanut - Planters logo
Mr Peanut – Planters logo

 

Peanut butter has been invented and reinvented many times during history. Peanuts were known as early as 950 B.C. and originated in South America. The ancient Incas used peanuts and were known to have made it into a paste-like substance.

As a crop, peanuts emigrated from South America to Africa thanks to early explorers and from there traveled by trade into Spain which then traded the product to the American colonies. A rather roundabout way to get to the US, but there you are, or rather, here it is.

The first commercial peanut crop was grown in Virginia in the early to mid 1840’s and in North Carolina beginning around 1818.

According to the Corn Products Company, Dr. Ambrose Straub of St. Louis patented a peanut butter-making machine in 1903 and some unknown doctor invented peanut butter in 1890.

Dr. John Harvey Kellogg patented a “Process of Preparing Nut Meal” in 1895 and used peanuts. Kellogg served the patients at his Battle Creek Sanitarium peanut butter. Joseph Lambert worked for Dr. Kellogg and began selling his own hand-operated peanut butter grinder in 1896. Almeeta Lambert published the first nut cookbook, “The Complete Guide to Nut Cookery” in 1899.

By 1914, many companies were making peanut butter.

Joseph L. Rosenfield invented a churning process that made peanut butter smooth and in 1928, licensed his invention to the Pond Company, the makers of “Peter Pan” peanut butter.

Peter Pan peanut butter

In 1932, he began making his own brand of peanut butter called “Skippy” which included a crunchy style peanut butter.

Skippy Peanut Butter

But it is possibly agricultural chemist, George Washington Carver who has the best claim to the peanut butter gold medal position. In the course of his research he discovered three hundred uses for peanuts and hundreds more uses for soybeans, pecans and sweet potatoes.

Carver wanted poor farmers to grow alternative crops both as a source of their own food and as a source of other products to improve their quality of life.

He started popularizing uses for peanut products including peanut butter, paper, ink, and oils beginning in 1880, the most popular of his 44 practical bulletins for farmers contained 105 food recipes using peanuts.

However, Carver did not patent peanut butter as he believed food products were all gifts from God. The 1880 date precedes all the above inventors except of course for the Incas, who were first. It was Carver who made peanuts a significant crop in the American South in the early 1900’s. Today half of all edible peanuts produced in the United States are used to make peanut butter and peanut spreads.

Thanks Mr G W Carver.

George Washington Carver - One Of America's Great Sscientists
George Washington Carver – One Of America’s Great Scientists

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And here are a lot of other things you probably didn’t know about peanuts….

 

  • Peanuts are one of the ingredients of dynamite;
  • The peanut is not a nut, it is actually a legume;
  • It takes more than 500 peanuts to make one 12 ounce jar of peanut butter;
  • The Planters Peanut Company mascot, Mr. Peanut, was created during a contest for schoolchildren in 1916;
  • Throughout the South, peanuts were known as “Monkey Nuts,” and “Goober peas,” before the civil war;
  • The fear of peanut butter sticking to the roof of the mouth is called Arachibutyrophobia;
  • People living on the east coast prefer creamy peanut butter, while people living on the west coast prefer chunky peanut butter;
  • Skippy Peanut Butter is sold more in the world than any other peanut butter;
  • The average American kid will eat approximately 1.500 peanut butter sandwiches by high school graduation;
  • The #1 peanut producing state is Georgia;
  • On average, the American household consumes six pounds of peanut butter annually;
  • 96% of people put the peanut butter on first when making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich;
  • Americans consume the most peanut butter in the world;
  • Approximately three jars of peanut butter are sold every second;
  • In a year, about 90 million jars of Skippy Peanut Butter are sold. (This works out to three jars sold every second);
  • In the U.S. peanuts account for 66% of all snack nuts;
  • Both Thomas Jefferson and Jimmy Carter, U.S. presidents, were peanut farmers at one time;
  • Peanut butter is an effective way to remove chewing gum from hair or clothes;
  • Incas used to create pots in the shape of peanuts that were highly prized;
  • In Greene, New York, you are not allowed to eat peanuts and walk backwards on the sidewalk during a concert.

 

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Everything Is Relative, Even Your Granny!

“Fight Against Stupidity And Bureaucracy”

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A man trying to understand the nature of God asked him: “God, how long is a million years to you?”

God answered: “A million years is like a minute.”

Then the man asked: “God, how much is a million dollars to you?”

And God replied: “A million dollars is like a penny.”

Finally the man asked: “God, could you give me a penny?”

And God said, “In a minute.”

 

I had originally called this post ‘Time And Relativity’ but I thought that would put some people off reading it. But that’s what it is actually about.

We have all heard about Albert Einstein and his theory of relativity, which is when he basically demolished Isaac Newton’s theories of mechanics and replaced them with the theory of relativity and how time can be effected by space, gravity, velocity and so forth.

Albert Einstein who formulated the theories of relativity
Albert Einstein who formulated the theories of relativity

Like Einstein (who am I kidding LOL) I have two theories of relativity, a General Theory and a Special Theory. That I am afraid is where the similarity ends because being neither a physicist nor a genius my theories are of necessity much simpler, although I would argue no less valid.

If you’ve got the time read on….

 

1. The Fasab General Theory of Relativity

The Fasab General Theory of Relativity simply states that the more interested you are in something the faster time passes.

Contrary to what a lot of people have been taught and believe, widening your variety of activities and experiences will not slow down your perception of time passing, it will in fact speed it up if you are interested in and enjoy those activities and experiences.

We have all experienced this phenomenon. Sit down at your computer and get engrossed in the fasab blog 🙂 , do a bit of work on your own blog, or just look for information on something you are interested in, and hey presto two hours have disappeared before you know it.

Same if you are watching a really good movie or play or show. It may last for two hours or more, but it seems an awful lot less.

And there are people you know and meet who are great company, are funny, tell good stories, and/or can hold interesting conversations on a variety of topics. Time seems to pass so quickly and so pleasantly when you are fortunate enough to be in that sort of company. 

Conversely, the more uninterested you are in something the slower time passes.

Ever gone to see a film that was particularly bad and that you thought was never going to end? Or a lecture by a boring speaker who made an hour seem like a day and your bottom give up and go to sleep? If you have you’ll know exactly what I mean.

I used to have an old aunt who had Alzheimers and occasionally I would go to stay with her to give my cousin a few hours break. Her sensible conversational skills were approaching zero at that stage in her disease, tv seemed to irritate her and so on, so there was little to do to pass the time.

I would go in to her house, sit down and glance at my watch. It would be something like, say, 7.30pm.

I’d try to coax a little chat out of her and fail; then read the newspaper for a while; then just close my eyes and have a rest or a think about what I needed to do tomorrow; and then after what I thought was at least a good 30 minutes or more I’d check my watch again.

It would say something like 7.34pm! Those 4 minutes had taken a half hour to pass. It was awful.

Then there are the drones, people who seem to be able to slow down time with their excruciatingly boring and meaningless conversation. A friend of mine from University days who went on to become an accountant turned into to one of those, obsessed with whatever budget he was trying to perfect he droned on and on and on about it. I don’t see him much these days. 

And that is the Fasab General Theory Of Relativity.

 

2. The Fasab Special Theory of Relativity

The Fasab Special Theory Of Relativity is a different concept to the General Theory just outlined. It is also harder to ‘prove’ in that the ability to experience it is not quite so immediate. But once again we have all experienced it, so here goes.

The Fasab Special Theory of Relativity states that time is perceived to pass faster the lower the proportion a unit of time is, when compared to how long we have lived.

Have you ever heard people say, or even said yourself, that the older you get the quicker the months and years seem to pass?

I’m sure there is a complex mathematical formula for something like this and if anyone cares to send it to me well and good. But for now let’s not bother complicating things.

The Fasab Special Theory of Relativity in simple terms can be summarized as Y/L = P, where ‘Y’ is a period of 1 year or 12 months; ‘L’ is a person’s current life term or age stated in months; and ‘P’ is the proportion of your current life that 1 year represents. The older you get the lower is the value of ‘P’ and the faster time is perceived to pass. 

For example, when you are a child a year seems like a long, long, long time. That is simply because when kids are five years old, twelve months is a large proportion of their lives, 12/60 or 1/5 or 20 percent.

However, by the time you reach 50 years of age, a year or 12 months is a much smaller proportion of your lifetime, 12/600 or 1/50 or just 2 percent.

Therefore the older you get, the quicker a year, or any unit of time for that matter, seems to pass.

I’m not happy about this. Time appears to be going in far too fast already. But like everyone else I seem to be stuck with it.

 

And that is a summary of the two Fasab theories of time and relativity.

 

It might be interesting to speculate how the two theories combine and what effect that has but, oh my goodness, is that the time? Must go!

 

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Significant Number Factoid Friday – Thirteen, Unlucky For Some

“Fight Against Stupidity And Bureaucracy”

 .

They’ve been ‘beautiful’,  they’ve been ‘big’  and they’ve been ‘unusual’

Today we have ‘significant’ number thirteen, unlucky for some.

Enjoy.

 

13 Thirteen

The number 13 seems to give a lot of people trouble. Indeed the fear of the number 13 is so pervasive that it even has a phobia named after it  –  triskaidekaphobia. 

 

In the Bible.

  • At the Last Supper in Christian theology, there were 13 dinner guests, so that number is unlucky because Christ was betrayed.
  • Thirteen famines are recorded in the Scriptures.
  • The destruction of Jericho is stamped with the number thirteen, because the city was compassed once each day for six days, and seven times on the seventh day, making 13 times in all (6+7).
  • All the names of Satan are divisible by thirteen.
  • In Mark 7 Jesus mentions thirteen things that defile a person (evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lewdness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride and foolishness).

 

Elsewhere,

  • The ancient Hebrews thought 13 was unlucky because the thirteenth letter of the Hebrew alphabet is the letter M, which is the first letter in the word “mavet,” meaning death.
  • In Norse mythology, 12 benevolent gods were gathering in a hall and the evil god Loki attacked the group. Loki was the 13th guest, and the god Balder was killed in the melee.
  • President Franklin D. Roosevelt was quite fearful of the number 13, and he took great pains to avoid hosting a meal for a group of that size. It is said that if he had a cancellation and it looked as if there might be 13 people to lunch, he would invite his secretary to join them so there wouldn’t be 13.
  • Industrialist Henry Ford wouldn’t do business on Friday, the 13th.
  • Multimillionaire Paul Getty once stated “I wouldn’t care to be one of thirteen at a table.”
  • Some speculate that a fear of the number 13 is the reason we recognize only 12 constellations in the Zodiac, omitting a thirteenth… Ophiuchus ( the Serpent Holder) that, by its location, could be included.
  • Years ago, London bakers were subject to harsh penalties if they were caught selling bread in what was called short weight. The bakers would add an extra loaf to each dozen to be sure the sale met the minimum weight requirement. They avoided the word thirteen and the process of adding an extra loaf became known as the “baker’s dozen.”
  • Some airlines do not have a 13th row.
  • Most tall buildings do not have a 13th floor.
  • Many hotel guests refuse to stay in Room 13, so rooms are frequently numbered 12, 12A, and 14.
  • The 13th card of the Tarot is the card of Death.
  • The composer, Arnold Schoenberg, was a noted triskaidekaphobe. He died as he had predicted at the age of 76 (7+6=13), on a Friday 13th at 13 minutes to midnight.
  • In April 1970, NASA launched Apollo 13 at 1313 hours Central Time from pad 39. The flight was commanded by James A. Lovell with John L. “Jack” Swigert as Command Module pilot and Fred W. Haise as Lunar Module pilot. (Swigert was a late replacement for the original CM pilot Ken Mattingly, who was grounded by the flight surgeon after exposure to German measles.) They were scheduled for rest periods beginning 13 minutes past the hour and on April 13 at 21:07:53 CST (55:54:53 Ground Elapsed Time) an oxygen tank exploded and the mission had to be aborted. The rest is history – and a movie, Apollo 13, based on ‘Lost Moon’, Jim Lovell’s and Jeffrey Kluger’s book about the event.
Apollo 13 insignia
Insignia of the ill-fated Apollo XIII Mission

 

Friday the 13th Myths:

  • If you cut your hair on Friday the 13th, someone in your family will die.
  • A child born on Friday the 13th will be unlucky for life.
  • If a funeral procession passes you on Friday the 13th, you will be the next to die.

 

In the United States

  • the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution officially outlaws slavery and involuntary servitude, except as punishment for a crime.
  • thirteen colonies rebelled against British Rule and King George III in what led to the American Revolutionary War and the eventual birth of the United States of America. The colonies were Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Georgia, Connecticut, Massachusetts Bay, Maryland, South Carolina, New Hampshire, Virginia, New York, North Carolina, and Rhode Island and Providence Plantations.
  • there are thirteen stripes on the USA flag to commemorate these original colonies.
USA flag - Stars and Stripes
USA flag – Stars and Stripes

 

 

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Twenty-Four Thoughts To Get You Through Any Crisis

“Fight Against Stupidity And Bureaucracy”

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Some situations in life or business or whatever call for a bit of creative thinking. “Thinking outside the box” is the trendy phrase that’s used. It means sometimes forgetting a lot of what we have learned or applying it a little differently.

If you ever find yourself in that kind of position some of these thoughts may help.

Enjoy.

 

 

Indecision is the key to flexibility.

 

You cannot tell which way the train went by looking at the track.

 

There is absolutely no substitute for a genuine lack of preparation.

 

Happiness is merely the remission of pain.

 

Nostalgia isn’t what it used to be.

 

Sometimes too much drink is not enough.

 

The facts, although interesting, are irrelevant.

 

The careful application of terror is also a form of communication.

 

Someone who thinks logically is a nice contrast to the real world.

 

Things are more like they are today than they ever have been before.

 

Anything worth fighting for is worth fighting dirty for.

 

Everything should be made as simple as possible, but no simpler.

 

Friends may come and go, but enemies accumulate.

 

I have seen the truth and it makes no sense.

 

All things being equal, fat people use more soap.

 

If you can smile when things go wrong, you have someone in mind to blame.

 

One-seventh of you life is spent on Wednesday.

 

By the time you can make ends meet, they move the ends.

 

Not one shred of evidence supports the notion that life is serious.

 

The more you run over a dead cat, the flatter it gets.

 

There is always one more imbecile than you counted on.

 

This is as bad as it can get, but don’t bet on it.

 

Never wrestle with a pig:  You both get all dirty, and the pig likes it.

 

The trouble with life is, you’re halfway through it before you realize it’s a ‘do it yourself’ thing.

 

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Significant Number Factoid Friday – Seven

“Fight Against Stupidity And Bureaucracy”

 .

They’ve been ‘beautiful’, they’ve been ‘big’ and they’ve been ‘unusual’. Today we have the number seven, another of what are known as ‘significant’ numbers, so-called because of their use and the beliefs surrounding them.

Enjoy.

 

7 Seven

The number seven is the most mystical of all numbers. It is considered by a great many people to be ‘lucky’.

It is a number that is mentioned many times in the Bible where it indicates perfection and has its roots in ancient Jewish history.

In the Old Testament for example,

  • The Creation established the pattern of a seven day week.
  • The seventh day was a day of rest.
  • Land was to lie fallow every seventh year to allow it to recover its nutrients.
  • Noah led the clean animals into the ark in sets of seven pairs for each species.
  • Solomon took seven years to build the temple in Jerusalem.
  • The Torah mentions that the Sabbatical, or holy year, occurred every seven years.
  • The Israelites were told to march around the walls of Jericho seven times, and their enemies would be defeated.
  • The symbolic Jewish candlestick has seven branches.

This view of the number seven continued in the New Testament.

  • A disciple asked Jesus, “How many times should we forgive our brethren?” Jesus replied, “70 times 7”.
  • Revelations 1:16 states, “He had in his right hand seven stars.”
  • Also in Revelations, the number of seals is seven.

 

And beyond the Bible, we find the number seven in other religions and societies.

  • The ancient Greeks considered the number seven to be lucky. They believed it to be the perfect number.
  • In ancient Egypt there were seven paths to heaven.
  • In ancient Babylon there were seven branches on their tree of life.
  • The Arabs carried on this belief and built seven holy temples.
  • The Goths made sure they worshiped the seven deities.
  • The Japanese also had seven gods. (In 1995, to celebrate the Japanese Emperor’s seven year reign 17 runners ran 7,777 meters round the imperial palace at 7 minutes past seven on the 7th day of the 7th month.)
  • The Chinese saw seven as the number governing female life.
  • Even the Scottish Masons made sure the number seven had relevance in their rites, and their aprons were made with seven tassels on them.

 

In the US too there are examples of the occurrence of the number seven.

  • The Founding Fathers declared independence from Britain during the seventh month.
  • There are seven articles to the US constitution.
  • And the city of Washington D.C. was built on the 77th longitude.

 

The number still occurs because of it being thought lucky such as the drink 7-Up and the Boeing airplanes which are always 7?7.

 

Then there are the Seven Wonders of the world.

The original seven wonders were:

  • Great Pyramid of Giza
  • Hanging Gardens of Babylon
  • Statue of Zeus at Olympia
  • Temple of Artemis at Ephesus
  • Mausoleum at Halicarnassus
  • Colossus of Rhodes
  • Lighthouse of Alexandria

(The earliest lists had the Ishtar Gate as the seventh wonder of the world instead of the Lighthouse of Alexandria.)

Map of the original Seven Wonders of the World
Map of the original Seven Wonders of the World

In 2001 an initiative was started by the Swiss corporation New7Wonders Foundation to choose the New7Wonders of the World from a selection of 200 existing monuments.

Twenty-one finalists were announced January 1, 2006. Egyptians were not happy that the only surviving original wonder, the Great Pyramid of Giza, would have to compete with the likes of the Statue of Liberty, the Sydney Opera House, and other landmarks, calling the project absurd. In response, Giza was named an honorary Candidate.

The results, announced on July 7, 2007, in Lisbon, Portugal, were: 

  • Great Wall of China
  • Petra (Jordan)
  • Christ the Redeemer (Brazil)
  • Machu Picchu (Peru)
  • Chichen Itza (Mexico)
  • Colosseum (Italy)
  • Taj Mahal (India)

 

There have also been several atempts to compile a list of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World. The main candidates include:

  • Grand Canyon
  • Great Barrier Reef
  • Harbor of Rio de Janeiro
  • Mount Everest
  • Aurora
  • Parícutin volcano
  • Victoria Falls

 

And, of course, in the field of entertainment the number seven has featured in several memorable movies, examples of which include:

  • Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs
  • Seven Brides for Seven Brothers
  • Se7en
  • The Magnificent Seven
  • The Seven Samurai
  • The Seventh Seal
  • Seven Pounds