Tuesday, December 23, 2008

DDYK 12/13 - Diamond Engagement Rings are Horsecrap

Hope everyone is enjoying their holiday and traveling safely. Here in Illinois we're getting douched with ice (Christmas Eve Eve Dinner with the in-laws tonight was entirely by candelight, and not by choice), which has sort of been a recurring theme here the last week or so. Just ridiculous weather, but hey, at least there'll be a white Christmas!

On to today's Daily Did-You-Know:

Here's something I wish I would've known before spending a great deal of my saving's on Amy's diamond engagement ring a couple years ago--diamond rings, and any engagement rings really, are just a clevel product of the media.

According to mentalfloss.com, nobody really bought engagement rings before the 1930s. I've wondered about this since my wife told me there were TWO rings necessary for a wedding and I spend the following days wandering the streets in confusion. It was in 1939 that the De Beers diamond company hired an ad agency to re-energize a struggling diamond market. They introduced the diamond engagment ring and the "Diamonds Are Forever" slogan that's made them so popular in the decades since. From there they put the rings on models in fashion magazines, which made all women want them. Sneaky, sneaky bastards.

So if you paid money for diamonds recently, you got ripped off. At least now you know why!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Student Quotes, Fall 2008

Twice a year I grace you with the silly and naive things my student say over the course of the school year. Today, I give you the rhetorical wit of my students from the fall of 2008. Most of these are sophomores, with a couple of junior and senior quotes sprinkled in... Enjoy!

Brian: “Hey Brigs, I listened to you on the radio yesterday morning.”
Me: “No you didn’t. Yesterday was Labor Day. I didn’t do the radio thing.”
Brian: “Yeah, sorry I lied to you. But I was up at 7:10 ready to listen to you and everything.”
Me: “On a three-day weekend? No you weren’t. You were still in bed.”
Brian, after a beat: “Yeah, you’re right. I’m sorry I lied to you again.”

Doug keeps referring to ethical appeals as “ethnical” appeals.

From art teacher Mrs. Manning: So I spend 2 days talking about the color wheel & mixing colors & primary, secondary, blahblahblah… Today I demonstrate mixing paint. They start painting. Jessica paints yellow & then tells me “I need like the plain orange paint.”

From a Boyz ‘n the Hood worksheet: I asked the kids to describe the neighborhood in the movie. Bailey said, “A run-down hood-like place,” and Aaron just wrote, “Gangsters by railroad.”

Test question: What aspect of Anne Bradstreet’s poem, “Upon the Burning of Our House” shows her Puritan values and/or beliefs?
Lindsey’s answer: “She talks about her big chest that burns, and many other objects, but she doesn’t care because she thinks God does everything for a reason.”

Student teacher Katie Hudson asking the kids what supernatural means:
Miss Hudson: “What is supernatural?”
Brody: “Unicorns!”

Doug: “You said that we have to type a final draft of our paper for tomorrow. Does that mean that if we already typed it up and there are parts that are wrong, we have to type it all over again?”
Me: “No, Doug. That’s kind of the whole point of typing it on the computer in the first place.”
Doug: “Oh, right.”

Miss Hudson, discussing “The Devil and Tom Walker,” asks, “What does the devil wear?”
Travis: “Isn’t it like a Speedo-lookin’ type of thing?”

Alex: “Hey Brigs, how’s that lemon?”
Me: “You mean melon? I’m eating melon.”
Keegan: “It’s called cantaloupe.”
Alex: “No, dummy; that’s an animal.”
Me: “You’re thinking of antelope. Cantaloupe actually is another word for melon.”

Miss Hudson: “So we could say that Timothy Treadwell (The Grizzly Man) was one of a kind?”
Travis: “No, that’s not true. I saw this thing on TV about a guy who was eaten in half by bear.”

Harley’s title for his Grizzly Man paper: “Dumbasses in the Wild”

Jennifer, referencing Thoreau’s “Civil Disobedience,” in which he encourages nonviolent protest: “Are we going to have homework on homecoming weekend? If she gives us homework, I’m gonna do that ‘civil’ thingy we read about.”

Mark: “Isn’t Afghanistan in South America?”

Chase: “How did Edgar Allen Poe die?”
Me: “Nobody knows for sure. He just disappeared for a few days, showed up in a gutter, and then died before he could give an explanation as to what happened.”
(The class is silent, looking around at each other in confusion).
Chase: “They found him in a gutter?”
Me: “Yeah… why is that so hard to believe?”
Chase: “Well, how’d he get up there?”
Me, after a beat: “Not a rain gutter, you guys—a ditch!”
The class, collectively coming to realization: “Oooohhhhh.”

Aaron, after pinching a student and receiving the punishment of being held one minute after the bell that releases students for lunch: “Mr. Brigham, can’t you just take some points off of my grade or something instead?”

There’s a boy with Downs Syndrome at our school, and he’s absolutely the sweetest kid in the world. He’s big about high fives and hugs, and everybody—teachers and students—loves the kid. He and I had this interesting exchange this morning:

Him: “Are you coming to see me in the play this weekend?”
Me: “I really wish I could, buddy, but I’ve got to work this weekend. I’m going to the Bulls game to interview all the players and write about them.”
Him, excited: “Really?”
Me: “Yup, and I know Derrick Rose is your favorite player so I’ll tell him you said hello.”
Him, absolutely serious: “Will you give him a hug for me, too?”

Aaron: “I ain’t done nothing wrong!”
Me: “’I ain’t done nothing wrong?’”
Aaron: “Sorry—I didn’t do nothing wrong.”

In response to a Soulja Boy quote in which he said, “Shout out to the slave masters! Without them we’d still be in Africa. We wouldn’t be here to get this ice and these tattoos,” sophomore Justin responded, “Soulja Boy should be packed into a crate and shipped to Africa.”

Avvetta, starting a new book for a class she was absent for the previous day: “Miss Hudson, what’s this book about?”
Miss Hudson: “It’s about 260 pages. Now quiet down and get reading.”

Miss Hudson: “Tonight’s story is called A Mystery of Heroism…”
Chase: “Heroism? Like the drug?”
Trey: “You’re thinking of heroine, dummy.” Then, sarcastically, “I gotta go get some heroism from my dealer!”

Alex, during a discussion about bullies: “If someone calls you ugly, you just call them even uglier.”

Miss Hudson: “What came after the Civil War?”
Chris: “World War 1!”

After calling former student David immoral once I found out he’d been smoking, he wrote back to me with the following: “Immorality is just the morality of people having more fun.”

“Henry did not have huge viscous bears where he lived.”
-Nate’s Grizzly Man paper.

Chasen, for seemingly no reason: “Have you ever gotten an MRI? It feels like you wet yourself and you’re 150 degrees!”

Frank, God bless him, spelled the word “accepted” like this: “itsepthed.” Took Miss Hudson and I few minutes to figure that one out.

Miss Hudson: “Does anybody know what an anagram is?”
Chase: “It’s when you take a word like ‘book’ and find out it if you rearrange it you can get another word, like ‘koob’ or ‘kobo.’”

Me, to former yearbook kid Ivy: “Hi, Ivy. Have you lost weight?”
Ivy: “I don’t think so, but thanks.”
Me: “Yeah, well I think I’m gaining weight. Maybe it left you and went to me?”
Ivy, excitedly: “Or maybe you’re turning into Santa Claus and you don’t know yet! I saw that in a movie once.”

From my wife in the world of fourth graders: “For DLR today we were using context clues to determine the meaning of a word in a sentence. The word this morning was herpetologist. A little girl raised her hand and asked, ‘Isn’t that someone who studies herpes?’”

Another wifey gem: “I’m grading spelling sentences and one of the words this week is seize. One of my kids wrote, ‘I have a cold so bad that I seize a lot.’”

Jeff: “Hey Brigs, what’s a rite of passage?”
Me: “It’s something a person goes through where they sort of leave childhood and move towards adulthood. It could be something formal, like a Bar Mitzvah for Jewish boys, or it could just be some unplanned party where you get your first kiss or something like that.”
Frank McCray, trying to tease another boy: “Yeah, well Aaron ain’t had his Bar Mitzvah yet.” He and Jeff start laughing hysterically while Aaron rolls his eyes.
Me: “What are you talking about? Aaron’s not even Jewish.”
Frank, who immediately stops laughing and gets this really confused look on his face: “Huh? I thought you said a Bar Mitzvah was a party where people get their first kiss?”

“Jedediah Smith had stumbled onto Comanche Indian land during one of his expeditions when he was looking for water on the Santa Fe Trail, and when the Indians saw his traps they thought that he was a treat and he was killed.”
- from Jesse's “Western Expansion” paper

“Argeus” is the creative way Eric spelled “arduous” on a recent test.

Me: “What do you call someone who doesn’t work in the military?”Chris: “A pedestrian.”Me: “No. A civilian, but I guess you were kind of close.”

These are my children, ladies and gentlemen :)

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

DDYK 12/16 - Bagpipes Ain't From Scotland

When you think of the bagpipe, you immediately envision plaid kilts, long dark stockings, and red-bearded men carrying the awkward instrument. But slow your roll. This instrument wasn't invented in Scotland.

There have been instruments involving pipes and a bag dating all the way back to Ancient Egypt. Then the Persians picked it up, then the Greeks, then the Romans. It was that last empire that introduced the world's most annoying instrument (except maybe the kazoo) to Scotland, where it became a huge part of the country's culture and heritage.

It also should be noted that the instrument is called the bagpipe, not bagpipes. The instrument is singular; only add the "s" if you're talking about several bagpipes.

And now you know.

Monday, December 15, 2008

DDYK 12/15 - Jingle Bell Rock Solid

The infamous Christmas song "Jingle Bells" is officially 151 years old, and 100% American, baby! It was written and copyrighted by James Lord Pierpont, a choral director from Georgia in the pre-Civil War era. Here are few little Did-You-Knows about this fantabulous Christmas favorite:
  • It was originally written for the Thanksgiving.
  • In 1965 it became the first song ever broadcast from space.
  • When it talks about "bells on bob tail ring," it's not naming the horse "Bob;" the horse's tail is, in fact, bobbed, meaning it's been cut shorter to keep the tail from getting caught in the reins.
  • We all know the first verse by heart, and we've maybe heard verse two once a twice, but have you ever seen verse 4? Didn't think so...
  • Now the ground is white
    Go it while you're young,
    Take the girls tonight
    and sing this sleighing song;
    Just get a bob tailed bay
    Two-forty as his speed
    [and] Hitch him to an open sleigh
    And crack! you'll take the lead.
Now get back to work and jingle all the way, ya'll!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

The Goose Is Getting Fat

Christmas is coming, and here's how the ol' Brigham household is looking in preparation for its first Christmas with its new family:

(Click on picture to view slideshow)

Friday, December 12, 2008

DDYK 12/12 - You'll Shoot Your Eye Out

In the spirit of Christmas, let's take a look at everyone's favorite holiday marathon film, "A Christmas Story," which actually has some pretty interesting lore behind it, such as:

Jack Nicholson wanted to play Ralphie's dad, but hiring him would've been too expensive.

Ralphie says he wants a Red Rider BB Gun 28 times during the course of the movie, which is approximately once every 3 minutes and 20 seconds.

Peter Billingsly, the kid that played Ralphie, is all grown up now and was most recently the executive producer for the summer hit "Iron Man" and recent holiday release "Four Christmases," starring Vince Vaughn. He and Vaughn are actually really good friends.

The kid that played "Flick" did porn for a while.

There's apparently a semi-sequel to this movie called "My Summer Story," which came out in 1994 and stars Macauly Culkin's little brother as Ralphie and Charles Grodin as the father. I'm sort of glad I never saw that one.

And there you go, folks! Some fantastic holiday trivia heading into the weekend. Have a great one, and don't shoot your eyes out.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

The Most Motivational of Speeches

This video makes me want to be somebody:

DDYK 12/11 - Do You Believe in Magic?

We've all seen the ol' pull-a-rabbit-out-of-the-hat magic trick, and most of us have been pretty impressed, but it must have been pretty jaw-dropping once upon a time, right? I mean, somebody had to invent the ol' pull-a-rabbit-out-of-the-hat trick, and it must have initially been smashing.

There's also a pretty fun story today about a psuedo-Asian who died trying to catch a magic bullet in his teeth. Magic is awesome.

"The Great Wizard of the North," John Henry Anderson - Not only is this guy credited with helping to bring magic from the streets into the theater, but he's also credited with being the first magician to pull a rabbit out of his hat. He also did some innovating things with advertising and sort of revolutionized the way magic was enjoyed.

John Nevil Maskelyne - Not only did he invent the "levitating body" trick way back in the 1800s, he also invented a lock for toilets that required a penny to operate. We wouldn't have pay toilets or floating people without this guy! Another thing of note with this guy, he was a member of a group called The Magic Circle with Harry Houdini. The purpose of the group was to disprove the existence of anything supernatural. One success story: showing that the Indian Rope Trick was a ruse. Before that, everyone that it was a real thing.

Chung Ling Soo - What a con-artist! Chung Ling Soo was really a white dude named William Ellsworth, who secretly changed his stage name from "Robinson, Man of Mystery" to seem more mysterious and exotic. He never spoke English in public and dressed up in stereotypical Asian gear to keep up the act. His famous trick was one in which an audience member shot a gun at him, which Soo (Ellsworth) would catch in his teeth. For one performance, though, something went amiss and the bullet nailed the guy in the chest. Once shot, he said, "Oh my God, something's happened. Lower the curtain." It was the first time he'd spoken English in public.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Ninja Cat

If you haven't seen the Ninja Cat yet, you're REALLY missing out...

A Smack of Jellyfish

Remember the other day's DDYK about weird names for groups of animals? There's an author who wrote a children's book about that very topic, which you can sort of preview at her website:


What a cool idea!

DDYK 12/10 - Extra Days Off

Some of American's biggest holidays - Thanksgiving, Fourth of July, Labor Day, Memorial Day - are strictly American. Nobody else in the world celebrates those specific holidays on the exact same day for the exact same reason we do.

Taking that into consideration, it would make sense that the rest of the world gets days off of work that we here do not.

Curious? I was. So here's a list:

2nd Monday of January - Japan - Adults's Day: A celebration for all people who have turned 20 in the last year, which in Japanese culture is when they are officially considered adults.

February - India - Full Moon Day: A day to commemorate Buddhist teachings. I could explain the details of this "Magha Puja," but they're more complex than you probably care to hear about. They're definitely more complex than I care to write about.

February 6 - New Zealand - Waitangi Day: Day to recall an 1840 treaty signed by the native Maori people, which officially founded the country of New Zealand.

April - Switzerland - Sechselauten: Celebrates the beginning of spring. One of the more awesome things the Swiss do to celebrate is symbolically say goodbye to winter by draping a giant snowman in explosives, which they of course detonate shortly thereafter. I absolutely am not making this up.

May 5 - Mexico - Cinco de Mayo: Celebrates 1861 victory over French military, not the day Corona was invented, as is commonly mistaken. It's not the Mexican Indpendence Day (that's in September); just commemorating an important battle. Actually, in today's world it's more about celebrating Mexican history and culture.

May 24 - Canada - Victoria Day: Birthday of late Queen Victoria of Great Britain. They've been celebrating this since before confederacy, and people in Victoria, British Columbia obviously love it. Canadians sometimes call the day "May Two-Four" not because it falls on the 24th, but because they're going to get sloppy on a 24-pack of beer. Again, honest-to-goodness truth. I wouldn't lie to you about beer.

July 14 - France - Bastille Day: Celebrates the start of the French Revolution in 1789, specifically the storming of the Bastille, which was seen as the symbol of the uprising of the Modern Nation.

November 5 - Great Britain - Guy Fawkes Day: Celebrates foiling of a traitorous 1605 plot in which Guy Fawkes and a bunch of other naughty Catholics were going to blow up the Houses of Paliament in London. Fawkes and Co. lost, obviously, and now they dance on his grave every November 5th. Actually, I can't prove that last part, but they definitely throw a party. Whether or not that's on Guy Fawkes's grave is currently unknown to me.

December 26 - Australia, Great Britain, Canada - Boxing Day: A bonus day for giving gifts after Christmas. Where we in American spend the day making returns and shopping our little greedy butts off, these other nations use the day to hand out gifts to those who are less fortunate. Sounds pretty boring, right? :)

Now, if we just keep our fingers crossed for the Barack Obama day some legislatures are trying to pass, even though he's not even the damn president yet and hasn't proved anything, we can maybe get an extra day off of work for that one, too!

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

DDYK 12/9 - Nobel Explosion Prize

I discovered today that Swedish chemist Alfred Nobel, the man for whom the Nobel Peace Prize is named, is known primarily for inventing dynamite. Also, the original funding of the awards came from money left in his will. So essentially, the Nobel Peace Prize is named after and funded by the dude responsible for more explosions than almost anybody in history. How's that for irony?

Monday, December 08, 2008

DDYK 12/8 - A Crow Left of the Murder

When Incubus came out with an album titled "A Crow Left of the Murder," I learned a valuable fact: a group of crows is not called a flock. It's called a murder.

So what other animals have weird group names? Check it out (I swear to God these are all 100% factual):

A shrewdness of apes
A wake of buzzards
A bed of clams
A bask of crocodiles
A brace of ducks
A convocation of eagles
A business of ferrets (or flies)
A stand of flamingoes
A tower of giraffes
An army of gorillas
An army of herring
A bloat of hippopotamuses
A passel of hogs
A smack of jellyfish
A troop of kangaroos
An exaltation of larks
A plague of locusts
A labor of moles
A romp of otters
A parliment of owls
A muster of peacocks
A prickle of porcupines
A warren of rabbits
An unkindness of ravens
A crash of rhinoceroses
A pod of seals (or whales)
A shiver of sharks
A streak of tigers
A knot of toads
A gang of turkeys

And now you know.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Dave Barnes Christmas Extravaganza 3

I have always enjoyed dave barnes for the quality of his music (we even played one of his songs for our first dance at the wedding), but now I officially have a man crush. This is the most fantastic thing I've seen in weeks.

Friday, December 05, 2008

DDYK 12/5 - There Were Clawmarks on the Uterus

There's a joke from my favorite show "Arrested Development" where Buster, the mama's boy character, was in his mother's uterus for 11 months and that by the end of gestation there were, as the title says, clawmarks on the uterus.

It's funny stuff if you've ever watched "Arrested Development," but after doing a little research it turns out that 11 months isn't anywhere near the longest gestation period for animals.

Human babies stay inside their mothers' bellies for between 253 and 303 days (on average, obviously), and the animals with the closest gestation period to humans are horses, deer, and cows, all of which carry babies for about nine months.

Some animals go even longer, though. Donkeys carry babies for a year, while a whale fetus can gestate from 365-547 days. Some elephant babies stay locked up for almost two years!

For some species, the gestation period is significantly shorter than nine months. Bear babies gestate for 5-7 months, and pigs and lions go just over 100 days. I know a lot of human ladies that would REALLY appreciate it if pregnancy lasted 3 1/2 months! Though I don't think they'd appreciate birthing a pig and/or lion.

And now you know.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Animal Abuse 2: Christmas Slay

We're so horribly cruel to these poor cats. Click on the picture to view the slideshow.

DDYK 12/4 - A Bad Taste In Your Mouth

Did you ever wonder why everything you eat tastes like crap after you brush your teeth? Me, too. There's actually a real reason that happens.

Most toothpastes contain either sodium lauryl ether sulfate (SLES) or sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS), whose job is to lower the surface tension of liquids. These chemicals are added to your toothpastes to help create foam and spread the goods all over mouth while you brush.

That's the practical use of them, anyway. The by-product is that these chemicals temporarily supress the taste bud receptors that detect sweetness while also breaking up the receptors that protect us from bitterness. So as a result, our orange juice tastes like a monkey's dingleberries after a good tooth-brushing because a chemical in the paste is killing our ability to taste sweetness and enhancing our ability to taste bitterness.

So we kind of lose twice when we brush our teeth, which is exactly why I never do it.

(Today's Daily Did-You-Know source: mentalfloss.com)

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

DDYK 12/3 - Hitler's Sex Doll

Adolph Hitler, perhaps the most hated man in the history of the world, was not only the father of Naziism, but was also the father of the inflatable sex doll.

This is no joke. To keep his soldiers from contracting debilitating STD's at brothels or, even worse, fornicating with non-Aryan women, Hitler came up with the idea of the sex doll to satiate his soldier's basic sexual needs. He ordered a Danish doctor named Olen Hannussen to develop the product, which, according to Hitler, should be "a natural size with a pretty woman's appearence with white skin, blonde hair, blue eyes 1.76 meters (5'9") high with large breasts and lips."

The dolls never went into mass production though, because the factory tagged for making the things was bombed with the rest of Dresden during WWII.

And now you know.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

DDYK 12/2 - Dumb Fads

Back in action after the Thanksgiving Holiday. Been a lovely hiatus, but let's get back to business...

Stupid Fads From the Last 100 Years

1920s - Raccoon Coats - These were worn mostly by college males in latter portion of the century. We're talking full-length coon-pelt coats here, apparently made popular tales of Davy Crockett, who killed him a bar when he was only three.

1924 - Flagpole Sitting - Stunt actor Alvin "Shipwreck" Kelly is responsible for this fad when someone dared him to sit on top of a flagpole for as long as he could. He lasted over 13 hours and was followed by new idiot record setters, culminating in Kelly re-claming the title by staying aloft for 49 days. Moron. The new record, as far as I could find, is held by an Iowan named Bill Penfield, who lasted 51 days and 20 hours.

1939 - Goldfish Swallowing - Some goofball at Harvard swallowed a fish as a publicity stunt, sparking a nation of followers who read about it in the papers. I don't get it.

1950s - Bomb Shelters - Everyone was afraid of the Commies during the Cold War, so people were building these things in their back yards, stocked with canned foods and gallons of water and whatnot. The fad sort of made a comeback with all the Y2K nonsense in 1999.

1950s - Poodle Skirts - Women in postwar America wanted a modern, unique feminine fashion statement to do stuff like sing and dance and star in "Grease."

1959 - Phone Booth Stuffing - Apparently this one started in South Africa of all places, but it of course spread to America, where idiotic fads go to die. College kids literally crammed themselves into a phone booth until it couldn't hold any more people. The record is somewhere around 25, but no one cared enough to write down anything official anywhere.

1960s - Tie-Dye - Earliest examples of this originate in Peru around 500 A.D., but Janis Joplin made it mainstream in the '60s. It's still okay to wear these shirts, but only in moderation. Don't be a nerd about it, okay?

1970s - Platform Shoes - While the simplest explanation is that these raised shoes were invented just to be groovy, the real reason they were invented was that Ancient Grecians needed to literally elevate people of higher social standing. Hence, the platform shoe. Greece had nothing to do with the ones that have the goldfish in the heel, though.

1974 - Streaking - The first incident of a college kid stripping down and going streaking through the quad to the gymnasium was in 1804 at Washington and Lee University in Virginia. The '70s took it to new levels in America, though. It's apparently still very popular at soccer contests. "And he's off like a bull with gas."

1975 - Pet Rocks - An advertising exec named Gary Dahl made a fortune putting rocks in boxes and selling them to the moronic millions. They sold for $4 a pop and made Dahl a millionaire in six months. God bless America!

1980 - Rubik's Cube - This is considered the world's all-time best selling toy, having sold an estimated 300 million units by 2005. Some call it impossible, but it absoultely can be done. It was invented by a Hungarian professor of architecture named Erno Rubik, who now sleeps on a bed of money.

1983 - Cabbage Patch Kids - One of the craziest toy fads of all time, these cute little buggers started as all-cloth dolls based off the idea of quilts and sold only at craft shows. Now they're one of the best-selling toys of all time, even if it's not quite as impossible to find one at Christmas time as it used to be in the mid-80s.

1993 - Macarena - Huh patawella manasena macarena! Oom patwella cosifena madiyeda macarena! Heeeeyyyy macarena! Aight!