Weekly Wrap Volume 131

This is a weekly wrap of our popular Daily Knowledge Newsletter. You can get that newsletter for free here.

world-travelThat Time Hoover Acciedentally Cost Itself Almost 50,000,000 by Giving Away Free Flights with the Purchase of a Vacuum Cleaner
Giving away free stuff with a purchase is a good way to bolster sales and can result in a tidy increase in profits, provided you follow the general rule of making sure the long term projected profit from the promotion is greater than the cost of the giveaway. Appliance giant Hoover learned this seemingly obvious lesson first hand in 1992 when they inexplicably decided to give away free flights worth several times more than most of the products they were selling as part of what has become known as Hoovergate- one of the most disastrous marketing campaigns of all time, today taught in marketing text books the world over.Though Hoover sells a multitude of appliances and domestic goods, the company is known mostly for its…(more)

blind-womanWhy Do Blind People Wear Sunglasses

One of the most common questions we’ve been asked over the years, right up there with how blind people know they are done wiping after going #2, is why blind people wear sunglasses. After almost seven years of being asked this question, we suppose it’s high time we answered it. It should first be noted that, contrary to what many seem to think, not all blind people are completely blind. In fact, the vast majority of legally blind people can see at some level, just very poorly. For reference, the American Foundation for the Blind defines blindness as…(more)

guy-lombardo21Why We Sing Auld Lang Syne on New Year’s Eve

This tradition is mostly thanks to Guy Lombardo and the Royal Canadian Band. While their work is largely unknown to those born in the last few decades, the band has sold over 300 million records to date. Guy Lombardo himself has three stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and he was once the “Dick Clark” of New Years before Clark and his “New Year’s Rockin’ Eve,” attempting to appeal to younger audiences, started supplanting “Mr. New Year’s Eve,” Guy Lombardo. It was in 1929 that Guy Lombardo and his band took the stage at the Roosevelt Hotel in New York City on New Year’s Eve. Their performance that night was being broadcast on the radio, before midnight Eastern-time on…(more)

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Bonus Quick Facts

  • The slinky was invented by accident when its creator, marine engineer Richard James, was working at a shipyard designing a device to measure horsepower output on naval battleships. The device required special springs for stabilization, one of which James accidentally knocked off his desk. It fell on a pile of stacked books and then continued on to the floor in slinky-like fashion. After playing around with it a bit, Richard thought this would make a good toy and got a loan to have several hundred slinkies made and packaged. He then managed to get his invention on the shelves of a local store… No one bought any for several days. Things changed when he went to the store and demonstrated the toy to people as they shopped, resulting in the whole stock selling out within two hours. And the rest, as they say, is history.
  • The Brothers Grimm didn’t just write fairy tales, they also worked for many years on a German dictionary that not only included the definitions of the words, but also the origin of each word. As you might expect, this was a monumental undertaking for just two people who lacked Google. They did not manage to finish their dictionary before dying, but did publish excerpts of the work, with the first installment published in 1852, 14 years after they’d started it.
  • The NFL League Office, which is classified as a trade organization whose primary purpose is to “further the industry or profession it represents,” is tax-exempt. This began in 1942 when the NFL was struggling to stay afloat and needed to find ways to save money wherever possible, so filed an application for tax-exempt, non-profit status with the IRS. The application was accepted and they’ve been tax-exempt ever since. This non-profit organization has paid Roger Goodell well over $100 million in salary during his turbulent time as commissioner of the NFL.
  • Next time you decide you’d like to just stay in bed all day and call in sick from work, simply tell your boss you’re suffering from clinomania- the excessive desire to stay in bed.
  • In 1893, an amendment was proposed to the U.S. Constitution trying to get the United States of America renamed the “United States of Earth.”
  • Victor Lustig was a con-artist who managed to sell the Eiffel Tower to a scrap metal dealer and get away with it. He used forged government documents, combined with newspaper articles lamenting how expensive the tower was for the city to maintain. With the first sale, he not only was paid for the Eiffel Tower, but also managed to get a bribe by the contractor who wanted his bid to be chosen. He then fled Paris, only to return a month later when the winning contractor, Andre Poisson, didn’t report the matter to the police because of the embarrassment it would have brought. Lustig then tried to sell the tower again, this time, though, the winning bidder double checked with the authorities before paying, ultimately finding out it was a scam. However, Lustig was able to flee before he could be arrested. He was ultimately captured in America and charged with unrelated crimes after he was turned in by his girlfriend, Billy May, who had found out he was sleeping with another woman. Hell hath no fury and all that. He died of pneumonia in Alcatraz in 1947 while serving a 20 year prison sentence.

Other Interesting Stuff
compass

The $2 Million Treasure Chest Currently Hidden in the Rockies

Forrest Fenn was a kid growing up south of Waco, Texas, in the late 1930s. His father was the principal of the local school, and when he wasn’t busy seeing to the education of the town children, the elder Fenn passed on a love for a different kind of learning to his son: scouring the countryside for Native American artifacts. Forrest found his first arrowhead when he was about nine years old. “I was exhilarated and it started me on a lifelong adventure of discovering and collecting things,” he told an interviewer in 2013. Fenn joined the U.S. Air Force in 1950 and became a fighter pilot. His military career took him…(more)

newyearsWhy Does the New Year Begin on January First in Many Countries

Because Julius Caesar said so. Since long before Caesar’s time, date keeping was dicey. In fact, the 355-day Roman calendar that immediately preceded Caesar’s Julian, worked on a four year cycle where every other year, an additional month was inserted between February (Februarius), the last month of that calendar year, and March (Martius), the first month of the year; this was done in order to catch the calendar up with the Earth’s orbit of the Sun. That additional month, called the Mensis intercalaris, brought in the missing 22 or 23 days, and to even things up, took another five days from February in the years…(more)

colonol-santa-340x453Eating Kentucky Fried Chicken is a Christmas Tradition for Many Japanese

Kentucky Fried Chicken is hardly considered a suitable place to get one’s food for a traditional Christmas meal in most parts of the world. There is one exception, though. In Japan, it is a Christmas tradition to order KFC. So how exactly did Christmas, the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ, become synonymous with a bucket of fried chicken in the land of the rising sun? Well for one, Christmas wasn’t really celebrated at all historically in Japan and has only relatively recently been adopted. The Japanese predominantly followed the Buddhism and Shinto religions, so Christmas was essentially adopted from the West and holds little religious…(more)

huddle-340x227Inventing the Huddle

Prior to the twentieth century, American football teams tended to call their plays via a quarterback simply giving signals while the team either stood in more or less a generic near-set position or back from the line a bit as the quarterback called out what they’d do next. So where did the idea of standing well behind the line of scrimmage in a huddle come from? While there are no contemporary news reports or other definitive primary documents from the time period to support the story, it is generally claimed that quarterback Paul Hubbard of Gallaudet University invented the huddle sometime between 1892 and 1895, though if so, perhaps after 1892 as Hubbard wasn’t…(more)

vanilla-bean-340x510Why is Vanilla Added to Recipes

Enhancing the flavor of the other ingredients in a sweet dish, vanilla also adds a spicy, delicate taste and packs a strong, enticing aroma. This is why, despite its expense, vanilla is wildly popular among home cooks and professional pastry chefs alike.Native to Central and South America, vanilla was first cultivated by the Totonac of east-central Mexico, who, after being conquered by the Aztecs in the 15th century, sent vanilla to their overlords to satisfy their tribute demands. When the Aztecs, in turn, were conquered by the Spanish, legend has it that Montezuma introduced to Cortez to vanilla with a beverage of cacao beans, ground corn, vanilla and honey. Whatever the case…(more)

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