Category Archives: Misc.

A Little Girl, a World Leader, and a Nuclear War- The Story of Samantha Smith


The following is an article from Uncle John’s Bathroom Reader The Letter Like millions of American children during the Cold War, 10-year-old Samantha Smith of Manchester, Maine, was terrified of getting nuked by the Russians. News reports and TV specials about nuclear bombs, missile defense systems, and “mutually assured destruction” were commonplace, and Smith got more and more frightened about […]

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The Secret Society of Journalists Known as the Order of the Occult Hand


A running joke, a conspiracy, a challenge, a raspberry to authority and (at least formerly) an exclusive club, the members of the Order of the Occult Hand are those journalists who have successfully snuck the meaningless phrase “occult hand” past their editors and into published newspaper articles. How did this all start? According to two of its founding fathers, Joseph Flanders […]

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The Deadly Dihydrogen Monoxide


A major component of acid rain, an accelerator of corrosion and the rusting of metals, found in the tumors of cancer patients, a contributor to the greenhouse effect, fatal if inhaled, and capable of causing serious burns in the right circumstances, colorless, odorless and tasteless dihydrogen monoxide (DHMO) is responsible for thousands of deaths each year. An exercise in perspective, […]

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Can Ambulance Drivers Get Speeding Tickets?


Brooke asks: Can ambulances get speeding tickets? Subject to the same rules of the road as other drivers, with a few exceptions for emergencies, ambulances can be pulled over and ticketed for speeding and other traffic violations, although it is exceedingly rare. Generally speaking, ambulance drivers should observe all traffic laws and regulations; however, some of those laws are waived […]

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Origin of the Military Song “Taps”


M. Havens asks: Where did the Taps song come from that is played during military funerals? Since 1862, “Taps” has played at military funerals to honor the sacrifice of fallen service members. Originally, however, it was intended to send soldiers off to a less permanent sleep. During the Civil War, Union buglers signaled “lights out” to their comrades with a […]

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The Surprising Truth About the Difference Between Hardwoods and Softwoods


Richard K. asks: How do they set the dividing line in hardness between what’s considered a hard wood vs. a soft wood? Generally speaking, wood is often put into one of two categories- hardwood and softwood. But what exactly makes a given piece of wood qualify as either hard or soft and how did those definitions come about? Perhaps the most […]

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The Mystery of the Forest Swastika and the Origin of the Symbol


Being an intern at a German landscaping company during 1992 meant Ökoland Dederow was handed the tedious task of looking through aerial photographs for irrigation lines in a forest located in East Germany. During the course of this, Dederow came across something that definitely was not an irrigation line in photo 106/88. Approximately 140 larch trees in the middle of […]

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Blackboard Chalk Isn’t Chalk


Ubiquitous in many classrooms since the 19th century, chalk and chalkboards are familiar to most of us. White, powdery and prone to sticking to those surfaces where it is put (and just as easy to wipe away), chalk and its accompanying board are excellent instructional aids. Notably, however, most chalk today isn’t technically chalk at all, but gypsum. Chalk and […]

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The Perfect Town


The town of Celebration was first loosely imagined by Walt Disney himself, though the current town differs wildly from Disney’s original idea. Whereas Disney pictured a “perfect” futuristic city where technology blended seamlessly with real life and all possible needs were taken care of, an idea that served as the basis for the Epcot theme park in Disney Land, Michael Eisner (the CEO of Disney at […]

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The Teen Who Funded His College Education By Asking People For Pennies


The term crowdfunding, a process by which a person raises money by asking others for small donations, has become popular online during the past few years. Websites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo offer individuals a platform from which to make their cases to an international community. Mike Hayes of Illinois used crowdfunding to pay for all four years of his college […]

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The 7,000 Year Old Forest


Extending nearly 1.2 million square miles across Belarus and Poland, the 7,000 year old Białowieża Forest is home to more than 12,000 distinct species of plants and animals. Comprising the largest, and one of the last holdouts of, primeval forest in Europe, the Białowieża has been designated a World Heritage Site and a Biosphere Reserve by the United Nations. As […]

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