America's Thanksgiving Parade

Happy Thanksgiving, all!

Everyone knows about Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in Manhattan, but did you know about another fantastic parade that happens in Detroit, too? I've spent many Thanksgiving mornings experiencing it live, but this year I decided to learn some things about it instead, while watching the coverage on TV (it's really cold!).

Here's a brief highlight of its history via the Walter P. Reuther Library blog:

This Thanksgiving marks the 84th anniversary of a Detroit favorite now known as America’s Thanksgiving Parade. The parade was started in 1924 by Charles Wendel, the display manager of the J.L. Hudson Company department store on Woodward Avenue. Along with the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City, which was founded the same year, Hudson’s Thanksgiving parade was one of the first of its kind in the United States.

Inspired in part by European carnivals, the parade featured large papier-mâché heads imported from Italy, floats depicting nursery rhymes, and bands marching down Woodward Avenue. Since his first appearance in 1925, Santa Claus has remained a staple of the parade.

...The Michigan Thanksgiving Parade Foundation was established in 1982 to support the parade, which is now managed by The Parade Company.

The Parade Company creates all of the floats and balloons from scratch! It's a year-long process for the staff and 1500 volunteers (plus another 3000 volunteers the week of), culminating in a spectacular 2-hour 1.5-mile walk down Woodward Avenue.

Thanks, Detroit, for brightening our Thanksgiving mornings for 84 years!

[images via Virtual Motor City & The Parade Company]


Pumpkin Pie!

I found out a random series of facts via my friend Mike, which he heard via the "Pumpkin Pie" episode of Good Eats:

Here's Mike's direct quote:
Pumpkins are a great source of Beta Carotene. Beta Carotene is what your body turns to Vitamin A. Speaking of Vitamin A, a polar bear's liver has enough Vitamin A to kill youuuu.
So there you go. :) Thanks Mike!


Shiv vs. Shank

As my friend Seth proposed via twitter, what's the difference between a shiv and a shank?

And I am here with answers for you all! There is a subtle difference:

Shiv, n: a slang term for something that can be used as knife.

Shank, n: a slang term for a knife that's typically made from something else. A shank can be considered a type of shiv.

So bottom line is that they are both types of homemade knives. A shiv, though, is usually made from something already sharp, like it can be a razor blade attached to the handle of a toothbrush. A shank, however, would be the end of a toothbrush handle meticulously filed down to a sharp point. Make sense?

Hope that helps. :)


Have Lots of Errands?

Reader's Digest suggested this website to help save time and gasoline when running around town:
Route4me.com lets you type in up to ten errands and their associated addresses. The website will calculate the optimal route, with driving directions.
Worth a try, I'd say! It could also be helpful for party-hopping. :)


Highest-Rated Televised Sporting Events

I learned something new at a trivia night yesterday!

In a listing of the Top 20 Most-Watched Sporting Events on Television in the United States, 19 are Super Bowls. But coming in at #4 is the 1994 Olympic Women's Figure Skating Competition. Do you remember why? Maybe these two will jog your memory:

Ah, yes.


Pearl Jam's "Ten"

Why does the band Pearl Jam have a 1991 album named Ten when there are 11 tracks on it?

Well, the members were big fans of the basketball player Mookie Blaylock, so much so in fact that they wanted to name the album after him. They had some intellectual property rights issues in doing that, so they decided just to name the album after his jersey number, 10.

Thanks to my friend Eli for the random trivia!


How Old Was The Cast Of "Grease"?

I caught a little bit of the 1978 musical-movie Grease on television the other day. It's about a bunch of seniors in high school in 1950s California. Since I work with teenagers in my real life, I was surprised at how mature everyone in the cast looked! If you, like I, have ever wondered how old they all were when the movie came out, wonder no more!

In 1978...
Jeff Conaway (Kenickie) was 28
Barry Pearl (Doody) was 28
Michael Tucci (Sonny) was 32
Kelly Ward (Putzie) was 22

Pink Ladies
Stockard Channing (Rizzo) was 34
Didi Conn (Frenchie) was 27
Jaime Donnelly (Jan) was 31
Dinah Manoff (Marty) was 20

Dennis Steward (Leo) was 31
Annette Charles (Cha Cha) was 30

John Travolta (Danny) was 24
Olivia Newton-John (Sandy) was 30
A little far from typical 17-18 year-old seniors in high school. Although, it's not unusual for Hollywood to cast young adults as teenagers (I would imagine it'd be hard to find the talent that young?), but it seems like 1978 standards were a little looser than 2010!

Take, for example, a sampling of the cast of the 2008's High School Musical 3: Senior Year:

In 2008...
Zac Efron (Troy) was 21
Vanessa Hudgens (Gabriella) was 20

Lucas Gabreel (Ryan) was 24
Ashley Tisdale (Sharpay) was 23

Corbin Bleu (Chad) was 19
Monique Coleman (Taylor) was 28
I guess the talent's getting younger? Or it could have just been a directorial choice to have such "adult" looking high schoolers for Grease, I suppose!


The Definition of "Peruse"

I read this today on comedian Steve Martin's twitter feed (@SteveMartinToGo). Thursday is his "Get It Right Friday" day. :)
Hey, it’s get it right Friday! Did you know the first definition of the word “peruse” is “to look through carefully” and not “to browse”?
I thought that was pretty crazy, since I (believe I) have only heard people use the word "peruse" when they meant "skim". So I looked it up in the dictionary (not that I don't trust Steve Martin, but...), and it gave several definitions (note Steve was right about the first one):
Peruse (verb):
a : to examine or consider with attention and in detail : study
b : to look over or through in a casual or cursory manner

: read; especially to read over in an attentive or leisurely manner

It means either reading over "attentively" OR "leisurely". It's interesting when a word can mean its own opposite!

At some point someone must have decided that "peruse" was more about "reading" and not-so-much about how you do it!


Why Americans' Steering Wheels Are On The Left

I just read in an old copy of "Invention & Technology" magazine (Winter 2009) about Henry Ford's Model T car turning 100 years old.

The article produced the following claim:
"Ford relocated the steering wheel from the right to the left side on the Model T, a custom followed by other car makers, in part, so that women might more easily access the curb from the car..."
Of course, this is under the assumption that the women would be passengers, and would therefore keep them safer (out of traffic) and cleaner (out of the muddy street) by allowing them to get into and out of the car on the curb.

Who could have ever thought women would be ever be driving cars? :)

Also, though, a 1909 Ford brochure explained that putting the driver on the left would help see oncoming traffic clearer (since they would be closer), and help them judge distances when passing or making left-turns. So it wasn't all about the ladies.

Why we drive on the right in the first place is another question I'll get to when I learn it! But I thought you might like to know some of the justification for why you hop in the left side of your car everyday to drive.


Sound Facts

I've been reading this book called "In Pursuit of Silence: Listening for Meaning in a World of Noise" by George Prochnik. It's packed with information about how sound's purposes have changed throughout the centuries and such. It's pretty fascinating, actually.

I thought I'd give you a little sample of some of the many things I've learned so far.

- "Noise" originates from the word "nausea", probably from the "seasickness" feeling that one gets when overwhelmed with and disoriented by clamor. (pg. 88)

- We are biologically programmed to associate danger with a lower, rougher sounds. Coincidentally, when people smile, the shape of their mouths changes in such a way that naturally makes their voices a bit higher. Therefore, both the look of the smile and the sound of the smiling person's voice can help you feel at ease. (pg. 74)

- Typically, male species of animals call out to their females in as low of a tone as they can, in order to prove their masculinity. However, certain types of frogs in urban areas have had to change their calls to be much higher just so the female frogs can hear them over the sounds of traffic! (pg. 73)

Like I said, there is a ton of information in this book, so I can only give so much here. But if you've ever wondered about meditation, noise-cancelling devices, why people love listening to loud music, how to achieve perfect silence, or any number of other things, I'd recommend checking this book out!