Saturday, January 25, 2014

Fun Friday Facts #90: Micronations

Micronations, if you’re not familiar with the term, are small, self-proclaimed nations that aren’t recognized by other nations, and therefore aren’t really countries, because in order to be a real nation, your nation has to be recognized by other nations that are recognized by other nations. It’s not clear who does the initial recognizing, but from the sound of things it’s the NATO Cheerleading Team.

You’ve probably heard of the Principality of Sealand, a nation located on an abandoned World War II-era anti-aircraft sea fort seven miles off the coast of England. Sealand’s royal family are the Bates, who claim that the nation, though not officially recognized by any other nation, has been de facto recognized by both the British court system (which found, in 1968, that it did not have jurisdiction over the sea fort under the laws of the period) and Germany, which nation was forced to send a diplomat to Sealand in 1978.

Why? Alexander Achenbach, dual citizen of Sealand and Germany, staged a coup while the royal couple, Prince Paddy Roy Bates and his wife, was traveling “abroad” in England. Achenbach, who styles himself the Prime Minister of Sealand, assembled troops somehow and saw fit to take the heir to the Sealand throne hostage. Prince Bates squashed the rebellion, charged Achenbach with treason, and refused to release him unless he paid a fine of DM 75,000, the equivalent of $35,000 at the time. The UK refused to intervene, since it wasn’t its jurisdiction, and the next thing you know, Germany’s sending a diplomat.

Just so we’re clear, Germany sent a diplomat to this:

People fought over this. With guns, even. Because it's deffo worth fighting over a country that's eventually going to rust and fall into the sea.

The Principality of Sealand was briefly for sale, but shockingly, there were no takers. Well, except for Pirate Bay, but either they couldn’t pony up the ONE BILLION DOLLAR asking price, or the royal family were morally opposed, but I’d put my money on the first thing because Prince Roy Bates got his start in pirate radio broadcasting.

Incidentally, Achenbach founded a Sealandic government-in-exile that presumably sits around in Germany bitching about not getting to rule a broken-down, rusted-out shit-box of a sea fort. Everyone needs a hobby, I guess.

Within the borders of the United States, the Republic of Molossia is located at 226 Mary Lane, Dayton, NV. President Kevin Baugh reportedly rules the nation with an iron fist, as it is a military dictatorship.

Military dictators aren't supposed to smile, President Baugh.

Image credit: Republic of Molossia

In addition to the one acre or so of land President Baugh and his family occupy in Nevada, the Republic of Molossia lays claim to the Desert Homestead Province, a parcel of land in Southern California, and Vesperia, a significant portion of the plant Venus. Molossia remains embroiled in a bitter war with East Germany, and has issued War Bonds at the rate of three dollars apiece.

The world’s oldest micronation is the Principality of Seborga in Italy, which traces its sovereignty all the way back to the year 954, which is pretty respectable even by the standards of nations who are recognized by nations who are recognized by nations. According to local resident Giorgio Carbone, in that year the principality passed into the hands of the Benedictine Monks of Santo Onorato of Lerins, the abbot of which monastery was made a Prince of the Holy Roman Empire in 1079. The principality was sold to the House of Savoy in 1729, but when the 1815 Congress of Vienna reassigned European territories after the Napoleonic Wars, they failed to reassign poor little Seborga. Nor was Seborga mentioned at all in Italy’s 1861 Act of Unification. So, technically, Seborga is still an independent nation and also, technically, Italy is a younger nation than the United States, which is neither here nor there but is definitely something to mention the next time you’re talking to one of those snobby Europeans, also known as “one of those Europeans.”

Here's the Government Palace of Seborga, isn't it grand.

Image credit: Rolf Palmberg

The Principality of Wy, located in Australia in the Sydney suburb of Mosman, declared itself in 2004 after an unresolved 14-year dispute with the local council and community over the construction of a driveway for the self-styled Prince Paul Ashton Delprat. Prince Paul, who is the great grandson of Australian artist Julian Ashton, is a patron of the arts and his nation sponsors exhibitions and an art prize. No word on whether or not he ever got the driveway.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Fun Friday Facts #89 Maybe: Peanut Butter

I was at the doctor the other day and they told me I can’t sit down for at least another week and a half on account of my broken tailbone, so I’m writing this while lying down, which is incredibly awkward and probably going to give me carpal tunnel syndrome. The things I do for you people.

I was inspired to write about peanut butter by Julie You Jest, who pointed out recently that the German term for “peanut” translates directly as “dirt nut.” I pointed out that that makes sense because peanuts grow under the ground. Then I promised I’d write a Fun Friday Facts.

I haven't even started yet, and I'm already hungry.

Contrary to popular belief, George Washington Carver did not invent peanut butter. He “invented” peanut butter.

That’s not to say that Mr. Carver didn’t discover hundreds of uses for peanuts; he did, including 105 food recipes and at least 100 products including dyes, cosmetics, gasoline, nitroglycerin, paints and plastics. His work with peanuts, soybeans and sweet potatoes was instrumental in an era when monoculture of cotton had caused widespread soil depletion through much of the American South. But that’s another blog post.

Peanut butter was invented by the Incas more than 3,000 years ago. They mixed cocoa powder into their peanut butter because fuck yeah, cocoa powder.

John Harvey Kellogg patented peanut butter in 1895 because of course he did. Kellogg served the concoction at his Battle Creek Sanitarium. Others who claim to have developed peanut butter around that time were the aforementioned George Washington Carver and snack foods purveyor George Bayle.

In the United States, January 24th is National Peanut Butter Day. That’s coming right up! Mark it on your calendars!

Crunchy peanut butter is better for you than smooth peanut butter, because it contains more fiber and fewer saturated fats.

Peanut butter is a base ingredient in Plumpy’nut, a therapeutic food product developed by French pediatric nutritionist Andre Briend and food-processing engineer Michel Lescanne to treat severe malnutrition in famine-stricken countries. Plumpy’nut contains 500 calories per serving, has a shelf life of two years, and requires no preparation or refrigeration. Parents can easily feed it to their young children to help them recover from severe malnutrition without the need for hospital care. Peanut butter is amazing.

It takes 540 peanuts to make a single jar of peanut butter. The average American allegedly eats 6 to 7 pounds of peanut butter each year, according to this dubious website. Seriously, though, who’s eating all that peanut butter? I don’t know anyone who eats that much peanut butter. That’s allegedly enough peanut butter to fill up the Grand Canyon and then some. I’ve never been to the Grand Canyon so I don’t really have a clear concept of how much peanut butter that is, but imagine this full of peanut butter:

Americans spend $800 million on peanut butter each year (again: really? I don’t know anyone who eats that much peanut butter). Peanut butter production and sales contribute more than $4 billion to the GDP.

The average American child eats 1500 peanut butter sandwiches before college. That’s who’s eating all the peanut butter.

Arachibutyrophobia is the fear of getting peanut butter stuck to the roof of your mouth. On a related note, they smeared peanut butter inside Mr. Ed’s mouth to make it look like he was talking.

People from the East Coast prefer creamy peanut butter (despite it being higher in saturated fats, I guess) while people from the West Coast prefer crunchy peanut butter. That explains a lot.

According to the National Peanut Board, you can grow enough peanuts in one acre to make 30,000 peanut butter sandwiches. The average peanut farm is 100 acres. That’s 300,000 sandwiches per farm, or 20 American school children.

The world’s largest peanut butter and jelly sandwich, weighing 1,342 pounds, was made in Grand Saline, Texas in November 2010. The folks of Grand Saline stole that title from the folks of Oklahoma City, whose 900-pound sandwich won the title of world’s largest in September 2002.

The largest peanut ever grown was grown by Earl Adkins of Enfield, North Carolina. It was four inches long, which is pretty big for a peanut, not so big for a penis.

In many parts of the South, peanuts are known as “goobers” or “goober peas.” The word comes from the Congolese name for peanut, “nguba.”

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Let's Get Some Resolutions Up in This New Year

Some people think New Year’s Resolutions are stupid, on account of “no one ever keeps their New Year’s Resolutions,” but that’s not true – eight percent of people keep their New Year’s Resolutions. So for every 25 people you know, two of them aren’t full of shit. Pay attention to which of your friends keep their New Year’s Resolutions, kids – those are the ones you can trust.

I think there’s some value in aspiring to better yourself, even if you’re one of the many people who fail their New Year’s Resolution within the first week. You learn more from failure than you do from success, right? Sure, sure you do.

In the past I’ve taken a bit of a different approach to my New Year’s Resolutions. I’ve always preferred to psych myself up for a couple of weeks before I get started. I’ve always felt, I’ve got all year, so what’s the rush?

Of course, it’s this lackadaisical attitude that’s keeping me from getting anywhere in life. As I mentioned yesterday in my Year in Review post, I haven’t really accomplished much over the past year – I’ve just sort of maintained. Not that there’s anything wrong with maintaining – it’s a far sight better than backsliding. 2013 has been better than some of the years I’ve had, to be sure.

But I’ve been thinking (I know, I know) about how much younger I’ve not been getting (lots!) and about where I want to be in 2015, which doesn’t come naturally to me because I’m an ISFP and as such, I don’t believe the future exists. But it does and while I can’t know exactly what Future Me will want, I think I have a pretty good idea.

I don’t want to overwhelm myself with too many resolutions, but I’m still feeling some of the residual optimism from successfully quitting smoking in 2011, so I feel like I can handle two this year. Also, I don’t recall making one at all last year, unless it was the cat rescue volunteering, that sounds like it could have been a New Year’s Resolution.

I thought I’d start eating better, and to that end, I bought the small frozen pizzas instead of the regular size ones, and almond milk instead of regular milk, because not drinking milk is going to make all the difference. No but seriously, I’m going to start eating more vegetables and potatoes don’t count. Also fruits, they’re really good for you and delicious, but not chocolate spread, because I have about 16 jars of it on my hips at this point. I guess I’ll have to stop buying chocolates by the bag because I cannot, cannot, cannot stop myself from stuffing half the bag into my fat face at once.

I don't even take the wrappers off first.

For my second resolution, I’ve decided to write a book. I’ve been saying I’m going to write a book (well, books plural, if I’m honest) since I was old enough to know what a book is, and yet I still haven’t written any yet. Well, except for my undergraduate thesis, but that one doesn’t count because it sucked.

There’s a reason I haven’t written any books yet, and it’s not that I’m lazy (honest). It’s just this one small problem I have with plots – namely, I can’t think of any. And before you say, “But wait, the undergraduate thesis!” that one didn’t have a plot. (I told you it sucked.) I even have multiple folders on my hard drive that were born in the highest hope of one day containing books, but do not, because alas, I could not think of any plots. I still don’t know what I’m going to do about that, but I’ve got all year to figure it out, so what’s the rush? I thought maybe telling literally the whole world would help, but if not, I guess I could try getting drunk.
It's worked for plenty of other authors, right?