Friday, June 22, 2012

Fun Friday Facts #41: Berkeley Springs Edition

I'm doing this week's Fun Facts in honor of Berkeley Springs, where I am right now, entirely because I was frocking around on Facebook a couple of days ago and I saw that my old schoolmate from Hollins University, Beth, was planning to come and I was all “I wanna come!” so she invited me, and I totally did not invite myself, at all, in any way, nuh-uh.

I wouldn't do that.

I tell you guys what, I totally wish I lived in Berkeley Springs. If I had not just bought a house in Morgantown, I would totally buy one here. In fact, I'm actually tempted to sell my house in Morgantown (that I haven't even moved into yet), and buy one in Berkeley Springs, except I know that towns this cutesy and chock full of spas and boutique shops cost a lot to live in, ie, more than I have.

Besides,  it probably has a seedy redneck underbelly.

I mean, there's a freaking castle here, for f*ck's sake. I know I spent years in Europe and should be totally desensitized to castles by now, but...F*CKING CASTLE, man.


But you can't go inside this castle, because SOMEBODY FREAKIN' LIVES IN IT. I mean, yeah, Europeans have a lot of castles, but they don't freakin' live in 'em, do they? F*CK all those Europeans who don't live in castles!

I tried, but I'm only one woman.

It's actually called Samuel Taylor Suit Cottage, because that is a cottage if ever I saw one. I guess if you're rich enough to come to West Virginia and build a freaking castle, it would seem like a cottage to you.

Colonel Samuel Taylor Suit, of Washington, DC, began building the castle in 1885. Because castles aren't something you just throw together in a couple of months, construction continued until the early 1890s. Unfortunately for Colonel Suit, he died in 1888. His widow, Rosa Pelham Suit, took over the construction of the castle, finishing it up with work that is “of noticeably inferior quality” according to Wikipedia.

Apparently, the castle, which SOMEBODY FREAKING LIVES IN, has a 50 by 40 foot (15.2 by 12.2 meter) ballroom, because that's just what every young couple needs. You can see interior pictures of the castle here.

Berkeley Springs is America's first spa city, founded in 1776. It was originally called Bath, after the city of Bath in England. It's still officially called Bath, but everyone calls it Berkeley Springs, even the road signs.

Back in 1802, when the postal system came to West Virginia, there was no West Virginia, only Virginia, since that whole Civil War thing hadn't happened yet. There was already a Bath in Bath County, so they named the second Bath's post office Berkeley Springs after the healing waters themselves, which were so named for their location in Berkeley County, Virginia, which is now defunct.

As it should be.

In its early days, Berkeley Springs/Bath was the go-to luxury resort town for what Wikipedia refers to as the “colonial elite,” including George Washington, his brother Lawrence, who was sickly, and Thomas Fairfax, 6th Lord Fairfax of Cameron, who ruled over his vast New World land grant from his estate at Greenway Court, Virginia. Today, two of the town's main streets are called Washington and Fairfax.

That's what you get for being beautiful.

The Berkeley Springs State Park is the nation's oldest health spa, founded in 1776. Use of the springs for restorative purposes goes back much further, and the area has been a resort since the 1750s. It is the only state-run spa in the country. The water comes out of the springs at 74.3 degrees Fahrenheit (23.5 C) and contains large amounts of sulphates, carbonates and nitrates. The Roman style Bathhouse at the park, which is the oldest public building in town, was built in 1815. It replaced a smaller bathhouse built in 1784. The spa is open daily, which is why I want to move here.

Also, castle.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Fun Friday Facts #40: Father's Day Edition

Father's Day is this weekend, for those of you who have them. For those of you who don't, happy Awkward Moments Day.

I celebrate that with booze.

1) Father's Day is celebrated on the third Sunday in June in the United States, and some other countries, like Ireland, the UK, and Aruba, of all places. Some countries celebrate Father's Day at other times of the year. In Germany, Father's Day coincides with Ascension Day, the Thursday forty days following Easter. Traditionally, men fill up a small cart, or Bollerwagen, with food, beer and wine and drag it around in the woods whilst getting drunk.

Just another advantage men have in the patriarchy.

2) While more phone calls are placed on Mother's Day than on Father's Day in the United States, Father's Day is the busiest day of the year for collect calls. Because Dad can afford it, I guess, since he didn't spend his entire working life cleaning up after you, like Mom did.

"I'll call him, but I'm not gonna pay for it!"

Father's Day is generally less celebrated than Mother's Day. This may be because more people have mothers than have fathers, and also because people tend to appreciate their mothers more. Also, because Mother's Day is a full one hundred years older than Father's Day, has more momentum?

I guess?

3) The recognized founder of Father's Day was Sonora Smart Dodd, who was one of the six children of William Jackson Smart, a single father and Civil War veteran. After learning about Anna Jarvis and her efforts to establish Mother's Day as a national holiday, she suggested to her pastor that fathers, too, should be honored with a nationally recognized holiday. The pastor agreed, and the first officially recognized Father's Day was celebrated on the third Sunday in June, 1910, in Spokane, Washington.

The celebration of Father's Day remained in Spokane for many years, and faded into obscurity when Dodd moved to Chicago to attend the Art Institute in the 1920s. When she returned to Spokane in the 1930s, she revived the celebration. This time, she got the support of manufacturers of men's products – ties, tobacco, things of that nature.

It was illegal for women to smoke back then.

In 1938 the New York Associated Men's Wear Retailers formed the Father's Day Council in order to promote (and commercialize) the emerging holiday. Several attempts by various Presidents to make Father's Day an official national holiday failed, until Richard Nixon succeeded in establishing Father's Day as a national holiday in 1972.

One of his many successful endeavors, to be sure.

4) Those of you from West Virginia (yay West Virginia!) will know that the real first Father's Day was held on 5 July 1908, in Fairmont, West Virginia, in the Williams Memorial Methodist Episcopal Church South...wait a minute, Methodist and Episcopal?

Someone care to explain that?

The celebration was, in fact, a memorial service for the 361 men killed in the December 1907 Monogah Mining Disaster. The 250 fathers in that group left behind almost 1,000 children. Grace Golden Clayton, who was mourning the loss of her father, Fletcher Golden, to unrelated misfortune, asked her pastor, Robert Thomas Webb, to perform a service honoring the fathers lost in the Monogah Mining Disaster. It is said that Ms. Clayton was inspired by the recent Mother's Day celebration held by Anna Jarvis in nearby Grafton, West Virginia just two months previous.

Clayton's Father's Day celebration didn't catch on, however; it was overshadowed by other events, and Clayton was said to be too shy to promote the event outside of her church.

That's what being shy gets you.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Fun Friday Facts #39: Bats Edition

Recently I've had to write a couple of article about white nose syndrome, a fungal disease that has killed 5.5 million North American bats since 2006. That's bad news, because bats eat a lot of crop-munching insects – a million bats can eat between 660 and 1320 metric tons of insects per year. Collectively, North American bats are worth three billion dollars per year to the agricultural industry. In South Central Texas alone, bats provide $740,000 a year in pest control.

Contrary to popular belief, bats do not carry rabies or eat people. Bats clean themselves constantly, like cats. They can live for up to 40 years, depending on species, and have one pup per year, making them the slowest-reproducing animals for their size.

1) Kitti's hog-nosed bat, also known as the bumblebee bat, is the smallest bat species at 1.1 to 1.3 inches (29 to 33 mm) long and weighing 0.071 ounces (2 grams). It's contending for World's Smallest Mammal with the Etruscan shrew, which can be lighter at 1.2 grams, but may be longer at 1.4 to 2.1 inches (36 to 53 mm).

The bumblebee bat is reddish-brown or grey in color, with a “distinctive swollen, pig-like snout.” It lives in Thailand and Burma, in limestone caverns along rivers. It's considered vulnerable to extinction, although these bats can be hard to count, since many of them live in hard-to-reach areas.

2) The hoary bat has a funny-looking little face.

Look at that funny little face.
It lives in North and South America, as well as Hawaii and Galapagos. It is normally 5 to 5.7 inches (13 to 14.5 cm) long and weighs 0.9 ounces (26 grams), with a wingspan of 15.7 inches (40 cm). It is covered with fur, expect for the undersides of its wings. The fur is dark brown, with frosted tips. The hoary bat is a loner that prefers to roost in trees, and feeds on moths. These bats will migrate from Canada as far south as Bermuda, and because they like to roost in shipping crates, will sometimes be found in strange places.

WTF Where am I??? Put me down!!!

3) The Honduran white bat looks like a cotton ball with wings.


This is another small bat – it's 1.5 to 1.8 inches (3.7 to 4.7 cm) long. It lives in Nicaragua, Honduras, Costa Rica and Panama and eats fruit.

The Honduran white bat is a tent-making bat. It cuts the veins of the Heliconia leaf, which makes the sides fold down around the midrib to form a tent-like structure. Colonies of up to six bats will roost inside this tent. Each colony will usually have only one male. Their tents are usually about six feet (1.8 meters) from the ground, and the bats will remain completely hidden when still. There are 15 species of tent-making bats in Latin America, and three species in India and Asia.

4) The yellow-winged bat is a false vampire bat native to central Africa. It is 2.3 inches to 3.2 inches (5.8 cm to 8 cm) long, and weighs 1 to 1.3 ounces (28 to 36 grams). It lives throughout Central Africa, and feeds on hard-shelled and soft-bodied insects, unlike other false vampire bats, which typically feed on small animals like mice, lizards and other bats. Its wings are yellow.

Also, its face and ears.

5) The Ghost-faced bat also has a mustache.


The Ghost-faced bat's “mustache” actually consists of flaps of skin that hang around its lips and chin. It lives in Central America, Texas, Trinidad and Tobago, Mexico, Peru and Venezuela. It's reddish to dark brown in color, and molts from June to September. They feed on large moths and roost in large colonies, although, unlike most species, they like to maintain about 6 inches (15 cm) of personal space when roosting.

"The other bats make fun of my mustache."

6) Vampire bats feed on blood. There are three species of vampire bat – the white-winged vampire bat, the hairy-legged vampire bat, and the common vampire bat – and they live in Central and South America. Differences between the vampire bat species have led to taxonomists classifying each one in its own genus. The three species still share more similarities with one another than they do with other bats, leading to the belief that they share a common ancestor.

Vampire bats live in colonies made up of females and “resident” and “non-resident” males. Depending on species, there may be a strict social order to which the males in a colony must adhere. Both resident and non-resident males will usually mate with the females in a colony. Females remain with the colony of their birth, leaving only if their mothers relocate or die. Males will leave their birth colonies at the age of two, sometimes after being kicked out by the colony's resident males.

Vampire bats have strong family bonds, and will adopt an orphaned pup, unlike other species of bats. These bats will only survive about two days without feeding. If some members of the colony haven't fed on a particular night, the others will regurgitate blood to feed them.

The common vampire bat feeds on the blood of mammals, while the other two species feed on birds. When the common vampire bat finds a likely blood donor, it lands and approaches on foot. These bats can travel on foot at up to 4.9 miles (7.9 km) per hour. The bat uses its teeth to make a small cut, and then licks up the blood from its wound.

Like this. ~ Sandstein

Its saliva contains anticoagulants that keep the blood flowing from the wound. The drug desmoteplase, used to facilitate circulation in stroke patients, was developed from studying vampire bat saliva.

You're welcome.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Fun Friday Facts #38: Penis Edition

I must apologize for not having blogged in like, three weeks. I hope you guys still love me.

Who am I kidding, I know you do.

The penis is a wonderful thing. Not as great as boobs, of course, but only because there's two of those.


No one's actually complained about my ignoring the penis, or anything, mostly because I don't, ha ha ha.

I just thought it would make a good topic, you know, since I haven't thought of anything good in a while now. Also, I'm tired.

1) A New Jersey woman, Kasia Rivera, has been charged with manslaughter after the 22-year-old man whose penis she injected with silicone died.

I'll go ahead and let you read that again.

22-year-old Justin Street elected to receive back-alley penis-enhancement surgery at the home of Ms. Rivera, 34, on 5 May 2011. Just one day later, Street died when a chunk of the silicone traveled to his lung, causing an embolism. Rivera was also charged with unlicensed medical practice.

Apparently, the black-market use of cosmetic silicone injections takes place in “pumping parties,” which are totally a thing (a bad thing) and not as sexy as they sound (at all). Another jailhouse surgeon, Oneal Ron Morris, was charged last year with injecting a blend of Fix-a-Flat, superglue, mineral oil and cement into her “patients.” But that was into other parts of the body, not the penis, so it doesn't belong in this blog post.

2) In a victory for the private parts of men in Papua New Guinea, 53-year-old fisherman and host of TV's River Monsters captured a local terror known as The Ball Cutter. The Ball Cutter was 40-lb Pacu fish. These fish, which are native to the Amazon, normally eat (regular) nuts and seeds. In Papua New Guinea, where the species was introduced about 15 years ago, they eat human nuts and seeds. At least two men have died from having their testicles bitten off by a huge fish with powerful jaws and razor-sharp teeth. Turns out, I was right to be afraid of fish.

Look at it, with those beady little eyes, watching you for any signs of vulnerability.

3) Scientists have recently discovered that the ostrich, a member of the rattite family of birds,has “bloodless” erections. Most birds do not have penises or vaginas, but reproduce by rubbing their cloaca, or “piss sh*t and semen holes,” together until the magic happens. The ostrich though, it totally has a penis.

Don't worry, it's not going to get bitten or injected with cement. ~ A Kniesel

Some other birds, like swans, geese, and ducks, also have penises. Unlike humans and mammals, bird erections don't happen when the penis becomes engorged with blood, but with lymph fluid. It would seem that 19th century researchers reported that the ostrich penis operated on blood, so to speak, creating what news outlets refer to as “a centuries long mystery,” since this flew in the face of everything science knew about penis-having birds.

It has become apparent now that those researchers were wrong, and that ostrich penises work in the same way that other bird penises do, so the puzzle that has baffled mankind for centuries (centuries!!) has now been solved.

At last.

4) According to researchers in Flagstaff, AZ, the penis is home to 42 kinds of bacteria, and I don't mean syphilis, I mean normal flora. Drs. Cindy Liu and Lance Price found that circumcision reduces the normal bacteria population of the surface of the penis by some unspecified number.

Dr. Price hilariously explains, "I liken it to clear-cutting a forest. You're going to get a lot more sunlight and you're going to drastically change the environment."

Pictured: circumcision. ~ Tero Laakso

5) That same WebMD article claims that only 30% of the world's men over 15 are circumcised. Various dodgy online sources report that the foreskins of circumcised baby boys are used to grow new skin for burn victims. A single foreskin is reputed to be capable of producing 9,000 square inches (23,000 square centimeters) of new skin. Also, the World Health Organization believes that circumcision may reduce the chance of HIV infection during heterosexual sex by as much as 60%. All the more reason to go and get one, then, I guess.