Monday, July 3, 2017

What I learned in May & June

For this edition of What I Learned, I've combined May and June.  May was rather sparse on epiphanies this year, although the most shocking bit of enlightenment did occur in May.

7 Things I Learned in May & June

1.  [Which may count as several items, but for purposes of this list are lumped as one, due to their similar nature and minimal relevance to my daily life] Various presidential trivia regarding Millard Fillmore, Franklin Pierce, and Andrew Johnson.

For my ever-expanding knowledge of presidential history, I am indebted to the Washington Post's podcast Presidential.  I've listened to each episode through Benjamin Harrison so far and I've learned the following:

1a.  Millard Fillmore, the president we've never heard of, signed the Fugitive Slave Act, which we have heard of.


The Fugitive Slave Act obligated all Americans, Northern, Southern, slave-holding and abolitionist alike, to return escaped slaves to their masters or face due penalty of law.  This was, naturally, gratingly offensive to many--particularly in the increasingly anti-slavery North--and added fuel to the mess that soon exploded into the Civil War.

It's also the reason why the Underground Railroad was so secretive and those involved in it--not just conductors like Harriet Tubman, but those who provided safe shelter along the way, despite all pressure of federal law--were so heroic.

{That's not to say practically anyone could live up to the heroism of a woman who risked her own torture and/or death time after time to return into enemy territory to rescue others from the very noses of their masters, when she herself could've been safe away to Canada...}

1b.  Franklin Pierce's son died horrifically right before Pierce's inauguration.


Pierce's young son was the sole fatality in a train wreck between his father's election to president and his taking over that office.  Pierce and his wife witnessed their son's gruesome death right in front of them and were never the same.  Mrs. Pierce believed the accident was God's judgement on the family for getting involved in politics and thereafter lived in deep gloom.

Perhaps the main reason why Pierce's is such a forgettable presidency is because he took office under such a dark shadow, and floated through his term in shock and grief, largely relying on his counselors to guide policymaking.

Besides being a horribly sad story, I thought this tidbit was an interesting reminder that we elect an actual human being to the office of president, and a man's personal life has a profound impact on his work.  When that work is national leadership, one man's very personal losses become woven into our country's history.

1c.  Andrew Johnson gave a drunken inaugural speech.


Andrew Johnson mortified the room and the nation by giving a drunken speech when he was inaugurated as Abraham Lincoln's second vice president.

This did not bode well for him when he became president less than two months later due to Lincoln's assassination.

Fortunately for the dignity of our history books, that embarrassing day for Johnson in 1865 was overshadowed by Lincoln's poetic Second Inaugural Address.

2.  Pork is red meat!


"The Other White Meat," though light in color, is, nutritionally, red meat!

I have been bamboozled by the pork industry.

I was flabbergasted to learn this in May.  Here I've been diligently reducing red meat in my diet, per doctor's advice, and eating pork chops all along.

"Other White Meat," my pork butt.

3.  The meaning of "cupidity."  

It's not every day you learn a word with a Latin derivative that rhymes so nicely with "stupidity."

Cupidity, from the Latin cupere, meaning "to desire," means "inordinate desire; greed."  The adjective is cupidinous.  Yes, it's how Cupid got his name.  And yes, I witness enough of this in my house to appreciate another word for it.

4.  Twelve-year-olds can take their siblings to our pool.

This was also a pretty big shocker.  Jeddy has been waiting for years to turn twelve, knowing that twelve-year-olds are allowed at our pool without a parent.  We the parents, however, were delighted to learn that, contrary to what we assumed, twelve-year-olds are also allowed to be in charge of younger siblings at the pool.

Now that's a benefit of age.

5.  Why no one parks close at a semi-professional baseball game.


When we brought Lizzy to watch the ball game, courtesy of Dairy Queen, we arrived at the field and were immediately confused about why the nearest parking lot was completely empty.

We congratulated ourselves on our supreme parking spot until the first foul ball soared over the fence and we cringed in fear for our beloved intact windshield.

6.  How an anchor works.


I have always wondered this.  If an anchor "sticks" by hooking into the seabed, then how do you haul it up?

3rd grade history book for the win.

In a book I read Ada all about galleons, it had a section on how anchors work that turned on the light bulb for me.

An anchor is dropped overboard.  It falls straight down.  The ship, meanwhile, continues to drift beyond where the anchor sits on the sea floor.  When the anchor rope is completely run out, the tugging of the drifting boat drags the anchor sideways until it catches and "sticks."

When it's time to haul up the anchor, the crew starts pulling on the rope.  At first, as they pull the rope, they're not moving the anchor at all, but the ship itself is being pulled until it is directly over the anchor, at which point the anchor is tipped upright, is no longer hooked, and can be hauled back up.


7.  I chew almost exclusively on the left side of my mouth.

My introspective item of the list.

I dipped my metaphorical toes in "mindful eating" last month and this is the most surprising revelation.

I don't know if it's a problem or not.

I can't explain why I prefer the left over the right.  I suspect my mouth has some (hopefully subtle) asymmetry that makes it more comfortable that way.  Really, I would've guessed that my right side would be dominant, since I'm right-handed and right-footed.

Apparently I'm left-jawed.

Actually, now that I think about it, I can wink with my left eye and raise my left eyebrow, but not my right.

Mind blown!  I'm left-faced.

What have you learned this spring?

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