NOTORIOUS prohibitionist Carry Nation stood 5 foot 11.5 inches tall and weighed close to 200 pounds. This, at a time when the average Civil War infantryman weighed 143 pounds and barely topped 5 foot 8. Descriptions of her at the time invariably included the adjective “strapping.” When she set her mind to smashing up a saloon, few stood in her way.

BEFORE there was a Charles Lindbergh, an Eddie Rickenbacker, or a Glenn Curtiss, there was Lincoln Beachy. The country’s first aviation celebrity, Beachy was the first American to loop an airplane, the first to fly one through an open hangar and the first to reach an altitude of 11,538 feet. Importantly, Beachy made the counter-intuitive discovery that the way to break a stall was to push the nose of the plane down and rather than up. In the late 1910s, he routinely drew crowds of 50,000 spectators to his flying exhibitions, and at the time of his death, it was estimated 17 million of the nation’s 70 million citizens had seen him perform. He died in 1915 when he was unable to recover from inverted flight, and the wings on his monoplane failed. He crashed into San Francisco Bay in front of 250,000 spectators. He was just 28.

OVER THE LAST century or so, the sea level has increased each year the thickness of two nickels stacked on top of each other - about an eighth of an inch. Some sites, such as the shorelines around Norfolk, Va. and Galveston, Texas appear to have suffered greater sea level rise, but in actuality have seen significant land subsidence, due to pumping of freshwater from the land in the area. Al Gore notwithstanding, we won’t be wading up Main St. USA anytime soon.

SPAIN kept count of the flood of gold and silver produced by its conquests in the New World by the novel expedient of tracking the use of mercury, which was essential for the extraction of the precious metals. By a happy coincidence, the world’s largest mercury mine is located the town of Almadén in northern Spain. Mercury deposits at Almadén account for the largest quantity of liquid mercury metal produced in the world. Its total production from historical times is approximately 250,000 metric tons, which is approximately one third of the entire quantity produced by humans, ever. The mines, (owned by the Rothchilds, by the way), sold all their mercury to the capital in Seville, which shipped it to the new world where it was used to extract gold and silver from the raw ore. Thus, the Spanish Crown knew exactly how much mercury went to the New World, so they knew exactly how much gold and silver to get back. Spain continued its near monopoly on mercury until the mid-1800s, when a sizable deposit of mercury was discovered in California, just in time to supply the needs of the “49ers” gold rush. It was named the New Almaden Mine.

ATHETOSIS is the incessant involuntary movement of the fingers and toes. In advanced stages, sufferers of this disease continually wave their hands in slow, languid motions as if following some unheard music. Often, the disease is confined to one side of the body. It is incurable.

ON THE EVENING of September 10, 1945, farmer Lloyd Olsen decided to have chicken for supper, and sallied out to the chicken coop, ax in hand, to procure the main course. Selecting a plump five-month-old Wyandote rooster, Lloyd attempted the usual beheading, but did an imperfect job of it. While he removed the bulk of the rooster’s head, he left the jugular vein, the brain stem and one ear intact. The rooster lived on. Lloyd named the resilient rooster Miracle Mike and kept him alive by frequent eye-droppers full of milk, cornmeal and crushed worms. Sensing a financial windfall, Lloyd took Mike on tour of fairs and carnivals around the Midwest, taking in as much as $4,500 a month. The headless rooster was featured in many contemporary magazines, including Life and Time. Sadly, Mike choked on a grain of corn and died on March, 1947, just 33 days from its second birthday.

MILES differ, according to where they are measured. On land, a mile is 5,280 feet. At sea, a Nautical mile, or knot, is 6,080 feet. Aircraft measure their speed in knots per hour, not miles per hour.

DANISH astronomer Tycho Brahe (1546-1601), famous for helping Johannes Kepler calculate the movement of the planets around the sun, personally believed the Earth was stationary and the center of the universe. He was a man of strong opinions. He lost his nose in a sword fight with his cousin over a mathematical formula.

Thereafter, he wore a nose prosthesis made of gold or silver. No word on who was right, Tycho or his cousin.

INTERESTING HOLIDAYS THIS WEEK: December 16 – National Chocolate-Covered Anything Day (Isn’t that enough?) Enjoy.

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