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Week of April 10, 2022

Wheely Informative

Sunday

Regardless of engine size, all cylinders must be firing for a car to work efficiently and at full capacity. Accordingly, people said to be “not firing on all cylinders” are not thinking or performing at an expected capability.

Monday

Since a dime is the smallest American coin, to “stop on a dime” means to be able to stop so quickly you land on this tiny area, and can be applied to cars or other fast-stopping things.

Tuesday

To “burn rubber” means to accelerate so that your tires smoke and leave marks on the pavement. This idiom came into use in the mid-20th century and was a product of the automotive age, since it is hard to imagine an animal-pulled vehicle accelerating this quickly!

Wednesday

The term “four on the floor” refers to a vehicle with a four speed manual transmission near the driver’s seat, but also the very steady 4/4 beat popular in disco and later dance music.

Thursday

Unreliable cars are called “lemons” because that term was applied to any product of poor quality in the turn of the 20th century, but by the 1960s, with the help of a Volkswagen ad, the term was mostly reserved for sub-par vehicles. States now have “lemon laws” on the books requiring certain standards in used car warranties.

Friday

Putting the “pedal to the metal” is another mid-century car term for accelerating to the maximum. This term started in the 1950s when many cars had metal floorboards under the accelerator pedal.

Saturday

Until 1988, vehicle titles were printed on pink paper in California, which gave rise to the term “pink slips” for vehicle titles. “Racing for pink slips” is a familiar movie term indicating that the loser must sign over his or her car to the winner.

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Week of April 3, 2022

Sporty Starts

Sunday

The sport of baseball derived from cricket and the children’s game rounders, and references to a game played with sticks, balls, and bases go back to at least the 18th century. However, most of the basic rules of the modern game were established in 1845 in New York City by Alexander J. Cartwright. Among other things, he established that runners must be tagged out rather than the previous (and dangerous) method of hitting them with the ball.

Monday

Basketball began at Springfield College in Massachusetts over the winter of 1891-92. James Naismith, a teacher who had come to study under physical education pioneer Luther Halsey Gulick, wanted to honor a directive from his mentor to create a new game “that would be interesting, easy to learn, and easy to play in the winter and by artificial light.” The two square boxes Naismith asked the school janitor for were not to be found, but two peach baskets were, the original two nets.

Tuesday

Although football was derived from rugby and influenced by soccer, “father of American football” Walter Camp developed the rules to differentiate it from both sports, from his first conception of the game at Yale University in the 1880s and while personally developing the rule book until his death in 1925.

Wednesday

Bandy, hurling, and shinty, the games which are the most direct ancestors of modern ice hockey, were played in England, Ireland and Scotland since the 1400’s, though other “stick and ball” games were played among indigenous Americans, ancient Greeks, and Egyptians long before that. Bandy was likely played on ice without skates in the 1600s, then later with skates by the 1700s, and balls were later replaced by “cork-bungs” or barrel plugs, the precursor to the modern puck.

Thursday

“Jeu de paume,” a French game played since the 11th century, was the ancestor of modern tennis, which got the name from “tenez!” or “here it comes,” said to an opponent upon serving. Through the centuries, however, bare hands were replaced by a racquet, a rubber ball became the norm, the unique scoring system was standardized, and the courts went from grass to “hard” courts of concrete or acrylic.

Friday

Like many modern sports, golf also has roots in ancient games played all over the world, but the closest relative of modern golf came from 15th century eastern Scotland with players hitting pebbles with clubs. At one point, the game was banned for fear players would neglect their military training against the frequently-invading British. When the ban was lifted and royalty later adopted the game, its popularity blossomed, and by the 20th century standardized rules and governing bodies had been established worldwide.

Saturday

Bowling goes back over 7,000 years, with evidence of similar games going back to ancient Egypt and Polynesia. In the case of the latter, the standard lane length was 60 feet…the same as today. When played centuries ago in Germany, the game also had religious significance, and variations spread across Europe. Notably, this game, like golf (see above) had to be temporarily banned for distracting archers from their shooting practice, this time in England. English, Dutch, and German settlers helped bring the game to the U.S., where a tenth pin was added.

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Week of March 27, 2022

Random Acronym Week (RAW!) #6

Sunday

NATO = North Atlantic Treaty Organization

Monday

FAQ = Frequently Asked Questions

Tuesday

FOMO = Fear of Missing Out

Wednesday

BYOB = Bring Your Own Bottle/Booze/Beer

Thursday

UNICEF = United Nations Children’s Fund, originally United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund. (Consider donating below!)

Friday

OCD = Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

Saturday

HIV/AIDS = Human Immunodeficiency Virus / Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome

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Week of March 20, 2022

Howl At These Factoids

Sunday

Things which occur rarely are said to happen “once in a blue moon.” A blue moon is the second full moon in one calendar month, and it need not actually appear blue. It happens about every 2.5 years.

Monday

A “blood moon” often refers to the way the moon appears during a lunar eclipse, when it passes through Earth’s shadow. The light which illuminates the moon has filtered through our planet’s atmosphere, resulting in a red or brownish-looking moon.

Tuesday

When the moon is both full and closest in its orbit to the Earth, the result is often called a “supermoon,” which is a bit larger and brighter than other full moons.

Wednesday

The full, bright moon which occurs nearest the first day of autumn is sometimes called a “harvest moon” because it previously allowed farmers to harvest large fall crops into the night.

Thursday

Even though the Earth is much larger and more likely to be hit by meteors, many burn up in our atmosphere or otherwise have their craters erased by erosion, tectonics, or volcano action. The moon has no atmosphere, weather, active volcanoes or tectonics, so its surface is full of impact craters new and old.

Friday

It takes the moon about 29.5 days to go around the Earth once, and it takes about 365 days for the Earth to go around the sun. Since 29.5 x 12 = 354, our calendar months are longer than lunar months so as to fit 12 months more equally into a year.

Saturday

The visible phases of the moon go from right to left in the Northern Hemisphere, but left to right in the Southern Hemisphere.

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Week of March 13, 2022

Everyone Wants A Bigger Piece

Sunday

Apple pie is less American than you might think. A recipe appears in a British cookbook from 1390, and later was brought to the US by colonists from Europe. The apple tree isn’t even native to North America, but Asia.

Monday

Pi is the 16th letter of the Greek alphabet, but might be better known as the abbreviation for 3.14… This number, shown as a fraction as 22/7, is the ratio of circumference to diameter in a perfect circle.

Tuesday

The term “pie in the sky” which came to mean an idealistic but unlikely goal, was coined by labor activist Joe Hill in “The Preacher and The Slave,” a parody of the hymn “Sweet Bye and Bye.” The lyrics “work and pray, live on hay/You’ll get pie in the sky when you die” were intended to criticize religious leaders who sang of rewards in the afterlife but did little to improve workers’ lives in this one.

Wednesday

A pie to the face has been a slapstick staple for over a century, and it started with silent movies. Comedian Ben Turpin got the first known on-screen face pie in 1909’s “Mister Flip.”

Thursday

To “eat humble pie” indicates that you must admit your error. However, the origin of this term seems to come indirectly from “umble pie,” which was a pie filled with animal organs and entrails, especially those of deer.

Friday

Pies are old. There is evidence that ancient Egyptians made the first pies about 6,000 years ago. These original pies were made with barley, oats, rye, or wheat and filled with honey.

Saturday

The term “easy as pie” began in Australia in the 1920’s, and the term seems to be influenced by “pai,” the Maori word for “good.”