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Week of August 9, 2020

Single and Lovin’ It

Some symbolism and translations from the familiar American $1 bill. Sources for all info at bottom.

Sunday

Above the pyramid, it says “Annuit Coeptis,” or “Providence has favored our undertakings.” Charles Thomson, who was very involved in the original money designs in 1782, explained that this phrase “alludes to the many signal interpositions of providence in favor of the American cause.”

Monday

Below the pyramid it says “Novus Ordo Seclorum,” or “A new order for the ages.” Thomson said this referred to the new form of government which had just been created, and signified “the beginning of the new American Era.”

Tuesday

The eagle holds a banner in its beak reading “E Pluribus Unum,” or “Out of many, one.”

Wednesday

The unfinished pyramid represents “strength and duration” and the eye in the radiating triangle above the pyramid is a Masonic symbol for the all-seeing eye, representing The Great Architect of the Universe.

Thursday

The eagle holds both symbols of war and peace: arrows in his left talon and an a olive branch in his right. This is important in symbology, where the right is considered dominant. Short-lived earlier eagle designs on silver coins showing arrows in the right talon were used by some in Europe as evidence that the young US was militarily belligerent. The circles containing the pyramid and eagle together make up both sides of “The Great Seal of the United States.” Notably, Benjamin Franklin considered the eagle to be a bird of “bad moral character” and strongly favored the “more respectable” turkey on the seal instead, while he and Thomas Jefferson both preferred an image of an Egyptian pharaoh chasing the Israelites through the parted Red Sea accompanied by the motto “Rebellion to tyrants is obedience to God,” but these designs didn’t make the final cut.

Friday

Many numbers on the bill are logistical, such as serial number, year of printing, numbers representing the location of printing, plate serial number, and the like, though this information is also useful to identify counterfeits. Beyond that, look for a lot of thirteens. In the chevron in the middle of the seal of the Department of The Treasury, there are 13 stars in honor of the thirteen original colonies. There are also 13 stars above the eagle’s head representing “a new constellation taking place in the universe,” 13 arrows in the eagle’s left talon, 13 stripes on the eagle’s sheild, and 13 rows of blocks in the pyramid.

Saturday

The number 1776, the year when the US was founded, also appears in Roman numerals on the pyramid’s bottom row.

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Week of August 2, 2020

Stately Individuals

Sunday

The state of Louisiana is named for King Louis XIV of France, since French explorer Robert Cavelier de La Salle first claimed the Louisiana Territory.

Monday

The state of Virginia is named for “The Virgin Queen,” Elizabeth I of England, who gave explorer Sir Walter Raleigh permission to colonize it in 1584.

Tuesday

The state of Georgia is named for King George II of England, since the US was not yet a country when this future state was named by Europeans in 1733.

Wednesday

Maryland was named for Queen Henrietta Maria, wife of King Charles I, the English king who granted the charter to form the Maryland colony.

Thursday

King Charles I also granted the charter for the colony of what is now the Carolinas, and they are named after the Latinized version of his name, Carolus.

Friday

Pennsylvania, or “Penn’s Woodlands” is named for William Penn, who granted the land to King Charles II to repay a debt owed by his admiral father.

Saturday

Washington is named for…yep, George Washington, and is the only state named for an American president.

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Week of July 26, 2020

What We’re In

Sunday

“Covid-19” stands for “COronaVIrus Disease 2019”

Monday

Corona viruses are a class of viruses which have crown-like spikes on their surfaces. “Corona” means crown in Latin and Spanish.

Tuesday

Despite the damage they do to humans and other living things, viruses themselves are not technically alive, since they need host cells to survive and reproduce.

Wednesday

The word “quarantine” derives from “quaranta giorini” or “forty days” in Italian. Starting in the 1500s, ships arriving in Venice from ports affected by the bubonic plague had to anchor 40 days and wait before landing, extending the initial 30 day waiting requirement enforced in the city of Ragusa, and this law spread as a protection measure for European coastal cities.

Thursday

“Vaccine” derives from “vaccina,” a name for cowpox virus (vacca = cow in Latin). In a realization that effectively started modern vaccine science, British physician Edward Jenner observed that local milkmaids who’d had cowpox before never got the more pernicious smallpox which frequently ravaged 18th Century English towns. He used a preparation of cowpox virus to immunize people against the closely-related smallpox, though modern virologists suspect it may have actually been horsepox providing the immunity.

Friday

Transmission studies of the closely-related SARS CoV-1 virus produced the familiar 6 feet / 2 meter social distancing figure, which was officially made part of CDC guidelines during the 2009 outbreak of the H1N1 virus.

Saturday

Washing / sanitizing your hands reduces their potential as spreaders of viruses and other germs by physically removing or destroying these agents before they can hitch a longer ride on your hands and do more damage.

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Week of July 19, 2020

Pissed!

Sunday

A short-tempered person is said to “fly off the handle” when they get upset. This pioneer-era term alludes to an ill-fitting metal axe head coming loose from it’s wooden handle while in use and going airborne, an obvious danger to those nearby.

Monday

Ballistics is the study of the natural flight paths of unpowered objects; the arcs of everything from stones to bullets and cannonballs. In the military sense, any self-propelled guided missile “goes ballistic” when it is no longer under control and propulsion, and so assumes a natural free-falling trajectory. However, long-range nuclear missiles such as intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) are designed to fall naturally toward their targets in the final part of their flight, and it was during the American development of these weapons during the Cold War when “go ballistic” grew as a figurative expression.

Tuesday

Though bulls cannot actually see the color, the term “see red” to describe intense anger may have origins in bullfighting and the bullfighter’s red cape used to incite the bulls to charge. However, the color red has long been associated with high emotion, so the term’s origin may also be unrelated to bullfighting. Interestingly, some research indicates that angrier and more hostile people actually do see the color red more often.

Wednesday

Describing someone as “livid” also invokes a color. This dark bluish or greyish color more recently came to indicate the hue of an extremely angry individual.

Thursday

In Greek mythology, unpunished wrongdoers made the Furies feel, well, furious. This trio of bat-winged, snake-haired goddesses dealt in vengeance, punishment and justice, and had a particular disdain for those who lied, murdered, sinned against the gods, and children who disobeyed or killed their parents.

Friday

However, the ancients would not have understood some modern and technical idioms for intense anger. To “blow a fuse” is to burn out an electrical fuse by overloading it with current beyond its capacity. (The Rolling Stones famously sang about blowing a 50-amp fuse in “You Can’t Always Get What You Want.”)

Saturday

Similarly, to “blow a gasket,” which acts as a seal between metal parts in an engine’s combustion center, would result in a steam or liquid release in early engines, and still means very expensive repairs in modern cars.


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Week of July 12, 2020

LETT3RS / NUM8ERS

Sunday

WD-40 stands for “Water Displacement, 40th formula,” since the the creators’ 40th experimental recipe fulfilled its intended purpose of preventing corrosion on the Atlas rocket.

Monday

The globally-ubiquitous AK-47 rifle is named for it’s Russian designer Mikhail Kalashnikov (AK = “Avtomat Kalashnikova” or “Automatic device by Kalashnikov”) and 1947, the year of its first manufacture.

Tuesday

In the US, a non-profit company is called a “501(c)(3)”, and a tax-advantaged type of retirement account is called a “401(k)” because those are the sections where they’re described in the US Tax Code.

Wednesday

G20 or “The Group of Twenty” is a forum of the world’s major economic nations, and also the European Union, together representing 85% of the world’s economic output.

Thursday

V8 is both the Campbell’s drink made with 8 vegetables and also the name of a very common combustion engine with 8 cylinders arranged in a V shape.

Friday

Men of drafting age during WWII and Vietnam wondered if their local draft board might label them “1-A” (available and fit for military service) or “4-F” (unfit for military service) or any classification between. These labels were part of a statutory classification system for would-be soldiers that eventually went up to 5-A.

Saturday

License plates use letters and numbers, and a given state, province, or country will likely never run out of random combinations for their license plates. There are 26 letters in the English alphabet, and ten single numbers (0-9). Hence, for a plate with just 6 character spaces available, the possible combinations for that plate are 36 x 36 x 36 x 36 x 36 x 36, or 2,176,782,336. With “only” 15 million cars registered in America’s most populous state, California, there are plenty of plates to go around, even if the spaces, number and letter positions were more restricted.