Saturday, June 28, 2014

10 Little Known Wars

For every major war that fills our history books and newspapers—the Revolutionary War of the American colonists vs. England, Civil War with the North vs. the South, World War I, World War II, what were termed police actions such as Korea and Viet Nam (war by any other name), leading up to the current armed conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan—there are dozens of small wars that don't receive any attention in history class.  Some of them are ludicrous and others are very serious.

Here's a list of 10 wars you probably never heard about.

The Pig War
This little known conflict dates back to 1859 and had the potential to change the course of American history.  And it all started with a pig.  Both America and Britain claimed possession of San Juan Island off the coast of Washington state.  The two countries maintained an uneasy truce…until an American farmer shot a British pig he discovered tearing up his potato patch.  This action resulted in the British trying to arrest the farmer who called in the American troops in support of his position.  The two countries squared off on the tiny island.  The British Navy sent 3 warships and over 2,000 men.  No shots were fired (beyond the original shot that killed the pig).  San Juan Island was eventually ceded to the Americans as part of the San Juan Islands group.

The Stray Dog War
And speaking of animals being the source of an international conflict, that's also the case with the long-running rivalry between Bulgaria and Greece.  In 1925 a Greek soldier chased his runaway dog across the border and was shot dead by a Bulgarian border guard.  That action set off an immediate retaliation with the Greek army invading the border region of Petrich and routing the Bulgarian army.  The League of Nations ordered Greece to withdraw and pay Bulgaria about $90,000 in damages.

The War Of Jenkins' Ear
There are lots of reasons why wars start, but there's only one known to have started because of a severed ear.  British sea captain Robert Jenkins' boat was boarded by the Spanish in the Caribbean.  The Spanish accused him of piracy and cut off his left ear.  In 1738, Jenkins brought the ear to Parliament and it was enough for Great Britain to declare war on Spain.  After 7 years of conflict, both countries backed off with no major territory changes on either side.

The Moldovan-Transdniestrian War
The breakup of the Soviet Union left several countries looking for something to do and in some cases that something ended up being war.  Moldova had a partisan faction wanting to stay allied with Romania and another wanting to align with Russia.  Nearly a thousand people were killed before hostilities ceased.  The unusual part of the war was the relationship between the soldiers of the opposing sides.  After battling each other during the day, they would socialize in the bars in the disputed zone at night, often apologizing to each other for the events of the day.

The Honey War
In the early days of the United States when the federal government wasn't as strong as it is now, the individual states often became involved in ridiculous squabbles with each other that sometimes escalated into violence.  In 1839, the governor of Missouri decided to redraw his state's border with Iowa because…well, apparently because he felt like it that morning.  And then he sent in his tax collectors to pick up some extra cash from its new citizens.  Needless to say, this didn't go over very well.  The only thing the tax collectors were able to collect consisted of 3 beehives full of honey.  The Missouri militia got into an armed conflict with Iowa citizens who captured a sheriff.  Congress finally drew a permanent border line and told both states to chill out.

Anglo-Zanzibar War
This conflict lasted an awesome 38 minutes making it the world record holder for the shortest war in history.  Khalid vin Bargash, the new Sultan of Zanzibar, came into power in 1896.  He didn't like having his protectorate as a British puppet so he declared war and barricaded himself in the palace.  Less than an hour later, the British had shelled him, removed him from power and installed a new Sultan in his place.

The Football War
This four day war between Honduras and El Salvador was about more than a soccer game.  Hundreds of thousands Salvadorans had been moving to Honduras to find work.  By the late 1970s, tensions between the two countries had reached the breaking point.  The spark that set off the war was the FIFA World Cup qualifying matches between the two countries.  After each had won one game, the Salvadoran Air Force (passenger planes with bombs strapped to them) attacked Honduran targets.  Neither nation could support an extended war, so a cease-fire was negotiated.  They remained bitter enemies for more than a decade.

The Watermelon War
Yet another war that started over a trivial matter and quickly escalated out of control.  The United States occupation of Panama to build the canal displaced much of the nation's white-collar workforce, leaving a great many natives unemployed.  A boat carrying 1,000 American workers landed in Panama City making the matter even worse.  One of those passengers, an American named Jack Oliver, took a piece of watermelon from a Panamanian vendor and refused to pay for it.  The vendor pulled a knife.  Oliver pulled a gun.  And both sides were battling it out with each sustaining casualties.  Eventually a railroad car of riflemen arrived on the scene and brokered a peace.  The brief war, however, laid the groundwork for the later American occupation of Panama.

The Emu War
Unlike earlier mentioned wars started because of animals, this one was a war against animals.  In 1932 Australia found itself overrun by emus, a large flightless bird that looks like an ostrich.  More than 20,000 emus were destroying crops so the government declared all out war on the birds.  They sent soldiers armed with machine guns and orders to shoot emus on sight.  The birds proved to be tougher than estimated and after a week the commanding officer gave up.  They had killed barely 10 percent of their target.

The Chaco War
This was a South American conflict that started over a postage stamp.  The Chaco region is on the border between Bolivia and Paraguay with both countries believing the region was rich in oil (which it wasn't).  Bolivia issued a postage stamp in 1932 featuring a map of their country including the Chaco region.  Not to be outdone, Paraguay struck back by issuing their own stamp with their map including the Chaco region.  Hostilities erupted in the region with both sides buying arms from the U.S. and from Europe.  When it was over, Paraguay was the winner and new owner of a completely useless piece of land.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

19 Things That Kill More People Than Sharks

And by things that kill, I'm referring to accidents rather than crime or war.  Some are bizarre and others more common place.  A recent survey provided a list of cause of death statistics that I found interesting and thought I would share with you.  I actually found two lists, one a list of 10 Incredibly Bizarre Death Statistics and the other a list of 20 (all the 10 items from the first list are on the list of 20 plus 10 more).

Sharks reportedly kill 5 people annually.  But that's a small number compared to other bizarre causes of death.

Roller Coasters are responsible for 6 accidental deaths annually.  Overall, the risk factor for injury while riding a roller coaster is very low.  In the U.S., people take about 900 million rides a year.

Vending Machines kill 13 people a year.  What?  A crazed vending machine out on a killing spree?  Nope, the deaths are a result of the vending machine toppling over and crushing the unfortunate person who happened to be in the way.

High School Football is responsible for 20 tragic deaths annually.

Ants kill 30 people annually.  There are over 280 different species of ants that can kill with the fire ant and siafu ant, both found in Africa, among the most deadly.  Ants live in colonies that can reach 20 million ants in a single colony.  Once an attack begins, ants can easily overpower their prey.

Dogs kill 30 people annually in the U.S.  There are approximately 4.7 million dog bite victims in the U.S. alone with 1000 of those treated in emergency rooms.  Most of those victims are children who were bitten in the face.

Jelly Fish are responsible for 40 deaths annually.  Most jelly fish are not deadly, but some can cause anaphylaxis which can be fatal.

Tornadoes kill an average of 60 people annually, with some years having more tornado outbreaks than other years.

Hot Dogs are responsible for 70 deaths annually, primarily from choking.

Icicles kill 100 people a year in Russia.  This happens when sharp icicles fall from snowy rooftops and land on unsuspecting victims on the sidewalks below.

Deer are responsible for 130 annual deaths.

Bathtubs account for 340 annual deaths, primarily from people slipping and falling.  They die either from a fatal blow to the head or knocking themselves out and drowning.

Falling Out of Bed results in a surprising 450 deaths a year.  According to the Center for Disease Control, falling out of bed produces 1.8 million emergency room visits and over 400,000 hospital admissions each year.  The very young and very old are most at risk with people over 65 faring the worst.

Shopping On Black Friday gives us 550 annual deaths.  A U.S. phenomenon, that mad scramble for bargains the day after Thanksgiving which is the busiest shopping day on the year.  The name Black Friday referring to a financially good economic situation, the day that retail businesses operate 100% in the black for the rest of the year (all income being profit, rather than the loss after deducting expenses related to being in the red).

Autoerotic Asphyxiation kills 600 people annually.  This is the act of strangling or suffocating (most often by hanging) yourself to heighten sexual arousal.  Depriving the brain of oxygen gives a person a dizzy, high feeling, however it's all too easy to make a mistake and accidently kill yourself while practicing this dangerous sex act.

Volcanoes kill 845 people annually.

Airplanes are responsible for an average 1,200 annual deaths.

Hippos come in on the survey with 2,900 deaths annually.  Many experts believe that the Hippopotamus is the most dangerous animal in all of Africa.  They weigh up to 8,000 pounds and can gallop at 18 miles per hour.  They have been known to upset boats for no reason and bite passengers with their huge, sharp teeth.  They are aggressive, unpredictable and have no fear of humans.

Texting while driving is responsible for 6,000 deaths each year.  A survey by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute reports that a driver's risk of collision is 23 times greater when they are texting while driving.

Lightning, the final cause of death on our list, kills 10,000 people annually.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Pickles—9 Facts That Are Probably More Than You Wanted To Know

The first thing that always comes to my mind when someone mentions pickles is, "How can cucumbers taste so bad and pickles taste so good?"  But that's just me.  I'm sure there's someone out there somewhere who wonders how a perfectly good cucumber could be ruined by pickling it.  :)

I recently came across a list of 9 facts about pickles that I'd like to share with you (presented here in no particular order).

1)  When did pickles originate?
The history of pickles goes all the way back to 2400 BC.  It is believed that the Mesopotamians were responsible for the concept of pickling food and the world has been doing it ever since.  Pickles have been popular in England since the Middle Ages.

2)  What role did pickles play in history?
Aristotle believed 'cured cucumbers' had great healing properties.  Julius Caesar fed pickles to his soldiers believing they provided physical and spiritual strength.

3)  Who brought pickling to the new world?
Christopher Columbus is given credit for this.  He grew cucumbers for the specific purpose of pickling them.  In the 1500s, the area that is now New York City hosted the largest group of Dutch commercial picklers.

4)  How many pickles can we eat?
Americans eat more than 2.5 million pounds of pickles each year and dill pickles are twice as popular as sweet pickles.

5)  How long does it take to make pickles?
Pickles develop at different rates according to the process used.  Dill pickles, if made through a refrigeration process, can be ready in as little as 5 days.

6)  Are pickles bad for you?
It's a good news-bad news scenario.  One large pickle is about 16 measly little calories…next to nothing.  However, that same pickle contains around 1181 mg of sodium which is approximately 49% of your daily salt requirement.

7)  Why do pregnant women crave pickles?
Craving pickles can point to low sodium levels in the blood.  Cravings for items such as pickles happen when the body is in need of certain nutrients.

8)  Why are pickles fermented outdoors?
Most pickle manufacturers in the U.S. let their pickles ferment outdoors in open containers.  As the pickles are left open to the elements, it sounds less than sanitary.  However, the sunlight is actually beneficial in that it keeps away yeast and mold.

9)  How long do pickles stay good?
Pickles can stay good for 1 to 2 years past the expiration date on the jar.

As I said, probably more than you wanted to know about pickles.  :) 

Saturday, June 7, 2014

The History Of Father's Day

Father's day is Sunday, June 14, 2014 (the second Sunday in June).  Mother's Day was, indeed, the inspiration for Father's Day, but it was a long time before it became an official reality.  The governor of the state of Washington proclaimed the nation's first Father's Day on July 19, 1910.  It was not until 1972, 58 years after President Woodrow Wilson made Mother's Day an official holiday in 1914, that President Richard Nixon gave Father's Day its official federal holiday status.

The campaign to celebrate Father's Day did not meet with the same type of enthusiasm as Mother's Day.  One florist explained it as fathers not having the same sentimental appeal as mothers.  In 1909 a Spokane, Washington, woman who was one of six children raised by a widower was successful in establishing a day for male parents like Mothers enjoyed.  The state of Washington celebrated the nation's first statewide Father's Day on July 19, 1910.

The idea slowly spread.  In 1916 Woodrow Wilson honored the day.  President Calvin Coolidge urged state governments to observe Father's Day, however many men continued to scoff at the idea claiming it was a sentimental attempt to domesticate manliness with flowers and gift-giving and also claiming it was only a commercial gimmick to sell more products often paid for by the father himself.

In the 1920s and 1930s there was a movement to do away with both Mother's Day and Father's Day and create a Parent's Day in their place, their idea being that both parents should be loved and respected together.  The gathering enthusiasm for this idea was basically stamped out during the depression.  Struggling retailers and advertisers redoubled their efforts to make Father's Day a gift giving holiday for men.  With the onset of World War II advertisers set forth the argument that celebrating Father's Day was a way to honor American troops.  By the end of the war, Father's Day was a national institution but not yet an official holiday.

In 1972 Richard Nixon signed a proclamation making Father's Day a federal holiday.  It's estimated that there are more than 70 million fathers in the United States and that Americans spend more than $1 billion each year on Father's Day gifts.