TIL – Statue Dressing

Today is March 13, 2015, and I am standing in the courtyard of the Temple of the Emerald Buddha in Bangkok, Thailand.

On our tour of this complex, our English-speaking guide tells us that inside this building is a statue of the Buddha that is not actually made of emerald, but is made of jade. He then tells us that the status is in its summer wear. Here is a picture…

DSCN7860

Our guide continued and…

TILThe Emerald Buddha in Bangkok, Thailand, is dressed in raiment depending on the season. The statue has a summer outfit, a rainy outfit, and a winter outfit. When each season begins, the clothes are changed by the King himself.

It’s a good day when you learn something new.

TIL – Driving in China

Today is August 1, 2014, and I am sitting in a restaurant in Long Beach, California.

Along with my lovely wife, my dining companions include my oldest friend (and by that I mean the friend I have known the longest in my life) and his wife.

While dining on the fabulous food this eatery has to offer, my friend and his wife are telling me about their most recent trip to China. One of the stories they told us made my eyes widen and jaw drop.

TILSome drivers in China are insane.

According to their tale, they were in a car on a Beijing highway when their driver announced that they were approaching a fog bank. The drive began to slow down, but not because the decreased visibility mandated a slower (and thus safer) speed. No, the driver began to reduce his speed because he knew what was coming up. Because the fog made driving on the highway difficult if not impossible, the drivers in front of my friends simply did U-turns and began to drive the wrong way on the highway to find an alternate route. As the car bearing my friends slowed down, they began to see cars coming towards them. My friends’ driver, determined to go with the flow, did the same as he executed a U-turn and also went the wrong way on a one-way section of the highway. Well, when in Rome…er, Beijing.

Although, as my grandfather joked years ago when he went the wrong way on a one-way street, “Hey, I’m only going one way so what’s the problem.”

As much as living internationally for the past three years has shown me that different folks and countries have different mores, this tale left me with the desire to do some further research to receive a second opinion on this Sino-behavior.

I found it.

From this article from Wikitravel on Chinese driving comes this tidbit:

Another situation where they [Chinese motorists] drive the wrong way is if a vehicle wants to make a left turn off a two-way road with the center median or fence and drive into a driveway, but the driveway is not conveniently located near a gap in the median or fence. They will cross the center median in a gap before their destination driveway, drive the wrong way in the oncoming traffic lane, and exit the road when they reach their driveway. These maneuvers save the effort of travelling a distance and making a u-turn.

While words are helpful, pictures can seal the deal.

I found this 2010 video (courtesy of Gawker) of a Chinese driver going the wrong way down a highway. Granted, he’s using the shoulder, but you get the idea.

After that video, I will not gripe about Bangkok drivers ever again.

It’s a good day when you learn something new.

TIL – Matterhorn

Today is July 31, 2014, and I am standing outside of the Matterhorn Bobsleds ride at Disneyland in Anaheim, California.

It is late at night and the fireworks spectacular has already happened. Our large group of extended family members of the Sandosen name (my parents, my siblings, their spouses, and all of their kids…including the five members that make up my immediate brood) are taking one last stab on the bobsleds.

Well, not all of us.

I grew up in Southern California and Disneyland was like a third or fourth home to me. I can remember a time when the Star Tours ride was Monsanto’s Adventure Through Inner Space. I remember when Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters was the theater showing the film America The Beautiful in a full 360 degrees. I remember when Big Thunder Mountain was the Rainbow Caverns Mine Train.

I can also remember a time when the Bobsled ride was comfortable. In 2012, the designers at the House of Mouse thought it would be a darling idea to replace the seats on the ride that could fit two people with seats that only fit individuals. I heartily agree with the line in this article that says, “…many riders have found them [the new seats] to be a bit too cramped for comfort.”

I would be one of those riders.

I had experienced the bobsleds earlier in the day and my knees and back were still reminding me that they did not enjoy the cramped spaces of the updated seats. So, I decided to take a pass when our large group wanted to take a second, and final, crack at the roller coaster that features a Yeti.

However, our group – and everyone behind them – was never able to scream on the Matterhorn because…

TILHow to shut down the Matterhorn ride at Disneyland.

For reasons of privacy, liability, and because he is my brother, let’s call our protagonist in this story Mr.X. Our hero, the aforementioned Mr.X, dutifully waited in line and when his turn came, he stepped into his individual seat at the front of his bobsled. He was not riding alone as he had taken it upon himself to enter the Matterhorn with an inflatable, light-up thunderstick. For those who are unaware and are too lazy to click on the previous link, a thunderstick is an air-filled plastic cylinder that is used to create noise by banging it against another thunderstick. After climbing aboard the bobsled and ensuring that his seatbelt was securely fastened, the sled with Mr.X entered a tunnel and also climbed upward along its tracks. This is when Mr.X thought it would be smashing idea to wave his thunderstick over his head.

This is when the ride stopped.

In the history of the Matterhorn, there have two deaths and that has been two too many. So, to stop a third fatality, the designers have embedded a series of sensors in the ride to determine if anyone stands up or extends an arm or a leg outside of a certain safe zone. Mr.X’s thunderstick tripped this sensor causing an automatic stop to the ride. From what I can deduce, D-Land protocol then called for everyone to be evacuated off the ride and then for personnel to walk the length of the tracks to ensure that no person was left stranded. Since this occurred around 10:15pm and since it would take about an hour to complete this safety procedure, the cast members dressed in lederhosen announced that the ride was closed for the remainder of the night.

While our family members were disappointed at the loss of another spin on the bobsleds and while some were sheepish over the fact that they were the cause of the ride stoppage, it’s still a good day when you learn something new.

TIL – Nostalgia

Today is July 30, 2014, and I am sitting in a Mexican restaurant in Orange, California.

This eatery has just reopened after a multi-decade long hiatus.

When I was growing up and living in the Golden State, my parents would bring home food (usually burritos, tacquitos, enchiladas, and great heaps of chips) from this establishment and we would devour the fine vittles.

I was already gone from Orange County when this restaurant closed, so I was never able to miss it. However, my parents did and when me and my family came to visit this summer, they were eager to take me back to a place from my youth.

Back at the restaurant, I ordered a red enchilada which I seem to recall was one of my favorites. I took the food back to my table and drove my teeth into the meat-filled tortilla and it was there and then that I learned today’s lesson.

TILSome things are better left as memories.

In the two decades since this restaurant closed and opened, I have had the opportunity to eat food prepared by Mexicans and even dine in Mexico City. In other words, I have had authentic Mexican food.

What now filled my mouth was as far from Mexican cuisine as I was from being a Latvian neurosurgeon (which, if you don’t know me, is an extremely long way). Whether the food at this establishment had always been this lackluster (and my inexperience knew no better) or whether the new owners and cooks were at fault is beside the point. What I took away from this adventure as I slowly chewed my way through a flavorless meal was that the land of Nostalgia is a nice place for the brain to visit, but I don’t want to live (or eat) there.

It’s a good day when you learn something new.

TIL – Teff

Today is Monday, July 28, 2014, and I am sitting on a couch in the living room of my sister-in-law and her husband in Rockville, Maryland.

I am devouring game after game of QuizUp, an app that I was introduced to on Friday by my nephew (as previously seen on Mr. Sandosen).

I am working my way through the Science category to achieve Level 5. I am attempting to earn the achievement that shows that I have climbed to the fifth level in three topics in each and every category.

I am winning about two out of every three quizzes that I play and so I am climbing up the ladder towards unlocking the Voyager I badge. While unlocking achievements feels good, what I also like about this app is the ability to learn something new. It was while I was in the Science category – and the exact question eludes me for the moment – where I discovered today’s nugget of knowledge.

TILTeff is a grain from Ethiopia.

I had never heard of teff before, but the Internet is all over it. There is The Guardian proclaiming that teff will supplant quinoa as the “next big thing” in Western groceries. The Washington Post chimes in with an introduction to the grain (and also tells quinoa to watch out).

There’s even a place out in the Snake River area of Idaho that grows the grain. Not surprisingly, it is called The Teff Company.

Oh, and teff is gluten-free.

It’s a good day when you learn something new.

TIL – Sweet Frog

Today is July 27, 2014, and I am in a store in Sterling, Virginia.

I am dispensing strawberry frozen yogurt into a cup as I am in a Sweet Frog shop.

After I add my crushed-up Heath bar, cherries, and white chocolate chips, I approach the cashier and begin to pay. As I am waiting for my change, I look at the wall behind the employee counting out my quarters and nickels and see a shirt that has the Sweet Frog mascots on it.

It also has some words on it.

TIL – The “Frog” in Sweet Frog is an acronym that stands for “Fully Rely on God”.

The Wikipedia entry on this business mentions that the creator of Sweet Frog, Derek Cha, founded his company on Christian principles.

It’s a good day when you learn something new.

TIL – Thomas Lincoln

Today is July 26, 2014, and I am in a minivan driving north on State Route 11 near Harrisonburg, Virginia.

Today is the day that my lovely wife and I pick up our trio of children from the summer camp where they have been spending the last two weeks. In that fortnight (ding! – twenty points for me for using a British word), our kids did all sorts of camp-y things such as horseback riding, breathing in smoke from campfires, swimming in lakes, shooting arrows from bows, and broadcasting music from their ten-watt radio station.

Before our car hit the main highway (Interstate 86 for those of you reading this and stalking us) and we peppered our children with all sorts of questions such as “Was camp fun?”, “Did you make many friends?”, and “I thought you put your sleeping bag in the boot?” (ding! – another twenty points), we are on State Route 11 when I see a white sign with black letters.

This type of sign, known as a historical marker, is a common sight here in Virginia. With its rich history of Native American cultures, European colonists, American Revolution locations, and Civil War battles, one cannot swing a Hoover (ding!) around this state without hitting a historical marker. This one intrigued me because I had seen it every time I had taken our kids to and from camp, but I had never slowed down long enough to read what it said.

Today was no different as I sped our vehicle past this marker, but I made a mental note to record its location and look it up on the Internet. Because anything can be found on the Internet. Except for my old high school locker combination. No one will ever discover that.

Once I was back in a place that had a decent wi-fi connection, I found MarkerHistory.com, a website devoted to…well, I guess the name really tells you what it does. Okay, that’s not entirely helpful. I suppose one could surmise that this website tells the rich history of Sharpie or Crayola color markers (which, respectively, can be found here and here…see everything can be found online). MarkerHistory.com is a website devoted to documenting historical makers. Once I put in the right coordinates, I found that Marker A 18 contained the following text about the father of our sixteenth President…

TILFour miles west, Thomas Lincoln, father of the President, was born about 1778. He was taken to Kentucky by his father about 1781. Beside the road here was Lincoln Inn, long kept by a member of the family.

Twenty-eight years after moving to western Virginia in the area now known as Kentucky, Thomas Lincoln and his wife Nancy Lincoln gave birth to their second son, who they named Abraham after Thomas’s father.

Another thing I learned on this online search was that Thomas’s mother (and the President’s grandmother) was named Bathsheba Herring, which would also be an excellent name for a Fishbone cover band.

Also, because again, you can find everything-minus-one on the Internet, here is a picture of the tombstone of Bathsheba Herring.

It’s a good day when you learn something new.

TIL – QuizUp

Today is July 25, 2014, and I a sitting on a couch in my brother-in-law and sister-in-law’s house in Rockville, Maryland.

I am awaiting the arrival of their oldest son as he and his brother are returning from Brazil after experiencing the thrill of the World Cup.

Quick Digression

My oldest son gave me this gem. He wondered why American football was called “football” since the pigskin is not a ball (i.e., a sphere) and is rarely advanced via the foot. Instead, my eldest said the game on the gridiron, to be factual and accurate, should be called “handegg”.

I would pay a decent amount of money to hear Hank Williams, Jr. shout, “Are you ready for some handegg?”

End Digression

In addition to hearing all about watching futbol matches in Brazil (while avoiding touching on the 1-7 drubbing the Brazilians endured at the feet the Germans), I was curious to talk to my nephew to learn about the latest application he knew about. My nephew, over the years, has clued me in to some of my favorite on-line pastimes including the quiz game Sporcle, StumbleUpon – the website that plops you on a random URL based on your expressed interests, and GeoGuessr – the visual quiz that asks you to answer where in the world you are based on Google’s Street View.

I was not disappointed when my nephew announced his latest find.

TIL QuizUp exists.

This app, QuizUp, covers all of my bases.

It’s quick as a single quiz lasts for only seven questions.
It’s competitive as you play against other players from around the globe.
It’s goal-oriented as there are a number of achievements to be unlocked (i.e., becoming level 60 in 8 topics, winning 50 games in a row)
It’s varied as there are a multitude of topics (i.e., science, TV, sports, movies) and sub-topics (i.e., biology, math, Adventure Time, Star Trek, basketball, World Cup, Star Wars, Disney musicals) to be quizzed on.
It’s also completely addictive.

For the record, I am Level 19 in World News, Level 16 in US History, Level 10 in Disney, Level 5 in Cartoons, and Level 5 in Paintings, just to name a few of the topics I have competed in.

It’s a good day when you learn something new.

TIL – MacCullum More Museum and Garden

Today is July 23, 2014, and I am standing in Chase City, Virginia.

I am looking at a miniature copy of the Aztec Stone of the Sun (the decorated circle often mischaracterized as a calendar) which is embedded in a stone wall.

My lovely wife and I are here in this private Virginia garden as part of our continuing mini-vacation that saw us first in North Carolina. Once again, following our “Why Plan Ahead?” pattern of vacationing, we find ourselves in Mecklenburg County in the south of Virginia with no idea as to what sights we should see.

When we arrived at our bed & breakfast in Clarksville, one of the items in our room was a binder full of places to see and experience. One of those locations was where my lovely wife and I find ourselves right now.

We are standing in the MacCullum More Museum and Garden. This location is an eclectic mix of statuary and garden pieces. There are Roman busts, dragons, anchors, fountains, and many other items including the aforementioned Stone of the Sun. This place is so haphazard that it could only make sense if it had been built by at least four different individuals for nearly half a century.

TIL – The MacCullum More Garden were mainly created by Charles F. Gillette, Lucy Henry Morton Hudgins, William H. Hudgins, and Howard Hudgins between 1927 and 1976.

It’s a good day when you learn something new.

Postscript – I would like to tell you something about the museum that also resides on these grounds, but the facility was closed. I’m sure it’s lovely, though.

TIL – The Regulators

The date is July 22, 2014, and I am standing on te first floor of the Orange County Historical Museum located in Hillsborough, North Carolina.

As mentioned in my previous posting, my lovely wife and I are in the Tar Heel State enjoying a mini-vacation while our trio of children spend time away at a summer camp. So how did we come to choose North Carolina as our first stop on a four-day respite? The quick and truthful answer is we are a couple who are good at procrastination.

Well, that’s not the entire picture. We are quite good at planning as evidenced by the fact that we had been talking about this mini-getaway for a good six weeks before the actual event. And we talked. And we talked. And we talked some more, but we didn’t actually start planning our destination until six days ago.

Our first choice was Las Vegas. Rather than being a fan of gambling, I dearly wanted to visit Sin City so that I could see Penn and Teller live on stage. However, last-minute flights to Nevada’s most populous city are pricey. In fact, even with the bevy of “last-minute deal” locations on the Internet, we still found it impossible to find any online spur-of-the-moment airline seats that didn’t require us to sell any bodily fluids to purchase.

Option Number Two was a cruise to nowhere. I enjoy being on cruise ships as it gives me the simple opportunity to do nothing but read and partake in the occasional trivia contest. However, much to our chagrin, there were no ships leaving from Baltimore (our closest port of departure) or even New York City (second closest) that fit our schedule.

With time running short and with our first two selections being unavailable, we broke out Google Maps to see which cities were within a day’s drive of us. That is how Chapel Hill, North Carolina, wound up as our first destination which enabled us to visit Raleigh along with its twin museums of science and North Carolina history…which, by the by, are both free and nothing beats the price of zero.

Our last day in North Carolina finds us in Hillsborough courtesy of the woman at the Orange County Visitor’s Center. We had dropped by the day before to ask about the sights to see. The helpful woman at the counter pointed us to Hillsborough saying there were historic homes and museums to see. On her advice we drove north from Chapel Hill which is how we find ourselves at the aforementioned Orange County Historical Museum. This museum has artifacts from the Native American inhabitants, from the colonial times, from the Civil War era, and from North Carolina’s industrial history (i.e., textiles).

However, it was here in this museum that I learned something about our country’s history before the American Revolution that I had never learned before.

TIL – The Regulators were a group of people, mainly lower-class citizens from the backwater areas of North and South Carolina, who waged a campaign – sometimes through force – against corrupt colonial officials.

The Regulation War, fought from 1765 to 1771, was a contest between wealthy officials who collected taxes and non-wealthy farmers who thought they were being over-taxed, if not outright cheated. While those who identified themselves as Regulators were defeated at the Battle of Almanace, there are some who claim that this conflict was a catalyst for the American Revolution.

It’s a good day when you learn something new.