Posts Tagged "Russia"

You’re Not Going to Believe This: National Paper Clip Day

Dear Kid,

Some things are too ridiculous to ignore.

Allow me to be the first to wish you Happy Paper Clip Day!

For it is, in fact, National Paper Clip Day.

I decided to celebrate by pulling out one lucky paper clip and wearing it around my finger. Only it turns out that some at some point a child (who shall remain nameless) was sufficiently creative to occupy the time by stringing all my paperclips together.

Extra points for self-entertainment. Zero points for office supply management. DearKidLoveMom.comExtra points for self-entertainment. Zero points for office supply management.

There are many well-known facts about paper clips that you don’t know.

For example, the paper clip was a Norwegian invention. Unless it wasn’t. Don’t get into an argument with a Norwegian about it because they will beat you bloody. With a paper clip.

During World War II, Norwegians were prohibited from wearing any buttons with the likeness or initials of their king on them. In protest they started wearing paperclips, because paperclips were a Norwegian invention whose original function was to bind together. This was a protest against the Nazi occupation and wearing a paperclip could have gotten you arrested.

It is a well-known fact that paper clips are highly social creatures and live in herds. DearKidLoveMom.comThe real invention of the paper clip came when Stanley (last name lost in history) was standing in his office one day holding a stack of sloppy papers. His “secretary” (and by secretary I mean the lady that ran the office while Stanley stood around being useless) took the papers and realized that she needed a paper clip to hold them together so she invented one. In Stanley’s version of the story, he yelled, “A clip! A clip! My stack of papers for a paper clip!” and one fell from the ceiling.

Back in the olden days (and by “olden days” in this case I mean Microsoft Office 97), there was an animated paper clip (cleverly named “Clippy”) who would pop up to help you write letters and things.

Even earlier (and by “even earlier” I mean after WWII) Project Paper Clip was an American operation to fly German scientists including Wernher von Braun (who became famous as a rocket scientist in Tom Lehrer’s tribute) out of Germany and over to the US (the better to keep the scientists away from the Germans and the Russians).

Rare sighting of a solitary paperclip. DearKidLoveMom.comPerhaps the best use of a paper clip was Kyle MacDonald who managed (over a series of only 14 trades) to trade one red paper clip for a house. Yep, a house. A two-story farmhouse in Saskatchewan. You can read about it here.

I have never managed to trade a paper clip for anything of value, although in the interest of full disclosure, I’ve never tried.

Maybe I’d better go lock up the paper clips.

Love, Mom

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Going Farther Beyond the Pale

Dear Kid,

It turns out I was right. Or at least I wasn’t wrong. Most of the time I’ll settle for not being entirely wrong.

But there’s more to Going Beyond the Pale than I knew (special thanks to Tracey L. G. for educating me).

The Pale of Settlement was an area in western Imperial Russia where Jews were allowed to live. If you interpret that to mean they were less welcome as permanent residence in other parts of Mother Russia, give yourself a gold star and move forward three spaces.

Even within the Pale there were areas where Jews were not welcome.

The archaic English term pale is derived from the Latin word palus, a stake, extended to mean the area enclosed by a fence or boundary.

The Pale of Settlement was created by Catherine the Great when she wasn’t off doing other C the G things.

Life in the Pale was pretty much awful (in the worst of awful ways). It was cold (not “I’m chilly, go put on a sweater” cold, but bone cold), there wasn’t much food, and it was easy to hold pogroms because the Jews were all neatly packaged in small areas. On the plus side, however, it gave Sholom Aleichem something to write about—including Tevya the Milkman which eventually became (you guessed it) Fiddler on the Roof.

The Pale also gave rise to the modern Yeshiva educational system and many of the Chassidic families and practices.

Now you really know.

Love, Mom

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Selfies Causing Death (Russian Government Intervenes)

Dear Kid,

There is a new way for college students to be idiots.

Of course being idiotic is never limited to college students, but people of a collegiate age often think they are invincible (meaning they are not able to be vinced).

As the Russian government warns (and CNN reported) the new threat is (wait for it): Death by Selfie.

No, this is not a problem of blinding flashes (My Eyes! My Eyes!) because most of us recover from seeing spots. It’s not a problem of “radiation poisoning” from cell phones. It’s not a case of people bashing each other over the head with selfie sticks. It’s not even people dying of embarrassment over bad pix.

It’s really Death by Selfie.

It seems that some of these Rhodes Scholars are taking such extreme selfies that they are bypassing regular lunacy and heading straight for the morgue.

It’s hard to do well in school when you’re on a slab in the morgue.

Rules for Selfies According to the Russians with commentary by me (Here’s the Russian Rules for Selfies.)

Do Not take a selfie while you’re holding a loaded gun. Especially if you are pointing it at yourself. You might confuse which button to push.

Do Not take a selfie while you’re snuggling a wild animal. In fact, avoid the wild animals altogether.

Do Not take a selfie while you’re standing on a railroad track that trains are in the process of using.

Do Not take a selfie while you’re on scaffolding at a construction site. Especially if you don’t have a hard hat and safety rigging.

Do Not take a selfie dangling your feet over the edge of a skyscraper. Just avoid the tops of skyscrapers.

Do Not take a selfie with a live wire. Do not take a selfie with a dead wire. Avoid exposed wires.

Do Not take a selfie while you are falling down steps. Do not take a selfie falling up steps.

Do Not take a selfie while running in front of a car. Or truck. Or bus. Or any other moving vehicle.

Do Not take a selfie on the roof. Especially a pitched slope roof. Especially on a sharply pitched slope roof.

Do Not take a selfie while severely under the influence of alcohol. Or drugs. Or idiot friends.

Do Not take a selfie while falling off the back of a boat. Do not take a selfie while falling off the front of a boat.

For heaven’s sake, just stop falling.

I tell you about these things because apparently not everyone knows.

It’s a good thing the Russian government is on top of the situation.

Love, Mom

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Alaska! Happy Birthday to You!

Dear Kid,

Once upon a time, the only people who knew about Alaska were Santa and Mrs. Claus. The elves all knew but they like secrets so they didn’t tend to tell people. There were also a bunch of polar bears in on the secret, but polar bears are not big on map making. Seals like cartography (extra points for knowing that means map making) but then they generally eat the maps, so Alaska remained largely unknown.

Alaska 49th State DearKidLoveMom.comThen the Eskimos arrived. They learned from the land and the polar bears and seals and decided Not Telling was an excellent way to remain Left Alone. So everyone was cold and happy.

In 1741, a Russian expedition (led by a Danish navigator—go figure) found the Alaskan mainland. No one much cared except for bunch of Russians who liked to hunt. The hunters spent a lot of time trekking back and forth and hunting. Being multi-taskers, they also brought a bunch of weird (and by “weird” I mean not native to the Alaskan area) with them. This was not good for the Aleut population. Especially since Puffs Plus hadn’t been invented yet.

In 1784, the first Russian colony was established on Kodiak Island.

In the early 1800s, a polar bear named Bear 987 ate a Russian. It gave Bear 987 a tummy ache but was good advertising for leaving polar bears alone.

By the 1860s, Russia was facing severe economic trouble (and by “severe economic trouble” I mean Russia was just about bankrupt). Russia checked the Asset Closet and discovered Alaska and three paper clips. Since the US had a sufficient supply of paper clips, Russia sold off Alaska to the US for $7.2 million which was a serious bargain even then but a most of Congress thought it was waste of money.

The media came up with several names for the scandal (none of which included the suffix –gate) including “polar bear garden.” Polar bears are far too cool to get annoyed; no telling what would have happened if they’d called it “iceberg garden” as icebergs have been known to be extremely vicious (just ask the Titanic).

Nothing interesting happened until the discovery of gold in 1898.

The territory of Alaska became the 49th and largest state in the Union on January 3, 1959. Happy birthday, Alaska!

Now you know.

Love, Mom

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The News of Cats (well, Bengals) and Dogs

Dear Kid,

As predicted (by me), the Bengals won yesterday. Not only did they win because they played better football, but because it was the Halloween weekend game. And as I previously noted, the Bengals are destined to win on Halloween.

Halloween colors: Orange and Black
Bengals’ colors: Orange and Black

Halloween Mascot: Scary Cat
Bengals: Scary Cats

And this year they won like they’re supposed to.

Also, as my friend Julie told me, the Bengals win a crazy percentage of the games they play wearing orange jerseys. Who Dey!

In puppy news, on November 3, 1957, the Soviet Union launched Laika the AstroDog into space. Technically, Laika was a Siberian husky and she had been living on the streets of Moscow prior to being conscripted into the Soviet space program.

Laika was not asked if she wanted to be hurled into an oxygen-free, zero gravity environment. These days, animal rights groups would move mountains (and space ships) if anyone proposed that sort of test. But this was a) back in the Day and b) in the Soviet Union, so Laika didn’t need to say Da.

Laika Soviet Space Dog DearKidLoveMom.comThe Soviets created a canine life-support system but forgot to put in long-lasting batteries. Laika survived for several days but died when her batteries ran out. In true Soviet Fashion, she is memorialized in a couple of monuments.

The Sputnik 2 experiment was so much fun (and yielded such important data) that the Soviets launched at least a dozen more dogs into flight (five of whom died).

astroI’m sure there are people who think it’s just marvy that dogs are able to help humans learn about space travel. I’m not one of them. I think they should have asked Astro (from The Jetsons) and they could have learned all they needed to know.

What a terrible piece of history.

I need to go lie down.

Love, Mom

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