Things I Burned En Croute to Cooking Up Other Things

Sydney J. Harris was a mid-20th-century newspaper columnist whose daily syndicated feature “Strictly Personal” sparked my own desire to write.  Harris often devoted his column to the topic “Things I Learned En Route to Looking Up Other Things” and today I will do the same. — Editor

□  Charles Dickens (1812-1870) penned a partial draft of a novel titled Tale of Three Cities, but he abandoned the effort after facing “the greatest difficulty” trying to incorporate the city of Cleveland, Ohio, into his epic saga about love, sacrifice and the French Revolution.

□  A group of bats is called a battalion; a group of starfish is called a constellation; a group of slugs is called a shellacking.

□  The first and so far only dog that has been canonized as a saint was St. Bernard in 1403.  Its attested miracles included heeling, speaking, and playing dead.

□  Before it was mass-produced, toilet paper was harvested from the limbs of shade trees, typically on the morning of November 1.  But storage and handling of the natural product was an issue, and demand always exceeded supply, thus an industry was born.

□  The reason former Vice President Al Gore is rarely seen in public these days is not due to ill health, but because Gore is responsible for making 24 billion connections a second on a gigantic internet switchboard installed in the basement of his Tennessee mansion.  “I wish I’d never invented the damn thing,” Gore told Vanity Fair in 2018.

□  It takes 40 gallons of maple sap to produce one gallon of the maple flavor contained in 132 million bottles of Aunt Jemima pancake syrup.

□  According to an obscure verse in Genesis, God created limes to keep lemons company.  But this made yellowberries jealous and they complained loudly to God.  So God punished the yellowberries for their jealousy by turning them blue.  To this day, blueberries are the only blue fruit or vegetable, friendless among the produce and still resentful of God.

□  One of the first wooden tools was a six-toothed implement that archaeologists believe was used by early humans as a hair comb or a fork, and often both.

□  Worcestershire sauce was created by an English merchant, Darius Butts, who originally named the sauce after himself.  But initial sales were so poor that, on the advice of friends, Butts reluctantly renamed his product.  “Let the ignorant bastards try to pronounce this,” Butts bitterly noted in his 1838 ledger.

□  After automobiles, the second-leading cause of death among opossums is sleep apnea.

□  While watching the Fox News Business Channel, I learned that climate change is a hoax engineered to make us join communes and stop eating meat; that Marriott Corporation is converting over thirty of its properties to Courtyard Communes; and that Burger King is introducing a new vegetable burger called The Global Whopper.

□  Several of these items have an element of Truth in them.  Truth (Tr) is Element 119 and is among the rarest of all substances.  Happy April.

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