Many Interesting Facts

Interesting and free educational stuff I find on the web

Category: Other

What are the alternative Thanksgiving meals?

Who wants alternatives to turkey for Thanksgiving?

We all know a traditional Thanksgiving calls for turkey, so just to refresh your memory, you can quickly check this facts about turkeys, if you want to impress your host or guests, depending on the role you’ll be in on next celebration of this popular American holiday.

To make even a step further, you can explore some history behind Thanskgiving, where you’ll easily find some surprising information about the menu before a turkey became a standard. Today more than 80 percent of Americans eat it, but this also means the rest eat something else. So how they celebrate Thanksgiving? What are the possible alternatives on the menu?

But don’t expect recipes, look at this article just as kind of inspirational journey in the land of alternative Thanksgiving meals!

If you are just bored by turkey and you can live with the the essentially the same bird, but with a twist, first option to explore is definitely a turducken, sometimes called tur-duc-hen (made of turkey, duck and hen).

(By the way: all used images are public domain and come from Wikipedia and Pixabay – thank you, contributors!)

Let’s take a look:

what-is-a-turducken

So what is a turducken?

This is boneless turkey stuffed with boneless duck, which is stuffed with boneless chicken. On the photo above you can see the result which is appropriately cut to show the internal stuffing (cornbread, chicken and duck in layers), but this recipe also has several variations, among some include pig, goose, hot dog(s), tofu and other imaginative contributions to healthy heavy dinner menus of America. Well, there is even a variation which includes 40 birds (12 different species) inside the turkey!

Well, you can still keep things simple, break the turkey tradition while still staying in the range of poultry. A duck, a goose or chicken are all good options and it is up to you how far you want to go with stuffing and flavors. Don’t forget the wishbone!

Dungeness crabs as another alternative idea for Thanksgiving recipe

picture of dungeness crab

Dungeness crabs are popular alternative for turkey in California and other states on the West Coast, where the Dungeness crab season starts just in time for Thanksgiving. You should of course calculate the number of crabs required to satisfy the appetite of your guests, but in general think about grilled version with chili, garlic and thyme. Very interesting addition to the mixture of spices are funnel seeds.

If crabs are not your thing, but still prefer to stay in the water, a halibut can make a lasting impression, if it’s treated with right herbs. Lemon, garlic, thyme and parsley are classics, while only the sky is the limit. Another lovely option is salmon or his cousin trout.

Pork for Thanksgiving?

Turkey may be traditional central figure of this Holiday, but a pork is still one of tastiest alternatives. It may obviously serve the main purpose as the roast or pork loin, but there are also delicious recipes for ribs and of course we should not forget the ham – with or without a bone. To add the holiday feel, we should only use the right spices and maybe a pinch of creativity. Think about honey or maple syrup, almonds or pecans, cherries or cranberries, garlic or mustard, … And the best part? All variations can make great match to mashed potatoes and squash!

pork roast free photo

Need further inspiration? What about the stuffing in decadent combinations as walnut-rhubarb, apple-onion-sage, mushrooms-bread-parsley, …? When you already look for turkey alternatives for Thanksgiving you can explore interesting variations in other areas of traditional Thanksgiving dinner as well.

How about lamb?

Its tender meat is already loaded with flavors which can be further emphasized in a direction of your choice. While marinade is definitely one of the options, you can also go with stuffing or rubbing the meat (make several one or two inch cuts) with herbs and spices chosen by your mood.

lamb-as-alternative-to-turkey

Her are few ideas to get your creative juices flow (just don’t drool, please): garlic, lemon, ginger, chili and onion, or minth, cumin, black pepper and yogurt, or rosemary, thyme, honey and balsamic vinegar, or mustard, garlic, rosemary and cranberries, … See? We already have a Thanksgiving feel!

Who wants beef for Thanksgiving?

Apparently every beef lover and every lover of slow cooking as well. Majority of chefs treat the beef as the best sort of meat, so what can be better alternative to turkey for a festive event like Thanksgiving dinner definitely is? Beef comes in wide variety of versions, so you are definitely not limited to roast only. Well, if you make it right and serve with madeira sauce, expect completely different set of words.

roast-beef-for-thanksgiving

Short ribs, brisket, prime rib and other tasty parts of cows are great candidates to charm your guests around the holiday table. They are all good friends with wine and all sorts of vegetables, but to stay faithful to Thanksgiving theme, try to include butternut squash or roasted brussels sprouts or sweet potatoes or green bean or … You know any tasty combination which comes to your mind. Yes, cranberry sauce counts too.

More turkey alternatives for meat lovers

Although a huge piece of meat on the table looks like an inevitable part of tradition, you can stay in more moderate area with still hearty and tasty dishes like different sorts of pies or maybe a pumpkin, stuffed with minced meat (use your imagination), apple and onion, or even a casserole (the fourth Thursday in November can be pretty cold in several parts of the world after all).

meat pie

Vegetarian thanksgiving dinner, anybody?

To recreate the impression of the classic Thanksgiving main dish, you can go bold with a pumpkin stuffed with boiled eggs and cheese and cream and all kinds of roasted vegetables. Stuffing made of onion, mushroom, wild rice and quinoa also sounds intriguing. Or whole wheat and black bean. Or you can decide for something more casual like macaroni and cheese or lasagne with creative additions like hot chili and garlic and roasted pumpkin seeds.

thanksgiving apple pie

To go vegan, you need to skip eggs and dairy products as well. Pies stuffed with pumpkin, different nuts and fruit are already classics, but you can make interesting twists with addition of oatmeal, beans, mushrooms, soy, tempeh, or tofu.

thanksgiving-table-place-card-pilgrim

As you can see the spirit of Thanksgiving is not necessary inseparable from the turkey. It is a holiday about family, friendship and all the important thing we tend to forget too often in the hectic times we are living.

So enjoy in creative twists of the recipes with turkey alternatives and have a Happy Thanksgiving!

How much does an average wedding cost?

How much does an average wedding cost?

It really depends, but times when pairs made a commitment on the top of the hill or on the edge of the abyss (somewhere, where they were closer to the end of the earth and beginning of the sky) are definitely over. At least in the so called developed world. Global financial crisis had significant impact, so the average cost of wedding dropped after 2008, when it achieved just something over 29 thousand dollars in USA, but it is on the raise again and I am pretty sure 2014 will bring new record.

When I say average, it is obvious, price tag can be much lower and, of course much MUCH higher. Average cost in Alaska is just somewhere about 15, but in New York it can easily climb over 75 thousand bucks. And what is the most popular wedding destination? In USA Las Vegas has no competition with amazing one hundred thousand weddings in a year, following by Hawaii with ‘only’ twenty five thousand wedding ceremonies.

And what is the most expensive wedding ever? This is still marriage of son of Sheik Rashid Bin Saeed Al Maktoum to Princess Salama. In 1981 this party they paid 44 million dollars in Dubai!

This is huge business, real industry which turns around billions and billions of dollars year after year. Last year the number was around 75 billions, if you need more accurate numbers … Do you think the smiles of the couple bellow looks a bit artificial? Now you know why:)

bride-groom-cake-topper

Seven thousand couples marry every day on average in United States only and this leads to seventeens tons of gold per year just for wedding rings!

Unfortunately this is not the only expense for couples who pay at least significant part of the wedding costs in three of four cases. There are 175 guests on average to take care of and they don’t only need food, accommodation and transport, they expect (to some extend) some kind of favors as well. Old times with parents paying for everything are definitely over.

Can we break these expenses at least a bit to see what is to be payed for?

 

So what is the average cost of a wedding?

Wedding dress: 1.500 (1.000 dress + 500 accessories)

Makeup + hair: 100 (50 + 50)

Entertainment: 1.300 (one man band or DJ is cheaper, live band is expensier)

Flowers: 1.500 (bouquets, decorations, centerpieces)

Gifts + favors: 700

Invitations (with save the date cards, maps, programs) + postage: 700

Jewelry (engagement ring + wedding rings): 4.000

Photography (and video): 2.500

Wedding consultant (planner): 1.300 (full service is expensier, only partial service can be much sheaper)

Limo rental: 400

Location (with additional rentals and food): 10.000

personalised-wedding-invitation-radiant-orchid

Wedding extras like gifts for flower girls, rehearsal dinners and morning-after brunches are making weddings even pricier, the same is true with more and more popular themed weddings (if certain bride for instance wants to have everything in certain tone of pink) so an average price of a wedding is probably already exceeding 30 thousand dollars.  If we know an average cost of divorce is around 20 thousand additional dollars, I can only wish to live happily ever after to all the newly weds!

How to spot a liar

Signs of lying

 

If you wonder how to spot a liar, you are not alone. All people lie, all lie much more often than majority would expect and even most of animals lie. Deception is obviously a part of surviving game. But lying is not the only tool we have developed during the evolution. The ability to recognize signs of someone lying can be important weapon too.

So here are the most important signs someone is lying:

Breathing

– Liar breathe faster, very typical sign is a series of short breath and then a deeper one when a liar tries to ‘reset’ the stressful situation. Of every stress, not only lying, can cause changes in breathing. So pay attention to fast and shallow breaths. They can be telltale signs of lying.

marie-louise-kirk-pinocchio

Hands

– Liar often tries to suppress the treacherous characteristics of his hands by holding each other, hiding them under the table or putting them in pockets. Folded arms and palms behind one’s back fall into this category. They can also hold an object so hard, their knuckles turn almost white.

– Every lack of gesticulation can be suspicious but it is good to know how much gesticulation is normal for the person in question. Some use full body all the time and some are much more calm. Less obvious are signs of hiding something when liar compensates lack of the gesticulation with self touching, especially parts of the head, like mouths, chin, neck and eyes. These signs are harder to spot but also harder to hide. One typical sign is faked scratching of one of these parts.

Eyes

– Eyes are on the top of the list when we are looking for signs of lying. But they can be pretty misleading, if we don’t know the person in question very well. Closing one’s lids can be sign of hiding something or just being related to light and visibility. Avoiding eye contact is characteristic for lying but in some cultures too much of an eye contact can be a sign of aggression. Skilled liar will even make prolonged eye contact.

– We can add eyebrows in this group of tell tale signs of lying. Frowning, especially with raised inner edges is very often sign of lying.

Lips

– Many muscles around the mouth are hard to control, so they can tell few things about the truth no matter what is actually said. We all know how children cover their mouth when they don’t want to tel the truth and this same sign is still present in later years worth different modifications. Touching, licking or nibbling one’s lips, covering one’s mouth (because of faked yawning or coughing) all fall in this category of tells.

Speaking

– Beside the obvious – listen what somebody is telling you, you should also try to notice how he does that. It is very important to spot all the deviations. It is not about the tone, repetitions, pauses, it’s about the changes in all these (and other) elements regarding to the normal (stressless) speech of the person in question. Repeating your questions, offering many unnecessary details, avoidance of precise answer can all be signs of lying, but they can be sort of personal style as well.

franz-gottfried-baron-munchausen

Sweating

– In general liar sweets more than somebody who is telling the truth. The reason is simple. To produce a lie, you have to use imagination, planning and all sorts of micro activities which are not necessary when you are only telling the truth. Somebody who suffers of excessive sweating will move more often, for instance cross his limbs, scratch oneself, wipe one’s forehead with handkerchief …

Swallowing

– When we are lying, our bodies produce adrenaline. Heart beats faster and lungs need more oxygen. Side effect of this situation is excessive saliva in our mouth which has to be swallowed what can be visible and this often follows with a lack of saliva, what is compensated with lighter coughs, so called cleaning the throat.

Please note: knowing how to detect lies is not an easy task. It takes a lot of experience and even the best lie detector is always working in gray area. But with practice and non stop learning we can at least spot lighter and darker areas. And these can sometimes make all the difference.

Valentine’s day gifts: few facts to think about

What’s all the fuss about gifts for Valentine’s Day?

1. It is expected people in USA will spend more than one hundred dollars per person on Valentine in 2014 for fourth year in a row. Although we could not imagine Valentine’s day without roses and greeting cards, the most money will go for jewelry and partying. Don’t worry, there will be still more than one billion dollars spent on cards, flowers (roses in all shades of red and pink are on the top of the list) and – surprise – candy! About one point five billion dollars for each area, if we want to go into details…

2. While we are already dealing with details, we could add gentlemen spend approximately twice as much for Valentine’s Day than ladies. Best spenders are adults from 25 to 34 years old who spend money on kids, parents, significant others, friends, colleagues and pets. How important is this holiday on emotional level tells a result of interesting survey which shows 15 percent of women send flower to themselves and more than half declared they would dump their boyfriends if they wouldn’t give them anything on Valentine’s Day.

valentine-goody-bag-with-red-heart

3. Did you know more than one third of consumers buy Valentine’s Day gifts on-line? Electronic gift cards are rapidly growing in popularity. Apparently this sort of romantics has long-term consequences. Valentine’s Day is best day for selling condoms and March is best month for selling pregnancy tests. Knowing the tradition of Valentine’s comes from roman Lupercalia, a festival of health and fertility, this can’t be a surprise at all!

4. Every tenth young adult admits he or she feels depressed on Valentine’s due loneliness. About forty percent of people have at least some negative thoughts about this special holiday. Out of this fact another holiday grew up. It’s called Anti-Valentine’s Day and it is rapidly becoming as commercialized as the Valentine’s Day. Because: let’s face it – single, married, dating, whatever, we are all emotional beings after all.

5. Celebrating it or not, just like every other day we will be happier with something tasty at hand. Tasty on Valentine’s Day spells C.H.O.C.O.L.A.T.E. and everybody knows chocolate can have positive effect on our moods. It’s a proven fact chocolate relieve pain and less than two centuries ago even doctors prescribed chocolate to people without luck in love. But we can actually have both. A big box of candy shared with our significant others!

History of Fireworks

Interesting Facts about Fireworks

History is full of important events and celebrations and it seems fireworks accompany most of them, at least in last centuries…

Fireworks at Victoria Day

1. Fireworks were invented in China. A legend says a cook accidently spilled some saltpeper (sometimes us as spice) on fire and was fascinated with colors of the produced flames. Later it was discovered saltpeper, sulphur and coal in enclosed space (for instance in a bamboo stick) explode and around 6th century China already used this knowledge in wars. The same idea was used at celebrations, especially for New Years, just not against enemies, but to scare evil spirits.

independence day san diego

2. One of main beauties of fireworks are different colors of their sparkles. Color comes from ions changing energetic states from higher to lower while releasing some energy in the form of light. Every ion can be credited for different color (or shade) and here are some ions with corresponding colors:

  • aluminium (or magnesium or titanium) … silver / so called electric white
  • barium (chloride) … green (in this case color comes from chloride)
  • calcium (chloride) … orange
  • cesium (chloride) … indigo blue
  • copper (chloride) … blue (this color is hardest to achieve)
  • lithium (carbonate) … red
  • potassium (nitrate) … purple
  • sodium (nitrate) … gold / yellow
  • strontium (carbonate) … red (brighter than lithium)

While chemistry and physics behind pyrotechnics can be quite complicated, many fascinating effects can be achieved with relatively simple but clever planning. Blue for instance can be problematic because the salt (copper chloride) is unstable at high temperatures and the color is hardly visible at lower temperatures.

fireworks yokota

3. Approximately nine out of ten fireworks still come from China, which is by far largest supplier in the world. Business with fireworks is worth about one billion (thousand millions) dollars in USA only. There are several fireworks competitions held every ear all over the world. World Pyro Olympics in Manila, Phillipines, is probably the most prestigious of all.

consumer firework

4. When you are dealing with fireworks, you should always think about safety first. Even static electric of syntetic clothes can make them explode. About half of injuries related to fireworks are among younger than 15 years. Don’t forget pets which are much more sensitive to noise than people, and pollution of the air! Some modern fireworks use compressed air instead of gunpowder.

catherine wheels fireworks

fireworks-at-celebration-of-allied-invasion-of-france

5. Fire is traditionally and symbolicaly an element for getting rid of the old and making space for new. New Year, important milestones (think about Independence Day in USA or fall of Bastille in France) in the history of specific country or personal achievements (like marriage or promotion) are typically related to fireworks.

chinese-new-year-fireworks

All used images are in public domain!

Take care!

Fun and interesting facts about turkeys

Thanksgiving is always a bad news for a turkey, so it is appropriate to give it at least five minutes of glory. Here are …

Top seven interesting facts about turkeys

1. A turkey is native to America. It was first domesticated in Mexico and introduced to Europe in the 16th century with return of conquistadors. It came to England from Mediterranean sea and people bought these new birds (to them) from so called Turkey merchants. So they called them Turkey birds and soon they shorten it to turkeys. In many other languages (including Turkish) a turkey is called bird from India from then unanimous belief they were brought from India, which was only later corrected to actually be a new continent – America. Turkeys were brought to USA from Europe, not directly from Mexico.

2. There is also a popular myth about turkey being a candidate for USA national symbol instead of bald eagle. The fact is Benjamin Franklin questioned the bald eagle as being appropriate because this bird has questionable moral. It is not a hard worker but rather lazy robber and also a coward which can be banished out of the area by much smaller birds. Benjamin Franklin was also unhappy with the design. Bald eagle looked to him more like a turkey, which, by the way is much more proud and brave enough to attack an armed solder to protect his territory, so it seemed better symbol than eagle to Franklin but he never suggested it becomes one.

3. Wild turkey is biggest game bird in America. It can fly relatively fast (up to 55 mph or 88 kph) but only on short distances. It is fast on feet too. With 25 mph (about 40 kph) it is faster than fastest sprinters among humans even without doping! Turkeys can be loud too. Their gobbles and clucks can be hear more than mile (about 1.6 kilometers) away. This way they can show their presence to females and competing males.

wild-turkey

Turkey is magnificent bird

4. It roosts in the trees but nests on the ground because poults can’t fly for the first month or so although they are able to search for food on their own within 24 hour after hatching. All this time mothers stays with them to protect them and keep them warm. Mothers stay around their little ones for about one year and turkeys maintain strong social bonds. Fathers (called toms or gobblers) don’t interfere with families because they mate with as many hens as possible. Domesticated turkeys can’t fly due their weight.

5. Male turkeys are much larger than female turkeys. Their feather can be of yellow, red, purple, green, copper, bronze, gold color. They use to show up like peacocks. Hens on the other side prefer camouflage colors like brown and gray. On very rare occasions we can find wild albino turkeys.

6. Average turkey in store has 15 pounds (7 kilograms). It takes about 40 pounds (18 kilograms) of feed to achieve this mass. Such turkey has roughly 70 percent of white and 30 percent of dark meat. Because whire meat is more popular, through many years of selection turkey breasts became so huge they get in the way and male can’t mount on female. Domesticated turkeys are in almost all cases product of artificial insemination. Prize of such meet is only about one third of the price of the so called heritage turkeys (they were ‘made’ the natural way).

clipart-turkey-thanksgiving

Turkey is Thanksgiving’s guest of honor

7. Domesticated turkeys are of weak health. Probably thanks to their obesity they have chronic problems with joints, hearts and breathing and even the pardoned turkeys (it is a tradition an American president pardons two on every Thanksgiving) die relatively soon (about a year) after time when they would be slaughtered anyway. Because the pardoning is for the show only two birds are always pardoned. One for the public and other as backup. The birds are selected for pardoning at birth and are trained for public appearances with crowd, flash lights and loud sounds.

Facts about water

Interesting facts about water

We can’t imagine life without water (before you disagree, please don’t forget beer is also for the most  part made of water) and I decided to put together a post about water facts, accompanied with some of the best photos available on-line.

All photos are of course public domain and royalty free, but I wouldn’t mind if you give me a nice credit for anything interesting you might find on this page.

Here we go with some fascinating numbers:

– more than 70 percent of Earth’s surface is covered with water,

– there is more water under the surface than on the surface,

– human body is 70 percent made of water (newborns even more),

– only 3 percent of water on our planet is drinkable (most of it we use it for washing, watering and other non-drinking related goals),

– quality standards of drinking water are falling rapidly.

water-facts

Abundance of water on our planet can be deceptive

Water and health:

– we can live without food for months, but without water for only about a week,

– if we drink too much water, we can destroy the balance of electrolytes in organism and die,

– every fourth person on Earth doesn’t have daily access to clean, drinkable water,

– more than four millions of people die every year because of water related diseases,

– four out of five diseases in developing world are directly related with water,

– regular hands washing is single and most effective prevention for most of diseases.

health-and-water

Majority of diseases is related with water

And now for the statistics…

Longest rivers in the world

1. Nile … 6.650 km (4.130 miles) … world longest river and longest river in Africa

2. Amazon … 6.400 km (3.975 miles) … second longest river and longest river in America

3. Yangtze … 6.300 km (3.920 miles) … Asia’s longest river

4. Mississippi – Missouri … 6.275 km (3.900 miles) … longest river in USA and North America

5. Yenisei … 5.540 km (3.450 miles)

6. Yellow River … 5.465 km (3.400 miles)

7. Ob … 5.410 km (3.365 miles)

8. Parana … 4.880 km (3.030 miles)

9. Congo … 4.700 km (2.920 miles)

10. Amur … 4.450 km (2.760 miles)

volga-saratov-bridge

Photo of Saratov bridge across Volga

And here is the photo of Volga, the longest river in Europe (3.645 km or 2.265 miles) but only the 17th in the world.

All used photos are public domain and the come from my favorite sources: Pixabay and Wikimedia. Thanks!

What about literacy?

Yes, what about literacy?

At the end of the year we can conclude we have a lot of problems in our world but most of them are caused by lack of knowledge, ignorance and plain stupidity.

Will more money, more jobs, better pension plans and political changes improve the situation?

No go.

Only thing which can make a difference is change of attitude. We need more open and critical minded people and for this we have to improve literacy.

It is actually ironic to live in times when we read more then ever but 20-40 percent of people in so called developed world just can’t properly read short text like instruction coming with a bottle of dietary supplements.

literacy improve

How can we improve literacy?

We are generation of readers and writers. Just think about all those billions of SMS-s being sent every month. And then again think about the quality of these messages.

Here are few facts:

– only one of seven Americans can perform more complex literacy tasks (think about IRS related issues)

– five of six juvenile delinquents in USA are functionally illiterates

– regions in Asia and Africa with highest percent of illiteracy are regions with lowest living standards

The problem with illiteracy is understandable in developing countries. But in USA or EU? One of main reasons for this is probably the fact parents are less and less reading to their children.

Can we afford that? Will illiterates save the political and economic problems of our world?

Or can we do something and spare few minutes a day to read to our children?