Monday, September 1, 2008

What Did You Learn This Summer?

In the spirit of back-to-school (O. starts preschool tomorrow!), I thought I'd share some tidbits of information I've picked up recently. I wish I could say I learned a lot about Chinese culture, politics and history from watching the Olympics, but in truth, much of the games passed me by without any impression.

I did, however learn that the divers stand under the showers while waiting for their scores to keep their muscles warm. And that black spider looking thing on the female volleyball player's shoulder? Not a tattoo, but a form of bandage, kind of like a high tech Ace bandage to keep her shoulder in the right position or something. That's all I've got for Olympic trivia.

On the observations while driving front: I have of late noticed a number of purple triangular objects hanging from trees. They looked at first like some sort of bird or bat house, and I kept forgetting to look into what they were designed to host. When I finally did, I discovered they are not homes of any sort, but rather traps. Here's a link with a photo. Here in Ohio, and apparently other areas of the Midwest, we are currently having trouble with Emerald Ash borers, an insect that is threatening the ash tree population. rThe boxes are not really a way to get rid of them, just a tool to survey the infestation. I'm still wondering why the bright purple was chosen -- for the ease of the collectors, or are these insects attracted to jewel tones?

New food terms discovered during my recent birthday dinner:
bottarga: cured and dried fish roe (caviar), sometimes grated into a dish, and described by our waiter as having an "anchovy" flavor, effectively ruling it out for J. to order. I only bypassed it because it came in a pasta with a habanero sauce, and I wasn't up for something that spicy.
soffritto: not really an ingredient, as I had thought, but more a descriptor of a technique or approach of aromatic vegetables such as onions or garlic sauteed in oil as the base of a dish. I guess I can start calling all of my dishes soffritto, as I we're always a little onion heavy around here.

And, finally, some dinosaur facts for you, courtesy of O's current fascination with them.
The dinosaur pictured here, is also found on my son's pajamas, along with stegosaurs, triceratops, and a T-Rex. I did not have a name for it. We discovered it is not technically a dinosaur, but rather a reptile called a Dimetrodon, and is from an earlier time than the dinosaurs: the Permian period of the Paleozoic Eria.

As for that long-necked dinosaur, the one you probably called a Brontosaurus when you were a kid? I knew that it wasn't called the Brontosaurus anymore, but I could never quite remember why, or what I was supposed to call it. So, I did some looking around, and discovered it's not really as clear cut as say, the "Pluto isn't a planet anymore" situation. I vaguely knew it had to with the naming rights, but it's not really about who found it first, but rather about confusion about bones and their assembly. This essay spells out the the entire story. Apparently, there were two scientists who didn't get along and worked out their dispute via published articles and racing to find the most bones. Marsh, the namer of both the Brontosaurus and its "new" name the Apatasaurus, had partial skeletons for both. Later it was determined that they were actually the same species, the Apatasaurus simply a baby one. The Apatasaurus was discovered first, so the naming rules dictate that it should be the name that takes precedence. However, Brontosaurus (thunder lizard) was the name that captured the public's fancy; Apatasaurus (deceptive lizard) never quite caught on. Even Stephen Jay Gould wrote an essay rooting for the technically incorrect Brontosaurus term. So now you know -- choose your own stance on the controversy. Personally, I think I'm going to side with Gould and keep calling it a Brontosaurus.

So, anything you've learned lately worth sharing?


Anonymous said...

Happy Birthday Dear...!

mep said...

I'm on Team Brontosaurus as well. Perhaps Kitson in L.A. can get t-shirts made up or something.

I learned very little during the Olympics (except the name Michael Phelps). Mostly, I just felt guilty that either wasn't watching or was watching but wishing we could change the channel. Just not into it this year.

CaraBee said...

I watched almost no Olympics this go round and felt a tad sheepish about it whenever anyone would ask me about some event. I agree with MEP, its Brontosaurus all the way.

Actchy said...

I have learned that at the next set of Olympics, I should petition the covering network (a) to replace Bob Costas, at least on a part-time basis, and (b) to show footage of some of the more eclectic events during prime time. I would've easily traded an hour or so of M. Phelps' preliminary events for some footage of shot-put, judo, or some horsey events.

Anonymous said...

This is exactly the kind of info I enjoy. I hope I pass a triangular device in the car someday so I can rattle off its purpose to my husband.

As far as the foods, if any recipe I saw had any such words, I would immediately flip the page of the cookbook. Good for you for investigating.

I had no idea of the dinosaur name controversy. We're more of a princess household than a dinosaur one. Thanks for the information and I will put my Team Brontosaurus shirt right next to my Team Lachey and Team Aniston tees.