Monday, January 11, 2010
One of the gifts I received for Christmas was The World Almanac for 2010. This made me very happy. Until I opened that present, the most recent almanac I had in my possession was the 1999 edition. The world has changed a bit since then. If you’re as given to bloviating as I am, it helps to have up-to-date sources.
I can sit down with an almanac and be entertained for hours at a time. No matter where you open the thing, you’re bound to find something interesting. For instance, I just now flipped the thing open to page 450 and I see that members of the General Court (the state legislature) in Massachusetts are paid $61,440 a year, plus travel expenses. On the same page are the statistics for the New Hampshire legislature. Members of that body receive $200, biannually. You can make a career out of being a legislator in Massachusetts, but it’s pretty much a hobby in New Hampshire.
(It’s funny how different people interpret such information. I quoted those statistics to MY WIFE and opined that was why so much corruption and graft exists in Massachusetts politics. She countered by saying that the only New Hampshire residents who could afford to be legislators were those who were already wealthy. I suppose we’re both partly right.)
I now turned to page 344, and… well, you all remember Pluto, right? It used to be a planet (as well as Mickey Mouse’s dog, which is the standard joke – and a good one - and has to be included in all references per the Susan Harris Act of 1982.) Turns out it was only demoted! It is now classified as a "dwarf planet", which I suppose means it needs a stepstool to reach that can of beans on the top shelf in the pantry. I can’t find any other explanation that makes sense. The almanac says to turn to page 340 for a definition of a dwarf planet, which I did, and the definitions given for "Classical Planets" (well, La-Di-Dah!) and "Dwarf Planets" are identical. Now, granted, Pluto is about half the size of Mercury, the smallest of the eight classical planets, but it’s also at least twice the size of three out of the four other dwarf planets, which by the way are called Ceres, Eris, Haumea, and Makemake. Who names these things? Eris is the one that’s bigger than Pluto, so I guess maybe they decided it was better to diss Pluto than to insult Eris. Eris takes 560 years to go around the Sun, which is about twice as long as Pluto. I don’t see why we had to denigrate such a fine upstanding member of our solar system as Pluto in order to kowtow to such a lazy planet, but I don’t decide these things. In all probability, legislators on Pluto get paid $200 biannually, while legislators on Eris get the $61,440 plus travel expenses.
On page 258, I found out that the highest-rated TV program of 1963 was The Beverly Hillbillies, while for this past year it was American Idol. I’m still trying to decide if that constitutes progress of any sort.
If you turn to page 682, you find a list of all the rulers of France from the year 843 to the present. They include – and I’m not making this up (Dave Barry Act of 1993) – Charles The Bald, Charles The Fat, Charles The Simple, Charles The Fair, Charles The Beloved, Charles The Wise, Charles The Victorious, and Charles The Affable (who was great company at cocktail parties.) Then you have Louis The Stammerer, who was the son of Charles The Bald, as well as the grandfather of Charles The Fat. Surprisingly, Charles The Affable was the son of Louis The Cruel. It should surprise no one that Louis The Sluggard left no heirs. Then, of course, there was Phillip The Tall, who succeeded his brother, Louis The Headstrong. Having some French ancestry myself, and knowing my capacity for hyperbole, Phillip was probably 5'11", while Louis The Headstrong most likely suggested that it was OK to drink white wine with a steak.
On page 763, I found out that Canada has 709 television sets per 1,000 people. I immediately turned to page 852 to find out how The United States compared with their neighbors to the north. We have 844 television sets per 1,000 people. I also see that Canadian life expectancy is close to three years higher, so those people currently without a set have more time to get one and catch the re-runs. There were no statistics concerning how many Canadians had ever seen The Beverly Hillbillies, so that may figure into it, too.
Turning to page 102, we see that production of corn in America is up approximately 9% since 2005. That’s the year I started blogging. Ex post facto, raison d’etre, so mea culpa (page 716.)
Inductees into the Hockey Hall of Fame are listed on page 948. These include "Toe" Blake, "Shorty" Green, "Tiny" Thompson, "Gump" Worsley, and "Phat" Wilson, all of whom would have made wonderful kings of France.
Finally, my favorite statistic of all-time is found on page 295. There’s a listing of U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Human Activities, 1990-2007. One of the activities listed is "Enteric Fermentation." When I consulted a footnote, to find out exactly what enteric fermentation was, they used some pretty lofty language to describe it, but when you boil it down to its simplest form, it’s cow farts. Between 2000 and 2007, cow farts have increased 3.4%. I don’t know who has the job of measuring such things, but I’m glad it’s not me. I hope he’s being paid more than the New Hampshire legislature. In any case, this increase in bovine flatulence is more than 150% of what we gained via reduced use of coal as an energy source. So, the next time some PETA member accosts you on the street, tell him he’s the cause of the hole in the ozone layer, then go do your part for the environment by having a big porterhouse steak.
By the way, the largest selling beer in the United States (page 77) is Bud Light. It has a 19.3% market share. American Idol has a rating of 15.1, which was the percentage of households tuned in to the program. Taken together, that probably explains the success of both, as well as the higher life expectancy for Canadians (unless it’s all those farting cows we’ve got.)
Soon, with more better stuff.