Today’s post is a cheater blog because it’s April and that’s when guests flock to Tucson and I really haven’t had time to sit down and write – so for your reading entertainment…

  • Do you want the next photo someone takes of you be a good one?  If you do, be certain the photographer shows off your left cheek.  According to a 2012 study from Wake Forest University the left side of a person’s face often expresses more emotion than the right, and onlookers tend to find that more aesthetically pleasing.  When people were asked to rate the pleasantness of male and female profiles presenting both a left and right cheek, the participants overwhelmingly chose the left as more pleasant.  One theory for this left-faced bias is that emotion and spatial awareness is largely dominate by the right hemisphere of our brain but is lateralized to the left side of our body, so emotions are expressed more intensely on the left side of our face.  Interestingly, Western artists throughout the centuries have had a bias for painting portraits with subjects displaying their left cheek, especially women, with “Mona Lisa” being a prime example.
  • Before the rain begins, one of the first odors you may notice is a sweet, pungent zing in your nostrils. That’s the sharp, fresh aroma of ozone—a form of oxygen whose name comes from the Greek word ozein (to smell). Tropospheric chemist Louisa Emmons at the National Center for Atmospheric Research explains that ozone emanates from fertilizers and pollutants as well as natural sources. An electrical charge—from lightning or a man-made source such as an electrical generator—splits atmospheric nitrogen and oxygen molecules into separate atoms. Some of these recombine into nitric oxide, and this in turn reacts with other atmospheric chemicals, occasionally producing a molecule made up of three oxygen atoms—ozone, or O3.  The scent of ozone is always a precursor to stormy weather because a thunderstorm’s downdrafts carry O3 from higher altitudes to nose level.
  • Ever wondered why doughnuts have holes? Historians aren’t certain why (or when) the doughy centers disappeared, but one theory suggests it may have been to help the pastries cook more evenly.   According to food lore, American sailor Hansen Gregory created the doughnut’s modern shape around 1847 while at sea; by his account, doughnuts of the time were twisted, or diamond shaped and often cooked faster on the outsides than in the centers. Removing the dense middles helped create uniformly cooked treats that fried quickly and didn’t absorb as much oil.
  • When it comes to the Amazon River, there’s no such thing as water under the bridge. The idiom simply doesn’t apply there, as no bridges cross the Amazon River despite it being at least 4,000 miles long. This isn’t because the idea has never occurred to anyone — it would just be extremely difficult to build any. The Amazon has both a dry season and a rainy season, and during the latter its waters rise  30 feet, causing 3-mile-wide crossings to grow by a factor of 10 as previously dry areas are submerged. The riverbank itself is also in a near-constant state of erosion due to how soft the sediment it consists of is, and there’s no shortage of debris floating in the water.
    Beyond all those logistical hurdles, there simply isn’t much use for bridges across the massive river. For one thing, there are few roads on either side of the Amazon that need to be connected. The river is, of course, in the middle of a dense rainforest, the vast majority of which is sparsely populated. Other long rivers have numerous crossings, however: The Nile has nine bridges in Cairo alone, for instance, and more than 100 bridges have been built across China’s Yangtze River in the last three decades. For now, boats and ferries are the preferred method of crossing the Amazon, and are likely to remain so for the foreseeable future
  • There are 291 ships in the US Navy, but only one has the curious distinction of flying the Jolly Roger  the ominous flag typically associated with pirates.  Although a skull and crossbones is the most common adornment, lawless seamen during the golden age of piracy (1650-1720) flew many grisly  including skeletons but also bleeding hearts and sharp weapons.  After closing in on a ship, pirates hoisted the Jolly Roger at the last minute, and though designs varied from ship to ship, the message was clear — surrender or die.
    But for the U.S. destroyer USS Kidd, flying the Jolly Roger is less about striking fear into the hearts of its enemies than it is an 80-year long tradition.  The ship honors Rear Admiral Isaac C. Kidd,  who earned the nickname “Cap” while attending the U.S. Naval Academy due to his name’s similarity to the infamous 17th-century pirate Captain Kidd. During the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, Kidd was killed aboard the USS Arizona. Within two years, a Fletcher-class destroyer bearing his name  sailed the Pacific. The ship’s crew kept the nickname alive by adopting the Jolly Roger and calling themselves  “The Pirates of the Pacific” though their “booty” often involved retrieving downed Allied fighter pilots. Today’s USS Kidd, commissioned in 2007, is actually the third ship to bear the name and the third to hoist the fearful flag of a bygone era.
  • Before founding the animation studio that bears his name, Walt Disney was a commercial artist in Kansas City, Missouri. It was there, around 1919, that he began making hand-drawn cel animations of his own, which were screened in a local theater and dubbed  “Laugh-O-Grams.” The studio he acquired following his cartoons’ success had the same moniker, but it was a short-lived venture — Laugh-O-Gram’s seven-minute fairy tales and other works were popular with audiences, but financial troubles forced Disney to declare bankruptcy in 1923.
    Disney, his brother Roy, and cartoonist Ub Iwerks moved to Hollywood the same year and founded Disney Brothers Cartoon Studio, which quickly changed its name to Walt Disney Studios at Roy’s behest. Had it not been for Laugh-O-Gram, however, it’s likely that Disney’s most famous creation would never have been born. The inspiration for Mickey Mouse came from a brown mouse who frequented his Kansas City studio trash basket — a “timid little guy” Disney was so fond of that before leaving for Hollywood, he “carefully carried him to a backyard, making sure it was a nice neighborhood,” at which point “the tame little fellow scampered to freedom.”
  • And speaking of Disney, did you know The speed of a computer mouse is measured in “mickeys,” named after Mickey Mouse.  Animal-based names are surprisingly common when it comes to units of measurement.  In addition to horsepower (which usually measures the output of engines or motors) and hogsheads (today mostly used for alcohol), there’s also the mickey — a semi-official means of measuring the speed of a computer mouse.  Named after Mickey Mouse who’s surely the world’s most famous rodent, it’s specifically used to describe the smallest measurable movement the device can take. In real terms, that equals 1/200th of an inch, or 0.1 millimeter. Both the sensitivity (mickeys per inch) and speed (mickeys per second) of a computer mouse are measured this way by computer scientists.

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