Friday, September 29, 2006

Search of the Week: September 29

Week in and week out we highlight one lucky VLKF visitor who found our site through a popular search engine. This week's search came from Google, where--yet again--we were NUMERO UNO for the following query:

famous teetotallers

Hopefully the second article in our four-part series served not only to educate, but also to inspire.

Congratulations to you, lucky visitor, and come back soon!

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Behind the Scenes: the VLKF Graphics Department

Our regular readers will no doubt recognize the graphic at the right which originally appeared with our Corrections article dated August 23. It was, in fact, one of our most popular articles of the last year, and may currently be under consideration for several major awards.

What you may not realize is the enormous amount of manhours (and womanhours!) that goes into each and every graphic that spruces up the website. Let’s take a moment and walk through the process of building a Very Little Known graphic.

Firstly, our cracker-jack Creative Team brainstorms a concept for an article. Maybe something about puppies? Or Mel Gibson? Global Warming?

Once they've got the rough idea, the Graphics Department kicks into high gear. For the "Corrections" article, a photoshoot was set up with our staff photographer Lisa, her assistants Ted and Mike, and our gaffing, lighting, and coffee-making intern Tiffany.

This particular shoot was set for Studio B due to its complexity and lighting issues. As you can see, Studio B is far more spacious--and it has a ceiling fan! You'd be surprised how often THAT comes into play. Remember to ask about the time we had Robin Williams in Studio B. Now that was a story!

As always, craft services went above and beyond the call of duty.

Then we brought the IT guys in to set up the wireless monitor for the screenshot. Our faithful programmer Kurt stayed up all night creatinig a “digital” mock-up of the screenshot, since—of course—the graphic didn’t even exist yet!

The lights were set. The equipment was rented. The backdrop was down. Finally, it was time for the magic to begin!

Lisa insisted on working with our lovely, long-time hand model, Gwynnyth Llewellyn. Unfortunately Gwynnyth suffered a tragic deli-slicer accident last year during a Quiznos shoot, cutting off her right thumb and endangering her career.

Gwynnyth came to terms with this, but many of her clients were not able to broaden their minds to the possibilities of an OtherlyAbled hand model. But this was no obstacle for the brave VLKF crew!

Our Photoshop department swung into action and seamlessly merged a rather famous thumb with Gwynnyth’s mangled hand. Can you indentify the digit in question? That’s right! It belongs to Tony and Emmy award-winning actress Bebe Neuwirth!

So that’s the Very Little Known history of one little graphic. Total cost: $14,800. But it was worth every penny.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Out of This World Facts!

Few would argue with the contention that the world is a big, interesting place. Humans have finally conquered every corner of this globe we like to call Earth, and consequently we have spread our knowledge everywhere. No single resident of the world can be expected to keep track of every single fact—that’s our job!

  • No one alive can translate the Tibetan language of Nepal into English.

  • ONE ON THE CUFF, PLEASE! MAKE IT A DOUBLE! Barcelona's name comes from the Spanish (Castillian) for "drink on loan." If you should ever find yourself there, have a drink on the house!

  • ON A RELATED NOTE: The city of Barcelona was the birthplace of that most American of inventions, the Barcolounger.

  • After China, Africa is the second largest country in the world, per capita.

  • In France, the "lunch hour" is actually an hour and a half.

  • Monaco is the largest country that has never appeared on a map. Luxembourg is the smallest country to always appear on a map.

  • Nestled in the heart of the French Riviera countryside is the world's smallest country, Algiers. Its inhabitants are an indigenous yet violent German-speaking people known as the "Basques."

  • NIPPON, NOT NISSAN: The Japanese alphabet has no equivalent for the letter S.

  • Anthropologists from ‘round the globe flock to study the famed Aboriginees. Hailing from the South Pacific atoll of Aborigin, these “modern stone-age families” are the last cannibals living on Earth besides the Donner party.

  • Sri Lanka is technically the only island country entirely surrounded by water.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Search of the Week: September 22

Each and every week we highlight one lucky VLKF visitor who found our site through a popular search engine. This week's search came from Google, where we were NUMBER ONE for the following query:

pyrotechnic flow

As always, we are proud to be of educative service where applicable. Volcanoes are quite dangerous, hence their nickname--"Nature's Silent Killers."

Congratulations to you, lucky visitor, and come back soon!

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Alcohol, Part Four: Alcohol, Alcoholism, and You

Welcome to the exciting conclusion to our three part series of Very Little Known Facts about alcohol. In this installment we look at the dark underside of alcohol and its conceivable effects on the human mind, body, and spirit.

Too Much of a Good, or Bad, Thing

Hangovers are caused by “mixing” different types of alcohol, e.g. beer and wine or different types of liquor. Remember the old couplet:

Liquor then beer-- cause to fear.
Liquor then liquor works much quicker.

“Passing out” and “blacking out” due to alcohol consumption are myths dating back to the days of Temperance propaganda and fainting couches. The human body cannot “pass out” due to alcohol consumption because alcohol is a stimulant.

However, don’t believe for a minute that alcohol is harmless. Some think that the worst possible consequences of alcohol abuse are bad hangovers, which are measured on a ten-point scale. Not true! Alcohol is a central nervous system depressant that works to slow your heart rate, lower blood pressure, and lessen your breathing. That sounds dangerous to me. And don’t forget about the potential harm to your reputation.

How Much Is Enough?

There is no possible way to “measure” the exact alcohol content of different types of booze. But using modern estimation methods, we can roughly chart the equivocal potency of different drinks:

In addition, experts agree that taking sips from someone else’s drink do not count.

A Sobering Thought

Black coffee, cold showers, sudden frights, exercise, and counting backwards have no effect on your blood alcohol level. These “cures” are nothing but superstition and urban legend. Another common "cure,” the single shot of tequila, actually makes the problem worse!

Only the elapsation of time can help. Alcohol leaves the body of every human on this planet at a constant rate of about .015% of BAC or Blood Alcohol Level per hour per capita. Thusly, a human with the BAC of .015 would be sober in one (1) hour after total cessation of consumption while a person with a BAC of 0.15 would require 5 (five) hours of partial cessation and moderate activity to achieve sobriety. This is true regardless of sex, age, weight, ethnicity, and the amount of alcohol consumed. Therefore the age-old myth that people with more body mass have a higher tolerance for alochol is just that—a myth!

One thing that is true is that men and women are affected differently by alcohol. Women, who have more enzymes in their fatty adipose tissue, can drink more than a man of the same height and weight, but they will subsequently become more intoxicated.

Don’t Fear the Reaper

The sad fact is that death can and does occur from drinking alcohol. This is known as alcohol poisoning, and this syndrome occurs when contaminants have somehow entered the fermentation process. One brand of Chinese beer reportedly includes in its recipe "ground-up dog parts." That’s enough to put you off drinking for a day or two, at most!

Another way that alcohol can cause death is due to alcohol-related accidents such as drunk driving, poorly conceived stunts, and suicide.

A Florida man was once arrested for drunk driving. Later he was found innocent of the charges by a jury of his peers when he demonstrated that the alcohol on his breath was simply a mixture of rubbing alcohol and gasoline that he had just used in his a professional fire-breather! Now you know the other half of this true story, but don't try this at home. Better yet, don't drink and drive.

Don’t worry about dying from drinking the worm in the tequila bottle, though. In actual fact the worm is in mescal, a flavored tequila. And on top of that, it isn’t actually a worm at all but a caterpillar (Hipopta Agavis) called a guano.

Alcoholism and Alcohol Addiction

Some say that alcohol is the cause of alcoholism, but that is a misnomer. As a governmental agency once explained, "Alcohol no more causes alcoholism than tumors cause cancer."

Alcoholism is caused by a recessed gene that is activated by alcohol consumption. Although not totally incorrect, but certainly not the whole truth, generally speaking, people who on their own begin drinking either much earlier or much later than their peers begin are more likely to experience subsequent drinking problems after beginning to drink. If you need help, help is available to you as needed. Be warned, however—if you join Alcoholics Anonymous, you can neither drink alcohol nor remain anonymous.

Not drinking at all has its own rewards, too. Remember the old saying: “Abstinence makes the heart grow fonder.”


In conclusion, alcohol is a complex and controversial subject that has fascinated many for some time.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Search of the Week

As our regular readers are no doubt aware, each week we highlight one lucky VLKF visitor who found our site through a search engine. This week's search came from MSN Search, where we came up second from the top out of 2,385 results for the following query:

steve the austrian alligator expert

I hope we were able to inform and elucidate on famous Austrian alligator wrangler Steve Irwin, RIP.

Congratulations to you, lucky visitor, and come back soon!

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Alcohol, Part Three: The Science of Alcohol

Despite the entertaining aspects of alcohol, you can also learn from it.

Science has much to teach us about the mysteries of life and the universe. Keeping this in mind, here are some Very Little Known Science Facts about alcohol:

  • Fermentation is involved in the production of many foods, including bread (bread “rises” as it ferments), sauerkraut, coffee (“percolates” as it ferments), black tea, cheese, steak, buttermilk, pickles, cottage cheese, chocolate, vanilla, ginger, catsup, mustard, soy sauce and many more.

  • THE JOKE IS ON YOU! Many have said in jest that they couldn’t live without alcohol, but they weren’t kidding! Fermentation within the body is essential for human life to exist.

  • Chemistry tells us there are three types of alcohol:
      • Ethyl alcohol, also known as ethanol or denatured alcohol, is used primarily as a fuel or solvent, or both. It is deadly poison.
      • Methyl alcohol is used in the production of crystal meth.
      • Isopropyl alcohol is nutritious AND delicious.

    • DON’T DRINK AND DRIVE: There is a cloud of pure isopropyl alcohol floating in outer space big enough to make four trillion-trillion drinks. It's free for the taking...and it's only 10,000 light years away from our planet, Earth.

    • Whiskey has been used as anesthesia for centuries. Vodka is used to sterilize surgical instruments in Third World countries and France. Gin is a mild diuretic which can reduce menstrual bloating and relieve cramps. Tequila is a home remedy for insomnia. REMEMBER THAT THIS IS NOT MEDICAL ADVICE. DO NOT DRINK ALCOHOL UNTIL YOU HAVE CONSULTED YOUR PERSONAL PHYSICIAN.

    • Alcohol Poisoning is actually an allergic reaction to accumulated impurities in alcoholic drinks. It is impossible to die from drinking pure isopropyl alcohol.*


      • Each molecule of alcohol is less than a billionth of a meter long and consists of a few atoms of oxygen, hydrogen, and selenium.
      • The pressure in a bottle of champagne is about 90 pounds per square inch. That's enough pressure to kill you.
      • Studies have shown that drinking alcohol during a concert reduces one's enjoyment of the music by up to 20%.
      • Spectators at Nascar races consume 3.1 times more blush wine than the average American.
      • Up to 30% of failure is alcohol-related.
      • Excess drinking lowers the body temperature by up to 3 degrees Celsius. The illusion of warmth is caused by the body’s increased heat due to an allergic reaction to alcohol.
      • 72% of Americans report that they have paid money for the services of a designated driver. What kind of person would charge for this service? A taxi driver, that’s who.
      • 93% of alcoholics drink more than the medically recommended amount of alcohol.
      • 1 out of 3 Americans doesn't drink - and that's okay.

    *It is impossible to produce "pure" isopropyl alcohol anywhere on the surface of the Earth due to atmospheric impurities. It has only been produced--and enjoyed--underneath the ocean.

    Sunday, September 10, 2006


    Friday, September 08, 2006

    Alcohol, Part Two: A Brief History of Alcohol

    As long as human beings have trod upon this lonely star we call Earth, alcohol has been their friend and companion. Many, however, prefer the companionship of other humans. How many people throughout history have abstained from alcohol? We may never know.

    What we DO know is that alcohol itself has a long and storied history. In fact, in many ways the history of alcohol mirrors the history of humanity, so much so that Sir Isaac Newton once famously said that the popular beverage known as booze was the “universal language.”*

    1492: The Pilgrims land at Plymouth Rock rather than continuing to Boston because they are running out of supplies such as food and alcoholic beverages.

    1782: William III orders a decorative fountain to be transformed to giant punch bowl. This "monumental" undertaking requires:

    • 560 gallons (410 liters) of brandy
    • 1,200 pounds (1,530 kg) of sugar
    • 25,000 (25,000) lemons
    • 20 gallons (2,600 milliliters) of lime juice
    • 5 (five) pounds of nutmeg.
    The bartender was actually a sailor who rowed around to fountain to serve guests. Ironically, no one could drink the from the fountain due to disease concerns and the filthiness of the bartender's boat.

    1812: The champagne flute was invented during the reign of Marie Antoinette. It was first formed from wax molds made of her breasts. (Of course, the molds were later elongated.) This was the origin of the phrase, “Wet your whistle.”

    1849: THINK CAREFULLY BEFORE ANSWERING: Would you like some isyammitilka or ksikonewiw? These words refer to North American Indian alcoholic beverages. Now would you like some isyammitilka or ksikonewiw?

    1911: FAMILY RESEMBLANCE: The Manhattan cocktail (whiskey, vodka, and Cointreau) was invented by Winston Churchill's mother.

    1941: WHAT’S FOR DESSERT? An American platoon of World War II soldiers, snowed in on a treacherous Moldavian mountain pass, survived for over a month on nothing but a cask of sherry and three of their companions.

    1969: President Lyndon B. Johnson's favorite drink may have been scotch and soda.

    Famous teetotallers through history:

    • Genghis Khan
    • Josef Stalin
    • Nero
    • Adolf Hitler
    • Captain Ahab
    • George W. Bush (post-1986)
    • Ted Bundy

    Famous Drinkers:

    • George W. Bush (pre-1986)
    • Jesus (wine)
    • Otis from The Andy Griffith Show
    • Ulysses S. Grant

    *Of course, the actual universal language is Esperanto.

    Wednesday, September 06, 2006

    Alcohol, Part One: An Introduction to Alcohol

    Alcohol. Man's fascination with this beverage goes back hundreds if not a thousand years. The subject is not only fascinating, but also controversial.

    Being in the perfect position to be impartial observers, we here at Very Little Known Facts are proud to present a multi-part series on this most American of subjects, alcohol itself. As an introduction, enjoy these trivia tidbits!

    • KA-CHING! Tom Arnold, Sandra Bullock, Chevy Chase, Bill Cosby, Kris Kristofferson, and Bruce Willis are all former bartenders. Bill Cosby went on to become a famous comedian.

    • Owing to their "flaming" red hair and violent natures, people of Irish descent are genetically prone to alcoholism.

    • COINCIDENCE??? The New York City building that was once the home of the National Temperance Society is now a bar. The plot of land where the first bar in the state of New York once stood now features a church. The oldest church in New York, St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Brooklyn, holds Alcoholics Anonymous meetings on the premises.

    • Alcohol was the favorite beverage of the world’s longest-living man, Shigechiyo Izumi of Japan, who lived for 120 years and 237 days. He was born on June 29, 1865 and died on February 21, 1986 from grief.

    • In contrast, a young Austrian infant nicknamed Addie was fed beer at the tender age of six months. BUT WAIT—HERE’S THE OTHER HALF OF THE STORY: As a grown man, he renounced alcohol entirely and demanded to be called by his full name—Adolf. Adolf Hitler, that is. A Nazi.

    • MAKES YOU THINK: "The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog" is commonly believed to be the only sentence in any language that uses every letter of the alphabet exactly once. But wait: "Pack my box with five dozen liquor jugs." How about that?

    • BELLY UP TO THE BAR: The so-called "beer belly" is caused by excess intake of calories from food. Beer and alcohol will neither help nor hinder weight gain.

    • Adding a miniature onion to a martini turns it into a cocktail.


      • Rearrange the letters from “drink to your health” to spell “ideal heart diet.”

      • Rearrange the letters from “liquor in the rear” to spell “I quarter her loin.”

      • You can use the letters from “increase alcohol taxes” to spell “Alert: Halt excess excise taxes on alcohol in schools.”

    Monday, September 04, 2006

    RIP: Steve Irwin, Crocodile and Alligator Hunter

    So-called Crocodile Hunter Steve Irwin, famed Austrian naturalist and scourge of the reptile world, has died today, felled by one of his mortal enemies.

    "He's Dead."

    While filming a children’s special about hunting and killing ocean-going crocs, Steve was ambushed and stung in the heart by a rogue stingray, the deadliest reptile in the sea.

    “This was personal,” said one Queensland marine animal attack expert who asked not to be named for fear of reprisals. “This vicious act of animal terrorism must be avenged.”

    The Early Years

    Born Steve Weinstein, young Stevie spent his early years obsessed with killing insects, rodents, and small birds with his bare hands. It wasn’t until a rogue crocodile ate his parents that Steve turned his murderous wrath against the reptile world.

    After a stint at Brown, Steve changed his name and tried his hand at acting, lured by the bright lights of Hollywood. But this dream soon turned into a nightmare as Steve found himself type-cast by the studio system as the “alligator wrestler guy.” Steve's one-dimensional characters were pitted against various animal killers in such B-movies as Snake Island, Anaconda, and Deliverance.

    But then the unthinkable happened...

    World War II

    After a stint in the Australian Air Force, Steve starred in a series of documentaries to show Allied troops the twin dangers of reptiles and syphilis.

    “Always use protection,” went one famous Irwin catchphrase. “In the bedroom and in the water.”

    Inevitably this lead to Steve's beloved television series "Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom."

    Embodied Classic Struggle

    Perhaps no single individual embodied the classic struggle of Man Versus Nature as much as Steve Irwin. One of the first scientists to realize the deadly threat that animals formed to humankind, Steve dedicated his life to ridding the world of those most pernicious of beasts, the water-borne reptiles.

    “He loved to kill things,” said one colleague. “Crocodiles, alligators, snakes, turtles. He was making the world a better place.”

    Ironically, his life story became the loose inspiration for the classic Hollywood film Crocodile Dundee.

    “How Could This Have Happened?”

    Not since the mysterious death of Dale Earnhardt has the world been as baffled by the demise of a pseudo-celebrity.

    “Nobody saw this coming,” said a longtime friend and fellow New Zealander. “We all thought it would be cancer.”

    Cancer indeed.


    Steve Irwin’s long quest to rid the world of crocodiles and alligators came to a tragic end today, media outlets report. Steve was 59. He will be missed by some.