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May Roundup

May Roundup

Below are things I’ve learned or found interesting in the past month:

  1. The now-ubiquitous score track on the outside of many board games was invented by Wolfgang Kramer in 1982.

  2. Michael was the most popular male name in the US from 1954 until 1998*, when it was usurped by Jacob. It is the most popular name among living Americans.
    • Similarly, Jennifer was the most popular girl’s name from 1970 through 1984. If you meet a gen-Xer, there’s a good chance they’re a Michael or a Jennifer.
    • See also this CollegeHumor (now Dropout) sketch from 2016.
    • *1960 saw “David” overtake Michael, but its reign was short-lived.
  3. In January of this year, Harmonix released the final DLC update for Rock Band 4 (2015). This breaks a 17-year streak of Rock Band content (barring a 2-year gap between RB3 and 4). I think we’re due for a resurgence in the genre!

  4. The word “Helicopter” comes from two Greek roots. These aren’t “Heli” and “Copter” like you may assume, but rather “Helico” and “Pter”, meaning spiral wing. You may know “Pter” from your favorite flying dinosaurs.
    • Related: This is a similar form of rebracketing that gives us words like “shopaholic” and “workaholic”, from “alcoholic”, leading to the favored joke of pedants, “Oh, you’re addicted to chocohol?”
  5. The common advice to walk 10,000 steps a day is a marketing ploy from a Japanese company in the 60s who thought that the kanji for 10,000 looked like a running man. The “actual” number of steps seems to be either “more than you would otherwise do”, or around 6,000, with marginal benefits appearing above 7,500 steps. More information here.

  6. The Watergate scandal, which eventually lead to the resignation of President Nixon, was uncovered in part because the lookout during the break-in was distracted by watching the movie Attack of the Puppet People on TV. He didn’t see the police show up, and didn’t warn the burglars in time.

  7. Garden flowers are becoming less fragrant for a variety of reasons, including genetic engineering (to favor pretty flowers), mutations against predators, and increases in temperature due to global warming.

  8. This excellent article about why you’ve never been in a plane crash.

  9. Cleveland, Ohio was named after Moses Cleaveland. Notice the A? The city used to be spelled the same was, until about 1830. The most popular theory for the switch? The main newspaper in town couldn’t fit the name of the town in their headline using the proper sized font. They dropped a letter, and it caught on quickly.

  10. Civil Engineering has a bunch of strange rituals. In the US, we have the Order of the Engineer, where graduates accept the Obligation of the Engineer and swear oaths. This has roots in a similar Canadian tradition.

  11. In an NHL game, pucks are switched out regularly by referees as they are damaged or become too warm. Some games require as many as 25 pucks. Extra pucks are kept in a freezer for more predictable movement patterns.

  12. Two speedrunning strategies for N64’s Goldeneye were discovered by a 55-year-old man from Illinois. The first was to affix a physical crosshair to the TV so you can see where the gun will fire (the game has no reticule, and guns always fire in the exact middle of the screen). The second was more controversial: look down when you run.
    • When this was suggested, it was blown off and ignored. Later, it was used to beat several records that were previously thought to be unbeatable. The balance is to look down at about 45°, so you can still see where you’re going, and look up when needed to shoot.
    • This strategy saves about 1 second every 75 seconds, and works because the game has to render less, which improves the frame frate (and speed of Bond).
  13. Tornado Alley has moved 500 miles east in the last 40 years.

  14. Only one person has ever survived rabies. The controversial treatment (which has never succeeded since) is known as the Milwaukee Protocol and involved putting the patient in a medically induced coma and providing her with a variety of drugs, including ketamine and a variety of antivirals.

  15. In 2020, a Costco co-founder made waves by threatening to kill the CEO if he raised the price of the hot dog + soda combo, which has been priced at $1.50 since its debut in 1985. Recently the new CFO confirmed the price would remain the same, but was silent on the matter of threats.

  16. A fine example of the Pareto principle, or 80/20 rule: four bike thieves were arrested in london, dropping the monthly number of stolen bikes from 68 to 19. There may be other chilling effects (if you see the police cracking down on bike thieves, you might think twice or pick a different crime), but it’s possible that these 4 people accounted for over 70% of bike thefts in London.
This post is licensed under CC BY 4.0 by the author.

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