Friday, August 24, 2007


(News-Herald, August 23) Whenever I try to research some tidbit of information, I invariably end up side tracked. Here are some of the side tracks that I wandered onto this summer.

*There was once a vocal group named the Venangos. They recorded on Monogram Records, though the only song I can find attributed to them is “My Girl.” I’m dying to know who they were, because as we’ve noted before “Venango” is not a particularly common word. Who were they, and what do they have to do with us?

*You can’t rent a car if you’re under 21. You can barely rent one if you’re under 25. Uncle Sam will let you drive a tank, but Hertz won’t let you drive a Volvo.

*There is a large and vocal community of people out there advocating the geocentric model of the universe (that’s the one where the Earth is stationary and the universe revolves around us). Really. There is, for instance, a website named Galileo Was Wrong, operated by a Catholic Apologist located in State Line, Pennsylvania. He’s written an entire book arguing in favor of what he calls the Biblical view that the Earth does not move.

And he’s not the only one. Geocentric Perspective is a website that also argues that the Bible clearly shows that we live on the immovable center of the universe. Of course, the site also contains pages about how NASA faked the moon landings, Germany didn’t start World War II, and suggests that the Holocaust is probably bogus. There’s also a useful link to a site that explains how dinosaurs and humans lived together.

Not that I mean to suggest that the geocentricity crowd are crackpots. Some of them have big fat college degrees, and there appears to be a fair amount of erudite argument about whether the universe is large or small. And before anyone even starts in on them, they explain that the Bible does not claim the world is flat and therefore they fully accept the theory that the Earth is round.

These folks are just one more example of how aggressive and ambitious people can be when it comes to protecting what they choose to believe from the assault of unpleasant facts and data. The geocentric folks appear to spend lots of time plugging holes in their view and protecting it from a variety of challenges.

A Doctor Thomas Neville Jones has published a paper about geosynchronous satellites. Satellites that orbit around the world at a speed that allows them to match the rotation of the Earth would seem to be a major challenge to the view that the Earth doesn’t move. Doctor Jones unfurls a large number of fancy and/or incomprehensible formulae to explain this apparent loophole, including such skeptical phrases as “If we assume such satellites really do exist…”

*My son and his girlfriend got in an argument about whether it’s worse to call someone a turkey or to throw the word “kiester” at them. So I ended up tracking down the origins of each.

“Kiester” was apparently an English synonym for “satchel” in the nineteenth century; it was not until the 1930’s that it was used to refer to the portion of the anatomy upon which one sits. My sources are mum on what prompted that piece of linguistic creativity, but as a side note to this side note, I discovered there is a Kiester, Minnesota (about 100 miles south of Minneapolis-St.Paul, right by the middle-of-nowhere near the Iowa border). This is useful only for twelve-year-old boys with computer access, who can entertain themselves by locating websites such as “The Best Kiester Schools.”

“Turkey,” as in loser or failure, goes back to burlesque theater where a turkey was a show that stunk, bombed, debaclized or otherwise did poorly. That may go back to “turkey troupes” who were groups of traveling performers wandering hither and yon. That in turn may go back to “turkey” as a name for the bundle in which traveling lumberjacks carried their stuff. In terms of naughtiness, I declare the two words a draw. However, “kiester” is funnier. Even Turkey City, Pennsylvania is not as funny a place name as Kiester, Minnesota.

*There’s such a thing as the American Society of Highway Engineers, and they have a Franklin section. I never cease to be amazed by all the little organizations that exist around us that we know nothing about.

*The law requires that employers release reservists and National Guard members for service, and that their jobs be kept waiting for them. However, Sears actually guarantees its employees called up for military service that it will maintain their full level of civilian pay AND benefits for up to five years. And nobody told them they had to.


Dittman said...

Speaking of odd things. Have you seen this:

Mrs.C said...

Thank you Mr. Greene. . . my friends are forever amazed at my lack of somewhat useless knowledge and I believe after reading this little tidbit I've gained even more (ha! ha!). I'm the same way though. . . I get on the internet with every intention of tracking down one item and inevitably get sidetracked by the plethora of other items out there on the information superhighway. You are not alone. Knowledge is a powerful, and occasionally dangerous thing, is it not?

krobi said...

The Venangos recorded on Monogram Records "A Sad Sad Story" too.

From my Flickr