Friday 31 May 2013

Statue of Liberty by Numbers

Here are ten figures related to the Statue of Liberty, a gift from the French to the Americans, which was constructed in France and then shipped to America where it was reassembled in New York City's harbor in 1886.

1.  305 -- number of feet from base to crown

2.  450,000 -- weight in pounds of Lady Liberty

3.  354 -- number of stairs from base to crown

4.  25 -- number of windows in crown

5.  1906 -- the year the crown ceased to function as a lighthouse

Originally known as Bedloe Island courtesy

6.  4000 -- number of square yards of Lady Liberty's dress

7.  3/32 -- width in inches of copper exterior

8.  25 -- number of years it took the exterior to turn green

9.  250,000 -- cost in dollars of the statue; the pedestal cost another $125,000

Paris World's Fair circa 1878 courtesy

10.  1776 -- year inscribed on the tablet held by Lady Liberty


Thursday 30 May 2013

The Great Wall of China by Numbers

Here are some figures related to the Great Wall of China, which has a 2000 year history.

1.  5500 -- length in miles of the series of walls which make up the Great Wall of China

Great Wall of China circa 1907 courtesy

2.  1 million -- number of workers who built the wall

3.  300,000 -- estimated number of workers who died while building the wall (many are buried in the wall)

4.  1211 -- the year that Genghis Khan invaded China (the Great Wall didn't stop him)

5.  7 -- the number of Kingdoms that were at war; eventually they all merged to become the country of China

6.  33 -- average height of wall in feet

7.  30 -- percentage of wall that is still in good condition

8.  180 -- number of additional miles of wall discovered in 2008

9.  1923 -- the year that writer Adam Warwick wrote in National Geographic that the Great Wall of China was the only man made object that could be seen from the moon; now scientists say that it can only be seen from radar images taken from low earth orbit

10.  4 million -- the minimum number of tourists who visit the wall each year

Wednesday 29 May 2013

The Coliseum by Numbers

Here are ten figures related to the Roman Coliseum which was built in 70 AD.

1.  10 -- the number of years it took to build the Coliseum

2.  1788 -- the perimeter of the Coliseum


3.  4 -- number of floors

4.  80 -- number of arches per floor

5.  15 -- height in feet of inner wall separating the arena from the spectators

6.  1 million -- number of animals that died during Coliseum games

7.  50,000 -- number of spectators at any given event

8.  3 -- minimum number of massive earthquakes that hit the Coliseum (one collapsed its south side)

9.  20,000 - 30,000 -- number of workers who built the Coliseum

10.  3.8 million -- number of visitors to Coliseum each year

Tuesday 28 May 2013

Berlin Wall by Numbers

Here are ten important figures relating to the building of the Berlin Wall which began on August 13, 1961.

1.  79 -- number of miles of wire fencing, later replaced by concrete

2.  300 -- number of watchtowers

3.  250 -- number of guard dog runs

4.  192 -- number of streets that were closed off to build the wall; many evictions resulted from this decision

The Wall divided families. In this Aug. 26, 1961 photo, two women in West...

A family divided by the Berlin Wall courtesy

5.  30 -- number of miles of barbed wire laid down the first night of the wall's construction

6.  2.7 million -- number of people leaving East Berlin before construction of wall (1949-1961)

Berlin circa 1950's courtesy

7.  1000s -- number of East Berliners who lost their jobs in West Berlin as a result of the wall's erection

Historians have long argued over whether East German leader Walter Ulbricht or...

Image courtesy

8.  3 -- number of checkpoints at the wall (named Alpha, Bravo & Charlie in English; or Helmstedt, Dreilinden & Friedrichstrasse in German)

Checkpoint Charlie courtesy

9.  5000 -- number of successful escapees

                       Image: Escapee

10.  600+ -- number of deaths of failed escapees

The Berlin Wall officially opened on November 9, 1989 and was torn down by 1990.  For more information, read my post "This Wall Will Fall" (November 9, 2011).

Germans standing on the wall days before it was torn down courtesy 

Monday 27 May 2013

The Memory Coat

The six-second medical exam courtesy 

Little Rachel, a member of a Jewish family, fled the persecution of the Cossacks in late 19th century Russia.  Along with her cousin Grisha, who had become an orphan, Rachel and her family boarded a boat to America. After a long, exhausting voyage across the Atlantic, Rachel's family was relieved to arrive in New York Harbor, gazing in awe at the Statue of Liberty as they sailed past.

At Ellis Island, they disembarked and entered the immigration station building.  In the Great Hall, with a 60-foot vaulted ceiling, Rachel's family stood in a long line, waiting to be inspected by an immigration official.  Families huddled in groups, anxious looks on their faces.  Finally, it was Rachel's turn to pass the six-second medical exam.  She did so with flying colours.  Then it was her cousin Grisha's turn.  The official pointed to his eye, which had a small cut and then marked the boy's coat with a giant X.

Fearful that Grisha would be detained at Ellis Island, or worse yet, sent back to Russia, Rachel racked her brain for a solution to the problem.  She pulled Grisha's ragged woolen coat off his shoulders, turned it inside out so the X would be invisible, and then put it back on her cousin.

THe Russian family members held their breath as they passed through the rest of the inspection.  Twenty-nine questions were posed to Rachel's parents.  Where was their home?  What was their occupation?  How much money did they bring with them?  The list was endless.

After a gruelling 3 to 4 hours, they had their answer:  yes, they would be staying in America!  The new immigrants breathed a sigh of relief.  And it was all thanks to the quick thinking of little Rachel.

Note:  For more information about Ellis Island, read my blog post "The Ghosts of Ellis Island" dated August 10, 2012.

The Memory Coat by Elvira Woodruff courtesy

Sunday 26 May 2013

Woofits, Primpits & Loitersackes

Here are ten more obsolete English terms.

1.  woofit:  a hangover

2.  doggo:  in hiding; desire to be left alone

3.  batten:  to fatten; grow fat

4.  primpit:  stiffly dressed

5.  loitersacke:  a lazy, loitering fellow

6.  egg-wife-trot:  an easy jog; the speed a farmer's wife might carry eggs to market

Forgotten English

7.  sport ivory:  to smile

8.  puckfyst:  thirsty, as in a dried toadstall

9.  bouffage:  a satisfying meal (from the French)

10.  quixotism:  a romantic, absurd notion


Saturday 25 May 2013

Snoutfairs, Flamfoos & Gazoolies

I stumbled upon an interesting book called The Word Museum, by Jeffery Kacirk, full of English terms that are obsolete.  Here are ten of them.

1.  scandaroon:  a carrier pigeon

2.  nimgimmer:  a doctor or surgeon

3.  bowelhive:  a deadly distemper common among Scottish infants

4.  kiddliwink:  a small shop where they retail commodities of the village store

5.  gazooly:  constantly uttering laments

6.  flamfoo:  a gaudily dressed woman whose chief pleasure consists of dresses and flamboyant styles

7.  pastorauling:  playing at shepherds and shepherdesses:  used of lovers walking in the fields together

8.  merry-go-sorry:  mixed up feeling of joy and laughter accompanied by sorrow and crying; mood swings

9.  snoutfair:  a person with a handsome countenance

10.  lunting:  walking while smoking a pipe

Friday 24 May 2013

Sylvester & Tweety

Today I had just finished my lunch and was sitting at the kitchen table when a tiny bird perched itself on my windowsill:  it had bright yellow feather with a black head and wings and an orange beak.  I had never seen such a bird before in our neighbourhood.  I took a good look so that I could try to identify it online later.

I cleared away the dishes and then I heard our black cat, Midnight, scratching at the front window.  I looked into the living room to discover that the same yellow bird I had seen moments before was perched on the front windowsill.  Midnight was perched on a chair, her hind legs on the arm and her front paws scratching at the glass, her tail wagging, her mint green eyes as wide as saucers.  Rather than flying away, the bird just remained on the windowsill, staring at the cat.  It would hop to and fro, poke its beak into its fur, and then hop some more.  Midnight would wait patiently for the bird to return to her side of the window, and then pounce again, only to be stopped short by the glass.  This ritual went on for about ten minutes.

Finally, the bird flew away.  The Sylvester & Tweety Show was over, at least for the time being.  I filled up the watering can to water the front garden.  When I opened the door, guess who was perched on the screen?

P.S.  Later I googled "yellow bird with black head and wings" and got the response, American Goldfinch.  It is state bird of New Jersey, Washington and Iowa.  So what is one doing here in Ontario?  And why today? I asked Rob when he got home and he suggested that maybe the bird was cold and was rubbing up against the glass to get warm.  That's it!  This morning it was only 3 or 4 degrees Celsius.  The goldfinch ended up sticking around for most of the afternoon.

Thursday 23 May 2013

Empire State Building by Numbers

Here are some figures about the Empire State Building, built during the Great Depression as part of a race to construct the tallest building.

1.  6000 -- number of windows

2.  1860 -- number of steps

Opening day photo circa 1931 courtesy

3.  1 -- number of minutes it takes to reach the 80th floor by elevator

4.  57,000 -- weight in tons of the building's skeleton

5.  1 year, 45 days -- length of time it took to build the structure

Opening day photo circa 1931 courtesy

6.  102 -- number of floors

7.  80 -- number of miles you can see from its summit on a clear day

8.  3.5 million -- number of visitors each year

9.  3400 -- number of workers it took to build

10.  7 million -- number of man hours it took to construct


Note:  For more information, read my blog posts "Bomber Flies into Empire State Building" (July 28, 2012) and "The Doorman Teddy Bear" (August 9, 2012).