Saturday, March 19, 2011

Learning more about Japan

Currently and over the last few weeks the world has been tracking the devastating news in Japan. As I have been following the relief efforts and day-by-day coverage I have been praying for all those directly and indirectly effected. In situations like these I feel it is just as important to know about the current events, but also to remind your self what wonderful features a person, in this case a country, has to offer.

Being a 23 year old student from Canada with little money to travel I have realized I know very little about Japan, other then the basics. Personally I have felt an incline to rapidly learn more about the country behind what is being covered in the news. In this blog I would like to educate others on three interesting facts I have found while researching more about the country of Japan.

“Japanese celebrate Christmas, but it is more like Valentine's Day in the western world” Facts. “About .5% of the Japanese population is estimated to be Christian, with the majority of Japanese being tolerant of all faiths: Buddhism, Christianity, Shinto, etc.” They are embrasures of several different festivals and celebrations and tend to celebrate Christmas on more of a commercial level. Dec. 23 is there national holiday for the present emperor’s birthday and Jan. 1 is the most important holiday in Japan for New Years (shogatsu of oshogatsu). Many businesses will remain closed until Jan. 3. If only Canada would set a three-day holiday and we could spend more time with the family like Japan does. Part of the reason why Jan. 1 is a major holiday is because Japanese traditionally view each year as completely separate, providing a fresh start. They have a belief that all duties should be completed before the New Year and the parties are called “bonenkai parties” meaning “year forgetting parties”.

“Sometimes the trains are so crowded railway staff are employed to cram passengers inside” Facts. This is not surprising since Japan has over 127 million people, making them the tenth-largest population in the world. The Yamanote line in Tokyo carries between three to four million passengers everyday. During rush hour “tushy pushers” shove people into trains. So if you go to Japan remind yourself this is normal someone may touch your tushy while on a subway if your close to the door.

“Vending machines in Japan sell beer, hot and cold canned coffee, cigarettes, and other items” Facts. Japan has one of the world’s highest vending machine densities. Many of the machines will only sell your typical pop, juice, vitamin or energy drinks, while others sell alcoholic beverages and cigarettes. On a smaller scale it is possible to find ice cream, rice, disposable cameras, instant noodles in a vending machine.

I hope some of these facts have enticed people to learn more about Japan.
My heart goes out to all those have been affected by the disasters happening in Japan. 

External Links:

Monday, March 7, 2011

I could be the next great baker

Over the past month I have been fascinated with professional cake decorating. I have spent countless hours in front of the television watching Ace of Cakes on the Food Network and Cake Boss on TLC. I thought to myself, “that doesn’t look so hard. I could make a cake like that in no time.”
This was the final product

I figured this was a perfect time because a friend of mine was celebrating his 23rd
 birthday. I started my list and headed out to the store to grab all the supplies I would need. Now in the past I have done some simple cake decorating with butter cream icing but never used fondant before. Let me tell you boys and girls, it’s a lot of work.
In total I spent about three days making a cake and that included all the preparing, baking, decorating, and cleaning. With all that time spent alone in the kitchen I started thinking to myself, “why did I even start this? and where did the tradition of birthday cakes come from?"

Many historians have their different opinions of where the birthday cake originated. It is believed that the Ancient Greeks were the first to start this tradition. The story goes, “the Greeks offered round shaped cakes to the Goddess of Moon called Artmis. It is for this reason that even candles were placed on the cake to make it glow like the moon.” (source)

Some other interesting cake facts I found were:

  • Millions of years ago Celtic people used ago cakes in a ritual. When celebrating a festival called Beltane, they lit bonfires at the top of a hill and rolled cakes down the hill. If the cake didn’t break, they believed it would bring good fortune.
  • In England during the 17th century people believed keeping fruitcakes under the pillows of those who were unmarried would give that individual sweet dreams about a fiancĂ©e.
  • During the medieval times in England people would place objects like coins, rings, and thimbles in the cake batter. It was believed that those who found the coins in the cake would become wealthy and those who found the thimble would never marry. The lucky individual who found a ring in the cake would soon be married.

Today cakes have become apart of so many different traditions it’s hard to keep track of the original purpose. Either way i'll eat a nice piece of cake if you make it next time. 

External Links:
History of Cakes
Birthday History

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Road Trip

Over the past week I have been on a road trip through Northern Ontario. I began my adventure in Burlington, Ont. with the final destination of Sudbury, Ont. programmed into my G.P.S.

While I was driving I started talking to myself, “I really don’t know much about the province of Ontario. I mean I’ve grown up here, but never really learned about my surrounding.” It was a long drive.

After some digging, these are the most interesting tidbits of information I have found:
  • Ontario is the second largest province in Eastern Canada, only Quebec is larger. If Ontario could be its own country it would be larger than France and Spain combined.
  • Some cities in Ontario are actually south of places in the United States. As a Canada I have always thought of Canada as North of the U.S., even if I can clearly see on a map that Toronto and much of the Niagara Region is south of Seattle, North Dakota and parts of Maine, I never really put that much thought into it.
  • This summer, if you haven’t already been, take a trip out to the world’s largest freshwater beach, Wasaga Beach. Along Georgian Bay you can enjoy 14 km of sand and sun.

#500 locomotive on preserve.
  • In Gananoque, Ont. (north, east of Kingston, Ont.) used to have North American’s shortest running railway: The Thousand Island Railway was only 5.43 km long. The service ran for 111 years from 1884 to 1995, and in October 1997 the rails were removed. Today you can visit the unique locomotive #500 preserved at Sculpture Park, where King Street crosses the Gananoque River and go for a hike along the old track.

At my final destination, Greater Sudbury, I was able to visit the world’s largest coin: the Big Nickel, a giant reproduction of a 1951 Canadian Nickel, measuring 30ft in diameter.

As you have travelled across Ontario, short or long distances, is there anything interesting you have learned about Ontario?

External Links:

Monday, February 21, 2011

And the winner is...

James Franco, Anne Hathaway
The last of the awards are being handed out in a few days at the 83rd Oscars. The 2011 Oscars air on ABC at 8 p.m. (EST) on
Feb. 27, 2011. James Franco and Anne Hathaway are hosting this year’s awards.

In the past I have never shown an interest for award season; however, this year I have been fascinated with the nominations, styles, and gossip around the awards.

During my award captivation I have learned a few interesting facts and figured I would share them.

Did you know…
  • The red carpet at the Kodak Theatre, where the ceremony is held, is about 500 feet long and 33 feet wide. Along this 500 foot long space, over 100 photographers and 300 TV media members will be documenting every moment. No wonder actors and actresses get stressed out when it comes to finding the best red carpet outfit.  

Youngest winners
Tatum O'Neal
  • The youngest Oscar winner, excluding special awards, was 10-year-old Tatum O’Neal, who won for best supporting actress for 1973’s Paper Moon.
  • Youngest to receive an Oscar of any kind was Shirley Temple at the age of five in 1934; however, Shirley’s Oscar was considered an honorary award.

Oldest Winner
  • In 1990, Jessica Tandy won the Best Actress Oscar at age 81 for Driving Miss Daisy.
Longest acceptance speech
  • Actress Greer Garson’s acceptance speech went on for an overwhelming five minutes. Today, Oscar winners are advised to keep their speeches to 45 seconds in length.

 Additional Facts
  • The Academy Awards were first broadcast on radio in 1930.
  • Over 90 million people watched the first television broadcast in 1953.
  • Gone With the Wind was the first coloured movie to win best picture (1939).
  • The biggest loser of all times is Kevin O'Connell, a sound re-recording mixer who holds the record for most Academy Award nominations without a win at 20. He originally set the record in 2006 with his 18th nomination and loss, making him the "unluckiest nominee in the history of the Academy Awards".

Share your knowledge; please add any “award winning” facts below.


Monday, February 14, 2011

They don’t call it ‘French Kissing’ in France.

Happy Valentines Day! I hope everyone is taking a second today to tell their friends and family how much they care about one another. With all the recent talk surrounding Valentines Day in the news and magazines, I decided to explore a fact about kissing.

Everyone can remember his or her first kiss, good or bad. This was an exciting experience for some and a game of tongue-war for others. When a kiss is done properly it is a very personal and sensual experience.

With many forms of kissing around the world, the French Kiss is famously known as the “kiss involving the tongue”. Some people have referred to the French Kiss as the “Soul Kiss because the life and soul are thought to pass through the mouth's breath in the exchange across tongues”. Did you know that in France they don’t actually refer to this type of kissing as the French Kiss?

With a little digging I found out that French kissing has been referred to as baiser anglais (translation: “english kiss”) in some northern parts of France. More commonly in France it is referred to as baiser amoureux ("love kiss") or baiser avec la langue ("kiss with the tongue"). In French slang, this type of kissing is called a patin (“ice skating shoe”), or rouler un patin ("roll a skate") or rouler une pelle ("roll a shovel"). How romantic is that once you have translated it into English? 

I pondered, why do they still call it a French Kiss if that is not how the French refer to it? Well, why not? The French have historically been know as romantic and one of the first people to accept public displays of love and affection. Also, Paris, France is recognized as a destination of love and romance to visitors from around the world. To me it only makes sense that we still refer to it as a French Kiss.
What do you think?

Other types of kissing

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

11 Minutes

In honor of the weekend Super Bowl celebration: did you know the actual football is only played for an average of 11 minutes during a seasonal NFL game?

“According to a Wall Street Journal study of four recent broadcasts, and similar estimates by researchers, the average amount of time the ball is in play on the field during an NFL game is about 11 minutes.”
Written in an article of the Wall Street Journal by David Biderman.

Meaning, when you tally up the time it takes for the football to be snapped to when the referees call the play dead is only adds up to 11 minutes.
If there is only an average of 11 minutes action in a football game, then how do broadcasters fill the other 174 minutes of airtime for an average football game?

Keep in mind that an NFL game is typically scheduled between 21/2 to 3 hours of TV airtime and that does not include pre-game and post-game commentary.

Based on my research, the following times are estimates of what TV stations will cover during an NFL broadcast:

Players standing around/ huddling = 75 min
Commercials/ Half time= 60 min
Replays = 17 min
Play Action = 11 min
Shots of head coaches and referees = 
7 min
Injured players = 2 min
Player Celebration (during the game) = 1.7 min
Cheerleaders = 3 seconds
Side fact: that broadcasters will show the Dallas Cheerleaders more frequently then any other cheer team.  This makes sense since they were voted number one in the Beer Store’s Chill magazine.
Some TV networks will fill in extra airtime with fan coverage; different networks concentrate on different elements.

I know as a football fan watching all the extras makes the Sunday football experience. Sitting around with friends, having a few beers, and munching on snacks is part of why I enjoy the game. Still it was surprising to discover that I am only watching 11 minutes of play action. Especially considering it can take up to a whole day to prepare for a Super Bowl party, if not longer. 

This started to make me think about how much play action there is in other sports?
If you know, please share. 

Monday, January 31, 2011


   I have recently been asked to write a blog for a class assignment. When I sat down to think of a blog topic I realized how much time (as a student) I have spent procrastinating. My top procrastination technique is researching amazing and bizarre facts online.
   This got me thinking about recent websites and trivia apps I visit. Too many of the facts posted leave me asking questions about why and how people have come up with this information.
   Through out this blog I will be picking facts and researching the history behind them. I invite you to add information as I am not a true expert on these topics. Join me as I answer questions and we can learn more about each topic together.