Word from Bird April 2016

Buried treasure

Archeologists in Germany claim they have stumbled upon a very significant artifact.

A toilet.

That’s right, a toilet.

But it is not just any toilet - it presumably is the toilet that Martin Luther, the founder of the Protestant religion, sat upon while writing his famous 95 Thesis that launched the Protestant Reformation.

Historians claim that Luther admitted to having chronic constipation and spent a great deal of time “in the office” as it is colloquially known around here. Experts say that they believe the majority of Luther’s writings were actually done while he was “occupied.”

The 450-year-old toilet was found while workers were preparing to plant a garden on the grounds of his home in Wittenberg. The toilet, allegedly advanced for its time, was constructed out of stone blocks and even had a seat with a hole in it, which, supposedly, is a rare feature in ancient plumbing.

The discovery of the toilet leads to the speculation of its place in history.

Many other common items used by famous people are on display in various museums throughout the world.

The Smithsonian Museum has the writing desk that Thomas Jefferson used to write the Declaration of Independence, as well as other items of historical significance, but I doubt they will reserve a space for Luther’s privy. But they could put it next to Archie Bunker’s toilet that revolutionized American television. I’m sure another toilet wouldn’t look out of place.

Other items of interest in the Smithsonian include; George Washington’s false teeth, Abraham Lincoln’s top hat, Benjamin Franklin’s glasses and Fonzie’s leather jacket.

So I did some research for some other “mundane” objects that may be of interest to museum curators around the world. They can use my list and begin digging up yards and sorting through old boxes to find them and add to their collection.

Alexander the Great’s toothbrush. When the great conqueror was roaming about southern Europe and Africa, he surely had to carry a toothbrush. Without it his breath would have been nasty and he would have been known as Alexander the Fish Breath. It may be hard to find, but if some archeologists started digging in the sand I’m sure they could find it.

Attila the Hun’s teddy bear. The raving barbarian had a tender side according to some historians. He may have kept it hidden from his army, but I bet he slept with a cuddly toy at night.

Paul Revere’s water bottle. The man famous for the line “The British are coming,” traveled many a mile on that fateful night. He must have gotten thirsty.

James Polk’s pet rock. It isn’t widely known but one of our most beloved presidents had a pet rock long before they became popular in the 70’s. President Polk would discuss many important domestic and foreign issues with “Pebbles.” When he died, Pebbles vanished from history. Or did she?

Jimmy Hoffa’s private vault. Oh, wait. Scratch that. Geraldo tried that and fell on his face.

These are just a few of the lost treasures that are waiting to be re-discovered and displayed to the public.

 

Sunken treasure

I love stories like this:

The contents of a shipping container, lost at sea, have been washing ashore, treating residents to a special surprise when they walk along the beach.

If you remember a few years ago I told you about a similar story regarding a shipping container of rubber ducks that went adrift and surprised many people by washing up on beaches across the globe.

But this story is even better.

You see, the shipping container in question was lost over 17 years ago. And it’s contents? Legos!

According to the tale, 62 containers were washed off a container ship in 1997 about 20 off England’s coast. One of the containers carried 5 million Lego pieces bound for New York. Obviously, they never made it.

Instead, for nearly two decades, residents of Cornwall have been finding bits and pieces of the lost treasure along the shore.

There is even a competitive streak among them to see who can recover the most unusual piece. Since most of the individual pieces were nautical themed, including nearly 100,000 Lego scuba tanks, people have been collecting and cataloging their finds.

One of the most sought after prizes is an octopus, of which there have been three reported findings over the years.

I had a lot of Legos as a child – they were my favorite toy growing up. I had thousands of pieces, and loved getting new shapes, or designs whenever they hit the store shelves. I could not imagine having 5 million of them – let alone finding my collection on a beach.

Every so often I would find a stray piece on a playground, or in the street. I would pick it up and stuff it in my pocket to add to my collection later.

I’m sure somewhere there was a kid bemoaning a piece that fell out of his backpack, or dropped off his favorite new design he wanted to show his friends. I know I lost more than my share over the years.

I find stories like this intriguing, not just because it is weird and wonderful, but because scientists can use it for the betterment of mankind.

Most cases of lost flotsam turning up on beaches are studied to determine where it originated and when. That data can be compiled to study ocean currents.

The Cornwall case is different, since most of the debris seems to be limited to that specific area – befuddling scientists. Theoretically, the pieces should have traveled the globe in the past 17 years, it should have reached the coast of Florida in only three years, and then on to other distant shores.

Ocean trash is no new development.

There is a huge patch of debris in the Pacific Ocean that has actually formed an island, complete with its own ecosystem, including a coast line, underwater mountains and colonies of fish and other sea life living among it.

The debris is found in a place where ocean currents come together and cancel each other out, leaving a strange vortex where the trash can float in, but can’t escape.

 

 

Hope springs eternal

April is a heady month for any baseball fan.

Spring training is done, and the teams break camps to start the regular season.

On opening day every team stands at the top of the standings, and every fan dreams about the year to come.

As a life-long fan of the Chicago Cubs, April has always been one of my most favorite parts of the season.

In April every Cub fan has optimism for the upcoming season, but as it has been well documented, the last time the Cubs won the World Series was 1908, or 116 years ago. And the last time they even played in the Fall Classic was in 1945.

Those stats are always in the forefront of a Cubs fan’s mind when the season starts. Our mantra in April has always been: “This is the year.”

But by May it typically becomes, “Wait until next year.”

April has a lot of bad memories for me as a Cub fan. I remember 1981, when the team finished the month with a 2-13-1 record. Only a tie against the Cardinals on the last day of the month prevented a worse record. 1983, famous for the Lee Ellia rant (Cub fans will know what I’m talking about – just don’t look for it if you’re offended by strong language.) That year the Cubbies finished the month with a 6-14 record.

And 1997; when they started the year 0-14, and ended the month with 6 wins and 19 losses.

But this year is different.

The Cubs, long considered long shots to win it all, actually start the season as favorites to turn it around and contend for a title.

Through the first week of the season they went 6-1 and are scoring runs in bunches.

The fan in me is excited, but as someone who witnessed over 40 years of futility – there is something in the back of my head telling me to not put too much stock in one week of a season.

Yes, the Cubs are loaded with talent. Heavy hitters and ace pitchers. But they led the league in strikeouts last year, and that is something that will bite you in the long run.

They were healthy coming in to the season, but already have lost a top-rated prospect to a year-long injury.

Pitching is always a crap-shoot. Even with three legitimate number 1 hurlers on the roster, including last year’s Cy Young Award winner, all it takes is one of the aces to loose confidence or throw out an arm to derail the rotation.

It must be the cynic in me that I can’t just enjoy the season as it rolls along and root for my favorite team.

In the past it was about cheering on the hapless underdogs.

But with the expectations so high for the Cubs this year, I know every other team is gunning to take them down, so I am cautiously optimistic about ending the 108-year drought.

But I won’t be able to relax until after October.

Remember When?

Am I really that old, or does everyone else just seem younger?

Ok, that was just a rhetorical question, and I certainly don’t consider myself over the hill. But every once in a while I stumble across something that really makes me feel older than I really am.

I found a list detailing things that my generation grew up with, that are already ancient history to kids of today.

I’m not complaining, mind you. It is just sometimes interesting to ponder how fast society is moving today compared to just a few decades ago.

My parents and grandparents saw a lot of technological change in their younger days, but nowhere near as fast as we do today.

Progress is always good, and technological advances often lead to further innovation. And sometimes it just snowballs, seemingly out of control.

Just look at the way we listen to music.

When I was in high school it was a big thing to own a Walkman so you could listen to whatever you wanted…as long as it fit on a 90-minute cassette tape. Soon backseats of cars were filled with tape holders, so you never were without your favorite music.

Today, 20 years later, I can fit my entire music collection on one 5 by 3 inch device.

I don’t have to worry about changing cassettes, flipping the tape, or spending hours compiling my favorite songs together on one tape.

Now, a few clicks of a button on my computer does it all. I can even buy my music online, and never have to deal with a scratched CD again.

Remember pay phones? I do. Whenever I went out I had to remember to keep a quarter in reserve so if I needed to call mom to pick me up, I had a way to get hold of her.

Now, it seems kids are handed a cell phone as soon as they get out of the maternity ward.

And let us not forget the old rotary phones. Kids today will never know the wonderful experience of having to dial a number quickly, but having to wait for the dial to return to its starting position.

While I’m at it, typewriters – virtually gone. Answering machines – ancient history. Actual film for a camera – hard to find today.

And something that I believe is really big; encyclopedias.

They are still around, but today kids doing research papers for class can just pull up exactly what they need with a quick internet search.

That is a good thing, but they are missing out on something else – the joy of accidental discovery.

I can remember leafing through an old Funk and Wagnalls for some topic, and getting completely sidetracked by an adjoining article.

I may have been searching for information on a foreign country for a history project, but would have to wade through some interesting facts that weren’t relevant to my search to find what I was looking for.

Now, a few keystrokes can narrow down your investigation, but you are liable to miss out on the big picture.

Technology is great, and I for one, certainly use it quite a bit and don’t really want to go back to the “good old days.” But, I still can appreciate some of the old things in my memory.

 

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