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When Canada Tried to Join America

If there’s ever a 51st state in the United States, it’ll most likely be Puerto Rico or the District of Columbia. But if these very small political movements had had their way, we’d already have more states: former Canadian provinces. All of Western Canada The Unionest (“union” + “best”) formed in 1980 by former members […]

Keeping the Pace With Earl Bakken

In October of 2018, this former electronics repairman died at the age of 94. What did he go on to do? Revolutionize medicine and save lives. It started with Frankenstein Even as a child, Earl Bakken was obsessed with electronics, an inclination that started when he saw Frankenstein on a Saturday movie matinee in Minneapolis. […]

Classroom Origins

Close your eyes and think back on your school days. Picture that chalkboard and the hand-cranked pencil sharpener, and that soft pink eraser in your desk. Here’s where all that stuff came from. (This article was first published in our 31st annual edition, Uncle John’s Actual and Factual Bathroom Reader.)  Pink Erasers  The Faber-Castell Company had been making pencils in Bavaria […]

A Pirate By Any Other Name

Today is International Talk Like a Pirate Day! Or, should you know of those scourges of the sea by a different name, International Talk Like a Buccaneer Day. There have been lots of different words throughout history synonymous with pirates, and here’s a little bit about their origins. Or rather, arrrrrr-igins. Buccaneer Pirates, as the […]

Behind “The Star-Spangled Banner”

Here’s some trivia about the U.S. National Anthem. The Defense of Fort McHenry While Francis Scott Key took the tune whole cloth from a 1700s drinking song called “To Anacreon in Heaven,” he wrote the lyrics after being eyewitness to the American victory at Fort McHenry, a battle during the War of 1812 against England. […]