A Journal of the Plague Year 3.0 Day 14

30th December 2020

Okay I have no idea what to talk about, call it writer’s block if you will.

I could run through the derisory dregs that today has been, but why would anyone be interested in the fact someone stayed in bed all day watching a computer?

I could go on about what I encountered on my trip to Lidl, a tense safari into the anthropological phenomenon that is grocery shopping and capitalism.

I could moan about the past and the future, both as elegantly clouded as the inland sea of Japan on August 6th, 1945.

I could fire off reports gleaned from today’s headlines, though likely we would all have scrolled through that already, and seen the proclamations on social media.

I could decry social media and screentime, like the grumpy old fart I am become.

I should have a spinny thingy, to pick my subject. Just 2020 has turned too repetitive. Might instead be time for pizza.

For the new year that beckons, I will choose to finish on a high note (okay, not too high we don’t wanna be Disney about it all), plus some random shit. I mean, wtf is there to this world?

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…So to start:

  1. Your cat can run faster than Usain Bolt (who runs at 34ft/ 10.3m a second) -30 mph versus 27.8 mph. Bear that in mind next time Mr Tiggles goes for the cat bowl. Put it 100m away in a straight line, and time the little fucker, if he gets it in 10 seconds.

2. -But humans can jump further than horses -8.95m versus 6.1m. Yes, Mike Powell (US) jumped nearly 30 ft. The triple jump record is 18.3m or 60ft by Jonathan Edwards (UK).

3. Cats are lactose intolerant, kittens aren’t

4. In 1919 the Toffee Apple Tsunami killed 21 and injured 150 when a 25ft wave of molasses washed away a Boston district. Yes, people drowned in treacle (told you it’d get dark). Thousands of Bostonians came to inspect the damage, walking bizarre through coated city blocks, then took their gooey footprints across the city. It was said you could work out everyone’s goings on.

5. An anaconda can be 90cm thick

6. The Titanoboa from prehistoric Colombia (of the Thankfuckitsgonic era), was twice as long -at 65ft. The one below’s eating a crocodile.

7. When Tangled was released in 2010 it was the world’s second most expensive film (after Pirates of the Caribbean: World’s End), at $260 million. Yes, it cost more than Titanic, or Avatar.

8. Tianjin West is the second largest train station in Tianjin

9. If the sun was a football, the Earth would be 2mm speck -25 metres/ 82 feet away (look at the image below and shrink that Earth to a few pixels, then scroll left, into the next street to see the sun). As for the moon, it would take a commercial jetliner cruising at 450mph 5 weeks nonstop to reach it. Or half a swipe:

10. The Earth once had three moons, though not at the same time. Two crashed into each other to form the one we see today, which is why the side that faces us is so flat (covered in plains known as ‘marias‘), and the ‘dark’ side -or the side that always faces away from us (as it has days and nights as per norm) is craggy, mountainous and on average 1.2 miles higher.

11. The other ‘moon’ was a planet about the size of Mars, named Theia, that crashed into Earth 4.5 billion years ago wiping out any single celled life. It turned the surface into molten lava for 100 million years with periodic extinction level events as debris slowly crashed back into us -one of which never did and gave us the moon we see today. This little ball spinning round us keeps us in check -the perfect size to keep our orbit in the ‘Goldilocks zone’ -not too hot, not too cold for complex life to evolve. Lose the Moon and we’ll freeze to death every winter and ignite every summer.

12. Crocodiles aren’t dinosaurs, but they predate most of them by over 100 million years.

13. Frankenstein’s monster was a vegan: “My food is not that of man; I do not destroy the lamb and the kid to glut my appetite; acorns and berries afford me sufficient nourishment.”

14. The worst fireworks accident killed 300 (and some say as high as 800). It happened during the 1770 marriage of Marie Antoinette to Louis XIV, and deemed presciently unlucky.

15. On 2nd March 1657, a kimono inherited by three teenage girls -each haunted by a ‘beautiful shadow’ and dying shortly after (the original made by a courtesan copying the designs on a handsome visitor) was burned in exorcism. Midway through a sudden wind flared, setting light to 70% of Tokyo and destroying 500 temples, shrines, and palaces and 3,000 shops -killing 100,000. It was dubbed the Long Sleeves Fire.

16. In 1274 the Mongols, armed with Chinese armadas, Korean turtle ships and Mongol galleons invaded Japan with 900 ships. After they overran Iki island and its castle, they decorated the sides of their boats with the crucified bodies of the courtier women and set sail for Hakata bay. After spirited fighting the Japanese made a last stand in a nearby castle -but found the Mongols never followed them. They’d retreated as a great typhoon blew in, and their fleet dashed against the shores. Less than half of the 30,000 crew survived. This was the first modern warfare, employing the Chinese gunpowder weapons -bombs, mines, grenades, flamethrowers and ‘fire lances’ (prototypes to the first guns), plus mechanised crossbows and Korean hwacha launchers that fired 200 arrows at a time.

17. In 1281 the Mongols tried again, this time with an even greater fleet, of 4,300 ships and 140,000 troops. Many were commandeered paddle wheel vessels that guarded the mouth of the major estuaries of China -though bristling with weaponry they were designed to be riverine – barely seaworthy, which proved a second undoing when another typhoon rolled in. Iki island was again attacked and its 300 inhabitants massacred, even the children chased to their doom. The Mongols continued to the Japanese mainland but were met with a vast new wall along the coast, and beaten back by arrows and small attacks in which Japanese marauders would board ships in the dead of night and leave with all their heads. The stalemate lasted two weeks in which the rice ran out and the Japanese Emperor held a ceremony praying to swap his life for the protection of the nation. A few days later a second typhoon hit, destroying most of the fleet and creating the world’s largest underwater graveyeard -the Japanese overran the survivors, executing the Mongols, Koreans and northern Chinese but saving the southern Chinese (who had recently been conquered), for a life in slavery. The typhoon would forever be known as the ‘divine wind’ aka kamikaze.

18. The UK’s temperature record is higher than Singapore’s (90 miles from the Equator)

19. Avocado means testicle in Aztec. Guacamole mean’s testicle sauce.

20. Before WWI children could be mailed

21. The world’s tallest child for his age is Karan Singh at 6ft 6 (2 metres). He’s 8 years old.

Though it’s unsurprising. His dad is 6ft 8 and his mum 7 ft 2.

22. The biggest goldfish caught was 38lbs and may have been a century old 😦

23. The record for an animal living without its head was Miracle Mike, a chicken that survived for one and a half years. He was fed with a pipette and would wander about attempting to cluck, peck at things and crow -producing a gurgling sound instead. At 25c a ticket he was soon earning his owner the equivalent of $50,000 a month. Mike finally died in a Vegas hotel room in 1947, after choking on a kernel of sweetcorn dropped down his neck.

24. During the filming of the Mummy, Brendan Fraser nearly died during a hanging scene. Rachel Weisz said he stopped moving and breathing and had to be resuscitated.

25. Prepping for Bridget Jones’s Diary Renee Zellwegger gained several pounds and went undercover to work in a London publishing office for a month. No one recognised her and found it odd she had a framed photo of Jim Carrey on her desk -her real time boyfriend.

26. The clock on top of the Abraj al Bait in Meccah (the world’s third tallest building, and biggest skscraper) is as tall as St Stephen’s Tower aka Big Ben.

27. The world’s largest organism is a forest of Quaking Aspen in Utah, USA. Their interconnected root system makes it a single organism -called Pando, who has survived in one form or other for 14,000 years, with some estimates as high as a million. Note how all the trees are the same height:

28. Another competitor is a honey fungus colony in Oregon, believed to be 2,400 years old and weighing 605 tons. Mostly underground it covers nearly 9 sq km.

29. The oldest animal in the world was an Ocean Quahog, who was born in 1499, was 502 years old and named Ming, after the Chinese Dynasty at that time. Caught in Iceland they worked out how old it was from -similar to a tree -counting the rings in its shell. They did this by cutting it in half.

30. In 2016 they caught something older. A Greenland Shark measured at 512 years old, by carbon dating inert crystals that developed in her eye at birth. Noone is sure how these huge sharks (bigger than Great Whites) catch anything at all, being very slow and supremely spooky, aka zombie fish -almost every one is infected with an eye parasite making them blind on top. They think it sneaks up on sleeping seals. They grow at 0.5 -1cm a year and reach 24 ft, averaging 20ft fully grown. The shark caught was only 16 ft, and she was killed as bycatch – a byword for the billions of fish and animals needlessly killed when dredging the sea for key species, which we cherry pick out of the mass of bodies, like prawns. She, along with 28 others, was one of them.

31. This creosote bush in the Mojave desert in the US is believed to be 11,700 years old -multiple times older than any Giant Seqouia or bristlecone pine. It only grows at a few cm a year, in a ring that incrementally gets wider.

32. Humans have 21 confirmed senses, and 33 debatable ones. They include balance, pain, awareness of one’s body, temperature, hunger, thirst, vomiting, itching, acceleration and air pressure.

33. The world record for burpees was set by Stephanie Tennessen, at 716 in an hour. The previous record was also by a woman, at 709. Other records set by women over men are in the ultra marathon: Lizzy Hawker from the UK ran 320km through the Himalayas -from Everest Base Camp -and broke the record twice. Also free diving -Tanya Streeter from the US, diving to 160m/ 525ft, and Şahika Ercümen from Turkey, who dove to 122m/ 400ft in the variable weight category.

34. Humans give off a tiny amount of visible light. We glow -though it’s mostly invisible to us.

35. By 2100 Lagos, Kinshasa or Dar Es Salaam will be the world’s largest singular cities, each nearing 80-90 million. Kabul and Niamey will have ballooned to over 50 million. The small country of Malawi will have its sleepy cities of Lilongwe and Blantyre (pictured below) each over 40 million.

Bonus – Wanda Marie Johnson was born on 15th of June 1953, eldest sister of two sisters and one brother. Wanda Marie Johnson was also born on 15th of June 1953, eldest sister of two sisters and one brother.

Both of the Wandas were former residents of the District of Columbia before moving to Prince Georges County in 1975, where they both became mothers of two children, attended to at the Howard Clinic and born at the Howard University Hospital.

They both owned 1977 two door Ford Grenadas – the eleven digit serial numbers of which were identical other than the last three. Their Social Security numbers had the same first four digits, and the following two, although transposed, were the same. They only discovered each other after a catalogue of mix ups at the hospital, paying bills, getting calls from strangers and the motor dept insisting one of them wear her nonexistent glasses for driving. They also resembled each other, though one outgoing, the other shy.

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Okay, now you see what I’ve been doing with my time. Welcome to my world; I might as well be clickbait.

Tomorrow, New Year’s Eve.

To finish off, some random pics of Honduran White bats. Enjoy.

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