Dazed & Confused | Whyzat?
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Q: Why are harsh rules and laws "Draconian"?
A: It's probably time that Draco, a Greek who lived in ancient Athens, had a major PR overhaul. First of all, Draco--from whom we get "Draconian"--sounds too much like Dracula. There's also a lizard called a draco. And then there's the matter of his reputation. Draco has become forever associated with laws and rules in which the response to any kind of misconduct is to "hang 'em high."
Draco lived in the seventh century B.C. and gave Athens, the cradle of democracy, its first written code of laws. That's the good part. The bad part is that his code punished virtually everything with death. The code was so...well, so Draconian that one of Draco's contemporaries said that it was "written in blood." Come to think of it, maybe his name ought to sound like Dracula's.
Q: How do they make mirrors?
A: There are probably few things more interesting, perplexing, and sometimes disturbing as our own reflections. Since ancient Egypt, when people used shiny metal to bring themselves face to face with their face, we've used mirrors to keep an eye on ourselves.
Commercial glass mirrors were first produced in 16th century Venice. It was the Renaissance, when realistic portraits came into vogue and literature and philosophy were suddenly emphasizing the individual.
The mirror glass was backed by a mixture of mercury and tin, a method that was used until the 19th century, when a chemically treated silver-ammonia compound replaced it. The backing, supported and protected by the glass, reflects the image. The material also chemically attracts narcissistic individuals, causing addiction.
Q: If Nazi Germany was the Third Reich, what were the first two?
A: Adolf Hitler promised the German people many things to feed their dreams of glory. For example, he said that the Nazis would purify the population, creating a "master race." These Aryan supermen and women would be blonde (like the brown-haired Hitler?), tall (like the diminutive propaganda minister, Joseph Goebbels?) and slim (like the portly head of the Luftwaffe, Hermann Goering?).
Hitler also named the new Germany the Third Reich, promising a link to the glory of the country's past. ("Reich" is German for empire.) The first Reich was the medieval Holy Roman Empire, which united much of what is now Germany and Italy. The second was created by Otto Von Bismarck in 1871. The Fuhrer promised that his Third Reich would last 1,000 years. But it died along with the master race in 1945, in the ruins of Berlin, after a mere twelve.
Q: What happens to houseflies in the winter?
A: I know where a lot of people would like them to go - a warm place, and I don't mean south, like the birds. Flies perform absolutely no useful purpose, unless you have a cat who finds chasing and catching them entertaining. If I had my way, there wouldn't be enough flies surviving the summer for us to wonder about where they spend their winters.
In fact, none of them make it from one summer to the next no matter where they are. Most don't even make it through the month, with a typical life-span that ranges from one to three weeks. So shouldn't their reappearance en masse each summer fly in the face of logic? No, because a few manage to survive - and because a single pair can generate more than three trillion offspring in one season. With those numbers, hang on to your swatter.
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