The 4 Independent Olympic Athletes

Perhaps you were watching the Olympic ‘Parade of Nations’ when three of the four “Independent Olympic Athletes” entered the arena. They are:

  1. Liemarvin Bonevacia formerly of Netherlands Antilles competing in the Men’s 400 Meter run
  2. Reginald de Windt formerly of Netherlands Antilles competing in the Men’s 81-kg Judo
  3. Philipine van Aanholt formerly of Netherlands Antilles competing in sailing’s Laser Radial competition
  4. Guor Marial (also) of South Sudan competing in the Men’s marathon (not pictured above)

You see, in 2010, the Netherlands Antilles dissolved. It used to be an autonomous country within the Kingdom of the Netherlands that included the two Leeward Antilles island groups in the Caribbean: the ABC islands of Aruba, Bonaire, and Curaçao near Venezuela and the SSS islands of Saint Maarten, Saba, and Saint Eustatius near the Virgin Islands. Bonevacia, de Windt, and van Aanholt are all from Curaçao and since that country is not currently recognized by the International Olympic Committee (IOC), they were given permission to compete as independents.

Additionally, in 2011, South Sudan became independent from Sudan. Marial was born in what is now South Sudan, the world’s youngest nation, but was then Sudan. He became a refugee of the Sudanese conflict in 1993 when he was only nine years old, as he fled across border after border fleeing the violence. Marial was granted asylum in the U.S. in 2001, and is a permanent resident here. He was given permission to compete for Sudan but he responded: “Never! For me to even consider that is a betrayal. My family lost 28 members in the war with Sudan. Millions of my people were killed by Sudan forces. I can only forgive, but I cannot honor and glorify a country that killed my people.”

Join me in wishing these 4 superb athletes luck as they compete in the London 2012 Summer Olympics!

My New Favorite Shark Story

Near Myrtle Beach, SC (more specifically, Rice Circle, Cherry Grove, SC) a 5-ft, 200-lb Bull Shark decided to have a little snack on a 2-ft, 7-lb Red Drum (bass) fish. Of course that’s not really news at all. However, when that Red Drum is on the line of a fisherman (er, uh, fisherwoman) when the shark makes his move and the camera is rolling, well now we have a story!

Sarah Brame was fishing off a ‘marsh-front’ house dock while her fiance William Moore of Franklinton, NC had the camera. She hooked the fish and he aimed the camera to witness the reel-in. Then out of nowhere…(caution: some language justifiably NSFW)

Local news station WPDE caught up with the couple….

“Let’s go swimming” was a phrase not uttered for weeks.

There are typically only three kinds of sharks that will attack humans: Great White, Tiger, and Bull. Bull Sharks are the only ones that don’t care if the water is salty, brackish, or fresh. However, pretty much all sharks attack fish!

And the freaky thing? The more I look at the map, the more I’m realizing that last summer we stayed at a beach house less than a mile from this incident!

Sigh. A mile short and a year early. The story of my life. 🙁

Random Icelandic Leftovers

You may remember we went to Iceland last spring. Since then, I keep running across some random articles about the county and it’s people that I find interesting. Ready?

Though we never saw them, we are still fascinated by the Huldufólk — the Icelandic Hidden People (aka: elves).

The term huldufólk was taken as a synonym of álfar (elves) in 19th century Icelandic folklore…huldufólk originates as a euphemism to avoid calling the álfar by their real name. There is, however, some evidence, that the two terms have come to be taken as referring to two distinct sets of supernatural beings in contemporary Iceland…”different beliefs could have lived side by side in multicultural settlement Iceland before they gradually blended into the latter-day Icelandic álfar and huldufólk…The Norse settlers had the álfar, the Irish slaves had the hill fairies or the Good People. Over time, they became two different beings, but really they are two different sets of folklore that mean the same thing.”

Many (most?) Icelanders not only believe in these elves, but they won’t make any big construction decisions without considering the ramifications on the homes of the huldufólk.

In 1982, 150 Icelanders went to the NATO base in Keflavík to look for “elves who might be endangered by American Phantom jets and AWACS reconnaissance planes.” In 2004, Alcoa had to have a government expert certify that their chosen building site was free of archaeological sites, including ones related to huldufólk folklore, before they could build an aluminum smelter in Iceland. In 2011, elves/huldufólk were believed by some to be responsible for an incident in Bolungarvík where rocks rained down on residential streets.

Just a few months ago, this happened

[Member of Parliament] Árni Johnsen arranged for the relocation of a 30-ton boulder, which he believes is home to three generations of elves…Árni first encountered the elves’ dwelling when he was in a serious car accident in January 2010. His car overturned and landed beside the boulder 40 meters away from the highway…His SUV was damaged beyond repair but Árni escaped the accident unharmed. He considered whether the boulder might be a dwelling for hidden people…a specialist in the affairs of elves [investigated the boulder and] concluded that the boulder’s inhabitants were content with the move. “But they asked whether the boulder could stand on grass. I said that was no problem but asked why they wanted grass. ‘It’s because they want to have sheep'”…The specialist also said that the elves wish for the boulder’s “window side” to face the view…The boulder will be moved on the ferry Herjólfur and the elves will travel in a basket lined with sheep skin so that they can be comfortable on the journey.

Peace On Earth
Ever wondered what the most peaceful country in the world is? Given the context of this post it probably isn’t a shock that it’s Iceland! The Institute for Economics and Peace have ranked all the countries (PDF) by the most peaceful and Iceland came out on top.

Born in Iceland
Iceland’s relatively isolated population is around 300,000 people. That can cause trouble when dating as there’s a good chance your date is a cousin. So to help keep this in check, Icelanders can now check an online database to help.

A search engine called Íslendingabók (the Book of Icelanders) allows users to plug in their own name alongside that of a prospective mate, determining any familial overlap. The site claims to track 1,200 years of genealogical information about the island’s inhabitants. Anyone with an Icelandic ID number — that is, citizens and legal residents — is accounted for.

So what happens when the local population has a child? Well, the first name must be approved by a committee. Luckily there is already a list of approved names (compiled list with name meanings). As for the last name, well, that’s another story.

A Hodgepodge of Music Intrestingness

I’ve been sitting on a lot of music-related articles that I finally decided to consolidate them into one post. Ready? It’s gonna be fun!

Musical Duos
Ever wondered how some successful musical duos met? Mental Floss is ready to tell you about ten of them. For instance, duos such as John Lennon & Paul McCartney, Mick Jagger & Keith Richards, DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince, and one of my favorite stories of Prince & Sheila (Shelia E) Escovedo who…

met in 1978 at a concert, where she was performing with her percussionist father, Pete Escovedo. After the show, Prince approached Sheila, saying that he and a bandmate were just “fighting over which one of [them] would be the first to be [her] husband.” (Neither of them ever were, though she did have a brief relationship with Prince in the mid-80s, while he was seeing the twin sister of The Revolution’s Wendy Melvoin.) In 1984, they joined forces for Purple Rain, which (among a slew of other impressive rankings) was labeled “the best soundtrack of all time” by Vanity Fair in 2007.

“Girl From Ipanema”
From NeatoRama, we get the follow-up of all-time! Who was The Actual Girl From Ipanema? This Bossa-Nova hit from the mid-60’s is a must-know for anyone who appreciates music. (BTW, she was a Brazilian model, of course!)

“Come On Eileen”
Mental Floss also profiled one of my favorite 80’s songs: “Come On Eileen” by Dexys Midnight Runners. I never really understood the song very well but I’ve since been able to unpack what the song is all about.

First of all, the lyrics start by referencing ‘Poor old Johnny Ray’. I probably should be embarrassed for not really knowing much about Mr. Johnny Ray, but his jazz/blues songs in the 50’s were considered to be one of the precursors to Rock And Roll.

Lead singer and songwriter Kevin Rowland is ‘serenading’ his childhood sweetheart, Eileen, by remembering their past (their mothers swooned over Johnny Ray) and their present (they are above their current Celtic culture of people with “beaten-down eyes [and] sunk in smoke-dried faces”). He gets so excited about Eileen that his thoughts move from love to lust within two verses!

But if you remember the song, you can’t forget the “Too-Rye-Ay” stanzas! Turns out its meaning is actually Irish Gaelic for “Goodbye and see you soon” coming from a Gaelic lullaby.

“One Night In Bangkok”
Another favorite songs from the 80’s comes from Murray Head entitled “One Night In Bangkok”. The story behind it might not be what you expected. You see, there was a musical in the early 70’s called “Chess” and it was about the world championship of chess between American Bobby Fischer and Russian Boris Spassky. Not surprisingly, it was a snoozer despite being written by the two dudes from ABBA (Benny Andersson and Bjorn Ulvaeus) and Tim Rice of “Jesus Christ Superstar” and “Evita”. However, the story behind this hit is fascinating and outlined, again, by Mental Floss.

Have a great and musical weekend!

Powdered Wigs

Ever wonder why people wore those crazy-looking powdered wigs back in the day? It’s a really interesting story (most of this comes from this Mentalfloss article).

To over-simplify things, you probably know that Columbus and other Europeans (and their African slaves) came to America and exposed the Native Americans to diseases such as smallpox, the flu, and plagues — and it just about wiped out the Natives. Well, in return, the Americans gave the Europeans the STD syphilis. It’s part of what is known as the Colombian Exchange. Watch this…

One of the symptoms of syphilis is hair loss. In Europe at the time, baldness was quite embarrassing so wigs were created for the people. The powder was to help cover up their rank orders. The wigs were kind of like a scarlet letter in that pretty much the only reason you wore one was because you had syphilis.

…until King Louis XIV of France and King Charles II of England began wearing the wigs in the 1650’s. The wigs were expensive so only the elite could afford them. This is where we get the term ‘bigwig’ meaning an elite, bossy kind of person. Soon wig-making became more popular and an industry was born. As supply went up they became more affordable and it wasn’t just for the elite syphilis-ridden folks anymore!

The wigs went out of style by the late 1700’s. Not sure what they did about syphilis in the 1800’s since penicillin wasn’t discovered until the early 1900’s.

Where Do Rainbows Come From?

Where do rainbows come from? This is actually a pretty fun question. “Answers” range from the scientific to the cultural with a lot of silliness along the way.

First, let’s start with the “what’s the deal with colors?” question by none other than Bill Nye the Science Guy!

So what are the colors of the rainbow? ROYGBIV! That’s Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Indigo, and Violet (you may remember the popular mnemonic device Roy G. Biv to remember the colors). However for most of us it’s red(ish), green(ish), and blue(ish) which is where we get the acronym ‘RGB’.

Turns out there are two ways our eyes receive colors. Do you know the difference in RGB and CMYK?

RGB = Red, Green, Blue
RGB deals with projecting light and is referred to as ‘additive color‘. If you had a light projector (like you’d find in the back of the auditorium of a performance) and you use the red, green, and blue filters together, you’ll project white light. This is the same principle that works in TVs and computer monitors.

CMYK = Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, Black
CMYK deals with receptive or absorbent light and is referred to as ‘subtractive color‘. Mostly this model is used for print and paint. Cyan is light blueish, Magenta is pinkish, and black is represented as K for ‘key‘ (the basis for the other colors).

So how do these color theories play out in real life? Here’s a video from a graphic designer explaining the difference in RGB and CMYK.

A prism will change the speed of light and create the rainbow colors. However, in the natural world, it is usually moisture and the angle of light that creates rainbows.

Some say it’s from whales.

Others say they are from unicorns.

Lately some say they are from the Nyan Cat.

Rainbows have been important in the world’s cultures. Christians and Jews say a rainbow is a reminder from God that He won’t flood the earth like He did at the time of Noah. A Hindu god, Indra, uses a rainbow to shoot lightning. The Irish have a Leprechaun’s pot of gold at the end of a rainbow. Norse mythology say there is a rainbow bridge from Earth to Asgard (heaven) used by fallen, virtuous gods. There’s so much more that you can check out.

No matter what, rainbows are beautiful and fascinating whether you look at it from the religious, mythological, silly, or scientific views. It’s not every day you see one in the sky. But maybe next time you do see one, I hope you’ll enjoy it.