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world wide wednesdays :: now you know

relax, have a snack, learn some stuff
a somewhat lighter world wide wednesdays this week, but that doesn't mean it has to be light on facts. so this week's post is all about facts that will probably do you no good whatsoever and which will crowd out information like where you put your keys. but you'll be in possession of some truly brilliant nuggets of truth about the world we live in that you can use to fill in awkward gaps in conversation, distract from something inappropriate you just said, or just to make you look like the smart, clever person you probably are anyway.

water, water everywhere. or not. :: 9% of canadian territory is comprised of fresh water. that doesn't sound like a lot until you grab yourself a map and realise [if you hadn't already] that canada is freakin' huge and that a lot of entire countries are less than a tenth our size. another way to look at this fact is that we have three million lakes that make up about 60% of the world's fresh water [another 20% is located in lake baikal in russia]. if the theory that potable water will be the source of the next great war turns out to be true, then that fight is going to be all about canada. that might mean that we have all the power, but it's more likely to mean that we're the ones who are going to get pummeled by everyone else, since that's generally what happens to the one who has something everyone wants. if you want to go somewhere that's less likely to be the subject of a war over water, you should head to saudi arabia, which has no rivers or above-ground flowing water at all. clearly nothing to fight about there.

.tv nation :: the tiny pacific nation of tuvalu quickly realised that they'd won the internet lottery when the international organisation for standardisation awarded them ".tv" as their national domain identifier. they made a deal for $50 million dollars with a california company to allow the television industry to use their domain for themselves, with the understanding that much more would follow. unfortunately, things haven't quite worked out, and tuvalu now find themselves in a budget crisis, with a lot less of that internet money than they'd counted on. and if that wasn't bad enough, they're also in danger of being swallowed by the ocean.

le big one :: despite their massive eurasian sprawl, russia is not the country that covers the greatest number of time zones. that honour falls to france, whose territories cover twelve time zones to russia's nine. i'm sure vladimir would say that that's cheating, because france has all these overseas holdings that aren't part of the country in any meaningful way, and he wouldn't be entirely wrong, but technically, france is bigger than russia. [and if you really want to be mean, you could point out that, when you include overseas territories, the united states comes second, being spread over eleven time zones, while russia is left to claim the bronze.] in related and surprising news, china decided to deal with the difficulties of managing a country with multiple time zones by living in denial. the entire nation has one time zone, no matter where you are. which is super-simple, except that the time zone is known by different names [beijing standard time, hong kong time, china standard time, etc.].

vive le france everywhere

if you think your life is sad, consider the world's most isolated tree :: the tree of ténéré lived hundreds of miles from any other foliage in niger's sahara desert. it became an icon, as well as the only reference point in the region, living for three lonely centuries among the dunes. then one night in 1973 a drunk driver slammed into it- which is quite a feat when you consider it was the only thing to run into for hundreds of miles in any direction- and killed it.

if you stare at a target, you will subconsciously drive towards it

eat it, four corners :: the pacfic island nation of kirabati is the only country to exist in all four hemispheres, sitting right at the point where the equator intersects the international date line.

nothing to see here, look away... :: the official flag of the isle of man is an image of a triskelion made up of three human legs joined at the thigh. although the flag only dates from the early 1930s, the manx triskelion has a history of several hundred years and was apparently stamped on coins of the area. no one is sure how exactly the island managed to come up with a symbol made up of three severed human legs stitched together, although there are theories that link it to earlier triskelions in sicily. also, no one seems to want to talk about the frankenstein-esque emblem, aside from mentioning that triskelions crop up all over the place in history [although they're not generally made from human limbs]. the motto of the isle of man translates roughly from latin is "whichever way you throw it, it will stand." someone has a pretty dark sense of humour.

in no way creepy at all

and a manly sport it is :: ireland's first olympic medal was won by jack butler yeats at the 1924 summer olympics in paris. [that's the olympics in chariots of fire.] jack is not as well remembered today as his glory-hogging poet brother william, but at the time, he was the glory of the new republic when he brought home the silver medal in... painting. yup, that happened. it was part of a larger arts and culture competition at the games, which included medals for architecture, sculpture, literature and music, although no one actually won anything for that last category. for some reason, the international olympic committee seems to want to deny this competition ever existed and, sadly, jack butler yeats never found his way onto the front of a box of wheaties.  

eat it, isle of man :: most armies capture trophies when they invade another country, but some armies are apparently a little scarier than others. in 1983, a vault was discovered [by someone who has probably never left the house since] with relics of a sixteenth century japanese invasion of korea: 20,000 pickled noses. figuring they'd held onto them for long enough, the japanese thoughtfully returned the noses to korea, japan has retained possession of approximately 75,000 pickled korean ears. the normal practice at the time was to take heads as trophies, however heads are heavy, which may explain why the samurai resorted to just ears and noses. they were given a token amount of money for every victim they killed, which makes these vaults of pickled horror a little like the bottles you give your kids so that they can go and collect the deposit.

in this place, the walls really do have ears
grudge match :: for most countries, world war ii ended in 1945. however for some, it went on just a little longer. as in, is still going on. russia and japan have never come to an agreement about ownership of the kuril islands, an archipelago between japan's northernmost island of honshu and russia's kamchatka peninsula. that means that, technically, they are still at war with each other. i wonder if russia knows about the noses?

it's a positive negative :: the tiny principality of liechtenstein may be the only country ever to experience negative casualties during war time. they sent 80 soldiers into the austro-prussian conflict of 1866 and when they returned, there were 81 of them. figuring they should quit while they were ahead, the military was disbanded in 1868.  

can't visit, clown'll eat me :: the city of bern in switzerland has a statue of a large man/ monster eating children. well, he's just eating one child, really, but there are other children around, so you know that he's just being diet-conscious by only having one at a time. no one really knows why there's a statue of a man/ monster eating children, although there are many theories. personally, this just makes me sad that i never made it to bern when i visited switzerland, but it certainly gives me incentive to go back. bucket list that one for sure. [and yes, that is an image of said statue at the top of this post.]

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