The Fairbanks Almanac vol. 2

George Fairbanks
Review staff

Well it’s been a quiet week in Lake Wo .... sorry about that, I momentarily forgot who I was writing for.

In this latest edition of the Fairbanks Almanac we’ll touch on a fairly one-sided land deal, heavy things falling from the sky, confusing clocks, American cinema and more presidential factoids.

Prices are going up

In 1626 Peter Minuit, a Dutch settler working for the Dutch West India Company in what is now New York City, purchased the island of Manhattan from the Manhattan Indians. The price? Roughly $24 in goods, or about $1,000 in today’s dollars. In 2012, Manhattan real estate went for, on average, $1,424-$1,592 per square foot.

Rumor has it another Dutch settler, working on behalf of Starbucks, made a similar offer that was rejected for fear it would make Manhattan “too commercial.”

Duck!

On Feb. 15 a meteorite, estimated to be 55-65 feet wide and traveling at nearly 42,000 miles per hour, broke apart 20-30 miles above the Russian city of Chelyabinsk. The space rock caused more than 1,200 injuries and $33 million in property damage (lots and lots of broken windows). The meteorite weighed an estimated 10,000 tons and released roughly 500 kilotons of TNT, or about 30 times more than the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima during World War II.

When this edition went to press Russia still hadn’t figured out how to successfully convince people the meteorite was actually a plot by the American government.

As for perhaps the greatest meteorite strike?

How about the Chicxulub Crater, which was formed 65 million years ago when a meteorite hit Yucatan, Mexico. This meteorite is generally thought to have had a diameter of a mind boggling 106-186 miles. The most fascinating thing about this strike is that many scientists believe it led to the extinction of the dinosaurs. Some dinosaurs would have lingered for months or a few years after the strike as temps first plummeted and then shot up to sweltering extremes but many would have been killed almost immediately after the meteorite’s impact.

Perhaps if the adult dinosaurs had taught the young dinosaurs to hide under their desks and cover their heads with books more would have made it through the initial blast.

Things are a little brighter

If you haven’t already done so, run and set your clocks to Daylight Saving Time. Daylight Saving Time was used predominately during World War I and World War II. However, between the wars, some communities across the country kept using it. The problem? They used whatever dates they wanted to. As you might imagine, this led to a fair amount of confusion. Proving that there are some issues not even Congress can screw up, the Uniform Time Act was passed in 1966. The legislation declared any state using Daylight Saving Time had to adhere to federally directed dates.

Presently, Arizona (the bulk of it, anyway), Hawaii, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam, American Samoa and Puerto Rico don’t use Daylight Saving Time.

Abide

March 6 marked the 15th anniversary of the release of the Big Lebowski, or as people in the know refer to it, “The Single Greatest Movie Ever Made.” Written and directed by St. Louis Park’s own Joel and Ethan Coen, and starring Jeff Bridges and John Goodman, the movie took home a paltry $17 million box office. Critics also attacked the Big Lebowski en masse, calling it boring, unfunny and incomprehensible.

Today, the Big Lebowski is a cult classic, complete with its own festival and Lebowski-themed books and Halloween parties.

Perhaps 19th Century British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli was correct when he said: “It is much easier to be critical than to be correct.”

Presidential tidbits

Martin Van Buren, the eighth president of the United States is remembered, if he’s remembered at all, for his truly remarkable mutton chops, a grooming choice that’s making something of a comeback with “hipsters,” who are undoubtedly also presidential history buffs.

Though not for lack of trying, I wasn’t able to find any proof that Van Buren enjoyed skinny jeans and ironically nerdy eye glasses.

Born Dec. 5, 1782 in Kinderhook, New York, Van Buren was the first president to be born as an American citizen. Elected during a financial panic in 1836, Van Buren championed an independent treasury, but the voters didn’t think he’d done enough to turn around the economy and he was ousted by William Henry Harrison in 1840.

Van Buren’s nickname was the Little Magician because of his deft skill in political dealmaking and the fact he was just five-feet tall.

He died July 24, 1782, in Kinderhook.

George Fairbanks can be reached at gfairbanks@lillienews.com or 651-748-7813.

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