Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Washington crossing the Delaware

While much of the world was celebrating Christmas in 1776, George Washington and a handful of his hearty men crossed the Delaware River under cover of darkness. Following his small boat across the icy river were thousands of his troops. The following morning, the assembled forces made a surprise attack on the German mercenaries, and their defeat provided a much needed boast to the  morale of the Americans.

Although the painting of the crossing is as American as you can get, it was actually painted by a German named Emanual Leutze, who released it in 1851 in order to inspire the spirit of rebellion then prevailing in Europe. It was initially released in Germany, and ultimately wound up in the Bremen art museum, which is was when it was destroyed by Allied bombing during WWII.

Fortunately, the artist had made two copies of the painting. Today, one copy is in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in Washington, D.C.  The other painting was hung for a period of time in the West Wing of the White House, but ultimately made its way to the Minnesota Marine Art Museum in Winona, Minnesota.

Like many artists, he took a few liberties in the painting, one of which was the flag. The Stars and Stripes did not come into being until September 3, 1777. The actual flag that Washington used was the Grand Union Flag, which looked like this:

 And now you know “the rest of the story”.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

The grim reaper

The grim reaper, also known as DEATH, has been around for a very long time. Starting in 1921, the grim reaper has appeared in at least 21 movies, and has also made an appearance in 20 TV shows and 8 books. Regardless of who you are, when the grim reaper comes knocking, you’d better be prepared to meet your maker.


I ran into the reaper not long ago, but I’m still here to tell about the experience, and it came about due to my experience as a substitute teacher (which can be a very scary experience in itself).

One of the students in a class that I monitored recently admitted to eating a Carolina reaper pepper sometime after the start of the school year. In case you’re not familiar with the pepper, it is now officially the hottest chili pepper in the world (according to the Guinness Book of World Records), and it registers 1,569399 Scoville heat units. However, that number is an average of the batch tested, and the hottest individual pepper in the batch measured 2.2 million SHU. Although it is unlikely that ANY hot pepper will cause you to die, hot peppers can definitely make you feel uncomfortable. The student in question threw up 5 times after eating the pepper, but somehow managed to survive. 

The Carolina reaper pepper was created by “Smoking” Ed Currie, proprietor of the Puckerbutt Pepper Company in Fort Mill, South Carolina. If you take a look at the company’s website (see below), you’ll notice an astonishing variety of both peppers and seeds. The Carolina reaper took 10 years to develop, and it is actually a hybrid of the Bhut Jolokia (also known as the ghost pepper) and a red habanero.

Lately, there seem to be a race to create the hottest pepper. Prior to the Carolina Reaper, the hottest pepper was the Trinidad Moruga Scorpion, which was measured at just a touch over 2,000,000 SHU. In 2007, the Bhut Jolokia (ghost pepper) was rated as the hottest pepper (at 1,041,472) but it was quickly surpassed by the Napa Viper, the Trinidad Scorpion “Butch T”, the 7 Pot Primo, and the 7 Pot Douglah. If you actually need a reason NOT to eat the Carolina Reaper pepper, watch the video posted below.

The Scoville measuring unit was developed in 1912 by an American pharmacist named Wilbur Lincoln Scoville. Although the exact procedure to measure heat has changed slightly since 1912, the Scoville scale is still used today.

There is an old saying that hell hath not fury like a woman scorned, but eating a Carolina reaper pepper has got to be a pretty close second.