Saturday, August 3, 2019

Learning something new is good for me and you


Last Tuesday, as I was sitting on the porch drinking my morning cup of coffee and watching the cats ignore a giant cottontail rabbit bouncing across the front yard, I realized that Star Trek got it all wrong – space is NOT the final frontier.

I grew up in the 60’s and 70’s, during a time when the starship Enterprise hurtled across our television sets on a five-year mission “to boldly go” wherever Capt. James T. Kirk wanted it to go because space was endless, even if the original TV series wasn’t.

The mission: to explore new worlds, seek out new civilizations, and to keep TV viewers coming back for new and exciting episodes week after week – same time, same channel. But like I said before, the premise of space being the final frontier was all wrong.

Reaching space was the result of mankind’s search for knowledge and understanding. And that never-ending search is the true “final frontier.”

For instance, as I watched that little rabbit make it safely across my front yard, I was curious to know why rabbits hop instead of run (it’s because of their gigantic back legs and feet) and why my cats choose to ignore them (It’s because we feed them too much, so they’re apathetic about shopping around for their own dinner).

Of course, once I started thinking about food, it was only natural to wonder which eating utensil had been around the longest.

Knives have certainly been around since prehistoric times, but who could’ve guessed that the oldest eating utensil was actually the spoon? I thought for sure chopsticks came first, but no. In my quest for knowledge, I found out that hollowed-out wood or seashells served as the first spoons way back during the Stone Age. Chopsticks didn’t make an appearance in ancient China until around 3,000 BC.

And what about the fork? The humble fork was once considered sinfully decadent.

Who knew?

Sushi and chopsticks
In 1004, according to an article by Lisa Bramen published in the Smithsonian Magazine, the Greek niece of a Byzantine emperor used a golden fork at her wedding feast in Venice. Some of the Venetians believed that, since man had been created with fingers, using such a fork was an insult to God. When the bride died a few years later from the plague, Saint Peter Damian pronounced it was God’s punishment for her hateful vanity.

I never use a fork in a Ramen or Pho restaurant. It seems to me an insult to the chef. That’s why I always use chopsticks. Of course, learning how to use them was hard at first, not to mention I looked so darn foolish even trying. Sometimes I still look foolish using them (especially when I bring the chopsticks to my mouth and drop all the food into my lap), but it has been well worth the trouble.

According to the California Academy of Sciences, chopsticks were developed in China around 5,000 years ago. By the year 500, chopsticks had spread to Japan, Vietnam and Korea. In 2012, Astronaut Don Pettit – who wrote in his NASA blog that he likes to eat with chopsticks on the International Space Station – lost one of his chopsticks when it just floated away. It was found a couple of days later stuck to a ventilator inlet grill.

Imagine that. Chopsticks in outer space. Something you and I would’ve never known about if I hadn’t sought out a comfortable porch chair last Tuesday and watched the cats ignore a fearless bunny boldly hopping where no bunny had hopped before.

No need to thank me. It’s my job.

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