Colorado’s Mile(high) 419.99

You may have wondered how “420” came to be code for marijuana consumption. It originated in 1971 with a group of high-school slackers in Marin County, California. (Side note: there’s a really good place to eat in San Rafael.) The term has become so pervasive that since Colorado legalized pot-for-fun in 2012, milepost 420 markers have been disappearing at an alarming rate from Interstate 70. As a remedy, the Department of Transportation has replaced the marker with milepost 419.99.

Although Idaho has not legalized marijuana, they’ve had the same problem on U.S. Highway 95, just south of Coeur d’Alene. Who knows why that’s happening in neo-Nazi country? Idaho can handle only one decimal place, though, so they marked the highway as milepost 419.9.

(Originally published 2016)

Celebrating Tax Day

As you no doubt know, your tax return must be filed by April 15. When that due date falls on a Saturday, Sunday, or legal holiday, the filing deadline is delayed until the next business day. If you’re wondering why tax day is the 17th in 2018, you’re probably not familiar with Emancipation Day, a legal holiday in Washington D.C. Abraham Lincoln signed the Compensated Emancipation Act on April 16, 1862. This Act freed the more than 3,000 slaves in the District of Columbia. (Slavery was outlawed in the rest of the nation by constitutional amendment in 1865, after the end of Civil War. Mississippi ratified the amendment in 1995.) Emancipation Day became an official D.C. holiday in 2005.

War is expensive. Also in 1862, President Lincoln created the position of Commissioner of Internal Revenue and enacted an income tax to pay for the war. The tax was abolished ten years later. Income tax was legislated again in 1894, but the Supreme Court declared it unconstitutional. The 16th Amendment, providing for a tax on income was ratified in 1913. The rate was 1% and increased to 7% on incomes above $500,000. (The equivalent of $12.6 million in 2018.) With the onset of the Great War a couple years later, the rates doubled.

And here we are. One wonders about Donald Trump’s tax returns. Is money laundering taxed as ordinary income or does the more favorable “carried interest” rate apply?

What the World Needed

Are you embarrassed by the quality of the food photos you’ve posted to Facebook? The folks at the App Store want you to know they have solutions: new apps for your smart phone, specifically designed to help you improve pictures of what you are eating or drinking. Your couscous and beet salad not lit just right to impress your friends? There’s an app for that. The artistic design in the foam of your coffee beverage not highlighted just so? There are apps with filters to help you create your own style.

From the same folks who brought us Y2K.

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch

A popular trope from environmental zealots has been to tell us about a plastic-garbage patch the size of Texas floating in the Pacific Ocean. Turns out that’s just another attempt to scare us with misinformation about the coming environmental apocalypse. It’s not the size of Texas; it’s the size of TWO Texases. And it’s growing faster than anyone thought.

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch has attracted so much attention that scientists now use the shorthand GPGP.

Read all about it here.

Marine Conservationist Charles Moore displays a toothbrush found in the Central North Pacific Ocean whilst holding a banner which reads ‘Is This Yours?’ This is part of the Ocean Defenders Campaign in which the Greenpeace ship Esperanza MV sails to the Pacific Ocean, sometimes referred to as the North Pacific garbage patch, to document the threat that plastic poses to the environment and sea life.

Nashville Cats

The Ryman Auditorium in Nashville opened in 1892 as the Union Gospel Tabernacle. Thomas Ryman, saloon and steamboat entrepreneur, spearheaded the project in an attempt to bring Christianity to the masses. In its first few decades, to help pay down construction debt, non-religious entertainment was often booked into the facility. W.C. Fields, Charlie Chaplin and Harry Houdini were among the many to take the stage. Teddy Roosevelt and Helen Keller lectured there. In spite of Jim Crow laws, the Ryman sometimes hosted integrated audiences.
The Ryman became famous as the home of the Grand Ole Opry from 1943 until 1974, when it moved in 1974 to Opryland USA,  a shiny new entertainment-shopping-hotel complex away from downtown.
Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge sat around the corner facing Broadway. It became famous on its own as a place where future stars paid their dues. Kris Kristofferson, Willie Nelson, Patsy Cline, Roger Miller got started at Tootsie’s. Ernest Tubb’s revered record store across the street is visible through Tootsie’s window.
When the Opry departed, the core downtown became a seedy place to avoid. Demolition of the Ryman Auditorium was proposed. The venerable hall was saved, renovated, and again became a popular venue for music. Tootsie’s also gained fame and became a tourist attraction of its own. Nashville promoted its reputation as the home of country music, and churned out formulaic recordings of what Tom Petty famously called “Bad rock, with fiddles.”
Gentrification has come to Nashville and along with it, a new type of tourist: bachelorettes. The city has become a destination for “Bach Weekends.” Young women from around the country come for their pre-wedding experience, which does not include the Country Music Hall of Fame. BuzzFeed News recently produced an in-depth report on this new phenomenon.

Just for fun…

How Christians Gave Fools Their Own Day

If you missed New Year’s Day, April Fools’ was created for you.

Some historians speculate that April Fools’ Day dates back to 1582, when France switched from the Julian calendar to the Gregorian calendar, as called for by the Council of Trent in 1563. People who were slow to get the news or failed to recognize that the start of the new year had moved to January 1, and continued to celebrate it during the last week of March through April 1, became the butt of jokes and hoaxes.


Increasingly annoyed by Martin Luther and the growing Protestant Reformation, the pope convened an ecumenical council in the northern Italian city of Trent. The Council officially declared much of the Protestant ideology as heresy. As modern-day politicians slip partisan or pork-barrel amendments into unrelated legislation, the Council of Trent added to its decrees a provision to clean up the Julian calendar and provide for a more consistent scheduling of Easter. Eventually the new Gregorian calendar became the standard in most of the world.

So how did they simplify the scheduling of Easter? The Christ’s resurrection is celebrated on the first Sunday following the first full moon that occurs on or after the day of the vernal equinox (the first day of spring).

As with Christmas, Easter is based – co-opted, if you will – on pagan celebrations related to cycles of the moon, the equinox, the seasons and resultant things in nature. Spring festivals celebrated the earth’s return to fertility and the birth of many, ahem, creatures. Christians related resurrection with rebirth and consequently, the Easter egg. So of course, in modern times, the eggs became chocolate.