Oops

Faux pas around the world:

  • Arab countries: Eating with the left hand.
  • China: Giving someone a timepiece as a gift.
  • Czech Republic: Shaking hands while wearing gloves.
  • France: Giving chrysanthemums to the host.
  • Romania: Giving an even number of flowers.
  • Thailand: Touching someone on the head.

In Thailand it’s also improper to step over or stand on bills or coins. They bear the face of the king, who is highly revered.

Personality and Blood Type

Personality traits associated with various blood types, according to Japanese superstition:

Type A:

  • Best traits: Conservative, reserved, patient, punctual, perfectionist, and good with plants.
  • Worst traits: Introverted, obsessive, stubborn, and self-conscious. Anal retentive.
  • Famous examples: George H.W. Bush, O.J. Simpson, Britney Spears

Type B:

  • Best traits: Creative and passionate. Animal-loving. Optimistic and flexible.
  • Worst traits: Forgetful, irresponsible, individualistic.
  • Famous examples: Akira Kurosawa, Jack Nicholson, Luciano Pavarotti

Type AB:

  • Best traits: Cool, controlled, rational. Sociable and popular. Empathic.
  • Worst traits: Aloof, critical, indecisive, and unforgiving.
  • Famous examples: John F. Kennedy, Marilyn Monroe, Mick Jagger

Type O:

  • Best traits: Ambitious, athletic, robust, and self-confident. Natural leaders.
  • Worst traits: Arrogant, vain, and insensitive. Ruthless.
  • Famous examples: Ronald Reagan, Queen Elizabeth, John Lennon

Interestingly, Type A blood is the most common in Japan, while Type O is most common in the United States — and among Japanese prime ministers.

I Am Not An Animal!

Are the X-Men human? Purists might like to debate that for a while, but the U.S. Court of International Trade went ahead and decided on Jan. 3, 2003: They’re not.

Why force a decision? Because there are two kinds of action figures: human figures are “dolls,” and nonhuman creatures are “toys.” And dolls carry a higher tariff, for some reason. Toy Biz, Marvel’s gaily named subsidiary, argued that its action figures were toys, and after examining more than 60 action figures, Judge Judith Barzilay agreed.

That saved Marvel some money, but it sent a thunderclap through the comics world, where the doughty mutants had been struggling for years to prove their humanity. After an awkward silence, Marvel grinned nervously, tugged at its collar, and said, “Our heroes are living, breathing human beings — but humans who have extraordinary abilities. … A decision that the X-Men figures indeed do have ‘nonhuman’ characteristics further proves our characters have special, out-of-this world powers.” Spun like a pro.

Elbow Room

The world’s population reached:

  • 1 billion in 1802
  • 2 billion in 1927
  • 3 billion in 1961
  • 4 billion in 1974
  • 5 billion in 1987
  • 6 billion in 1999

According to the United Nations Population Fund, the 6 billionth baby was born at 12:02 a.m. on Oct. 12, 1999, to Fatima Nevic and her husband, Jasminko, in Sarajevo, Bosnia.

The forecast, according to the U.N.’s World Population Prospects database:

  • 2010: 6.8 billion
  • 2020: 7.6 billion
  • 2030: 8.2 billion
  • 2040: 8.7 billion
  • 2050: 9.1 billion

Better get started early on that Christmas shopping.

Earnings

Occupations with highest median earnings:

  1. Physicians and surgeons
  2. Dentists
  3. Chief executives
  4. Podiatrists
  5. Lawyers
  6. Engineering managers
  7. Optometrists
  8. Petroleum engineers
  9. Natural sciences managers
  10. Actuaries

Lowest median earnings:

  1. Dishwashers
  2. Counter attendants, food concession
  3. Child-care workers
  4. Maids and housekeeping cleaners
  5. Dining room, cafeteria attendants, bartender helpers
  6. Food preparation workers
  7. Teacher assistants
  8. Restaurant hosts, hostesses
  9. Food prep and serving workers
  10. Waiters and waitresses

The Wage Gap

Women’s pay as a percentage of men’s:

  • 1951: 63.9%
  • 1960: 60.7%
  • 1970: 59.4%
  • 1980: 60.2%
  • 1990: 71.6%
  • 2000: 73.3%

In sales jobs, women still earn only 59.9% of men’s wages.

Har, Jim Lad

http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Piratey.jpg

Pirates get a bad rap. Their trade was often the only course open to a poor person in the 17th century, and as an institution it treated its people uncommonly well, if you overlook the pillaging and murder.

On the Spanish Main, most pirate ships were democracies. You elected your captain, and you could vote to replace him. Spoils were divided evenly. Morale was generally high, so much so that pirates often overwhelmed trade vessels by force of numbers. And there was even a social insurance system, so a wounded pirate would be guaranteed money or gold at a certain scale.

Best of all, buccaneers were egalitarian. If they took a slave ship, they freed the slaves. Occasionally they’d force carpenters or other specialists to sail with them, but they’d free them afterward, and they could join the crew if they chose. That’s more noble, in its way, than a lot of lawful enterprises.

Population: One

The U.S. population is growing, but there seems to be plenty of room. These places are occupied by a single person:

  • New Amsterdam, Ind.
  • Hibberts, Maine
  • Lost Springs, Wyo.
  • Monowi, Neb.

The 2000 census says the population of Ervings, N.H., is now zero. “The only taxable property in Erving’s location are telephone poles.”

Rhinoceros Party of Canada

The Rhinoceros Party of Canada claimed to have an appropriate mascot, as politicians by nature are “thick-skinned, slow-moving, dim-witted, can move fast as hell when in danger, and have large, hairy horns growing out of the middle of their faces.” Platform planks:

  • repealing gravity
  • providing higher education by building taller schools
  • tearing down the Rocky Mountains so that Albertans could see the sun set
  • abolishing the environment “because it’s too hard to keep clean and it takes up so much space”
  • putting the national debt on Visa

Compare New Zealand’s McGillicuddy Serious Party, whose policies included “full unemployment” and the introduction of chocolate fish as legal tender. “If you want to waste your vote, vote for us.”