Penkava: Trivial way to escape life’s hubbub

There come moments in our lives where trivia is all we can handle. The Cubs lose. The car doesn’t start. The TV remote has found the perfect hiding spot.

But trivia will always be there for us, like the swallows returning to Capistrano, which, as a bit of useless information, fly all the way from Argentina, a voyage of some 6,000 miles.

So, in the spirit of trifles and nonsense and the froth of life, I now share with you disconnected pieces of miscellany of minutiae …

• When the Mona Lisa was stolen from the Louvre in 1911, one of the suspects was Picasso.

• More than 100 billion neutrinos pass unnoticed through your head every second.

• A language dies every 14 days.

• The 10,000 trillion ants in the world weigh about the same as all the human beings.

• The dialing code for Russia is 007.

• Fred Baur, the designer of the Pringles can, had his ashes buried in one.

• Baseball hero Babe Ruth always wore a cabbage leaf under his cap to keep his head cool.

• Genghis Khan had more than 500 wives and a great number of children. One in 10 people in Central Asia today are his direct descendants.

• Richard Gere’s middle name is Tiffany.

• When it grows, sweet corn makes a squeaking noise like two balloons being rubbed together.

• Wild Bill Hickok’s brother, Lorenzo, was nicknamed “Tame Bill Hickok.”

• “West Side Story” originally was called “East Side Story.”

• Wombats have cubic feces.

• President Jimmy Carter once sent a jacket to the cleaners with the nuclear detonation codes still in a pocket.

• There are 10 times as many stars in the universe as there are grains of sand.

• British cows moo in accents specific to their region.

• The amount of water on the Earth is constant and continually recycled over time. Thus, some of the water you drink will have passed through a dinosaur.

• In Spanish, the word “esposas” means both “wives” and “handcuffs.”

• The average pencil can write 45,000 words, or a single line 35 miles long.

• Melbourne used to be called “Batmania.”

• More than twice as many people are killed by vending machines as by sharks.

• The inventor of “Best Before” dates was Al Capone’s brother, Ralph.

• Ants can survive in a microwave by dodging the rays.

• In 2003, six monkeys were tested to see how long it would take them to type the works of Shakespeare. After six months, they had failed to produce a single English word, broke the computer and used the keyboard as a toilet.

• George W. Bush named “The Very Hungry Caterpillar” as his favorite book as a child. The book was published when he was 23 years old.

• Dragonflies flap their wings in a figure-eight motion.

• Within 200 yards of the apartment where George Orwell lived, the writer of the book “1984,” there are now 32 closed-circuit cameras.

• Eskimos use refrigerators to keep their food from freezing.

• The Bible is the most shoplifted book in the U.S.

• Half of Napoleon’s army of 30,000 at the Battle of Eylau were burglars.

• Sitting Bull was originally called “Jumping Badger.”

• Buzz Aldrin’s mother’s maiden name was Moon.

• The ozone layer smells faintly of geraniums.

• The tilt of the angle of the column writer’s head in his photo is the exact same angle as the tilt of the Earth.

• Michael Penkava taught a bunch of kids and wrote a bunch of stuff. The tilt angle of his head was completely accidental. The double chin, however, was not. He can be reached at

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