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Stuff You Don't Know About Writers You Might

Last week, we discussed notable strikes in American history. Today's topic: notable TV writers. The idea came from newcomer Matthew Smith, who collaborated with mental_floss veterans Stacy, David, Becky and Kara to dig up stories about some of TV's greatest scribes.

1. J.J. Abrams

J.J. Abrams, who is the co-creator, writer, director and executive producer of Lost, has written for some very-unLost-like movies including Armageddon, Taking Care of Business and Forever Young. He also created and wrote for the TV show Felicity.

2. Shonda Rhimes

Shonda Rhimes of Grey's Anatomy also wrote the script for Britney Spears' bomb Crossroads. She got the inspiration for Grey's from working as a candy striper in high school.

3. B.J. Novak (===>)

B.J. Novak (Ryan Howard), writer/actor of The Office, went to high school with fellow castmember John Krasinski (Jim Halpert). Krasinski acted in one of Novak's plays while in school. Two of his on-screen co-workers are also writers: Paul Lieberstein (Toby, HR Director) and Mindy Kaling (Kelly, Ryan's enthusiastic ex-girlfriend). Three if you count Steve Carell, who wrote the season two finale.

4. Marc Cherry

Marc Cherry, writer/producer/creator of Desperate Housewives, received his first major writing credits on The Golden Girls. His first job in the industry was as a personal assistant to Dixie Carter of Designing Women. Ms. Carter's manageability came into question when Cherry cast her on Housewives as the wicked and maniacal Gloria Hodges.

Kenlevine1.jpg5. Ken Levine (===>)

The first episode Ken Levine wrote for M*A*S*H was "Out of Sight/Out of Mind." He bought a VCR "“ which cost $1700 at the time "“ so he could record the episode at home, particularly his name in the credits. Mr. Levine, whose writing credits include Cheers, Frasier, The Simpsons, Wings and Everybody Loves Raymond, is keeping busy during the strike by covering it on his blog.

6. David Mirkin

David Mirkin has written for a number of hit shows, including The Simpsons, Newhart, Get a Life and The Edge. But it was his job at Three's Company "“ his first-ever writing experience "“ that earned him a cat. David took the cat home after it was used in an episode. He nicknamed it T.C"¦short for "Televised Cat."

7. Sonia Manzano

Sonia Manzano is not only a writer for Sesame Street, she is also one of the well-known human characters "“ Maria. Now, imagine walking into a production of The Vagina Monologues and finding Maria up on stage talking about her intimate anatomy. It could happen "“ Sonia has performed in the VM on the New York Stage.

8. Stephen Hillenburg

Stephen Hillenburg created Spongebob Squarepants. But before that, he was a marine biology teacher at what is now the Orange County Ocean Institute. He worked as a marine biologist from 1984-1987.

man-in-cape1.jpg9. Aaron Sorkin

Aaron Sorkin of West Wing and Sports Night fame delivered singing telegrams and drove a limo when he was fresh out of college and looking for steady writing and acting work.

10. Larry David (===>)

We could (and should) do a whole post on Larry David. But here are two fun facts: he was considered for Billy Bob Thornton's part in Bad Santa, and he doesn't like cowboys. One more: he played the man in the cape who met mysteriously with George's father.

11. Sam Simon

Best known as a co-creator/writer of The Simpsons and for writing credits on Cheers and Taxi, Sam Simon also manages former WBO heavyweight boxing champion Lamon Brewster.

12. Al Jean

Although Al Jean is probably best known for his work on The Simpsons, he also used to write for ALF. Yes, that ALF. Some of his Simpsons nicknames include Anachronistic Al Jean / Atrocious Al Jean / Avuncular Al Jean / Awful Al Jean / Mean Al Jean. (A new nickname is given to each member of the cast every year for the annual "Treehouse of Horror" episode.)

13. Alan Ball

Six Feet Under and American Beauty writer Alan Ball wrote for Cybill Shepard's self-titled show (Cybill), and Shepard is rumored to be the basis for Annette Benning's self-absorbed character from American Beauty.

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A Simple Trick For Figuring Out the Day of the Week For Any Given Date
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People typically remember anniversaries in terms of dates and years, not days of the week. If you can’t remember whether you got married on a Saturday or Sunday, or don't know which day of the week you were born on, there’s a simple arithmetic-based math trick to help you figure out sans calendar, according to It's Okay To Be Smart host Joe Hanson.

Mathematician John Conway invented the so-called Doomsday Algorithm to calculate the day of the week for any date in history. It hinges on several sets of rules, including that a handful of certain dates always share the same day of the week, no matter what year it is. (Example: April 4, June 6, August 8, October 10, December 12, and the last day of February all fall on a Wednesday in 2018.) Using this day—called an “anchor day”—among other instructions, you can figure out, step by step, the very day of the week you’re searching for.

Learn more about the Doomsday Algorithm in the video below (and if it’s still stumping you, check out It’s OK to Be Smart’s handy cheat sheet here).

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There May Be an Ancient Reason Why Your Dog Eats Poop
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Dogs aren't known for their picky taste in food, but some pups go beyond the normal trash hunting and start rooting around in poop, whether it be their own or a friend's. Just why dogs exhibit this behavior is a scientific mystery. Only some dogs do it, and researchers aren't quite sure where the impulse comes from. But if your dog is a poop eater, it's nearly impossible to steer them away from their favorite feces.

A new study in the journal Veterinary Medicine and Science, spotted by The Washington Post, presents a new theory for what scientists call "canine conspecific coprophagy," or dogs eating dog poop.

In online surveys about domestic dogs' poop-eating habits completed by thousands of pet owners, the researchers found no link between eating poop and a dog's sex, house training, compulsive behavior, or the style of mothering they received as puppies. However, they did find one common link between the poop eaters. Most tended to eat only poop that was less than two days old. According to their data, 85 percent of poop-eaters only go for the fresh stuff.

That timeline is important because it tracks with the lifespan of parasites. And this led the researchers to the following hypothesis: that eating poop is a holdover behavior from domestic dogs' ancestors, who may have had a decent reason to tuck into their friends' poop.

Since their poop has a high chance of containing intestinal parasites, wolves poop far from their dens. But if a sick wolf doesn't quite make it out of the den in time, they might do their business too close to home. A healthier wolf might eat this poop, but the parasite eggs wouldn't have hatched within the first day or two of the feces being dropped. Thus, the healthy wolf would carry the risk of infection away from the den, depositing the eggs they had consumed away in their own, subsequent bowel movements at an appropriate distance before the eggs had the chance to hatch into larvae and transmit the parasite to the pack.

Domestic dogs may just be enacting this behavior instinctively—only for them, there isn't as much danger of them picking up a parasite at home. However, the theory isn't foolproof. The surveys also found that so-called "greedy eaters" were more likely to eat feces than dogs who aren't quite so intense about food. So yes, it could still be about a poop-loving palate.

But really, it's much more pleasant to think about the behavior as a parasite-protection measure than our best pals foraging for a delicious fecal snack. 

[h/t The Washington Post]

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