15 Things You Might Not Know About Maryland

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istock

1. Maryland was tired of Randy Newman well before his music filled the soundtracks of every other Pixar movie. In 1978, a bill was introduced to outlaw the radio broadcast of Newman’s Little Criminals song “Short People.” The satirical number, which appropriates the absurdity of racism by voicing a distaste for the vertically challenged, left a sour taste in the mouths of some Marylanders who took Newman’s ironic lyrics sincerely. Nonetheless, the bill never made it to law.

2. The townsfolk of St. Michaels, Maryland, have always been a crafty bunch. According to local legend, in order to deflect attack during the War of 1812, the citizens of the waterside town hung lanterns high in the treetops to create the illusion of high-rise residences. When the British opened fire on the town one night in 1813, soldiers aimed for the specks of illumination, missing the village below altogether. In fact, only one home suffered damages. Today, this Mulberry Street luxury home is still affectionately called the "Cannonball House."

3. A good two centuries before Colorado’s great “balloon boy hoax,” Maryland played host to the real thing: 13-year-old Baltimorean Edward Warren supposedly set off for the wild blue yonder on June 23, 1784, making history with the first successfully manned hot air balloon launch in the United States. The first in the world had occurred less than a year earlier—November of 1783—piloted by French science teacher Jean-François Pilâtre de Rozier.

4. Washington D.C. lawyer Francis Scott Key penned our national anthem, “The Star Spangled Banner,” after watching Britain’s navy attack Fort McHenry at Chesapeake Bay during the War of 1812.

5. While we still haven’t figured out a failsafe method for hiding our Facebook passwords from vengeful exes, Maryland at least managed to safeguard our social media reputations from a different community: our bosses. In 2012, the country saw a trend of supervisors demanding access to employees’ Facebook and Twitter pages, hoping to keep all content “appropriate.” Shortly after this pattern hit the public eye, Maryland became the first state to ban companies from requesting passwords from their workers.

6. Garrett Park, Maryland, has long been a proponent of peaceful living. In the late 1800s, the town illegalized the hunting or harming of any songbirds within city limits. All other birds, rabbits, and squirrels were later added to its league of protected creatures. An extension of this nonviolent mindset came into being in 1982, when Garrett Park became one of the first American cities to declare itself a “nuclear-free zone”—an area in which nuclear weapons and power plants are prohibited. Maryland’s Sykesville and Takoma Park followed suit soon afterward.

7. You can thank Maryland for that impossibly catchy Rihanna song, Mary Poppins’ principal means of transport, and a colorful How I Met Your Mother plot device … oh, and for keeping you dry in the rain. Umbrellas were first produced in America thanks to German artisan and entrepreneur Francis T. Beehler, whose Beehler Umbrella House (also known as the Beehler Umbrella Factory and Beehler Umbrella Company) opened its doors in Baltimore in the 1880s.

8. On the subject of rain, Maryland actually takes a pretty unique course of action when stormy weather hits: they tax it. In 2012, Maryland became the first state to institute a tax related to rainfall. Citizens in nine counties throughout Maryland, plus the city of Baltimore, are charged annually for roofs, sidewalks, and other surfaces on their property, all in an effort to render the state more environmentally sound.

9. The official state sport of Maryland? Jousting.

10. As if there was any doubt, Maryland is responsible for the largest crab cake ever witnessed by human eyes. In 2012, the Salisbury-based seafood company Handy International brought a 300-pound crab cake (consisting of about 200 pounds of crab meat, which equates roughly to 1,600 crabs) to the Maryland State Fair, earning a place in the Guinness Book of World Records.

11. Following the release of The Blair Witch Project in 1999, horror fans the nation over would travel in droves to the film’s setting of Burkittsville, Maryland (the movie was actually shot in the nearby Seneca Creek State Park), hoping to investigate the site of the film’s inspiration. Little did they know, there was no true story, no urban legend, and no precedent whatsoever for the Blair Witch conceit. Writer/producer Greg Hale, writer Eduardo Sanchez, and producer Robin Cowie weren’t even from Maryland (but Alabama, Cuba, and Georgia, respectively).

12. Only a single fleet of commercial sailing vessels—ships ordained to transport goods or passengers (recreational cruises not included)—remains in all of North America: the skipjacks of Chesapeake Bay’s Tilghman Island. Their main operative is oyster dredging.

13. Egg consumption aside, Easter season is a dangerous time of year for baby birds. Families are often inspired to take in the cute little critters as pets, only to neglect them once their Easter baskets are found and egg hunts are complete. Maryland takes this transgression seriously, outlawing the sale of chicks or changing their natural color.

14. In 1902, Maryland led the charge in statewide worker’s compensation, becoming the first in the nation to institute the practice. Four years later, the U.S. passed its first federal law recognizing the program. By 1949, every state in America had adopted some variation of worker’s comp.

15. Thistle, cute and seemingly innocuous though it may be, is apparently a big problem in Maryland. In 1987, the state’s Department of Agriculture outlawed the growth of thistle on domestic property, fearing the parasitic relationship that the plant seems to have with other fauna. Maryland has employed six types of insects, two diseases, and herbicides in an attempt to keep the weed at bay.

11 Easy Ways to Be Greener on Earth Day

iStock/yacobchuk
iStock/yacobchuk

Kermit got it all wrong: It is easy being green. Committing to go green doesn’t have to mean a 10-mile walk to work or abiding by "if it’s yellow, let it mellow"—you can make a difference by making small adjustments that add up to big change. Here are 11 ideas to get you started for Earth Day.

1. Use your dishwasher to go green.

It may seem counterintuitive, but your dishwasher is way more energy- and water-efficient at washing dishes than you are, as long as you’re running a full dishwasher. According to one German study, dishwashers use half of the energy and a sixth of the water, not to mention less soap. So, don’t feel guilty about skipping the sink of sudsy water, or about not pre-rinsing before loading up the machine—you’re actually doing the environment a favor by firing up your dishwasher.

2. Switch to online bill paying and use less paper.

Not only is it convenient to pay all of your bills with a click or two, it’s also an easy way to go green. One study found that the average U.S. household receives 19 bills and statements from credit card companies, banks, and utilities every month. By switching to online statements and online bill pay, each American household could save 6.6 pounds of paper per year, save 0.08 trees, and not produce 171 pounds of greenhouse gases. Not bad for simply clicking a few "receive online statements" boxes.

3. Opt out of junk mail and catalogs.

While you’re paring down the amount of stuff that arrives daily in your mailbox, visit Catalog Choice to opt out of various mailers you don’t want to receive. So far, the nonprofit organization says they have saved more than 500,000 trees, over 1 billion pounds of greenhouse gas, more than 400 million pounds of solid waste, and approximately 3.5 billion gallons of water.

4. Plant a tree so Earth Day is Every Day.

Planting trees is obviously great for the environment, but if you’re strategic about it, it can help you reduce your energy costs and use less fossil fuel. According to ArborDay.org, planting large deciduous trees on the east, west, and northwest sides of your house can shade and cool your home during the warmer months, even slashing your air conditioning costs by up to 35 percent.

5. Turn off the tap while you're standing at the sink.

If you leave the tap running while you tend to your pearly whites, you’re wasting approximately 200 gallons of water a month. Just turn the tap on when you need to wet your brush or rinse, instead of letting H20 pour uselessly down the drain. The same goes for anyone who shaves with the water running.

6. Go thrifting for clothes and housewares.

Take some advice from your old pal Macklemore and hit up some thrift shops—and that goes for whether you’re getting rid of clutter or adding more to your home. Buying and donating to thrift stores and second-hand shops means you’re recycling, supporting your local economy, and saving money. In fact, by some estimates, every item of clothing donated reduces 27 pounds of carbon emissions.

7. Get a houseplant to clear the air.

And grab a little guy for your desk at work, too. House plants and desk plants have been proven to improve your mood and raise productivity, but they also purify the air by removing volatile organic compounds (VOCs) found in homes and offices. They also absorb carbon dioxide and increase the humidity. Low-maintenance plants include pothos, spider plants, jade, various succulents, and peace lilies.

8. Get scrappy with Art and crafts.

Cut up paper that has only been used on one side and use it to scribble reminders, notes, grocery lists, etc. Or flip it over for any kids you know to color on. (You can color on it, too, if you want.)

9. Put your caffeine fix to work for the Earth.

Your coffee likely traveled thousands of miles to arrive in your pantry, so get good use out of it. Use your grounds to mulch plants that love acidic soil, like roses, evergreens, and rhododendrons. If your garden problems tend to be less about the dirt and more about the things that live in it, certain garden denizens hate coffee—namely ants, slugs, and snails. Sprinkle grounds in problem areas to deter them.

10. Enlighten yourself to Energy Savings.

Compact fluorescent bulbs (CFLs—the spiral light bulbs) may cost more upfront, but they’ll save up to $57 over the life of the bulb. More importantly, they use 70 percent less energy than traditional bulbs and installing them is as easy as screwing in a light bulb. (Insert joke here.)

11. Make tracks instead of short car trips.

You don't have to cut out your daily driving entirely, but when you only have a few blocks, or perhaps just a mile or two to travel and don't need to transport anything bulky, consider walking or hopping on your bike. Walking on those short trips generates less than a quarter of the greenhouse gasses that are emitted by driving the same distance.

20 Black-and-White Facts About Penguins

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iStock/fieldwork

Who is a penguin's favorite family member? Aunt Arctica! 

We kid! But seven of the 17 species of penguins can be found on the southernmost continent. Here are 20 more fun facts about these adorable tuxedoed birds. 

1. All 17 species of penguins are found exclusively in the Southern Hemisphere.

A group of penguins on an iceberg.
iStock/axily

2. Emperor Penguins are the tallest species, standing nearly 4 feet tall. The smallest is the Little Blue Penguin, which is only about 16 inches.

Three emperor penguins
iStock/Fabiano_Teixeira

3. The fastest species is the Gentoo Penguin, which can reach swimming speeds up to 22 mph.

A gentoo penguin swimming underwater
iStock/chameleonseye

4. A penguin's striking coloring is a matter of camouflage; from above, its black back blends into the murky depths of the ocean. From below, its white belly is hidden against the bright surface.

Penguins swimming in the ocean
iStock/USO

5. Fossils place the earliest penguin relative at some 60 million years ago, meaning an ancestor of the birds we see today survived the mass extinction of the dinosaurs.

Emperor penguins with chicks
iStock/vladsilver

6. Penguins ingest a lot of seawater while hunting for fish, but a special gland behind their eyes—the supraorbital gland—filters out the saltwater from their blood stream. Penguins excrete it through their beaks, or by sneezing.

Penguin swimming in the ocean
iStock/Musat

7. Unlike most birds—which lose and replace a few feathers at a time—penguins molt all at once, spending two or three weeks land-bound as they undergo what is called the catastrophic molt.

Gentoo penguin chick molting
iStock/ChristianWilkinson

8. All but two species of penguins breed in large colonies of up to one thousand birds.

A colony of king penguins
iStock/DurkTalsma

9. It varies by species, but many penguins will mate with the same member of the opposite sex season after season.

Two chinstrap penguins
iStock/Legacy-Images

10. Similarly, most species are also loyal to their exact nesting site, often returning to the same rookery in which they were born.

Magellanic penguin nesting in the ground
iStock/JeremyRichards

11. Some species create nests for their eggs out of pebbles and loose feathers. Emperor Penguins are an exception: They incubate a single egg each breeding season on the top of their feet. Under a loose fold of skin is a featherless area with a concentration of blood vessels that keeps the egg warm.

Penguin eggs
iStock/Buenaventuramariano

12. In some species, it is the male penguin which incubates the eggs while females leave to hunt for weeks at a time. Because of this, pudgy males—with enough fat storage to survive weeks without eating—are most desirable.

A group of emperor penguins and chick
iStock/vladsilver

13. Penguin parents—both male and female—care for their young for several months until the chicks are strong enough to hunt for food on their own.

Penguin chick and parent on a nest
iStock/golnyk

14. If a female Emperor Penguin's baby dies, she will often "kidnap" an unrelated chick.

Three emperor penguin chicks
iStock/AntAntarctic

15. Despite their lack of visible ears, penguins have excellent hearing and rely on distinct calls to identify their mates when returning to the crowded breeding grounds.

Gentoo penguins
iStock/Goddard_Photography

16. The first published account of penguins comes from Antonio Pigafetta, who was aboard Ferdinand Magellan's first circumnavigation of the globe in 1520. They spotted the animals near what was probably Punta Tombo in Argentina. (He called them "strange geese.")

A group of magellanic penguins on the seacoast
iStock/encrier

17. An earlier, anonymous diary entry from Vasco da Gama's 1497 voyage around the Cape of Good Hope makes mention of flightless birds as large as ducks.

A cape penguin in South Africa
iStock/ziggy_mars

18. Because they aren't used to danger from animals on solid ground, wild penguins exhibit no particular fear of human tourists.

Man videotaping a penguin in Antarctica
iStock/Bkamprath

19. Unlike most sea mammals—which rely on blubber to stay warm—penguins survive because their feathers trap a layer of warm air next to the skin that serves as insulation, especially when they start generating muscular heat by swimming around.

Penguin swimming in the ocean
iStock/Musat

20. In the 16th century, the word penguin actually referred to great auks (scientific name: Pinguinus impennis), a now-extinct species that inhabited the seas around eastern Canada. When explorers traveled to the Southern Hemisphere, they saw black and white birds that resembled auks, and called them penguins.

This story was first published in 2017.

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