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Chloe Effron

25 Homegrown Facts About Idaho

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Chloe Effron

Easily recognized as potato country, 152-year-old Idaho (pop. 1.6 million) has emerged as one of the country’s most productive agricultural states. But that’s hardly the only reason to take a closer look. Check out 25 facts that prove there’s more to the area than just spuds.

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1. It used to be a rectangle. When Idaho was recognized as a territory by President Abraham Lincoln in 1863, it included Montana and most of Wyoming, creating a nicely geometric shape. But poor winter traveling conditions made it hard for residents to get around, and the size of the land made it difficult for government authorities to organize. When Wyoming broke off in 1868, the territory was left with its slightly jagged imprint on the map. 

2. Boise was named the capital owing to similar travel difficulties. After lawmakers found that arriving in distant Lewiston was proving stressful, they voted to move the capital to Boise in 1864.

3. Latah County, created in 1888, is the only county in the U.S. ever created by an act of Congress. The move was made to pacify citizens in Northern Idaho who had petitioned to annex themselves to Washington the year before.

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4. The state held a contest in 1891 to find an official seal. The winner, Boise City’s Emma Edwards, became the first woman to design an emblem for any state. (She also won $100.) It was later redesigned in 1957 (above) to better reflect their agricultural, mining, and forestry commerce.  

5. The archetype of the pacifistic farmer wasn’t always accurate here: tensions between sheep herders and cattle ranchers over water and land resources for their animals resulted in two sheep farmers being murdered in 1896. Professional enforcer “Diamondfield” Jack Davis was tried and convicted for the killings, but later pardoned when two others confessed.

6. That same year, the Montpelier Bank became infamous for being knocked over by legendary outlaw Butch Cassidy. He stole over $7000, allegedly to pay the lawyer for a friend of his on trial for murder. Authorities searched for Cassidy for over a week, but he had made his escape.

7. The Coeur D’Alene mining controversy remains one of the most notorious chapters in the state’s history. In July 1892, union miners rallied against wage reductions and longer shifts by rioting at the mine, where scab workers had been assembled. After the violence ended in the death of several men, the National Guard was brought in to restore order. 

8. Idaho took a proactive approach to forest fire prevention. By stationing men and women on tree chairs (and later steel towers) 15 feet to 54 feet in the air, workers could spot smoke from an encroaching fire and alert park workers before it could spread. (Fire wasn’t the only hazard: One lookout was struck and killed by lightning while on duty.)

9. It’s the home of the first ski lift. Union Pacific Railroad felt that the slopes of Sun Valley in Idaho would be able to attract skiers for their snow fix. UPR engineer James Curran came up with the chair lift concept in 1936, which he modeled on the banana hooks that would carry fruit on to boats.

10. Walt Disney got married there in 1925. His wife-to-be, Lillian Bounds, was born in Lewiston and had come to California to visit her sister; after getting a job as an inker at Disney Productions, she met Walt and the two grew close. They were wed at a family house in Lewiston; Bounds is credited with naming her husband’s signature mouse “Mickey.”

11. No one has done more for potatoes than J.R. Simplot, who stumbled upon the idea for dehydrating them in 1941 by using a prune drying machine. The Dubuque-born farmer developed flash-frozen and cut potatoes for fries that would become a staple of freezers and fast-service restaurants everywhere. His license plate read “Mr. Spud.”

12. It introduced the world to atomic power. Idaho’s National Reactor Testing Station became the first site of nuclear fission being converted into electricity in 1951. In 1955, the Atomic Energy Commission was able to power the town of Arco for an entire hour with nuclear energy.

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13. It was hiding an extinct species of horse. Rancher Elmer Cook stumbled upon the remains in 1928 and soon the Smithsonian Institution was digging up more than three tons of specimens—including a complete skeleton—of the “Hagerman horse” in 1929.  It’s the earliest known fossil of the horse, though it actually might have more in common with zebras.

14. Evel Knievel met his match there. In 1974, the famed daredevil attempted to “jump” the 1600-foot width of Snake River Canyon in a custom-built “Skycycle.” The contraption sprung its parachute early, leaving Knievel in a heap at the bottom. Daredevils are still plotting ways to cross the Canyon, though no one has been successful yet.

15. Snake River was also a culprit in one of the state’s biggest disasters. The Teton Dam gave way in 1976, submerging thousands of homes and drowning countless cattle. The waters were stopped by the American Falls reservoir.

16. Fate didn’t give them much of a break: four years later, the eruption of Mount Saint Helens in Washington showered northern Idaho with a layer of volcanic ash.

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17. Usually, they have their lava under control. The Craters of the Moon is an area near Snake River full of post-volcanic fissures, fields, and tubes. At the heart of the 75-square-mile landmark is the Great Rift, a 52-mile-long crack in the Earth’s crust. It was declared a National Monument by President Calvin Coolidge in 1924 and later used by NASA as terrestrial training ground for the Apollo 14 astronauts.

18. All that ash might actually be why Idaho potatoes are world-renowned. According to the Idaho Potato Museum, volcanic debris makes for light, mineral-rich soil that’s ideal for spud production.  

19. Potatoes are really kind of small potatoes when it comes to Idaho’s major export. The arguably bigger contribution is television, which was invented by Philo T. Farnsworth for his Rigby high school chemistry class in 1922. The plan for image-producing electrons Farnsworth came up with would later become the crucial piece in his 1927 television prototype.

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20. They can lay claim to one of the world’s greatest athletes. Olympic decathlon gold medalist Dan O’Brien went to the University of Idaho and trained in the state for the 1992 Games, for which he failed to qualify due to failing on the pole vault. He returned in 1996 and conquered the competition.

21. Idaho’s Capitol Building is about as green as it gets: the structure is heated using geothermal water pumped from hot springs more than 3000 feet below the surface. Over 200 homes near Boise are also able to benefit from the system to keep warm, with the water reaching temperatures of 175 degrees Fahrenheit.

22. Author Edgar Rice Burroughs spent a chunk of his pre-Tarzan life toiling in Idaho, working as a cattle ranch hand near Pocatello before opening a stationery store and buying a houseboat. He once ran into fellow Idahoan Ernest Hemingway in Honolulu; despite his wife’s prodding, he was too shy to go say hello.

23. Adam West lives in Ketchum part of the year. If you look up his name in the local phone book, you’re advised to instead search for “Wayne, Bruce.”  

24. They have their own Loch Ness-esque mystery. The Bear Lake Monster at the Utah/Idaho border was first spotted in 1868 and described by witnesses as being reptilian or bear-like (or both) in appearance. One possible explanation: swimming elk.

Richard Elzey, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

25. You can thank Idaho for Furby. The mechanical toy fad was co-invented by Boise resident Caleb Chung in 1997, who later sold it to Tiger Electronics. Chung maintained a presence in his Idaho lab, where he also developed Pleo, a robotic dinosaur pet launched in 2006.  

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30 Memorable Quotes from Carrie Fisher
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Just days after suffering a heart attack aboard a flight en route to Los Angeles, beloved actress, author, and screenwriter Carrie Fisher passed away at the age of 60 on December 27, 2016. Though she’ll always be most closely associated with her role as Princess Leia in Star Wars, Fisher’s life was like something out of its own Hollywood movie. Born in Beverly Hills on this day in 1956, Fisher was born into show business royalty as the daughter of singer Eddie Fisher and actress Debbie Reynolds.

In addition to her work in front of the camera, Fisher built up an impressive resume behind the scenes, too, most notably as a writer; in addition to several memoirs and semi-autobiographical novels, including Wishful Drinking, Surrender the Pink, Delusions of Grandma, The Best Awful, Postcards from the Edge, and The Princess Diarist (which was released last month), she was also an in-demand script doctor who counted Sister Act, Hook, Lethal Weapon 3, and The Wedding Singer among her credits.

Though she struggled with alcoholism, drug addiction, and mental illness, Fisher always maintained a sense of humor—as evidenced by the 30 memorable quotes below.

ON GROWING UP IN HOLLYWOOD

“I am truly a product of Hollywood in-breeding. When two celebrities mate, someone like me is the result.”

“I was born into big celebrity. It could only diminish.”

“At a certain point in my early twenties, my mother started to become worried about my obviously ever-increasing drug ingestion. So she ended up doing what any concerned parent would do. She called Cary Grant.”

“I was street smart, but unfortunately the street was Rodeo Drive.”

“If anything, my mother taught me how to sur-thrive. That's my word for it.”

ON AGING

“As you get older, the pickings get slimmer, but the people don't.”

ON INSTANT GRATIFICATION

“Instant gratification takes too long.”

ON THE LEGACY OF STAR WARS

“People are still asking me if I knew Star Wars was going to be that big of a hit. Yes, we all knew. The only one who didn't know was George.”

“Leia follows me like a vague smell.”

“I signed my likeness away. Every time I look in the mirror, I have to send Lucas a couple of bucks.”

“People see me and they squeal like tropical birds or seals stranded on the beach.”

“You're not really famous until you’re a Pez dispenser.”

ON THE FLEETING NATURE OF SUCCESS

“There is no point at which you can say, 'Well, I'm successful now. I might as well take a nap.'”

ON DEALING WITH MENTAL ILLNESS

“I'm very sane about how crazy I am.”

ON RESENTMENT

“Resentment is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die."

ON LOVE

“Someone has to stand still for you to love them. My choices are always on the run.”

“I've got to stop getting obsessed with human beings and fall in love with a chair. Chairs have everything human beings have to offer, and less, which is obviously what I need. Less emotional feedback, less warmth, less approval, less patience, and less response. The less the merrier. Chairs it is. I must furnish my heart with feelings for furniture.”

“I don’t hate hardly ever, and when I love, I love for miles and miles. A love so big it should either be outlawed or it should have a capital and its own currency.”

ON EMOTIONS

“The only thing worse than being hurt is everyone knowing that you're hurt.”

ON RELATIONSHIPS

“I envy people who have the capacity to sit with another human being and find them endlessly interesting, I would rather watch TV. Of course this becomes eventually known to the other person.”

ON HOLLYWOOD

“Acting engenders and harbors qualities that are best left way behind in adolescence.”

“You can't find any true closeness in Hollywood, because everybody does the fake closeness so well.”

“It's a man's world and show business is a man's meal, with women generously sprinkled through it like overqualified spice.”

ON FEAR

“Stay afraid, but do it anyway. What’s important is the action. You don’t have to wait to be confident. Just do it and eventually the confidence will follow.”

ON LIFE

“I don’t want life to imitate art. I want life to be art.”

“No motive is pure. No one is good or bad-but a hearty mix of both. And sometimes life actually gives to you by taking away.”

“If my life wasn't funny it would just be true, and that is unacceptable.”

“I shot through my twenties like a luminous thread through a dark needle, blazing toward my destination: Nowhere.”

“My life is like a lone, forgotten Q-Tip in the second-to-last drawer.”

ON DEATH

“You know what's funny about death? I mean other than absolutely nothing at all? You'd think we could remember finding out we weren't immortal. Sometimes I see children sobbing at airports and I think, 'Aww. They've just been told.'”

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12 Admissible Facts About Judge Judy
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Judge Judith Sheindlin was 54 years old when her namesake TV show premiered on September 16, 1996. Two years later the diminutive (5’1”) adjudicator was trouncing the powerhouse Oprah Winfrey Show in the Nielsen ratings. Today, she is one of the highest paid TV celebrities, earning $47 million per year—which she will continue to do through 2020, thanks to a new extended contract.

Fervent fans are familiar with Judge Judy’s more outrageous cases, like The Tupperware Lady and the eBay Cell Phone Scammer, but they might not know some of these fun facts about both the show and the woman behind it, who turns 75 years old today.

1. THAT GRUFF, NO-NONSENSE STYLE OF JURISPRUDENCE IS NOT AN ACT.

Judge Judy spent a little over 20 years in New York City’s family court system, where she earned a reputation early in her career for being blunt, impatient, and tough-talking. “I can’t stand stupid, and I can’t stand slow,” was one of her oft-repeated “Judyisms” at that time. She also frequently warned attorneys appearing before her: "I want first-time offenders to think of their appearance in my courtroom as the second-worst experience of their lives ... circumcision being the first." 60 Minutes filmed her in action as part of a 1993 profile, and while her hair color and eyebrows have softened since then, her impatient rants and verbal smackdowns haven’t changed a bit.

2. SHE BEGAN WEARING HER TRADEMARK LACE COLLAR AS SOON AS SHE WAS APPOINTED AS A JUDGE.

New York City Mayor Ed Koch appointed Judith Sheindlin to the bench in 1982, and to celebrate she and her husband Jerry—both civil servants at the time—took a $399 package trip to Greece for two weeks. While passing by a row of street kiosks with various locally made crafts for sale, she impulsively purchased a white lace collar from a vendor. She explained to her husband that male judges wore stiff-collared white dress shirts and colorful neckties that peeped out of the top of their robes, so that they had a nice colorful “buffer” between the austere black gown and their face. Female judges, however, had nothing but neck peeping out of their robes and the unforgiving black color revealed every minute of sleep deprivation as well as any skin tone irregularities. The white lace collar, she decided, would not only perk up her face but would also be a bit disarming for litigants—she could picture them thinking “That nice little lady with the lace collar sitting behind the bench couldn’t hurt a fly!”

3. DESPITE THOSE NEW YORK CITY SCENES ON THE COMMERCIAL BUMPERS, JUDGE JUDY IS TAPED IN CALIFORNIA.

Sheindlin spends 52 days per year taping her show. She flies to California via private jet every other Monday and hears cases on Tuesday and Wednesday (occasionally Thursday if there are production delays). One full week’s worth of shows are filmed each day. Many viewers, however, are fooled into thinking Judy is holding court in her native New York, thanks to the scenic Manhattan footage in between station breaks and the New York state flag behind her chair. That is, until something oh-so-unique to the west coast—like an earthquake—occurs on-camera. (Note that in the clip below, Judge Judy quickly ducks beneath her bench once the room begins to tremble.)

4. SHE IS BRIEFED ON THE CASES BEFORE SHE ARRIVES ON THE SET.

Judge Sheindlin does not go to the studio unprepared; producers FedEx the sworn statements and relevant information on each upcoming case to her home (Naples, Florida in the winter; Greenwich, Connecticut in the spring and summer) and she familiarizes herself with enough details to have some background, but not enough so that the case doesn’t appear “fresh” when she questions the litigants during filming.

5. THE CASES REALLY ARE REAL.

The production company has a staff of 60-plus researchers across the country who spend their days poring over lawsuits filed in local small claims courts. Thanks to the Freedom of Information Act, they are able to photocopy cases that they think might make for interesting television and those copies are forwarded to the show’s producers. Any cases that make it to the next stage (about three percent) involve contacting the litigants involved and asking them if they’d like to forego their civil court hearing in exchange for a free trip to Los Angeles, an $850 appearance fee, and a per diem of $40 (as of 2012). An added incentive is that any judgments awarded are paid by the show, not by the plaintiff or defendant. The best cases, according to the executive producer, are those that involve litigants with a prior relationship—mother/daughter, father/son, boyfriend/girlfriend, etc. Such cases engage the audience because it’s an emotional tie that’s been broken (the recurring plot on many soap operas).

6. THE AUDIENCE, HOWEVER, IS NOT SO REAL.

Regular viewers will note that the same faces seem to pop up in the audience regularly. Those folks in the spectator seats are paid extras (often aspiring actors) who earn $8 per hour to sit and look attentive. Prospective audience members apply for the limited amount of seats by emailing their contact information along with a clear headshot to one of Judge Judy’s production coordinators (sorry, we cannot provide that info). If chosen, the spectator must dress appropriately (business casual or better) and arrive promptly for the 8:30 a.m. call time. Audience members must pass through metal detectors on their way in and are not allowed to bring cell phones or any electronic devices with them, and food, drinks and chewing gum are also verboten. Spectators are rearranged after each case so it’s not as obvious that it’s the same group of people, and the most attractive folks are always seated in the front row (it’s Hollywood, after all). The audience is instructed to talk animatedly amongst themselves in between each case so that Officer Byrd’s “Order in the court!” admonition has more impact. Bad behavior is grounds for immediate expulsion (in front of 10 million viewers, as Judge Judy likes to remind us).

7. JUDGE JUDY DRESSES CASUALLY FOR THE JOB.

Sheindlin has been known to publicly chastise litigants who come to her courtroom in skimpy clothing or “beach attire,” but behind that bench and under that robe she is usually sporting jeans and a tank top or T-shirt.

8. OFFICER BYRD IS A REAL BAILIFF.

Brooklyn native Petri Hawkins Byrd earned his B.Sc. degree from the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in 1989 and started working in the Brooklyn Family Court system. He first worked with Judge Sheindlin when he transferred to the Manhattan Family Court. “We [the court officers] used to call her the Joan Rivers of the judicial system,” he recalled in a 2004 interview. “She was just hilarious.” Byrd relocated to San Mateo, California in 1990 to work as a Special Deputy U.S. Marshal and a few years later he read an item in Liz Smith’s gossip column about Sheindlin’s upcoming TV show. He sent his old colleague a congratulatory letter and added, “If you need a bailiff, I still look good in uniform.”

9. DESPITE HIS SOMETIMES IMPOSING COURTROOM DEMEANOR, OFFICER BYRD IS ALSO A VERY FUNNY GUY.

He is a talented impressionist, but his sense of humor almost cost him his job—or so he thought at the time. Once, back when he was working with the feisty Judge Sheindlin in New York, he donned her robe and reading glasses to entertain his co-workers with a barrage of Judyisms. Of course, as always seems to happen when one mocks the boss in the workplace, he was caught in the act.

10. THE OCCASIONAL CELEBRITY RELIES ON JUDGE JUDY’S BRAND OF JUSTICE.

Depending upon your own definition of “celebrity”, of course. Actress Roz Kelly (Pinky Tuscadero on Happy Days) appeared on the show in 1996 as the plaintiff, suing her plastic surgeon for a leaky breast implant that was impeding her acting career. One year later, former Sex Pistol John Lydon (a.k.a. Johnny Rotten) appeared as a defendant when drummer Robert Williams, who was hired to support Lydon on a solo tour, sued the singer for lost wages and an assault. Despite Lydon’s occasional bad courtroom behavior, the decision was made in his favor.

11. THE STAR ORIGINALLY DIDN’T WANT THE SHOW NAMED AFTER HER.

Sheindlin first envisioned calling her show Hot Bench, a term used frequently in the appellate court, but the producers wisely advised her that the term was meaningless to TV viewers who didn’t work in the legal system. Her next thought was Judy Justice, since she’d overheard her court officers warning deadbeat parents who were delinquent in child support payments that they were in for a load of "Judy Justice" if they weren’t prepared to cough up some money. In retrospect, Sheindlin realized the wisdom in calling the show Judge Judy: She couldn’t be easily replaced, as the various judges had been on The People’s Court. However, after 19 years on the air, she still does not refer to herself by that sobriquet; whether introducing herself to someone or advertising her show in a promotional clip, she is always either “Judge Sheindlin” or “Judge Judy Sheindlin.”

12. JUDGE SHEINDLIN INHERITED HER SENSE OF HUMOR FROM HER FATHER.

Murray Blum, Judy’s beloved father, was a dentist whose office was in the family home. In those days—before sedation dentistry was an option—a dentist’s best tool to distract nervous patients was the gift of gab, and Murray became a master storyteller out of necessity. Years of listening to her father at the dinner table and at family gatherings taught Judy how to deliver a punchline. One evening outside of a hotel in Hollywood, Sheindlin was approached by a woman who introduced herself as Lorna Berle. She told the judge that her husband Milton was a huge fan and asked if she would mind talking to him for a moment. The elderly comic slowly emerged from a limo and Judy greeted him by singing the theme song to Texaco Star Theater, her favorite TV show as a child. Milton Berle complimented her in return, saying “Kid, you’ve got great comic timing.”

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