WTF Fun Fact 13665 – US Time Zones

In the early days of American history, the concept of time was not as unified as it is today. With over a hundred separate time zones, the United States’ approach to timekeeping was a complex and often confusing system. This fascinating period in the nation’s history reveals much about the evolution of time standardization and its impact on society and commerce.

The Era of Numerous Time Zones

Before the adoption of standardized time zones, the United States operated on a surprisingly intricate system of over 144 separate time zones. Each city or town was free to determine its own local time, usually based on the position of the sun. This meant that when it was noon in one town, it could be 12:15 in a neighboring city just a few miles away.

This system was manageable when communities were isolated, but as the country expanded and the railway system connected distant cities, the multitude of local times became problematic. Train schedules were particularly affected, as rail companies struggled to create timetables that made sense across various local times.

The Push for Standardization of Time Zones

The turning point came with the advent of the railroad industry. The need for standardized time became evident as train travel made the flaws of multiple local times apparent. Railroads operated on their own time systems, creating a confusing and sometimes dangerous situation for travelers and operators alike.

The solution emerged in the form of four main time zones proposed by the railroad companies. On November 18, 1883, known as “The Day of Two Noons,” railroads across the country synchronized their clocks to these new standard time zones. This was not an official law but rather a practice adopted by the railroads and the communities they served.

Government Intervention and the Standard Time Act

It wasn’t until March 19, 1918, that the United States government officially adopted the standard time zone system with the Standard Time Act. This act also established daylight saving time, a contentious and ongoing debate to this day. The act was a response to the confusion and inefficiency of having multiple time standards and was also influenced by the needs of World War I.

The transition was not immediate or smooth. People were accustomed to their local times and resisted change. However, over time, the benefits of a standardized system became clear, especially for scheduling trains, conducting business, and broadcasting.

The Impact of Standardization

The move to a standardized time system revolutionized many aspects of American life. It facilitated better communication and coordination across the country, essential for a growing nation. Economic activities, especially those related to transportation and communication, became more efficient and reliable.

Moreover, the concept of time zones influenced the world. Today, time zones are an integral part of global coordination, affecting everything from international flights to the stock market.

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Source: “Snoozers Are, In Fact, Losers” — The New Yorker

WTF Fun Fact 13659 – Hawaii Snow

While New York City and Boston are typically associated with snowy winters, Hawaii snow has surprisingly outpaced them in snowfall this winter.

Hawaii Snow

The Mauna Kea Weather Center on Hawaii Island experienced a significant snowstorm in late November. That resulted in approximately half a foot of snow. This event occurred on the peaks of the Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa volcanoes.

In contrast, Boston reported only a fraction of its average snowfall, receiving a mere 0.2 inches on December 6. New York City, often pictured with winter snowscapes, has yet to see its first snowfall of the season.

Social media buzzed with images of Hawaii’s snow-covered volcanic peaks. This surprised many who associate the Aloha State solely with sun and surf. However, snow on Hawaii’s higher altitudes is not as rare as one might think.

Hawaii’s High-Altitude Snow

Hawaii’s volcanic peaks, particularly the nearly 14,000-foot-tall Mauna Kea volcano, are known for their altitude and even receive snow occasionally in the summer. Mauna Kea is recognized as the world’s tallest mountain when measured from base to peak, extending about 20,000 feet below sea level. This significant elevation means that these mountains can experience winter conditions distinct from the tropical climate below.

Skiers sometimes venture to these Hawaiian peaks for a unique skiing experience, despite the absence of traditional ski resorts in the state. Blizzard warnings are not unheard of in these areas during the winter months.

On the East Coast, cities like Boston and New York City are experiencing an unusually mild winter. Boston’s most significant snow event in January produced only 3.5 inches, while New York City’s largest was a modest 1.8 inches in February. Tom Kines, a senior meteorologist at AccuWeather, highlighted that this level of snowfall is atypical for these cities. Boston’s average snowfall for November is 0.7 inches, escalating to 9 inches in December. New York City usually sees about half an inch in November and close to 5 inches in December.

El Niño’s Potential Impact

The weather pattern known as El Niño, characterized by warmer ocean waters in the Pacific, might change the East Coast’s winter outlook. Following the end of La Niña in March, El Niño began this summer.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has predicted that El Niño could lead to near-normal or slightly above-normal precipitation for the East Coast.

This means there’s still a chance for cities like New York and Boston to catch up and experience their share of winter wonderland scenes. El Niño’s influence could bring more wet weather to these areas, potentially increasing their snowfall totals as the winter progresses.

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Source: “Hawaii’s Gotten More Snow This Winter Than New York City, Boston Combined” — Newsweek

WTF Fun Fact 13556 – Quebec’s Civil Code

Since 1981, Section 393 of Quebec’s Civil Code has forbidden women from legally taking their husbands’ surnames post-marriage.

Quebec established the law to combat societal pressure on women and to promote gender equality. However, not all women agree with the law and some find it restricting.

With this law, a woman’s maiden name remains her legal name after marriage, and she cannot change it without the authorization of the court—which isn’t an easy task.

A married couple may hyphenate each other’s surnames, and women can call themselves whatever name they’d like in an unofficial capacity. But only their birth name is legally recognized by law.

Quebec’s Civil Code Intent and Reception

The law’s primary intent was to protect women from societal pressures and ensure their freedom. However, as Dubé notes, it’s a delicate balance between protecting and improving freedom. Exceptions to the law exist, but they are rare and only apply in extreme cases. This rigidity applies even to Canadian women who relocate to Quebec after marrying in other provinces.

Sophie Grégoire-Trudeau, Canada’s de facto first lady, recently used a hyphenated version of her name, igniting a discussion on this topic. Despite the legal stipulations, she chooses to use both her maiden name and her husband’s surname, symbolizing her personal identity and partnership.

For many Quebec women retaining their birth names may be a significant aspect of their cultural identity. This practice signifies autonomy and self-belonging.

Cultural Shifts and Modern Perspectives

Over the years, Quebec’s approach to married names has influenced cultural norms, including the trend of parents giving children two last names. While this was popular for a time after the 1981 law, its prevalence has decreased. The law’s existence remains a crucial part of Quebec’s identity, reflecting the province’s commitment to gender equality and individual autonomy.

In the broader context, Quebec’s approach to married names remains a unique case, raising important questions about personal freedom, cultural norms, and the evolving nature of marriage and identity in modern society.

As discussions around these issues continue, it becomes evident that the choice of a name, far from being a mere formality, is deeply rooted in notions of identity, tradition, and personal freedom. Perhaps Quebec’s Civil Code will be changed to allow more women freedom over their names in the future.

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Source: “Does Quebec’s ban on married names infringe on women’s rights?” — Global News

WTF Fun Fact 13647 – The Optical Illusion of the Gateway Arch

The Gateway Arch in St. Louis, a renowned symbol of America’s westward expansion, presents a fascinating optical illusion.

To many observers, this iconic structure appears to be taller than its width. However, the reality defies this visual trickery: the Arch measures precisely 630 feet both in height and width.

This illusion stems from the unique shape and viewing angles of the Arch, challenging our perceptions and adding to its allure.

Engineering Marvel Behind the Illusion

The construction of the Gateway Arch was an exercise of extreme precision. The two separate legs of the arch had to meet with an incredibly small margin for error – less than 1/64th of an inch. Any deviation from this would have prevented the arch from joining correctly.

The success in achieving this feat is a testament to the extraordinary skill of the welders and engineers involved in its construction.

Remarkably, despite the high-risk nature of the construction, not a single life was lost during the building of the Arch. This defies the initial predictions of the insurance company, which expected 13 fatalities due to the project’s complexity and the lack of safety nets for workers.

More Interesting Facts about The Gateway Arch

Another aspect of the Gateway Arch’s design that adds to its distinction is its unique tram system. This system, part elevator and part Ferris wheel was conceptualized by Dick Bowser, a man without formal engineering training. His innovative design solved the problem of transporting visitors to the top of the curved structure, something a traditional elevator could not achieve.

While security concerns generally prevent presidents from ascending the Arch, President Dwight D. Eisenhower was a notable exception. He insisted on riding the tram to the top during a visit in 1967, becoming the only president to have experienced the Gateway Arch from its highest point.

Maintaining an Icon

The Gateway Arch’s recent renovation is an extensive and costly endeavor. Costing over $380 million, this project involves the renovation of the surrounding park, expansion of the museum, and implementation of flood prevention measures. This cost notably exceeds the original construction cost of the arch, adjusted for inflation.

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Source: “8 Facts You Didn’t Know About St. Louis’s Gateway Arch” — Architectural Digest

WTF Fun Fact 13541 – NYC’s Rat Czar


New York City has taken a significant step forward in its war against rodents by appointing Kathleen Corradi as the city’s first-ever “rat czar.”

This initiative is a part of Mayor Eric Adams’ administration’s efforts to address a major quality-of-life and health challenge. Corradi’s role involves coordinating rat reduction efforts across city government agencies, community organizations, and the private sector.

Harlem Rat Mitigation Zone and Funding

As part of this initiative, Mayor Adams also announced the Harlem Rat Mitigation Zone, backed by a $3.5 million investment for Fiscal Year 2023. This investment aims to expand and accelerate rat reduction efforts across Harlem, encompassing Community Boards 9, 10, and 11. The funding will assist in employing new staff, purchasing equipment, and implementing innovative rat mitigation techniques.

Corradi’s strategic plan to combat the rat crisis includes cutting off rats’ food sources and deploying new technologies for detection and extermination. These efforts will harness the expertise of various city agencies like the Department of Health, Parks and Recreation, Housing Authority, Department of Education, Sanitation, and Small Business Services.

The rat mitigation strategy is more than just a quality-of-life issue. It symbolizes the fight against systemic challenges that have long affected New Yorkers, especially in low-income communities and communities of color. The plan aims to provide equitable quality of life experiences for all New Yorkers.

Collaborative Approach and Public Involvement

The strategy emphasizes the importance of each New Yorker playing their part in creating a rat-free city. This includes keeping homes clean, securing trash, destroying potential rat habitats, and adhering to common-sense tips. The city plans to offer Harlem-specific rat academies, teaching residents how to prevent rat infestations on their properties.

In support of the initiative, the Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York City received a donation of over 1,000 Tomcat rodent control products. These will be used across various city locations, aiding the fight against rodent infestations.

Long-Term Vision for the Rat Czar

The appointment of a rat czar marks a new era in New York City’s approach to pest control. The long-term goal is to produce a cleaner, more livable city for future generations. This effort represents a bold and creative approach to tackle one of the city’s most persistent problems.

Kathleen Corradi brings a wealth of experience in community engagement, program development, and facility operations. Her background in science and expertise in rodent mitigation positions her to lead this challenging and crucial initiative effectively.

The Adams administration has shown its commitment to addressing quality-of-life issues through various initiatives, including the ‘Get Stuff Clean’ program. The rat czar appointment further emphasizes this commitment, aiming to make New York City a cleaner and healthier place for its residents.

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Source: “Mayor Adams Anoints Kathleen Corradi as NYC’s First-Ever ‘Rat Czar'” — NYC.gov

WTF Fun Fact 13630 – Mysterious Humming Noise in Ireland

In Omagh, Co Tyrone, a mysterious humming noise has left residents tossing and turning.

Since late October, the persistent humming sound has been the soundtrack to many sleepless nights across this Northern Irish town. The curious case of the nocturnal hum has not only disturbed the peace but sparked widespread intrigue and a variety of theories.

The Mysterious Humming Noise

Local residents describe the sound as a “sustained, persistent buzz or hum,” often accompanied by a tangible vibration. It’s a noise that doesn’t discriminate, affecting various parts of Omagh and its diverse population. Alliance councillor Stephen Donnelly, although not personally plagued by the hum, acknowledges the widespread discomfort it has caused. He reports that the council is on the hunt for both the cause and a solution, reaching out for specialized equipment and expertise to aid in their quest.

The intensity of the disturbance is not to be understated. For a “significant number of people,” the quality of sleep and, consequently, life has plummeted. As the hum chooses the night to make its presence known, the darkness brings with it the dread of another restless experience for the townsfolk.

The Sound of Speculation

The source of the hum remains as elusive as a whisper in the wind. While some suspect the nocturnal drone of generators, the lack of concrete evidence leaves room for speculation. The council’s environmental health officers are grappling with the challenge, their task complicated by the vast area over which the hum has cast its acoustic shadow. They’re considering bringing in a specialist company to detect the elusive source.

Councillor Donnelly urges caution against fanciful speculation, despite the colorful array of theories populating local gossip. From extraterrestrial visits to paranormal activities, the hum has inspired a spectrum of supernatural and outlandish explanations. Yet, Donnelly remains confident that the hum’s origins, when finally uncovered, will likely be rooted in the mundane rather than the fantastical.

It’s not just Omagh that’s abuzz about the hum; the story has echoed across the globe, reaching as far as Australia. This international spotlight has turned a local nuisance into a global conversation piece. It seems the world is just as curious about the hum as the residents of Omagh are desperate for a solution.

The Search Continues for the Source of the Hum

As the investigation continues, the people of Omagh await a resolution with bated breath. The council is committed to solving the mystery, hopeful that the introduction of advanced technology will bring answers and relief. Until then, the hum remains Omagh’s unsolved nocturne, a nightly enigma that has turned sleep into a sought-after treasure.

In the meantime, residents hold onto hope that the hum will soon be silenced and that their nights will once again be filled with the sound of silence.

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Source: “Source of mystery humming sound in Omagh ‘difficult to pinpoint,’ council says” — The Irish Times

WTF Fun Fact 13618 – Hong Kong’s Snake Pizza

Pizza Hut, the iconic American pizza chain, has taken a bold leap into the world of fusion cuisine in Hong Kong by introducing a pizza that’s causing quite a stir. This isn’t just any pizza; it’s topped with snake meat. Collaborating with Ser Wong Fun, a renowned local restaurant with over a century of history, Pizza Hut is reinventing traditional flavors and bringing a slice of local heritage to the pizza scene.

Pizza Hut Serving Snake Pizza

The snake pizza is a blend of traditional snake stew elements like shredded snake meat, black mushrooms, and Chinese dried ham. This blend rests atop the familiar pizza base, marrying the East with the West in an unexpected way. The pizza also swaps out the classic tomato sauce for abalone sauce, adding to the luxurious twist of flavors.

Snake stew has been a delicacy in Hong Kong, particularly enjoyed as the weather turns colder. Many locals believe in its warming and medicinal benefits. Pizza Hut’s new creation banks on this traditional belief, promising a nourishing experience that challenges the conventional palate. It’s a modern take on a dish deeply rooted in the region’s culinary culture.

Reactions to Pizza Hut’s snake pizza are as varied as the ingredients on the pizza itself. Some diners find the concept intriguing, drawn to the idea of snake meat’s rich texture and high-protein content. Others, particularly those not accustomed to the idea of snakes as food, express apprehension at the thought of trying this unconventional topping.

Expertise in Every Slice

To ensure authenticity, Pizza Hut has drawn on the expertise of Ser Wong Fun, which specializes in preparing snake meat delicately. The snake breeds used in the recipe, including Chinese rat snakes and banded kraits, are carefully selected to provide a balance of flavors that are both tantalizing and savory, suitable for the season.

This isn’t Pizza Hut Hong Kong’s first foray into localized menus. In addition to the snake pizza, they’re also introducing a pizza featuring Chinese preserved sausages, a nod to another local favorite. This trend of customizing menus to reflect local tastes is not exclusive to Hong Kong. Pizza Hut Taiwan has experimented with toppings like durian and pig blood curds, while Pizza Hut Japan has offered Tonkotsu ramen pizza, each reflecting the culinary preferences of their respective regions.

The snake pizza is a limited-time offering, available until November 22. It’s a bold statement in the world of fast food, where innovation and tradition collide to create new experiences for adventurous foodies. Whether it becomes a beloved staple or a seasonal novelty, Pizza Hut’s snake pizza has certainly captured the attention of pizza enthusiasts and culinary explorers alike.

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Source:

WTF Fun Fact 13600 – Italian Mother Evicts Sons

You know things have to be bad at home when you read a headline that says “mother evicts sons from home.”

In the scenic city of Pavia, Italy, a landmark case highlights the sometimes strained dynamics between parents and their adult children. A 75-year-old mother, frustrated and worn out, took her two sons to court to have them evicted from her home. The central bone of contention? The mother, who is retired, alleges her two adult sons have lived off her pension, not contributing financially or assisting with household chores, despite both being gainfully employed.

The Sons’ Defense: Cultural and Legal Ties

The sons, aged 40 and 42, labeled as “bamboccioni” (big babies) in court, didn’t take the eviction lightly. Resorting to legal representation, they countered that Italian law compels parents to support their children indefinitely. This argument alludes to a cultural phenomenon in Italy, where many adults live with their parents into their late twenties and beyond. The term “mammoni” (mama’s boys) is often used to describe such men who are heavily reliant on their mothers, even in adulthood.

In the court ruling, Judge Simona Caterbi upheld the mother’s plea. She emphasized that adult children don’t have an inherent right to inhabit a property owned solely by their parents. Particularly when that goes against the parents’ wishes. Caterbi acknowledged the law’s provision for parents to maintain their offspring. But she deemed it unreasonable for men over 40 to continue exploiting this provision.

Judge Caterbi’s verdict: the sons have until December 18 to pack up and leave.

What Lies Ahead After Mother Evicts Sons?

Italy is no stranger to such cases. In 2020, the nation’s Supreme Court ruled against a 35-year-old part-time music teacher who sought financial backing from his parents. He claimed his 20,000 euros annual income was insufficient. It seems Italy grapples with a unique cultural challenge – a significant number of adults delay their departure from the parental nest.

According to Eurostat 2022, Italians, on average, venture out of their parents’ homes around age 30. This trend is relatively high when juxtaposed with northern European countries like Finland, Sweden, and Denmark. In these countries, young adults commence their independent journey at roughly 21.

As the sons ponder an appeal, this case underscores the evolving dynamics between Italian parents and their adult children. With the court’s ruling, other parents might be empowered to establish boundaries, especially with adult children who can support themselves. Furthermore, it’s an essential commentary on cultural shifts and the legal system’s role in mediating familial disputes.

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Source: “‘Parasites’: Mother wins court case to evict two sons in their 40s” — CNN

WTF Fun Fact 13570 – Weird Laws in Kentucky

Usually when you see “weird” or “dumb” laws online, they’re made up – but one of the weird laws in Kentucky that’s floating around happens to be true.

Kentucky forbids people from dyeing fowl or rabbits a different color.

Weird Laws in Kentucky Regarding Dyeing Fowl and Rabbits

First, let’s lay out the specifics. According to Kentucky Revised Statutes 436.600:

  • No person can sell, exchange, display, or even possess living baby chicks, ducklings, or other fowl (or rabbits) that have a dyed or colored appearance.
  • Nobody can dye or color baby chicks, ducklings, or other fowl (or rabbits).
  • One cannot sell, exchange, or give away baby chicks, ducklings, or other fowl under two months of age in a quantity less than six. However, a caveat exists: anyone can sell a rabbit weighing three pounds or more at just six weeks of age.

Violating this quirky law will set you back anywhere from $100 to $500 in fines.

Historical Context: Why Such a Law?

So, the million-dollar question: Why does this law exist? While the statute doesn’t lay out its origins, we can make some educated guesses based on its stipulations. One possibility involves protecting young animals. By setting a minimum quantity for sale and age restrictions, Kentucky may aim to ensure these creatures get adequate care, aren’t separated too early from their siblings, and aren’t used as mere novelties.

The dyeing provision particularly points to the novelty issue. Brightly colored chicks might appeal as unique Easter gifts. However, after the festive season, the novelty wears off, leaving many dyed animals abandoned or mistreated. Such a law, then, seeks to prevent impulsive purchases that lead to animal neglect.

In the age of Instagram and TikTok, unique pets can become instant sensations. Imagine the number of likes and shares a blue duckling might garner! But this is exactly where the danger lies. Social media trends can fuel impulsive decisions, leading people to obtain pets they aren’t prepared to care for in the long term. Kentucky’s law, although enacted long before the digital age, remains relevant today.

The Larger Implication of the Weird Laws in Kentucky

While this law may seem quirky on the surface, it underlines a broader issue: animal welfare. Kentucky isn’t alone in this endeavor. Many states have regulations to prevent the mistreatment of animals, especially those bought and sold as pets. These laws often aim to balance personal freedoms with the ethical treatment of animals.

By preventing the dyeing of animals and setting stipulations for their sale, Kentucky sends a clear message about the importance of treating animals with respect and care.

Ducklings & Beyond

While our focus here is primarily on blue ducklings, the law’s scope is broader, covering chicks, other fowl, and rabbits. The inclusion of various animals in this legislation underscores the state’s commitment to protecting a range of creatures from potential misuse and abuse.

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Source: “2022 Kentucky Revised Statutes; Chapter 436 – Offenses against morality; 436.600 Dyeing or selling dyed baby fowl or rabbits” — Justia