Top 15 things I learned last week

15) Number of people killed by bear attacks in Yosemite National Park since the park was formed in 1865: 0
Number off bears killed by speeding cars in Yosemite National Park so far this summer: 19

14) Biscuits are not cookies. Jumpers are sweaters. Cactus means useless or broken. Mackas is a fast food restaurant serving Big Macs and Quarter Pounders. Bollocks doesn’t necessarily mean testicles. Oh what fun you can have when a Canadian, Aussie and a Brit get together to speak the same language.

13) Canadians tend to say “sorry” a lot. I’m told that we pronounce it “sore-ree” while Americans say “saw-ree”, to which I replied, “Practice makes perfect. Sorry.”

12) Orson Welles did not actually write Citizen Kane – the thinly disguised story of William Randolph Hearst, squire of the Hearst Castle at San Simeon. Herman J. Mankiewicz was the true screenwriter but both Welles and Mankiewicz received Academy Awards for the screenplay.

11) Although he once ran for Congress as a Democrat and was thought of as a progressive or even a radical, newspaper baron William Randolph Hearst instructed his editors to run paid columns by Adlolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini and while in Europe in 1934 he attended the Nuremberg rally.

10) A light bulb at the Livermore (California) Fire Station has been burning continuously since 1901.

9) The Bellagio, Caesars Augustus tower and Treasure Island all have an architectural feature designed to trick the eye into seeing the buildings as smaller (thus closer) than they really are. Each window covers four rooms on two floors. For example, The Bellagio is a 32-story building disguised as a 16-story building. Wynn Las Vegas uses the same trick, in that there are two floors between each white stripe.

8) Hetch Hetchy is the name of a valley, town and water reservoir in Tuolumne County, California. The name comes from the Miwok word hatchhatchie, which means “edible grasses.” It could be worse. Those edible grasses were likely Dichelostemma capitatu, otherwise known as ‘Blue Dicks’ or ‘Purplehead’.

7) It was while living in Nevada in 1863 that Samuel Clemens first used the pen name for which he became famous. In a letter to the editor of the Carson City Enterprise, Clemens complained of a loud party that had disturbed his sleep. He signed the letter, “Yours dreamily, Mark Twain.”

6) According to Wikipedia, the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System (in the Mojave Desert, 65 km from Las Vegas) sits on a 4000 acre parcel of land. The $2.2 billion development is unique in that heliostat mirrors focus sunlight on receivers located on centralized towers. The receivers generate steam that drives turbines to produce electricity. The intense beams of light can be seen for many miles, even in broad daylight. I’ve never seen anything like it!

5) A ‘Tufa Tower’ is a rock formation produced by the interaction of freshwater springs and alkaline lake water. There are hundreds if not thousands of tufa towers in and around California’s Mono Lake. At over one million years old, Mono Lake is one of the oldest lakes in North America. It is fed by several streams and has no outlet.

4) 84.4% of Nevada’s land is owned by the US government – more than any other state.

3) Niamh is pronounced ‘Neeve’. She was one of three third-year medical students from Northern Ireland who were on my Yosemite trip. They were self-proclaimed “fucking angels”.

2) The Dunes main tower, its casino and most of its restaurants, clubs, and theaters all fit where the Bellagio’s lake now sits. See a composite photo here showing this and the massive size difference between the Dunes and Bellagio towers.

1) Yosemite National Park is home to the world’s third largest waterfall and North America’s highest at a drop of 2425 feet. Although the park encompasses 760,000 acres or 1,200 square miles, most of the 4 million annual visitors only spend time in the seven square miles of Yosemite Valley.

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