Archives: Very Superstitious

Cat Got Your Tongue?

My good friend Jeff Mann, the true Yard Ramp Guy, has asked me to revisit some of my original posts. This week in my From the Archives series: just be sure you throw it over your LEFT shoulder.


superstitions, explained

Dashingly Superstitious

I love researching the historical underpinnings of superstitions.

Take spilling salt, for example. A common superstition says that if you spill salt, you need to throw a little bit over your shoulder. This isn't actually the whole story, though.

You're supposed to throw it over your left shoulder (into the eye of the devil lurking over it) without touching the thrown salt with your thumb or index finger.

The superstition has a few possible origins. Some claim that Judas spilled salt at the last supper. Da Vinci actually painted Judas spilling salt in “The Last Supper.” Others think it came from the fact that salt was extremely expensive in the Middle Ages. That one seems rather reasonable to me, except that then throwing it over your shoulder as a cure for the bad luck doesn't make a ton of sense.

Another superstition says that you should hold your breath when passing a cemetery. If you don't, a spirit might fly into you. I'm actually going to argue that this one doesn't make sense anymore. In the Middle Ages, graveyards were dank, miserable places. Graves were cramped, placed close together, and often shared. Burials were often shallow, so bones would stick out. The gravestones were decorated with grim and gloomy reminders of eternal suffering. They were dank, awful places—both by design (to compel people to the Church) and by poor urban planning (cities tended to be cramped and without green space).

In the 1800s, this began to change. People began to have a very different view of humanity: rather than being doomed, sinful creatures, we instead began romanticizing humanity, and began considering it naturally good.

Graveyards became cemeteries. The word cemetery comes from the Greek koimeterion, meaning “place of rest.” We started honoring our dead, placing them more widely apart, and giving them beautiful, well-tended green space. In fact, the first cemeteries built this way were such popular tourist attractions that they began inspiring American cities to begin building parks and having more green spaces in the city.

So why doesn't that superstition apply anymore? Well, it would make perfect sense that spirits would want to leave a dank, miserable graveyard. A cemetery, though? Sounds to me like a pretty nice place to rest once you're gone.

Yard Ramp Guy Blog: Peripheral Vision

This week, my friend The Yard Ramp Guy takes care of the peripheral stuff so you can stay focused.

Click HERE to correct your vision.

Archives: Parrotfish Poop

A Cautionary, er, Tail

My good friend Jeff Mann, the true Yard Ramp Guy, has asked me to revisit some of my original posts. This week in my From the Archives series: that beach only looks beautiful...


The Source of Your Sand Castle

Caribbean beaches are beautiful, even by the standards of tropical beaches, which are pretty high to start with. They're also made largely of poop. Parrotfish poop, to be specific.

(Okay, full disclosure: I’m not currently on a beach. I write this on a Sunday morning, in my robe, from my man cave next to the house here in suburbia. I’m safe. And thanks for caring.)

Move past the thought of that, and it’s a fascinating process:

The brilliantly colored parrotfish possesses a hard beak it employs for eating coral. The fish grinds up the coral in that beak to get at algae and other marine microorganisms growing on it, digests the algae, and then poops out the ground-up coral as a fine sand.

Parrotfish produce a LOT of sand, too. A single green humphead parrotfish can produce more than 200 pounds of sand each year. As much as 85% of the sand on many of these beaches is produced by parrotfish.

Watch it in action HERE, if you dare.

People used to think that parrotfish just ate coral for the polyps and were damaging the reefs. It turns out, though, that most parrotfish species go primarily for dead coral, clearing it for new coral to grow. So, they’re providing a sort of public service.

Parrotfish also eat large amounts of sea sponges, which grow faster than coral and can smother young ones. As it turns out, our parrotfish have a largely symbiotic relationship with the corals they eat. And as we learn more and more about the world, we begin to find more and more of these relationships.

It's not just the Caribbean that owes its beaches to parrotfish. The Maldives, the white sand beaches of Hawaii, and other locations around the world do, as well.

Gorgeous white sand beaches in tropical areas around the world are all made of poop. A little gross, I know. Which is exactly why I'm telling everyone: I’m simply trying to clear out a few of you so that my next beach experience is less crowded.

Yard Ramp Guy Blog: Toward Better Steel

This week, my friend The Yard Ramp Guy is all in on responsible, net-zero steel.

Click HERE to learn why he loves Swedish innovation.

Archives: Landing Instructions

Or: You Traveled a Gazillion Miles to Earth & Left Us Some Stones?

My good friend Jeff Mann, the true Yard Ramp Guy, has asked me to revisit some of my original posts. This week in my From the Archives series: I'm not trying to alienate anyone, but...


Whoa.

I'm convinced that there are aliens out there somewhere, but I'm equally convinced they haven't visited us yet.

There was a book called Chariots of the Gods? written by a hack named Erich von Däniken in 1968 that claimed the aliens visited us in ancient times and were responsible for the construction of the pyramids, Stonehenge, the stone heads of Easter Island and others.

The book was extensively rewritten by its final editor, Wilhelm Utermann, who had been a bestselling Nazi author. The book also claimed that the Old Testament, other ancient religious documents, and countless other folktales and legends were also inspired by visits from aliens in ancient times.

The key to the book's claims of aliens constructing various ancient wonders revolved around the idea that the wonders were far too technologically advanced to have been built by ancient peoples. That's just plain wrong. (I wrote about how the pyramids were built—in my first-ever blog post.)

Every single one of von Däniken's claims of that nature can be rebutted fairly easily. Simply put, our ancestors were incredibly smart and innovative.

Unfortunately, von Däniken's ideas are still floating around in the form of that, ahem, television show “Ancient Aliens,” and it still relies on the ridiculous idea that our ancestors couldn't build anything on their own.

For example, crackpot theorists frequently claim that the Nazca Lines are landing instructions for aliens. I’d say the aliens would’ve developed better methods for setting up landing strips. (Not to mention that the terrain around the Nazca Lines would have made terrible landing strips. Landing on or near the lines would have utterly wrecked the delicate constructions.)

Also, if aliens had visited us in ancient times, do you think they could have given us better gifts than big stone monuments? You know, like plumbing, the germ theory of disease, democracy? Even just some nice farming tips?

Yard Ramp Guy Blog: The Safe Yard Ramp Angle

This week, my friend The Yard Ramp Guy answer a potential customer's concern.

Click HERE to read his response.

The Yard Ramp Guy for Troubled Times

 

My friend Jeff Mann, the true Yard Ramp Guy, is honest as the day is long. He's also humble, which means ⏤ beyond the necessary marketing campaigns to keep competitive in the industry ⏤ he might not readily draw attention to himself or his business.

I, McCoy Fields, am not so humble. That's why I'm proud to share with you just a bit of what Jeff and his team are doing in response to the coronavirus pandemic that has so quickly altered our landscapes and disrupted our world.

YRG Response During Coronavirus

Ramping Up in Troubled Times

There's a difference between what we can see and what we can't. COVID-19 is invisible to the naked eye, an insidious, lethal virus that does not discriminate, that transmits from person to person through proximity, breath, and touch. It's a frightening thing with all-too-often devastating results. A yard ramp is a tangible three tons of steel: an incline with purpose and utility.

The clamping off of much of the country to limit transmission of coronavirus is having devastating effects. The alternative is worse. Essential businesses continue to operate. That's why the supply chain keeps our grocery stores stocked. And that's why The Yard Ramp Guy continues to sell and rent its inventory.

Yard ramps classify as essential tools to emergency service and product providers combatting the pandemic. The Yard Ramp Guy has placed ramps at Coronavirus Emergency Distribution staging sites and rented a ramp to a hospital in New York City ⏤ sadly, to provide access to refrigeration trucks serving as temporary morgues. I've known more life-affirming examples. Yet this is important and, yes, essential.

The Yard Ramp Guy is listed in ThomasNet's COVID-19 Response Suppliers.

In good times and bad, Jeff's yard ramps are workhorses, functioning without complaint to help movement between points.

I've never been prouder of my friend Jeff and his team.

Stay safe and be well.

Archives • Switchbacks: Ramp Diversity

My good friend Jeff Mann, the true Yard Ramp Guy, has asked me to revisit some of my original contributions. And so: my From the Archives series. This week: Italy makes me dizzy.


There is one kind of ramp I absolutely love, except when I'm using it, in which case I absolutely hate it. That ramp is the switchback.

Anyone who's done much mountain driving learns to hate switchbacks, even though they're some of the most cost-effective engineering tricks we have in the mountains. (Much, much cheaper than tunnels, that's for sure.) Truckers especially hate them. I've known some who will go hours out of their way to avoid them. I think gearheads are the only ones who enjoy them.

stylized photo of Stelvio Pass in Italy

Careful, there.

One of the craziest examples of the breed is the Stelvio Pass in Italy. It's one of the highest roads in the Alps and has 75 switchbacks. Seventy-five! Not a road you want to drive fast on, or even drive on at all if you can help it. Apparently, it’s so dangerous during the winter and spring that they close it completely during those seasons.

Of course, being dangerous, gearheads flock to it. That British car show everyone likes, “Top Gear” (I don't watch that show anymore after what they said about the F150), declared it the greatest driving road in the world. (Or at least in Europe. Have you seen the pictures of the crazy roads they have in the mountains in India?)

The Italian bicycle Grand Tour frequently goes through Stelvio Pass. (The Giro d'Italia, sister race to the Tour de France. I try to catch all three of the Grand Tours when I can.) Thousands and thousands of cyclists ride through Stelvio Pass every year.

It's easier to find info on battles fought at the pass than it is to find anything beyond basic info on its construction or maintenance, but that's pretty constant. Historians are obsessed with wars, despite the fact that construction and architecture affect us way more.

I'm working on persuading Maggie on this European vacation bit but, as carsick as she gets, I don't think that Stelvio Pass will be on the itinerary.

The Yard Ramp Guy Blog: Moving Your Yard Ramp

This week, my friend The Yard Ramp Guy provides some astounding weight comparisons (and gives me newfound respect for the blue whale, from which I'll never ever wish to receive a tongue lashing), then transitions from heavy to smooth and shows how easy it is to move a yard ramp.

Buckle up, then click HERE to read all about it.