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Reflections: July 13, 1568, is a date all beer lovers can appreciate

Dr. Alexander Nowell, dean of St. Paul's Cathedral in London, accidentally invented bottled beer on this date in 1568.
Dr. Alexander Nowell, dean of St. Paul's Cathedral in London, accidentally invented bottled beer on this date in 1568.

Well, gentle readers, it’s right in the middle of summertime, and if the livin’ ain’t easy, it ought to be. Am I right?

Oswego’s PrairieFest is a memory, as is Yorkville’s Fourth of July celebration, and MontgomeryFest is still a few weeks away. So now we can all take our towels and head over to the pool for a lazy summer afternoon, or better yet, go visit a local museum.

There’s lots to see all over the Fox Valley, and given the price of gasoline these days, it might be the best thing to forgo that big trip to Alaska and instead see what that neat little museum in Sandwich has to offer, or head up to the Geneva History Center, or to the David Pierce Art and History Center and the Aurora Fire Museum in downtown Aurora. Or even to the Little White School Museum in Oswego.

And, of course, there are plenty of area parks to visit on a warm summer afternoon or early evening. Take a picnic lunch to the Violet Patch near Oswego or down to Silver Springs near Plano. Don’t forget the wonderful Young and Lyon forest preserves to hike, either.

But that’s all outdoor stuff. Right now, I’m trying to clear my desk of a stubborn build-up of junk mail. Every time I think I’ve got the stuff under control, a new batch arrives. Sort of like how lawn care guys look at the moles that are so enthusiastically burrowing hither and yon these days.

But in among the junk in the junk mail, there is an occasional pearl (or even the occasional sapphire or ruby) of wisdom that can be dug out with moderate effort. Here, for instance, are several things I never would have found out if I hadn’t opened all the junk mail that arrived at the Matile Manse:

On this day, July 13, in 1568, Dr. Alexander Nowell, dean of St. Paul’s Cathedral in London, gladdened the hearts of generations of beer-lovers to come when he is said to have invented, quite by accident, bottled beer. Apparently, Dean Nowell had his local pub fill a glass bottle with beer, making sure it was well-stoppered with a cork, to take along on a fishing expedition to the Thames River. Unfortunately, he lost the bottle in the tall grass. Fortunately, he happened on it a few days later, and the beer was just fine to drink, a situation that gladdened hearts for the next 449 years.

In 1940, only 15 percent of all married women in the U.S. worked outside the home. In 2000, about 77 percent of all the women in the U.S. were in the work force.

Talk about popular with his constituents: Labor leader Eugene V. Debs got nearly a million votes for president in 1920, even though he was in prison on espionage charges.

India has more post offices than any other country in the world. And, of course, the atom bomb.

The highest elevation at which trees can grow is called the timber line.

The largest seeds in the world are the nuts of the coco-de-mer, or double coconut palm. It grows in the Seychelles, an island group in the Indian Ocean. One nut may weight up to 50 pounds, which would, we suspect, make a lot of coconut cream pies. Obviously too heavy for swallows to carry.

Says here a cooking tip is not to let poached eggs touch each other. And no, I don’t know why.

And, this article adds, always store eggs big end up. And no, I don’t know why we all ought to be doing that, either. Not that the pullet eggs that are labeled “Large” in the grocery stores these days even have a big end.

Cowrie shells were once used as money in China, India and Africa. One kind was worn as a badge of office by chieftains in the Fiji Islands. Don’t see many cowrie shells along the Fox River. Or adorning our local chieftains, come to think of it.

Goldfish have been reported to live over 50 years in China. Of course, they claim they’ve got a democracy there, too. But a goldfish was reported to have lived for 41 years in Great Britain, and they pretty much tell the truth except about Iraq.

Different levels in the food chain are called trophic levels. As organisms eat and get eaten, food energy is passed along up the food chain. From one trophic level to the next, there is a 90 percent loss of energy. Not sure why I needed to know that, but I intend to keep it in mind.

Victoria Claflin Woodhull was the first woman to run for president. She was the candidate for the Equal Rights Party in 1872.

And, finally, for all you do-it-yourselfers: Archaeologists say the earliest known nails were made about 5,000 years ago in what is now Iraq.

• Looking for more local history? Visit

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