Nov 25, 2010

Random Wikiness

When I am bored beyond measure - or when I am seeking intellectual inspiration - I occasionally visit Wikipedia and make use of the Random Article function. This button is located on the left sidebar of the main Wikipedia page, and a click on the Random Article link is a journey into the millions of constantly changing Wiki articles that Wikipedians have created and edited.

My first stop into the world of random Wikiness took me to a page that examines the life of major league baseball manager Joe McCarthy,
the first skipper to win pennants with both National and American League teams. A 1997 poll by the Baseball Writers Association of America named McCarthy as the second greatest manager of all time, right behind Casey Stengel. McCarthy, who managed MLB teams from 1926-50, was well before my time, and I only knew of him from reading books like Strange But True Baseball Stories as a kid growing up in the 1970s.

My next randomized journey took me to a page dedicated to Bill Nelson, an experimental rock musician and composer. I was vaguely familiar with the band Be-Bop Deluxe, for which Nelson might be most famous, though only in a tangential way. This page served as a reminder to check out some of Nelson's music. Here is a YouTube clip of Be-Bop Deluxe if you are curious about the band and the man who some call one of England's greatest guitarists.

I next took a Wiki-trip to the unrecognized nation of Transnistria, a territory that broke away from the Republic of Moldova in 1992. The Moldovan government does not recognize the secession, which was triggered by the perception that Moldova restricted the civil rights of ethnic minorities. The region contains about a half-million people, and though the 1992 cease-fire has held, repeated attempts to broker a peace settlement have stalled.

My random page-viewing ended with a reading about the California barberry, a holly-like shrub with serrated leaves that produces round purple fruits that resemble grapes. Typically found on coastal mountain slopes, the California barberry is edible, but it is sour and contains quite a few seeds, or so I am told. The fruit has also been used as a dye, and there is a history of the California barberry being used for medicinal purposes. Some gardeners prize the plant as an ornamental, though the growth rate of the California barberry may be a bit slow for impatient horticulturalists.

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