MULLET OVER BY JAMES K. WHITE   |   DECember 10, 2014

Lumber bust, boom


My, how drastically our commerce trends can transform in a short span of time. For more than forty years in the 19th century, Albany (NY) was the world’s leading lumber export site. This situation changed rapidly after an 1869 summer visit to the Washington Territory by railroad business agent Samuel Wilkerson. He was astonished. Wilkerson quickly informed the Northern Pacific Railroad ownership that thousands of magnificent giant trees were on NPRR’s land. The news spread quickly. By the end of 1869, there were 14 very busy sawmills operating in the Puget Sound area.

If you share your region with the pest affectionately labeled “fire ants,” then you likely know these insects generally dominate their world and often attack any creatures that cannot move about and escape. Many species of small mammals, reptiles and all indigenous ants had previously fallen prey to these six-legged carnivores. Enter: South American Crazy Ants. Crazy Ants (Nylanderia fulva) reproduce in such numbers that they can overwhelm fire ants. To make the N.f. even more effective, they have developed an ability to secrete anti-venom that renders fire ant stings ineffective. Crazy Ants are now winning territorial wars against the long undefeated Solenopsis.

FYI: The wingspan on a Boeing 747 is 196 feet. The length of the first heavier-than-air powered flight was 120 feet (Orville Wright, 1903).

One common myth is that Albert Einstein once failed a mathematics class – usually in 5th or 7th grade. There exist no valid records affirming that Einstein ever failed any math class. In 1935, the brilliant man attempted to dispel the falsehood when he stated in an interview that he “never failed math.” He was a mathematics prodigy and had mastered advanced calculus by age 15. That myth about my failing some inconsequential, trifling math class possibly retains a slight credence.

The First Crusade (1096 – 1099) was really the second crusade. The People’s Crusade lasted from April until September in 1096. The motley assemblage was “led” by Peter the Hermit. This group was mostly made up of peasants who were poorly armed and totally untrained for warfare. Seljuk forces in Northwestern Anatolia completely obliterated the doomed People’s Crusade. The so-called First Crusade was organized in October of that same year. This particular expedition featured about 40,000 soldiers who were commanded by Sir Godfrey. The Frankish knight effectively led his army and occupied Constantinople by December of 1096. Sir Godfrey and his throng captured Jerusalem in 1099. A lot happened after that. Well, beware of various Formicidae – and have one great week.

James White is a retired mathematics teacher who enjoys sharing fascinating trivia. He can be reached at