10 Quirky Things Politicians Do

LUDOVIC MARIN, AFP/Getty Images
LUDOVIC MARIN, AFP/Getty Images

We elect our Senators and Representatives with the expectation that they'll bring our interests to the legislative process and work to bettering the country. But the truth is, they're not always the most normal people themselves. Here are 10 of the quirkiest current Congressmen—be sure to chime in with your own legislator stories in the comments.

1. Collin Peterson (and his bandmates)

Rep. Collin Peterson of Minnesota may lead the House Agriculture Committee, but he may be better known for his musical career. His first Congressional band, The Amendments, broke up in a political dispute after some members wanted to play at the Republican National Convention. But Peterson found a new group of bipartisan musicians and formed The Second Amendments. The band features Peterson on lead guitar and vocals, Thaddeus McCotter on guitar, Dave Weldon on bass, Jon Porter on keyboards and Kenny Hulshof on drums. They play anything from rock to country (check out their gig at Farm Aid) and say political differences haven’t gotten in their way yet.

They’re not the first Congressional band either – four former Republican senators sang in a barbershop quartet known as the Singing Senators.

2. Kent Conrad

Kent Conrad knows a thing or two about an engaging presentation, especially with his fondness for visual aids. He was so well-known for printing poster-sized charts that when he became chairman of the Budget Committee in 2001, he was given his own printing machine for his office. Among his notable charts was one where he illustrated the debt under each President. Of course, Conrad isn’t the only Congressman to rely on catchy charts – many his colleagues are known for their elaborate charts, especially Rep. Kevin Brady's visual mess attacking the bureaucracy in the health care bill.

3. Al Franken

As a former SNL comedian, it’s probably not surprising to see Al Franken on this list. After all, the Minnesota Democrat famously cracked the chamber up during his opening statement during the Sonia Sotomayor hearings. But his real talent may be when he’s not talking – photographers snapped him doing some impressive sketches of Sen. Jeff Sessions during the confirmation hearings for Elena Kagan. And that’s not to mention his famous party trick: drawing a freehand map of the United States from memory.

4. Amy Klobuchar

Franken wasn’t the only one to bring levity to the Kagan hearings. Fellow Minnesota Democrat Amy Klobuchar asked a bizarre question of the prospective justice the day after Eclipse, the third Twilight movie, debuted. “I keep wanting to ask you about the famous case of Edward vs. Jacob, or the vampire vs. the werewolf,” she said. To her credit, Kagan responded appropriately, telling the senator, “I wish you wouldn’t.”

5. Nancy Pelosi

A show embracing drug use, free love and plentiful nudity might not seem like the place you’d expect to see the Speaker of the House. But Nancy Pelosi is said to love Hair and checks out the musical every chance she gets. She’s even been spotted dancing on the stage at the end of the show.

6. Patty Murray

Patty Murray successfully ran a number of her early campaigns as “a mom in tennis shoes,” since she was just a regular person, not a career politician. Now that she’s serving her third term in the Senate, that image has carried her far and she’s not ready to give it up. Now a “grandmother in tennis shoes,” she’s given to wearing sneakers while conducting official business.

7. Jon Tester

Jon Tester is known for giving friends and colleagues a thumb-and-pinkie hook ‘em horns sign for motivation. But he doesn’t have much of a choice – Tester lost the three middle fingers on his right hand in a meat grinder accident when he was nine.

8. Kit Bond

Kit Bond's dog Tiger (named after the University of Missouri mascot) isn't what you'd expect to see from the Republican Senator. Tiger, a furry Havanese, is the Senator's first "fufu dog." A frequent visitor to Conrad's office, Tiger is famous for destroying Kansas Jayhawks toys. Others also bring their dogs to work - the late Robert Byrd was known for praising his dogs in floor speeches and this picture shows Kent Conrad walking his dog Dakota through the halls of the Capitol.

9. John Kerry

John Kerry is an avid biker, so much so that he requires a bike even when he’s traveling. According to a memo obtained by The Smoking Gun, Kerry asked for a recumbent (not a stationary) bike in his hotel room. That’s on top of bottled water, Boost shakes and a television where he could order movies.

10. Earl Blumenauer

Rep. Earl Blumenauer paints an impressive picture, with his fondness for bow ties and the constant presence of a bicycle pin on his shirt. The pin represents his love for bicycling – not only is he known for biking into work, he is also the founding member of the Congressional Bike Caucus, a 160-member group working to promote biking through legislation.

A New Ruth Bader Ginsburg Bobblehead Is Available for Pre-Order

The National Bobblehead Hall of Fame and Museum
The National Bobblehead Hall of Fame and Museum

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The late Ruth Bader Ginsburg was a devout champion for feminism and civil rights, and her influence stretched from the halls of the Supreme Court to the forefront of popular culture, where she affectionately became known as the Notorious RBG. Though there are plenty of public tributes planned for Ginsburg in the wake of her passing, the National Bobblehead Hall of Fame and Museum has a new RBG bobblehead ($25) available for pre-order so you can honor her in your own home.

There are two versions of the bobblehead available, one of Ginsburg smiling and another with a more serious expression. Not only do the bobbleheads feature her in her Supreme Court black robe, but eagle-eyed fans will see she is wearing one for her iconic coded collars and her classic earrings.

RBG is far from the only American icon bobblehead that the Hall of Fame store has produced in such minute detail. They also have bobbleheads of Abraham Lincoln ($30), Theodore Roosevelt ($30), Alexander Hamilton ($30), and dozens of others.

For more information on the RBG bobblehead, head here. Shipments will hopefully be sent out by December 2020 while supplies last.

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9 Things Invented By Accident

These sugary summer treats were an accidental invention.
These sugary summer treats were an accidental invention.
Daniel Öberg, Unsplash

Not every great invention was created according to plan. Some, in fact, were the result of a happy accident. In November 2020, the pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca announced that the COVID-19 vaccine it had developed in partnership with Oxford University was 90 percent effective when administered in a dosing regimen they had discovered thanks to some “serendipity.” This wasn't the only unintentional discovery in history, of course. From penicillin to artificial sweeteners, all nine of the everyday items below were invented entirely by accident.

1. Penicillin

On September 28, 1928, Scottish scientist Alexander Fleming discovered that a petri dish of staphylococcus bacteria that had been inadvertently left out on the windowsill of his London laboratory had become contaminated by a greenish-colored mold—and encircling the mold was a halo of inhibited bacterial growth. After taking a sample and developing a culture, Fleming discovered that the mold was a member of the Penicillium genus, and the rest, as they say, is history.

2. Corn Flakes

The two Kellogg brothers—Dr. John Harvey Kellogg and his younger brother (and former broom salesman) Will Keith Kellogg—worked at Battle Creek Sanitarium in Michigan, where John was physician-in-chief. Both were strict Seventh-day Adventists, who used their work at the sanitarium to promote the austere dietary and moralist principles of their religion (including strict vegetarianism and a lifelong restraint from excessive sex and alcohol) and to carry out research into nutrition, and the impact of diet on their patients. It was during one of these experiments in 1894 that, while in the process of making dough from boiled wheat, one of the Kelloggs left the mash to dry for too long and when it came time to be rolled out, it splintered into dozens of individual flakes. Curious as to what these flakes tasted like, he baked them in the oven—and in the process, produced a cereal called Granose. Some later tinkering switched out the wheat for corn, and gave us corn flakes.

3. Teflon

Polytetrafluoroethylene—better known as PTFE, or Teflon—was invented by accident at a DuPont laboratory in New Jersey in 1938. Roy Plunkett, an Ohio-born chemist, was attempting to make a new CFC refrigerant when he noticed that a canister of tetrafluoroethylene, despite appearing to be empty, weighed as much as if it were full. Cutting the canister open with a saw, Plunkett found that the gas had reacted with the iron in the canister’s shell and had coated its insides with polymerized polytetrafluoroethylene—a waxy, water-repellent, non-stick substance. Du Pont soon saw the potential of Plunkett’s discovery and began mass producing PTFE, but it wasn’t until 1954, when the wife of French engineer Marc Grégoire asked her husband to use the same substance to coat her cookware to stop food sticking to her pans, that the true usefulness of Plunkett’s discovery was finally realized.

4. Slinky

In 1943, naval engineer Richard T. James was working at a shipyard in Philadelphia when he accidentally knocked a spring (that he had been trying to modify into a stabilizer for sensitive maritime equipment) from a high shelf. To his surprise, the spring neatly uncoiled itself and stepped its way down from the shelf and onto a pile of books, and from there onto a tabletop, and then onto the floor. After two years of development, the first batch of 400 “Slinky” toys sold out in just 90 minutes when they were demonstrated in the toy department of a local Gimbels store in 1945.

5. Silly Putty

At the height of World War II, rubber was rationed across the United States after Japan invaded a number of rubber-producing countries across southeast Asia and hampered production. The race was on to find a suitable replacement—a synthetic rubber that could be produced inside the U.S. without the need of overseas imports, which eventually led to the entirely unexpected invention of Silly Putty. There are at least two rival claims to the invention of Silly Putty (chiefly from chemist Earl L. Warrick and Scottish-born engineer James Wright), both of whom found that mixing boric acid with silicone oil produced a stretchy, bouncy rubber-like substance that also had the unusual ability of leaching newspaper print from a page (an ability that changing technology has now eliminated).

6. Post-It Notes

Pexels, Pixabay

In 1968, a 3M chemist named Dr. Spencer Silver was attempting to create a super-strong adhesive when instead he accidentally invented a super-weak adhesive, which could be used to only temporarily stick things together. The seemingly limited application of Silver’s product meant that it sat unused at 3M (then technically known as Minnesota Mining & Manufacturing) for another five years, until, in 1973, a colleague named Art Fry attended one of Silver’s seminars and struck upon the idea that his impermanent glue could be used to stick bookmarks into the pages of his hymnbook. It took another few years for 3M to be convinced both of Fry and Silver’s idea and of the salability of their product, but eventually they came up with a unique design that worked perfectly: a thin film of Spencer’s adhesive was applied along just one edge of a piece of paper. After a failed test-market push in 1977 as Press ’N Peel, the product went national as the Post-It note in 1980.

7. Saccharin

In 1878 or '79 (sources differ), Constantin Fahlberg, a chemist studying the properties of oxidized coal tar at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland, discoveredwhile eating his meal one evening that food he picked up with this fingers tasted sweeter than normal. He traced the sweetening effect back to the chemical he had been working with that day (Ortho-sulfobenzoic Acid Imide, no less) and, noting its potential salability, quickly set up a business mass producing his sweetener under the name Saccharin. Although quickly popular (and equally quickly controversial), it would take the sugar shortages of two World Wars to make the discovery truly universal.

8. Popsicles

The first popsicle was reportedly invented by 11-year-old Frank Epperson in 1905, when he accidentally left a container of powdered soda and water, with its mixing stick still inside, on his porch overnight. One unexpectedly cold night later, and the popsicle—which Epperson originally marketed 20 years later as an Epsicle—was born.

9. Safety glass

Safety glass—or rather, laminated glass—was accidentally discovered by the French chemist Édouard Bénédictus when he knocked a glass beaker from a high shelf in his laboratory and found, to his surprise, that it shattered but did not break. His assistant informed him that the beaker had contained cellulose nitrate, a type of clear natural plastic, that had left a film on the inside of the glass. He filed a patent for his discovery in 1909, and it has been in production (albeit in various different forms) ever since.