Bet you didn't know, or care...but...

Things I get in the mail, by phone, and from friends. Things going on in the State House, and the commonwealth. A hazy, lazy summer collection of some trivial items, some important ones. Items that, at best, wouldn't fill an entire column.

Here goes.

The very last, very promised last, about chiggers. I finally found out that they do exist, and what they are. Tiny bloodsucking mites or redbugs, with eight legs, generally found in the American South and Midwest, that bite into human skin, causing a painful itching rash that can last ten days. Chiggers lie in wait in grass, spring through fall. And, yes, they wander into New England once in awhile, too. Mother was right. Don't sit on the grass.

We've toughened date rape drug laws in Massachusetts. These mind numbing drugs, slipped into a drink, to render unsuspecting females into a state of unconsciousness and without memory of a crime such as rape, are known as "liquid ecstasy" or "roofies." Well, there's a new law, which I co-sponsored, to make it easier to catch people who deal, and use, those drugs. The law creates a new category of crime (drug-induced kidnapping) with a maximum sentence of life in prison.

A cantaloupe is ripe when it smells like cantaloupe at the stem end. Corn is done when the steam smells like corn. Things my mother taught me. She also taught me to iron. But not how to clean.

Advice from the legislature's Elder Caucus. Take your demented older relatives for a checkup. Elderly people who have suffered strokes, heart attacks and chronic illnesses often get depressed. And, depression can mimic dementia. (Confusion, memory loss, disorientation.) Other contributors can include drug interactions or overdoses, poor diets, Parkinson's, high blood pressure. And, many elderly are hesitant to seek psychiatric treatment to cure or alleviate their symptoms. Call the doctor.

Speaking of the elderly, there are 860,000 people in Massachusetts over 65. Half of those are over 75. The closer you get, the younger it seems.

In 1937, hot dogs were five cents each, two dozen eggs cost 55 cents, a head of lettuce was a penny. That was the year the Hindenburg exploded and Amelia Earhardt disappeared, and the year Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Massachusetts was formed.

There are 6,000 farms in Massachusetts. And, 95 farmers markets. We rank second among all the states in cranberries, ninth in maple syrup, fourteenth in sweet corn, seventeenth in apples, eighteenth in tomatoes.

Our Massachusetts chickens lay eleven million eggs a year. We have 15,000 bee colonies. And, raise 105,000 turkeys a year.

Someone actually did a bathroom study in public schools in Massachusetts, according to the Massachusetts Department of Education. Eighty percent of students surveyed said smoking in the bathroom is a major problem. Only 35 percent said they always have soap in the bathrooms. Only 68 percent said toilet paper is always available. Some 53 percent said they have plumbing problems; 35 percent said they were limited to cold water. Overall rating of bathrooms, on a scale of 1 to 10, was a 3.9. Cleanliness ranked 4.6.

The State House is actually in several sections, with the Bulfinch Front, erected in 1795-1797 on land owned by the heirs of John Hancock, being the oldest. It's on Beacon Street. Governor Samuel Adams, assisted by Paul Revere, laid the corner stone on July 4, 1795. It was pulled into place by 15 white horses (representing the number of states at that time). This original building is 172 feet across the front, some 155 feet high, with the dome 53 feet in diameter and 35 feet high. It cost, almost 200 years ago, $133,333.33. A newer part, built 1853-1855, is the "Bryant Addition" over Mount Vernon street. The first elevators were installed in 1885. Work on still another stage, the State House Extension, began in 1889. The State House continued to grow in this century, with east and west wings, underground archives, a parking garage, State Library, and, most recently, major repairs and restoration.

There are 35 Westfield residents with AIDs, another 106 who are HIV positive. Statewide, 12,893 have AIDS, and 39,010 are HIV positive.

The Food Bank of Western Mass has distributed 3.7 million pounds of food since it was established in 1982. Each year, Westfield residents get about 109,165 pounds.

Domestic violence is the leading cause of injury to women ages 15 to 44. More common than auto accidents, muggings and rapes, according to the Women's Caucus Taskforce on Domestic Violence. Last year at least 17 women in Massachusetts were killed by men in domestic violence related incidents.

Now, you know.

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