Sharpen Up!

Read this and be the smartest person in the room--or the Zoom--for the month of November

By J.C. Bruce

November is a busy month with elections, Thanksgiving, Daylight Savings Time ending, and more

Sure, Turkey Day, Veterans Day, the start of the World Cup, and the fate of the nation to be settled on Nov. 8 -- election day -- are the headline acts this month, but did you know that November is also...

Peanut Butter Lovers Month

Banana Pudding Lovers Month

Adopt a Turkey Month

Bladder Health Month

Manatee Awareness Month

National Fun with Fondue Month

National Impotency Month

National Native American Heritage Month

National Raisin Bread Month

But without further ado, some Thanksgiving trivia you can use to impress your friends and annoy your frenemies when you gather around on Nov. 24 ...

In 1926, President Calvin Coolidge received a live raccoon from a Mississippi woman to be served as his Thanksgiving Day dinner. But Coolidge became smitten with the animal, pardoned her, and adopted her as a pet. He named her Rebecca. (In North Dakota, this would have landed him in jail.)

Forty-six million turkeys will be killed for Thanksgiving and will be eaten by 88 percent of all Americans. The remaining 12 percent? Some are vegans. Others may prefer ham or brisket.

The first Thanksgiving was celebrated in 1621, a joint feast between the early Plymouth colonists and the Wampanoag. Today, between 4,000 and 5,000 Wampanoag still live in New England.

Benjamin Franklin preferred the wild turkey to the bald eagle for the national bird.

Turkeys can see better than humans and their eyesight covers 270 degrees.

Fifty million pumpkin pies are baked every year. The largest pumpkin pie was five feet in circumference and used 80 pounds of pumpkins.

According to the American Pie Council (yes there is such a thing) one out of five Americans has eaten an entire pumpkin pie by themselves. (It may not be a coincidence that 41 percent of Americans are also obese.)

Nov. 8 is Election Day

With all the yammering about voter fraud, which, to be clear, did not happen in any significant way in the last election despite nonsense spouted by a former president, the old joke -- Vote Early and Vote Often -- may not be as funny as it once was. Still, this is your chance to decide how your state and your country will be run. So vote.

November events and milestones...

November is Movember. What's it about? It's a fundraising effort in which men grow moustaches to raise funds for men's health issues including suicide prevention, prostate cancer, and testicular cancer. More details here.

November 1 is National Author's Day. By celebrating authors, holiday sponsors say, we "not only show patriotism, loyalty, and appreciation of the men and women who have made American literature possible, ...we also encourage and inspire others to give of themselves in making a better America."

November is also National Memoir Writing Month and National Novel Writing Month, which reminds me I need to get back to writing the next book in my Strange Files series.

How best to celebrate authors? Check this out:

Celebrate Authors and their Books by Getting a FREE Ebook!

Because you subscribe to this newsletter, you will be receiving a special offer later this month. Check your inbox for a link to one of my ebooks that I am giving away -- yes, that means it's FREE, no strings attached.

Why am I doing this? Because I hope that if you're not already a fan of The Strange Files series, once you get your free book and read it, you'll be so pleased you will want to actually buy one or two or three more. (Really, there's no limit. Buy as many as you like, they make great Christmas gifts.)

So keep an eye on your inbox. AND, if you have friends who enjoy mysteries, let them know. They can get in on the deal simply by subscribing to this newsletter. The link to do that is below.

Thanks. And you're welcome.

National Forgiveness and Happiness Day is also celebrated on Nov. 1. It's a day in which we are encouraged to remember these five words of wisdom: care, encourage, love, listen, and forgive.

Cliche' Day is Nov. 3. Use as many cliche's today as possible. Give it a try. You might be surprised. What's the worst that could happen? Right?

Worst Headline Ever. The Chicago Tribune holds that dubious distinction for its Nov. 3, 1948, front page declaring Thomas Dewey the winner of the presidential election. (Not a history buff? Dewey lost.)

Nov. 3, 1718, marks the invention of the sandwich. Created by John Montague, Fourth Earl of Sandwich, who slapped meat between bread slices during a gambling session. The explorer James Cook named a group of Pacific Islands after him -- the Sandwich Islands. Today, we call them Hawaii.

Men Make Dinner Day is also celebrated on Nov. 3. This is for the troglodytes who still think it's 1950 and pretend they don't know their way around a kitchen.

Fountain Pen Day is Nov. 4. And why not since we celebrate authors this month? And what self-respecting author doesn't have a fountain pen or two?

It's also Easy-Bake Oven Day. Two things about this: The oven is an inductee into the National Toy Hall of Fame. And there's such a thing as a National Toy Hall of Fame -- something I never heard of until I researched this.

Remember, remember the Fifth of November,

The Gunpowder Treason and Plot,

I know of no reason

Why the Gunpowder Treason

Should ever be forgot.

And Guy Fawkes Day has not been forgotten in the United Kingdom. It was on Nov. 5, 1606 that a scheme to blow up Parliament and King James I was disrupted. The leader of the thwarted plot was Guy Fawkes. A few months later, he and seven of his co-conspirators were beheaded. Now every Guy Fawkes Day the whole country lights up with bonfires and celebration.

First Shattered Backboard Anniversary. On Nov. 5, 1946, Chuck Connors of the Boston Celtics became the first basketball player to shatter a backboard. Connors also played baseball for the Brooklyn Dodgers and Chicago Cubs and went on to become the star of The Rifleman TV series.

Daylight Savings Time will end at 2 a.m. (local time) on Nov. 6. Remember the saying: Fall back; Spring ahead. So, at 2 a.m. (or whenever you wake up) remember to set your clock back an hour. Or do it before bed. Or whatever. It's so confusing.

The first black governor was elected on Nov. 7, 1989. He was Douglas Wilder of Virginia and had previously served as lieutenant governor. He became the first African-American to be elected to statewide office in the South since Reconstruction.

Veterans Day is Nov. 11. It marks the armistice that ended World War I. Fighting stopped on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month of 1918. Veterans Day is one of eleven federal holidays. Banks and federal offices will be closed.

American Education Week is celebrated Nov. 14-18 spotlighting the importance of public education.

National Unfriend Day is Nov. 17. The idea: This is a day when Facebook (and presumably other social media) users can clean up their friends list.

The World Cup soccer tournament begins in Qatar on Nov. 20 and runs through Dec. 18. The USA men's national team will face off against Wales at 2 p.m. (Eastern Time) on Monday, Nov. 21. The games will be broadcast on the Fox sports network. The women's World Cup will be played in Australia in 2023.

Thanksgiving this year falls on Nov. 24. Interestingly, that's also the anniversary (1971) of the infamous D.B. Cooper hijacking of a Northwest Airlines 727. He parachuted out of the aircraft with $200,000 in ransom and was never seen again.

And, as always, the day after Turkey Day is Black Friday, the traditional beginning of the Christmas shopping season. Why is it "black?" Because this is the day when retailers ordinarily "are in the black" in their profit/loss statements.

Casablanca, the greatest movie ever made, premiered on Nov. 26, 1942. This year we celebrate its 80th anniversary. Starring Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Bergman, Paul Henreid, and Claude Rains, the movie was filmed and set in the midst of World War II. Rick Blaine (Bogart) the ex-pat owner of a bar and casino in North Africa, Ricks Cafe Americain, must decide between the love of his life and defeating the Nazis. Now would be a great time to see it if you haven't already, or rewatch it for old times' sake. And, although you probably already know this, Rick never says: "Play it again, Sam."

Cyber Monday is Nov. 28, the start of the online Christmas buying season.

Hurricane season officially ends on Nov. 30. As someone living in southwest Florida, I can tell you this day cannot arrive too soon.

Nov. 30 also is Stay Home Because You're Well Day, and the 40th anniversary of the release of Michael Jackson's album Thriller.

Elvis in History--

November Report

We continue our monthly Elvis report noting that on Nov. 15, 1956, Elvis's first movie, Love Me Tender, premiered at the Paramount Theater in New York City.

On Nov. 6, 1948, Elvis's family left their home in Tupelo and move to Memphis. Elvis was 13 years old.

And on Nov. 21, 1955, Elvis signed his first contract with RCA Victor at Sun Studio in Memphis. Sam Phillips, the owner of Sun Records, received $35,000. He invested it in a local hotel chain called Holiday Inn.

What I'm Watching

and Reading

Extraordinary Attorney Woo is a South Korean TV series starring Park Eun-bin following Woo Young-woo a rookie lawyer with autism spectrum disorder streaming now on Netflix. It is clever, funny, touching, and Park Eun-bin will wow you. South Korea is producing some amazing television and movies. I'm also a huge fan of the 2014 film The Pirates. All are subtitled. (And, no, I never watched Squid Game, despite all its awards -- way too violent for me.)

As this was written I was just starting John Sandford's latest Lucas Davenport and Virgil Flowers mashup, Righteous Prey.

There's a reason books like this are instant best sellers -- because of fans like me who drop everything when the box from Amazon shows up on the front porch.

After a while, it's less about the actual stories than keeping up with the characters that you've followed over the years, kind of like how I grabbed everything Robert B. Parker wrote even when he was well past his prime.

If you haven't dug into the "Prey" series, and you're a mystery fan, you owe it to yourself to give it a try.

They Said It About Elections

"The most important office, and the one which all of us can and should fill, is that of private citizen."

-- Louis Brandeis

"Voting is the expression of our commitment to ourselves, one another, this country, and this world."

-- Sharon Salzberg

"Talk is cheap, voting is free; take it to the polls."

-- Nanette L. Avery

Strange Science

Here's some happy news about cockroaches.

Yes, you read that right. Disgusting and creepy though they may be, cockroaches play and important role in our environment.

And on Australia's Lord Howe Island a large wood-eating cockroach had been believed to have gone extinct, the victim of bug-eating rats that were accidentally introduced to the island's environment.

Well, happy days. The bugs are back. And this is good news, scientists say, because Panesthia lata help recycle nutrients, which, in turn, helps Howe Island's bird population.

So how did the cockroaches make their heroic return? Well, Australia launched a rat eradication program. Good news for the bugs. Not so much for our rodent friends.

And with that in mind, let's say a happy birthday to our favorite rodent, Mickey Mouse, who turns 94 on Nov. 18. 

But best you stay away from Australia, Mickey.

Up, up, and away!

Do you recognize this woman? You'll want to remember her. She's Nicole Mann and she's going places. Fast. As in orbital velocity.

Mann is the first Native American female aboard the International Space Station. And she was the commander of the Space X mission that carried her and three other astronauts, including one from Japan and another from Russia, into space.

I 've TikToked about this (and lots of other topics) . If you haven't checked out my TikTok channel yet, here's a link to this story:

No Boundaries in Outer Space

Health and Wellness

Have you heard the expression: You can't pour from an empty cup?

It applies to both physical and emotional exhaustion. Feeling overwhelmed, stressed out, overcome with anxiety? Then maybe you need a mental health day off.

According to the World Health Organization, depression and anxiety cost more than a trillion dollars a year in lost productivity. How do you take a mental health day and what do you do with it? Here are some tips.

News of the Weird

A New York City man was arrested at the U.S.--Canadian border when it was discovered he had three pythons hidden in his pants.

It is illegal to smuggle pythons into the country, and now Calvin Bautista faces up to 20 years in prison and a fine as high as $250,000, according to the Associated Press.

The Burmese python -- a snake that can grow up to eighteen feet in length -- is actually considered a vulnerable species in its native Asia.

In Florida, however, they have overwhelmed the Everglades and the state organizes regular python hunts to try (pointlessly) to thin them out.

Calvin, dude, you didn't need to cross international borders to bring in pythons. We got plenty, already. Have some of ours. But we admire your zany spirt, and so you are awarded this month's Honorary Florida Man award.

Take the Peanut Butter Poll

So, November is Peanut Butter Appreciation Month. What's your favorite? Click the brand you like the best and we'll report back the results in next month's newsletter.

Who Makes The Best Peanut Butter?
Peter Pan
Smart Balance

From Our Mailbag

Dear J.C.

I heard from a mutual friend that you had to prepare this month's newsletter well in advance because you were off to Africa for research on your next book. That true?

J. Epstein

Portugal and Morocco, yes.

Dear J.C.

Morocco? Did you get to Casablanca? And if so, did you visit Rick's?

Howard K.

Yes. Rick's Cafe Casablanca. Bogart and Bergman would have loved it. Sam's not tickling the ivories anymore, but his able substitute Issam Chabaa knows his tunes.

Dear J.C.

Were you serious, earlier, when you said Casablanca is the greatest movie ever? That warms the cockles of my heart, whatever a cockle is.

H. Wallis

Yes. And a cockle is an old fashioned slang expression referring to one's innermost feelings. Consider this your word of the day.

And speaking (once again) of National Novel Writing Month, a shameless commercial message:

The Strange Files series chronicles the adventures of Alexander Strange and is available in multiple formats: hard-cover, trade paperback, e-book, and Mister Manners is also available as an audiobook. Here are some helpful Amazon links. You can also order from Barnes & Noble, Books-A-Million, and other online retailers.

The Strange Files, Florida Man, Get StrangeStrange Currentsand Mister Manners.

You can read more about these books on my website at

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Parting Shot