12 September 2014

A walkway in Jerez

Apparently those are grapevines, not trees.
“Jerez” is the hispanicized version of “Sherish” which was its Moorish name when the town was under Islamic rule. The English speaking world modified the Arabic into “Sherry,” Jerez being the origin of Sherry wines.
Credit to Sue's Sevilla Sabattical, via The World Geography and Reddit.

Because physics

You can make your own pendulum wave device (and you don't have to use bowling balls).

Via Nothing to do with Arbroath.

A staggering intracranial deficit

New Scientist provides this image of a 24-year old woman who appears to have a form of cerebellar aplasia, with surprisingly minimal symptoms:
The discovery was made when the woman was admitted to the Chinese PLA General Hospital of Jinan Military Area Command in Shandong Province complaining of dizziness and nausea. She told doctors she'd had problems walking steadily for most of her life, and her mother reported that she hadn't walked until she was 7 and that her speech only became intelligible at the age of 6.

Doctors did a CAT scan and immediately identified the source of the problem – her entire cerebellum was missing. The space where it should be was empty of tissue.
More at the link.

Panoramic photo oddities - and a fake one

The image above was generated by Google Street View* (via Digital Spy).  Other interesting examples can be viewed at Neatorama and the links provided there.

*Addendum - a tip of the blogging cap to reader Drabkikker, who knew that the "half-cat" in the image above is a product of Photoshop, not a panorama fail.  The original image (from 2003, well before Google Street View) is available at Hoax-Slayer.

Words meaning "intoxicated"

The history of drinking vocabulary is an exercise in semantics rather than sociolinguistics. Terms for being drunk can’t usually be explained by referring to such variables as age, gender, social class, occupation, or regional background. Being drunk cuts across barriers. The list below shows only the occasional indication of a class preference (such as genteel whiffled vs thieves' cant suckey), and occupational origins are seen only in some nautical expressions (three sheets, oversparred, up the pole, tin hat, honkers), though the etymology is not always definite. There are very few formal terms in the list, apart from a few expressions fostered by the law (intoxicated, over the limit), and some early scholarly words (inebriate(d), temulent, ebrious). Local regional variations are sometimes apparent, such as from Scotland (fou, strut, swash, blootered, swacked), England (bottled, pissed, rat­arsed), and Australia (blue, rotten, shickery, plonked, on one’s ear); and since the eighteenth century most new words in this semantic field have started out in the United States. But it’s rare to find a word that stays in one country for long, and these days online slang dictionaries have largely broken down geographical boundaries....

There seems to be a universal trend to avoid stating the obvious. To describe someone as simply drunk, in drink, or in liquor is accurate but evidently uninspiring. One fruitful vein is to find terms that characterize drunken appearance (owl­eyed, pie­eyed, cock­eyed, lumpy, blue, lit) or behaviour, especially erratic movement (slewed, bumpsy, reeling ripe, tow­ row, rocky, on one’s ear, zigzag, tipped, looped) or lack of any movement at all (stiff, paralytic). Another is mental state, such as being muddled (fuddled, muzzed, queer, woozy), elated (high­flown, wired, pixilated), or worn down (whittled, half­shaved, rotten, crocked, the worse for wear)....

These days, though, the leading question for the lexicologist has to be: what exactly is the lexicon of drink? Many of the words formerly associated with drinking are now associated with drugs, such as high, loaded, pie­eyed, piped, potted, wasted, and blasted. Often it is simply unclear, without further context, what state a person is in. Indeed, sometimes there is a three-way ambiguity, as a further meaning has emerged that is to do with neither alcohol nor drugs. If someone says they are zonked, are they drunk, high, or just tired out?
Further details at The New Republic.

"Ohaguro" - fashionably black teeth

Ohaguro is the custom of dyeing one's teeth black. It was most popular in Japan until the Meiji era. Tooth painting was also known and practiced in the southeastern parts of China and Southeast Asia. Dyeing was mainly done by married women, though occasionally men did it as well. It was also beneficial, as it prevented tooth decay, in a similar fashion to modern dental sealants.

In 1873, the empress of Japan made a radical beauty statement, appearing in public with white teeth. For centuries, tooth blackening, known as ohaguro, signified wealth and sexual maturity especially for women in Japanese society, and they would drink an iron-based black dye tempered with cinnamon and other aromatic spices to achieve the lacquered look. 
Text and image via Deformutilation, where there are additional images.

11 September 2014

About 500 QI buzzers

Those unfamiliar with the show may note that the testing of the buzzers typically occurs in groups of four, culminating with Alan Davies.

These observations from the Wikipedia entry:
Each panellist has a buzzer, with the sounds of all four often being based on a theme. They are demonstrated at the beginning of the programme, but are sometimes changed in some way for repeated use. Davies' buzzer usually subverts the theme established by the preceding three. Comical twists include in the ninth episode of series B (Bats), when all the first 3 buzzers were bells, then Alan's buzzer turned out to be a male voice (Leslie Phillips) saying "Well hello! Ding dong!" ...

In episode 5 of Series A, rather than a comical buzzer, Davies set off the forfeit alarm, (suggesting he sets one every time he offers an answer) meaning he started the show on -10 points before a question was asked (it was later changed to the sound of a duck quacking)...

Sometimes questions are based on the buzzers themselves, usually Davies'. For example, one of his buzzer noises the Series D episode "Descendants" sounded like a Clanger, and the panel had to try and guess what was being said (the answer being "Oh sod it, the bloody thing's stuck again.") In the Series F episode "Fakes and Frauds," all the buzzers sounded like ordinary household objects, but then turned out to be the sound of the superb lyrebird mimicking the noises. Davies's however, was again an exception; his buzzer, which sounded like a telephone, really was a telephone and not a lyrebird mimicking one.

More than half of adults in the U.S. are unmarried

This is the first time the percentage has exceeded 50% since record-keeping began in 1976.
Some 124.6 million Americans were single in August, 50.2 percent of those who were 16 years or older, according to data used by the Bureau of Labor Statistics in its monthly job-market report...
Some of the financial implications are discussed at Bloomberg.

Word for the day: "knuckle-buster"

[A] 68-year-old Ohio businessman has stockpiled more than 8,000 of the old-fashioned credit-card-processing machines, known for their tendency to scrape the fingers of the merchants who operate them. Mr. Matthews keeps the machines boxed up individually on the shelves of his 12,000-square-foot warehouse, ready to be shipped at a moment's notice. He has enough spare parts to assemble another 2,000 if need be...

But Mr. Matthews has been ringing up a few more sales lately. He credits a series of high-profile security breaches—including an incident that prompted restaurant chain P.F. Chang's China Bistro Inc. in June to start using manual imprinters at its 200 restaurants—for easing the knuckle-buster bust, at least temporarily...

He says he recently was forced to pay cash at a bar while vacationing in Lake Tahoe because a sudden storm knocked out power and the restaurant didn't have a knuckle buster on hand. The devices are also sometimes used by merchants who don't have immediate access to an electronic system, such as a car-service driver or a seller at a street fair.
More at the Wall Street Journal.

Desks with pedals for preschoolers

Via Reddit.

How to impress fans and terrify opponents. Not.

Via Neatorama.

High school Native American mascots

I searched the database and found 2,129 sports teams that reference Braves, Chiefs, Indians, Orangemen, Raiders, Redmen, Reds, Redskins, Savages, Squaws, Tribe and Warriors, as well as tribe names such as Apaches, Arapahoe, Aztecs, Cherokees, Chickasaws, Chinooks, Chippewas, Choctaws, Comanches, Eskimos, Mohawks, Mohicans, Seminoles, Sioux and Utes. (Not all teams with the names “Raiders” and “Warriors” are referencing Native Americans, but we spot-checked 20 schools with each name and a majority of each did.) Some 92 percent of those 2,129 team names belong to high schools (the rest were college, semi-pro, pro and amateur league teams). Of all the active high schools in the database, 8.2 percent have Native American team names.
From FiveThirtyEightSports, where the information is discussed in detail.

How the Star Wars' laser gun sounds were created

Explained at the 1:40 mark.

A medieval ring

From a private collection in London, with provenance not described, offered by Timeline Auctions:
"13th-16th century AD. A round-section penannular hoop with bulbs and opposed hands to the finials. 3.07 grams, 25 mm overall, 21.43 mm internal diameter."
Via Uncertain Times.

30 August 2014

A crosseyed planthopper

I need to take about a week off to tend to some urgent family matters.  When I come back I'll offer you a series of posts about Siberia.

Image (credit June Aubrey Young) via the QI elves' (creators of my favorite podcasts) Twitter feed.

Addendum:  An interesting comment from reader Steve -
Pseudopupils are pretty neat. What you're actually seeing is ommatidia that are oriented directly toward the viewer (camera lens). Instead of seeing the pigmented walls of the ommatidium you are seeing right into the photoreceptors. The dark spots will even appear to follow you as you move around the insect but the insect is not actually moving anything. Some spiders can move their retina to look around though, which is pretty awesome. 
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