Current State of the Current Cosmos

safire

If you are interested in the Plasma-electric Universe paradigm, referenced here a few times, you might like to check out the newly redesigned Thunderbolts Project site. I’ve also added some permanent links to a few similar sites. Under the Links button, needless to say.

Electric Universe Sites

  1. Thunderbolts Project
  2. Thunderbolts Project YouTube Channel
  3. Plasma Cosmology
  4. Holoscience
  5. Electric Cosmos

The Plasma-electric Universe theory uses only known, measurable and pretty well understood phenomena. Much of which can be replicated and tested in the lab as these phenomena are scalable from the micro to the inter-galactic scale. In fact, the Thunderbolts group has recently begun testing the electric sun model in the laboratory, the Safire Project. Stay tuned, there could be some interesting results to report any day now.

Safire Project Info

Filed 10/28/16

Your Tax Dollars at Work

art

How the CIA Spent Secret Millions Turning Modern Art Into a Cold War Arsenal

Of course, the CIA isn’t responsible for how downright crappy and pretentious most modern art is. They just may have helped boost the prices so it became valuable for being valuable, a Ponzi collectables racket. Pretty much Beanie Babies for the wealthy and gullible. Not that the CIA spends the rest of its black budget all that wisely. But that’s another story.

Filed 10/12/16

The Real Origin of the BMW Logo

base ring BMW

Click pick to replay animation

This is the second correction of an entry on these pages done some time ago about the Rolls-Royce Merlin engine, the Spitfire, and the Me109 (Bf109, actually). Two boners in a single piece, pretty shabby. This revision concerns… well, I think the little opening animation pretty much tells the story.

The BMW logo has nothing to do with a spinning airplane propellor as previously given. It’s more along the lines of American companies using a star in their logo, it’s a symbol for the location of the company. In BMW’s case, Bavaria.

Thing is, the mistaken information (if something incorrect is information) repeated in the old post has made the rounds for decades. I first heard it in the early 1980s, well before the advent of the Internet allowed folks to spread myth-information at lightening speed. Still, the Internet does afford the opportunity to more easily double check this sort of thing. Though it seems fact checking doesn’t happen as often as it might. In the particular case mentioned, I stand guilty as charged.

For you fans of German soccer, you may also note Bayern Munich have sort-of copped the BMW logo for themselves, a circle with stylized Bavarian flag blue and white checks inside. Check it out for yourself. See, the Internet makes research easy. Not that you’ll always find the truth, but you’ll find something. Without having to leave your seat.

Filed 10/7/16

The Real Left-Right Divide Is Not What You Think! The Shocking Truth Will Surprise You!

brains

Sorry for the hyperbolic headline. Just thought I might try my hand at web-speak teaser writing. Did it make you want to read it more? Probably not, I didn’t offer a life hack or the best free gift. Of. All. Time. Anyway, let’s get on with the real business at hand.

What we’re talking about is not the political left-right divide, but brain lobes. The differences between which is not what you may have heard in the 70s or 80s when the left brain-right brain notion was more popularly discussed. You know, the old creative-logic, emotion-reason left-right location in the brain business. That’s all been shown to be wrong.

The new thinking on thinking is... well, rather than rehashing it, or botching it badly, we suggest watching the video. Or, being an interview, you could simply listen to it as there’s not much to see except the usual talking heads sort of thing. That way you can multi-task. Which is what the combined halves of the brain pretty much do. Or maybe duo-task. Confused? Click the link already. Afterwards, the opening pic with the brains and rainbow might actually make sense. One hopes.

Iain McGilchrist ‘The Divided Brain’
–Interview by Iain McNay

Filed 9/23/16

Glass Is No Liquid

window

When Scotty helped the 20th century engineer concoct transparent aluminum in Star Trek IV I chalked it up to sci-fi imaginariness, like transporters. Regular readers know transparent aluminum really exists. Not only that, they can make other transparent metals, too. Seems strange something so solid and opaque like metal could be made transparent and still be solid. Until you consider glass is made of sand, which we don’t give a second thought to being clear.

Some might say, “Ah, but glass is actually a very viscous liquid and not a solid.” Maybe you’ve heard that one. Well, that’s yet another science myth. Some folks reckoned such when examining Elizabethan (and the like) windows which were thicker at the bottom and concluded they flowed very slowly downward over time. Like super slow, stiff Jell-O or something. Anyway, they figured wrongly.

In the olden days they didn’t make rolled plate glass, float glass. They manipulated glass the old fashioned way, same as glass blowers do today. One window pane making method was spinning a blob of molten glass at the end of the pipe into a flat disk with centrifugal effect which they cut rectangles out of for windows. That’s where the old bull-eye glass you sometimes see in old buildings came from.

A second method was to blow a cylinder, like a vase or tumbler. While it was still molten they’d lop off the end connected to the pipe. Then they’d slit the resulting tube open along its length unrolling it into a flat rectangle.

As you can imagine, neither method guaranteed uniform thickness. When they framed this type of glass for windows they put the parts with the same thickness together at the bottom. Probably just made it easier to make the leading or frame that held it all together. Thing is, there are cases in very old buildings where the glass is thicker at the sides or even at the top. The glass didn’t flow sideways or upwards, the panes were that way from the git-go. The bottom line, glass is a solid and not a liquid.

To make stained glass they added different metals to the glass which produced different colors. Of course, you don’t see teeny-tiny bits of these metals embedded in the glass, it’s all transparent. Or translucent, anyway. Which means transparent metals have sort-of been around quite a while.

Filed 9/17/16

From Russia with History

bunk

“History is bunk.” –Henry Ford

History is not always written by the people involved and so often relies on stories told by witnesses. Though, as in the Kurosawa classic Rashomon, eyewitness account can vary quite a bit. Then again, history can be told by people based on, well, hearsay. We’re into the whole friend of a friend system of urban mythology as history. How accurate is that?

Even so, eyewitnesses don’t always see everything, or remember correctly. Plus, they can be biased and only see what they want to believe. Oh yeah, people are also capable of lying. And believing lies. Especially if the lie is the only story you’ve heard and is repeated over and over and made its way it into the history books.

One wonders how much history, like the previously mention slanders against Ty Cobb, really is bunk. To that point, here’s an article which might be subtitled: “Everything You Thought You Knew about Rasputin Is a Whopping Lie”

The Real Gregory Rasputin

Filed 9/6/16

Writing a Hit Pop Song Is Simple, But Not Easy

chords

The standard western musical scale is an octave, that’s eight notes. Though the scale begins and ends on the same note, as in do-re-mi-fa-so-la-ti-do. That second do is double the harmonic vibration of the first do, so it is and isn’t the same note. Or something. It’s a vibrations per second thing we won’t go into. Though one wonders if we divided time a little differently so a second was a bit longer, would all music be out of tune?

Anyway, toss in flats and sharps, which are the same notes depending on the particular scale, and you get thirteen notes, or twelve since you’re repeating yourself once you close the scale at the upper end. Either way, you still call it an octave and not a trideskitave. All the same, you get more than thirteen (or twelve) scales out of all that because there’s major, minor, diminished, flattened fifth scales and such.

As you can imagine the number of chords and progressions is quite large. Yet, if you want to write a hit pop song you can throw out all that because you don’t need most of it. That’s because every hit pop song uses the same four chords and progression. Don’t believe it? Listen and maybe laugh:

Axis of Awesome - Four Chord Song (with song titles)

As you can see, writing a pop song is simple. In construction. Writing one that’s a hit, not so easy.

On the other hand if you want to write Middle-Eastern pop music you have many more possibilities to use, and, one supposes, also ignore. That’s because, while the European scale goes in half steps, those darn Asians shove in some quarter steps. Which would mean you can’t play a lot of Middle-Eastern music on traditional European instruments because they won’t play the tweener notes.

On the third hand (assuming you’re a freak), the traditional Chinese scale is only five notes. Or is it six? This repeating the note at the beginning and end is confusing. Anyway, if you want to play anything and make it sound Chinese-ish, simply use only the black keys on any keyboard instrument and there you go.

Filed 8/30/16

The Best Selling Motor Vehicle of All Time

cub1
cub2 cub3 cub3

Depending how you define “best selling” you could make the argument the Ford Model T would top the list. In its heyday this single car had a fifty percent market share, half the cars on the American road were Model Ts. Try outselling that. It wasn’t the top selling in total numbers, but there were a lot fewer people around back then.

By volume the Volkswagen Beetle wins the title of best selling car at over thirty million units sold. Of course, unlike the Model T, it sold all over the world in a much more populous world. It helped that they built the thing for about forty years, more than twice as long as the tin Lizzy.

Still, the VW doesn’t get the crown as the best selling motor vehicle of all time. Notice we said motor vehicle and not automobile. At over 80 million units sold, the winner is… the Honda Cub. That’s right, the ultimate people’s car is a motorcycle. Or is it a scooter? Or, with its large, narrow wheels a sort-of cross between the two? Whatever it is, it’s the king of the road.

Filed 8/23/16

On the Other Hand, Some German Automotive Engineers Are Geniuses


Forget Hoffman, not that anyone remembers him, Porsche is the German car guy to remember. Ferdinand Porsche is famous as the founder of the car company bearing his name, the first offering of which was a relatively affordable sports car. Not something the outfit is known for these days. He’s also renowned as the creator of the Volkswagen Beetle. Perhaps less well-known are his highly successful Auto Union (now Audi) mid-engine race cars of the 1930s.

Herr Porsche was an auto innovator of the first stripe from the beginning. His first effort was a revolutionary electric car where the wheels were electric motors. A highly efficient design since there was no loss of power through mechanical connecting shafts and whatnot. His second car was a gasoline engine/electric hybrid. Pretty much the same system in hybrid cars today, only about a hundred years ago.

Elon Musk is but a pale imitation of the real genius that was Ferdinand Porsche.

Fifty Years of Porsche

History of the Lovable Beetle

Filed 8/5/16

Whataya Know, I’m a Ten Percenter

idlerich

Believe it or not I’m amongst the richest people in the world. The key phrase is, “in the world.” Globally, over $77,000 in net worth puts you in the top ten percent.

Then again, the comparison is a bit misleading because the local cost of living makes a difference. Plus, things like income and GDP are calculated in terms of commerce rather than actual production or goods. For instance, paint the house yourself, no GDP. Hire a painter, GDP. Did more work get done because you paid for it rather than doing it yourself?

Subsistance ruralists grow crops, herd animals, build housing, make textiles, tools and pottery, yet generate no income or GDP simply because they didn’t buy or sell any of it. Doesn’t mean they created no wealth, it just doesn’t show up as GDP or income. So when they tell you such-and-such country has some really low per capita income, what does it really mean?

On the flip side of the above, when American moms got jobs in large numbers starting in the 1970s an entire daycare industry emerged to do the work for money mothers had been doing unpaid. When the wife works and then hires out the cooking, cleaning, and laundry, GDP goes up. Yet no more work is done than if they stayed at home and did those things themselves as they used to do. Makes you wonder how much GDP growth in the last 50 odd years has been phony?

Speculations aside, in light of how little effort I’ve been putting into terry colon dot com of late, I guess it makes me the idle rich. I can live with that.

Filed 7/22/16

Worst German Car Ever

hoffman1 hoffman1 hoffman3 hoffman3

Not every Brazilian is a soccer star, not every Frenchman can cook, and not every German is a brilliant car engineer. To wit, the misbegotten automotive monstrosity, the Hoffman. Never heard of it? Well, there’s a very good reason for that. See for yourself:

What It’s Like To Drive The Worst Car In The World

OK, confession time. Hoffman was American. But of German extraction. So we’re going with the lead-in as is.

Filed 7/25/16

There’s Electricity in the Air

electricearth1
electricearth2

The Earth is electrically active with an electric field of between 50 and 200 volts per meter at its surface. A six foot man will experience a potential of up to 400 volts from head to toe. The average potential between ground and the ionosphere is 240,000 volts and can reach as much as 400,000 volts.

More from Gerald Pollack, the electrically charged water man:

Gerald Pollack: Beyond Water -- What Makes the World Go Round?

Filed 5/26/16

How to Deal with Barbarians, Roman Style

Click pic to play animation

Here’s a little bit of trivia for military history buffs. Or historical martial arts aficionados. Or something along those lines. This is trivia correcting trivia you may have run across concerning the Roman pilum. That spear thingy pictured in the toon above.

There is this idea that the pilum’s thin metal shaft with the spearhead attached is intended to bend after impact so the enemy can’t return fire. Well, not fire, this is pre-gunpowder. Return volley. Return serve? What­ever. Where this notion comes from I don’t know, but it didn’t come from the Romans. If you ever noticed, whale harpoons have basically the same design. Think a whale can throw a harpoon back at you?

First of all, a weapon that bends on impact is a lousy weapon. That’s because bending means the weapon is absorbing part of the impact, not a good thing for inflicting maximum damage. That’s why they use rubber knifes in stage fighting. The real reason for the long metal shaft bit is for better penetration.

Here’s how it works. Say a normal pole spear pierces a shield, which were often made of wood covered in animal hide. After the spearhead breaks the surface the shaft will have to follow through the opening to get any kind of deep penetration. Not so easy to for a fat, round, wooden shaft to get very far through the opening created by a leaf-shaped spearhead, too much resistance. Such a spear might get a foot through the shield. If the intended victim were holding the shield a foot out from his body, no harm no foul.

By contrast, once a pilum spearhead breeches a shield, the thin, metal shaft easily passes through the opening losing little energy. Which means a pilum can penetrate the depth of the metal shaft length, about three feet. If the intended victim were holding a shield a foot in front of them, well, do the math.

The same thing applies to hitting a man, once you pierce his protective armor, mail, padding, whatever, the pilum will get much better penetration than a pole spear. It is true that some­times the pilum would bend, but it wasn’t designed to. Then again, a wooden spear shaft would sometimes break, which nobody ever figured was a feature.

Filed 4/28/16

Frivia for Font Fanatics

helvetica

We revisit something mentioned recently here in the Shorts for no good reason other than we want to. While the typeface Helvetica is almost entirely without quirks, blond some would say, there is one letter that is more “designy” than what you might call the standard form. It’s the upper case R. Compare the various sans serif cap Rs above. Which is the odd man out?

For most the leg under the bowl is obviously angled and pretty much straight. The leg on the bottom right R is practically vertical and has a little curling, almost serif-like terminal. The last cap R is Helvetica.

Why the departure from the most basic form? I don’t know. Perhaps it’s explained in the movie, Helvetica. A film about a font. Eat your heart out, Frutiger. (Adrian Frutiger designed Univers, a very similar contemporary of Helvetica. Both font families were based on Akzidenz-Grotesk from 1898.)

Helvetica - the movie

There are many clones or imitators of Helvetica. Geneva, Swiss, Zurich, to name a few. Notice they all seem to reside in the Swiss Alps. The Swiss call the place Confœderatio Helvetica after all.

While most folks with a passing knowledge of typefaces know what a serif, ascender and descender are, they likely aren’t familiar with the terms for all the parts of letterforms. Like many specialities, type design has a jargon all its own. If you want to know all about that, try this link:

Anatomy of a Character

To be super font geeky, here’s a typeface that blurs the line between serif and sans-serif, Optima. The strokes are not straight, they’re all curved, flaring outward at the terminal which renders somewhat of a visual impression of a serif, but there really is no serif. See for yourself:

Optima

Filed 4/19/16

Why Johnny Can’t Spell

spellingbee

There are no spelling bees in Italy. Why? Spelling is no challenge in Italian because, unlike English, words are actually spelled how they sound and vice-versa. You don’t need to memorize spellings, you need only hear the word and you can spell it. A spelling bee in Rome would never end and everyone would win.

The French, on the other hand, seem to add pointless letters on the end of words as mere decorations. Water in French is eau, pronounced “oh.” You can see that at the end of Bordeaux. What’s the X tacked on the end for? Renault also ends with an “oh” sound. Why the LT on the end? Then there’s les, chalet, and allez, all ending in a “lay” sound. Is there any point to the S, T and Z? I guess they just make the words look more Francophied.

Meanwhile, English spelling is a hodgepodge of inconsistency. One problem is most spellings became set around the 15th and 16th centuries while the Great Vowel Shift, a major change in English vowel sounds, didn’t finish until 1700. For instance, Shakespeare would rhyme blood and moon in his dialog, which don’t rhyme now but did then. Had all the vowel sounds changed alike for words spelled alike, it might have worked out. Unfortunately, different words changed, well, differently. Hence, spelling bees.

Great Vowel Shift - Oxford English Dictionary

Of course, English is also full of adopted foreign words. Oh-oh, cultural expropriation. That’s bad. Or is it multicultural? That’s good. Oh well, all we know is the double-Os in good, blood and moon don’t rhyme.

Filed 4/15/16

Where the Calories Go (That Aren’t Turned to Fat)

brainworkout

About one third of the calories you burn are used by a single organ. Can you guess which? Guessing is using it. Your brain. Breathing, pumping blood, moving food through the digestive track also takes energy. Building enzymes, hormones and all the other chemistry going on inside you takes energy, too.

You know how some diets, pills or whatever promise you can lose weight while you sleep? Now you know how that’s feasible. Your innards are busy 24-7-365 burning most of the calories you scarf down every day. If not, you’d wake up dead. A very bad way to start the day.

Skeletal muscles are very efficient and make do with not all that much fuel. While exercise helps keep you in the pink, as a way to lose weight… don’t count on it. Thirty minutes of strenuous exercise a day will get you all of about five pounds of weight loss a year. Losing 50 pounds would take ten years. Does that sound like a good plan?

Doing calculus, solving brain teasers, or pondering the riddle of the universe won’t increase your brain’s energy use much. Though if it did, it would mean diet books might work much better. Just by reading them.

Filed 3/21/16

Does the Moon Orbit the Earth?

Seems an odd question. Everyone knows it’s obvious the Moon orbits the Earth. They always say it does and it certainly looks that way. It rises in the east and sets in the west. Just like the Sun. Oops. The Sun doesn’t orbit the Earth, does it?

Thing is, the Sun applies more gravitational force on the Moon than does the Earth. The Moon is actually orbiting the Sun. At no time does the Moon move backwards in its orbital path around the Sun, there is no loop. The Moon and the Earth follow wavy paths around the Sun, speeding up and slowing down as it were. Of course, the Moon much more than the Earth.

Here’s a simple way to visualize it. Imagine a three lane highway with a semi in the center lane and a sports car directly behind it. The semi slows a little, the sports car accelerates and passes the truck in the left lane, then moves in front of big rig back into the center lane. Next, the truck speeds up slightly, the car slows down moving into the right lane. The truck passes the car which then moves back into the center lane directly behind the truck to the starting position where the sequence then repeats over and over.

road car semi

From the point of view of the truck driver the sports car is circling the rig. Yet at no time did the car go in reverse and back up along the road. Now, imagine the highway as a big circular racetrack with you at the center. From your point of view both the truck and the car are circling you weaving back and forth passing each other as they go around.

Replace the semi with the Earth, substitute the sports car with the Moon and turn yourself into the Sun. No easy task, so just imagine it. There you go. The Moon orbits the Sun, not the Earth.

Filed 3/23/16

Amazing Tale from the Pacific Air War

zeros

Navy pilot Stanley “Swede” Vejtasa is a legend in American military aviation circles. Maybe a double legend for two separate unequaled feats in the Second World War. On May 8th, 1942, he downed three Japanese Zeros in a single dogfight. No big deal, you say? What if he flew the only American plane in the area and so was unaided and outnumbered three to one? A bit more impressive, yet his disadvantage was greater than that.

Captain Vejtasa outflew and out­fought the three Mitsubishi Zeros, not in a superior Gruman Hellcat or lesser Gruman Wildcat, but piloting a slow, under-gunned, less agile Douglas Dauntless dive bomber. How the last Zero was knocked out of the sky was truly amazing. See for yourself at the following link to a History Channel video:

Dogfight: Long Odds

Teaser alert! Captain Vejtasa’s second unsurpassed day is mentioned at the end of the segment. We sign off with a truism of the combat pilot:

“The only time you have too much fuel is when you’re on fire.”

Filed 3/8/16

We Are What We Eat, but What Are We Eating?

food

Some people like to say if your great grandmother wouldn’t recognize it as food, maybe it isn’t. How has what we eat changed since great grandma was slaving over a hot stove? Though, to see the total changes we need to go a bit further back than great grandma’s time, back to before the United States was born.

Top Ten Changes in the American Diet over the Last 250 Years

  1. Extracted vegetable oils from 0% to 7% of calories
  2. Twenty-fold increase in refined sugar
  3. More refined carbohydrates
  4. Fiber down by half
  5. Fruits and leafy vegetables eaten all year round instead of seasonally
  6. Pasteurized dairy products
  7. More lean muscle protein
  8. Less organ meats
  9. Less bone marrow
  10. Less saturated fat

Even the things that seem to be the same are different. Different hybrid strains of grains, different breeds of cattle and chicken, and less wild game.

If modern maladies like type 2 diabetes and heart disease are caused by modern diets, as many contend, why the obsession with saturated fat which has gone down? Meanwhile fiber has been cut 50%, refined sugar has increased 2,000% and extracted vegetable oils have increased… there is no percentage increase to calculate because it started at zero.

The dirty little secret about low-fat foods is what they do to make them palatable. Which is, they add sugar, usually corn syrup. One imagines any day now they’ll start putting “heart smart” labels on bags of sugar. Hey, it’s fat-free, right?

Filed 3/7/16

Warm Puppies & Cool Cats


Do cats have Grinch-like five sizes too small hearts? Or is it that dogs are overdoing it? I mean, are people really all that lovable?

Proof your cat loves you FIVE times less than your dog: We know moggies are more aloof - but new scientific tests reveal the differences are greater than we think

Moggies? Apparently that’s what Brits call house cats. They also seem to go in for long headlines. And don’t skimp on the URLs, either. Speaking of Englishmen speaking of cats and dogs, we have the following quote from Winston Churchill:

“I am fond of pigs. Dogs look up to us. Cats look down on us. Pigs treat us as equals.”

Filed 2/22/16

The Lone Eagle Takes on the Japanese Empire

Lindberg

The most famous American flyer to shoot down an enemy aircraft in WWII was not an ace. He wasn’t even in the military. Not Claire Chenault of the Flying Tigers nor any of his pilots. It was Charles Lindbergh. That’s right, Lucky Lindy.

On a tour of U.S. Army Air Corps bases in southeast Asia in 1944, Lindbergh offered advice on how pilots could decrease fuel usage and increase the range of the gas-guzzling P-38 Lightning. After all, he knew a thing or two about squeezing every last drop of fuel for long distance flying. Air crews were skeptical so Lindbergh offered to accompany sorties flying a P-38 himself using his techniques.

The Lone Eagle flew 50 combat missions and shot down one Japanese plane, a Mitsubishi Ki-51 “Sonia.” When news of this hit the newswires Washington was none too pleased that such a prominent world celebrity, and a civilian, was going in harm’s way and so Lindbergh’s fighting career was ended soon after. By following his methods the P-38’s range was almost doubled which had a greater effect than his combat flying ever could.

28 July 1944, Civilian Charles Lindbergh Gets into Air Combat

Filed 2/15/16

All About And and & and &c.

type1

In ye olden days, before 1950, there was no separate typewriter key for an exclamation point, called a slam in publishing jargon. (Perhaps people were less excitable then and so didn’t need it so often.) On the earliest type­writers an exclamation point was a three step operation: period, back­space, apostrophe. Or you could type the apostrophe first, either way it was three steps.

Nowadays we set off paragraphs with extra leading, a return, and/or indenting. In days gone by, as in before movable type when books were written with quill pens by scribes in candle-lit carrels (the original cubicle), they used that paragraph symbol. You know, the thingy that shows up when you show text invisibles: They stuck in this pilcrow, that’s what it’s called, wherever needed in the middle of a line, no return. Which they mightn’t have called a return because I think that’s a typewriter term, as in carriage return.

One guesses to most an ampersand is shorthand for ‘and’ and nothing more. You don’t see it much anymore, but it was used for et cetera, as &c. Then again, et cetera means ‘and so on.’ (Latin: et, and + ceteras, the rest) So etc. is ‘and’ in a way. In some type faces the & doesn’t look like a back­ward script S, which I think is it what it came from, but more resembles a ligature of Et which makes &c look like Etc.


To the Screen Writers Guild there’s a difference between ‘and’ and ‘&’ in film credits. ‘And’ is used when writers worked separately on a script, while ‘&’ means writers collaborated on it.

Filed 2/9/16

The European Surname Game

namestop

Bolivia was named after one person, Simón Bolívar, “The Liberator,” so called. Saudi Arabia gets its name from the ruling house of Saud. They own the place, I guess. What if all countries were named after people, or maybe the most common surname in the land? Imagine the map of Europe. Heck, don’t imagine, click on the pic and see for yourself.


Click to enlarge

Admittedly, this is just a gimmick to present the most common surnames per country with a slight twist. As you can see, some names are popular in more places than one. Müller rules in Germany and Switzerland. Smith is numero uno in England and Scotland. I would have thought Stewart, Stuart or MacSomething would have been tops in Scotland. A bigger surprise to me is Malta with the name Borg. Go figure.

Then there are cases of variations on a theme. Jensen in Denmark and Joensen in former Danish settlement Iceland. Whether the Danes lost an O or the Icelanders gained one is an open question. There’s also the Croatian Horvat and the Slovakian Horváth. It appears somehow the H and the mark over the A got lost or added passing through Hungary. But the winner is the tripled-up Nowak, Novák and Novak in Poland, the Czech Republic, and Slovenia respectively.

On the other hand, if you go by the names the locals use for their own country, there is one instance where the commonest surname and country name more-or-less jibe. The most common Croatian surname, Horvat; Croatian for Croatia, Hrvatska.

While I grant the locals get to call their country what they will, I don’t think Americans will ever latch onto those names. I mean, Slovenščina, Magyarország, Shqipëria, and Eeti Vabariik? I think we’ll stick with good old Slovenia, Hungary, Albania and Estonia, thank you very much. Could be worse though, what would we do with the likes of Poccия, Укpaинa and Ελλαδα?

Filed 2/2/16

Meanwhile Way up North…

lemmings

Does mamma lemming sound any­thing like your mom? It’s every parent’s advice for avoiding the logical fallacy, Appeal to numbers (argumentum ad numerum) or popular belief: asserting that the accep­tance of an idea by a majority, or by a large number of people, is reason to believe it.

Propagandists use it in bandwagon campaigns. You know, as a Madison Avenue hack might say, “A million whatever-they-ares can’t be wrong.” Really? As the man once said, “If a thousand people believe a foolish thing, it’s still a foolish thing.”

If you think only the impressionable masses fall prey to this sort of thing, you might want to read this from Michael Chrichton:

Aliens Cause Global Warming

Filed 1/24/16

There’s More than Gold in Them Thar Teeth –Battlefield Scavanging

dentist

Body snatching, grave robbing, and battlefield scavenging are, most would agree, pretty unsavory occupations, if they can be called occupations. Talk about filthy lucre and adding insult to injury. The cold-blooded might call them victimless crimes, at least the primary victims won’t be any the worse for wear, the worst has already happened and it can’t get worse than worst.

All the same, there was another side to these dark practices besides robbing the dead; not quite organ harvesting, but something like it. You might call it medical gleaning, a euphemism which looks better on a business card than, say, corpse monger. Back in the day before organ and tissue transplanting were developed, surgery pretty much entailed removing and lopping rather than inserting and attaching. Dead human internal organs aren’t much use to anyone other than medical students to study, and maybe cannibals.

The first type of insertion of bits from other people, beginning in the 18th century, was not swapping out vital organs, but implanting teeth. For the well-healed there were live teeth yanked from jaws of willing donors. The thrifty made do with dead teeth from “donors” who didn’t have much say in the matter, but at least weren’t bothered by the lack of anesthetics in those days. Though the donee might have gotten more than he bargained for if, as was sometimes the case, the donor had syphilis.

What the medical gleaners really needed was a supply of healthy young corpses, if dead can be called healthy. The Battle of Waterloo provided a windfall of 51,000 possible donors and a cache of so-called “Waterloo teeth” was made available as war scavengers following the Napoleonic armies made the rounds with sackfuls of teeth they sold to dentists and surgeons around Europe. According to one practitioner of battlefield post-mortem dentistry, “It is the constant practice to take the teeth out first …because if the body be lost, the teeth are saved.”

Nowadays we’re much too civilized to traffic in slightly used human body parts… oh, scratch that.

Filed 1/18/16

The Previous End of the World

teotwawki

A whole lot of pretty bizarre stuff happened in the fourteenth century. Folks didn’t understand it then, we don’t truly understand it now. The once accepted plague from black rats is largely discounted these days. Here’s an alternative hypothesis to entertain, it came from space. Is that possible? I have no way of knowing.

One thing I do know, I was able to repurpose an old Suck art spot. What do you know, the lazy plan works.

The Hundred Years War, the Fires of Tamatea and 1348 AD

Filed 1/12/16

Nobody Likes the Taste of Runny Meat

gamey

If, as they say, you are what you eat, so must be the creatures of the forrest. Taste-wise, anyway. Which is one good reason wild game tastes, well, gamey. Besides chowing down on pungent appetizers you’ll not find in a feeding trough, wild animals are lean and mean with less tasty fat, unless you bag one in late fall as they fatten up for winter. There’s another reason for the toothsomeness difference of wild game, exercise. Which takes some explaining.

Muscles burn sugar in the form of glycogen for fuel and the more an animal burns the less glycogen its muscles contain when converted from living beast to dinner. Glycogen turns into lactic acid after death making the meat tender. So, a layabout fat pig will go to slaughter full of glycogen, a wild boar you chased through the brambles not so much. Lactic acid turns bacteria on the flesh into slackers increasing meat’s shelf-life. High pH living puts the little buggers to sleep, they go dormant if you want to use sciency terms.

To go off on a tangent, acidity is why leaves don’t rot until fall. During summer leaves are covered with bac­teria, but are also full of water which raises pH so the microbes just sit there on vacation. When fall rolls in trees cut off the water supply, the leaves dry out and the bacteria wake up and start breakfasting like there’s no tomorrow. That’s why if you don’t dredge your backyard carp pond, if you have one, it’ll become choked with slimy leaves that never seem to rot.

Back to our meat story. The taste difference of tuckered out animals has not gone unnoticed, though moderns who do all their hunting in the super­market wouldn’t be aware of it. The Ojibwe had a word for “having the taste of an animal that was tired out before being killed,” Pikikiwepogosi.

Oh yeah, pH is for “potential of hydrogen.” Which is why the H, an element, is capitalized. It’s an electro­chemical thing, but we won’t go into all that.

Filed 1/9/16

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