Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Byzantine Empire

The Byzantine Empire or Eastern Roman Empire was the continuation of the Roman Empire during the Middle Ages, centered on the capital of Constantinople, and ruled by Emperors in direct succession to the ancient Roman Emperors. The Empire preserved Romano-Hellenistic traditions, but due to the increasing predominance of the Greek language, it became known to most of its western and northern contemporaries usually as the Empire of the Greeks. The term "Byzantine Empire" was popularized by historians during the 16th–19th centuries.

The Eastern Roman Empire's evolution from the ancient Roman Empire is sometimes dated from Emperor Constantine I's transfer of the capital from Nicomedia (in Anatolia) to Byzantium on the Bosphorus, which became Constantinople (alternatively "New Rome"). By the 7th century, increased eastern cultural influences, reforms by Emperor Heraclius, and the adoption of Greek as the official language, distinguished the later Roman character from its ancient character.

During its thousand-year existence the Empire remained one of the most powerful economic, cultural, and military forces in Europe, despite setbacks and territorial losses, especially during the Roman–Persian and Byzantine–Arab Wars. After the Komnenian restoration briefly re-established dominance in the 12th century, the Empire slipped into a long decline, with the Byzantine–Ottoman Wars culminating in the Fall of Constantinople and its remaining territories to the Muslim Ottoman Turks in the 15th century.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009


A Zeppelin is a type of rigid airship pioneered by the German Count Ferdinand von Zeppelin in the early 20th century. It was based on designs he had outlined in 1874 and detailed in 1893. His plans were reviewed by committee in 1894 and patented in the United States on March 14, 1899. Given the outstanding success of the Zeppelin design, the term zeppelin in casual use came to refer to all rigid airships.

Zeppelins were operated by the Deutsche Luftschiffahrts-AG (DELAG). DELAG, the first commercial airline, served scheduled flights before World War I. After the outbreak of the war, the German military made extensive use of Zeppelins as bombers and scouts.

The World War I defeat of Germany in 1918 halted the airship business temporarily. But under the guidance of Hugo Eckener, the successor of the deceased count, civilian zeppelins became popular in the 1920s. Their heyday was during the 1930s when the airships LZ 127 Graf Zeppelin and LZ 129 Hindenburg operated regular transatlantic flights from Germany to North America and Brazil. The Art Deco Spire of the Empire State Building was originally designed to serve as a Dirigible Terminal for Zeppelins and other airships to dock. The Hindenburg disaster in 1937, along with political and economic issues, hastened the demise of the Zeppelin.

Monday, September 28, 2009

The Milgram Experiment

The Milgram experiment was a famous scientific experiment of social psychology described by Yale University psychologist Stanley Milgram in 1974. It was intended to measure the willingness of a participant to obey an authority who instructs the participant to do something that may conflict with the participant's personal conscience. The participant is assigned the role of "teacher". The participant is then given simple memory tasks to give to the "learner" (an actor) and instructed to administer a shock by pressing a button each time the learner makes a mistake. The participant is also told that the voltage is to be raised by 15 volts after each mistake. In reality, there are no actual shocks being given to the learner – the actor is acting. The experiment raised questions about the ethics of scientific experimentation itself because of the extreme emotional stress suffered by the participants. Most modern scientists would consider the experiment unethical today, though it resulted in valuable insights into human psychology.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Memento Mori

Memento mori is a Latin phrase meaning "Remember you will die". It names a genre of artistic creations that vary widely from one another, but which all share the same purpose: to remind people of their own mortality.

In ancient Rome, the phrase is said to have been used on the occasions when a Roman general was parading through the streets of Rome during the victory celebration known as a triumph. Standing behind the victorious general was a slave, and he had the task of reminding the general that, though he was up on the peak today, tomorrow was another day. The servant did this by telling the general that he should remember that he was mortal: "Memento mori." It is also possible that the servant said, rather, "Respice post te! Hominem te memento!": "Look behind you! Remember that you are but a man!", as noted in Tertullian in his Apologeticus. Another phrase used in such a setting is Sic transit gloria mundi.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Bathing Machine

The bathing machine was a device, popular in the 19th century, to allow people to wade in the ocean at beaches without violating Victorian notions of modesty. Bathing machines were roofed and walled wooden carts rolled into the sea. Some had solid wooden walls; others had canvas walls over a wooden frame.

The bathing machine was part of sea-bathing etiquette more rigorously enforced upon women than men but to be observed by both sexes among those who wished to be "proper".

Especially in Britain, men and women were usually segregated, so nobody of the opposite sex might catch sight of them in their bathing suits, which (although modest by modern standards) were not considered proper clothing to be seen in.

According to some sources, the bathing machine was developed about 1750 by Benjamin Beale at Margate, Kent. Other sources say they did not come into common use until decades later. However, in Scarborough Public Library there is an engraving by John Setterington dated 1736 which shows people bathing and appears to be the first evidence for bathing machines.

Bathing machines were most common in the United Kingdom and parts of the British Empire with a British population, but were also used in France, Germany, the United States, Mexico, and other nations. Legal segregation of bathing areas in Britain ended in 1901, and the bathing machine declined rapidly. By the start of the 1920s bathing machines were almost extinct.

Friday, September 25, 2009


Mostarda (also called mostarda di frutta) is an Italian condiment made of candied fruit and a mustard flavoured syrup. Commercially the essential oil of mustard is employed, which has the advantage of transparency; in home cooking mustard powder heated in white wine may be used.

The most famous mostarda is that from Cremona and known as mostarda di Cremona, or mostarda cremonese.

Traditionally mostarda was served with boiled meats, the bollito misto which is a speciality of northern Italian cooking. More recently it has become a popular accompaniment to cheeses.

While mostarda di Cremona is made with several kinds of different fruit, mostarda di Mantova (also called mostarda di mele campanine or mostarda mantovana) is made from small, sour green apples called mele Campanine. The original recipe is from Cremona, and the variation is from Mantua, both in northern Italy.

An important variation or type of mostarda is mostarda vicentina, which is typical of the town of Vicenza (Veneto); its main difference is its marmalade-like appearance and the use of one main ingredient: quince (mele cotogne), and also pears.

Other versions include mostarda di Voghera, mostarda siciliana, and mostarda bolognese.

Big Tex

Big Tex is the 52 foot (16 m) tall icon of the annual State Fair of Texas held at Fair Park in Dallas, Texas. He wears size 70 boots, a 75 gallon hat, a size 100 180/181 shirt and 284W/185L XXXXXL pair of Dickies jeans. The pants alone require 72 yards of denim and weigh in at 65 pounds.

Big Tex's beginnings were in 1949 as a 49 foot tall Santa Claus constructed from iron drill casing and papier mache in Kerens, Texas to help encourage holiday sales in the town. In 1951, State Fair president R. L. Thornton purchased Santa's components for $750 and had Dallas artist Jack Bridges transform them into a cowboy, and Big Tex was born. Big Tex currently has fiberglass "skin."

Big Tex made his debut at the 1952 fair. He was altered the following year to straighten his nose, correct a lascivious wink and allow him to talk. Former disc jockey Al Jones was the first voice of Big Tex, but would fill the role for only one season. His most familiar voice is that of radio announcer, Jim Lowe, who boomed Big Tex's signature "Howdy, folks!" for a total of 39 years.

In 1958, Big Tex underwent further re-design, bringing him closer to the look of today. The next year, a mechanism was installed that allowed his mouth to move in sync with the announcer's voice. In 1997, Big Tex was given a skeletal makeover including a new hand that waved to passersby. Three years later, his head was animated, allowing it to turn.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Cædwalla of Wessex

Cædwalla of Wessex (659–689) was the King of Wessex from about 685 until 688, when he abdicated. His name is derived from the British Cadwallon.

He was exiled as a youth, and during this time attacked the South Saxons, in what is now Sussex, killing their king, Æthelwealh, but he was unable to hold the territory and was driven out by Æthelwealh's ealdormen. In either 685 or 686 he became king of Wessex. He may have been involved in suppressing rival dynasties at this time, as an early source records that Wessex was ruled by underkings until Cædwalla.

After his accession Cædwalla returned to Sussex and won the territory again, and also conquered the Isle of Wight, extinguishing the ruling dynasty there. He gained control of Surrey and the kingdom of Kent, and in 686 he installed his brother, Mul, as king of Kent. Mul was burned in a Kentish revolt a year later, and Cædwalla returned, possibly ruling Kent directly for a period.

Cædwalla was wounded during the conquest of the Isle of Wight, and perhaps for this reason he abdicated in 688 to travel to Rome for baptism. He reached Rome in April of 689, and was baptised on the Saturday before Easter, dying ten days later on 20 April 689.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009


Astro is a canine character on the Hanna-Barbera cartoon, The Jetsons. He was designed by Iwao Takamoto, and originally voiced by Don Messick. Astro was more advanced than present-day dogs, in that he had a rudimentary grasp of the English language, albeit with r's in many places it shouldn't be, or replacing other letters. For example, "I love you, George" would be "I ruv roo, Reorge".

Astro was found by Elroy in the fourth Jetsons episode, "The Coming of Astro". When Elroy, Jane and Judy proposed keeping the dog to George, he was against it. To try and stay out of the "doghouse" with his family, he got an electronic dog. The electronic dog was supposed to be the new hairless, non-eating, protect your house, way to go. When a cat burglar tried to rob the Jetsons, the electronic dog attacked him (which he did to anyone wearing a mask). Elry tried waking Astro to get him to stop the burglar as a way to prove himself, but Astro turned out to be more interested in hiding in fear. However, when trying to escape, the cat burglar put the mask on George. The electronic dog then proceeded to chase after George. It was Astro (who was trying to run from the cat burglar) that inevitably caught the criminal (by accident) by crashing into him. This prompted George to decide that the electronic dog was not the way to go. They gave the electronic dog to the police and kept Astro as part of their family.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009


Mastodon refers to the large tusked mammal species of the extinct genus Mammut endemic to Asia, Africa, Europe, North America, and South America from the Oligocene through Pleistocene, living from 33.9 mya—11,000 years ago, existing for approximately 33.889 million years.

The genus gives its name to the family Mammutidae, assigned to the order Proboscidea. They superficially resemble the woolly mammoth, Mammuthus primigenius, which are classified within another proboscidean family, Elephantidae; Mastodons were browsers while mammoths were grazers.

Mastodons first appeared almost 40 million years ago with the oldest fossil unearthed in the Democratic Republic of the Congo as Mastodon sp. Fossils having been found in Bolivia, England, Germany, the Netherlands, North America, and Romania and northern Greece. Mammut americanum is generally reported as having disappeared from North America about 10,000 years ago, at the same time as most other Pleistocene megafauna. However more recent
radiocarbon dates have been found, such as 5200 BCE in Seneca, Michigan, 5140 BCE in Utah, 4150 BCE in Washtenaw, Michigan, 4080 BCE in Lapeer, Michigan. It is known from fossils found ranging from present-day Alaska and New England in the north, to Florida, southern California, Mexico, and as far south as Honduras.

Though their habitat spanned a large territory, mastodons were most common in the ice age spruce forests of the eastern United States, as well as in warmer lowland environments. Their remains have been found as far as 300 kilometers offshore of the northeastern United States, in areas that were dry land during the low sea level stand of the last ice age. Mastodon fossils have been found on the Olympic Peninsula of Washington, USA (Manis Mastodon Site), in Kentucky (particularly noteworthy are early finds in what is now Big Bone Lick State Park);the floodplain of the East Branch of the DuPage River, near Glen Ellyn, Illinois; the Kimmswick Bone Bed in Missouri; in Stewiacke, Nova Scotia, Canada; at a number of sites in New York State; in Richland County, Wisconsin (Boaz mastodon); La Grange, Texas; Southern Louisiana; north of Fort Wayne, Indiana; Savannah, Georgia; and Johnstown, Ohio USA.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Alferd Packer

Alferd Packer was an American prospector who was accused of cannibalism. First tried for murder, Packer was eventually sentenced to 40 years in prison after being convicted of manslaughter.

In November, 1873, Packer was with a party of 21 who left Provo, Utah, bound for the Colorado gold country around Breckenridge. On January 21, 1874 he met with Chief Ouray, known as the White Man's Friend, near Montrose, Colorado. Chief Ouray recommended they postpone their expedition until spring, as they were likely to encounter dangerous winter weather in the mountains.

Ignoring Ouray's advice, Packer and five others left for Gunnison, Colorado on February 9. The party got hopelessly lost, ran out of provisions, and became snowbound in the Rocky Mountains. Packer allegedly went scouting and came back to discover Bell roasting human flesh. According to Packer, Bell rushed him with a hatchet. Packer shot and killed him. Packer insisted that Bell had gone mad and murdered the others.

Packer signed a confession on August 5, 1874. He was jailed in Saguache, but escaped soon after, vanishing for several years.

On March 11, 1883, Packer was discovered in Cheyenne, Wyoming living under the alias of "John Schwartze." On March 16, he signed another confession. On April 6, a trial began in Lake City, Colorado. On April 13, he was found guilty of manslaughter and sentenced to death. Packer managed to temporarily avoid punishment again. In October 1885, the sentence was reversed by the Colorado Supreme Court. However, on June 8, 1886, Packer was sentenced to 40 years at another trial in Gunnison. At the time, this was the longest custodial sentence in U.S. history.

On June 19, 1899, Packer's sentence was upheld by the Colorado Supreme Court. However, he was paroled on February 8, 1901 and went to work as a guard at the Denver Post. He died in Deer Creek, in Jefferson County, Colorado, reputedly of "Senility - trouble & worry" at the age of 65. Packer is widely rumored to have become a vegetarian before his death. He was buried in Littleton, Colorado. His grave is marked with a veteran's tombstone listing his original regiment.

In 1968, students at the University of Colorado at Boulder named their new cafeteria grill the Alferd G. Packer Memorial Grill with the slogan "Have a friend for lunch!"

Sunday, September 20, 2009


Potrzebie is a Polish word popularized by its non sequitur use as a running gag in the early issues of Mad not long after the comic book began in 1952.

Mad editor Harvey Kurtzman spotted the word printed in the Polish language section of a multi-languaged "Instructions for Use" sheet accompanying a bottle of aspirin, and Kurtzman, who was fascinated with unusual words and Yiddishisms, decided it would make an appropriate but meaningless background gag. After cutting the word out of the instruction sheet, he made copies and used rubber cement to paste "Potrzebie" randomly into the middle of Mad satires.

The word first appeared in the letters column in Mad 10 (April 1954) in response to the question "Please tell me what in the world 'Furshlugginer' means." The editors replied: "It means the same as Potrzebie." Actually, "furshlugginer," also spelled "ferschlugginer" or "fershlugginer," is a Yiddish word meaning "confounded" or "darned" and was used in that sense in Mad.

Saturday, September 19, 2009


The tuberose (Polianthes tuberosa) is a perennial plant of the agave family Agavaceae, extracts of which are used as a middle note in perfumery. The common name derives from the Latin tuberosa, meaning swollen or tuberous in reference to its root system. It consists of about 12 species. Polianthes means "gray flower".

The tuberose is a night-blooming plant thought to be native to Mexico along with every other species of Polianthes. The Aztecs called it "Omixochitl" or "bone flower".

It is a prominent plant in Indian culture and mythology. The flowers are used in wedding ceremonies, garlands, decoration and various traditional rituals. Its Hindi name is "Rajnigandha", though it is sometimes mistakenly referred to as "Raat ki Rani" ("Queen of the Night"), which is really Cestrum nocturnum. The name Rajnigandha means "night-fragrant" (rajni=night; gandha=fragrance). In Bengali, it is called "Rojoni-Gondha", meaning "Scent of the Night". In parts of South India, it is known as "Sugandaraja", which translates to "king of fragrance/smell". In Singapore it is called Xinxiao which means "that on which the moth rests". In Indonesia it is called "bunga sedap malam", meaning fragrant night flower. In Tamil Nadu it is called as Sambangi or nilasambangi and traditionally used in all type of garlanding especially in south Indian marriages. In Cuba it is called "azucena" which is the name given to amaryllis in Mexico.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Studebaker Avanti

The Studebaker Avanti was a sports coupe built by the Studebaker Corporation of South Bend, Indiana, USA between June 1962 and December 1963. Designed by a team of stylists employed by industrial designer Raymond Loewy, the Avanti featured a radical body design based on the Studebaker Lark convertible chassis.

The waist had a coke bottle shape, which held up a thin-section roof with a bubble-back rear window and an integral rollbar. Loewy achieved the look of a mid-engine sports car by replacing the conventional grille with a bottom breathing functional air intake placed under the front bumper. The driver looked over an asymmetrical hump in the hood. The padded cockpit featured four bucket seats, the rears mounted a few inches higher than the fronts to present passengers with a startlingly clear view of the road ahead.

The Avanti's classic design originated in an intense five-week session in a rented house in Palm Springs, California near the home of lead designer Raymond Loewy with the team of Bob Andrews, Tom Kellogg, and John Ebstein.

In the early 1960s, Studebaker needed some excitement in the showrooms, but because of its precarious financial situation had little capital to invest in product development. Although the Avanti looked entirely new, it was mounted on a 109-inch (2,769 mm) Lark convertible frame, still based upon the 1953 design.

On December 9, 1963, Studebaker announced the end of car and truck manufacturing in South Bend, and the consolidation of all vehicle manufacturing in its Hamilton, Ontario, Canada plant. At that point, the company dropped the Avanti, the Gran Turismo Hawk, and all pickups and trucks in order to focus on sedans, coupes and station wagons. Only 4,643 Avantis (not including prototypes, some of which were assigned serial numbers at the end of the run) had been produced by the time Studebaker closed the South Bend factory on December 20, 1963.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Santa Ana Winds

Santa Ana winds are strong, extremely dry offshore winds that characteristically sweep through in Southern California and northern Baja California in late fall into winter. They can range from hot to cold, depending on the prevailing temperatures in the source regions, the Great Basin and upper Mojave Desert. However, the winds are remembered most for the hot dry weather (often the hottest of the year) that they bring in the fall.

According to the Los Angeles Almanac: "The original spelling of the name of the winds is unclear, not to mention the origin. The name "Santa Ana Winds" is said to be traced to Spanish California, when the winds were called devil winds due to their heat. Santa Ana winds may get their name from the Santa Ana Mountains in Orange County, the Santa Ana River or Santa Ana Canyon, along which the winds are particularly strong. The original form may have been Satanás winds, from the Spanish vientos de Satán ("winds of Satan"). Sanatanas is a rarer form of Satanás and is a translation of a native name in an unspecified language."

Although the winds often have a destructive nature, they have some positive benefits as well. They cause cold water to rise from below the surface layer of the ocean, bringing with it many nutrients that ultimately benefit local fisheries. As the winds blow over the ocean, sea surface temperatures drop about 4°C (7°F), indicating the upwelling. Chlorophyll concentrations in the surface water go from negligible, in the absence of winds, to very active at more than 1.5 milligrams per cubic meter in the presence of the winds.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Mr. Machine

Mr. Machine is a once popular children's mechanical toy originally manufactured by the Ideal Toy Company in 1960. Mr. Machine was a robot-like mechanical man wearing a top hat. The body had a giant windup key at the back. When the toy was wound up it would "walk", swinging its arms and repeatedly ringing a bell mounted on its front; and after every few steps emit a mechanical "Ah!", as if it were speaking. The toy stood about 18 inches tall (roughly 46 cm).

The gimmick of Mr. Machine was that one could not only see all of his mechanical "innards" through his clear plastic body, but one could also take the toy apart and put it back together, over and over, like a Lego toy or a jigsaw puzzle.

Mr. Machine was one of Ideal's most popular toys. The company reissued it in 1978, but with some alterations: it could no longer be taken apart (owing to the tendency of very young children to put small pieces in their mouths which could be accidentally swallowed or present a choking hazard), and instead of ringing a bell and making the "Ah" sound, it now whistled "This Old Man". This later version of Mr. Machine was brought back once more in the 1980s. In 2004, the Poof-Slinky Company remanufactured the original 1960 version (using the actual Ideal molds whenever possible), which made the original sounds and could be disassembled, and with the intention of being marketed to nostalgic adults as a collectible.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Liz Renay

Liz Renay was an American author, actress and convicted felon, who appeared in John Waters' film Desperate Living (1977).

She was born Pearl Elizabeth Dobbins on April 16, 1926 in Chandler, Arizona to "evangelical parents."

Renay was mobster Mickey Cohen's girlfriend. Renay was convicted of perjury and served 27 months at Terminal Island.

In her book, My First 2,000 Men, she claimed flings with Joe DiMaggio, Regis Philbin, and Cary Grant among many other male celebrities. She and her daughter, Brenda, toured with a striptease act. The act ended when Brenda committed suicide on her 39th birthday in 1982.

Renay's other books include My Face for the World to See and Staying Young (Lyle Stuart, 1982). My Face for the World to See was reissued in 2002, headlined "A Cult Classic," with a foreword by John Waters.

John Waters integrated the title of Renay's book My Face for the World to See into the dialogue of his film Female Trouble (1974), prior to beginning the film he did with Renay.

Renay died at age 80 on January 22, 2007, in her adopted hometown of Las Vegas, Nevada, from cardiac arrest and gastric bleeding. She was survived by a son, John McLain, from her second marriage.

She was married a total of seven times, being divorced five times and widowed twice.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Decompression Sickness

Decompression sickness (DCS; also historically or colloquially known as divers' disease, the bends or caisson disease) describes a condition arising from the precipitation of dissolved gasses into bubbles inside the body on depressurisation. DCS most commonly refers to a specific type of scuba diving hazard but may be experienced in other depressurisation events such as caisson working, flying in unpressurised aircraft and extra-vehicular activity from spacecraft.

Although DCS is not a common event, its potential severity is such that much research has gone into preventing it and scuba divers use dive tables or dive computers to set limits to their exposure to pressure. Its effects may vary from joint pain and rash to paralysis and death. Treatment is by hyperbaric oxygen therapy in a recompression chamber. If treated early, there is a significantly higher chance of success.

The original name for DCS was caisson disease; this term was used in the 19th century, in large engineering excavations below the water table, such as with the piers of bridges and with tunnels, where caissons under pressure were used to keep water from flooding the excavations. Workers who spend time in high-pressure atmospheric pressure conditions are at risk when they return to the lower pressure outside the caisson without slowly reducing the surrounding pressure.

DCS was a major factor in the during construction of Eads Bridge, when 15 workers died from what was then a mysterious illness, and later during construction of the Brooklyn Bridge, where it incapacitated the project leader Washington Roebling.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Silver Surfer

The Silver Surfer (or Norrin Radd) is a Marvel Comics superhero created by Jack Kirby. The character first appears in Fantastic Four #48 (March 1966), the first of a three-issue arc that fans and historians call "The Galactus Trilogy".

Originally a young astronomer of the planet Zenn-La, Norrin Radd made a bargain with the cosmic entity Galactus, pledging to serve as his herald in order to save his homeworld from destruction. Imbued in return with a tiny portion of Galactus' Power Cosmic, Radd acquired great powers and a new version of his original appearance. Galactus also created for Radd a surfboard-like craft — modeled after a childhood fantasy of his — on which he would travel at speeds beyond that of light. Known from then on as the Silver Surfer, Radd began to roam the cosmos searching for new planets for Galactus to consume. When his travels finally took him to Earth, the Surfer came face-to-face with the Fantastic Four, a team of powerful superheroes that helped him to rediscover his nobility of spirit. Betraying Galactus, the Surfer saved Earth but was punished in return by being exiled there.

Saturday, September 12, 2009


Zinc is a metallic chemical element with atomic number 30. It is a first-row transition metal in group 12 of the periodic table. Zinc is, in some respects, chemically similar to magnesium because its ion is of similar size and its only common oxidation state is +2.

Zinc is the 24th most abundant element in the Earth's crust and has five stable isotopes. The most exploited zinc ore is sphalerite, a zinc sulfide; the largest exploitable deposits are found in Australia, Canada and the United States. Brass, which is an alloy of copper and zinc, has been used since at least the 10th century BC.

German chemist Andreas Sigismund Marggraf is normally given credit for discovering pure metallic zinc in a 1746 experiment. Work by Luigi Galvani and Alessandro Volta uncovered the electrochemical properties of zinc by 1800. Corrosion-resistant zinc plating of steel is the major application for zinc. Other applications are in batteries and alloys, such as brass.

Zinc is an essential mineral of "exceptional biologic and public health importance". Zinc deficiency affects about two billion people in the developing world and is associated with many diseases.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Stockholm Syndrome

Stockholm syndrome is a psychological response sometimes seen in abducted hostages, in which the hostage shows signs of loyalty to the hostage-taker, regardless of the danger or risk in which they have been placed. The syndrome is named after the Norrmalmstorg robbery of Kreditbanken at Norrmalmstorg in Stockholm, in which the bank robbers held bank employees hostage from August 23 to August 28, 1972. In this case, the victims became emotionally attached to their captors, and even defended them after they were freed from their six-day ordeal. The term "Stockholm Syndrome" was coined by the criminologist and psychiatrist Nils Bejerot, who assisted the police during the robbery, and referred to the syndrome in a news broadcast.

The Stockholm Syndrome is a psychological shift that occurs in captives when they are threatened gravely but shown acts of kindness by their captors. Captives who exhibit the syndrome tend to sympathize with and think highly of their captors, at times believing that the captors are showing them favor stemming from inherent kindness. Such captives fail to recognize that their captors' choices are essentially self-serving. When subjected to prolonged captivity, these captives can develop a strong bond with their captors, in some cases including a sexual interest.

According to the psychoanalytic view of the syndrome, this tendency might be the result of employing the strategy evolved by newborn babies to form an emotional attachment to the nearest powerful adult in order to maximize the probability that this adult will enable — at the very least — the survival of the child, if not also prove to be a good parental figure. This syndrome is considered a prime example for the defense mechanism of identification.

The syndrome has also been explained in evolutionary terms, with reference to the fact that our ancestors sided with the tribes that captured them. In many cases, capture may also involve the killing of the captive's relatives, thereby isolating the captive. The captive is subjected to isolation and so sees even a small act, such as providing amenities, as a great favor. Such captives may side with their captors while believing their captors have conferred on them great importance and love. Furthermore, captives who perceive themselves as the only members of their group not to have been killed may believe that they have been shown a special interest.

Thursday, September 10, 2009


The Chick-O-Stick is a candy product produced by Atkinson Candy Co., having been manufactured since the Great Depression. It is made primarily from peanut butter, granulated sugar, corn syrup, and toasted coconut, with colorings and preservatives added, and contains no trans fats. There is also a sugar-free version of the candy.

In appearance, the Chick-O-Stick is an orange stick of varying length and thickness, dusted with ground coconut. The interior of the stick is honeycombed with peanut butter and the orange hardened syrup/sugar mixture that also forms the shell. When eaten fresh, the candy is dry and brittle, and biting into a stick can cause the bitten-off end of the stick to crumble messily. If left uneaten, the candy has a tendency to draw dampness and become hard and chewy. The Chick-O-Stick is available in .36 ounce, .70 ounce, 1.0 ounce, and 2.0 ounce sizes, as well as bags of individually-wrapped bite-sized pieces.

The Chick-O-Stick's original wrapper design featured a stylized cartoon of a chicken, wearing a cowboy hat and a badge in the shape of the Atkinson logo. The chicken is absent from the more recent wrapper design; some commentators have indicated that it contributed to confusion over whether the Chick-O-Stick was candy or a chicken-flavored cracker. The Atkinson Candy Company's website/on-line store states that the company's founder "came up with the name one day, and well, it just stuck."

Wednesday, September 9, 2009


NEU! was a German band formed by Klaus Dinger and Michael Rother after their split from Kraftwerk in the early 1970s. Though the band had minimal commercial success during its existence, NEU! are retrospectively considered one of the founding fathers of Krautrock and a significant influence on artists including PiL, Joy Division, Brian Eno, David Bowie, Stereolab, Gary Numan, Ultravox, Radiohead, Simple Minds, and much of the current electronic music scene.

The band always wrote their name NEU! in block capitals and with an exclamation mark.

NEU! formed in 1971 in Düsseldorf as an off-shoot from an early line-up of another seminal Krautrock band, Kraftwerk. Drummer Klaus Dinger had joined Kraftwerk midway through sessions for their eponymous debut album. Guitarist Michael Rother was then recruited to the Kraftwerk line-up on completion of the album. (Rother had been playing in a local band called The Spirits of Sound, the line-up of which also included drummer Wolfgang Flür, who would himself go on to join Kraftwerk two years later.)

Kraftwerk founder Ralf Hütter left the band at this point and, for six months, Kraftwerk consisted of a trio of Rother, Dinger and Florian Schneider. This line-up played sporadic gigs and made a live appearance on German TV programme Beat Club. Attempted recording sessions at Conny Plank's studio were unsuccessful, and Dinger and Rother parted company from Schneider and began a new project with Plank: NEU! (Schneider rejoined Hütter and the pair continued recording the second Kraftwerk album with Plank.)

Their eponymous first album sold very little by mainstream standards (though 30,000 records was a lot for an "underground" band), yet is today considered a masterpiece by many, including influential artists such as David Bowie, Brian Eno and Thom Yorke of Radiohead. It included the Motorik benchmark tracks "Hallogallo" and "Negativland" (the band Negativland took their name from this track), and bizarre "songs" like "Sonderangebot".

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

John Peel

John Peel, was an English disc jockey, radio presenter and journalist. He was the longest-serving of the original BBC Radio 1 DJs, broadcasting regularly from 1967 until his death in 2004. He was known for his eclectic taste in music and his honest and warm broadcasting style. He was one of the first broadcasters to play psychedelic rock, reggae and punk records on British radio, and he is widely acknowledged for promoting artists in various styles including alternative rock, pop, death metal, British hip hop and dance music.

Peel's Radio 1 shows were notable for the regular 'Peel sessions', which usually consisted of four songs recorded by an artist live in the BBC's studios, and which often provided the first major national coverage to bands that would go on to become famous. Another popular feature of his shows was the annual Festive Fifty countdown of his listeners' favourite records of the year. Peel appeared frequently on British television, as one of the presenters of Top of the Pops in the 1980s, and he provided voice-over commentary for a number of BBC programmes. He became popular with the audience of BBC Radio 4 for his Home Truths programme which ran from the 1990s, featuring unusual stories from listeners' domestic lives.

In 1960, he went to the United States to work for a cotton producer who had business dealings with his father. Once this job had finished, he took a number of others, including working as a travelling insurance salesman, remaining in the United States until 1967. While in Dallas, he spoke to John F. Kennedy as the presidential candidate and Lyndon B. Johnson toured the city during the 1960 election campaign. Following Kennedy's assassination, he passed himself off as a reporter for the Liverpool Echo in order to attend the arraignment of Lee Harvey Oswald and he and a friend can be seen in the footage of the press conference shortly before Oswald's assassination. He later phoned in the story to the Liverpool Echo.

While working for an insurance company based in Dallas, Texas, filing card programs for an early IBM 1410 computer (which led to his entry in Who's Who noting him as a former computer programmer), he got his first radio job, albeit unpaid, working for WRR Radio in Dallas. There, he presented the second hour of the Monday night program Kat's Karavan. Following this, and as Beatlemania hit the United States, Peel got a job as the official Beatles correspondent with the Dallas radio station KLIF due to his connection to Liverpool. He later worked for KOMA in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma until 1965 when he moved to KMEN in San Bernardino, California, using the name John Ravencroft to present the breakfast show.

Peel returned to England in early 1967 and found work with the offshore pirate radio station Radio London. He was offered the midnight-to-two shift, which gradually developed into a programme called The Perfumed Garden (some thought it was named after an erotic book famous at the time - which Peel claimed never to have read). It was on "Big L" that he first adopted the name John Peel (the name was suggested by a Radio London secretary) and established himself as a distinctive radio voice.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Komodo Dragon

The Komodo dragon (Varanus komodoensis) is a venomous species of lizard that inhabits the islands of Komodo, Rinca, Flores, and Gili Motang in Indonesia. A member of the monitor lizard family, it is the largest living species of lizard, growing to an average length of 2 to 3 metres (6.6 to 9.8 ft) and weighing around 70 kilograms (150 lb). Their unusual size is attributed to island gigantism, since there are no other carnivorous animals to fill the niche on the islands where they live, and also to the Komodo dragon's low metabolic rate. As a result of their size, these lizards dominate the ecosystems in which they live.

Komodo dragons are carnivores. Although they eat mostly carrion, they will also ambush live prey with a stealthy approach, a technique that has allowed the Komodo dragon to capture even the most lethal prey, such as the King Cobra. When suitable prey arrives near a dragon's ambush site, it will suddenly charge at the animal and go for the underside or the throat. It is able to locate its prey using its keen sense of smell, which can locate a dead or dying animal from a range of up to 9.5 kilometers (6 miles). Komodo dragons have also been observed knocking down large pigs and deer with their strong tail. Komodo dragons eat by tearing large chunks of flesh and swallowing them whole while holding the carcass down with their forelegs. For smaller prey up to the size of a goat, their loosely articulated jaws, flexible skull, and expandable stomach allow it to swallow its prey whole. Copious amounts of red saliva that the Komodo dragons produce help to lubricate the food, but swallowing is still a long process (15–20 minutes to swallow a goat). Komodo dragons may attempt to speed up the process by ramming the carcass against a tree to force it down its throat, sometimes ramming so forcefully that the tree is knocked down. To prevent itself from suffocating while swallowing, it breathes using a small tube under the tongue that connects to the lungs. After eating up to 80 percent of its body weight in one meal, it drags itself to a sunny location to speed digestion, as the food could rot and poison the dragon if left undigested for too long. Because of their slow metabolism, large dragons can survive on as little as 12 meals a year.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Prince Valiant

Prince Valiant, is a long-run comic strip created by Hal Foster in 1937. It is an epic adventure that has told a continuous story for its entire history. Currently, the strip appears weekly in more than 300 newspapers across the United States, according to its distributor, King Features Syndicate. The full stretch of the story is now over 3700 Sunday strips.

Generally regarded by comics historians as one of the most impressive visual creations ever syndicated, the strip is noted for its realistically rendered panoramas and the intelligent, often humorous narrative.

The format does not employ word balloons. Instead, the story is narrated in captions positioned at the bottom or sides of panels. Events depicted are taken from various time periods, from the late Roman Empire to the High Middle Ages, with a few very brief scenes from more modern times commenting on the "manuscript".

Prince Valiant began in full-color tabloid sections on Saturday February 13, 1937. The first full page was strip #16, which appeared in the Sunday New Orleans Times Picayune. The internal dating changed from Saturday to Sunday with strip #66 (May 15, 1938). The full page strip continued until 1971 when strip #1788 was not offered in full page format—it was the last strip Hal Foster drew. The strip continues today by other artists in half page format.

The setting is Arthurian. Valiant himself is a Nordic prince (from the faraway Thule—apparently located somewhere near the city Trondheim on the Norwegian west coast). Early in the story, Valiant comes to Camelot, becomes fast friends with Sir Gawain and Sir Tristram, earns the respect of King Arthur and Merlin and becomes a Knight of the Round Table. Later, he meets the love of his life—Aleta—on a Mediterranean island. He fights the Huns with his magic Singing Sword, Flamberge, travels to Africa and to America and helps his father regain his lost throne of Thule, usurped by the tyrant Sligon.

The historical and mythological elements of Prince Valiant were initially chaotic, but soon Foster attempted to bring the facts into order. Some of the elements of the story (for instance, the death of Attila the Hun in 453, the murder of Aëtius in 454, though different from the historical version (Valiant and Gawain are blamed for the murder and must flee), and Geiseric's sacking of Rome in 455 (which Prince Valiant and Aleta witness) place the story in the 5th century. Some slightly fantastic elements, like "marsh monsters" (a dinosaur-like creature) and witches, are present in the early years but are later downplayed (as are Merlin's and Morgan le Fay's use of magic), so that by 1942 the story is in most aspects a realistic one.

The storyline is far from being historically accurate. While obviously meant to take place in the mid-5th century, Foster continuously incorporated anachronistic elements: Viking Longships, Muslims, alchemists and technological advances not made before the Renaissance. The fortifications, armor and armament resemble the High Middle Ages.