Monday, January 31, 2011

Vega

Vega is the brightest star in the constellation Lyra, the fifth brightest star in the night sky and the second brightest star in the northern celestial hemisphere, after Arcturus. It is a relatively close star at only 25 light-years from Earth, and, together with Arcturus and Sirius, one of the most luminous stars in the Sun's neighborhood.

Vega has been extensively studied by astronomers, leading it to be termed "arguably the next most important star in the sky after the Sun." Vega was the northern pole star around 12,000 BC and will be so again around AD 13,727 when the declination will be +86°14'. Vega was the first star other than the Sun to be photographed and the first to have its spectrum recorded. It was one of the first stars whose distance was estimated through parallax measurements. Vega has served as the baseline for calibrating the photometric brightness scale, and was one of the stars used to define the mean values for the UBV photometric system.

Vega is only about a tenth of the age of the Sun, but since it is 2.1 times as massive its expected lifetime is also one tenth of that of the Sun; both stars are at present approaching the midpoint of their life expectancies. Vega has an unusually low abundance of the elements with a higher atomic number than that of helium. Vega is also a suspected variable star that may vary slightly in magnitude in a periodic manner. It is rotating rapidly with a velocity of 274 km/s at the equator. This is causing the equator to bulge outward because of centrifugal effects, and, as a result, there is a variation of temperature across the star's photosphere that reaches a maximum at the poles. From Earth, Vega is being observed from the direction of one of these poles.

Based on an observed excess emission of infrared radiation, Vega appears to have a circumstellar disk of dust. This dust is likely to be the result of collisions between objects in an orbiting debris disk, which is analogous to the Kuiper belt in the Solar System. Stars that display an infrared excess because of dust emission are termed Vega-like stars. Irregularities in Vega's disk also suggest the presence of at least one planet, likely to be about the size of Jupiter, in orbit around Vega.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Bir Tawil

Bir Tawil or Bi'r Tawīl is a small – (795 sq mi) – area along the border between Egypt and Sudan which is claimed by neither country. It is sometimes referred to as the Bir Tawil Triangle, despite the area's quadrilateral shape, with the longer side in the north of the area running along the 22° north circle of latitude. It is the only area where the administrative boundary of 1902 between the two countries runs south of the political boundary of 1899, which had been defined as the 22° north circle of latitude. East-to-west, the area is between 29 miles long in the south, and 59 miles long in the north, and between 16 miles and 19 miles wide north-to-south.

The Bir Tawil area came under Egyptian administration in 1902, because it was grazing land of the Ababda tribe based near Aswan, Egypt. At the same time, the Hala'ib Triangle north of latitude 22° north, and northeast of the area, came under Sudanese administration, because the tribes of this area were based in Sudan. The two "triangles" border at one point, a quadripoint.

In 1899, when the United Kingdom held hegemony in the area, the Anglo-Egyptian Condominium Agreement for Sudan set the border between the territories at the 22nd parallel. However, in 1902 the UK drew a separate "administrative boundary," under which a triangle of land north of the parallel was placed under Sudanese administration, because its inhabitants were closer to Khartoum than Cairo, both geographically and culturally. The area thus became the responsibility of the British Governor in Khartoum.

Egypt claims the original border from 1899, the 22° north circle of latitude, which would place the Hala'ib Triangle within Egypt and the Bir Tawil area within Sudan. Sudan however claims the administrative border of 1902, which would put Hala'ib within Sudan, and Bir Tawil within Egypt. As a result, both states claim the Hala'ib Triangle and neither claims the much less valuable Bir Tawil area, which is only a tenth the size and is landlocked. There is no basis in international law for Sudan or Egypt to claim both territories, and it would be difficult if not impossible for any third state to claim the area, since it is accessible only through Sudan or Egypt. As a result Bir Tawil is one of the few land areas of the world which is not claimed by any state.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Holger Czukay

Holger Czukay is a German musician, probably best known as a co-founder of the krautrock group Can. Described by critic Jason Ankeny as "successfully bridg[ing] the gap between pop and the avant-garde," Czukay is also notable for creating early important examples of ambient music, for exploring "world music" well before the term was coined, and for being a pioneer of sampling.

Czukay was born in the Free City of Danzig (now Gdańsk, Poland). During World War II, his family was among the millions relocated as refugees. Due to the turmoil of war, Czukay's primary education was limited. However, a pivotal early experience was working in a radio repair shop as a teenager -- he became fond of the aural qualities of radio broadcasts (anticipating his use of shortwave radio broadcasts as musical elements) and became familiar with the rudiments of electrical repair and engineering.

Czukay studied music under Karlheinz Stockhausen from 1963 to 1966 and then worked for a while as a music teacher. Initially Czukay had little interest in rock music, but this changed when a student played him The Beatles' 1967 song "I Am the Walrus".. This opened his ears to music by rock experimentalists, such as the Velvet Underground and Frank Zappa.

Czukay co-founded Can in 1968. He played bass guitar and performed most of the recording and engineering for the group. Rosko Gee, former bassist of the British band Traffic joined the band in 1977, with Czukay handling only tapes and sound effects on Saw Delight, his final LP with the group before departing for a solo career.

After his departure from Can, Czukay recorded several albums. One of his trademarks was the use of shortwave radio sounds and his early pioneering of sampling", in those days involving the painstaking cutting and splicing of magnetic tapes. He would tape-record various sounds and snippets from shortwave and incorporate them into his compositions. He also used shortwave as a live, interactive musical instrument (such as on 1991's Radio Wave Surfer), a method of composition he termed radio painting.

Czukay has collaborated with a considerable number of musicians, notably a series of albums with Jah Wobble and David Sylvian, two younger British musicians who shared his interest in blending pop music with experimental recording and sampling techniques. Other collaborators include U.N.K.L.E, Brian Eno, Eurythmics, and the German New Wave band, Trio.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Fried-brain sandwich

A fried-brain sandwich is generally a sandwich with sliced calves' brains on sliced bread. Thinly sliced fried slabs on white toast became a ubiquitous menu item in St. Louis, Missouri, after the rise of the city's stockyards in the late 1880s, although demand there has so dwindled that only a handful of restaurants still offer them. But they remain popular in the Ohio River valley, where they are served heavily battered on hamburger buns. In Evansville, Indiana, they are still offered at a couple of "mom and pop" eateries, specifically the Hilltop Inn, and remain a favorite culinary treat featured at the city's annual West Side Nut Club Fall Festival.

Increased incidents of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), otherwise known as mad cow disease, since the late 20th century will likely further diminish the remaining appeal of this curious regional dish. Brains from cows over 30 months old at slaughter are no longer permitted in human food in the United States (Hefling, 2004). Some restaurants have taken to serving pigs' brains instead of cow brains due to BSE concerns. But as pigs' brains are substantially smaller than cows' brains, the amount of preparation required for each sandwich increases. Each brain must be cleaned before being sliced and pigs' brains produce fewer slices.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Thule

Thule, also spelled Thula, Thila, or Thyïlea is, in classical European literature and maps, a region in the far north. Though often considered to be an island in antiquity, modern interpretations of what was meant by Thule often identify it as Norway. Other interpretations include the Orkney Islands, Shetland Islands, and Scandinavia. In the Late Middle Ages and Renaissance, Thule was often identified as Iceland or Greenland. Another suggested location is Saaremaa in the Baltic Sea.

The term ultima Thule in medieval geographies denotes any distant place located beyond the "borders of the known world". Sometimes it is used as a proper noun (Ultima Thule) as the Latin name for Greenland when Thule is used for Iceland.

The Greek explorer Pytheas is the first to have written of Thule, doing so in his now lost work, On the Ocean, after his travels between 330 BC and 320 BC. He supposedly was sent out by the Greek city of Massalia to see where their trade-goods were coming from.

During the Middle Ages the name was used first of all to denote Iceland, such as by Dicuil, by the British monk Venerable Bede in De ratione temporum, by the Landnámabók, by the anonymous Historia Norwegie and by the German bishop Bremen's Deeds of Bishops of the Hamburg Church, where they cite ancient writers' usage of Thule but also new knowledge since the end of antiquity. All these authors also understood that other islands were situated to the north of Britain.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Silicon

Silicon is the most common metalloid. It is a chemical element, which has the symbol Si and atomic number 14. A tetravalent metalloid, silicon is less reactive than its chemical analog carbon. It is crystalline and reflective with bluish-tinged faces.

Silicon is the eighth most common element in the universe by mass, but silicon very rarely occurs as the pure free element in nature. It is more widely distributed in dusts, sands, planetoids and planets as various forms of silicon dioxide (silica) or silicates. In Earth's crust, silicon is the second most abundant element after oxygen, making up 27.7% of the crust by mass.

Silicon has many industrial uses. It is the principal component of most semiconductor devices, most importantly integrated circuits or microchips. Silicon is widely used in semiconductors because it remains a semiconductor at higher temperatures than the semiconductor germanium and because its native oxide is easily grown in a furnace and forms a better semiconductor/dielectric interface than any other material.

In the form of silica and silicates, silicon forms useful glasses, cements, and ceramics. It is also a constituent of silicones, a class-name for various synthetic plastic substances made of silicon, oxygen, carbon and hydrogen, often confused with silicon itself.

Silicon is an essential element in biology, although only tiny traces of it appear to be required by animals. It is much more important to the metabolism of plants, particularly many grasses, and silicic acid (a type of silica) forms the basis of the striking array of protective shells of the microscopic diatoms.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

My Life in the Bush of Ghosts

My Life in the Bush of Ghosts is a 1981 album by Brian Eno and David Byrne, titled after Amos Tutuola's 1954 novel of the same name. The album was re-released in expanded form in 2006.

Receiving strong reviews upon its release, My Life is now regarded as a high point in the discographies of Eno and Byrne. In a 1985 interview, singer Kate Bush remarked that the album "left a very big mark on popular music," while critic John Bush describes it as a "pioneering work for countless styles connected to electronics, ambience, and Third World music." The extensive use of sampling on My Life is widely considered ground-breaking—it was one of the first albums to do so—but its actual influence on the sample-based music genres that later emerged continues to be debated.

Eno and Byrne first worked together while collaborating on More Songs About Buildings and Food, the 1978 album by Byrne's band Talking Heads. My Life was primarily recorded during a break between touring for Fear of Music (1979) and the recording of Remain in Light (1980), subsequent Talking Heads albums also produced by Eno, but the release was delayed while legal rights were sought for the large number of samples used throughout the album.

Drawing on funk and world music (particularly the multi-layered percussion of African music), My Life is similar to Talking Heads' music of the same era. The "found objects" credited to Eno and Byrne were common objects used mostly as percussion. In the notes for the 2006 expanded edition of the album, Byrne writes that they would often use a normal drum kit, but with a cardboard box replacing the bass drum, or a frying pan replacing the snare drum; this would blend the familiar drum sound with unusual percussive noises.

However, rather than featuring conventional pop or rock singing, most of the vocals are sampled from other sources, such as commercial recordings of Arabic singers, radio disc jockeys, and an exorcist. Musicians had previously used similar sampling techniques, but critic Dave Simpson declares it had never before been used "to such cataclysmic effect" as on My Life.

The album was recorded entirely with analog technology, before the advent of digital sequencing and MIDI. The sampled voices were synchronized with the instrumental tracks via trial and error, a practice that was often frustrating, but which also produced several happy accidents.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Huey Long

Huey Pierce Long, Jr., nicknamed The Kingfish, served as the 40th Governor of Louisiana from 1928–1932 and as a U.S. Senator from 1932 to 1935. A Democrat, he was noted for his radical populist policies. Though a backer of Franklin D. Roosevelt in the 1932 presidential election, Long split with Roosevelt in June 1933 and allegedly planned to mount his own presidential bid for 1936.

Long created the Share Our Wealth program in 1934 with the motto "Every Man a King", proposing new wealth redistribution measures in the form of a net asset tax on corporations and individuals to curb the poverty and hopelessness endemic nationwide during the Great Depression. To stimulate the economy, Long advocated federal spending on public works, schools and colleges, and old age pensions. He was an ardent critic of the Federal Reserve System's policies. Charismatic and immensely popular for his programs and willingness to take forceful action, Long was accused by his opponents of dictatorial tendencies for his near-total control of the state government.

At the height of his popularity, Long was assassinated by a gunman on September 8, 1935, at the Louisiana State Capitol in Baton Rouge. He died two days later at the age of 42. His last words were reportedly, "God, don't let me die, I have so much left to do."

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Muscle

Muscle is the contractile tissue of animals and is derived from the mesodermal layer of embryonic germ cells. Muscle cells contain contractile filaments that move past each other and change the size of the cell. They are classified as skeletal, cardiac, or smooth muscles. Their function is to produce force and cause motion. Muscles can cause either locomotion of the organism itself or movement of internal organs. Cardiac and smooth muscle contraction occurs without conscious thought and is necessary for survival. Examples are the contraction of the heart and peristalsis which pushes food through the digestive system. Voluntary contraction of the skeletal muscles is used to move the body and can be finely controlled. Examples are movements of the eye, or gross movements like the quadriceps muscle of the thigh. There are two broad types of voluntary muscle fibers: slow twitch and fast twitch. Slow twitch fibers contract for long periods of time but with little force while fast twitch fibers contract quickly and powerfully but fatigue very rapidly.

Muscles are predominately powered by the oxidation of fats and carbohydrates, but anaerobic chemical reactions are also used, particularly by fast twitch fibers. These chemical reactions produce adenosine triphosphate (ATP) molecules which are used to power the movement of the myosin heads.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Fraktur

Fraktur refers to a specific sub-group of blackletter typefaces. The word derives from the past participle fractus (“broken”) of Latin frangere (“to break”). As opposed to Antiqua (common) typefaces, which were modeled after antique Roman square capitals and Carolingian minuscule, the blackletter lines are broken up — that is, their forms contain many angles, in contrast to the smooth curves of Antiqua.

Besides the 26 letters of the Latin alphabet, and the ß and vowels with umlauts as well, Fraktur typefaces include the ſ , sometimes a variant form of the letter r, and a variety of ligatures once intended to aid the typesetter and which have specialized rules for their use. Most older Fraktur typefaces make no distinction between the majuscules "I" and "J" (where the common shape is more suggestive of a "J"), even though the minuscules "i" and "j" are differentiated.

The first Fraktur typeface was designed when Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian I established a series of books and had a new typeface created specifically for this purpose, designed by Hieronymus Andreae. Fraktur quickly overtook the earlier Schwabacher and Textualis typefaces in popularity, and a wide variety of Fraktur fonts were carved.

Typesetting in Fraktur was still very common in the early 20th century in all German-speaking countries and areas, as well as in Norway, Estonia, and Latvia, and was still used to a very small extent in Sweden, Finland and Denmark (see below: Usage map), while other countries typeset in Antiqua in the early 20th century.

The term "Fraktur" is sometimes applied to all of the blackletter typefaces.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Drive-in Theater

A drive-in theater is a form of cinema structure consisting of a large outdoor screen, a projection booth, a concession stand and a large parking area for automobiles. Within this enclosed area, customers can view movies from the privacy and comfort of their cars.

The screen can be as simple as a wall that is painted white, or it can be a complex steel truss structure with a complex finish. Originally, a movie's sound was provided by speakers on the screen and later by an individual speaker hung from the window of each car, which would be attached by a wire. This system was superseded by the more economical and less damage-prone method of broadcasting the soundtrack at a low output power on AM or FM Radio to be picked up by a car radio.

The drive-in theater was the creation of Camden, New Jersey, chemical company magnate Richard M. Hollingshead, Jr., whose family owned and operated the R.M. Hollingshead Corporation chemical plant in Camden. Hollingshead's drive-in opened in New Jersey June 6, 1933, on Admiral Wilson Boulevard at the Airport Circle in Pennsauken, a short distance from Cooper River Park. It offered 500 slots and a 40 by 50 ft screen. He advertised his drive-in theater with the slogan, "The whole family is welcome, regardless of how noisy the children are." The facility only operated three years, but during that time the concept caught on in other states.

The drive-in's peak popularity came in the late 1950s and early 1960s, particularly in rural areas, with some 4,000 drive-ins spreading across the United States. Among its advantages was the fact that a family with a baby could take care of their child while watching a movie, while teenagers with access to autos found drive-ins ideal for dates.

In the 1950s, the greater privacy afforded to patrons gave drive-ins a reputation as immoral, and they were labeled "passion pits" in the media. During the 1970s, some drive-ins changed from family fare to exploitation films, as a way to offset declining patronage and revenue. In fact some producers in the 1970s would make exploitation films directly for the drive-in market. Also, during the 1970s, some drive-ins began to show pornographic movies in less family-centered time slots to bring in extra income. This became a problem because it allowed for censored materials to be available to a wide audience, some for whom viewing was illegal, and it was reliant upon the whims of local ordinances controlling such material.

Over time, the economics of real estate made the large property areas increasingly expensive for drive-ins to operate successfully. Land became far too valuable for businesses like drive-ins, which in most cases were summer-only. Widespread adoption of daylight saving time subtracted an hour from outdoor evening viewing time. These changes and the advent of color televisions, VCRs and video rentals led to a sharp decline in the drive-in popularity. Drive-ins were subject to the whim of nature as inclement weather often caused cancellations. They eventually lapsed into a quasi-novelty status with the remaining handful catering to a generally nostalgic audience, though many drive-ins continue to successfully operate in some areas.

Many drive-in movie sites remain, repurposed as storage or flea markets sites, often after residential housing or other higher value uses came to the lightly-populated or unpopulated areas where the drive-ins were located.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Lydia Lunch

Lydia Lunch is an American singer, poet, writer, and actress whose career was spawned by the New York No Wave punk subculture in 1976. Her large and diverse body of work typically features provocative and confrontational delivery and has maintained an anti-commercial, do-it-yourself ethic, operating independently of major labels and distribution deals.

After arriving in New York City at the age of 16, Lunch moved into a large communal household of artists and musicians in NYC, including Kitty Bruce, daughter of Lenny Bruce. Soon after she earned the surname "Lunch" by regularly stealing lunches for her often starving artist friends. After befriending the 'godfathers of punk' Suicide at Max's Kansas City, she founded the short-lived but influential No Wave band Teenage Jesus and the Jerks in 1976 with her artistic partner, No Wave punk-funk-jazz musician James Chance. Both appeared on the seminal No Wave compilation No New York. Lunch later appeared on two songs on Chance's album Off White (credited to James White and the Blacks; Lunch used the pseudonym "Stella Rico") in 1978.

She appeared in two films directed by the husband and wife film-making team of Scott B and Beth B; In the short film Black Box (1978) she played an unnamed torturer, and in the feature length, neo-noir thriller Vortex (1983) she played a private detective named "Angel Powers". During this time, she also appeared in a number of films by Vivienne Dick, including She Had her Gun All Ready (1978) and Beauty Becomes The Beast (1979), co starring with Pat Place.

She also acted in, wrote, and directed underground films, sometimes collaborating with underground filmmaker and photographer Richard Kern (including several films such as Fingered in which she performed unsimulated sex acts), and more recently has recorded and performed as a spoken word artist, again collaborating with such artists as Exene Cervenka, Henry Rollins, Juan Azulay, Don Bajema, Hubert Selby Jr., and Emilio Cubeiro.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Spam

Spam (officially trademarked as SPAM, a portmanteau of "Spiced Ham") is a canned precooked meat product made by the Hormel Foods Corporation. The labeled ingredients in the classic variety of Spam are chopped pork shoulder meat with ham meat added, salt, water, modified potato starch as a binder, and sodium nitrite as a preservative. Spam's gelatinous glaze, or aspic, forms from the cooling of meat stock. The product has become part of many jokes and urban legends about mystery meat, which has made it part of pop culture and folklore.

Varieties of Spam vary by region and include Spam Classic, Spam Hot & Spicy, Spam Less Sodium, Spam Lite, Spam Oven Roasted Turkey, Hickory Smoked, and Spam Spread.

Spam sold in North America, South America, and Australia is produced in Austin, Minnesota, (also known as Spam Town USA) and in Fremont, Nebraska. Spam for the UK market is produced in Denmark by Tulip under license from Hormel. Spam is also made in the Philippines and in South Korea. In 2007, the seven billionth can of Spam was sold. On average, 3.8 cans are consumed every second in the United States.

Introduced on July 5, 1937, the name "Spam" was chosen when the product, whose original name was far less memorable (Hormel Spiced Ham), began to lose market share. The name was chosen from multiple entries in a naming contest. A Hormel official once stated that the original meaning of the name "Spam" was "Shoulder of Pork and Ham". According to writer Marguerite Patten in Spam – The Cookbook, the name was suggested by Kenneth Daigneau, an actor and the brother of a Hormel vice president, who was given a $100 prize for creating the name.

Many jocular backronyms have been devised, such as "Something Posing As Meat", "Specially Processed Artificial Meat", "Stuff, Pork and Ham", "Spare Parts Animal Meat" and "Special Product of Austin Minnesota".

The residents of the state of Hawaii and the territories of Guam and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) consume the most Spam per capita in the United States. On average, each person on Guam consumes 16 tins of Spam each year and the numbers at least equal this in the CNMI. Guam, Hawaii, and Saipan, the CNMI's principal island, have the only McDonald's restaurants that feature Spam on the menu. In Hawaii, Burger King began serving Spam in 2007 on its menu to compete with the local McDonald's chains. In Hawaii, Spam is so popular it is sometimes dubbed "The Hawaiian Steak". One popular Spam dish in Hawaii is Spam musubi, where cooked Spam is combined with rice and nori seaweed and classified as onigiri.

Spam was introduced into the aforementioned areas, in addition to other islands in the Pacific such as Okinawa and the Philippine Islands, during the U.S. military occupation in World War II. Since fresh meat was difficult to get to the soldiers on the front, World War II saw the largest use of Spam. GIs started eating Spam for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. (Some soldiers referred to Spam as "ham that didn't pass its physical" and "meatloaf without basic training".) Surpluses of Spam from the soldiers' supplies made their way into native diets. Consequently, Spam is a unique part of the history and effects of U.S. influence in the Pacific.

According to Hormel's trademark guidelines, Spam should be spelled with all capital letters and treated as an adjective, as in the phrase "SPAM luncheon meat".


Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Ragnarök

In Norse mythology, Ragnarök is a series of future events, including a great battle foretold to ultimately result in the death of a number of major figures (including the gods Odin, Thor, Týr, Freyr, Heimdall, and the jötunn Loki), the occurrence of various natural disasters, and the subsequent submersion of the world in water. Afterward, the world will resurface anew and fertile, the surviving and reborn gods will meet, and the world will be repopulated by two human survivors. Ragnarök is an important event in the Norse canon, and has been the subject of scholarly discourse and theory.

The event is attested primarily in the Poetic Edda, compiled in the 13th century from earlier traditional sources, and the Prose Edda, written in the 13th century by Snorri Sturluson. In the Prose Edda, and a single poem in the Poetic Edda, the event is referred to as Ragnarökr or Ragnarökkr (Old Norse "Doom of the Gods"), a usage popularized by 19th century composer Richard Wagner with the title of the last of his Der Ring des Nibelungen operas, Götterdämmerung.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Kelvin

The kelvin is a unit of measurement for temperature. It is one of the seven base units in the International System of Units (SI) and is assigned the unit symbol K. The Kelvin scale is an absolute, thermodynamic temperature scale using as its null point absolute zero, the temperature at which all thermal motion ceases in the classical description of thermodynamics. The reference point that defines the Kelvin scale is the triple point of water at 273.16K

(0.01 degrees Celsius). The kelvin is defined as 1/273.16 of the difference between these two reference points.

The Kelvin scale is named after the Belfast-born physicist and engineer William Thomson, 1st Baron Kelvin (1824–1907), who wrote of the need for an "absolute thermometric scale". Unlike the degree Fahrenheit and degree Celsius, the kelvin is not referred to or typeset as a degree. The kelvin is the primary unit of measurement in the physical sciences, but is often used in conjunction with the degree Celsius, which has the same magnitude. 0kelvin is −273.15 degrees Celsius.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Prince Albert

Prince Albert is an American brand of tobacco, introduced by the R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company in 1907. It has been owned since 1987 by John Middleton Inc.

Prince Albert is one of the more popular independent brands of pipe tobacco in the United States; in the 1930s, it was the "second largest money-maker" for Reynolds. More recently, it has also become available in the form of pipe-tobacco cigars. (A 1960s experiment with filtered cigarettes was deemed a failure.) The blend is burley-based and remains one of America's top-selling pipe tobaccos.

Though there have been several Prince Alberts in the monarchies of Europe, Prince Albert tobacco is not named for the best-known Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, who was husband and Prince Consort to Queen Victoria. Albert and Victoria's eldest son was also known as Prince Albert before he took the throne as Edward VII. The brand of tobacco was introduced after the Prince Consort's death, and the image on the can shows a man with full beard, which the Prince Consort did not wear. Also, the wording on the package was changed somewhat once Prince Albert had become King Edward VII.

The brand is the basis of a practical joke, usually made in the form of a prank call. The prankster typically calls a store and asks if they have "Prince Albert in a can." When the unsuspecting clerk responds "yes" (because the tobacco is typically packaged in a can, though other forms of packaging also existed), the caller follows up with, "Well, you'd better let him out!"

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Weregild

A Weregild was a value placed on every human being and every piece of property in the Salic Code (Salic Law). If property was stolen, or someone was injured or killed, the guilty person would have to pay weregild to the victim's family or to the owner of the property.

The payment of weregild was an important legal mechanism in early Germanic society; the other common form of legal reparation at this time was blood revenge. The payment was typically made to the family or to the clan.

No distinction was made between murder and manslaughter until these distinctions were instituted by the Holy Roman imperial law in the 12th century. Payment of the weregild was gradually replaced with capital punishment, starting around the 9th century, and almost entirely by the 12th century when weregild began to cease as a practice throughout the Holy Roman Empire.

The standard weregeld for a freeman appears to have been 200 solidi (shillings) in the Migration period, an amount reflected as the basic amount due for the death of a ceorl both in Anglo-Saxon and continental law codes. This fee could however be multiplied according to the social rank of the victim and the circumstances of the crime. For example, the 8th century Lex Alamannorum sets the weregeld for a duke or archbishop at three times the basic value (600 shillings), while the killing of a low ranking cleric was fined with 300, raised to 400 if the cleric was attacked while he was reading mass.

The size of the weregild was largely conditional upon the social rank of the victim. A regular freeman (churl) was worth 200 shillings in 9th century Mercian law (twyhyndeman), a nobleman was worth 1200 (twelfhyndeman). The law code even mentions the weregeld for a king, at 30000, composed of 15000 for the man, paid to the royal family, and 15000 for the kingship, paid to the people. An archbishop is likewise valued at 15000. The weregild for a Welshman was 110 if he owned at least one hide of land, and 80 if he was landless.

Thralls and slaves technically commanded no weregild, but it was commonplace to make a nominal payment in the case of a thrall and the value of the slave in such a case. A shilling was defined as the value of a cow in Kent or elsewhere, a sheep. The weregild for women relative to that of men of equal rank varied: Among the Alamanni, it was double the weregild of men, among the Saxons half that of men.


Friday, January 14, 2011

Gastropod

The Gastropoda or gastropods are a large taxonomic class within the molluscs, a group of animals that are more commonly known as snails and slugs. The class includes snails and slugs of all kinds and all sizes: huge numbers of marine snails and sea slugs, as well as freshwater snails and freshwater limpets, and the terrestrial (land) snails and slugs. The class Gastropoda contains a vast total of named species, second only to the insects in overall number. The fossil history of this class goes all the way back to the Late Cambrian. There are 611 families of gastropods, of which 202 families are extinct, being found only in the fossil record.

Etymologically, the word "gastropod" is derived from Ancient Greek γαστήρ (gastér, stem: gastr-) "stomach", and πούς (poús, stem: pod-) "foot", hence stomach-foot, a rather anthropomorphic name based on the fact that to humans it seems that snails and slugs crawl on their bellies. In reality, snails and slugs have all their viscera, including digestive system with stomach, in a hump on the opposite, dorsal side of the body.

Gastropoda (previously known as univalves and sometimes spelled Gasteropoda) are a major part of the phylum Mollusca and are the most highly diversified class in the phylum, with 60,000 to 80,000 living snail and slug species. The anatomy, behavior, feeding and reproductive adaptations of gastropods vary very significantly from one clade or group to another. Therefore, it is difficult or impossible to make more than a few general statements that are valid for all gastropods.

The class Gastropoda has an extraordinary diversification of habitats. Representatives live in gardens, in woodland, in deserts, and on mountains; in small ditches, great rivers and lakes; in estuaries, mudflats, the rocky intertidal, the sandy subtidal, in the abyssal depths of the oceans including the hydrothermal vents, and numerous other ecological niches, including parasitic ones.

Although the name "snail" can be, and often is, applied to all the members of this class, commonly this word means only those species with an external shell large enough that the soft parts can withdraw completely into it. Those gastropods without a shell, and those with only a very reduced or internal shell, are usually known as slugs.

The marine shelled species of gastropod include edible species such as abalone, conches, periwinkles, whelks, and numerous other sea snails that produce seashells which are coiled in the adult stage, even though in some cases the coiling may not be very visible, for example in cowries. There are also a number of families of species such as all the various limpets, where the shell is coiled only in the larval stage, and is a simple conical structure after that.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Ted Williams

Theodore Samuel Williams (August 30, 1918 – July 5, 2002) was an American Major League Baseball left fielder. He played his entire 21-year baseball career for the Boston Red Sox (1939-1942 and 1946-1960). Williams was a two-time American League Most Valuable Player (MVP) winner, led the league in batting six times, and won the Triple Crown twice. He had a career batting average of .344, with 521 home runs, and was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1966. He is the last player in Major League Baseball to bat over .400 in a single season (.406 in 1941). Williams holds the highest career batting average of anyone with 500 or more home runs. His career year was 1941, when he hit .406 with 37 HR, 120 RBI, and 135 runs scored. His .551 on base percentage set a record that stood for 61 years.

Williams served as a Marine Corps pilot during World War II and the Korean War. He had been classified 3-A by Selective Service prior to the war, a dependency deferment because he was his mother's sole support. When his classification was changed to 1-A following U.S. entry into the war, Williams appealed to his draft board. The board agreed that his status should not have been changed. He made a public statement that once he had built up his mother's trust fund, he intended to enlist. Even so, criticism in the media, including withdrawal of an endorsement contract by Quaker Oats, resulted in his enlistment in the Navy on May 22, 1942.

After retirement from play, Williams helped new left fielder Carl Yastrzemski in hitting. He then served as manager of the Washington Senators, from 1969–1971, then continued with the team when they became the Texas Rangers after the 1971 season. Williams's best season as a manager was 1969 when he led the expansion Senators to an 86–76 record in their only winning season in Washington. He was chosen "Manager of the Year" after that season.

In his last years, Williams suffered from numerous cardiac problems. He had a pacemaker installed in November 2000 and underwent open-heart surgery in January 2001. After suffering a series of strokes and congestive heart failure, he died of cardiac arrest at the age of 83 in Citrus Hills, Florida, on July 5, 2002.

Though his will stated his desire to be cremated and his ashes scattered in the Florida Keys, John-Henry and Claudia chose to have him frozen.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Maracaibo

Maracaibo is a city and municipality located in northwestern Venezuela off the western coast of the Lake Maracaibo. It is the second-largest city in the country after the national capital Caracas and the capital of Zulia state. The population of the city is approximately 1,495,199 with the metropolitan area estimated at 2,108,404 as of 2010.

The first indigenous settlements of Arawak and Caribe origin date back eleven thousand years. Around the main group were the Añu tribe who built rows of stilt houses all over the northern riviera of the Lake Maracaibo.

The city was founded three times: First in 1529 by the German Ambrosio Alfinger, who named it Villa de Maracaibo. The lack of activity in the zone made Nicolas de Federman evacuate the village in 1535 and move its population to Cabo de la Vela nearby Coro. A second attempt by Captain Alonso Pacheco turned into failure. The third and definite foundation of the city, occurs in 1574 when Captain Pedro Maldonado, under Governor Diego de Mazariego', command establishes the village with the name of Nueva Zamora de Maracaibo to honour Mazariego's place of birth, Zamora in Spain.

Maracaibo has become a large metropolitan city, comprising two municipalities: to the north the municipality of Maracaibo and to the south the San Francisco municipality (established in 1995). In recent years, due to political/economic and cultural reasons, many have moved to Maracaibo from rural areas and other cities (including Caracas).

Maracaibo also boasts one of the best universities in the country, the state university. La Universidad del Zulia (LUZ) is well renowned for its excellent law and medical schools. Other major universities and schools include Universidad Rafael Belloso Chacin (URBE), with its excellent engineering school, and Universidad Rafael Urdaneta, with one of the country's leading psychology schools.

Maracaibo was elevated to the status of Roman Catholic Archdiocese on 30 April 1966 with the creation of the Archdiocese of Maracaibo. Since November 2000, its Archbishop has been Ubaldo Ramón Santana Sequera.

Maracaibo is nicknamed La Tierra del Sol Amada ("The Beloved Land of the Sun").

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The Treachery of Images

The Treachery of Images is a painting by the Belgian René Magritte, painted when Magritte was 30 years old. The picture shows a pipe. Below it, Magritte painted, "Ceci n'est pas une pipe", French for "This is not a pipe." The painting is not a pipe, but rather an image of a pipe, which was Magritte's point:

The theme of pipes with the text "Ceci n'est pas une pipe" is extended in his 1966 painting, Les Deux Mystères.

French literary critic and philosopher Michel Foucault discusses the painting and its paradox in his 1973 book, This Is Not a Pipe (English edition, 1991).

Scott McCloud uses this painting as an introduction to the second chapter of his book Understanding Comics. McCloud points out that not only is the version that appears in his book not a pipe, it is actually several printed copies of a drawing of a painting of a pipe.

Douglas Hofstadter also discusses this painting and other images like it in Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid, a work on cognition and consciousness.