Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Sir Jeffery Hudson

Sir Jeffery Hudson was an English court dwarf at the court of Queen Henrietta Maria. He was famous as the "Queen's dwarf" and "Lord Minimus", and was considered one of the "wonders of the age" because of his extreme but well-proportioned smallness. He fought with the Royalists in the English Civil War and fled with the Queen to France but was expelled from her court when he killed a man in a duel. He was captured by Barbary pirates and spent 25 years as a slave in North Africa before being ransomed back to England.

Jeffrey was baptised in Oakham in Rutland on 14 June 1619. His parents, three brothers, and a half-sister were all of 'normal size.' Hudson's father John was keeper of George Villiers, 1st Duke of Buckingham's baiting bulls. Jeffrey's marvellous smallness and normal proportions became apparent in early childhood.

On his seventh birthday, in 1626 Jeffrey Hudson was presented to the Duchess of Buckingham as a "rarity of nature" and she invited him to join the household. A few months later the Duke and Duchess entertained King Charles and his young French wife, Queen Henrietta Maria in London. The climax of the lavish banquet was the presentation of Jeffrey to the Queen, served in a large pie. When the pie was placed in front of the Queen, Jeffrey arose from the crust, 18 inches tall and perhaps dressed in a miniature suit of armour. The Queen was delighted and the Duke and Duchess of Buckingham offered Hudson to her as an amusing gift.

Jeffrey moved into Denmark House in London in late 1626, where the Queen maintained her royal household. He was one of several natural curiosities and pets, among whom were a giant Welsh porter named William Evans, two disproportionate dwarfs, and a monkey called Pug. Jeffrey was educated in the Queen's household and learned the manners of the court. He was brought up in the Roman Catholic Church of her household. He learned to ride a horse and shoot a pistol.

Jeffrey learned to amuse and entertain with his wit and courtly behaviour as well as his appearance. Dwarfs were not rare in the courts of Europe but Jeffrey's fine proportions and tiny size made him uniquely famous. His size was repeatedly described as 18 or 19 inches and he is reported to have grown little between 7 and 30 years of age. He was often cast in picturesque roles in the elaborate costumed masques which were staged by Inigo Jones for the amusement of the court.

By 1640 the relationship between King Charles and the Parliament had deteriorated to the point of plots and attempted arrests. Armed conflict broke out between the Royalists and the Parliamentarians in 1642. As Charles led the Royalist army, the Queen took a small number of her retinue, including Hudson, to the Netherlands to raise money and support for him. By selling articles from her palace she raised enough to buy some supplies for the Royalist army but was unsuccessful in obtaining official support from the Protestant Dutch government. She returned to England with her courtiers and they found themselves in the middle of a civil war.

They were able to join Royalist forces at Oxford. The Queen appointed Hudson a "Captain of Horse." It is not known whether he commanded troops or saw combat in one of Prince Rupert's cavalry raids, but he considered the appointment an honour rather than a joke and later in life continued to style himself Captain Jeffrey Hudson.

As it became apparent that the war was broadening rather than concluding, the Queen fled to France in 1643 with a small group of courtiers and household staff, again including Hudson. Although they were warmly received in France and provided with space in the Louvre palace, the Queen was ailing after a difficult delivery and she soon moved her court in exile to the spa at Nevers.

Royalist courtiers collected around the Queen but Hudson apparently had no interest in resuming his role of pet or clown and let it be known he would suffer no more jokes or insults. There is no record of the precise offence offered, but in October, 1644, Hudson challenged the brother of William Crofts to a duel. Hudson chose pistols on horseback, and shot Crofts through the head. Crofts' death was a disaster for Hudson. Duelling had been outlawed in France and this could be considered a transgression against hospitality. Besides, Will Crofts was the Queen's Master of Horse and head of her lifeguard. She asked permission of the French to administer justice and expelled Hudson from her court.

Hudson's movements after leaving the Queen's court in late 1644 are unknown. Within months he was unlucky enough to be on a ship captured by the Barbary pirates. The Muslim corsairs raided the coasts and shipping of western Europe for plunder and slaves well into the 18th century. As was common with European captives, Hudson was taken to North Africa as a slave, where he spent perhaps his next 25 years labouring. The date and circumstances of his rescue or redemption are not known but it was in the 1660s that several missions were sent from England to Algeria and Tunis to ransom English captives, and his first documented presence back in England was in 1669.

The few contemporary records of Hudson's years between 1669 and his death in 1682 consist of a few receipts for grants of money from the Duke of Buckingham and the new King. He did not return to the Queen's court, even after the royal Restoration in 1660 and her return at the invitation of her son, Charles II.

Jeffrey Hudson lived in Oakham for several years, where he was interviewed and a short record of his life made, by an antiquarian named James Wright. In 1676 Hudson returned to London, perhaps to seek a pension from the royal court. He had the misfortune of arriving at a time of turbulent anti-Catholic activity and was imprisoned "for a considerable time" at the Gatehouse prison. Being a "Roman Catholick" was his only recorded offence, but he was not released until 1680. He died about two years later on an unknown date, in unknown circumstances, and was buried in an unknown grave.


Monday, May 30, 2011

Paranoid

Paranoid is the second studio album by English heavy metal band Black Sabbath. Released in September 1970, the album was the only one by the band to top the UK Albums Chart, and as a result is commonly identified as the band's magnum opus. Paranoid has been certified four times platinum by the RIAA and contains some of the band's best-known signature songs, including the title track, "Iron Man" and "War Pigs".

After the release of their debut album in February 1970, Black Sabbath returned to the studio in June that year, again with producer Rodger Bain, to record their second album. The album was recorded at Regent Sound Studios and Island Studios in London, England. The album's eponymous single "Paranoid" was written in the studio at the last minute to fulfill the record label's request for a single.

As drummer Bill Ward explains: "We didn't have enough songs for the album, and Tony just played the "Paranoid" guitar lick and that was it. It took twenty, twenty-five minutes from top to bottom."

The song "Iron Man" was originally entitled "Iron Bloke". Upon hearing the main guitar riff for the first time, Ozzy Osbourne remarked that it sounded "like a big iron bloke walking around". The title was later changed to "Iron Man".

The album was originally titled War Pigs, but allegedly the record company changed it to Paranoid, fearing backlash from supporters of the ongoing Vietnam War. At the time, the band felt that the song was lighter, with the potential to become a single. Additionaly the band's label felt the title track was more marketable as a single. However, the band's visual interpretation of a "war pig" was still featured on the cover; a distorted, eerie photograph of a bearded man with a sword and shield jumping out from behind a tree.

The original UK vinyl release was in a gatefold sleeve. The inner of the gatefold had a black and white photo of the band, posed outdoors on a grassy hill, and was their first appearance on album artwork. To spread the original picture over the gatefold, Ozzy Osbourne was separated from the other members of the band and a section of the grass was copied and dropped into the gap. This is only readily apparent if one compares it with the original photograph.

In the decades succeeding its initial distribution, Paranoid has been regarded by many as Black Sabbath's best album, and by some the best heavy metal album of all time[1]. The "Paranoid" single, released before the album, reached number four in the UK. Pushed by its success, the album hit number one in the UK, and is the only Black Sabbath album to have done so.

The US release was held until January 1971, as the Black Sabbath album was still on the charts at the time of Paranoid's UK release. The album broke into the top twenty in the US in March 1971, and would go on to sell four million copies in the US alone. Paranoid's chart success in the US allowed the band to tour there for the first time in December 1970. This spawned the release of the album's second single "Iron Man", and although it failed to reach the top 40, "Iron Man" remains one of Black Sabbath's most popular songs. In addition, it is considered to be Vertigo's breakthrough release.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Niobe

Niobe was a daughter of Tantalus and Dione or Euryanassa and the sister of Pelops and Broteas, all of whom figure in Greek mythology.

Her father was the ruler of a city called either under his name, as "Tantalis" or "the city of Tantalus", or as "Sipylus", in reference to Mount Sipylus at the foot of which his city was located and whose ruins were reported to be still visible in the beginning of the 1st century AD, although few traces remain today. Her father is referred to as "Phrygian" and sometimes even as "King of Phrygia", although his city was located in the western extremity of Anatolia where Lydia was to emerge as a state before the beginning of the first millennium BC, and not in the traditional heartland of Phrygia, situated more inland. References to his son and Niobe's brother as "Pelops the Lydian" led some scholars to the conclusion that there would be good grounds for believing that she belonged to a primordial house of Lydia.

She was already mentioned in Homer's Iliad which relates her prideful hubris, for which she was punished by Apollo and Artemis with the loss of all her children, and her nine days of abstention from food during which time her children lay unburied. Once the gods interred them, she retreated to her native Sipylus, "where Nymphs dance around the River Acheloos, and although being a stone, she broods over the sorrows sent from the Gods". Later writers asserted that Niobe was wedded to Amphion, one of the twin founders of Thebes, where there was a single sanctuary where the twin founders were venerated, but in fact no shrine to Niobe.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Nopales

Nopales (from the Nahuatl word nōpalli for the pads) are a vegetable made from the young cladophyll (pad) segments of prickly pear, carefully peeled to remove the spines. These fleshy pads are flat and about hand-sized. They can be purple or green. They are particularly common in their native Mexico, where the plant is eaten commonly and regularly forms part of a variety of Mexican cuisine dishes. Farmed nopales are most often of the species Opuntia ficus-indica, although the pads of almost all Opuntia species are edible.

Nopales are generally sold fresh in Mexico. In more recent years bottled, or canned versions are available mostly for export. Less often dried versions are available. Used to prepare nopalitos, they have a light, slightly tart flavor, like green beans, and a crisp, mucilaginous texture. In most recipes the mucilaginous liquid they contain is included in the cooking. They are at their most tender and juicy in the spring.

Nopales are very rich in insoluble and especially soluble dietary fiber. They are also rich in vitamins (especially vitamin A, vitamin C, and vitamin K, but also riboflavin and vitamin B6) and minerals (especially magnesium, potassium, and manganese, but also iron and copper). Nopales have a high calcium content, but the nutrient is not biologically available because it is present as calcium oxalate, which is neither highly soluble nor easily absorbed through the intestinal wall. Addition of nopales also reduces the glycemic effect of a mixed meal. Nopales are low carbohydrate and may help in the treatment of diabetes.

Though Nopales are most commonly used in Mexican cuisine in dishes such as huevos con nopales (eggs with nopal), "carne con nopales" (meat with nopal), "tacos de nopales", or simply on their own or in salads with Panela Cheese. Nopales have also grown to be an important ingredient in New Mexican cuisine.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Bonobo

The Bonobo, Pan paniscus, previously called the Pygmy Chimpanzee and less often, the Dwarf or Gracile Chimpanzee, is a great ape and one of the two species making up the genus Pan. The other species in genus Pan is Pan troglodytes, or the Common Chimpanzee. Although the name "chimpanzee" is sometimes used to refer to both species together, it is usually understood as referring to the Common Chimpanzee, while Pan paniscus is usually referred to as the Bonobo.

While only one source reports a lifespan of 40 years in captivity, no data on longevity in wild-living bonobos or on gender differences are available yet.

The Bonobo is very endangered and is found in the wild only in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Along with the Common Chimpanzee, the Bonobo is the closest extant relative to humans. Since the two species are not proficient swimmers, it is possible that the formation of the Congo River 1.5 – 2 million years ago led to the speciation of the Bonobo. They live south of the river, and thereby were separated from the ancestors of the Common Chimpanzee, which live north of the river.

German anatomist Ernst Schwarz is credited with having discovered the Bonobo in 1928, based on his analysis of a skull in the Tervuren museum in Belgium that previously had been thought to have belonged to a juvenile chimpanzee. Schwarz published his findings in 1929. In 1933, American anatomist Harold Coolidge offered a more detailed description of the Bonobo, and elevated it to species status. The American psychologist and primatologist Robert Yerkes was also one of the first scientists to notice major differences between Bonobos and Chimpanzees.

The species is distinguished by relatively long legs, pink lips, dark face and tail-tuft through adulthood, and parted long hair on its head. Although Bonobos are generally understood to be a matriarchal species, there are also claims of a special role for the alpha male in group movement.

The reason Bonobos are perceived to be a matriarchal species is that females tend to collectively dominate males and commonly engage in casual sexual activity, as well as significant homosexual contact. The limited research on Bonobos in the wild was taken to indicate that these behaviors may be exaggerated by captivity, as well as by food provisioning by researchers in the field. This view has recently been challenged, however, by Duke University's Vanessa Woods; Woods noted in a recent radio interview that she had observed bonobos in a spacious forested sanctuary in the DRC exhibiting the same sort of hypersexuality under these more naturalistic conditions; additionally, while she acknowledges a hierarchy among males, including an "alpha male," these males are less dominant than the dominant female matriarch.

The name Bonobo first appeared in 1954, when Edward Tratz and Heinz Heck proposed it as a new and separate generic term for pygmy chimpanzees. The term has been reported variously as being a word for "chimpanzee" or "ancestor" in a Bantu language. Another suggestion for the derivation of the name is that the name is a misspelling of the name of the town of Bolobo on the Congo River, which has been associated with the collection of chimps in the 1920s.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Antimony

Antimony is a chemical element with the symbol Sb and an atomic number of 51. A silvery lustrous grey metalloid, it is found in nature mainly as the sulfide mineral stibnite (Sb2S3). Antimony compounds are prominent fire retardants found in many commercial and domestic products. Certain alloys are valuable for use in solders and ball bearings. An emerging application is the use of antimony in microelectronics. The relatively high toxicity of some antimony compounds, being similar to arsenic compounds, limits the applications.

An artifact made of antimony dating to about 3000 BC was found at Tello, Chaldea (part of present-day Iraq), and a copper object plated with antimony dating between 2500 BC and 2200 BC has been found in Egypt.  The first European description of a procedure for isolating antimony is in the book De la pirotechnia of 1540 by Vannoccio Biringuccio.  A text describing the preparation of metallic antimony that was published in Germany in 1604 purported to date from the early fifteenth century, and if authentic it would predate Biringuccio. The book, written in Latin, was called "Currus Triumphalis Antimonii", and its putative author was a certain Benedictine monk, writing under the name Basilius Valentinus. An English translation of the "Currus Triumphalis" appeared in English in 1660, under the title The Triumphant Chariot of Antimony. The work remains of great interest, chiefly because it documents how followers of the renegade German physician, Philippus Theophrastus Paracelsus von Hohenheim (of whom Thölde was one), came to associate the practice of alchemy with the preparation of chemical medicines.

Pure antimony was well known to Jābir ibn Hayyān, sometimes called "the Father of Chemistry", in the 8th century. Here there is still an open controversy: Marcellin Berthelot, who translated a number of Jābir's books, stated that antimony is never mentioned in them, but other authors claim that Berthelot translated only some of the less important books, while the more interesting ones (some of which might describe antimony) are not yet translated, and their content is completely unknown.

The first natural occurrence of pure antimony ('native antimony') in the Earth's crust was described by the Swedish scientist and local mine district engineer Anton von Swab in 1783. The type-sample was collected from the Sala Silvermine in the Bergslagen mining district of Sala, Västmanland, Sweden.

Antimony and many of its compounds are toxic, and the effects of antimony poisoning are similar to arsenic poisoning. Inhalation of antimony dust is harmful and in certain cases may be fatal; in small doses, antimony causes headaches, dizziness, and depression. Larger doses such as prolonged skin contact may cause dermatitis; otherwise it can damage the kidneys and the liver, causing violent and frequent vomiting, and will lead to death in a few days.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Waistcoat

A waistcoat, sometimes called a vest or a vestee in Canada and the US, is a sleeveless upper-body garment worn over a dress shirt and necktie (if applicable) and below a coat as a part of most men's formal wear, and as the third piece of the three-piece male business suit. Once a virtually mandatory article of men's clothing, it became uncommon in contemporary dress in the English-speaking world, although it is returning to fashion as part of businesswear and formalwear (often without a jacket), especially among students and young professionals.

A waistcoat has a full vertical opening in the front which fastens with buttons or snaps. Both single-breasted and double-breasted waistcoats exist, regardless of the formality of dress, but single-breasted ones are more common. In a three piece suit, the cloth used matches the jacket and trousers.

Before wristwatches became popular, gentlemen kept their pocket watches in the front waistcoat pocket, with the watch on a watch chain threaded through a buttonhole. Sometimes an extra hole was made in line with the buttonholes for this use. A bar on the end of the chain held the chain in place to catch it if it were dropped or pulled. Now waistcoats are worn less, so the pocket watch may be more likely be stored in a trouser pocket.

Wearing a belt with a waistcoat (and indeed any suit) is not traditionally correct. The waistcoat instead covers a pair of braces (suspenders in the U.S.) underneath it, to give a more comfortable hang to the trousers.

A custom still sometimes practised is to leave the bottom button undone. This is said to have been started by King Edward VII (then the Prince of Wales), whose expanding waistline required it. Variations on this include that he forgot to fasten the lower button when dressing and this was copied. It has also been suggested that the practice originated to prevent the waistcoat riding up when on horseback. Undoing the bottom button avoids stress to the bottom button when sitting down; when it is fastened, the bottom of the waistcoat pulls sideways causing wrinkling and bulging, since modern waistcoats are cut lower than old ones.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Terra Incognita

Terra incognita (Latin "unknown land," with incognita stressed on its second syllable in Latin, but with variation in pronunciation in English) is a term used in cartography for regions that have not been mapped or documented. The expression is not found in ancient texts, and occurs first in the sixteenth century. The equivalent on French maps would be terres inconnues (plural form), and some English maps may show Parts Unknown.
Similarly, uncharted or unknown seas would be labeled mare incognitum, Latin for "unknown sea".
An urban legend claims that cartographers labelled such regions with "Here be dragons". Although cartographers did claim that fantastic beasts (including large serpents) existed in remote corners of the world and depicted such as decoration on their maps, only one known surviving map, the Lenox Globe, in the collection of the New York Public Library, actually says "Here be dragons" (using the Latin form "HIC SVNT DRACONES"). However, ancient Roman and Medieval cartographers did use the phrase HIC SVNT LEONES (literally, Here are lions) when denoting unknown territories on maps.
Alternatively, terra incognita may also refer to the imaginary continent Terra Australis.
During the 19th century terra incognita disappeared from maps, since both the coastlines and the inner parts of the continents had been fully explored.
The phrase is now also used metaphorically by various researchers to describe any unexplored subject or field of research.

Monday, May 23, 2011

The Chairman Dances

The Chairman Dances is a 1985 composition by John Adams. Subtitled 'Foxtrot for Orchestra,' the piece lasts about 13 minutes. The piece was composed on commission from the Milwaukee Symphony, and is described by Adams as an "out take" from Act III of the opera he was working on at the time, Nixon in China.

Although the piece incorporates several dance-like tunes, the word "dances" in the title is a verb rather than a noun. It is meant to depict Madame Mao gatecrashing a presidential banquet, hanging paper lanterns, and performing a seductive dance. The Chairman Mao descends from his portrait, and the two dance a foxtrot, back in time together. The piece ends with the sound of a gramophone winding down. Musical references of this piece can still be found in the third act of Nixon in China.

The work has been recorded by the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra (conducted by Edo de Waart) and by the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra (conducted by Simon Rattle).

The work was also used by the Santa Clara Vanguard Drum and Bugle Corps as the opener for their 2008 production, "3hree: Mind, Body and Soul". Vanguard finished 7th at the Drum Corps International World Championships.

The Chairman Dances appears in the Modern Era soundtrack of Civilization IV, along with several other pieces by Adams.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Antler

Antlers are the usually large, branching bony appendages on the heads of most deer species.

Antlers are unique to cervids and found mostly on males: only caribou and reindeer have antlers on the females, and these are normally smaller than those of the males. Nevertheless, fertile does from other species of deer have the capacity to produce antlers on occasion, usually due to increased testosterone levels.

Each antler grows from an attachment point on the skull called a pedicle. While an antler is growing, it is covered with highly vascular skin called velvet, which supplies oxygen and nutrients to the growing bone. Antlers are considered one of the most exaggerated cases of male secondary sexual traits in the animal kingdom, and grow faster than any other mammal bones. Growth occurs at the tip, and is initially cartilage, which is mineralized to become bone. Once the antler has achieved its full size, the velvet is lost and the antler's bone dies. This dead bone structure is the mature antler. In most cases, the bone at the base is destroyed by osteoclasts and the antlers fall off at some point. As a result of their fast growth rate, antlers are considered a handicap since there is an incredible nutritional demand on deer to re-grow antlers annually, and thus can be honest signals of metabolic efficiency and food gathering capability.

In most arctic and temperate-zone species, antler growth and shedding is seasonal and controlled by the length of daylight. In tropical species, antlers may be shed at any time of year, and in some species such as the sambar, antlers last several years. Some equatorial deer never shed their antlers.

The ancestors of deer had tusks (long upper canine teeth). Antlers appear to replace tusks; two modern species, the musk deer and the water deer, have tusks and no antlers, the muntjac has small tusks and small antlers, and other deer have full-sized antlers and no tusks.[2] Literature concerning the evolution of antlers concludes that the diversification of antlers, body size and tusk-like upper canines have been strongly influenced by changes in habitat and behavior (fighting and mating).

Caribou and reindeer use their antlers to clear away snow so they can eat the vegetation underneath. This is probably why females of this species evolved antlers. Females may have evolved antlers due to intraspecific female competition during winter foraging.

In moose, antlers appear to act as large hearing aids. Moose with antlers have far more sensitive hearing than moose without, and a study of trophy antlers with an artificial ear confirmed that the antler behaves like a parabolic reflector.

Antlers function as weapons in combats between males, which sometimes cause serious wounds, and as dominance and sexual displays.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Malt

Malting is a process applied to cereal grains, in which the grains are made to germinate by soaking in water and are then quickly halted from germinating further by drying/heating with hot air. Thus, malting is a combination of two processes: the sprouting process and the kiln-drying process. These latter terms are often preferred when referring to the field of brewing for batches of beer or other beverages as they provide more specific information.

The term "malt" refers to several products of the process: (1) the grains to which this process has been applied, for example malted barley; (2) the sugar, heavy in maltose, derived from such grains, such as the baker's malt used in various cereals; or (3) a product based on malted milk, similar to a malted milkshake (i.e., "malts").

Whisky or beer made from malted barley or rye can also be called malt, as in Alfred Edward Housman's aphorism "malt does more than Milton can, to justify God's ways to Man."

Barley is the most commonly malted grain in part because of its high diastatic power or enzyme content. Also very important is the retention of the grain's husk even after threshing, unlike the bare seeds of threshed wheat or rye. This protects the growing acrospire (developing plant embryo) from damage during malting, which can easily lead to mold growth. It also allows the mash of converted grain to create a filter bed during lautering (see brewing). Other grains may be malted, especially wheat.

Malt is often divided into two categories by brewers: base malts and specialty malts. Base malts have enough diastatic power to convert their own starch and usually that of some amount of starch from unmalted grain, called adjuncts. Specialty malts have little diastatic power; they are used to provide flavor, color, or "body" (viscosity) to the finished beer. Caramel or crystal malts are specialty malts that have been subjected to heat treatment that converts their starches to sugars non-enzymatically. Within these categories are a variety of types distinguished largely by the kilning temperature (see mash ingredients).

A new encapsulating technology permits the production of malt granules. Malt granules are the dried liquid extract from malt used in the brewing or distilling process.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Rulers.org

Rulers.org is a website which contains information about political leaders of all countries from about 1700 to the present. The website was founded in 1995 and was located at a Geocities address before it moved to the rulers.org location in 2001. The website is always being expanded and updated. At this time all countries have heads of state, heads of government and foreign ministers, and many countries have information about other ministries and regional divisions; also included are leaders of international organizations.

Perhaps the website owner's most ambitious project began in late 2001, when an index to the website, with biographies of political leaders, began being added. By the end of 2007 it included some 3,000 biographies and another 10,000 short entries. Another important feature of the website is the chronicle of relevant political events, beginning January 1996, which is still updated almost daily. This chronicle, sorted by month, indicates election results, as well as resignations, cabinet changes, and deaths of current or former top leaders.

The website is used by many other websites on the Internet for information about political leaders. Benjamin Schemmel of Heidelberg, Germany, is the owner and editor of the site.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Ampullae of Lorenzini

The ampullae of Lorenzini are special sensing organs called electroreceptors, forming a network of jelly-filled canals.
They were first described by Stefano Lorenzini in 1678. They are mostly discussed as being found in cartilaginous fishes (sharks, rays, and chimaeras); however, they are also reported to be found in Chondrostei such as Reedfish and sturgeon. Lungfish have also been reported to have them. Teleosts have re-evolved a different type of electroreceptors.

These sensory organs help fish to sense electric fields in the water. Each ampulla consists of a jelly-filled canal opening to the surface by a pore in the skin and ending blindly in a cluster of small pockets full of special jelly. The ampullae are mostly clustered into groups inside the body, each cluster having ampullae connecting with different parts of the skin, but preserving a left-right symmetry. The canal lengths vary from animal to animal, but the distribution of the pores is generally specific to each species. The ampullae pores are plainly visible as dark spots in the skin. They provide fish with a sixth sense capable of detecting electromagnetic fields as well as temperature gradients.

The ampullae detect electric fields in the water, or more precisely the difference between the voltage at the skin pore and the voltage at the base of the electroreceptor cells. A positive pore stimulus would decrease the rate of nerve activity coming from the electroreceptor cells, and a negative pore stimulus would increase the rate of nerve activity coming from the electroreceptor cells.

Sharks may be more sensitive to electric fields than any other animal, with a threshold of sensitivity as low as 5 nV/cm. That is 5/1,000,000,000 of a volt measured in a centimeter-long ampulla. Since all living creatures produce an electrical field by muscle contractions, it is easy to imagine that a shark may pick up weak electrical stimuli from the muscle contractions of animals, particularly prey. On the other hand, the electrochemical fields generated by paralyzed prey were sufficient to elicit a feeding attack from sharks and rays in experimental tanks; therefore muscle contractions are not necessary to attract the animals. Sharks and rays can locate prey buried in the sand, or DC electric dipoles simulating the main feature of the electric field of a prey buried in the sand.

The electric fields produced by oceanic currents moving in the magnetic field of the earth are of the same order of magnitude as the electric fields that sharks and rays are capable of sensing. This could mean that sharks and rays can orient to the electric fields of oceanic currents, and use other sources of electric fields in the ocean for local orientation. Additionally, the electric field they induce in their bodies when swimming in the magnetic field of the earth may enable them to sense their magnetic heading.

At least one company sells a shark repellent that makes use of shark electroreceptors. It uses large magnets formed into an ankle bracelet and it is reported that field tests show sharks moving away when coming near them.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The Adventures of Pete & Pete

The Adventures of Pete & Pete is an American children's television series produced by Wellsville Pictures and broadcast by Nickelodeon. The show featured humorous and surreal elements in its narrative, and many recurring themes centered on two brothers both named Pete Wrigley, and their various interactions with family, friends, and enemies.

The show was created by Will McRobb and Chris Viscardi and began as minute-long shorts in 1989 that aired in between regular programs. Owing to the popularity of the shorts, five half-hour specials were made, followed by a regular half-hour series that ran for three seasons (1993–1996) and continued in reruns until around 1999. The N (now TeeNick) aired reruns of the show between 2002–2003. The first two seasons were released on DVD in 2005 and the third was planned for 2006 but was indefinitely postponed.

Pete & Pete is set in the fictional town of Wellsville; like The Simpsons' Springfield, its state is never revealed, even though there is both a town and a village of Wellsville in Allegany County, New York, as well as others in Colorado, Connecticut, Kansas, Michigan, Missouri, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, and Utah. In addition, Glurt County, mentioned in the episodes "Yellow Fever" and "The Good, the Bad and the Lucky," does not exist. The show was filmed largely in Cranford, New Jersey with location shots done in a variety of other spots around northern New Jersey. The exteriors of Pete & Pete's house (as seen in the credit sequence and other shots) were filmed on Woodridge Place in Leonia, New Jersey. The football field used for various episodes is actually Bayonne High School in Bayonne, New Jersey.


Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Bespoke

Bespoke is a British English term employed in a variety of applications to mean an item custom-made to the buyer's specification. While applied to many items now, from computer software to luxury car appointments, the term historically was applied only to tailored clothing, shirts and other parts of men's apparel involving measurement and fitting.

The distinguishing points of bespoke tailoring are the buyer's total control over the fabric used, the features and fit, and the way the garment should be made. More generally, bespoke describes a high degree of customization, and involvement of the end-user, in the production of the good.

The word bespoke itself is derived from the verb to bespeak, to "speak for something", in the specialized meaning "to give order for it to be made". The term bespoke in fashion is reserved for individually patterned and crafted men's clothing, analogous to women's haute couture, in contrast with mass manufactured ready-to-wear (also called off-the-peg or off-the-rack). While widespread in the United Kingdom, the term is rarely employed in the United States, although it may be used by some in the high-end tailoring business.

Bespoke clothing is traditionally cut from a pattern drafted from scratch for the customer, and so differs from ready-to-wear, which is factory made in finished condition and standardized sizes, and from made-to-measure, produced to order from an adjusted block pattern. This opposition of terms did not initially imply that a bespoke garment was necessarily well built, but since the development of ready-to-wear in the beginning of the twentieth century, bespoke clothing is now more expensive and is generally accompanied by a high quality of construction.

While the distinction conferred by haute couture is protected by law in France, the British Advertising Standards Authority has ruled it is a fair practice to use the term bespoke for products which do not fully incorporate traditional construction methods. This position is opposed by the Savile Row Bespoke Association, a trade group of traditional tailors.

The Savile Row Bespoke Association is a group of Savile Row tailors that has attempted to set a standard by providing minimum requirements for a garment to be allowed to use its trademark.

These standards particularly stress:

  • hand work used almost entirely on all garments, including the "individual cut of a paper pattern";
  • personal service, such as qualified advice, a large selection of fabrics, or the keeping of all records for future orders;
  • involvement by participating houses in an approved training scheme.

The association has also specified twenty-one points addressing specific parts of a suit, each dictating some detail such as the length of inlays, or which seams must be hand stitched. Yet the association has not successfully established bespoke as a protected label, comparable to haute couture.


Monday, May 16, 2011

Jābir ibn Hayyān

Abu Musa Jābir ibn Hayyān (born c. 721 in Tus–died c. 815 in Kufa) was a prominent polymath: a chemist and alchemist, astronomer and astrologer, engineer, geologist, philosopher, physicist, and pharmacist and physician. He is considered by some to be the "father of chemistry."

While mentioned as being of Persian ethnicity, other sources, without providing independent documentation, state that he was an Arab; "Muslim" and "Arab" are erroneously used interchangeably by some such sources. Jābir is held to be the first practical alchemist.

As early as the tenth century, the identity and exact corpus of works of Jābir was in dispute in Islamic circles. His name was Latinised as "Geber" in the Christian West and in 13th century Europe an anonymous writer produced a non-trivial body of alchemical and metallurgical writings under the pen-name Geber. This person is usually referred to as Pseudo-Geber.

Jabir was a Natural Philosopher who lived mostly in the 8th century, he was born in Tus (Iran), Khorasan, in Iran (Persia), then ruled by the Umayyad Caliphate. In some sources, he is reported to have been the son of Hayyan al-Azdi, a pharmacist of the Arabian Azd tribe who emigrated from Yemen to Kufa (in present-day Iraq) during the Umayyad Caliphate. Jābir became an alchemist at the court of Caliph Harun al-Rashid, for whom he wrote the Kitab al-Zuhra ("The Book of Venus", on "the noble art of alchemy"). Hayyan had supported the Abbasid revolt against the Umayyads, and was sent by them to the province of Khorasan (present days Afghanistan, Iran, and part of North western Pakistan) to gather support for their cause. He was eventually caught by the Ummayads and executed. His family fled to Yemen, where Jābir grew up and studied the Quran, mathematics and other subjects. Jābir's father's profession may have contributed greatly to his interest in alchemy.

After the Abbasids took power, Jābir went back to Kufa. He began his career practicing medicine, under the patronage of a Vizir (from the noble Persian family Barmakids) of Caliph Harun al-Rashid.

Jābir may have been a student of the celebrated Islamic teacher and sixth Imam Ja'far al-Sadiq and Harbi al-Himyari. His connections to the Barmakid cost him dearly in the end. When that family fell from grace in 803, Jābir was placed under house arrest in Kufa, where he remained until his death.

The crater Geber on the Moon is named after him.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Campari

Campari is an alcoholic apéritif obtained from the infusion of herbs and fruit (including chinotto) in alcohol and water. It is a bitters characterized by its dark red color.

Campari is often used in cocktails and is commonly served with soda water, wine, or citrus juice. It is produced by the Campari Group, a multi-national company based in Italy.

The history of Campari began in 1860 with its invention by Gaspare Campari in Novara, Italy. The original recipe still in use today is kept confidential. According to Gruppo Campari, only one person in the world knows the entire formula. It was originally colored with carmine dye, derived from crushed cochineal insects, which gave the drink its distinctive red color.

In 1904, Campari's first production plant was opened in Sesto San Giovanni, near Milan, Italy. The company required bars that bought Campari to display the Campari Bitters sign. Under the direction of Davide Campari, Gaspare's son, the company began to export the beverage, first to Nice in the heart of the French Riviera, then overseas. The Campari brand is now distributed in over 190 countries.

In the Italian market, Campari mixed with soda water is sold in individual bottles as Campari Soda (10% alcohol by volume). Campari Soda is packaged in a distinctive bottle that was designed by Fortunato Depero in 1932. Campari is said to have been the inspiration for other bitter sweet drinks such as Kinnie, produced in Malta since 1952.

Campari is an essential ingredient in the classic Negroni cocktail, the Garibaldi cocktail, and in the Americano, which was named at a time when few Americans were aware of Campari. Campari also can be used to make a sorbet.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

All Mod Cons

All Mod Cons is a 1978 album by the British punk rock/mod revival band The Jam, their third full-length LP. The title, a British idiom one might find in housing advertisements, is short for "all modern conveniences" and is a pun on the band's association with the mod revival.
The album was more commercially successful than The Jam's previous album, This Is the Modern World. The single "Down in the Tube Station at Midnight" was one of the band's most successful chart hits up to that point, peaking at #15 on the UK charts. In 2000, Q magazine placed All Mod Cons at number 50 in its list of the 100 Greatest British Albums Ever.
British Invasion pop influences run through the album, most obviously in the cover of The Kinks' "David Watts". The song "Down in the Tube Station at Midnight" is a first-person narrative of a young man who walks into a tube station on the way home to his wife, and is beaten by far right thugs. The lyrics of the song "All Mod Cons" criticise fickle people who attach themselves to people who enjoy success and leave them once that is over. Neither the title nor lyrics of the song "English Rose" were printed on the original vinyl release of All Mod Cons due to Weller's feeling that the song's lyrics were too personal. The song English Rose later inspired the name of The Stone Roses.
Paul Weller admitted to a lack of interest during the writing/recording process, and had to completely re-record a new set of songs for the album after producer Chris Parry rejected the first batch as being sub-standard.
The album was released in the US in 1979, with the song "The Butterfly Collector" replacing "Billy Hunt".

Friday, May 13, 2011

Billy Name

Billy Name, (born William Linich, 22 February 1940 in Poughkeepsie, New York), is an American photographer, filmmaker and lighting designer. He was the archivist of the Warhol Factory, from 1964 to 1970. His brief romance and subsequent friendship with Andy Warhol led to substantial collaboration on Warhol's work, including his films, paintings and sculpture. Linich became Billy Name among the coterie known as the Warhol Superstars. He was responsible for "silverizing" Warhol's New York studio, the Factory, where he lived until 1970. His photographs of the scene at the Warhol Factory and of Warhol himself are important documents of the Pop art era.
Name lived and worked at the Factory, having taken up residence in a closet at the back of the studio, at 231 East 47th Street. With the gift of Warhol's 35 mm single-lens reflex Honeywell Pentax camera, along with its operating manual, Name taught himself the technical aspects of photography. He converted one of the Factory bathrooms into a darkroom, where he mastered methods of processing and developing film. These newly acquired skills, combined with his background in lighting and experimental approach to his work, resulted in a body of work which captured the "silver years" at the Factory (1963–70).
Name's close friendship with Andy Warhol and his role in creating Warhol's artistic environment provided him with a unique perspective of the Factory, with a particular focus on a core group of "superstars", who largely improvised before the camera. Name's understanding of theater and lighting was an important influence on the look and ambience of The Factory and of Warhol's early films.
In 2001, the United States Postal Service used one of Billy Name's portraits of Warhol when it issued a commemorative stamp of the artist.