Tuesday, 30 June 2009

Ace high

In early card games the kings were always the highest card in their suit. However, as early as the late 1400s special significance began to be placed on the nominally lowest card, now called the Ace, so that it sometimes became the highest card and the Two, or Deuce, the lowest. This concept may have been hastened in the late 1700s by the French Revolution, where games began being played "ace high" as a symbol of lower classes rising in power above the royalty.

From Pocket Wikipedia, http://www.free-soft.ro/pocket-wikipedia/

Monday, 29 June 2009


Cobblestones are stones that were frequently used in the pavement of early streets. "Cobblestone" is derived from the very old English word "cob", which had a wide range of meanings, one of which was "rounded lump" with overtones of large size. "Cobble", which appeared in the 15th century, simply added the diminutive suffix "le" to "cob", and meant a small stone rounded by the flow of water; essentially, a large pebble. It was these smooth "cobbles", gathered from stream beds, that paved the first "cobblestone" streets.

Note that Cobble is a generic geological term for any stone having dimensions between 64–256 mm (2.5–10 inch). A cobbled area is known as a "causey", "cassay" or "cassie" in Scots.

Use in roadways

Cobblestones are typically either set in sand or similar material, or are bound together with mortar. Paving with cobblestones allows a road to be heavily used all year long. It prevents the buildup of ruts often found in dirt roads. It has the additional beneficial advantage of not getting muddy in wet weather or dusty in dry weather. A disadvantage is that carriage wheels, horse hooves and even modern automobiles make a lot of noise when rolling over cobblestone paving. In England, the custom was to strew the cobbles outside the house of a sick or dying person with straw, so as to dampen the sound.

Cobbled streets are highlights in several cycling competitions such as the final Champs-Élysées stage of the Tour de France and the Paris-Roubaix road race as riding upon them is technically more challenging than riding on asphalt.

Cobblestones set in sand have the environmental advantage of being permeable paving, and of flexing rather than cracking with movements in the ground.

Use today

Cobblestones were largely replaced by quarried granite setts in the nineteenth century. Cobblestone is often wrongly used to describe such treatment. Setts were relatively even and roughly rectangular stones that were laid in regular patterns. They gave a smoother ride for carts than cobbles, although in heavily used sections, such as in yards and the like, the usual practice was to replace the setts by parallel granite slabs set apart by the standard axle length of the time.

See  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cobblestone

Thursday, 25 June 2009


Scotland's favourite word, according to a poll by BT Openreach, is numpty. Derived from "numps", an obsolete word for a stupid person, rather than the more obvious numbnuts or numbskull, the term implies general idiocy, often in my experience accompanied by windbaggery. Which explains why you will most often find it used in connection with members of the Scottish Parliament.

But numpty is a multi-purpose word, with great flexibility - my husband, for example, calls me "numpty-noo", an affectionate variation (I hope). With its plosive "p", it is a word capable of withstanding being hurled across football terraces - "Heid tha ball, ya useless nuuuuumpties!" - or gently remonstrating with a small child -"I know you didn't mean tae forget your gym kit, Hamish, but you'll look a right numpty in your vest and pants and nae mistake."

See http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2007/apr/04/britishidentity.features11

Wednesday, 24 June 2009

John Charles Elton Le Mesurier De Somerys Halliley

John Le Mesurier (born John Charles Elton Le Mesurier De Somerys Halliley; 5 April 1912 – 15 November 1983) was a BAFTA Award-winning English actor. He is most famous for his role as Sergeant Arthur Wilson on the popular 1970s BBC comedy Dad's Army.

Le Mesurier was born in Chaucer Road, Bedford, Bedfordshire, England in 1912.[1], the son of a solicitor, Charles Elton Halliley and Amy Michelle Le Mesurier, who was from an ancient family from Alderney in the Channel Islands. Le Mesurier was educated at Sherborne School, and began to study acting at the age of 20, using his mother's maiden name (common in the Channel Islands) Le Mesurier (pronounced 'Le Measurer') as his stage name.

See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Le_Mesurier

Tuesday, 23 June 2009

Tobler's First law of geography

The first law of geography according to Waldo Tobler is "Everything is related to everything else, but near things are more related than distant things."

This observation is embedded in the gravity model of trip distribution. It is also related to the law of demand, in that interactions between places are inversely proportional to the cost of travel between them, which is much like the probability of purchasing a good is inversely proportional to the cost.

It is also related to the ideas of Isaac Newton's Law of universal gravitation and is essentially synonymous with the concept of spatial dependence that forms the foundation of geostatistics.

See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/First_law_of_geography

Monday, 22 June 2009


The fungi (singular fungus) are a kingdom of eukaryotic (1) organisms. They are heterotrophic (2) and digest their food externally, absorbing nutrient molecules into their cells. Yeasts, molds, and mushrooms are examples of fungi. The branch of biology involving the study of fungi is known as mycology.

(1) A eukaryote is an organism with a complex cell or cells, in which the genetic material is organized into a membrane-bound nucleus or nuclei.

(2) heterotrophic - Requiring organic compounds of carbon and nitrogen for nourishment

From Pocket Wikipedia, http://www.free-soft.ro/pocket-wikipedia/

Sunday, 21 June 2009

Epidemic or Pandemic?

Epidemics and pandemics refer to the spread of infectious diseases among a population. The difference between an epidemic and a pandemic is two-fold. First a pandemic is normally used to indicate a far higher number of people affected than an epidemic, and a pandemic refers to a much larger region affected. In the most extreme case, the global population is affected by a pandemic.

An epidemic is defined by an illness or health-related issue that is showing up in more cases than would be normally expected. However, in the case of a pandemic, even more of the population is affected than in an epidemic.

Let's take a hypothetical example and assume several people contract the same flu-like symptoms in a particular area. Let's further assume that cases show up across the state, but the concentration remains localized in a few original cities. Some cases even turn up elsewhere in the nation, but the illness doesn't catch on elsewhere. In the hubs where it is seen the infection rate remains more than you would expect to normally see. This is a classic example of an epidemic.

Now let's take that same scenario but imagine the rate of infection started growing exponentially so that more and more cases were cropping up locally. When the rate of infection grows very fast it is likely, given favorable circumstances, that the epidemic grows into something more. Now we start seeing cases across the nation and the rate of infection is exceeding even that of an epidemic. It turns out in our hypothetical scenario that most of the population in the nation becomes affected by this flu. This is a pandemic.

To put a finer point on it, if the entire nation was affected but the rate of incidence never rose above that of an epidemic, it would still be considered an epidemic, even though the disease was nationwide.

Conversely, you might have a small population in a remote area of Africa, for example, that is nearly 100% affected by an illness or health problem. Because the incidence is so high, and the area relatively widespread in that it is affecting an entire population, this could be termed pandemic.

You can see with these subtle but significant differences how the terms might be confusing, but normally epidemics that grow out of hand due to the nature of the disease and other factors, turn into pandemics.

A pandemic may be regionally localized if it involves more cases than a simple epidemic; and an epidemic may be widespread if not enough of the population is affected to term it pandemic. Though in this latter case, you might still see it termed pandemic by some, just because the geographical area is so widespread.

See http://www.wisegeek.com/what-is-the-difference-between-an-epidemic-and-a-pandemic.htm

Saturday, 20 June 2009

Doctor Who, The Daleks and Continuity Errors

The Daleks appeared in the second ever Doctor Who story, and rocketed the series to immortality. Those early Daleks were crude, though. Powered by static electricity, they were unable to leave the metal floors of their city and could be disabled by being pushed onto a carpet (or a conveniently-placed cloak).

When they returned, they had been improved, with little radar dishes on their back to receive power being beamed to them so that they could Invade Earth. From then on, they seem to have developed the Generic Monster Robot Infinite Internal Power Source and there was no stopping them (except, of course, when the Doctor stopped them, which was every time). Yet when the Doctor travels to the original creation of the Daleks in Genesis of the Daleks, there is no sign of this earlier form.

See more at http://www.bbc.co.uk/dna/h2g2/A52005700

Friday, 19 June 2009

To calve

1. Release ice, e.g. "the icebergs and glaciers calve"

2. Birth, e.g. "the whales calve at this time of year"

from www.WordWeb.info

Thursday, 18 June 2009


A sett, usually the plural setts, is a broadly rectangular quarried stone used originally for paving roads, today a decorative stone paving used in landscape architecture.

A sett is distinct from a Cobblestone by being quarried or shaped to a regular form, whereas a cobblestone is generally naturally occurring. They are also sometimes generically referred to as Belgian Blocks.

See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sett_(paving)

Wednesday, 17 June 2009

Red rain

Red rain in Kerala was a phenomenon observed sporadically from 25 July to 23 September 2001 in the southern Indian state of Kerala. Heavy downpours occurred in which the rain was primarily red, staining clothes and appearing like blood. Yellow, green, and black rains were also reported.

It was initially suspected that the rains were coloured by fallout from a hypothetical meteor burst, but the Government of India commissioned a study which found the rains had been coloured by spores from a locally prolific aerial algae. Then in early 2006, the coloured rains of Kerala suddenly rose to worldwide attention after media reports of a conjecture that the coloured particles are extraterrestrial cells, proposed by Godfrey Louis and Santhosh Kumar of the Mahatma Gandhi University in Kottayam.

From Pocket Wikipedia, http://www.free-soft.ro/pocket-wikipedia/

Tuesday, 16 June 2009

Purple Dye

The first purple was produced from a type of water snail – the Murex brandaris or spiny dye-murex, known in recent times as Haustellum brandaris. This snail produces a gooey secretion which when exposed to sunlight turns purple. This can be used for dyeing cloth and had the unique property in ancient times of being both a striking colour and colour-fast. It didn't come out in the wash but actually improved with washing.

These snails were common in the eastern Mediterranean and the Near East. We know from archaeological sites in Qatar that the locals made purple dye from crushing up vat loads of these snails as long ago as 1800 BC. By 1500 BC, the use of Murex for making purple dye was common throughout the Eastern Mediterranean, with mounds of crushed snail shells being found both in Crete and at Ugarit in Phoenicia (modern Lebanon). The purple dye industry really took off a few centuries later around another Phoenician city, Tyre (modern Tyr). It became the world centre of production of the purple dye, which became known as 'Tyrian Purple'. The name 'Phoenicia' is from an old Greek word meaning 'Land of Purple'. The people themselves called the country Canaan.

The best dye was made by extracting the organ that produced the dye from the snail rather than including the whole snail in the mix. This was a labour-intensive task. It took the organs from 250,000 snails to make an ounce of dye, so it was extremely expensive.

See http://www.bbc.co.uk/dna/h2g2/A51822902

Monday, 15 June 2009

Orange County

Orange County is a county in Southern California, United States. Its county seat is Santa Ana. The state of California estimates its population as of 2008 to be 3,121,251, making it the third most populous county in California, behind Los Angeles County and San Diego County.[1]

The county is famous for its tourism, the home of such attractions as Disneyland and Knott's Berry Farm, as well as several beaches along more than 40 miles (64 km) of coastline. It is also recognized for its nationally known centers of religious worship, such as Crystal Cathedral, Saddleback Church, and Calvary Chapel. It is often portrayed in the media as an affluent and politically conservative region.

See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Orange_County,_California

Sunday, 14 June 2009

Yellow Fever

Yellow fever (also called yellow jack, black vomit or vomito negro in Spanish, or sometimes American Plague) is an acute viral disease. It is an important cause of hemorrhagic illness in many African and South American countries despite existence of an effective vaccine. The yellow in the disease name refers to the jaundice that affects some patients .

From Pocket Wikipedia, http://www.free-soft.ro/pocket-wikipedia/

Saturday, 13 June 2009

Black Death

The Black Death, also known as the Black Plague, was a devastating pandemic that first struck Europe in the mid-late-14th century (1347– 1350), killing between a third and two-thirds of Europe's population. Almost simultaneous epidemics occurred across large portions of Asia and the Middle East during the same period, indicating that the European outbreak was actually part of a multi-regional pandemic. Including Middle Eastern lands, India and China, the Black Death killed at least 75 million people.

From Pocket Wikipedia, http://www.free-soft.ro/pocket-wikipedia/

Friday, 12 June 2009

'Millionth English word' declared

A US web monitoring firm has declared the millionth English word to be Web 2.0, a term for the latest generation of web products and services.

See full story at http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/americas/8092549.stm

Thursday, 11 June 2009

Burnt Sienna

Burnt sienna is an iron oxide pigment: a warm mid brown colour.

Chemically, burnt sienna is formed by burning raw sienna (Terra di Sienna).

See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Burnt_sienna

Wednesday, 10 June 2009

China Red

Vermilion, sometimes spelled vermillion, when found naturally occurring, is an opaque orangish red pigment, used since antiquity, originally derived from the powdered mineral cinnabar. Chemically, the pigment is mercuric sulfide, HgS, and like all mercury compounds it is toxic. Its name is derived from the French vermeil which was used to mean any red dye, and which itself comes from vermiculum, a red dye made from the insect Kermes vermilio.The words for the color red in Portuguese (vermelho) and Spanish (bermellón) derive from this term.

Today, vermilion is most commonly artificially produced by reacting mercury with molten sulfur. Most naturally produced vermilion comes from cinnabar mined in China, giving rise to its alternative name of China red.

See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vermilion

Tuesday, 9 June 2009

Cell phone elbow

If your pinkie and ring fingers tingle or feel numb, you might not want to pick up that cell phone to call the doctor.

Too much cell phone use can lead to overextending nerves, causing what doctors call "cell phone elbow."

Orthopedic specialists are reporting cases of "cell phone elbow," in which patients damage an essential nerve in their arm by bending their elbows too tightly for too long.

See http://www.cnn.com/2009/HEALTH/06/02/cell.phone.elbow/index.html

Monday, 8 June 2009

Types of Saw Blades

Types of saw blades and the cuts they make

Blade teeth are of two general types: Tool steel or carbide. Carbide is harder and holds a sharp edge much longer.

Band Saw Blade

A straight blade welded into a circle. Used mainly at sawmills & steel service centers. Preferred over circular saws due to less waste.


In woodworking, a cut made at (or near) a right angle to the direction of the grain of the workpiece. A crosscut saw is used to make this type of cut.

Rip cut

In woodworking, a cut made parallel to the direction of the grain of the workpiece. A rip saw is used to make this type of cut.


A circular saw blade with many small teeth designed for cutting plywood with minimal splintering.

Dado blade

A special type of circular saw blade used for making wide grooved cuts in wood so the edge of another piece of wood will fit into the groove to make a joint. Dado blades can make different width grooves by addition or removal of chipper blades of various widths between the outer sadaio blades. This first type is called a stacked dado blade. There is another type of dado blade capable of cutting variable width groove. Das. An adjustable dado utilizes a movable locking cam mechanism which causes the blade to wobble sideways more or less. This allows continuously variable groove width from the lower to upper design limits of the dado.

See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saw

Saturday, 6 June 2009

Pigments & Pigment Groups

A pigment is a material that changes the colour of light it reflects as the result of selective colour absorption. This physical process differs from fluorescence, phosphorescence, and other forms of luminescence, in which the material itself emits light.

Pigment groups

  • Biological origins: Alizarin, Alizarin Crimson, Gamboge, Indigo, Indian Yellow, Cochineal Red, Tyrian Purple, Rose madder
  • Carbon pigments: Carbon Black, Ivory Black, Vine Black, Lamp Black
  • Cadmium pigments: cadmium pigments, Cadmium Green, Cadmium Red, Cadmium Yellow, Cadmium Orange
  • Iron oxide pigments: Caput Mortuum, oxide red, Red Ochre, Sanguine, Venetian Red, Mars Black
  • Chromium pigments: Chrome Green, Chrome Yellow
  • Cobalt pigments: Cobalt Blue, Cerulean Blue, Cobalt Violet, Aureolin
  • Lead pigments: lead white, Naples yellow, Cremnitz White, red lead
  • Copper pigments: Paris Green, Verdigris, Viridian
  • Titanium pigments: Titanium White, Titanium Beige
  • Ultramarine pigments: Ultramarine, Ultramarine Green Shade, French Ultramarine
  • Mercury pigments: Vermilion
  • Zinc pigments: Zinc White
  • Clay earth pigments (which are also iron oxides): Raw Sienna, Burnt Sienna, Raw Umber, Burnt Umber, Yellow Ochre.
  • Organic: Pigment Red 170, Phthalo Green, Phthalo Blue, Prussian blue, Quinacridone Magenta.

From Pocket Wikipedia, http://www.free-soft.ro/pocket-wikipedia/

Friday, 5 June 2009

Aniseed balls

Aniseed balls are a type of hard round sweet sold in the UK, New Zealand and Australia. They are shiny and dark brownish red, and hard like Gobstoppers, but generally only 1cm across. They are generally sold by weight, for example by quarter pound (or the equivalent in metric, 113 grams, which is mandated by law), in traditional sweet shops in the UK and Ireland.

They are flavoured by aniseed oil, have a very strong aniseed flavor, and last for a long time in the mouth before dissolving.

In the center of the ball is a whole rapeseed that can be crushed.

See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aniseed_ball

Thursday, 4 June 2009


The 18th Century was known as the 'Age of Reason'. It is ironic that one of the most famous people from that era is King George III (1738 – 1820) of the United Kingdom, who was mad. During his periods of insanity, the ruling was done by his son George, Prince Regent, giving us the term 'Regency' for this particular period.

There have been various attempted diagnoses of the madness. One of the most popular theories, although by no means proved, is that the king suffered from 'porphyria', a disease named after the colour purple, as it causes the urine and faeces to have that hue.

See http://www.bbc.co.uk/dna/h2g2/A51822902

Wednesday, 3 June 2009


The Valley Works in Rhydymwyn is a Government owned site that was for years so secret that it was never even shown on maps of the area.

It has now been transformed into a nature reserve and a site of historic interest, that’s now open for managed access.

The Valley Works acquired its’ name 1939 when the Ministry of Supply instructed ICI’s Special Products Division to construct a factory and storage area in the Alyn Valley close to Rhydymwyn. The factory was to manufacture mustard gas. In the years 1940-1959 it was involved in the manufacturing, assembly or storage of chemical weapons or mustard gas in bulk containers. During the years 1947-1959 the tunnel complex held the majority of the country’s stock of mustard gas.

See http://www.rvsweb.org.uk

Tuesday, 2 June 2009

Munsell color system

In colorimetry, the Munsell color system is a color space that specifies colors based on three color dimensions: hue, value (lightness), and chroma (color purity or colorfulness). It was created by Professor Albert H. Munsell in the first decade of the 20th century and adopted by the USDA as the official color system for soil research in the 1930's.

See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Munsell_color_system

Monday, 1 June 2009

LSD - old money

LSD was the abbreviation for £:s:d, pounds, shillings and pence; otherwise known as 'old money': the pre-decimal coinage of the UK until 1971.

LSD is an abbreviation of the Latin words libra, solidus and denarius.

  • Libra, a pound weight in Latin,
  • s. is an abbreviation for shilling in English,
  • d. stands for denarius or denarii (a Roman coin)

See http://www.lightstraw.co.uk/finance/index.html