I am pretty much a knowledge addict.
I use Twitter, RSS, and numerous other mediums of information — from Telegram channels to standalone blogs.
Out of a thousand articles a hundred gets skimmed through. A few dozens make it to my "Read Later" list, and only a fraction I find worthy of sharing.
These worthy ones end up in my weekly newsletter, the Tuesday Triage, where I comment on the most intriguing articles I've read and share facts I learnt over the week.
Some of those trivia are not trivial at all, so I decided to condense this crème de la crème of the Internet in a subjective list of the best ones in no particular order.
Most people know about the esperanto, an artificially created language. Way less people are aware of Solresol, another artificial language, built upon the musical grammar.
Is your health good? - Redofafa?
Will you go to the countryside this year? - Fadoremi?
Will you go to the theatre tonight? - Soldoremi?
As developers we work with logs a lot. And the logs are stored in logbooks (or at least they were). What's the ethymology?
The term originally referred to a book for recording readings from the chip log that was used to estimate a ship's speed through the water.
So how come a chip log was used to estimate a ship's speed? In the absence of GPS and without any visible clues about the speed of a ship in the open water, sailors started to throw wooden pieces with a tied strope (hence the definition of knots as nautical miles per hour!) into water and then measure the relative speed against such logs, hence the name.
Popcorn as a breakfast cereal was consumed by Americans in the 1800s and generally consisted of popcorn with milk and a sweetener.
It doesn't surprise me when I think about this as a dish, and yet I'd probably never come up with that on my own.
The Danakil Depression is the northern part of the Afar Triangle or Afar Depression in Ethiopia, a geological depression that has resulted from the divergence of three tectonic plates in the Horn of Africa.
The year is 1974. The American National Standards Institute introduces safety code and requirements for dry martinis, and boy-oh-boy are they good.
An unpardonable form of perversion. See onion soup.
[...] In testing, the taster shall watch for lightness of color, absence of sediment, a delicate aroma that effectively combines the scent of the juniper with the herbal infusion in the vermouth, a taste that is both sharp and clean with a faint body, and a light delicate aftertaste.
This example left me, to put it succinctly, flabbergasted for a brief moment.
by the by or by the bye : INCIDENTALLY [defined as "by way of interjection or digression : by the way"]
I wonder if it will help me to up the game of interrupting folks in conversations.
Watch after my hands:
We ferment a liquid (beer, wine, or stock)
We take the foam from the top of the liquid (this is called barm)
We use this foam to leaven a bread roll, and then put something inside it (now this is called a barm cake)
And if we do all of that in Wigan, Greater Manchester, England, we most likely would put a pie as a filling (they also host the World Pie Eating Championship, so no surprise). And here it is, the pie barm:
In Wigan, a whole savoury pie is served in a barm cake, known locally as a "Wigan Kebab".
Back then people had to put two spaces after punctuation marks as typewriters had monospaced typesetting.
Here’s why: Back when we used typewriters, every character was given the exact same amount of space on the page. That meant the letter i was given the same amount of space as the letter m, even though it clearly didn’t need it. This is called monospaced typesetting and it’s, well, spacey. We needed that extra space between sentences to make it easier to see the beginning of new sentences.
These days quite a few still do that; usually one can easily assume they've learnt to type not on a computer.
Rarely, one encounters someone like me, with a typewriter next to the keyboard, and just thinks I am stupid and don't know thine grammar.
Here is a beautiful word I unearthed recently:
The adverb erstwhile has been part of English since the 16th century, but it is formed from two words that are much older. It comes from the Old English words ær, meaning "early", and hwīl, which has much the same meaning as the modern word while. (The English word ere, meaning "before," is also descendant of ær.)
Used as a synonim to "former", e.g "erstwhile enemies".
I am just surprised that this practice was eventually banned.
Just a few weeks after Parcel Post began, an Ohio couple named Jesse and Mathilda Beagle “mailed” their 8-month-old son James to his grandmother, who lived just a few miles away in Batavia. According to Lynch, Baby James was just shy of the 11-pound weight limit for packages sent via Parcel Post, and his “delivery” cost his parents only 15 cents in postage (although they did insure him for $50).
Postage was cheaper than train tickets back then (and still is, actually), so I can't really blame the parents.
Sometimes I realize that speaking in one (two, three, ...) languages means there are corners of the Internet and/or world you can't appreciate, in the first place because you can't understand them.
So while knowing both English and Russian is usually more than enough to find an answer to almost any question, I still miss the jewels like that:
"ek number," which loosely translates to "I rate this number one" — the "ek" itself means "one" in Hindi — is commonly used as an affirmative response to a joke. If you find something to be funny, you could always type "haha" or "hehe" in India, but you can also signal your enjoyment by responding "ek number."
Chocolate chips have a water drop's shape because it's easier to make that way. It's harder to use though.
Remy Labesque, one of Tesla's designers, helped Dandelion Chocolate to invent a machine to make ideal chocolate chips:
The shape of a typical store-bought chocolate chip is an arbitrary result of the industrial manufacturing process used to make it. As you might expect, a drop of molten chocolate is deposited onto a flat surface and left to cool. Chocolate chip taste varies widely by brand, but the shape of the chips does not.
The shape of our chip is faceted: The edges of a Dandelion Chocolate chip taper to thin-as-we could-make-’em without compromising structure. This is because the thermal mass of a thin piece of chocolate melts more quickly on the palate. So when you put a Dandelion chip on your tongue, the thin, chiseled edges warm-to-melt nearly instantly.
1 lb of these chips costs 30$, not bad.
Apparently removing all redundancies, synonims, etc from the English language leaves us only with 850 words or so:
We call this simplified language Basic English, the developer is Charles K. Ogden, and was released in 1930 with the book: Basic English: A General Introduction with Rules and Grammar. He founded the Orthological Institute to develop the tools for teaching Basic English. His most famous associate, I.A. Richards, led the effort in the Orient, which uses the techniques to this day.
The most interesting bit is, that change doesn't affect the grammar, so one could learn only 850 words and yet converse in English by using its grammar to its full extent.
Doug Engelbart, one of the people behind the creation of a computer mouse, and then graphical interfaces, argued about interfaces in his paper "Augmenting Human Intellect: a Conceptual Framework" in 1962 and to proof his point came up with a brick pencil:
Brains of power equal to ours could have evolved in an environment where the combination of artifact materials and muscle strengths were so scaled that the neatest scribing tool (equivalent to a pencil, possible had a shape and mass as manageable as a brick would be to us-assuming that our muscles were not specially conditioned to deal with it. We fastened a pencil to a brick and experimented. Figure 2 shows the results, compared with typewriting and ordinary pencil writing. With the brick pencil, we are slower and less precise. If we want to hurry the writing, we have to make it larger. Also, writing the passage twice with the brick-pencil tires the untrained hand and arm.
(and now users complain that they have to click a button twice; such a shame)
Wikipedia sums it up well:
Cosmic latte is the average colour of the universe, found by a team of astronomers from Johns Hopkins University.
For those keen on putting this into their apps, here is the colour: #FFF8E7.
In my childhood I used to love 7-UP a lot, mostly because it was nearly transparent hence felt less poisonous comparing to other sodas.
It contained lithium citrate, a mood-stabilizing drug, until 1948
Probably if I were to drink it until 1948 it'd be my favourite drink anyway, but not because of its (lack of) colour.
Also all myths about its name are hilarious.
A myth exists that the 7 Up name comes from the drink having a pH over 7. That would make it neutral or basic on the scale; however, this is not the case, as the 7 Up pH is close to 3.79, making it acidic on the pH scale and similar to other drinks of this type. [...]
The real origin of the name is unclear, though Britvic claims that the name comes from the seven main ingredients in the drink, while others have claimed that the number was a coded reference to the lithium contained in the original recipe, which has an atomic mass around 7.
However, this one makes the most sense to me:
Britvic also claims that the name is a result of the fact that 7 Up was bottled in 7-ounce bottles (Coca-Cola and most other soft drinks were bottled in 6-ounce bottles).
I didn't know that there is a Tsar Peter's statue in London:
The statue was erected in 2000, it was designed by Mihail Chemiakin (sculptor) and Viacheslav Bukhaev (Architect).
A gift from the people of Russia, it commemorates Tsar Peter the Great’s visit to London.
You might be a bit surprised by the dwarf and the size of the Peter's head unless you've seen other statues of Mihail Chemiakin. Namely, his other statue of Peter The Great in St. Petersburg:
"Live Is Life" is a song originally recorded in 1984 by Austrian group Opus. It was a European number-one hit in the summer of 1985.
Two things I didn't know:
- It's spelled "Live is life", not "Life is life"
- It is about live music being better than recorded music, not some stoic views on being present
Do you know what happened at Pinocchio's premiere in 1940?
For the premiere of Pinocchio Walt hired 11 midgets, dressed them up like the little puppet and put them on top of Radio City Music Hall in New York with a full day’s supply of food and wine. [...] By the middle of the hot afternoon, there were 11 drunken naked midgets running around the top of the marquee, screaming obscenities at the crowd below.
Here in the UK the most of heat records are happening around Heathrow and I never knew why (most likely not because of the heat from airplanes). Here is another explanation:
The temperature difference between urban areas and the surrounding suburban or rural areas can be as much as 5 °C (9.0 °F). Nearly 40 percent of that increase is due to the prevalence of dark roofs, with the remainder coming from dark-colored pavement and the declining presence of vegetation.
Apparently our fingers are wrinkling in a bath because the wrinkles act as rain threads and used to help our ancestors to have a better grip under rains (think rain threads on car tyres).
People often assume that wrinkling is the result of water passing into the outer layer of the skin and making it swell up.
But researchers have known since the 1930s that the effect does not occur when there is nerve damage in the fingers. This points to the change being an involuntary reaction by the body's autonomic nervous system — the system that also controls breathing, heart rate and perspiration. In fact, the distinctive wrinkling is caused by blood vessels constricting below the skin.
Once a foreigner understands the difference between a Chip butty and a Crisp butty, the doors of the most exclusive private members' clubs will never be closed. Not so many are aware of the next step on the sacred ladder of understanding the Brits: the chippy broon sauce, served over Chip butties in Scotland.
The recipe is a mistery, and every chippy mixes their own. However now I know the secret:
Just dilute down some yourself. Add vinegar to brown sauce until you like the consistency.
Still lots of questions though: which Brown sauce? Would HP Brown sauce work? What about the vinegar? Is it a cider vinegar or something else? Why some folks replace vinegar with water? Please let me know if you have any clue.
The formula of WD-40 is so secret, it left its vault only twice, says the CEO of the company:
We have only ever taken it out of the vault, well, twice. Once when we changed banks. And the other was on our 50th birthday. I rode into Times Square on the back of a horse in a suit of armor with the formula...
I must say, that's not a bad way to celebrate the 50th birthday.
Ah, that's the best.
TV pickup is a term used in the United Kingdom to refer to a phenomenon that affects electricity generation and transmission networks.
So here in the UK, there is a phenomenon where during a break in a TV show everyone puts the kettle on, and a surge in demand caused by the switching on of millions of electric kettles brings down the whole electricity network.
Think about it next time you decide to brew your cuppa during the Great British Bake-off.
One of the most tasty math (and food science) problems:
Can you find three foods such that all three do not go together (by any reasonable definition of foods "going together") but every pair of them does go together?
What would you think of as the answer? I really enjoy author's notes on some of the readers' suggestions.
'The Writing Pen: a new book containing several alphabets and various moral judgements as well as descriptive formulae, bills of exchange, maritime policies, waybills, and other trade writings in the current style, with a final table of Roman numerals' is an approximate title translation for this slender 18th century Italian volume for improving handwriting skills.
What I didn't know though is a weird behaviour of Roman letters turning into multipliers:
Let's look at the changes starting from the thousand (M). The fact that an overline is indicates Roman numerals multiplied by a thousand is common knowledge, as well as Claudian letters (e.g Ↄ), but M can be used as a multiplier too, e.g IIM is not
(1000 - 2) but
2000, and VM is not
(1000 – 5) but
5000, and so on. LM is
Maybe the fanciest McDonalds restaurant in the world is in New Zealand:
The plane, emblazoned with the McDonald's logo on its exterior, has sat in its current spot for over 30 years. It used to advertise a car dealership, the Aeroplane Car Company, but was purchased by McDonald's in 1990 and made part of that location.
Who'd think that the Royal Choir had the same recruiting system as the modern Russian Army?
As master of the royal children’s choir, Giles had the right to forcibly conscript young singers. Queen Elizabeth had granted him a warrant to “take…so many children as he or his sufficient deputy shall think meet, in all cathedral, collegiate, parish churches, chapels, or any place or places as well within liberty as without.”
“Make as ordinary wheat bread, using about 20 per cent of uncoagulated blood from raw flesh, preferably beef. It is nutritious and anti-scorbutic.”
The Complete Bread, Cake, and Cracker Baker, J. Thompson Gill, (Chicago, 1881)
Now, if you are familiar with the Nordic Lab experiments, you might also know that raw blood equates to eggs in its qualia. They have similar coagulation temperatures, and almost the same amount of proteins per gramm.
The simplest way to try?
Take any recipe, and follow the substitution formula:
1 egg (approx. 58 g/unit) = 65 g of blood
1 egg white (approx. 33 g/unit) = 43 g of blood
In linguistic morphology, a cranberry morpheme (or fossilized term) is a type of bound morpheme that cannot be assigned an independent meaning or grammatical function, but nonetheless serves to distinguish one word from another.
In simple words, in English there are morphemes which occur only in a single word. The morpheme
cran- occurs only in the word
cranberry, hence the name, but there are plenty of other examples:
lukewarm, and so on.
If I were to pick a single period of time I would not like to live in, it'd be the Prohibition era. For the most, it stretched from 1919-ish till 1933, but poor people of Mississippi stuck in the dry state for 30 years more.
In 1933, the 21st Amendment to the Constitution was passed and ratified, ending national Prohibition. After the repeal of the 18th Amendment, some states continued Prohibition by maintaining statewide temperance laws. Mississippi, the last dry state in the Union, ended Prohibition in 1966.
I grew up on movies about Stuart Little, the mouse in sneakers and a jumper (yeah, I am that young).
For those who did that as well, a word of advice: do NOT open the book.
Because in the book ~it~ he is not a mouse but
a two-inch-tall baby looking “very much like a mouse in every way,” [...] “arrived” to take his place as second son in the Upper West Side-dwelling Little family.
And despite the looks, the books puts the accent on him being a "human boy" quite a few times.
Not sure if I would re-watch the movie after that.
In 1920s something called "Mystery Cake" became extremely popular. It stayed popular even when people found out that the secret of the recipe was to put a can of tomato soup into cake batter (I would love to know the story of an accident behind it!):
Given the widespread accessibility of Campbell’s tomato soup, the cake took the country by storm, popping up in local papers and eventually being co-opted by Campbell’s itself in 1947. They stand by their original recipe, to which they suggest adding your favorite cream cheese frosting.
git supports multiple commit messages in one line, so one could do:
git commit -m "Title message" -m "Description message"
and the second message will be added under a cut.
While a polar bear pâté sounds quite exciting, it seems to be a pretty bad idea:
The recommended daily allowance (RDA) for vitamin A in humans is 0.9mg, and you can get that from eating just one-tenth of a gram of the liver from a well-fed polar bear. The entire liver contains enough vitamin A to kill as many as 52 adults.
My new favourite Italian word, which means "dunno":
“Whatʼre those things?” whispered Ron.
“Dunno,” said Harry.
Cosa sono quelle cose? bisbigliò Ron.
"Boh..." disse Harry
(— J. K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, 2003)
A Russian acquaintance of mine has complained about English being an odd language. She said, they have the word "defenestration" (it is the act of throwing someone or something out of a window, not what you thought) but don't have words for the day before yesterday or the day after tomorrow.
Obviously I rushed to dictionaries ereyesterday to have some counterproof for the overmorrow's newsletter.
(archaic) The day after tomorrow.
Antonym: ereyesterday (obsolete)
I didn't really ask myself about this; now I do realise that lots of metals smell: think of rubbing a coin in your hands.
Sweaty skin corrodes iron metal to form reactive Fe2+ ions that are oxidized within seconds to Fe3+ ions while simultaneously reducing and decomposing existing skin lipid peroxides to odorous carbonyl hydrocarbons that are perceived as a metallic odor.
What's interesting though is that they don't smell on their own. It's the reaction with the sweaty skin which forms the ions.
In most places except Australia, one tablespoon equals three teaspoons.
What's in Australia you might ask? Good question, in Australia one tablespoon equals four teaspoons.
If you are looking for a cozy, warm, and convenient mix of a table and a sofa for a living room, here is the Japanese wisdom:
A kotatsu (Japanese: 炬燵) is a low, wooden table frame covered by a futon, or heavy blanket, upon which a table top sits. Underneath is a heat source, formerly a charcoal brazier but now electric, often built into the table itself.
Got reminded of this reference last week and love it:
"Up to eleven", also phrased as "these go to eleven", is an idiom from popular culture, coined in the 1984 movie This Is Spinal Tap, where guitarist Nigel Tufnel proudly demonstrates an amplifier whose volume knobs are marked from zero to eleven, instead of the usual zero to ten.
I never thought that there is a specific reason behind making the paper rolls for restaurants blue:
Blue is a colour that doesn’t naturally occur in any foods, meaning that catering roll is very distinctive and easy to spot in the kitchen, making it easy to spot and avoid accidentally mixing with food, as well as mopping up spills, catering roll is used in food production environments to clean and dry work surfaces, and it is particularly effective for getting a streak-free finish, which is useful for perspex or glass countertops, cabinets, and displays.
Until I came to the UK I didn't know about Marmite, a food spread made from yeast extract. It's an acquired taste, it's a by-product of beer, and despite being invented by a German scientist Justus von Liebig it was originally made in the United Kingdom.
However, this is a different story.
I knew about Marmite the spread till even last Tuesday.
What I didn't know was that in 1679 Denis Papin invented a pressure cooker and called it Marmite (fr. "pot"). He did it to take advantage of residues from the meat industry and turn them into edible jellies.
It was never commercially successful. Fast-forward 160 years, and some scientist builds on top of the pressure cooker, manages to concentrate yeast and broth, patents a bouillon cube, baking powder and a yeasty spread.
Yes, that scientist was Justus von Liebig.
In English and Russian this very famous phrase from the marriage liturgy sounds like "Till Death Do Us Part".
In Hungarian, however, it's "Till Spade, hoe, big bell Do Us Part".
Why? The spade is to dig the grave, the hoe is to even out the hill, and the big bell rings at funerals.
There is even a wedding shop in Budapest called "Ásó, kapa, nagyharang".
A good example of perseverance being fruitful:
Although the spaghetti eating sequence is probably now the best-known scene from the film, Walt Disney was prepared to cut it, thinking that it would not be romantic and that dogs eating spaghetti would look silly. Animator Frank Thomas was against Walt's decision and animated the entire scene himself without any lay-outs. Walt was impressed by Thomas's work and how he romanticized the scene and kept it in.
When the Euro bills were introduced, one of the requirements was that the bridges on the design should not really exist, to avoid discussions between countries but Dutch decided to build them all once the bills were printed (which was and is perfectly legal).
And that's a wrap!
If you are keen on exlploring the full list of those wacky things, eclectic articles and my commentary, as well as weekly stories from my life and books I read, feel free to subscribe or check out the previous letters (you can start with this one, for example).