Archive for September 21st, 2010

September 21, 2010

Naga Jolokia

ghost chili

The Naga [nah-gah] jolokia [joe-low-key-ah], as it is commonly known, is a chili pepper generally recognized as the hottest in the world. The pepper is occasionally called the ghost chili by Western media due to a mistranslation. The Naga Jolokia is an interspecific hybrid primarily from Bangladesh, but also from the neighbouring Assam region of northeastern India. It can also be found in rural Sri Lanka where it is known as Nai Mirris (Cobra Chilli).

In 2000, India’s Defence Research Laboratory (DRL) reported a rating of 855,000 units on the Scoville scale, and in 2004 a rating of 1,041,427. For comparison, Tabasco sauce rates at 2,500–5,000, habanero peppers are 100,000–350,000 units, and pure capsaicin (the chemical responsible for the pungency of pepper plants) rates at 15,000,000–16,000,000 Scoville units.

September 21, 2010

ReplayGain

ReplayGain is a method, published by David Robinson in 2001, to normalize the perceived loudness of audio in computer audio formats such as MP3 and Ogg Vorbis. It works on a track/ album basis, and is now supported in a growing number of media players including iTunes, VLC,  and Winamp. Replay Gain works by analyzing an audio track to measure peak levels and perceived loudness. The difference between the measured perceived loudness and the desired target loudness is calculated; this is considered the ideal replay gain value. The target loudness of almost all Replay Gain utilities is 89 dB.

Usually, the gain value and the peak value are then stored as metadata in the audio file, allowing Replay Gain-capable audio players to automatically attenuate or amplify the signal such that tracks play at a similar loudness level. This avoids the common problem of having to manually adjust volume levels when playing audio files from albums that have been mastered at different levels. Should the original levels of audio be desired (e.g., for burning back to hard copy), the metadata can simply be ignored.

September 21, 2010

Gadsden Flag

gasden patch

The Gadsden [gadz-duhnflag is a historical American flag with a yellow field depicting a rattlesnake coiled and ready to strike. Positioned below the snake is the legend ‘DONT TREAD ON ME’ [sic]. The flag was designed by and is named after American general and statesman Christopher Gadsden (1724-1805). It was also used by the United States Marine Corps as an early motto flag.

The use of the timber rattlesnake as a symbol of the American colonies can be traced back to the publications of Benjamin Franklin. In 1754, during the French and Indian War, Franklin published his famous woodcut of a snake cut into eight sections. It represented the colonies, with New England joined together as the head and South Carolina as the tail, following their order along the coast. Under the snake was the message ‘Join, or Die.’ This was the first political cartoon published in an American newspaper. Beginning in 2009, the Gadsden Flag has become an adopted symbol of the American Tea Party movement.

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September 21, 2010

Frontal Lobe

The frontal lobe is an area in the brain of humans and other mammals, located at the front of each cerebral hemisphere, directly behind the forehead or ‘temple.’ The frontal lobe contains most of the dopamine-sensitive neurons in the cerebral cortex. The dopamine system is associated with reward, attention, long-term memory, planning, and drive.

In the early 20th century, a medical treatment for mental illness, first developed by Portuguese neurologist Egas Moniz, involved damaging the pathways connecting the frontal lobe to the limbic system. Frontal lobotomy successfully reduced distress but at the cost of often blunting the subject’s emotions, volition and personality. The indiscriminate use of this psychosurgical procedure, combined with its severe side effects and dangerous nature, gained it a bad reputation. The frontal lobotomy has largely died out as a psychiatric treatment.

September 21, 2010

CrossFit

rhabdo

CrossFit is a strength and conditioning brand. CrossFit combines weightlifting, sprinting, and gymnastics. Athletes run, row, jump rope, climb rope and carry odd objects. CrossFit is used in nearly 1,700 gyms worldwide and by many fire departments, law enforcement agencies and military organizations including the Canadian Forces, and the Royal Danish Life Guards. The program even names workout moves to honor deceased troops, like a grueling forward-and-backward sprint combo dubbed ‘Griff’ for U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Travis L. Griffin. Its mascot is ‘Pukey the Clown.’

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September 21, 2010

Glass Beach

seaglass

Glass Beach is a beach in MacKerricher State Park near Fort Bragg, California that is abundant with sea glass created from years of dumping garbage into an area of coastline near the northern part of the town. In the early 20th century, Fort Bragg residents threw their household garbage over the cliffs above what is now Glass Beach. They discarded glass, appliances, and even cars. The land was owned at that time by the Union Lumber Company, and locals referred to it as ‘The Dumps.’ Sometimes fires were lit to reduce the size of the trash pile.

In 1967, the North Coast Water Quality Board and city leaders closed the area. Various cleanup programs were undertaken through the years to correct the damage. Over the next several decades the pounding waves cleansed the beach, wearing down the discarded glass into the small, smooth, colored trinkets that cover the beach today. The area is now frequently visited by tourists. Though not officially permitted, many still scour the beach for interesting curios to take home as souvenirs.

September 21, 2010

Ben-Day Dots

The Ben-Day Dots printing process, named after illustrator and printer Benjamin Day, is similar to Pointillism. Depending on the effect, color and optical illusion needed, small colored dots are closely-spaced, widely-spaced or overlapping. Magenta dots, for example, are widely-spaced to create pink. 1950s and 1960s pulp comic books used Ben-Day dots in the four process colors (cyan, magenta, yellow and black) to inexpensively create shading and secondary colors such as green, purple, orange and flesh tones.

Ben-Day dots differ from halftone dots in that the Ben-Day dots are always of equal size and distribution in a specific area. To apply the dots to a drawing the artist would purchase transparent overlay sheets from a stationery supplier. The sheets were available in a wide variety of dot size and distribution, which gave the artist a range of tones to use in the work. The overlay material was cut in the shapes of the tonal areas desired—i.e. shadow or background or surface treatment and rubbed onto the specific areas of the drawing with a burnisher. When photographically reproduced as a line cut for letterpress printing, the areas of Ben-Day overlay provided tonal shading to the printing plate.

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