October 25, 2020

Nanny State

seat belt law

Nanny state is a term of British origin that conveys a view that a government or its policies are overprotective or interfering unduly with personal choice. The term likens government to the role that a nanny has in child rearing. An early use of the term comes from Conservative British Member of Parliament Iain Macleod in 1965 edition.

The term was popularized by the British and American tobacco industry – especially by their touring celebrity-lobbyists Bernard Levin and Auberon Waugh – and later by PM Margaret Thatcher. Some laws considered nannying at the time, such as mandatory seatbelts and smoking bans, were later accepted as common sense. Continue reading

October 16, 2020

Rotwelsch

Thieves' cant

Rotwelsch [rut-velsh] (German: ‘beggar’s foreign language’) or Gaunersprache (German: ‘crook’s language’) is a secret language, a cant or thieves’ argot, spoken by groups (primarily marginalized groups) in southern Germany and Switzerland. The language is based primarily on German.

Rotwelsch was formerly common among travelling craftspeople and vagrants. The language is built on a strong substratum of German, but contains numerous words from other languages, notably from various German dialects, including Yiddish, as well as from Romany languages, notably Sintitikes. There are also significant influences from Judeo-Latin, the ancient Jewish language spoken in the Roman Empire. Continue reading

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October 14, 2020

Fool’s Errand

Blinker fluid

fool’s errand is a type of practical joke or prank where a newcomer to a group, typically in a professional context, is given an impossible or nonsensical task by older or more experienced members of the group.

Many such errands require the victim to travel some distance and request an impossible object by name; the prank will be widely known within the peer group as an in-joke, and the person they ask for the object will play along, often by sending the victim on to make the same request elsewhere. The errand is an example of a hazing ritual, through which a newcomer gains acceptance into a group.

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October 12, 2020

Brooks Brothers Riot

hanging chad

The Brooks Brothers riot was a demonstration at a meeting of election canvassers in Miami-Dade County, Florida, on November 22, 2000, during a recount of votes made during the 2000 United States presidential election, with the goal of shutting down the recount.

According to investigative reporter Greg Palast, author of ‘The Best Democracy Money Can Buy’ in 2002, conservative lobbyist Roger Stone organized the demonstration, and political activist Matt Schlapp was the on-site leader. At least a half dozen of the demonstrators were paid by George W. Bush’s recount committee, and a number of them went on to take jobs in the incoming Bush administration. Continue reading

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October 9, 2020

Quality Bicycle Products

Surly Bikes

Quality Bicycle Products (QBP) is the largest distributor of bicycle parts and accessories in the bicycle industry. The Minnestota-based company owns nineteen brands including Salsa, Surly, and All-City. QBP is also the exclusive U.S. distributor of Lazer Helmets, a Belgian manufacturer of high performance bicycle and snow helmets, and through its Q-Active division, the company distributes products to independent ski, run and outdoor retailers.

Founded by Steve Flagg and Mary Henrickson in 1981, QBP operated from a small office in St. Paul and got its start in mountain bikes. QBP also specialized in importing hard-to-find mountain-bike parts from suppliers in Japan. Continue reading

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October 8, 2020

Copaganda

Officer Friendly

Copaganda, a portmanteau of ‘cop’ and ‘propaganda,’ is the phenomenon in which news media and other social institutions promote celebratory portrayals of police officers with the intent of swaying public opinion for the benefit of police departments and law enforcement. Copaganda has been defined by cultural critics as ‘media efforts to flatter police officers and spare them from skeptical coverage’ and ‘pieces of media that are so scarily disconnected from the reality of cops that they end up serving as offbeat recruitment ads.’

The term has gained more popularity in the wake of the George Floyd protests as the United States’ media structure publicly reckons with its role in perpetuating overly fawning or unrealistic portrayals of the police, which activists believe has contributed to downplaying the effects of police brutality in the United States. Continue reading

October 7, 2020

Speedwell Ironworks

Alfred Vail

Speedwell Ironworks was an ironworks in Speedwell Village, on Speedwell Avenue (part of U.S. Route 202), just north of downtown Morristown, in Morris County, New Jersey where Alfred Vail and Samuel Morse first demonstrated their electric telegraph.

Speedwell Ironworks also provided most of the machinery for the SS Savannah, the first steamship to cross the Atlantic Ocean. The site is still open to the public, and has seven buildings on display. The site, now named Historical Speedwell, is a historic site of the Morris County Park Commission and was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1974, preserving seven buildings Continue reading

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October 4, 2020

Jeitinho

Malandragem

Jeitinho [jay-cheen-yo] (Portuguese: ‘little way’) is finding a way to accomplish something by circumventing or bending the rules or social conventions. Most times it is harmless, made for basic ordinary opportunistic advantages, as gatecrashing a party just to get free food and beverage.

But sometimes it is used for questionable, serious violations, where an individual can use emotional resources, blackmail, family ties, promises, rewards or money to obtain (sometimes illegal) favors or to get advantage. Some claim it is a typically Brazilian method of social navigation that may derive from a general lack of resources and help. Most Brazilians have to be creative and invent new simpler ways to do things. Continue reading

September 27, 2020

Mariko Aoki Phenomenon

Bathroom reading

The Mariko Aoki phenomenon is a Japanese expression referring to an urge to defecate that is suddenly felt after entering bookstores. The phenomenon’s name derives from the name of the woman who mentioned the phenomenon in a magazine article in 1985.

According to Japanese social psychologist Shozo Shibuya, the specific causes that trigger a defecation urge in bookstores are not yet clearly understood, and it is sometimes discussed as one type of urban myth or a mild form of mass psychogenic illness. Continue reading

September 14, 2020

Brushing

Fake reviews

Brushing is a type of fraud used in e-commerce that boosts a seller’s ratings by sending unsolicited products to individuals to raise order counts and substantiate fake reviews.

A seller can engage in brushing by paying someone a small amount to place a fake order, or just using another person’s information to place an order themselves. Because a shipment usually has to take place for an order to be considered valid by the e-commerce site, the seller will frequently ship an empty box or some cheap item. These fake orders, if unnoticed, can boost the seller’s rating, which can make it more likely that their items will appear at the top of search results on e-commerce sites. Continue reading

September 12, 2020

Blowin’ in the Wind

The Gaslight Cafe

Blowin’ in the Wind‘ is a song written by Bob Dylan in 1962 and released as a single and on his album ‘The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan’ in 1963. It has been described as a protest song, and poses a series of rhetorical questions about peace, war, and freedom. The refrain ‘The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind’ has been described as ‘impenetrably ambiguous: either the answer is so obvious it is right in your face, or the answer is as intangible as the wind.’

The song was published for the first time in May 1962, in the sixth issue of Broadside, the magazine founded by Pete Seeger and devoted to topical songs. The theme may have been taken from a passage in folk singer Woody Guthrie’s autobiography, ‘Bound for Glory,’ in which Guthrie compared his political sensibility to newspapers blowing in the winds of New York City streets and alleys. Dylan was certainly familiar with Guthrie’s work; his reading of it had been a major turning point in his intellectual and political development. Continue reading

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September 11, 2020

Mnemonic

Elaborative encoding

mnemonic [ni-mon-ik] (the first ‘m’ is not pronounced) device, or memory device, is any learning technique that aids information retention or retrieval (remembering) in the human memory.

Mnemonics make use of elaborative encoding (connecting concepts you want to remember to preexisting knowledge visually, spatially, semantically or acoustically) and other retrieval cues as tools to encode any given information in a way that allows for efficient storage and retrieval. Mnemonics aid original information in becoming associated with something more accessible or meaningful—which, in turn, provides better retention of the information. Continue reading