Archive for February 24th, 2011

February 24, 2011

T206 Honus Wagner

honus wagner

The T206 Honus Wagner baseball card depicts Pittsburgh Pirates’ Honus Wagner, a dead-ball era baseball player who is widely considered to be one of the best players of all time. The card was designed and issued by the American Tobacco Company (ATC) from 1909 to 1911 as part of its T206 series. Wagner refused to allow production of his card to continue, either because he did not want children to buy cigarette packs to get his card, or because he wanted more compensation from the ATC. Only 60 to 200 cards were ever distributed to the public.

In 1933, the card was first listed at a price value of US$50 in Jefferson Burdick’s The American Card Catalog, making it the most expensive baseball card in the world at the time. It has retained that title and is currently worth up to $2.8  million. The most famous T206 Honus Wagner is the ‘Gretzky’ card. The card has a controversial past, as some speculate that it was once altered, based on its odd texture and shape. In 1991 the card was sold to ice hockey figures Wayne Gretzky and Bruce McNall for $451,000. In 2007 they sold privately to an anonymous collector for $2.35 million.

February 24, 2011

Turnip Prize

knickerless cage

The Turnip Prize is a spoof UK award that satirises the Tate Gallery’s Turner Prize by rewarding deliberately bad modern art. It was started mainly as a joke in 1999, but has gained national media attention and inspired other similar prizes. Credit is given for entries that have bad puns as titles, display ‘lack of effort’ and pass the crucial test of ‘is it shit?’; conversely, entries which show ‘too much effort’ or are ‘not shit enough’ are disqualified. The first prize is a turnip nailed to a block of wood.

February 24, 2011



Vertebral [vur-tuh-bruhlsubluxation [suhb-luhk-sey-shuhn] is a controversial term that is commonly used by chiropractors to describe signs and symptoms of the spinal column. The chiropractic vertebral subluxation complex has been a source of controversy since its inception in 1895 due to its metaphysical origins and claims of far reaching effects on health and disease. Although some in the chiropractic profession reject the concept of subluxation and shun the use of this term as a diagnosis, its current and officially accepted status by the profession has been repeatedly confirmed.

In 2010 the General Chiropractic Council, the statutory regulatory body for chiropractors in the United Kingdom, issued guidance for chiropractors stating that the chiropractic vertebral subluxation complex ‘is not supported by any clinical research evidence that would allow claims to be made that it is the cause of disease or health concerns.’ A similar stance is taken by the National Health Service: ‘There is also no scientific evidence to support the idea that most illness is caused by misalignment of the spine.’

February 24, 2011

Waimea River

Waimea River by emily miller

The Waimea River is a river on the island of Kauai in the U.S. state of Hawaii. At approximate 12 miles in length, it is one of the longest rivers in the Hawaiian Islands. It rises in a wet plateau of the island’s central highlands, in the Alaka’i Swamp, the largest high-elevation swamp in the world. It flows south, passing through the 3,000-foot-deep (910 m) Waimea Canyon, known as the ‘Grand Canyon of the Pacific.’

Due to wave action, sand gets pushed up into a large hill in front of the river each winter. This creates a natural dam that water collects behind for months, and which is about 20 feet above the level of the ocean on the other side of the sand berm. Every year some one digs a trench through the sand releasing millions of gallons of fresh water into the ocean. This produces a standing wave which is perfect for body boarding and surfing on.

February 24, 2011



The NAUTILUS-X is a 2011 NASA proposal for a long-duration crewed space transport vehicle with an artificial gravity space habitat intended to promote crew-health for a crew of up to six persons on missions of up to two years duration. The partial-g torus-ring centrifuge would utilize both standard metal-frame and inflatable spacecraft structures and would provide 0.11 to 0.69g if built with the 40 feet (12 m) diameter option. As of 2011, developing and assembling the NAUTILUS-X ‘would take at least five years and require two or three rocket launches. It would cost about $3.7 billion.’

February 24, 2011

Fourth Estate

freedom of the press

The concept of the Fourth Estate is a societal or political force or institution whose influence is not consistently or officially recognized. It now most commonly refers to the news media; especially print journalism. Thomas Carlyle attributed the origin of the term to Edmund Burke, who used it in a parliamentary debate in 1787 on the opening up of press reporting of the House of Commons of the United Kingdom. Earlier writers have applied the term to lawyers, to the queen of England (acting as a free agent, independent of the king), and to the proletariat.

February 24, 2011

Estates of the Realm


Estates of the realm were the broad divisions of a hierarchically conceived society in the Middle Ages and in Early Modern Europe. The first estate was typically the clergy, the second estate was the nobility, and the third estate was the commoners. While various realms inverted the order of the first two, commoners were universally tertiary, and often further divided into burghers (also known as bourgeoisie) and peasants; in some regions, there also was a population outside the estates.

An estate was usually inherited and based on occupation, similar to a caste. Legislative bodies or advisory bodies to a monarch were traditionally grouped along lines of these estates, with the monarch above all three estates. Meetings of the estates of the realm became early legislative and judicial parliaments. Monarchs often sought to legitimize their power by requiring oaths of fealty from the estates.

February 24, 2011

Duck Test

duck by leo cullum

The duck test is a humorous term for a form of inductive reasoning. This is its usual expression: If it looks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it probably is a duck. The test implies that a person can identify an unknown subject by observing that subject’s habitual characteristics. It is sometimes used to counter abstruse arguments that something is not what it appears to be.

Indiana poet James Whitcomb Riley (1849–1916) is sometimes credited with coining the phrase. The term was later popularized in the United States by Richard Cunningham Patterson Jr., United States ambassador to Guatemala during the Cold War in 1950, who used the phrase when he accused the Jacobo Arbenz Guzmán government of being Communist.

February 24, 2011

Elephant Test

elephant with blind men

The term elephant test refers to situations in which an idea or thing ‘is hard to describe, but instantly recognizable when spotted.’ The term is often used in legal cases when there is an issue which may be open to interpretation, such as in the case of Cadogan Estates Ltd v Morris, when Lord Justice Stuart-Smith referred to ‘the well known elephant test. It is difficult to describe, but you know it when you see it.’

February 24, 2011

Seeing the Elephant

seeing the elephant

The phrase ‘seeing the elephant‘ is an Americanism of the mid to late 19th century. Those planning to travel west announced they were ‘going to see the elephant.’ Those turning back claimed they had seen the ‘elephant’s tracks’ or the ‘elephant’s tail,’ and confessed they’d seen more than enough of the animal. The expression is said to arise from a tale current when circus parades first featured elephants. A farmer, so the story went, hearing that a circus was in town, loaded his wagon with vegetables for the market there. He had never seen an elephant and very much wished to. On the way to town he encountered the circus parade, led by an elephant. The farmer was thrilled. His horses, however, were terrified.

Bolting, they overturned the wagon and ruined the vegetables. ‘I don’t give a hang,’ the farmer said, ‘for I have seen the elephant.’ The elephant symbolized both the high cost of their endeavor — the myriad possibilities for misfortune on the journey or in California — and, like the farmer’s circus elephant, an exotic sight, and unequaled experience, the adventure of a lifetime. As early as the 1590s, the English used the idiom to ‘see the lions.’ This referred to the Tower of London which is thought to have been one of the world’s oldest zoos. Travelers and visitors were hopeful for a glimpse of the animals, especially the lion which was the living emblem of the king.

February 24, 2011

Himalayan Salt

salt lamp

Himalayan salt is a marketing term for Halite (commonly known as rock salt) from Pakistan. It is mined in the Khewra Salt Mines, the second largest salt mine in the world, located about 300 km from the Himalayas,  and about 160 kilometres from Islamabad, in the foothills of the Salt Range. The salt sometimes comes out in a reddish or pink color, with some crystals having an off-white to transparent color. It is commonly used for cooking similar to regular table salt, brine, and bath products.

Rock salts mined in several parts of the world, including Hawaii, Utah, Bolivia, the Murray-Darling basin of Australia, Peru, and Poland are marketed as Himalayan salt or pink salt. The color results from iron oxide. More recently, large crystal rocks are also used as Salt lamps. A salt lamp is a lamp carved from a larger salt crystal, often colored, with an incandescent bulb or a candle inside. The lamps give an attractive glow and are suitable for use as nightlights or for ambient mood lighting.

February 24, 2011



The Marula is a medium-sized dioecious tree, indigenous to Africa. The fruits are used in the liqueur Amarula. The distribution of this species throughout Africa has followed the Bantu people in their migrations, as it has been an important item in their diet since time immemorial. When ripe, the fruits have a light yellow skin, with white flesh, rich in vitamin C, are succulent, tart with a strong and distinctive flavor.

The marula fruit is also eaten by various animals in Southern Africa. In the movie ‘Animals Are Beautiful People’ by Jamie Uys, released in 1974, some scenes portray elephants, warthogs and monkeys becoming intoxicated from eating fermented marula fruit. Later research showed that these scenes were improbable and, in all probability, staged. Elephants would need a huge amount of fermented marulas to have any effect on them, and the amount of water drunk by elephants each day would also dilute the effect.