Archive for October, 2016

October 31, 2016

Tootsie Pop

shooting star indian

wise-owl

Tootsie Pops are hard candy lollipops filled with chocolate-flavored chewy Tootsie Rolls (a taffy-like candy that has been manufactured in the U.S. since 1907). They were invented in 1931 by Lukas R. ‘Luke’ Weisgram, an employee of The Sweets Company of America. The company changed its name to Tootsie Roll Industries in 1969.

Tootsie Pops are known for the catch phrase ‘How many licks does it take to get to the Tootsie Roll center of a Tootsie Pop?’ The phrase was first introduced in 1969 an animated commercial. In the original television ad, a questioning boy poses the question to a cow, a fox, a turtle and an owl. Each one of the first three animals tells the boy to ask someone else, explaining that they’d bite a Tootsie Pop every time they lick one. Eventually, he asks the owl, who starts licking it, but bites into the lollipop after only three licks, much to the chagrin of the boy, who gets the empty stick back. The commercial ends the same way, with various flavored Tootsie Pops unwrapped and being ‘licked away’ until being crunched in the center.

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October 30, 2016

Staunton Chess Set

howard-staunton

The Staunton chess set is the style of chess pieces approved for competitions. Nathaniel Cook patented the design in the U.K. in 1849, and they are named after English chess master Howard Staunton. The first 500 sets were hand signed and numbered by Staunton. The pieces were first made available by games and sporting goods retailer Jaques of London and quickly became a standard. They have been used around the world since.

The increased interest in the game of chess, particularly in international play during the late 18th century and early 19th century, brought about a renewed demand for a more universal model for chess pieces. The variety and styles of the conventional form, begun in the 15th century, had expanded tremendously by the beginning of the nineteenth century. Conventional types popular during the period included the English ‘Barleycorn’ set, the French ‘Regence’ chess set, and the central ‘European.’ Most pieces were tall, easily tipped and cumbersome during play, but their major disadvantage was the similarity of the pieces within a set. A player’s unfamiliarity with an opponent’s set could alter the outcome of a game.

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October 26, 2016

Birdwell Beach Britches

birdwell

Birdwell, makers of Birdwell Beach Britches, is an American surf clothing company headquartered in Santa Ana, California. Founded by Carrie Birdwell Mann in 1961, the company manufactures and sells customized heavy-duty swimsuits, which are sold internationally. With four basic models, various fabrics, including Surfnyl, Tectyl, heavy nylon, sailcloth, and canvas, more than 40 colors, and various other options, the combinations that can be created are nearly endless. The company’s motto is ‘We don’t build 1000 things. We build one thing 1000 ways.’

The swimsuits themselves, which resemble board shorts, are paneled swimsuits, with waistbands resembling those of boxing trunks, always double-stitched, always with two layers of fabric. These shorts are known and favored among surfers, lifeguards, and paddleboarders, because of their quick-drying design and extreme durability; with an estimated 10 years for average use, and two to five years for more strenuous use. On all of the trunks there is a 2 square inch logo, of a stylized anthropomorphic surfboard, wearing, of course, Birdwell Beach Britches, nicknamed ‘Birdie.’

October 25, 2016

Einstellung Effect

two-string

nine dots problem

Einstellung [ahyn-stel-luhng] (German: ‘attitude’) is the development of a mechanized state of mind. Often called a ‘problem solving set,’ Einstellung refers to a person’s predisposition to solve a given problem in a specific manner even though better or more appropriate methods of solving the problem exist. The Einstellung effect is the negative effect of previous experience when solving new problems. It has been tested experimentally in many different contexts.

The Einstellung effect occurs when a person is presented with a problem or situation that is similar to problems they have worked through in the past. If the solution (or appropriate behavior) to the problem/situation has been the same in each past experience, the person will likely provide that same response without giving the problem too much thought. This behavior is heuristical (related to mental shortcuts), it is one of the human brain’s ways of finding solutions as efficiently as possible.

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October 19, 2016

Epiphany

newton

An epiphany [ih-pif-uh-nee] (from the ancient Greek ‘epiphaneia,’ ‘manifestation,’ ‘striking appearance’) is an experience of sudden and striking realization. Generally the term is used to describe scientific, religious, or philosophical discoveries, but it can apply in any situation in which an enlightening realization allows a problem or situation to be understood from a new and deeper perspective. Epiphanies are studied by psychologists and other scholars, particularly those attempting to study the process of innovation.

Epiphanies are relatively rare occurrences and generally follow a process of significant thought about a problem. Often they are triggered by a new and key piece of information, but importantly, a depth of prior knowledge is required to allow the leap of understanding. Famous epiphanies include Archimedes’s discovery of a method to determine the density of an object (‘Eureka!’) and Isaac Newton’s realization that a falling apple and the orbiting moon are both pulled by the same force. The word epiphany originally referred to insight through the divine. Today, this concept is more often used without such connotations, but a popular implication remains that the epiphany is supernatural, as the discovery seems to come suddenly from the outside.

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October 17, 2016

Pussy

pussy-bow

pussy-riot

The word pussy is a noun, an adjective, and in rare uses a verb in the English language. It has several meanings, including use as slang, as euphemism, and as vulgarity. Common meanings of the noun include ‘cat,’ ‘coward or weakling,’ and ‘the human vulva or vagina.’ Because of its multiple senses including both innocent and vulgar connotations, ‘pussy’ is often the subject of double entendre, including the late-19th-century vaudeville act the Barrison Sisters, who performed the notorious routine ‘Do You Want To See My Pussy?’ in which they raised their skirts to reveal live kittens.

The etymology of the word is not entirely clear. Several different senses of the word have different histories or origins. The feline variant comes from the Modern English word ‘puss,’ a conventional name or term of address for a pet cat in several Germanic languages, including Dutch (‘poes’) and Middle Low German (pūse). The word puss is attested in English as early as 1533. Earlier etymology is uncertain, but similar words exist in other European languages, including Lithuanian (puižė) and Irish (puisín) as traditional calls to attract a cat.

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October 15, 2016

Skitching

skitchin

Skitching (‘ski-hitching’ or ‘skate-hitching’) is the act of hitching a ride by holding onto a motor vehicle while riding on a skateboard, roller skates or bicycle. It is also sometimes referred to as ‘bumper hitching,’ ‘bumpershining,’ or ‘poggying.’ When done on icy or snowy streets it’s often called ‘bizzing,’ ‘bumper jumping,’ or ‘hooky bobbing. When a snowboard is used it is called ‘snitching.’ The term ‘skitching’ can refer to a number of related activities. The unifying concept is that the ‘skitcher’ holds onto a motorized vehicle while it is in motion, using the vehicle to propel themselves along.

Skateboard skitching is the most referenced type of skitching in news sources and popular culture, but not the most practiced in reality. It has appeared in films and video games, and is confirmed to be the cause of death for a number of skateboarders. Some drivers are willing participants in skateboard skitching, which can open them up to legal action in the event of an accident. Because skitching is often done in traffic, on inadequate equipment for the speeds traveled, and sometimes without the knowledge of the driver of the vehicle, there is significant potential for injury or death. Skateboarding celebrity Tony Hawk has advocated against the practice of skitching due to the related deaths and injuries.

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October 11, 2016

Vanity Sizing

sizes

Vanity sizing, or ‘size inflation,’ is the phenomenon of ready-to-wear clothing of the same nominal size becoming bigger in physical size over time. This has been documented primarily in the United States and the United Kingdom. Vanity sizing tends to occur where clothing sizes are not standardized, such as the U.S. market. In 2003, a study that measured over 1,000 pairs of women’s pants found that pants from more expensive brands tended to be smaller than those from cheaper brands with the same nominal size.

In Sears’s 1937 catalog, a size 14 dress had a bust size of 32 inches. In 1967, that bust size was used for size 8 dresses. In 2011, it was a size 0. Some argue that vanity sizing is designed to satisfy wearers’ wishes to appear thin and feel better about themselves. Designer Nicole Miller introduced size 0 because of its strong California presence and to satisfy the request of many Asian customers. However, the increasing size of clothing with the same nominal size caused Nicole Miller to introduce size 0, 00, or subzero sizes.

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October 10, 2016

Presta Valve

valve stems

Bicycle wheels are comprised of a tough outer tire, a soft inner tube, and a rim (the stiff outermost-edge which is often supported by spokes). The inner tube is inflated means of a valve stem that opens to let air in and then automatically closes and is kept sealed by the pressure in the chamber. The Presta valve (also called the ‘Sclaverand’ or ‘French’ valve) is a valve commonly found in high pressure (100 psi) road style inner tubes. It is comprised of an outer valve stem and an inner valve body. A lock nut to secure the stem at the wheel rim and a valve cap may also be present.

 The outer valve stem is manufactured in various lengths for different applications, and has a narrower diameter at the base (6 mm) than the more common Schrader or American valve (8 mm) and is also used on most automobile tires. Japan, India, Russia, Germany, Britain, and several other countries use a third type of valve for their bicycles, the Dunlop (also called a ‘Woods’ or ‘English’ valve) which also has a wider base than a Presta valve. It is similar enough in size to a Schrader valve to use identically drilled valve holes in rims, but it can be inflated with a Presta valve adapter.

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October 5, 2016

Roseto Effect

outlier

The Roseto effect is the phenomenon by which a close-knit community experiences a reduced rate of heart disease. From 1954 to 1961, the town of Roseto, Pennsylvania had nearly no heart attacks for the otherwise high-risk group of men 55 to 64, and men over 65 enjoyed a death rate of 1% while the national average was 2%. Widowers outnumbered widows, too. These statistics were at odds with a number of other factors observed in the community. They smoked unfiltered cigars, drank wine ‘with seeming abandon’ in lieu of milk and soft drinks, skipped the Mediterranean diet in favor of meatballs and sausages fried in lard with hard and soft cheeses. The men worked in the slate quarries where they contracted illnesses from gases and dust. Roseto also had little to no crime, and very few applications for public assistance.

It was first noticed in 1961 when the local doctor from Roseto encountered Dr. Stewart Wolf, then head of Medicine of the University of Oklahoma, and they discussed, over a couple of beers, the unusually low rate of myocardial infarction in Roseto compared with other locations. Many investigations followed. Wolf attributed Rosetans’ lower heart disease rate to lower stress. ‘The community was very cohesive. There was no keeping up with the Joneses. Houses were very close together, and everyone lived more or less alike.’ Elders were revered and incorporated into community life. Housewives were respected, and fathers ran the families. A 50-year study comparing nearby towns of Bangor and Nazareth found that heart disease rose in the Bangor cohort as it shed their Italian social structure and became more Americanized.