Archive for ‘World’

July 1, 2022

Knucklebones

Jacks

Knucklebones, also known as scatter jacks, snobs, astragalus, tali, dibs, fivestones, jacks, or jackstones, among many other names, is a game of dexterity played with a number of small objects that are thrown up, caught, and manipulated in various manners. It is ancient in origin and is found in various cultures worldwide.

The name ‘knucklebones’ is derived from the Ancient Greek version of the game, which uses the astragalus (a bone in the ankle, or hock) of a sheep. However, different variants of the game from various cultures use other objects, including stones, seashells, seeds, and cubes.

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June 28, 2022

Democratic Backsliding in the U.S.

Democratic backsliding

Democratic backsliding has been ongoing in the U.S. since the late 2010s. The V-Dem Institute’s electoral democracy index score for the United States peaked in 2015 and declined sharply after 2016, for which year it was also downgraded to ‘flawed democracy’ by the Economist Intelligence Unit in its annual ‘Democracy Index’ report. Both V-Dem and Freedom House downgraded the United States in 2018.

Iranian–German sociologist Behrouz Alikhani cites the government following the interests of global corporations rather than citizens and loosening of campaign finance laws, especially the ‘Citizens United’ decision, to enable the wealthy greater influence in politics. Political scientist Wendy Brown argued in 2006 that the United States was de-democratizing because of neoliberalism and neoconservatism. In a 2021 book, historian Karen J. Greenberg argued that policies adopted during the war on terror enabled later democratic backsliding under the Trump administration.

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May 23, 2022

Socialist Fraternal Kiss

My God, Help Me to Survive This Deadly Love

The socialist fraternal kiss was a special form of greeting between socialist leaders. The act demonstrated the special connection that exists between socialist countries, consisting of an embrace, along with a series of three kisses on alternate cheeks. In rare cases, when the two leaders considered themselves exceptionally close, the kisses were given on the mouth rather than on the cheeks.

The fraternal kiss became famous via Erich Honecker and Leonid Brezhnev, who were photographed exercising the ritual. The photograph became widespread and it was subsequently reproduced into a graffiti painting on the Berlin Wall named ‘My God, Help Me to Survive This Deadly Love.’

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May 3, 2022

Preparedness Paradox

y2k

The preparedness paradox is the proposition that if a society or individual acts effectively to mitigate a potential disaster such as a pandemic or other catastrophe so that it causes less harm, the avoided danger will be perceived as having been much less serious because of the limited damage actually caused.

The paradox is the incorrect perception that there had been no need for careful preparation as there was little harm, although in reality the limitation of the harm was due to preparation. Several cognitive biases can consequently hamper proper preparation for future risks.

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April 26, 2022

Ramen

Momofuku Ando

Ramen is a Japanese adaptation of Chinese wheat noodles. One theory says that ramen was introduced to Japan during the 1660s by the Chinese neo-Confucian scholar Zhu Shunsui who served as an advisor to Tokugawa Mitsukuni after he became a refugee in Japan to escape Manchu rule and Mitsukuni became the first Japanese person to eat ramen. Most historians reject this theory as a myth created by the Japanese to embellish the origins of ramen.

According to historians, the more plausible theory is that ramen was introduced to Japan in the late 19th or early 20th century by Chinese immigrants living in the Yokohama Chinatown. According to the record of the Yokohama Ramen Museum, ramen originated in China and made its way to Japan in 1859. Early versions were wheat noodles in broth topped with Chinese-style roast pork. There are many related, Chinese-influenced noodle dishes in Japan.

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March 21, 2022

Show Trial

Moscow trials

show trial is a public trial in which the judicial authorities have already determined the guilt or innocence of the defendant. The actual trial has as its only goal the presentation of both the accusation and the verdict to the public so they will serve as both an impressive example and a warning to other would-be dissidents or transgressors.

Show trials tend to be retributive rather than corrective and they are also conducted for propagandistic purposes. When aimed at individuals on the basis of protected classes or characteristics, such trials are examples of political persecution. The term was first recorded in 1928.

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March 6, 2022

Kremlinology

Alexander Zinoviev

Kremlinology is the study and analysis of the politics and policies of the Soviet Union while Sovietology is the study of politics and policies of both the Soviet Union and former Communist states more generally. These two terms were synonymous until the dissolution of the Soviet Union. In popular culture, the term is sometimes used to mean any attempt to understand a secretive organization or process, such as plans for upcoming products or events, by interpreting indirect clues.

During the Cold War, lack of reliable information about the country forced Western analysts to ‘read between the lines’ and to use the tiniest tidbits, such as the removal of portraits, the rearranging of chairs, positions at the reviewing stand for parades in Red Square, the choice of capital or small initial letters in phrases such as ‘First Secretary,’ the arrangement of articles on the pages of the party newspaper Pravda and other subtle signs to try to understand what was happening in internal Soviet politics.

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February 6, 2022

Raining Cats and Dogs

Rain of animals

The English-language idiom raining cats and dogs is used to describe particularly heavy rain. It is of unknown etymology. One possible explanation involves the drainage systems on buildings in 17th-century Europe, which were poor and may have disgorged their contents, including the corpses of any animals that had accumulated in them, during heavy showers.

This occurrence is documented in Jonathan Swift’s 1710 poem ‘Description of a City Shower,’ in which he describes: ‘Drowned puppies, stinking sprats, all drenched in mud, Dead cats and turnip-tops come tumbling down the flood.’

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January 5, 2022

Italian Sounding

Denominazione di origine controllata

Italian Sounding is a marketing phenomenon consisting of words and images, color combinations (the Italian tricolor) and geographical references for brands that are evocative of Italy to promote and market products – especially but not exclusively agri-food – that are not actually Made in Italy.

The phenomenon is described by the Office of the Ministry of Economic Development (MISE) called ‘Directorate General for the Protection of Industrial Property – Italian Patent and Trademark Office’ (DGTPI-UIBM).

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January 3, 2022

Fiddler’s Green

Fiddler's Green

In 19th-century English maritime folklore, Fiddler’s Green was an afterlife for sailors who had served at least fifty years at sea.

They were rewarded with perpetual mirth, a fiddle that never stopped playing, and dancers who never tired.

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November 19, 2021

Akhfash’s Goat

Joey Tribbiani

Akhfash’s goat is a Persian parable in which a philosopher trains his pet goat to nod its head when asked if it had understood a book that it was shown.

The term refers to a person who nods along with a conversation that they do not understand.

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November 15, 2021

Season Creep

Phenology

In phenology (the study of cyclic and seasonal natural phenomena), season creep refers to observed changes in the timing of the seasons, such as earlier indications of spring in temperate areas across the Northern Hemisphere.

In Europe, season creep has been associated with the arrival of spring moving up by approximately one week in a recent 30-year period. Climate studies have put the rate of season creep measured by plant phenology in the range of 2–3 days per decade advancement in spring, and 0.3–1.6 days per decade delay in autumn, over the past 30–80 years.

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