April 9, 2020

Lies, Damned lies, and Statistics

How to Lie with Statistics

Lies, damned lies, and statistics‘ is a phrase describing the persuasive power of numbers, particularly the use of statistics to bolster weak arguments. It is also used colloquially to doubt statistics cited to prove an opponent’s point.

The phrase derives from the full sentence, ‘There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.’ It was popularized by Mark Twain and others, who mistakenly attributed it to the British prime minister Benjamin Disraeli. The true originator is uncertain, but it has, at times, been attributed to an anonymous writer in mid-1891 and later that year to English politician Sir Charles Dilke. Continue reading

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April 7, 2020

Terpene

Entourage effect

Terpenes [tur-peens] are a large and diverse class of organic compounds (carbon-based chemicals), produced by a variety of plants, particularly conifers (evergreens), and by some insects. They often have a strong odor and may protect the plants that produce them by deterring herbivores and by attracting predators and parasites of herbivores.

Terpenes have gained public awareness through the growth and education of medical and recreational cannabis. Organizations and companies operating in cannabis markets have pushed education and marketing of terpenes in their products as a way to differentiate taste and effects of cannabis. The entourage effect, which describes the synergy of cannabinoids, terpenes, and other plant compounds, has also helped further awareness and demand for terpenes in cannabis products. Continue reading

April 4, 2020

Saturday Night Special

Raven Arms

Rohm Gesellschaft

Saturday night special is a colloquial term for inexpensive, compact, small-caliber handguns of perceived low quality. Some states define these junk guns by means of composition or material strength. In the late 19th century and early 20th century, they were commonly referred to as ‘suicide specials.’ Although the term implies such a gun is for use in crime, studies show that criminals prefer high-quality guns, in the largest caliber they can easily conceal.

The legal definition of a ‘junk gun’ usually specifies the materials used in its manufacture, targeting zinc castings, low melting points (usually 800 degrees Fahrenheit), powder metallurgy, and other low-cost manufacturing techniques. Nearly all guns made this way are chambered for low-pressure cartridges. The low-strength materials and cheap construction result in poor durability and marginal accuracy at longer ranges, but as most of these guns are sold for use in self-defense, accuracy and durability are not primary design goals. Continue reading

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March 30, 2020

Smurfette Principle

Smurfette

The Smurfette principle is the practice in media, such as film and television, to include only one woman in an otherwise entirely male ensemble. It establishes a male-dominated narrative, where the woman is the exception and exists only in reference to the men.

The term was coined by American poet and critic Katha Pollitt in 1991 in ‘The New York Times’: ‘Contemporary shows are either essentially all-male, like ‘Garfield,’ or are organized on what I call the ‘Smurfette principle’: a group of male buddies will be accented by a lone female, stereotypically defined… The message is clear. Boys are the norm, girls the variation; boys are central, girls peripheral; boys are individuals, girls types. Boys define the group, its story and its code of values. Girls exist only in relation to boys.’ Continue reading

March 29, 2020

Maillard Reaction

Louis Camille Maillard

The Maillard reaction is a chemical reaction between amino acids and reducing sugars that gives browned food its distinctive flavor. Seared steaks, fried dumplings, cookies, and other kinds of breads, toasted marshmallows, and many other foods undergo this reaction. It is named after French chemist Louis-Camille Maillard, who first described it in 1912 while attempting to reproduce biological protein synthesis (how the body combines amino acids to form proteins).

The reaction is a form of non-enzymatic browning which typically proceeds rapidly from around 280 to 330 °F. Many recipes call for an oven temperature high enough to ensure that a Maillard reaction occurs. At higher temperatures, caramelization (the browning of sugars, a distinct process) and subsequently pyrolysis (final breakdown leading to burning) become more pronounced. Continue reading

March 28, 2020

CueCat

CueCat

The CueCat, styled :CueCat with a leading colon, is a cat-shaped handheld barcode reader that was given away free to Internet users starting in 2000 by the now-defunct Digital Convergence Corporation. It enabled a user to open a link to an Internet URL by scanning a barcode — called a ‘cue’ by Digital Convergence — appearing in an article or catalog or on some other printed matter.

The company asserted that the ability of the device to direct users to a specific URL, rather than a domain name, was valuable. In addition, television broadcasters could use an audio tone in programs or commercials that, if a TV was connected to a computer via an audio cable, acted as a web address shortcut. Continue reading

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March 27, 2020

Jump Rope

Double Dutch

Jump rope is a tool used in the sport of skipping/jump rope where one or more participants jump over a rope swung so that it passes under their feet and over their heads. There are multiple subsets of skipping/jump rope including: single freestyle, single speed, pairs, three person speed (Double Dutch), and three person freestyle (Double Dutch freestyle).

In freestyle events, jumpers use a variety of basic and advanced techniques in a routine of one minute, which is judged by a head judge, content judges, and performance judges. In speed events, a jumper alternates their feet with the rope going around the jumper every time one of their feet hit the ground for 30 seconds, one minute, or three minutes. The jumper is judged on the number of times the right foot touches the ground in those times. Continue reading

March 25, 2020

Dark Tourism

Chernobyl Tour by Nik Neves

Dark tourism refers to travel to places historically associated with death and tragedy. The main attraction to dark locations is their historical value rather than their associations with death and suffering.

While there is a long tradition of people visiting recent and ancient settings of death, such as travel to gladiator games in the Roman Colosseum, attending public executions by decapitation, and visiting the catacombs, this practice has been studied academically only relatively recently. Travel writers were the first to describe their tourism to deadly places. American political satirist and journalist P. J. O’Rourke called his travel to Warsaw, Managua, and Belfast in 1988 ‘holidays in hell’, or sociologist Chris Rojek talking about ‘black-spot’ tourism in 1993 or the ‘milking the macabre.’ Continue reading

March 23, 2020

Beer Distribution Game

Bullwhip effect

The beer distribution game (also known as the ‘beer game’) is a role-play simulation developed by MIT Sloan School of Management in the 1960s to reveal information sharing failures and typical coordination problems of a supply chain.

This game outlines the importance of information sharing, supply chain management, and collaboration throughout a supply chain process. Due to lack of information, suppliers, manufacturers, sales people and customers often have an incomplete understanding of what the real demand of an order is. Continue reading

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March 22, 2020

Umarell

Bologna

Umarell is a term in Bologna for men of retirement age who pass the time watching construction sites, especially roadworks – stereotypically with hands clasped behind their back and offering unwanted advice.

It’s literal meaning is ‘little man’ and it is often pluralized in spelling by adding a final s (out of English influence). The wife of an umarell is called a ‘zdaura.’ Continue reading

March 19, 2020

Creative nonfiction

In Cold Blood

Creative nonfiction (also known as verfabula) is a genre of writing that uses literary styles and techniques to create factually accurate narratives. Creative nonfiction contrasts with other nonfiction, such as academic or technical writing or journalism, which is also rooted in accurate fact but is not written to entertain based on prose style.

For a text to be considered creative nonfiction, it must be factually accurate, and written with attention to literary style and technique. ‘Ultimately, the primary goal of the creative nonfiction writer is to communicate information, just like a reporter, but to shape it in a way that reads like fiction.’ Forms within this genre include biography, autobiography, memoir, diary, travel writing, food writing, literary journalism, chronicle, personal essays, and other hybridized essays. Continue reading

March 16, 2020

Weird Al Yankovic

UHF

Weird Al Yankovic (b.1959) is an American musical comedian whose humorous songs make light of popular culture and often parody specific songs by contemporary musical acts; original songs that are style pastiches of the work of other acts; and polka medleys of several popular songs, featuring his favored instrument, the accordion.

Since his first-aired comedy song in 1976, he has sold more than 12 million albums (as of 2007), recorded more than 150 parody and original songs, and performed more than 1,000 live shows. His works have earned him five Grammy Awards and a further eleven nominations, four gold records, and six platinum records in the United States. Yankovic’s first top ten Billboard album (‘Straight Outta Lynwood’) and single (‘White & Nerdy’) were both released in 2006, nearly three decades into his career. Continue reading