Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Is there a place...

Is there a place on God's Green Earth which is more beautiful than Scotland?

I think not.

The period between 1720 and 1790 was known as the Scottish Enlightenment. During that period, in practically every area of human inquiry, Scotland led the world.

Thinkers such as Adam Smith and David Hume (and countless others) influenced our modern world immeasurably.

Economics. Medicine. The Arts. Architecture. Law. Language. Chemistry. Astronomy. Logic. Agronomy. Ethics. Philosophy. Mathmatics.

Joseph Black was the first to isolate Carbon Dioxide. James Watt invented the steam engine. Robert Burns and Sir Walter Scott left us stories and poetry like no others. William Smellie edited the first edition of Encyclopedia Britannica.

Voltaire: "We look to Scotland for all our ideas of civilization."

After the Enlightment? What else did Scotland produce?

Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone. James Blyth invented the first apparatus (a windmill) to generate electricity from wind. Dugald Clark designed the first two-stroke engine, and Robert Davidson built the first electric locomotive. James Goodfellow invented the ATM. Charles Macintosh invented waterproof fabrics. John McAdam revolutionized the way we pave roads. Robert Watson-Watt got a patent for something called radio detection and ranging — RADAR.

I can't say the Scots invented whisky, but they invented GOOD whisky.

Finally, who can identify the photograph at the top of this post? The university site in Minnesota where I stole the photo, didn't identify it by place. Is it so obvious that it needs no explanation? Not to me.

R.I.P. Elizabeth Taylor

Movie icon Elizabeth Taylor dead at 79.

February 27, 1932 - March 23, 2011.

Funny, I always assumed she was British.

[Born in England, but of American parents.]

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The Boulton-Paul Defiant

During the Battle of Britain, the Hawker Hurricane got the most German kills and the more glamorous Spitfire was tops in the PR department, but there was another significant player in the skies over Britain during those tense times. That other player was the Boulton-Paul "Defiant".

The Defiant started out as a good idea in theory (it had a top-mounted turret with 4 .303 machine guns that could fire rearward so as to wipe out German fighters attacking from the rear.) It wasn't so good, however, if they attacked from the front or top or bottom or anywhere except from the rear, so the Germans caught on pretty quickly and the Defiant soon began being thought of as mostly a failure.

This was far from true, however. It simply was being used in the wrong place at the wrong time. Later, it started being used at night against German aircraft during the London Blitz, with devastating results. Ok, maybe not "devastating." But it did it's part. Moral: don't call a duckling ugly until it matures.

See a film about the Defiant's manufacture, and also see it in action here.

Also on that page (if you go to watch the movie) is a more complete description of this fighter aircraft and its specifications, printed as a comment to the movie.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Flash: France attacks Libya like a rabid pit bull

News Flash:

France goes to war!

France is leading the charge against Dubya LibbyYa Mo. Cuz Mo was winning, that's why. And 'Bama was still just sitting there thinking about it.

Thought you'd never see those words in print, right? France fights? Think again, oh doubting one. French jets are probably already in the air protecting those... um... who need protecting. Flying side by side with the British, enforcing the U.N. resolutions.

Just so there's no mistake, the U.N. resolutions against a brutal dictator in Libya who is killing and mistreating his people are righteous and high-minded, and should be enforced immediately, whereas the U.N. resolutions against another brutal dictator in Iraq who was killing and mistreating his people was wrong and misguided and the U.S. were low-life scumballs for enforcing that resolution. They were only after Iraq's oil. France et al is NOT after Libya's oil.

Sigh. Expect the U.S. to be not far behind. Once 'Bama sees he is not alone, he will soon start spending more money hand over fist on a third war, following the war-savvy French Foreign Legion in North Africa.

But, WAIT! you say; all of these Muslim countries HATE us! Why would we want to DO this?

I know. Because they are simply misunderstood. Deep in their hearts, they crave democracy, just like Dubya said. Like Iraq craved democracy. Like Afghanistan craved democracy. These folks just crave a different BRAND of democracy, doncha know. Like the Muslim Brotherhood brand of democracy and the Shariah law brand of democracy and the Iran Mullahs' brand of democracy. Yearning to breath free, as it were. By Allah, we want to ELECT our dictators!

What SHOULD we do? Christ, why do we always have to DO anything? As Ron Paul said a few weeks ago at the presidential straw polling, when Egypt was just starting up: "What should we do? I think we should do a lot less and a lot sooner."

For once in my life I am with Russia and China. Don't do anything. Let them fight it out among themselves. When will we learn? When will AMERICA learn? What country whom we have sided with in time of need loves us? Not Iraq. Not Afghanistan. And certainly not France.

News Flash. 20 minutes later:

"France surrenders to Libya."


Much ado over nothing.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

A chance meeting 54 years ago. First and last.

"There was a guy up on the stage wearing a checked shirt, looking pretty good, singing a song I loved, the Del-Vikings' Come Go With Me. He was filling in with blues lines, I thought that was good, and he was singing well." —Paul McCartney, in the audience that day, on his first impressions of the guy he would meet later that day.

John had to wear glasses from a young age, and he hated it back then. He was legally blind without them, but left them off anyway whenever he possibly could. He despised his "National Health" glasses, and came up with these Buddy Holly imitations which he didn't wear very long, either.
Last photo of song writing team Lennon-McCartney.

This stuff came from: "Discover the power of your voice and become a translater in the U.S. Army."

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Separated at birth parts 71 and 72

These three gentlemen (or two gentlemen and one public self-abuser) seem to have more than a passing resemblance, at least in the eyes. They are of 3 generations, so don't technically qualify for separated-at-birth status, but perhaps somehow related. Peter was born in Hungary, but you never know.

I am struck, as I'm sure you are as well, that these fellows frequently displayed the resigned countenance of one who is about to be buggered.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Urban Legends

There is a London Underground station by the name of Elephant and Castle. Click on the below underground map to enlarge several times and follow the red arrow. As you climb up out of the underground, the above sight will greet you. The actual reason for the name [of that section of London] is interesting enough and is probably fodder for another post, but it isn't the subject of THIS post.

In the grassy center of the roundabout at this interchange, there is a shiny aluminum building which is quite modern-looking, though it is pretty old already. This is the subject of many urban legends: What is it? What's inside it? Legends include:

1. Something nuclear
2. The home of Aphex Twin
3. Something even more sinister

In point of fact, it is a memorial. It is a memorial to a much earlier resident of the area by the name of Michael Faraday. If you are an electrical engineer, you know who Michael Faraday was. If not, let me just tell you that the unit of electrical capacitance is called a Farad. To be brief, Michael pioneered electromagnetic induction; he invented the electric motor, or at least the concept and principle. He studied the effects of electromagnetism on light waves. As a chemist, he discovered benzene. He is also responsible for the Bunsen Burner. Actually, he did a lot of things. A REALLY lot of things. Albert Einstein had a picture of Faraday on his wall, along with Isaac Newton. So Michael was a big deal. Below is a picture of him when he was old.

Anyway, the memorial building doesn't contain a nuclear device, and no one - I don't think - lives in there. So what IS inside? A big transformer. For the London underground.

Michael would have thought that was pretty cool, I think.

Incidentally, the building was originally designed to be made out of glass. But... well, you know. Some things look better on paper than in real practical life.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Australian Definitions

In our previous post, we put out a few words that are Australian slang. I think they were defined well enough by those who commented, but here are the consensus definitions I've found around the internet.

1. Swagman

One is tempted to use the words tramp or hobo or vagabond, but I think Soubriquet was much closer by describing this person as an "itenerant worker." That might be TOO charitable, and the truth probably lies somewhere in between. First and foremost, the swagman is a free spirit, with wanderlust in his heart and a desire to see what's over the next horizon. Work? Well, they do odd jobs to pick up a bit of money along the way, or trade their labor for food, but mostly they aren't looking to stay in one place too long.

The word swagman is used in Australia and New Zealand, though sometimes the word sundowner or tussocker is used interchangeably, some sources say.

My dictionary isn't much help. It defines swagman as someone who carries a swag.

Let's just leave it at "temporary transient worker."

2. Swag

This is the bag or bedroll the swagman carries on his back. In cartoons this is depicted a bandana tied around a few things and carried over the sholder on a stick. This would hardly hold enough to keep a man alive. So a swag is a bedroll, and their few things are rolled up inside it and carried on their back.

3. Billabong

Most just say pond or small lake and let it go. Actually it is what we Americans call an oxbow or "oxbow lake." (These are formed when a river changes it's course and leaves water behind in what was once the old river bed, usually "U" shaped; they are stillwaters which are next to the new riverbed.) Super good fishing there, and pleasant to camp out next to. If you don't mind mosquitoes. Needless to say, livestock who are foraging on their own come to billabongs to drink.

4. Coolabah

A kind of Eucalyptus tree that often grows near billabongs.

5. Billy

Sometimes called billy can. (U.S.) This is just a camping utensil used to cook over an open fire. Often these are handmade, such as out of a large vegetable can with a wire handle fashioned on the top so it looks like a little bucket. You use them to boil water or make soup or stew. Ok, "tin" to you.

These should not be confused with billy club or Billy the Kid. Those things are very different.

6. Jumbuck

I always thought this was a lamb. When I was little, in school, I thought it was a rabbit. I suppose you don't care about my erroneous thoughts as a child, sleeping among my books. I think it is just a generic Australian term for a sheep, especially a loner that would be going to the water on it's own. But the thing I don't see is how the swagman could get a whole sheep, lamb or not, into his tuckerbag (where he kept his food, inside his swag.) Also, I think the stockman and troopers were just being bullies, not really knowing if he had taken a sheep. Well, where the hell would it be? Were they blind that they couldn't see a struggling sheep in a swag? Give me a break. They assumed. If I had been the swagman, I would have gotten a lawyer and sued them for defamation instead of drowning myself. But maybe he was just high or something.

7. Tuckerbag

Aussie slang for green volkswagon.

8. Squatter

Like Soubriquet said.

9. Stockman

I started to say a stockman is what we would call a rancher. But that's not true, since a rancher runs cattle, not sheep. So a man who tends stock. Man.

10. Trooper

Police, more or less.

But how likely is it that a stockman who saw a swagman by a billabong would run and get the cops before drawing down on him? Huh? Huh? Not bloody likely.

11. Matilda

Originally one of those huge greatcoats that soldiers used to wear in winter. But in this context we're just talking about the swagman's swag, the closest thing to him, spoke of in feminine terms. Matilda was just the name the soldiers used to call it though. It kept them warm.

12. To waltz is a carryover from old German, when apprentices used to travel from craftsman to craftsman to learn their trades. Waltz in that context means travel. Waltzing Matilda, then, is to travel with your sweetie swagbag.

13. Cark it

To croak. To kick the bucket. To bite the big one.

I guess that wasn't on the list.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Remembering Banjo Paterson. Sort of.

[The above is not a picture of Banjo Paterson]

It's been ages and ages since we've done any Australian words on this blog. See how many of the following rather old Australian slang words you can translate, taken from their famous song...

waltzing Matilda

A tip o' the tam to Adullamite for triggering this post, in a roundabout way.

"Waltzing Matilda" has become almost the unofficial national anthem of Australia. It was written by Banjo Paterson, though many believe it was based on an older Scottish ballad.

For a larger sampling of Aussie slang (and regular words) click on the flag logo towards the bottom of the BritishSpeak sidebar. And another list here.

Finally, is it just me or does Banjo look a lot like Steve Carell (in the movie 40 Year Old Virgin)?


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