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New translation, the Magna Carta

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fibre optics in nature - the auroran sunset

This section is dedicated to the many useless facts that we collect in our travels. Warning: your brain may run out of room for useful information!

“A number of flora and fauna cause damage to fiber. Some birds really like the Kevlar reinforcing material and think it makes lovely nests for their babies, so they peck away at fiber-optic cables to get at that Kevlar material. Rodents such as beavers like to sharpen their teeth on exposed cable . Several different types of ants seem to enjoy the plastic shielding in their diet, so they nibble at the underground fibers. Sharks have been known to chomp on cable near the repeating points. A plant called the Christmas tree plant thinks that fiber-optic cable is a tree root and wraps itself around it very tightly and chokes it off.”
pp.80-1, Telecommunications Essentials: The Complete Global Source

Telecommunications Essentials: the complete global source by Goleniewski & Wilson

Telecommunications Essentials: The Complete Global Source
by Lillian Goleniewski & Kitty Wilson Jarrett

Addison Wesley, 2006, pbk
ISBN-10: 0321427610/ISBN-13: 978-0321427618
$32.99 [amazon.com]
£21.59 [amazon.co.uk]

 

the web address for the article above is
https://www.abelard.org/news/useless_facts0701.php#natural_kelvar_300907





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french cats - the auroran sunset

This section is dedicated to the many useless facts that we collect in our travels. Warning: your brain may run out of room for useful information!

The French have some very strange ideas about animals. For example, while everybody knows that one should “let sleeping dogs lie”, the French insist on saying:

Il ne faut pas réveiller le chat qui dort.

Or, “One should not wake up the cat who sleeps”.

Meanwhile, anyone sensible would describe the problem of not having been able to speak properly due to hoarseness or a need to cough as “I had a frog in my throat”. The French have other ideas:

J'ai eu un chat dans la gorge.

Or, “I had a cat in the throat”, which is obviously absurd - unlike a frog, a cat wouldn’t fit.

Meanwhile, again, when you have bigger, more important, things to worry about, one can say that “I have bigger fish to fry”. Makes perfect sense. However, if you were French, you would have to say:

J'ai d'autres chats à fouetter.

Or, “I have other cats to whip”! Who whips cats?! Even I don’t think the French would stoop that low.

Finally, they would say of a Frenchman who has very messy hand-writing that:

Il écrit comme un chat.

Or, “he writes like a cat”, while is obviously ridiculous because everybody knows that cats are very careful people.

the web address for the article above is
https://www.abelard.org/news/useless_facts0701.php#french_cats_230207

terra ‘firma’ indeed!

This section is dedicated to the many useless facts that we collect in our travels. Warning: your brain may run out of room for useful information!

This rock we call home is wizzing through that space stuff at a frightful rate. Meanwhile different bits of the surface are moving around willy-nilly on tectonic plates. Then you have the glaciers and sand dunes moving each year a few centimetres here and a few centimetres there, or even hundreds of yards. Let alone all that ocean stuff, and rivers, buffalo herds and clouds rushing about. And the winds won’t stop still either.

Out in the oceans, there are islands constantly appearing and disappearing as volcanoes blow and sea levels rise. Meanwhile the coastlines are moving back and forth as cliffs erode away and other parts get deposited.

This isn’t terra firma, it’s terra moving all over the place!

the web address for the article above is
https://www.abelard.org/news/useless_facts0701.php#terra_firma_230207

come up and see my etchings, darlin’!

This section is dedicated to the many useless facts that we collect in our travels. Warning: your brain may run out of room for useful information!

Variations of “do you want to come and see my etchings?” are well known corny lines used by ‘lecherous’ men to lure ‘innocent’ women into their lairs. I very much doubt that such a line has even been used in earnest, rather than as a comical device:

“Wycherley's The Country Wife, a woman protests to her husband that she has merely been showing the lusty Horner her 'collection of china'. (Act IV, scene 3). I wonder if this could be the ultimate source, as it has been termed 'the best known scene in Restoration comedy.' “The play was first performed in 1675.”

And a few years later:

“in Susannah Centlivre's comedy, 'The Man's Bewitched' (1710), Act III, where Belinda, Maria, Constant and Lovely are in the study, and Lovely exclaims, 'Interrogating! Nay, then 'tis proper to be alone; there is a very pretty Collection of Prints in the next Room, Madam, will you give me leave to explain them to you?' Maria answers, 'Any Thing that may divert your Love.'”

I’m reliably informed that in Italy they use butterfly collections, instead of etchings, to lure their ‘blushing virgins’:

Vuoi vedere la mia collezione di farfalla?

I’m less reliably informed that the Germans also go fishing with butterfly collections, which collections they apparently call “schmetterlingsammlung”.

Knowledge you can use!

the web address for the article above is
https://www.abelard.org/news/useless_facts0701.php#etchings_130207

mountains

This section is dedicated to the many useless facts that we collect in our travels. Warning: your brain may run out of room for useful information!

The glaciers are melting. This is taking weight off the mountains. This allows the mountains to rebound upwards. Thus the mountains are growing!

Meanwhile, those silly enough to climb up too high are prone to getting altitude sickness. The symptoms are very similar to those of asthma.

the web address for the article above is
https://www.abelard.org/news/useless_facts0701.php#mountains_050207

the arctic tern

This section is dedicated to the many useless facts that we collect in our travels. Warning: your brain may run out of room for useful information!

The Arctic tern is one serious tourist. Like any good tourist, it prefers the summer. Therefore, he stays in the Arctic during the summer - the land of the midnight sun - and as the sun goes south, he packs his bags and flies all the way to the Antarctic, for more midnight sun. This is the longest known animal migration.

I wonder if I should get cabins in Norway and New Zealand, and follow the tern for everlasting sunshine. However, I don’t I’ll go the final miles and sit on an iceflow.

... I wonder why it is called a ‘tern’ - when it got to the Antarctic and started to fly back again, I wonder if it should have been called a ‘re-tern’. I wonder where it started from, from the Arctic or from the Antarctic.. and where it got the idea! How did it know there was a South Pole, or a North Pole?!

the web address for the article above is
https://www.abelard.org/news/useless_facts0701.php#arctic_tern_300107

wet silk - the auroran sunset

This section is dedicated to the many useless facts that we collect in our travels. Warning: your brain may run out of room for useful information!

The Japanese word for “a false accusation” literally means “soaking wet silk”:

濡れ衣[1]
[nureginu]

If Mr.A were to falsely accuse Mr.B of something, Mr.A is said to have made Mr.B wear that soaking wet silk:

AさんがBさんに濡れ衣を着せた。
[A-san ga B-san ni nureginu o kiseta.]
[“Mr.A falsely accused Mr.B.”]

So, if you want to falsely accuse someone in Japan - something I’m sure many of you have always wanted to do - please remember to take some silk and some water with you.

Most Japanese characters/kanji have more than one way to read them out loud. This can lead to some confusion!

The kanji, , in the above idiom normally means ‘cloth’, or sometimes more generally ‘clothes’. That kanji is almost always vocalised as “koromo”, not as “kinu”, which latter means ‘silk’. When the ‘silk’ spoken reading is used, which only happens in a few idioms, the kanji is always taken to mean ‘clothes’ with no implication of silkness. Thus, by falsely accusing someone, you are making them wear wet clothes, not wet silk. So much for poetry!

The usual kanji for silk is . The spoken reading of as ‘silk’ (“kinu”) in various idioms is almost certainly an anachronism, and does not appear in most dictionaries! Why this would be is unclear. Even in the period when this idiom was formed, silk clothes were the province of the rich and powerful. Thus the people who thought up the idiom would be unlikely to assume that “clothes” means “silk clothes”. Even looking at the myth behind the idiom, there is no reason to think that a meaning of ‘silk’ is implied.

Here is that myth as told by one of my dictionaries:

A stepmother who hated a previous wife's daughter deliberately placed a fisherman's wet clothes in her step-daughter's bedroom. The father saw the wet clothes and assumed his daughter's 'honour' damaged, and so killed her.

What a world!

Another useless fact I bet you always wanted to know.

You should be seeing Japanese characters. If you aren’t and you want to, you will need to install Japanese fonts. Here is where you can download a Japanese language pack for the Mozilla Firefox browser. You will also need to have your browser’s “character encoding” set to UTF-8 - your browser should have already done that bit for you.

the web address for the article above is
https://www.abelard.org/news/useless_facts0701.php#wet_silk_300107

la vache! - the auroran sunset

This section is dedicated to the many useless facts that we collect in our travels. Warning: your brain may run out of room for useful information!

The French have a few amusing idioms based on unflattering comparisons to cows (les vaches).

If you wish to call someone gormless, or suggest that they look gone out, you could say:

Vous avez l'air d'une vache qui regarde passer un train.

That means “you have the air of a cow who is watching a passing train”. Meanwhile, if you wish to be very modest about your French ability, or just be accurate, you could say:

Je parle français comme une vache espagnole.

That means “I speak French like a Spanish cow”. Meanwhile, if you wish to suggest somebody is going through hard times, you could say:

Ils mangent de la vache enragée.

That means “they eat of the rabid cow”. This pre-dates the BSE/CJD scares, which just goes to prove that “Mad Cow Disease” was a French plot!

The title for this item is literally “the cow!”, which - much like in English - is an unflattering way to describe someone of whose actions you do not approve. Meanwhile the French police are not known as “the pigs” as in English, but as “les vaches”, or “the cows”.

Bet you always wanted to know that.

the web address for the article above is
https://www.abelard.org/news/useless_facts0701.php#french_cows_280107

not all green leaves are equal

This is the first in a new section dedicated to the many useless facts that we collect in our travels. Warning: your brain may run out of room for useful information!

Today I was told that plants that live in cold climates have dark green leaves, so that they can absorb more warmth from the sun. And some such plants’ leaves grow brighter and darker as the seasons change, to improve photosynthesis. Apparently that’s why so many conifers have dark green leaves.

Whoever invented this weird place seems to have thought of everything!

the web address for the article above is
https://www.abelard.org/news/useless_facts0701.php#green_leaves_280107