Sunday, January 30, 2011

"And one kitchen blender" -- miscellanea

1. Get away from it all at the Wild Ass Homestay in Tibet. If you're lucky your expenses might be paid by the Ass Meat Research Group. (The comments on the latter post are quite good. See also here for an explanation.)

1'. In Wild Ass comments, Victor Mair mentions that "dashlar/tashlar" are Turkic words for "stone." (This looks like a mix-up, I think he meant to comment on this other -- fascinating but less "neat" -- post.) There is an apparent cognate in Beijing dialect, and Mair speculates on possible Turkic influence... but of course what came first to my mind was the English word "ashlar" for paving stones, which -- although its etymology isn't satisfying -- derives from previous English words for "axle" and such and has nothing to do with Turkic.

2. Slate has an interesting and gross article -- the kind that belongs in a Mary Roach book -- about fecal transplants as a cure for recurrent intestinal diseases that arise when antibiotics kill off almost all the bacteria in your intestines and the surviving (mostly evil) ones proliferate in the resulting bacterial vacuum.
And then there's the do-it-yourself crowd. All you need is a bottle of saline, a 2-quart enema bag, and one standard kitchen blender. Mike Silverman, a University of Toronto physician who wrote up a guide to homespun fecal transplants for the journal Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology, says it's entirely safe to do the procedure this way

3. Via Jeremy, a clever article in the latest issue of Science explains how one can make "isotopes of hydrogen" that are substantially heavier than tritium. The idea is to replace one of the electrons in helium-4 with a muon, which is basically similar to an electron but much heavier. The muon, being much heavier, orbits much closer to the nucleus than the electron does (it is more "classical" and has less spread), so the electron effectively sees a nucleus that's got one positive charge but the mass of (say) a helium-4 atom.

4. I have been meaning to post/link to this William Dunbar poem for some time now. If you can read Late Middle Scots or tolerate looking at the glossary, it is a wonderful bit of work... it is also notable, among other things, for being (a) the first OED entry for "fuck" and (b) the only poem that had to be expurgated from library editions of Auden's Book of Light Verse. Though technically in Scots dialect it's mostly in baby-talk and onomatopoeia:
Quod he: "My kid, my capirculyoun,
My bony baib with the ruch brylyoun,
My tendir gyrle, my wallie gowdye,
My tyrlie myrlie, my crowdie mowdie,
Quhone that oure mouthis dois meit at ane,
My stang dois storkyn with your towdie:
Ye brek my hairt, my bony ane."

5. John Quiggin's musings on the Egypt question are somewhat thought-provoking:
The idea that the US can legitimately use its military power to ensure continued access to oil resources rests, in large measure, on the (not entirely unfounded) assumption that those controlling the resources are a bunch of sheikhs and military adventurers who happened to be in the right place, with guns, at the right time. Without the Arab exception, the idea of oil as a special case, not subject to the ordinary assumption that resources are the property of the people in whose country they are found, will also be hard to sustain.

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