Sunday, February 26, 2006

Apple #152: Treating the Common Cold

  • Most colds last about 1 week, but some can last for as long as 2 weeks. Some especially persistent symptoms like a nagging cough can last for several weeks.
  • Commonly available "remedies" such as zinc tablets, echinacea, or other herbal concoctions have not been shown to have conclusively beneficial effects on colds.
  • Antibiotics are not appropriate treatment for colds. Colds are caused by viruses, not bacteria. Giving someone antibiotics for a cold is like hitting someone over the head when they complain of a toothache. It's not going to help; in fact, it's only going to make things worse. Taking antibiotics needlessly will reduce the effectiveness of antibiotics in the long run, when you might actually need them.
  • The best thing to do for colds is still to get plenty of rest, drink lots of fluids, and avoid vigorous activity.
  • While going back to school or work early might make your employers happy in the short run, that delight will be short-lived because chances are, you'll probably give your cold to your fellow employees or schoolmates. People with colds can be contagious for up to 3 weeks.
  • Taking decongestants or cough suppressants will do nothing to prevent, cure, or even shorten your cold. At best, they will help you function well enough so that you can go out into the world and probably hand your cold off to someone else.
  • If someone with a cold does inflict their mucus on you, the best thing to do to keep yourself from getting sick is to wash your hands as soon as possible. Using antibacterial soap probably won't have the effect you want, again, because colds are caused by viruses, not bacteria. Any old regular soap will do.

I will not feel guilty for staying home and not giving this cold to the people I work with!

Kids, Infections: Common Cold
Fact Monster, The Common Cold
Aetna InteliHealth, Health A to Z, Common Cold (Viral Rhinitis)

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Apple #151: Skin

I know I haven't been exactly snappy with the new apples lately. Part of that is because I've been watching the Olympics every night. I've seen some pretty impressive feats each night. Another reason for the lack of posts is that now, I'm sick. Nothing serious, just a cold, but I've been so wiped out from it that I haven't been able to do much more than sleep and stare at the TV screen. If there are strange mistakes in this entry (or like how I accidentally deleted nearly this entire entry just before I was about to post it), it's because I'm too out of it to catch them.

But I wanted to post something on the subject of skin because I've been thinking about it for quite a while. Marveling, actually. At skin.

Think about how many times in a day you wash your hands. Unlike fabric, the skin doesn't shrink. And if you use some lotion to put back a little of the moisture you've taken away, you'd never know you just washed your hands for the eighth or the eighteenth time that day. Can you say that about any fabric you can think of?

And your skin dries so fast, and easily. You just wipe it off, and it's dry. There's absolutely no fabric that can do that. The only thing I can think of that does that is something like linoleum, but you'd never want that covering your body because pretty soon you'd start sweating so hard you couldn't stand it. And how could you ever pick anything up with linoleum fingers?

And could you imagine a shirt that sewed itself back together if you tore it? That would be really handy, wouldn't it? Well, your skin can do that: fix itself! I think that's pretty fantastic.

Skin does have a problem with the sun in that it can burn if it's exposed for too long, but fabrics will fade if they're in the sun too long. It's also pretty easy to scrape skin if you skid across pavement or something like that, and a fabric like denim or even leather would resist that sort of thing better (which is why motorcyclists tend to like wearing denim and leather, besides the fact that it makes them look bad-ass).

But your skin does so many more great things:
  • It replenishes itself. It's always making new skin cells below the surface. Every day we lose somewhere between 43 million to 57 million skin cells per day. That's 30,000 to 40,000 skin cells per minute. And just as they flake off, they're replaced by new cells. All the time.
  • Your skin is also waterproof. When you put your hand in water, or even take a shower or a bath, you don't get all puffed up with water and sloggy and waterlogged. Instead, the water just slicks off you. This is because of the oils that are produced in your skin's glands. Yes, there are waterproof fabrics, but how reliable is that waterproofing? How long does it stay waterproofed? For a lifetime, or for just a few months? And can those waterproof fabrics do everything else your skin does?
  • In spite of keeping out water, your skin can absorb other things. Like antibiotics in ointments, or medicine on patches that you wear next to your skin. Or even moisturizers or lotions or sunscreen. Notice what happens when you rub one of these types of lotion onto your skin and then get some of it on your shirt. You have to wipe it off your shirt, and what will you use to wipe it off? Your bare finger.
  • As most of us already know, skin also helps to regulate your body temperature. When you get too hot, the sweat glands kick in and start producing sweat to get rid of extra heat and also water that will evaporate and cool you off. When you get too cold, the blood vessels in your skin contract and shrink away from the surface of the skin to try to keep you warmer. What fabrics can adjust themselves automatically to the temperature like this?
  • It's true that your skin is vulnerable to the mighty sun, but skin does contain melanin which tries to protect your skin as much as it can. Melanin turns the skin darker the longer your skin is exposed to the sun, to try to keep it from getting burned. And then some people even have extra enzymes that repair the damage caused by sunburns. Fabrics might help to keep the light of the sun away from our skin, but they sure can't repair any problems that occur as a result of too much sunlight.
  • Your skin is also thicker and tougher where you need it to be, such as on the bottoms of your feet and the palms of your hands. It doesn't grow hair here, and it is thicker to help your grip things or get traction. Most fabrics that we wear are not, in themselves, of varything thicknesses. Rather, we buy different types of fabrics for different parts of our bodies: shoes for our feet and much thinner and more pliable pants for our legs.
  • What's maybe the best part of all is that your skin is sensitive. It tells you things. It can tell you whether something is hot or cold, sure, but it also tells you if something is scratchy or sticky or soft or fuzzy or tickly or smooth. If instead of skin, we were all covered in a wet suit or a layer of wool or even cotton, think how boring things like beard stubble or old gum or puppy fur or a knit scarf or a feather boa or a river stone would be.
Thanks, skin! Now, if it could just get rid of this cold for me...

Sources, The Whole Story on Skin, last updated December 2004
Wikipedia, Skin

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Apple #150: Polarized Lenses

I just got some new sunglasses, and I had the lenses polarized. I've tried on polarized sunglasses before and didn't really see what the big deal is, but I trusted that it would do things that would be helpful for my eyes.

Now that I have a pair, though, I'm not sure I like them. They make everything yellow -- or at least the pair that I have does -- and this makes things seem brighter to me, not less bright. Also, I think polarization is supposed to reduce the glare of light when it glances off of surfaces, but I felt like I was getting shafts of light zinging into my eyeball all over the place.

So, how exactly does polarization work? Have I gotten myself a shoddy pair of sunglasses, or am I just too attached to my previous pair of sunglasses to recognize a good thing when it's right in front of my face?

  • Light is bouncing all over the place all the time. Light from the sun, light from lamps, reflected light, etc. These lightwaves are zinging and bouncing everywhere in all directions all the time.
  • Many types of surfaces can filter these random lightwaves so that only the lightwaves traveling in one particular plane can get through. When this filtering happens, it's called polarization.
  • The surface of a lake, for example, polarizes light waves. Most of the time, all you can see is the reflected glare off the surface, or light that does not make it through the filter that is the water. Sometimes, if you change your angle of vision relative to the surface of the lake, you can see better down into the water. This is because you are putting yourself closer in line with the path that the polarized light is taking through the water.
  • Polarized lenses have a chemical film that changes the way light travels after it strikes the lens. The lenses therefore will filter out any light that strikes the lens at the "wrong" angle.
  • Most of the glare that we find irritating or even painful is reflected light that bounces off chrome on cars or mirrors or water or the like. These surfaces are considered to be horizontal surfaces, and the light that bounces off those surfaces is similarly considered horizontal light. And because the surfaces tend to send the lightwaves that come toward it bouncing back in pretty much the same direction, those lightwaves have been polarized. So, all together, the annoying glares are all essentially horizontally polarized light.

  • The film on polarized lenses is structured so that it will filter out horizontally polarized light but will let in vertically polarized light. The thinking is that the glasses will remove the worst of glares but will still allow enough light to see by.

Two pair of polarized sunglasses placed at 90 degrees to each other will effectively block all light. (Image from Dave Jarvis' pages on Quantum Entanglement)

  • According to Howstuffworks, you can test lenses that are supposedly polarized. Hold the glasses in front of a reflective surface. The example they use is the hood of a car. I tried this with light coming through a juice glass and striking the counter, and also light from a desk lamp striking its base in a certain spot. Okay, with the glasses held in front of shiny places like these, rotate the glasses at least 90 degrees. You should see the glare diminish as you rotate. For a graphic that shows what is supposed to happen, go here and scroll down to the part on polarization.
  • When I tried this, I didn't notice any difference at all in the glare. I'm not convinced that this means that my sunglasses aren't actually polarized, however. When I was wearing them yesterday, I saw oily blotches on my back windshield that I wasn't able to see while wearing my regular glasses. Also when I drove past chain link fences, I felt like I could see through every little diamond-shaped opening in the fence.
  • Another website shows the difference between pictures taken with a polarized lens and pictures taken without it. In the pictures with the lens, the glare still existed, but it was quite reduced. So maybe I'm just being too demanding in thinking that my glasses should do more to cut the glare than they really can. But the way they turn everything yellow. It makes me squint.
  • Lots of people say that polarized lenses are great for activities like fishing because you can see more fish under the water with them. Other people say they cause lots of problems when riding motorcycles, especially if you have a helmet with a face shield.
  • So it looks like most people really like polarized lenses and that they do notice a pretty big, positive difference. I think this means maybe I'm just reluctant to change, or else that maybe I'd prefer a darker tint on my glasses as well as polarization. But I think I'll have to reserve that for another pair of sunglasses later in my hopefully more affluent future. For now, I think I'm just going to return these and get my money back.
Howstuffworks, How Sunglasses Work, especially the section on Polarization
Erin Morgan, Polarized Sunglasses, All About
Tackle Tour, Apparel Review, Action Optics Seyschelle
Back Country Outlet, Polarized Sunglasses
Sport Forums, problems with polarized glasses
Carnegie Mellon University, Robotic Search for Antarctic Meteorites, 1998

Friday, February 17, 2006

Apple #149: J.D. Salinger

So I'm reading a J.D. Salinger book, Franny and Zooey. I'm enjoying it very much. I've read it a few times before, but I feel like this time through is the first time I've really understood it. There's a lot of description of the Glass family, how they were on a whiz kids radio quiz show, and that they were a big family, and everyone was very smart, but that this made them each feel isolated in some way.

I'm wondering, as I have before, if the Salinger family was anything like the Glass family. I'm also wondering what's the latest on Mr. Salinger. Everyone says he's essentially a hermit and completely incommunicado. But is this still true? Has anything changed?

First, the connections between the Salingers and the Glass family.

  • Salinger grew up in Manhattan / the Glass family apartment is in Manhattan
  • Salinger's father was a Jewish importer of Kosher cheese / Glass father is Jewish
  • Salinger's mother was Scotch-Irish / Glass mother is Irish
  • Young Jerome was often called Sonny / Narrator of Franny and Zooey is called Buddy
  • Salinger was a devotee of a particular study of Hindu mysticism, and also studied Zen Buddhism extensively / Quite a few members of the Glass family are well-versed in Buddhist, Hindu, and other mystical texts.
I know it's sort of pointless to draw parallels between a character in a book and the author. I understand that you can never say, "This character is the author," or anything even close to that. But I do like to know what the similarities are.

Some little facts about Salinger that I found interesting include:

  • He was drafted into the infantry during World War II and was involved in the invasion of Normandy. He was also involved in a battle at Hürtgenwald, a particularly bloody and horrific battle. Not surprisingly, he was hospitalized briefly for stress after this experience.
  • According to one biography, "he played poker with other aspiring writers, but was considered a sour character who won all the time."
It's difficult to ascertain what Salinger is doing these days, as I figured it would be. He's been in retreat mode since the late 1960's. That's right around the time his work stopped appearing in public.

Here's the list of his publications, and then we'll look at what's happened since:

Briefly, here is an outline of some of the major events in his life aside from his books:

  • 1953 - bought a house in Cornish, NH and has lived there ever since
  • 1955 - married for the second time
  • 1967 - second marriage ended in divorce
  • 1972 - Joyce Maynard, public figure and long-time fan of Salinger, had an affair with him that lasted less than a year and then publicized it
  • 1974 - told a New York Times reporter that he still writes, but only for himself
  • 1980s - third marriage, to Colleen O'Neill
  • 1992 - his house in New Hampshire caught fire, and though reporters sought him out for interviews, he managed to duck them
  • 1997 - announced that a book called Hapworth 16, 1924 would soon be published. The book was actually to be a re-publication of a novella-length story he had published previously in the 1960s. However, publication was delayed two years and then was not released. It is likely that the book was withdrawn because its author preferred to avoid the publicity.

  • Born in 1919, J.D. Salinger will be 87 this year.
  • UPDATE: Today, January 28, 2010, Salinger died.  He was 91. 

The whole business of him aging shocked me.  He is, in my mind, always a little bit older than Holden.  The idea of Holden at 87 years old, or 91 years old seems impossible.
    (Photo from Synaesthesia Press)

    (Photo from Planet Video)

    See?  Isn't that transition startling?  Doesn't it seem kind of wrong?

    When I initially did this entry, I didn't have any pictures of Salinger himself because I figured he would have preferred it that way.  Talk about his books, not about him.

    Now that he's died, it seems imperative to accept the fact that he was a real person, not just a bodiless voice eternally telling stories, but a bona fide human being.  Not only is it possible for him to age, he's already done that and he's gone ahead and died, besides.

    Still.  It seems pretty unreal.

    Update, January 2010: Swedish author Frederik Colting has written what he calls a sequel to The Catcher in the Rye. Salinger's estate has finally agreed to let him publish it, but he can't sell it in the U.S. or Canada. The publisher describes it as a "speculative psychological mystery."  Sounds pretty unpalatable. I don't think it'll bother me one bit that I won't be able to buy a copy.

    Pegasos, a Finnish literature site, J(erome) D(avid) Salinger, Biographical FAQ (apparently, this site gets hacked into a lot, so you may be unlucky if you try to view it)
    Wikipedia, J.D. Salinger
    Lacy Fosburgh, "J.D. Salinger Speaks About His Silence,"
    The New York Times, November 3, 1974
    Michiko Kakutani, "From Salinger, A New Dash of Mystery,"
    The New York Times, February 20, 1997
    Larissa MacFarquhar, "The Cult of Joyce Maynard,"
    The New York Times Magazine, September 6, 1998

    Monday, February 13, 2006

    Apple #148: The Olympic Theme Song

    I've been watching a lot of the Olympics lately. I really like the winter Olympics, because all the events are at least a little bit insane: Let's go skiing cross-country as fast as we can, and then stop and stand perfectly still, shoot at little bitty targets 50 meters away, and then take off and ski as fast as we can some more and see who wins. Or, I know, let's get on a sled face-first and go down a chute of ice at 80 miles per hour, with our faces 3 inches away from the ice! Or, no, wait, how about this: let's go up to the top of a 3-mile-high mountain, with loads of super-steep slopes, and get on a pair of brand-new skis and ski down it at 80 miles per hour!

    Nuts. Absolutely nuts. And people from all different parts of the world are doing these things fantastically well. I love it.

    Anyway, so the TV is playing the Olympic theme song all over the place. It's a pretty good tune. Commanding, catchy, you could put various words to it if you wanted to. I got to wondering, who wrote it? Is it something that some TV network came up with, and will it disappear in a few years to be replaced by some other advertising-type thing? Or is this an actual song somebody wrote?

    • Finding the answer to this question was incredibly confusing because there are about ninety-five kajillion things called Olympic Song or Olympic Theme or Olympic Anthem or Olympic Hymn. And all but two of those are not the song I'm thinking of.
    • Each year's Olympics has its own theme song, composed by a different person. The Olympic Committee of the host city solicits entries -- apparently anyone can submit a song -- and they choose their favorite. That song becomes the theme of that year's Olympics. The songs all have different titles that sound very stirring. But none of these are the song I'm thinking of.
    • There is also the Olympic Anthem. This was written in 1896 by Greek composer Spiros Samaras, and it has lyrics, written by a Greek poet. It was the official song of the Olympics until 1912, and then for a period of time they tried out other songs, but then it was reinstated to its celebrated position in 1960. It's quite stately and slow, and it is played when the Olympic flag is raised at the opening ceremonies. It is considered the official song of the Olympics and has the same standing as a national anthem. But this is not the song they play all the time on TV.
    • The song I'm thinking of -- if I've got this right -- is written by John Williams. But this should not be confused with the Olympic song he wrote in 2002. That one was just for the 2002 Olympics and is titled, "Call of the Champions." That has lots of brass and percussion, but it also features the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. This is not the song I'm thinking of, either.
    • The song I'm thinking of is the "Olympic Fanfare and Theme." That "and Theme" part is important.
    • The Fanfare: This trumpet-featuring fanfare was part of a suite called Bugler's Dream, written by composer Leo Arnaud in the 1930s. In 1968, ABC started using it in their televised broadcasts. The fanfare uses full brass playing thirty-second notes with a snare drum providing accents. Then a commanding response from trumpets kicks in, the snare drum gets going, and the whole thing crescendos to its finish. It is fairly brief.
    • The Theme: People had come to associate the fanfare very strongly with the Olympics, so when the Olympic Organizing Committee in Los Angeles asked John Williams to write a theme song for the 1984 Olympics, they told him to make sure it wouldn't compete with the Arnaud Fanfare, but that it would merge and correspond with it.
    • John Williams, by the way, is the same guy who wrote the Star Wars music. He also wrote the scores to Jaws, E.T., and Schindler's List. Pretty much every movie theme song you can hum to yourself, he wrote it. Recent movies for which he wrote the scores include Memoirs of a GeishaMunich.
    • Back to 1984. Williams was also told that the song he wrote would need to be easy to break into chunks for the purposes of leading a TV viewer into and out of commercials. Which is why it seems like there may be four or five different Olympic songs that the TV station is using. In fact, it's one song, and they're taking bits from various parts of it. The whole thing worked so well that even though it was written for 1984 ceremonies, TV stations still use it today.
    • So, here's what the theme sounds like: It has a much broader, more stately tempo than the fanfare. It also uses many more instruments, including timpani, woodwinds and strings, trumpets, glockenspiel, tuba, vibraphone, harp, and triangle. The part that I think we hear most often begins with the timpani playing a high note, then two quick lower notes, then a high note, and then the brass ring in.

    If you're interested in looking up these songs on iTunes, the titles there are sort of vague and tricky, so here's what you'll find if you type in various phrases:

    • Olympic Fanfare - One version is the short, 35-second original Arnaud fanfare (performed by somebody else, of course). Other versions seem to include both the fanfare and the theme, since they are much longer. I recommend the version by the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra as likely being the most complete.
    • Olympic Theme - This will get you all kinds of songs, most of which are not even close to what you're looking for. The one song most relevant in this list is the Olympic Theme, performed by Frederick Fennell & The Cleveland Symphonic Winds. Apparently, this is only the theme part of the music, without the fanfare. Also, if you look closely into the results of this search, you'll see John Williams' 2002 theme song, but this is one of the rogue variants.
    • Olympic Anthem - this pulls up New Age versions of the anthem written by Samaras. I have no idea if this music resembles the original or not, though you can hear a translation of the text being recited.
    • Olympic Hymn - this gets you one song, called "Hymn to New England." It's by John Williams (what didn't this guy write?), but again, it's not the one we're after.
    • Olympic Song - a bunch of crap that sort of looks close, but nothing is really what we're after.
    • Olympic Fanfare and Theme - zero hits.

    So my suggestion, if you're searching iTunes for the song they play all the time on TV before the Olympics, is to search for either "olympic fanfare" or "olympic theme."

    Sheesh. That's way more confusing than it ought to be. Can't somebody give these songs some titles that are a little more distinctive?

    Let's go back to thinking about just the Olympics themselves, and the skating, and the skiing, and the sledding...

    NBC's Olympic website (which rocks, by the way)
    John Williams Web Pages, Olympic Fanfare and Theme
    Wikipedia, Olympic Symbols, especially the subsection titled Fanfare and Theme
    Hennepin County Library's Fugitive Fact File, Olympic Games - Symbols & Music
    William K. Guegold, "Volunteerism and Olympic music venues," paper presented at Volunteers, Global Society and the Olympic Movement symposium, November 1999.
    Eric Deignan, "Music and the Olympic Spirit," WOSU's Air Fare
    Wikipedia, Olympic Anthem

    Thursday, February 9, 2006

    Apple #147: James Earl Jones

    The other day I read in a book that James Earl Jones used to have a terrible stutter when he was a kid. Stutter? I thought, James Earl Jones? How could this be? He has The Voice!

    First, let's list some of his more notable achievements, all of which require, almost entirely or in large part, his ability to speak well and clearly:

    • Obie Award for best actor in Off-Broadway Theater for performances in Bertolt Brecht's Baal and Shakespeare's Othello. (could you imagine, an Othello who stutters?)
    • Tony Award for his portrayal of Jack Johnson in The Great White Hope in 1968 and an Oscar for his role in the film in 1970.
    • Golden Globe award for most promising male newcomer in 1971.
    • Tony award for his performance in August Wilson's drama Fences.
    • Screen debut in Dr. Strangelove in 1963.
    • First established celebrity to appear on Sesame Street.
    • Portrayed a South African minister condemned to death in Cry, the Beloved Country.
    • Played author Alex Haley in Roots miniseries.
    • Provides the voice of King Mufasa in The Lion King.
    • His is the voice that says, over and over every day, "This is . . . CNN."
    • Emmy award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series, Gabriel's Fire.
    • Emmy award for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Miniseries or Special, Heat Wave.
    • Daytime Emmy award for Outstanding Performer in a Children's Special, Summer's End.
    • National Medal of Arts award, for outstanding contributions to cultural life in the United States.
    • Perhaps most important of all, his is the voice of Darth Vader in Star Wars films. (and what if Darth Vader stuttered?)
    • Oh, and by the way, he declined to have his name listed in the credits for Star Wars and Empire Strikes Back because he thought he didn't contribute all that much. He agreed to let his name be listed in the credits for Return of the Jedi, though.
    And it wasn't just a little stammer he used to have, either. It was a big-time stutter and lasted for years.

    • He was born in Mississippi and raised by his grandparents on a farm that had been in the family since post-Civil War Reconstruction.
    • But then, when he was nearly 5, his family moved from Mississippi to Dublin, Michigan. The abrupt change in everything he had known freaked him out, essentially, and he developed an incapacitating stutter.
    • For years, he barely spoke more than a few words, even to his family. At school, he didn't speak at all and let people think he was mute. He communicated only by writing.
    • However, secretly he was also writing poetry as a way to let out what he was holding back. In high school, a teacher of his, Donald Crouch, assigned everyone in the class to write a poem. Jones wrote his "Ode to Grapefruit," celebrating the citrus fruit distributed by the federal government during World War II (which was underway at the time). His poem was written in meter and was very impressive.
    • His teacher suspected that Jones could be drawn out of his shell and so pretended to think that Jones could not have written the poem himself. So he challenged Jones to prove it was his by reciting it before the class. "It's a shame you can't say those words out loud if you love them so much," is what he said to Jones. With the words already memorized, Jones spoke clearly, with no stutter.
    • He embarked on a rigorous program to help himself improve his speaking abilities, and his teacher also encouraged him to join his school debate team and compete in public speaking contests. He won one of those contests and also a scholarship to the University of Michigan.
    • Though he planned on studying medicine in college, he was drawn to the theater and that became his major.
    • After graduating, he served as an Army Ranger, and then moved to New York to pursue acting.
    • It took some rough years of scrubbing floors to earn the rent and lots of auditions before his first real break came in 1961 when he gave an intense, acclaimed performance in Jean Genet's absurdist play, The Blacks.
    • For the rest, see the list above.
    He says he thinks of himself as a stutterer to this day, and that it is something he always has to overcome.

    In this photo from Cal State Fullerton, he's holding the two Emmy Awards he won in 1991.

    Now that I know something of his childhood, I can't help thinking that in this picture, he's smiling like a very happy boy, holding the two best ice cream cones in the world.

    Academy of Achievement, James Earl Jones Biography and Profile, James Earl Jones, actor
    IMDB, Awards for James Earl Jones and Biography for James Earl Jones
    "James Earl Jones calls speech impediment 'ironic,'" CTV News, October 3, 2002.
    "Art should be brave . . . it should transcend," interview with James Earl Jones, by Steve Hammer,
    NUVO Newsweekly, January 11, 1996.

    Tuesday, February 7, 2006

    Apple #146: Cornish Copper Miners

    So I have this cookbook that my mom got at some rummage sale someplace and gave to me years ago. It's The New York Times Heritage Cook Book by Jean Hewitt, and I absolutely love it. My copy was published in 1972, but a much newer version is still available. It's arranged by region of the country: Southwest, Midwest, South, etc. So you might find three different recipes for standard things like banana bread, and you pick the one that sounds best to you. And because this copy is pretty ancient, it's got all sorts of delightfully weird stuff in it like Tripe Stew and Venison Ragout, and Scrapple, and many of the recipes call for lard or bacon fat, but of course you can substitute margarine or whatever else for that stuff.

    Anyway, this cookbook has been a tremendous gold mine. I have discovered recipes for Orange-Glazed Sweet Potatoes, Sweet and Sour Green Beans, and another recipe for cole slaw that is I think the best cole slaw I have ever had. But yesterday I found in this book something else entirely.

    I have had this cookbook for at least a decade, but only yesterday did I discover a piece of paper with a recipe, handwritten in pencil, called "Pastry for 4 pasties," and on the back, instructions for how to make the filling. In case you're not familiar with pasties, they're like meat pies, and they originate from England, specifically, Cornwall. The word pasty rhymes with last.

    You can order Cornish pasties like these from Cornwall Flag

    Most interesting to me on this found item is the note written at the top of the recipe:

    Cousin "Jenny" & C. "Jack" = Cornish names for people who came to UP [Upper Peninsula of Michigan] between 1850 & 1890 to work in copper & iron mines. Brought the pasty (Mrs. Pearl Brailey - dtr. of Cornish miner - lives near 1st MI. mine (the Jackson).

    The Upper Peninsula (UP) has a lot of people of Cornish background? Why were they called "cousin"? More information, please.

    • First of all, Cornwall is a part of England, which, much like Ireland and Wales, was invaded and taken over by the Anglo-Saxons. It's the little tail that sticks out from the mainland of England, and though it looks like just your basic peninsula, it's actually separated from the rest of the mainland by a river.

    Map from the Penzance Travel Guide pages

    Now to the mining and the history.

    • According to an article from the BBC, Europeans in general migrated in droves in the 19th century. In Cornwall in particular, 20% of the Cornish male population migrated abroad from Cornwall, in each decade from 1861 to 1901. That amounts to over a quarter of a million people who left Cornwall in 40 years.
    • Most of the working men of Cornwall had been making their living mining for copper, but the mines were starting to run out. So the men left, looking for other places to work and earn a living. By 1866, the mines were really scraping bottom, there were far fewer people in Cornwall to dig up what little was left, and the price of copper crashed.
    • Cornish men traveled all over the world, looking for gold, silver, and copper to mine. Not only did they go to North America, but they went to Latin America, Peru, the Transvaal, and the "Cornish triangle" in Australia.
    • The Cornish were among the best, if not the best, at mining in the world. They had developed new, highly respected mining technologies and they were often heavily recruited to work in other people's mines. The best workers were paid $3.50 per day. Once they started working and making tremendous progress in the mines, some regions even built statues in honor of the Cornish miners.
    • Actually, the Cornish were not strangers to traveling, even before the copper mines at home began to play out. In previous centuries, Cornish fishermen had traveled to Newfoundland to trade, some had gone as far as Caribbean plantations where they served as indentured servants, and in 1770, a group of Cornish miners was recruited to inspect the copper deposits around Lake Superior.
    • Wherever they settled, the Cornish formed very strong communities and continued with their regular pastimes: wrestling, singing their Cornish carols to brass bands at Christmastime, and eating pasties and saffron cakes. Many communities where the Cornish originally settled still carry on with these same traditions.
    • Some -- but probably not even half -- of the communities where the Cornish established a very strong presence that still exists today:
      • Grass Valley, California
      • Nevada City, California
      • Keewenaw Peninsula, Michigan, near Lake Superior
      • Mineral Point, Wisconsin
      • Lancaster County, Pennsylvania (first iron furnace in the County)
      • Salt Lake City, Utah (the Cornish superintended construction of Temple Square)
      • Wallaroo, Moonta, and Kadina, Australia (a.k.a. the Copper Triangle)
      • Cornwall County, Jamaica, (the western third of the island)
      • Johannesburg, South Africa
    • A lot of the miners searching for gold in the California gold rush were Cornish. Possibly the phrase "There's gold in them thar hills" wasn't some sort of hillbilly dialect, but in fact the result of a Cornish accent?
    • As to the "Cousin Jack" phrase, there are two suggestions for its origin:
      • Cornish miners were called "Cousin Jacks" because they were always asking for jobs for their cousins back in Cornwall. I'm not sure I buy this one. If Cornish miners were so highly sought-after and respected for their trade, why would they be seen as begging for jobs?
      • The second suggestion is that the Cornish had a habit of calling each other "cousin," and Jack happened to be the most popular first name among Cornish men at that time. I'm leaning more in favor of this one, since it corresponds well with the fact that the Cornish formed very strong communities no matter where they traveled to. They probably did regard each other as something like family.
    • As far as the last sentence of the note I found:
      • It looks like it's possible that the information about the cousin Jacks and the copper miners was told to whomever wrote the note by a woman named Mrs. Pearl Brailey, who was Cornish herself, or at least the daughter of a miner who was Cornish. That last name Brailey comes up in a lot of genealogical pages as being linked to people who are Cornish.
      • "The Jackson" is the name of an iron mine, operated by The Jackson Iron Company from 1848 to 1855. This was also the site of the first iron forge in the Lake Superior region. The Jackson Iron Company is now defunct, but this region still produces iron today, up to 1/4 of the total amount of iron ore mined each year in the United States.
    • I also came across a song called "Cousin Jack." The chorus makes me think of those who have died in the recent coal mining accidents:
      • Let's drink to every Cornishman wherever they may be,
      • Let's drink to every mining man in every country.
      • Let's drink the health and we'll drink the wealth,
      • As we pass the jug around,
      • Let's drink to every Cornishman who works below the ground.
    Penzance Travel Guide (did you know that Penzance is in Cornwall?)
    BBC Legacies, Immigration and Emigration, I'm alright Jack
    New World Celts, Cornish Mining and Migration
    Cornwall University, The Great Nineteenth Century Cornish Emigration
    California Gold Rush Stories, Cornish Miners Followed Vanishing Gold Underground, by Don Baumgart
    Eagle Harbor, Michigan's web, The Keewenaw Kernewek Parallel Walk, by Jean Ellis, About the Michigan Iron Industry Museum, Negaunee
    Cape Cornwall Singers, Cousin Jack

    Thursday, February 2, 2006

    Apple #145: The Umlaut

    Quite some time ago, Faithful Reader Jim F. asked me by e-mail (he struggled with the Comments feature) if I would do an Apple on the Umlaut. He said that though he wanted to know about its true purpose, he was less interested in serious-heavy-linguistic concerns, and more interested in how it has been used in pop culture, mainly by heavy metal bands.

    As requested, the umlaut:

    • The umlaut is primarily known as a diacritical mark, or a notation made to a particular letter within a word. Specifically, it's two dots like a colon but horizontal instead of vertical, printed above a vowel, as in ü. "Umlaut" is also a more general term for changes in pronunciation that happen to words as they move through parts of speech, but for our purposes, I'll just talk about what happens when you put the mark over the vowels.
    • Mainly the umlaut is used in German, although it appears in other Celtic and Germanic languages, too. In German it is used primarily as a way to indicate a plural noun. To make a German noun into its plural form, put an umlaut over the last vowel before the end of the word, and then add an -e or an -er as a new suffix at the end. This doesn't happen to every noun, but it happens to a lot of them.
    • The umlaut is also used in the same way to make comparative forms of adjectives. For example, in English, the adjective long becomes its comparative form, longer, with the addition of an -er at the end. In German, this is written as lang and länger.
    • The umlaut is also applied to verbs, and it is one way of indicating that the verb is changing tenses. From what I'm reading, it's a little more complex than what happens to nouns and adjectives, so I'll just tell you the umlaut can show up in verbs too, and leave it at that.
    • Phonetically, the umlaut changes the way you pronounce the vowel, so that you make it sound more like the next vowel that comes after it. As with our lang and länger example, the umlautted ä would sound more like the e that's been added.
    • It is also sometimes used over two vowels next to each other. Normally, when you put two vowels next to each other within a word, they become a dipthong, which means they make a new sound together, as in pronounce. But, if you put an umlaut over one of the vowels, this tells people to pronounce the vowels separately, as in coöperate. But most people don't us this notation much anymore.
    • To type umlauts on a PC, hold down the ALT key and type a series of numbers. When you lift up the ALT key, the number will appear on the screen. Umlauts are not used over vowels e or i.
      • ALT+132 = ä
      • ALT+142 = Ä
      • ALT+148 = ö
      • ALT+153 = Ö
      • ALT+129 = ü
      • ALT+154 = Ü
    • Now that we know these facts, let's look at the names of some bands that employ the umlaut. Are they just throwing it in there willy-nilly, or are they actually using it appropriately?
      • Motörhead -- Many sources quote the band's front man as saying that he added the umlaut to make the name look mean.
      • Blue Öyster Cult -- May have pioneered the unnecessary umlaut in 1970.
      • Mötley Crüe -- If you actually pronounced the vowels the way the umlauts are telling you to, you'd wind up with something like "Mertley Crew-e."
      • Queensrÿche -- the umlaut over the y is actually something that does happen in Dutch and is meant to indicate the IJ sound.
      • Lörihen -- they're from Argentina, and all the band members except one have Spanish accents somewhere in their names, and I can't find any translation for this word.
      • Infernäl Mäjesty -- Obviously unnecessary use of the umlauts by this Canadian thrash metal band.
      • Blöödhag -- super unnecessary use of two umlauted o's, but they get points in my book for this categorization of their music: "library/sci-fi metal."
      • Hüsker Dü - without the umlauts, this phrase means, "Do you remember." With the umlauts, it doesn't.
      • Mëtal Slüdge - a heavy metal webzine, but the site is meant to be a parody, so it's a joke.
    • The much-discussed Wikipedia page Heavy Metal Umlaut goes into this investigation in greater depth.
    • P.S. Did you know if you write Dusseldorf without the proper umlaut, instead of indicating the town on the river Düssel, you are actually saying dimwit village?

    (Photo from hit-a-lick-hez's blog)

    Lynne Cahill and Gerald Gazdar, The PolyLex Web Pages, Morphology of German nouns, Umlaut
    Wikipedia, Umlaut, umlaut
    McKinnon Secondary College, How to type German Umlauts
    Jon Udell's, Heavy metal umlaut and Wikipedia's Heavy metal umlaut