Monday, January 31, 2011

Bánh chưng

"Banh Chung" (pronounced bye-ing choong?)

"Banh Chung" or square rice cake is a Vietnamese traditional dish most commonly found during the "Tet" New Year celebration.

Every Vietnamese family must have "Banh Chung" among their offerings to be placed on the ancestors' altars.

One or two days before Tet, the family gather to prepare and cook the rice cakes around the warm fire. "Banh Chung" is made of glutinous rice, pork meat and green bean paste, and is wrapped in a square of "Dong" leaves (rush leaves) giving the rice a green color after boiling for ten hours.

Making the dish requires care and precision. The rice has to be soaked in water for an entire day, the pork meat must include skin and fat,
the green beans must be of the same size and the leaves must be fresh. Squaring off and tying the cakes with bamboo strings require skillfull hands.

During "Tet" New Year, the rice cakes are served with "gio lua" or lean pork pie, and "hanh muoi" or salted sour onions.

Force majeure

Force majeure (French for "superior force"), also known as cas fortuit (French) or casus fortuitus (Latin), is a common clause in contracts that essentially frees both parties from liability or obligation when an extraordinary event or circumstance beyond the control of the parties, such as a war, strike, riot, crime, or an event described by the legal term "act of God" (such as flooding, earthquake, or volcanic eruption), prevents one or both parties from fulfilling their obligations under the contract.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Scheherazade Effect

Language Evolution Theory

Part of the theory that language evovled for essentially social purposes is its possible role in pair-bonding through the Scheherazade Effect involving linguistic skills being used as a cue of mate quality and mates using language to keep each other entertained and ensure their continued commitment to the relationship.

Respecting others' mates or even keeping mates entertained is something that many other species of mammals and birds manage to do without the benefit of language. However, once large social groups are in place, the large number of ever-present rivals greatly raises the stakes and social contracts and Scheherazade mechanisms may suddenly come into their own.

(contrast this with the gossip hypothesis which argues that language was a prerequisite for evolving large groups because of its role as a mechanism needed to weld these large groups into coherent, stable communities of individuals)

Scheherazade & 1001 Nights

You are probably familiar with some of the best-known stories of The Arabian Nights, particularly “Aladdin’s Wonderful Lamp”, “Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves” and “The Seven Voyages of Sinbad the Sailor.” Have you ever heard the tale of Scheherazade and her 1,001 nights? If you want to become desirable, you must do more than work on tightening your glutes and upgrading your cup size, you must take a lesson from Scheherazade.

There once was a king that upon discovering his wife’s infidelity, has her executed and declares all women to be unfaithful. He then decides that he will marry a new virgin every day. As soon as he got bored, he would have her beheaded and marry a new virgin. Eventually the country runs out of virgins except for the executor’s daughter Scheherazade.

Against her father’s protestations, Scheherazade volunteered to spend one night with the King. Once in the King’s chambers, Scheherazade does something very different from the last 3,000 virgins, she begins to share her passion for poetry, philosophy, sciences and arts. She kept the king on the edge of his bed—not with mere alluring sexual positions—but with alluring stories to be told, each more exciting than the next.

The King lay awake and listened with awe as Scheherazade told her first story. The night whiled away, and stopped in the middle of the story. The King asked her to finish, but Scheherazade said there was not time, as dawn was breaking. So, the King spared her life for one day to finish the story the next night. So the next night, Scheherazade finished the story, and then began a second, even more exciting tale which she again stopped halfway through, at dawn. So the King again spared her life for one day to finish the second story.

And so the King kept Scheherazade alive day by day, as he eagerly anticipated the finishing of last night’s story. At the end of one thousand and one nights, and one thousand stories, Scheherazade told the King that she had no more tales to tell him. During these one thousand and one nights, the King had fallen in love with Scheherazade, and had had three sons with her. So, having been made a wiser and kinder man by Scheherazade and her tales, he spared her life, and made her his Queen.

The lesson learned? It’s very seductive to a man when you have passions in your life you can share to keep him inspired, titillated, and coming back for more!

Why should such an intangible quality like social skills score highly with heterosexual women? This has been attributed to the Scheherazade effect, a phrase coined by cognitive psychologist Geoffrey Miller.

The Scheherazade effect refers to the possible tactics used by ancestral women to appeal to a man's conversational skills in order to keep them around.

Research conducted by Professor Doug Kenrick at the University of Arizona seems to support this sexual dynamic. Kenrick has found that both sexes regard social skills as important, particularly a sense of humour. But that a good sense of humour has a different meaning for women than it does for men.

"When women look for a sense of humour in a man, they're saying: 'show me what you've got'. But when a man looks for a sense of humour in a woman, they're saying 'she laughs at my jokes, she must think I'm a great guy'."

Tuesday, January 25, 2011


Dian Hua

telephone = electric talk

(xing dong dian hua = mobile phone)

Dian Nao

computer = electric brain

also "gi shuan ji" gu shuan = calculate, ji = machine

Dian Shi Ji

Television = electric watch machine

Etymology of Bones


Now restricted to the upper jaw, this Latin word was originally used by the Romans to designate both the upper and lower jaws. It is believed that this term comes from the Latin word mala or cheek, or that it is possibly related to the Latin word macerare meaning to chew.


A shortening of the middle English word ìribbeî which came from the Anglo-Saxon word ribb which originally meant a beam or a strip. Therefore the word ribb came to mean the beams or ribs of the chest. This word is related to the word ribbon in the sense of a narrow band.


This name is given to the cartilage of the sternum because of its sword-like shape. It is derived from the Greek words xiphos, a sword, and eidos, or like. The term was used by the early Greek anatomists.


The old Latin term vertebra meant a joint or something to be turned and was derived from the Latin verto meaning to turn. Celsus, in about A.D. 30, used the term to designate any joint as well as a bone of the spine. It was only in later years that the term came to be restricted to a bone of the spine.


The Latin term radius means a ray. It is also related to a Greek term meaning the spokes of a wheel or a rod. The rod-like bone of the forearm was therefore named from its shape which was thought to resemble a spoke of a wheel. The term was introduced by Celsus. The name does not seem to have appeared in English until the 16th century.


Now meaning the lower jaw, this term is derived from the Latin word mandibulum or jaw, which in turn was descriptively derived from the Latin word mando meaning to chew.


The small bones of the fingers and toes were named phalanges because they resembled the Greek line of battle formation called a phalanx. In the phalanx formation, soldiers formed close ranks and files with shields joined and long spears overlapping.


In Latin the plural form scapulae means the shoulder blades. In Greek, ?????means any broad, flat instrument, usually one made of wood like the blade of an oar. The name scapula was adopted by Vesalius. Riolan officially named it in 1640 translating from the Greek “????????” meaning to dig because the bone resembled a digging tool.


Herophilus named this “tail” bone in humans. He thought it resembled the bill of a cuckoo bird. An old name for the coccyx was “whistle-bone” because Riolan, 1620, thought the name was associated with the escape of wind making a noise like the cry of a cuckoo.


In Latin, sacrum means sacred or holy. The sacrum was the last of the bones to decay after death, and that around it, the body would reassemble on the day of resurrection. In Greek it meant illustrious, glorious, mighty or great. It is suggested that the phrase was used by Galen because the sacrum was the greatest or most important bone of the spine. In 1732, Monro suggested it received this name because of its size in relation to the other vertebrae.


Now called the thighbone, this Latin word used to mean the entire thigh. It is derived from the Latin words fero to bear, and fertus to be born. These words all stem from feo meaning to be fruitful or fertile and relate to the functions of the thighs in the bearing of children.


Coming from the Middle English word skulle, which in turn comes from the Anglo-Saxon word scealu meaning a cup, this name was applied to the skull because of its obvious resemblance to a cup or bowl. Similar words appear in other languages such as the Icelandic skal or bowl and the Swedish skull or skoll.


This Latin word designates a buckle, brooch, or clasp. It is derived from the Latin word figo meaning to fasten. The relationship of the fibula to the tibia is that of the needle or pin of a brooch, the fibula being the needle. It was Vesalius who introduced fibula into anatomical terminology.


The knee cap or patella takes its name from its resemblance in shape to a small dish or frying pan. The word patella is a Latin form of patina a broad shallow dish or pan. Related to this term is the Italian word for frying pan which is padella. The term was introduced into medicine by Celsus.


The collar bone was named from its resemblance to an ancient key. The term is derived from the Latin word clavis or key. Aristotle said clavis is an instrument for closing and signifies the bone which closes the thorax.


This is a Latin word meaning the shinbone and also a pipe or flute. Tibia could be a form of tubia, from tuba, a tube or pipe. Primitive musical instruments were made from reeds, horns, and the shin bones of birds. It is believed that the flute was named after the bone from which it was made. The use of the term in medicine is attributed to Celsus.


This Latin word for the wrist is derived from the Greek word karpos or wrist. This in turn may stem from the Greek word karphos meaning splinters or bits of wood. This indicates that in Ancient times people named the small bones of the wrist from their resemblance to bits or splinters of wood. The term is very ancient and was used by Homer.


This term comes from the Latin term pelvis which means a basin. The Latin word stems from the Greek word pella which is a dish or bowl. The term was used in Ancient times and reintroduced into anatomy by Vesalius in 1539 and became popular when Realdus Columbus used it in 1559.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Pareto Principle

The Pareto Principle, also known as:
  • the 80-20 rule
  • the law of the vital few
  • and the principle of factor sparsity
states that, for many events, roughly 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes.

Business management thinker Joseph M. Juran suggested the principle and named it after Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto, who observed in 1906 that 80% of the land in Italy was owned by 20% of the population; he developed the principle by observing that 20% of the pea pods in his garden contained 80% of the peas.
It is a common rule of thumb in business; e.g., "80% of your sales come from 20% of your clients". Mathematically, where something is shared among a sufficiently large set of participants, there must be a number k between 50 and 100 such that "k% is taken by (100 - k)% of the participants". The number k may vary from 50 (in the case of equal distribution, i.e. 100% of the population have equal shares) to nearly 100 (when a tiny number of participants account for almost all of the resource). There is nothing special about the number 80% mathematically, but many real systems have k somewhere around this region of intermediate imbalance in distribution.

Dunbar's Number

Dunbar's number is a theoretical cognitive limit to the number of people with whom one can maintain stable social relationships. These are relationships in which an individual knows who each person is, and how each person relates to every other person. Proponents assert that numbers larger than this generally require more restrictive rules, laws, and enforced norms to maintain a stable, cohesive group. No precise value has been proposed for Dunbar's number. It lies between 100 and 230, but a commonly used value is 150.
Dunbar's number was first proposed by British anthropologist Robin Dunbar, who theorized that "this limit is a direct function of relative neocortex size, and that this in turn limits group size ... the limit imposed by neocortical processing capacity is simply on the number of individuals with whom a stable inter-personal relationship can be maintained." On the periphery, the number also includes past colleagues such as high school friends with whom a person would want to reacquaint himself if they met again.

Dunbar’s Number explains why big groups are made of smaller, more manageable groups like companies, platoons and squads – or like branches, divisions, departments and committees.
No human institution can function above 150 members without hierarchies, ranks, roles and divisions. To keep groups together, you fall back on rules and regulations, norms and laws, borders and jurisdictions.

In the wild, it takes a lot of social grooming to get a group of 150 people to cooperate and pursue a common goal. In modern life, you depend on institutional structure.

As Malcolm Gladwell pointed out in “The Tipping Point,” if a company grows beyond 150 people, productivity sharply declines until the company divides its outlying entities into smaller groups.

You function better in a cluster – that way everyone in that cluster is connected to each other and only certain individuals connect your cluster to other clusters.

Dunbar’s number isn’t fixed. It can be increased or decreased depending on the environment and tools you have available.

With better tools – like telephones, Facebook, email and so on, you become slightly more efficient at maintaining relationships, so the number can be larger, but not much larger.
The most recent research suggests even power-users of Facebook with 1,000 or more friends still only communicate regularly with around 150 people, and of that 150 they strongly communicate with a group less than 20.

The Social Web is revolutionizing the way institutions operate, and the way people communicate, but in the end it might not have much of an affect on the core social group you depend on for true friendship.

Monday, January 17, 2011



\'käg-?nat\ Show Spelled [kog-neyt]


1. related by birth; of the same parentage, descent, etc.
2. Linguistics . descended from the same language or form: such cognate languages as french and spanish.
3. allied or similar in nature or quality.

4. a person or thing cognate with another.
5. a cognate word: The English word cold is a cognate of German kalt.

1635–45; < L cognatus, equiv. to co- co- + -gnatus (ptp. of gnasci, nasci to be born)

—Related forms

cog·nate·ness, noun
cog·nat·ic /k?g'næt?k/ Show Spelled[kog-nat-ik] adjective
non·cog·nate, adjective, noun
cog·nate·ly adverb

Examples of COGNATE

1. English “eat” and German “essen” are cognate.
2. Spanish and French are cognate languages.

Origin of COGNATE

Latin cognatus, from co- + gnatus, natus, past participle of nasci to be born; akin to Latin gignere to beget — more at kin
First Known Use: circa 1645

Related to COGNATE

Synonyms: akin, analogous, alike, comparable, connate, correspondent, corresponding, ditto, like, matching, parallel, resemblant, resembling, similar, such, suchlike

Antonyms: different, dissimilar, diverse, unakin, unlike

A cognate of a word is a word in another language which is derived from the same root.

As an example, the English word mother has cognates in several other Indo-European languages: Greek (meter), Russian (mat'), German mutter, Sanskrit matri, and Irish mathair. These words all share a similar sound, and thousands of years ago they were all the same word in the same language.

Cognate given names also exist. For example Andrew, André, Andrea, Andrey, Andrzej and Ondrej are all cognates derived from the Greek root name (Andreas).

Walter Davis Ballarat

Came across a really cool art deco shop front in Ballarat from 1924 here is a pic of it from flickr.

Walter Davis Ballarat - Art Deco Shopfront

Walter Davis Ballarat

A butcher becomes a Budda

fàng xià tú dāo,lì dì chéng fó

放下屠刀 立地成佛

the butcher who lays down his cleaver, at once becomes a Buddha

a butcher becomes a Buddha the moment he drops his cleaver; a wrongdoer achieves salvation as soon as he gives up evil.

lay down butcher's knife, become a Buddha on the spot (idiom); instant rehabilitation / to repent and be absolved of one's crimes

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Thirty years east bank, thirty years west bank


(san shi nian he dong san shi nian he si)
  • Literally: Thirty years the east bank, thirty years the west bank.
  • Meaning: One's luck and one's destiny will change over time

Spaza shop

A Spaza shop is an informal convenience shop business in South Africa, usually run from home. They also serve the purpose of supplementing household incomes of the owners, selling everyday small household items.
These shops grew as a result of sprawling townships that made travel to formal shopping places more difficult or expensive.

Stokvel - South Africa

stok·vel [ stók fèl ] (plural stok·vels)


South Africa savings association: an informal savings association in which members contribute regularly and receive payouts in rotation

[< Afrikaans, alteration of English stock fair "livestock market"]

Likelemba - Africa

According to Wikipedia, Likelemba is an African system of solidarity savings mechanism where several members put a certain sum of money in a "pot" and every month, the total amount contained in the pot is then donated to one of the participating members - a sort of little lottery.

Rather than being an "African" system of savings it seems this name for the system is localised to Congo and maybe some surrounding countries.


Twelve persons - mostly woman - put 100€ every month in their "likelemba pot".

* Month 1, member 1 - normally chosen by chance - gets 12 x 100€ = 1,200 €.
* Month 2, another member gets elected and rewarded with the 1,200 €, etc.


The secret of the success of Likelemba is its simpleness and formula whereby a lot of small amounts, that every member can easily spare, make one big prize. The winner has a fairly large amount with which he/she can do something extraordinary and, hopefully, break out of a financial circle of misery or life style in which he/she might be stuck.

Tontine - Lorenzo de Tonti

A tontine is a scheme for raising capital which combines features of a group annuity and a lottery. Each participants pays a certain amount to invest in the tontine. Each year the dividends from the investment are distributed amongst the participants. As participants die their entitlements are distributed amongst the remaining participants.

Lorenzo de Tonti (c. 1602 - c. 1684) was a governor of Gaeta, Italy and a Neapolitan banker. He invented the tontine, a form of life insurance.

Around 1650, he and his wife, Isabelle di Lietto, gave birth to their first son, the future explorer Henri de Tonti. Shortly afterwards, Tonti was involved in a revolt against a Spanish viceroy in Naples and had to seek political asylum in France. In Paris, the family gave birth to their second son, Alphonse de Tonty, who later helped establish Detroit, Michigan.

For reasons unknown, Louis XIV had him imprisoned in the Bastille from 1668 to 1675. Around 1684, he died in obscurity of unknown causes.

Basic Concept

The basic concept of the tontine is simple. Each investor pays a sum into the tontine. Each investor then receives annual dividends on his capital. As each investor dies, his or her share is reallocated among the surviving investors. This process continues until only one investor survives. Each subscriber receives only dividends; the capital is never paid back.

A tontine was used to fund the building which housed the first home of the New York Stock Exchange


Louis XIV first made use of tontines in 1689 (after Tonti's death) to fund military operations when he could not otherwise raise the money. The initial subscribers each put in 300 livres, and, unlike most later schemes, this one was run honestly; the last survivor, the widow, Charlotte Barbier, who died in 1726 at the age of 96, received 73,000 livres in her last payment. The British government first issued tontines in 1693 to fund a war against France, part of the Nine Years' War.
An attempt was made to patent the Tontine financial instrument in France in 1792


Tontines soon caused problems for their issuing governments, as they would increasingly underestimate the longevity of the population. At first, tontine holders included men and women of all ages. However, by the mid-18th century, investors had caught on how to play the system, and it became increasingly common to buy tontines for young children, especially for girls around the age of 5 (since girls lived longer than boys, and by which age they were less at risk of infant mortality). This created the possibility to produce great returns for the holders, but it proved to be quite costly for the governments. As a result, the tontine scheme was eventually abandoned, and as of the mid-1850s, the tontines had been replaced by other investment vehicles such as "penny policies", a predecessor to the 20th-century invention of the pension scheme.

Lorenzo's son Henri de Tonti - "The Father of Arkansas"

Ponzi Scheme - Charles Ponzi

No money being generated from the investment, only from future investors.

AKA Carlo Ponzi

Born: 3-Mar-1882
Birthplace: Parma, Italy
Died: 18-Jun-1949
Location of death: Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Cause of death: Cerebral Hemorrhage
Remains: Buried, unmarked grave, Pauper’s Cemetery, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Gender: Male
Religion: Roman Catholic
Race or Ethnicity: White
Sexual orientation: Straight
Occupation: Criminal

Nationality: Italy
Executive summary: Get-rich-quick schemes

In the summer of 1920 a dapper and charming Italian immigrant named Charles Ponzi was raking in millions on promises to pay investors 50 percent interest in 45 days.

Charles Ponzi, alias Charles Bianchi or Charles Borelli, was an Italian immigrant to Canada, where he was convicted of forgery in a scandal that brought down Zrossi & Company, a Montreal banking firm. He was sentenced to three years in prison, but served only twenty months before being released. Within weeks he was arrested again, this time for smuggling illegal aliens from Italy into the United States. He was jailed for two years in a federal prison in Georgia, and after serving his sentence he settled in Boston, where he operated the famous swindle that now bears his name -- the Ponzi scheme.
Ponzi established the Securities Exchange Company, a one-man operation that offered coupons reflecting a purported investment in international reply coupons (IRCs). IRCs are legitimately sold in the postal facilities of many nations, intended to be enclosed with international correspondence and redeemed for return postage from the recipient's nation. At the time, IRCs were sold for a fraction of a cent less than the price of the stamps they could be redeemed for, so the plan's profitability seemed plausible to investors. In reality, though, the profit margin was so slim it would take millions of IRCs to make just a few dollars, but Ponzi promised his customers a 50% profit on their investment, payable in ninety days.
His coupons sold so briskly that Ponzi was able to make his first few rounds of payment to investors in only 45 days instead of 90, so word about the coupons spread quickly, and more and more people invested. He had started his business with a loan of $200, but within months he had two offices in Boston with a staff of dozens of employees processing sales, and he bought a modest mansion for the then-staggering sum of $35,000. Of course, there were no actual profits -- Ponzi had not actually bought the IRCs, only promised to, and he paid early investors with the funds derived from later investors.By the time the scheme collapsed his income was estimated at $1M per week, and latecoming investors were defrauded of between $7-$15M. Most of Ponzi's ill-gotten gains were seized in an involuntary bankruptcy hearing, and what little remained was spent in his subsequent legal battles.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Savoir Vivre


[sav-wahr-vee-vruh, -veev; Fr. sa-vwar-vee-vruh]


knowledge of the world and the ways or usages of polite society.

familiarity with the customs of good society; breeding

ability to live life well and with intelligent enjoyment, meeting every situation with poise, good manners, and elegance.

1745–55; F: lit., knowing how to live

Now, a corpse, poor thing, is an untouchable and the process of decay is, of all pieces of bad manners, the vulgarest imaginable. For a corpse is, by definition, a person absolutely devoid of savoir vivre. Aldous Huxley (1894–1963), British author. repr. In Music at Night and Other Essays (1949). "Vulgarity in Literature," (1930).

Sunday, January 9, 2011


A borough is an administrative division in various countries. In principle, the term borough designates a self-governing township although, in practice, official use of the term varies widely.
The word borough derives from common Germanic *burgs, meaning fort: compare with bury (England), burgh (Scotland), Burg (Germany), borg (Scandinavia), burcht (Dutch) and the Germanic borrowing present in neighbouring Indo-european languages such as borgo (Italy), bourg (France), burgo (Spain), and burgo (Portuguese). The incidence of these words as suffixes to place names (e.g., Canterbury, Strasbourg, Luxembourg, Edinburgh, Hamburg, Gothenburg) usually indicates that they were once fortified settlements.
In the Middle Ages, boroughs were settlements in England that were granted some self-government; burghs were the Scottish equivalent. In medieval England, boroughs were also entitled to elect members of parliament. The use of the word borough probably derives from the burghal system of Alfred the Great. Alfred set up a system of defensive strong points (Burhs); in order to maintain these settlements, he granted them a degree of autonomy. After the Norman Conquest, when certain towns were granted self-governance, the concept of the burh/borough seems to have been reused to mean a self-governing settlement.