Untranslatable words

bakku-shan (Japanese) – a girl who appears pretty from behind but not from the front
Kummerspeck (German): grief bacon- it is the word that describes the excess weight gained from emotion-related overeating.
Drachenfutter (German): Literally translated as dragon fodder – are the peace offerings made by guilty husbands to their wives.
Aviador – (Spanish speakers in central America) : a government employee who only shows up on payday.
Tingo – (Pascuense language of Easter Island): To borrow objects from a friend’s house, one by one, until there’s nothing left.

All from this BBC article

The article is based on The Meaning of Tingo: And Other Extraordinary Words from Around the World by Jacot De Boinod.
Also see

They Have a Word for It : A Lighthearted Lexicon of Untranslatable Words and Phrases by Howard Rhiengold.

Weird German Words 

 

The Big Here Quiz – Are You Really Here Now?

“You live in the big here. Wherever you live, your tiny spot is deeply intertwined within a larger place, imbedded fractal-like into a whole system called a watershed, which is itself integrated with other watersheds into a tightly interdependent biome. At the ultimate level, your home is a cell in an organism called a planet. All these levels interconnect. What do you know about the dynamics of this larger system around you? Most of us are ignorant of this matrix. But it is the biggest interactive game there is. Hacking it is both fun and vital.

…[An] exercise in watershed awareness was hatched 30 years ago by Peter Warshall, naturalist extraordinaire. Variations of this list have appeared over the years with additions by Jim Dodge, Peter Berg, and Stephanie Mills among others. I have recently added new questions from Warshall and myself, and I have edited or altered most of the rest. It’s still a work in progress. If you have a universal question you think fits, submit it to me.”

More at Kevin Kelly’s blog.

Russian population apocalypse

The population of Russia is collapsing. Abortions outnumber live births. The population of 143 million could plummet to 77 million by the middle of this century. Their population decalined by 500,000 people last year alone.

It is a “battelfield loss rate” applied to the whole population.

What worse is that despite decalrin this a national emergency, it may be too late to do anything.

“10 million Russians are sterile due to botched abortions, venereal diseases and exposure to radiation or harmful chemicals. Among those who are fertile, as in the West, couples are choosing to have fewer children, and later, because of the cost of raising them.”

The Times has the full story: “Mother Russia now sees more abortions than babies born

Three Tapes of the Mind

Came across this sample whilst listing to Dave Seaman’s superb “Back to Mine” CD.

"One problem in human existence is the tendency to repeat,
feeling, thinking action- again and again and again
in the same kind of looping cycle.
It is as if one is controlled by a set of loops of tape.
On these tapes are recorded what one says on one track,
what one feels on another track
and what one does on a third track."

Excellent profile of Robert Trivers

From The Guardian:

The kindness of strangers

Despite switching disciplines – from maths to law to history then the sciences – Robert Trivers profoundly influenced evolutionary biology with his theory that our sense of justice has Darwinian explanations. But he suffered severe mental breakdowns and his career at Harvard was dogged by controversy. After 15 years in genetics he has now turned to anthropology

'Sexist' BBC show leaves viewers barking mad

From MediaGuardian.co.uk [Requires registration]

‘Sexist’ BBC show leaves viewers barking mad

The BBC has been forced to apologise after 200 viewers complained about a hidden camera show in which women train their husbands like dogs.

BBC2’s Bring Your Husband to Heel features dog trainer Annie Clayton using traditional dog-training techniques to improve husbands’ behaviour.

The show, based around the premise that men share 85% of their DNA with dogs, uses hidden cameras to film the men, who think they are taking part in a documentary about relationship roles.

Dozens of viewers complained on the BBC’s Points of View website, branding it “sexist, offensive and degrading”.

This is idiotic. Both women and men share 85% of their DNA with dogs but that is not the point. The point is that animal training techniques work on all animals – including human animals.

There is an excellent book about just this: Don’t Shoot the Dog!: The New Art of Teaching and Training by Karen Pryor. The Amazon description says

The principles of the revolutionary “clicker training” method. Eight methods of ending undesirable habits – from furniture-clawing cats to sloppy room-mates. The ten laws of “shaping” behaviour – for results without strain or pain through “affection training”. Tips for house-training the dog, improving your tennis game, or dealing with an impossible teenager. Explorations of exciting new uses for reinforcement training.

National Geographic prediction of New Orleans devastation (from 2004)

Astounding National Geographic Magazine article predicting the disaster in New Orleans.

It was a broiling August afternoon in New Orleans, Louisiana, the Big Easy, the City That Care Forgot. Those who ventured outside moved as if they were swimming in tupelo honey. Those inside paid silent homage to the man who invented air-conditioning as they watched TV “storm teams” warn of a hurricane in the Gulf of Mexico. Nothing surprising there: Hurricanes in August are as much a part of life in this town as hangovers on Ash Wednesday.

But the next day the storm gathered steam and drew a bead on the city. As the whirling maelstrom approached the coast, more than a million people evacuated to higher ground. Some 200,000 remained, however—the car-less, the homeless, the aged and infirm, and those die-hard New Orleanians who look for any excuse to throw a party.

The storm hit Breton Sound with the fury of a nuclear warhead, pushing a deadly storm surge into Lake Pontchartrain. The water crept to the top of the massive berm that holds back the lake and then spilled over. Nearly 80 percent of New Orleans lies below sea level—more than eight feet below in places—so the water poured in. A liquid brown wall washed over the brick ranch homes of Gentilly, over the clapboard houses of the Ninth Ward, over the white-columned porches of the Garden District, until it raced through the bars and strip joints on Bourbon Street like the pale rider of the Apocalypse. As it reached 25 feet (eight meters) over parts of the city, people climbed onto roofs to escape it.

Thousands drowned in the murky brew that was soon contaminated by sewage and industrial waste. Thousands more who survived the flood later perished from dehydration and disease as they waited to be rescued. It took two months to pump the city dry, and by then the Big Easy was buried under a blanket of putrid sediment, a million people were homeless, and 50,000 were dead. It was the worst natural disaster in the history of the United States.

When did this calamity happen? It hasn’t—yet. But the doomsday scenario is not far-fetched. The Federal Emergency Management Agency lists a hurricane strike on New Orleans as one of the most dire threats to the nation, up there with a large earthquake in California or a terrorist attack on New York City. Even the Red Cross no longer opens hurricane shelters in the city, claiming the risk to its workers is too great.

Now it has happened. That was written in October 2004.