Saturday, 25 March 2017

Saturday selection

What does scaramouche mean?
via Abe Books by Richard Davies

Ever wondered what Freddie Mercury and Queen were singing about in Bohemian Rhapsody when you hear ‘Scaramouche, Scaramouche. Will you do the fandango?’
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Gorgeous triple spiral of 15K dominoes comes tumbling down
via Boing Boing by Andrea James
Watch it here and do not blame me if you watch it again, and again

The Plague Underground
via 3 Quarks Daily by Genese Sodikoff
Recent outbreaks of the bubonic plague in Madagascar offer a glimpse into the dynamics of past outbreaks, the Plague of Justinian (sixth to eighth centuries), the Black Death (fourteenth to seventeenth centuries), and current wave of “Third Pandemic” plagues that began in the nineteenth century. Over the past few years, genetic studies of the bacillus, Yersinia pestis, have revealed why the pathogen was so devastating, killing tens of millions over centuries. Yet much about it remains mysterious.
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Fastolf not ‘Falstaf’: the soldier behind Shakespeare’s myth
via The National Archives blog by Benjamin Trowbridge
‘What is in that word honour? Air. A trim reckoning! Who hath it? He that died o’ Wednesday. Doth he feel it? No. Doth he hear it? No. Is it insensible then? Yea to the dead…’
This speech from Henry IV Part 1 uttered by Shakespeare’s much loved character Falstaff should hopefully amuse even the most novice of Shakespeare lovers. As a pillar of self-interest with cowardly tendencies and no regard for honour, Falstaff’s antihero qualities have been enjoyed by audiences past and present. It seems that no act of ignominy or debasement fazes him!
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Esperanto, chocolate, and biplanes in Braille: the interests of Arthur Maling
via OUP Blog by Peter Gilliver
The Oxford English Dictionary is the work of people: many thousands of them. In my work on the history of the Dictionary I have found the stories of many of those people endlessly fascinating. Very often an individual will enter the story who cries out to be made the subject of a biography in his or her own right; others, while not quite fascinating enough for that, are still sufficiently interesting that they could be a dangerous distraction to me when I was trying to concentrate on the main task of telling the story of the project itself. If I had included pen-portraits of them all, the book would have become hopelessly unwieldy; I have said as much as I can about many of them, but in many cases there is more to be said. One of those about whom I would have liked to say more is Arthur Thomas Maling, who worked as one of James Murray’s assistants for nearly thirty years, and who went on working on the Dictionary for another dozen years or so after Murray’s death in 1915.
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Frodo’s trip to Mordor as a Google Map
via Boing Boing by Andrea James
Includes options for estimated time by foot, boat, or eagle.
Have a look for yourself

The wizard of Oxford: what Tolkien could hear in a voice
via New Statesman by Antonia Quirke
Over the radio, J R R Tolkien’s precise and musical voice told us why he'd never have gone to hunt a dragon.
“What would you have done if you had been a little boy, and a wizard had come and asked you to go to the misty mountain and help kill a dragon?” A question put to a 76-year-old J R R Tolkien during an interview in 1968. Tolkien amusedly shot back: “I’d been very well brought up to avoid conversations with dubious old gentlemen, and would have retired into the house and asked my mother.”
This is one of many memorable out-takes from a BBC documentary about the writer, never heard until now.
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Unfortunately there is no link to the broadcast to which Ms Quirke refers. And anyway this article is six months old as I am typing this and will be even older by the time it gets into one of my trivia posts.
‘Giving the Turks a drubbing’: The Battle of Romani
via National Archives by Dr Juliette Desplat and Dr George Hay
100 years [plus several months] ago, on 3-5 August 1916, the Battle of Romani was taking place 23 miles east of the Suez Canal. In what was to be the last attack of the war on Egypt and the Suez Canal, it was a convincing victory and marked the beginning of the British advance into the Sinai desert.
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Hazel’s comment:
Reading this I wonder whether it is possible after all this time to discover whether a certain individual was involved. I suppose if I could discover his rank and regiment/unit it would help. Family tree research calls me since I know that Poppa (as we youngsters all called our mother’s father) served in the Middle East. 

Map of All the Rail Lines Ever Across UK and Ireland
via Research Buzz Firehose
New-to-me: remember that map of streetcar lines I mentioned recently? How about a map of all the rail lines that ever existed in the UK and Ireland? “Base layers can be toggled between Google Maps, satellite, OpenStreetMap and old Ordnance Survey maps.”
Check it out for yourself

The mystery of the missing craters on Ceres
Astronomers have puzzled over the lack of large craters on our nearest dwarf planet. Has a computer simulation helped reveal their fate?
via The Guardian by Ian Sample
A view of Ceres’ largest well-preserved 175-mile impact crater, Kerwan. The colour-coding indicates elevation (blue = low; red = high).
A view of Ceres’ largest well-preserved 175-mile impact crater, Kerwan.
The colour-coding indicates elevation (blue = low; red = high).
Photograph: Southwest Research Institute/Simone Marchi.

When Nasa’s Dawn spacecraft arrived at Ceres last year the images it beamed back were puzzling. The nearest dwarf planet to Earth was missing the massive craters that astronomers thought would heavily scar the surface.
As the Dawn probe swung around the body, the largest in the asteroid belt, its cameras recorded pictures of pockmarked terrain. But even though small craters dotted the Cerean surface, none were larger than the 175-mile-wide dent that is the Kerwan impact crater.
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