Tuesday, 23 June 2009

Robertson, First winter rain and Rainbow


Taken with mobile at 17H00.

Robertson , South Africa. First decent rain of the winter, no snow yet, forecast for Thursday/Friday
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Thursday, 18 June 2009

A Stitch in Time Saves Nine: Origin and Meaning

The meaning is easy to understand. If something needs attention, do it now, rather than wait until the situation becomes progressively worse and finally out of control. This will result in requiring much more attention than would have been the case if it had been addressed immediately.
Why stitches and why nines? Most sources refer to stitches as in knitting, sewing or needlepoint. If you drop one and do not fix it immediately, you will have to redo your work later. The Nine still not identified. Some say it takes 9 stitches before you realise one has been dropped, others say it takes nine times longer. No matter, there is no consensus that I could find.
Put into plain words, if you have a tear in your shirt and it can be fixed with one stitch, do it. If you don’t, the tear will get bigger and later need many more stitches. So, do not procrastinate. End of story.( Oftentimes easier said than done. I have great respect for people that do everything now...even though it could have been done a little later...)
Origin. There is consensus that the first written reference is in Thomas Fuller’s Gnomologia, Adagies and Proverbs, Wise Sentences and Witty Sayings, Ancient and Modern, Foreign and British (1732AD)
This reference is to “ a stitch in time may save nine,” not will but may, the may has been dropped somewhere along the line.
If this was a proverb in the early 1700’s then it must have been around for a long time before that.
The second quoted written reference is that of Francis Baily, in a journal entry published in 1856, where no reference is made to “may”, just a stitch in time saves nine.
All said and done, I could find no origin, no definite explanation as to what kind of stitch or the significance of the nine. Buried in the past somewhere.
If you are interested in Ye Olde Sayings, Google Thomas Fuller, and sit back and enjoy. It is amazing how the old proverbs are still around, albeit they have morphed somewhat.
“All things are difficult before they are easy”
“Bacchus hath drowned more men than Neptune”
Image from Wikipedia

What does SOS and MAYDAY mean? : Origin and use

What does SOS mean? What does MAYDAY mean? What is the difference? PAN PAN?
SOS first.
An SOS was an international distress signal transmitted by Morse code. With the advent of long distance radio transmissions in the early 1900’s it was possible to communicate with radio using Morse code signals. (Samuel Morse and Alfred Vail developed the electric telegraph during the 1800’s, more detail). During the early 1900’s the Germans introduced a radio distress signal based on this technology that was adopted worldwide a few years later.
This signal consisted of three dots, three dashes and three dots again, “…_ _ _…”
These signals represent S O S in Morse code, but it would appear as though the letters were irrelevant, it had all to do with the distinctive sound. Three shorts, three longs and three shorts repeated over and over again were distinctive and easily recognizable. (Transmitted with no spaces between the three letters).
After the fact meanings were given to SOS such as Save our Souls, Save our Seamen, Save our Ship, Survivors on Shore…. endless possibilities. (One list I found had more than 100, from the serious to the ridiculous).
The process of giving names after the fact is called a bacronym, which was a new concept to me. (I felt better when the spell-check was also caught out.)
With the development of new technology, satellites and so forth, Morse code has been replaced and no longer used. It is still used as a visual distress signal, as in one could place objects on the ground to form an SOS, to get attention from the air. No matter how you do the SOS it will be recognized, even if seen upside down.
Originally Mayday is to aircraft as SOS was to ships. The main difference being that the distress signal was “voiced” or “spoken”. Origin around 1923 by Fred Mockford who was an English radio officer given the task to think of a word that could be easily understood as a distress call. From the French “Venez m’aider” meaning “come help me".
Then there is PAN PAN which is also a distress signal, but not for life threatening circumstances.
The protocol of using theses signals is interesting and lots of interesting detail to be found at Wikipedia for a better understanding
Image from Wikipedia

What is a Charlatan: Origin and meaning

What is the origin and meaning of a Charlatan?
Truth be told my understanding was incorrect, but will not compound my embarrassment by going into details.
A charlatan is someone who tricks you out of your money by deceiving you. The vast majority of references relate to things medical. Promises are made that a specific medicine or potion will cure from virtually anything.So, the unsuspecting client buys the product and after a while finds out that it is useless, or virtually useless. This point of understanding is usually arrived at after the salesperson has disappeared.
Appears to relate to days long past when traveling salesmen moved from town to town selling their wares, and only returned after the dust had settled and the bad experience forgotten, just for the process to be repeated.
Words often used in definitions are swindled, cheated, quackery, shyster, mountebank, and impostor.
The following definition sums it all up nicely, both the meaning and the origin.
“A `charlatan` is a person practising quackery or some similar confidence trick in order to obtain money or advantage via some form of pretence or deception. The word comes from French `charlatan,` a seller of medicines who might advertise his presence with music and an outdoor stage show.”
More detail here
There is a difference between a charlatan and a confidence trickster. A charlatan has his way of operating that is usually fast and to the point aimed at a broad audience, targeting the gullible, ignorant or uneducated (my view), whereas a confidence trickster will have elaborate plans to deceive a targeted individual, after building up a relationship.
If you want to dig deeper, more detail at Wikipedia.
Image from Wikipedia

Monday, 15 June 2009

To knock on wood or to touch wood: Origin and Meaning.

What does it mean to knock on wood or to touch wood, and all about origin and meaning?
Firstly the meaning.
The way I look at it the phrase has two meanings. Firstly one would “touch wood” if you are having a streak of good luck and you do not want to tempt fate by bragging. An example would be if the sports team of your choice had won 10 games in a row and you could brag by saying that the next game would be a winner as well, “ …touch wood”. This would be a kind of help against tempting fate.
The second meaning could be to help against bad things happening. An example would be ….” I am going to Europe for the holidays, touch wood”. Implying that you want to go on leave unless something unforeseen, usually negative, occurs to put an end to your plans.
The origin part is not so clear, and there are three possibilities most often cited.
Version 1
This version relates to the cross on which Jesus was crucified. Some maintain that splinters of the cross were sold as tokens of good luck. To have a piece of the cross on your person was considered good luck. No much to substantiate this origin.
Version 2
In Pagan times it was believed that both good and bad spirits lived in trees. One would knock on the tree to deafen the bad spirit as to what you were saying, so the bad spirit could not hear and cause bad things to happen. There was also a good spirit, and knocking on the tree would result in good luck, a prayer.
Version 3
This one is probably the most plausible. Originated from a children’s game called “Tiggy touch wood”. You could not be tagged if you touched wood. From the early 1800’s.
There is hardly a country in the world that does not have an expression similar to this one. The list and meanings can be found at Wikipedia , search for “knocking on wood”.
Wikipedia is a good starting point for further digging

Wednesday, 10 June 2009

What is a Fabian Tactic (Strategy): Meaning, definition and Example.

What does a Fabian tactic or strategy mean…..?
Definition, meaning and example in a nutshell.
Oxford Dictionary defines a Fabian Tactic or Strategy as….”dilatory tactics and avoidance of direct engagements”
I read a definition in a Pan dictionary, and I really cannot recall which one, that related Fabian to the evolution of politics, specifically Socialism. Evolution rather than revolution.

Originates from the Roman General Quintus Fabius Maximus (280BC-203BC), also known as the Delayer (Cunctator). After Hannibal had invaded Rome (The Second Punic War), Fabius used evasive and delaying tactics to wear Hannibal’s forces down, rather to confront him in direct battle. Hannibal was in a strange land with a large army that had to be fed, without help or supplies from his own sources. So, Fabian held back and attacked the parties hunting for food, disrupting and weakening his enemy. Some saw this as a sign of weakness and there was a difference in opinion whether this was the correct strategy. Many Romans perceived this approach as cowardly and not really approved of. (More at Wikipedia).
In the end, Fabian was awarded the Shield of Rome for “…one man, by delaying, restored the state to us”. Most probably after his death.
Fabian Strategy was often used in the past. The Russians used this approach when invaded by Napoleon. (Scorched earth approach).
George Washington was known as the American Fabius.
Good place to start digging deeper for more is at Wikipedia.
Image from Wijkipedia

Thursday, 04 June 2009

The Pen is Mightier than the Sword : Origin and meaning

The meaning and origin of the saying “ The pen is mightier than the sword”
Definitions abound, but all allude to the same principle that it is more sensible to resolve a conflict by the use of words and communication rather than by physical conflict and confrontation.
This saying is attributed in this form by all sources to Edward Bulwer-Lytton, 1839, from his play Richelieu.
“ Beneath the rule of men entirely great,
The pen is mightier than the sword. Behold
The arch-enchanters wand! - itself a nothing! -
But taking sorcery from the master-hand
To paralyse the Caesars, and to strike
The loud earth breathless! - Take away the sword -
States can be saved without it!”
The concept of communication rather than confrontation a a method of resolving conflicts has been around for many many years, but worded somewhat differently.
Here are a few examples.
Euripides 400+ BC “ The tongue is mightier than the blade.....”
Prophet Muhammad “ The ink of the scholar is holier than the blood of the martyr...”
Shakespeare 1600 “Many wearing rapiers are afraid of goosequills”
Cicero “arms yield to persuasion”
This, is however, not a philosophy adopted by all, as the numbers of current global conflicts bear witness to. On the other side..
“Actions speak louder than words”
Terry Pratchett “ Only if the sword is very short, and the pen is very sharp”
General MacArthur “Whoever thinks the pen is mightier than the sword clearly has never encountered automatic weapons”

Good place to start digging for more is at Wikipedia.
Image from Wikipedia.

Monday, 01 June 2009

Julius Caesar Quotes

Julius Caesar quotes / quotations are limited. There are not many, and, oftentimes I am confused as to which were really Caesar’s and which were William Shakespeare's.

1) “Veni, vidi vici” : I came I saw I conquered. This is a Caesar quote as documented by Suetonius . Details at a previous post.

2) “The die has been cast” : Caesars words on crossing the Rubicon ; Details at a previous post.

3) “Et tu Brute” : And you too Brutus. This is an interesting one, supposedly uttered by Caesar on being assassinated ; Details at a previous post

4) Men in general are quick to believe that which they wish to be true.
(Still working on this one.)

5) It is easier to find men who will volunteer to die, than to find those who are willing to endure pain with patience
(Still working on this one as well)

6) It is not these well-fed long-haired men that I fear, but the pale and the hungry-looking.
The conspiracy to asassinate Caesar was known well before the time. A number of people had warned Caesar against Brutus, who they believed was one of the main instigators. But, Caesar would not hear of any negative comments implicating Brutus. He believed that he had favoured Brutus in the past at the expense of Cassius, and it was in Brutus’ interest that Caesar should live. Anyhow, the possibility must have stuck in the back of his mind somewhere, as, when rumour had it that Antony and Dolabella were also planning his assination he remarked
"I am not much in fear of these fat, long-haired fellows, but rather of those pale, thin ones",(meaning Brutus and Cassius.) (Plutarch )

7) What we wish, we readily believe, and what we ourselves think, we imagine others think also.

8) Cowards die many times before their actual deaths.

9) As a rule, men worry more about what they can't see than about what they can.

10) I had rather be first in a village than second at Rome.
From Plutarch, that is self explanatory (Page 469)
"We are told that, as he was crossing the Alps and passing by a barbarian village which had very few inhabitants and was a sorry sight, his companions asked with mirth and laughter, "Can it be that here too there are ambitious strifes for office, struggles for primacy, and mutual jealousies of powerful men?" Whereupon Caesar said to them in all seriousness, "I would rather be first here than second at Rome."

11) "Because I maintain that the members of my family should be free from suspicion, as well as from accusation."

12) "I go to meet an army without a leader, and I shall return to meet a leader without an army."
"The sum total of his movements after that is, in their order, as follows: He overran Umbria, Picenum, and Etruria, took prisoner Lucius Domitius, who had been irregularly named his successor, and was holding Corfinium with a garrison, let him go free, and then proceeded along the Adriatic to Brundisium, where Pompey and the consuls had taken refuge, intending to cross the sea as soon as might be. After trying by every kind of hindrance to prevent their sailing, he marched off to Rome, and after calling the senate together to discuss public business, went to attack Pompey's strongest forces, which were in Spain under command of three of his lieutenants — Marcus Petreius, Lucius Afranius, and Marcus Varro — saying to his friends before he left "I go to meet an army without a leader, and I shall return to meet a leader without an army." And in fact, though his advance was delayed by the siege of Massilia, which had shut its gates against him, and by extreme scarcity of supplies, he nevertheless quickly gained a complete victory." Suetonius

I could find detail to those with links and explanations, busy looking for more detail on the others

Image from Wikipedia

Mark Twain Quotes : My subjective 10 best

My 10 best cynical (?) quotes from Mark Twain,

1) Don't go around saying the world owes you a living. The world owes you nothing. It was here first. ( I find it difficult to communicate with people who were born unhappy, and blame the system for everything from their unemployment to chronic haemorrhoid pains)

2) Better to keep your mouth shut and appear stupid than to open it and remove all doubt. ( A wise bit of advice, especially when you are out of your depth, and, ask questions rather than give opinions)

3) Get your facts first, and then you can distort them as much as you please. ( Ha, one can torture figures until they confess)

4) Don't part with your illusions. When they are gone you may still exist, but you have ceased to live. ( Build your sand castles, we all do, but don’t move into them)

5) Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great make you feel that you, too, can become great.
(Oftentimes these “people” have less to contribute than the person they belittle)

6) If you pick up a starving dog and make him prosperous, he will not bite you. This is the principal difference between a dog and a man. ( Sad but true...a friend once told me the best way to lose a customer was to give him credit)

7) A man is never more truthful than when he acknowledges himself as a liar. ( Never easy to come to terms with this concept, the untrue is often rationalised away into true)

8) Truth is more stranger than fiction ( No comment )

9) You can't depend on your eyes when your imagination is out of focus
10) And then my favourite, “ Those who don’t read have no advantage over those who can’t”
Image from Wikipedia