Wednesday, September 29, 2010

German: Knoblauchzehe; English: clove of garlic

The German word Knoblauchzehe is composed of the two nouns Knoblauch, meaning garlic, and Zehe, meaning toe. The noun Knoblauchzehe, however, refers to what in English is called a clove of garlic. Garlic toes are unheard of in English, aren't they?

The meaning of the English noun “clove” in German is context-dependent: The noun may refer to a part of a bulb (Nebenzwiebel), basically meaning the same as the word “clove” in the phrase “clove of garlic.” It also can mean Gewürznelke, literally translated as “spice carnation,” referring to the same spice as the English word in garlic-free context does—the spicy, rich red, dried, unopened bud of the clove tree (Syzgium aromaticum).

Summarizing overview (m. for masculine, f. for feminine):
  • Gewürznelke, f.: clove
  • Knoblauch, m.: garlic
  • Knoblauchzehe, f.: garlic clove
  • Zehe, f.: toe

Monday, September 27, 2010

The town of Boca in the Sierra Nevada named after the Spanish word for mouth

The town of Boca was located in the Sierra Nevada at the junction of the Truckee River and Little Truckee River. The town's name refers to this river-mouth location: Boca means mouth in Spanish. All there is left today of Boca is a cemetery and a few other remains.

Boca started as a construction camp in 1866, when the Central Pacific Railroad was laying tracks over the Mountains. For a short period, Boca was a bustling town with a lumber and ice industry. During the pre-refrigerator days ice was harvested.

An interpretive board along the quarter-mile-long Boca cemetery trail informs today's visitor that this town once featured a brewery, producing lager beer that even won awards at the 1883 Paris World Fair. The Boca Brewery employed up to 35 men, mostly German, and had an annual production of 20,000 to 30,000 barrels with shipments throughout the west. Unfortunately, a fire destroyed the brewery in 1893 and Truckeemünden soon became history, not only due to the lack of beer, but also as a result of the lack of lumber, since almost every nearby tree was cut and forest conservation was not part of the Zeitgeist of a late 19th-century small town in the High Sierra.

Keywords: California, Nevada, Comstock mining era, history of breweries

Boca Cemetery Resoration Project, May 29, 2004.

An acronym in economics and geopolitics: MAVINS, a collective notation for six countries and future global players

A mavin (also spelled maven) is someone who is experienced or knowledgeable [1]. The plural mavins denotes two or more of those expert freaks. The acronym MAVINS, however, encodes a listing of six countries: Mexico, Australia, Vietnam, Indonesia, Nigeria and South Africa [2,3]. This is a very diverse set of countries—geographically, politically, economically and culturally. These countries are grouped together as MAVINS with respect to their recent economic growth stories and their significance in shaping and impacting world markets and policies in the near future. The MAVINS are also referred to as the next BRICs, the four giants of recent and current headlines.

So, be prepared to be a mavin of the MAVINS!

Keywords: politics, geography, economy, emerging markets, population growth, investing, commodities

[1] The word mavin in the Meriam-Webster dictionary.
[2] Seeking alpha: Beyond BRIC: Introducing MAVINS.
[3] Tom Lydon: Step Aside, BRIC ETFs: What about the 'MAVINS'?

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Pizzo, an ancient word of Sicilian origin meaning protection money

Pizzo is money that shop and business owners in Palermo and other places in Sicily pay for protection or “allowance to run their business.” In a certain sense, this is a tax paid to a criminally, rather than a governmentally authority—although the alude is occassionally been made that this distinction can not always been derived that clearly. Anti-mafia activists and business people in Sicily are gaining strength and are refusing the pizzo scheme. Libera Terra is such an affiliation of people that are starting agricultural projects on land confiscated from the Mafia [1], creating employment and confidence in “enterprises without a Godfather.”

The meaning of the Italian compositum Adiopizzo is easy to guess: Goodbye Pizzo. This is the name of a new citizen group organizing resistance to illegal protection payments [1]. Palermo now has stores that sell only goods from artisans and manufacturers that refuse pizzo payments.

[1] Joshua Hammer: Defying the Godfather. Smithsonian October 2010, Volume 41, Number 6, pp. 37-47. In Sciliy, Defying the Mafia.

Italian: fiaccolata; English: candlelight vigil

The Italian word fiaccolata is derived from the Italian noun fiàccola (femminile: feminine), meaning torch or flare. Fiaccolata means torchlight procession or candlelight vigil. Such events take place in Italy, for example, to commemorate and honor assassinated anti-Mafia citizens and politicians [1]. Another example is the Fiaccolata da Solferino a Castiglione, an event born in May 1992, commemorating the nurses who, in 1859, took injured soldiers from the battlefield of Solferino to the first medical outpost in Castiglione [2] and, by doing so, were “giving birth” to Henry Dunant's idea of neutral medics and the corresponding international humanitarian movement known to everyone as the International Red Cross.

[1] Joshua Hammer: Defying the Godfather. Smithsonian October 2010, Volume 41, Number 6, pp. 37-47. In Sciliy, Defying the Mafia.
[2] The Story of the batthe of Solferino (24 June 1859).

A library is a library is a …

A library is a place in which literary and artistic materials, such as books, periodicals, newspapers, pamphlets, prints, records, and tapes, are kept for reading, reference, or lending [1]. You may want to add binders, photographs, drawings, stamps and miscellaneous other items embodying informative, memorable or related value. Such a library can be institutional or private or, as J. R. Moeringer illustrates, of yet another kind—at least in Las Vegas [2]. He saw a billboard for that particular library along the highway. Which library is advertising itself on a billboard? It turned out, this Sin City library was/is a strip club, with dancers dressed like wanton priestesses of the Dewey Decimal System. Good luck, bookworm!

Think twice the next time when you are telling somebody that you are off to the library!

[2] J. R. Moehringer: Winner Take All. Smithsonian October 2010, Volume 41, Number 6, pp. 14-20. Las Vegas: An American Paradox.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Acronym in materials science: TSF for thin solid film(s)

In chemistry and material sciences a film is a layer that can be in a liquid, liquid-crystalline, or solid state. Solid films are classified in different ways depending on their chemical composition, physical properties and their role within a device architecture. From an engineering viewpoint, the four chief classes are metals, semiconductors, polymers and ceramics (for example, see page 1 in [1]). Film thinness [2] describes the dimension (or average distance) between the two film interfaces. It is typically in the lower micrometer or in the nanometer range, when the adjective thin is applied. Various optical techniques are available to measure and characterize thin films (Table 10-2 on page 564 in [1]). Thin-film technology is rapidly developing, answering the growing demand for faster, smarter and recyclable nanodevices.
TSF is a commonly used acronym for thin solid films. There also is an international journal published under the same name [3], which often is referred to by using this acronym. Encoding of TSF composition and architecture is achieved with CurlySMILES [4].

Keywords: materials science, surface science, applied physics, nanotechnology

[1] Milton Ohring: Materials Science of Thin Films. Second Edition. Academic Press, San Diego, 2002.
[2] Many authors prefer the term film thickness instead, even for very thin films.
[3] Thin Solid Films. International Journal of the Science and Technology of Condensed Matter Films.
[4] Axel Drefahl: CurlySMILES encoding of thin solid films.

Sunday, September 19, 2010


At Twitter people broadcast all kinds of subjects and have conversations about almost everything—snippetwise. Anything out there in the twitterverse such as “doing-nows”, facts, thoughts, questions, answers, remarks, etc., which often come in sentence fragments, is only 140 characters long or even shorter. Whatever you are going to microblog on Twitter has to be twitterversial: it has to fit this length requirement for the sake of compatibility with SMS messaging. If you want to say something funny, interesting and/or informative on Twitter you need to check your envisioned tweet for its Twitterversiality. By following conversations on Twitter, you'll realize that most humans are natural twitterers, who create their own short expressions, formulas and codes, mostly without Universality, often with Controversiality, but always with Twitterversiality.

More on the noun “twitterverse”
[1] Twitterverse at wordnik:
[2] New Words: Twitterverse.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Native American: “Tallac” meaning “Great Mountain”

The Sierra Nevada has a respectable number of tall mountains and many are higher then Mount Tallac, located between the southwest side of Lake Tahoe and the Crystal Range. According to Mike White, “Tallac is a Native American word meaning Great Mountain, a particular appropriate moniker for this stately peak.”
The word Tallac also appears in the designation of nearby geographical features and locations such as Tallac Creek and Tallac Historic Site. And, yes, there is a Mt. Tallac Brewing Company in South Lake Tahoe.

Reference and further reading
Mt. Tallac” on pages 166 and 167 in Mike White's hiking guide Afoot & Afield • Reno-Tahoe • A comprehensive hiking guide. Wilderness Press, Berkeley, California, 2nd printing November 2008.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Floating Island Lake near South Lake Tahoe named after floating grassy mats

Floating Island Lake is a forest-rimmed lake west of South Lake Tahoe. This small lake is located between Mount Tallac and Fallen Leaf Lake. Looking westward across the lake from the Floating Island Lake Trail that passes the lake at its eastern shoreline, grassy patches can sometimes be seen at the western shore. Such patches may slough off from the lakeshore and then float around as grassy mats on the surface of the usually quiet lake. The lake was named after such a floating mat, as Mike White explains:
Five-acre Floating Island Lake was named in the late 1800s for a 20-foot diameter, grass- and shrub-covered natural island that at one time sported a thriving conifer. Since that time, several more grassy mats have sloughed off from the lakeshore and floated about the lake […]

Reference and further reading
Floating Island & Cathedral Lakes” on pages 165 and 166 in Mike White's hiking guide Afoot & Afield • Reno-Tahoe • A comprehensive hiking guide. Wilderness Press, Berkeley, California, 2nd printing November 2008.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Acronym in coordination chemistry: MOF for metal-organic framework

In chemistry and materials science the acronym MOF is known to stand for the term metal-organic framework [1]. A MOF is a nanostructure consisting of metal atoms or ions, or clusters thereof, and ligands that extend ‘infinitely’ into one, two, or three dimensions by metal-ligand bonding. MOFs are also called coordination polymers.

Depending on the functional design of the molecular structure of the bridging organic ligand(s), a mind-boggling diversity of nanostructural—or let's say suprastructural—topologies are possible. Such framework-structure-based topologies include well-known regular tessellation-type networks as well as complex non-regular ones, not to forget interpenetrating networks. MOF applications range from ion exchange, molecule storage, gas separation, and chemical sensing to catalysis. If the right starting components are chosen, such as food-grade γ-cyclodextrin, potassium cations and ethanol solvent, edible MOFs can be produced via self-assembly [2]. Bon Appétit!

Keywords: complex chemistry, food chemistry, supramolecular chemistry, topology, nanostructure design, oligosacharides, biorenewability

References and further reading
[1] Chapter 16Crystal engineering: Metal-Organic Framework (MOFs)” in the book by Joan Ribas Gispert with the title Coordination Chemistry. Wiley-VCH Verlag GmbH & Co. KGaA, Weinheim, Germany, 2008.
[2] Mitch Jacobi: Making Edible Nanostructures. Chemical & Engineering News August 30, 2010, 88 (35), page. 6 and on the Web at

Friday, September 3, 2010

Acronym in chemistry: MIP for molecularly imprinted polymer

The term molecularly imprinted polymer in chemistry and materials science is commonly abbreviated as MIP [1]. A typical MIP is a polymer network built from self-assembled functional monomers and cross-linking monomers in such a manner that cavities inside the network—the imprints—function as recognition or binding sites for template molecules .
Such MIP-template systems are also known as guest-host complexes, inspired by the lock-and-key metaphor, which Emil Fischer presented in 1894 to describe the way a substrate (template, with the above terminology) interacts with an enzyme [2]. Synthesized MIPs can mimic enzymes. They can be designed in analogy to those seen in antibody-antigen systems [3]. Beyond the usage as antibody and receptor mimics, MIPS have found applications in chromatography, separation technology and design of chemical sensors as well as biosensors.

References and further reading
[1] Mingdi Yan and Olof Ramström(Editors):
Molecularly Imprinted MaterialsScience and Technology. Marcel Dekker, New York, 2005.
[2] Olof Ramström and Mingdi Yan: Molecular Imprinting—An Introduction. Chapter 1 in [1].
[3] Ecevit Yilmaz, Ronald H. Schmidt and Klaus Mosbach: The Noncovalent Approach. Chapter 3 in [1].