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Learn Something New: Cask Ale

September 7th, 2014 Comments off

It doesn’t matter how old you get, there is always something new to learn. Sometimes these new things are words or concepts you have heard all your life, but perhaps you never understood. Learn Something New is a series that will highlight some of the things I learn, big and small in the coming days. — Douglas


Cask Ale

As many of you already know, I have the tendency to go “Down the Rabbit-hole” whenever I come across something new and interesting. My most recent fascination is cask ales, a particular way of making and serving beer. The recent opening of MacLoed Ale Brewing Co just a few streets away piqued my interest and now I find I am wanting to learn more and more about the particulars of cask ales.

I have often thought about brewing my own beer, but the batch size and (seeming) complexity of beer brewing has kept me away. I have made my own hard ciders, which I described as “brewing on training wheels” as it is much, much ease than beer and lends itself to smaller, 1 gallon, batches rather than the typical 5 gallon batches of beer.

Learn Something New: Cask Ale

That said, I am fascinated with beer brewing and my 2 trips to the UK have only increased that interest over the years. I have never been a huge fan of standard, mass produced, American beers and seek out microbrews and other limited runs as often as I can. This has made me very interested in cask ales, as they harken back to an earlier, more traditional era of beer making and serving.

I’ll leave a deeper description of cask ales to the links below, but there are  2 important aspects of cask ales over more modern methods.  First, cask ales are still very much “alive” in their casks, being unfiltered and unpasteurized, unlike mass produced  beers. This means they typically have a lower level of carbonation as they are then pumped from casks rather than using additional CO2 to carbonate and serve them. For me, this results in a much more flavorful, if flatter beer, where you can easily taste all the components of the flavor. Second, cask ales are typically served a relatively warmer temperatures, which I think, again, enhances their flavor and also mouth feel. Cask ales also tend to have lower alcohol levels to the fermenting methods used.

MacLeod Ale Brewing Co will be having a panel discussion on cask ales at the brewery on September 23, 2014. This will be a great opportunity to learn even more.

 

Cask Ale from Wikipedia

Cask ale or cask-conditioned beer is unfiltered and unpasteurised beer which is conditioned (including secondary fermentation) and served from a caskwithout additional nitrogen or carbon dioxide pressure. Cask ale may also be referred to as real ale, a term coined by the Campaign for Real Ale, often now extended to cover bottle-conditioned beer as well.[1]

The fundamental distinction between real and other ales is that the yeast is still present and living in the container from which the real ale is served, although it will have settled to the bottom and is usually not poured into the glass. Because the yeast is still alive, a slow process of fermentation continues in the cask or bottle on the way to the consumer, allowing the beer to retain its freshness. Another distinction is that real ale should be served without the aid of added carbon dioxide, or “top pressure” as it is commonly known. Common dispensing methods are the handpump, or “by gravity” direct from the cask. Electric pumps are occasionally seen, especially in the Midlands and Scotland. — Wikipedia

More information on Cask Ale:

 
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Learn Something New: Gretna Green

August 10th, 2014 Comments off

It doesn’t matter how old you get, there is always something new to learn. Sometimes these new things are words or concepts you have heard all your life, but perhaps you never understood. Learn Something New is a series that will highlight some of the things I learn, big and small in the coming days. — Douglas


Gretna Green

I have seen streets all over the country with this name, but never had any idea to what it referred or why. Recently one of my regular email subscriptions provided an answer without me even asking the question. A Word A Day is a great little email newsletter introducing you to a new word every day. Often each week will have a theme for each of the words like eponyms (word derived from people’s names), toponyms (words derived from geographic places)  and more. They also contain an audio pronunciation guide and a short bit of info on the etymology of the word.

Gretna green historical etching

For example, here is their entry on Gretna Green:

 Gretna Green

 PRONUNCIATION:

(GRET-nuh green

MEANING:

noun:
1. A place where couples elope to get married.
2. Such a wedding.

ETYMOLOGY:

After Gretna Green, a village in Scotland on the English border. English couples who had not reached the age of majority eloped to Gretna Green where such a wedding was permitted. A wedding was typically performed by a blacksmith in his shop. Earliest documented use: 1813.

USAGE:

“They finished up with a Gretna Green elopement of a couple in a terrible old Model T Ford, with Father chasing after them all over the aerodrome.”
Nevil Shute; Round the Bend; William Morrow; 1951.

A THOUGHT FOR TODAY:

At least half the mystery novels published violate the law that the solution, once revealed, must seem to be inevitable. -Raymond Chandler, writer (1888-1959)  — A Word A Day

So for us Americans, I would liken Gretna Green to a couple eloping to Las Vegas or perhaps, Mexico for a quickie wedding. These are still within the boarder the US, but the concept of making a quick wedding get-away still applies, especially one designed to avoid a parents disapproval.

Gretna Green is a village in the south of Scotland famous for runaway weddings. It is in Dumfries and Galloway, near the mouth of the River Esk and was historically the first village in Scotland, following the old coaching route from London to EdinburghGretna Green railway station serves both Gretna Green and Gretna.[1] The Quintinshill rail crash, with 226 deaths the worst rail crash in British history, occurred near Gretna Green in 1915.

Gretna Green sits alongside the main town of Gretna.[1] Both are accessed from the A74(M) motorway and are situated near to the border of Scotland with England.[1]

Gretna Green is one of the world’s most popular wedding destinations, hosting over 5,000 weddings each year in the Gretna/Gretna Green area, and one of every six Scottish weddings.[2]

Grenta Green

More information on Gretna Green:

It has usually been assumed that Gretna’s famous “runaway marriages” began in 1754 when Lord Hardwicke’s Marriage Act came into force in England. Under the Act, if a parent of a minor (i.e., a person under the age of 21) objected, they could prevent the marriage going ahead. The Act tightened up the requirements for marrying in England and Wales but did not apply in Scotland, where it was possible for boys to marry at 14 and girls at 12 with or without parental consent (see Marriage in Scotland). It was, however, only in the 1770s, with the construction of a toll road passing through the thitherto obscure village of Graitney, that Gretna Green became the first easily reachable village over the Scottish border.[3] The Old Blacksmith‘s Shop, built around 1712, and Gretna Hall Blacksmith’s Shop (1710) became, in popular folklore at least, the focal tourist points for the marriage trade. The Old Blacksmith’s opened to the public as a visitor attraction as early as 1887. — Wikipedia

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Learn Something New: Polymath

July 20th, 2014 Comments off

It doesn’t matter how old you get, there is always something new to learn. Sometimes these new things are words or concepts you have heard all your life, but perhaps you never understood. Learn Something New is a series that will highlight some of the things I learn, big and small in the coming days. — Douglas


Polymath

Learn Something New: Polymath

Polymath is another word that has been popping up a lot in my book, magazine and only reading. I am humbled that it has been applied to all of our family at one time or another. I have always believed that is it good to know a little about a lot, but also know a lot about certain areas in your life. I cultivate learning at all times and in all aspects. Certain topics will take my interest so much that I “go down the rabbit hole” with Alice and spend a bit of time exploring all the aspects of a particular world like coffee, beekeeping, beer and more. I think all of us in the family have a similar trait. We adore history, science, technology, theater, and literature in differing levels, but with the same breadth of study.

There term Renaissance Man is a common synonym, too and Leonardo Da Vinci is probably one of the best known and often used examples.

 polymath (Greekπολυμαθήςpolymathēs, “having learned much”)[1] is a person whose expertise spans a significant number of different subject areas; such a person is known to draw on complex bodies of knowledge to solve specific problems. The term was first used in the seventeenth century but the related term,polyhistor, is an ancient term with similar meaning.

The term is often used to describe those great thinkers of the Renaissance and the Golden Age of Islam,[2] each of whom excelled at several fields in science and the arts, including such individuals as Leonardo da VinciMichelangeloGalileo GalileiPaolo Sarpi,[3] Nicolaus CopernicusFrancis BaconThomas BrowneMichael Servetus,[4] Ibn al-Haytham,[5][6] Ibn Sina,[6][7] and Omar Khayyám.[8]

In Renaissance Italy, the idea of the polymath was expressed by one of its most accomplished representatives, Leon Battista Alberti (1404–1472), in the statement that “a man can do all things if he will.”[9] Embodying a basic tenet of Renaissance humanism that humans are limitless in their capacity for development, the concept led to the notion that people should embrace all knowledge and develop their capacities as fully as possible. This was expressed in the term “Renaissance man” which is often applied to the gifted people of that age who sought to develop their abilities in all areas of accomplishment: intellectual, artistic, social and physical. This term entered the lexicon during the twentieth century and has now been applied to great thinkers living before and after the Renaissance. — Wikipedia

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Learn Something New: What is a Lothario and Where did the name originate?

July 14th, 2014 Comments off

It doesn’t matter how old you get, there is always something new to learn. Sometimes these new things are words or concepts you have heard all your life, but perhaps you never understood. Learn Something New is a series that will highlight some of the things I learn, big and small in the coming days. — Douglas


Lothario

I have heard the term Lothario used in books, television and movies since I was born, but I never question where the word came from or its origin. Watching Murdoch Mysteries on Netflix the there night (we are working our way through the entire series) the word was used again. That mention, and this blog series, finally drive me to dig a little deeper into the origins of Lothario and how he came to be so remembered throughout history.

As with many themes like tilting at windmills and impossible dreams, Lothario originated in Cervantes novel Don Quixote. It is not part of the main storyline itself, but rather a story that is told by one of the characters. This would make Lothario an eponym — a word derived from a name, changing from referring specifically to the character, Lothario, and gradually applied to any unscrupulous seducer.

Don Quixote, Part One contains stories that do not directly involve the two main characters, but which are narrated by some of the picaresque figures encountered by Quixote and Sancho during their travels. The longest and best known story is El Curioso Impertinente (The Impertinently Curious Man), in Part One, Book Four, chapters 33–35, which is read to a group of travelers at an inn, about a Florentine nobleman, Anselmo, who becomes obsessed with testing his wife’s fidelity, and talks his close friend Lothario to attempt to seduce her. In Part Two, the author acknowledges the criticism of his digressions in Part One and promises to concentrate the narrative on the central characters (although at one point he laments that his narrative muse has been constrained in this manner).
 

El Curioso Impertinente summary

For no particular reason, Anselmo decides to test the fidelity of his wife, Camilla, and asks his friend, Lothario, to seduce her. Thinking that to be madness, Lothario reluctantly agrees, and soon reports to Anselmo that Camilla is a faithful wife. Anselmo learns that Lothario has lied and attempted no seduction. He makes Lothario promise to try for real and leaves town to make this easier. Lothario tries and Camilla writes letters to her husband telling him and asking him to return; Anselmo makes no reply and does not return. Lothario actually falls in love and Camilla eventually reciprocates and their affair continues once Anselmo returns.

One day, Lothario sees a man leaving Camilla’s house and jealously presumes she has found another lover. He tells Anselmo he has at last been successful and arranges a time and place for Anselmo to see the seduction. Before this rendezvous, Lothario learns that the man was actually the lover of Camilla’s maid. He and Camilla contrive to deceive Anselmo further: when Anselmo watches them she refuses Lothario, protests her love for her husband and stabs herself lightly in the breast. Reassured of her fidelity, the affair restarts with Anselmo none the wiser.

The maid’s lover is discovered by Anselmo. Fearing that Anselmo will kill her, the maid says she will tell him a secret the next day. Anselmo tells Camilla this is to happen and Camilla expects that her affair is to be revealed. Lothario and Camilla flee that night and the maid flees the next day. Anselmo searches for them in vain before learning from a stranger of his wife’s affair. He starts to write the story but dies of grief before he can finish.

Lothario is also a character in the play The Fair Penitent (1703), by Nicholas Rowe, based on the earlier 17th-century play, The Fatal Dowry (which itself drew on Cervantes).[1] In Rowe’s play, Lothario is a libertine who seduces and betrays Calista; and its success is arguably the source for the proverbial nature of his name in subsequent English culture[2] – as when Anthony Trollope wrote a century later of “the elegant fluency of a practised Lothario”.[3] — Wikipedia

More information on Lothario:

   

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Learn Something New: Amanuensis

July 6th, 2014 Comments off

It doesn’t matter how old you get, there is always something new to learn. Sometimes these new things are words or concepts you have heard all your life, but perhaps you never understood. Learn Something New is a series that will highlight some of the things I learn, big and small in the coming days. — Douglas


Amanuensis

I have come across this word several times in the last few months and while it is somewhat easy to figure out its meaning via context, it was unknown enough to me to send me scrambling for my Google Search to delve into it a bit farther. This “Use over Time” chart from Google seems to indicate that the usage of the word is slightly on the rise, which may account for the multiple times I have bumped into it in newly released books including the book mentioned in the last Learn Something New post, The Swerve.

Amanuensis Word Usage Chart from Google. com

Amanuensis chart

So, what is Amanuensis? The quick and dirty answer is “a literary or artistic assistant, in particular one who takes dictation or copies manuscripts.” In context of my reading, it also seems to be more generically applied as meaning “a right hand man” or a dedicated assistant. Like a lot of Latin terms, it even pops up in Harry Potter in the name of a shop in Diagon Alley, Amanuensis Quills. It is always interesting to see an archaic term like this come back into usage. It also points out the packrat nature of English to absorb and use words from all sorts of different languages.

 The word originated in ancient Rome, for a slave at his master’s personal service “within hand reach”, performing any command; later it was specifically applied to an intimately trusted servant (often a freedman) acting as a personal secretary.

 A similar semantic evolution occurred at the French royal court, where the secrétaire de la main du roi, originally a lowly clerk specializing in producing, at royal command, the Sovereign’s signature on more documents than he cared to put his pen to, developed into the secrétaires d’état, the first permanent portfolio ministers, to which the British Secretaries of State would be the counterpart.

The term is often used interchangeably with secretary or scribe. — Wikipedia

More information on Syllabus and other Word Origins:

   

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Learn Something New: Syllabus

July 3rd, 2014 Comments off

It doesn’t matter how old you get, there is always something new to learn. Sometimes these new things are words or concepts you have heard all your life, but perhaps you never understood. Learn Something New is a series that will highlight some of the things I learn, big and small in the coming days. — Douglas


Syllabus

Spend any time in school and you will be presented with a syllabus, if not countless syllabi, at the beginning of each class. I was familiar with the concept of a syllabus, but in reading a new book, The Swerve: How the World Became Modern by Stephen Greenblatt, I came across a short description of the origins of the syllabus, which date far back to Ancient Greece.

“Papyrus rolls were carefully indexed, labeled (with a protruding tag called in Greek a sillybos), and stacked on shelves or stored in the leather baskets.” — The Swerve

Papyrus scroll

P. Oxy. I 29, one of the Oxyrhynchus papyri, includes a fragment of Euclid’s Elements. via Wikipedia

I vaguely remember such a description from somewhere in my deep, dark, educational past, but it made be want to learn a bit more about syllabi, their history and their uses.

For most of us on the modern day, a syllabus is a table of contents, a calendar or even a contract between the teacher (usually a college professor) and their students. It usually lays out the concepts that will be studied, books that will be used, a calendar for topics, quizzes, tests and other major events during the term of the class. They can be detailed or general, depending on the teacher and the educational institution for which they work. This is quite a change from what was, in antiquity, basically a table of contents or short index of the papyrus roll it was attached to.

Like many ancient words, syllabus seems to be a misreading/miscopy of a Ancient Greek word which was introduced as scrolls were copied over and over. It is quite amazing how language changes over time, usually through mistakes or misreadings than concious choice.

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the word syllabus derives from modern Latin syllabus “list”, in turn from a misreading of the Greek σίττυβας sittybas “parchment label, table of contents”, which first occurred in a 15th century print of Cicero‘s letters to Atticus.[1][2] Earlier Latin dictionaries such as Lewis and Short contain the word syllabus,[3] relating it to the non-existent Greek word σύλλαβος, which appears to be a mistaken reading of syllaba “syllable”; the newer Oxford Latin Dictionary does not contain this word.[4] The apparent change from sitty- to sylla- is explained as a hypercorrection by analogy to συλλαμβάνω.[4]

Because the word syllabus is formed in Latin by mistake, the Latinate plural form syllabi might be considered a hypercorrection.[5] The OED, however, admits both syllabuses and syllabi as the plural form.[1] Wikipedia

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Learn Something New: Plantagenet

March 26th, 2014 Comments off

It doesn’t matter how old you get, there is always something new to learn. Sometimes these new things are words or concepts you have heard all your life, but perhaps you never understood. Learn Something New is a series that will highlight some of the things I learn, big and small in the coming days. — Douglas


Plantagenet

While I have been familiar with the Plantagenet Kings of England from the 12th Century — Henry, his wife Eleanor and his 4 sons, Henry, Richard, Geoffrey and John. I actually did some research into the family when I was performing as Prince John in “A Lion in Winter” during my college theater days.

henry-ii plantagenet-arms

Tonight, while watching the BBC Documentary “The Plantagenets”, I learned for the first time (or perhaps reminded myself) that the name comes from Plante Genest, the latin name of the ubiquitous plant, broom, that grows wild all over Europe. I know of Genesta, as it is a non-native growing wild here in the hills of Southern California, but also is a signature plant growing on and around Mount Etna in Sicily, where our Italian family lives. Due to these more recent experience with broom, I am not sure how I missed this little naming fact about such a famous historical family, but it only goes to show how bits and pieces of information can fall through the cracks in our memory.

Genestra (Eng: Broom) - native plant of the hills of Etna

It is these types of tiny facts that keep me reading and watching books and shows on history, science, nature and literature. No matter how much I learn, I know there is always something new out there to learn. I think this is a big part of what keeps life interesting and exciting.

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