WHAT IS MULESING? (other than a really clunky word) It is the slicing of skin from the arse (or breech in grazier speak) of sheep in an effort to reduce flystrike or myiasis (when pooey bums get flyblown). It is named after John Mules – who first developed the practice – and was first introduced in around 1930 when Merino wool production reached heady heights. The skilled surgical slicing (by a trained and accredited person) is being phased out in New Zealand as a result of animal rights protests (it bloody hurts), and is banned for sheep over 12 months. A few alternatives have been slated but still the National Farmers’ Federation claims that is is, “the most effective way to eliminate the risk of flystrike in sheep” and that without it, “up to 3,000,000 sheep could die a slow and agonising death from flystrike”. Imagine a bunch of maggots infesting you from the arsehole up? I’d vote snip.
WHAT IS PALAWA KANI? It is a language which is under construction to resurrect the languages of the Tasmanian Aborigines after they died out with its last speaker in the 19th century. Up to 16 different dialects were spoken among the clans of the Tasmanian Aborigines. Palawa Kani is a construct using around 6 to 12 of them. The project started in 1999 using various historical records and the recordings of Fanny Cochrane Smith, one of the last native speakers. “Lutriwita” is the Palawa Kani name for Tasmania.
WHAT IS THE ARAB SPRING? Also known as the Arab Revolutions or the Arab Rebellions, the Arab Spring is the wave of uprising, demonstration and protest through the Arab world. For almost a year (since Dec 2010) the Arab states have seen a lot of action, including revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt, the fall of the Libyan regime, uprisings in Bahrain, Syria and Yemen, protests in Israel, Algeria, Iraq, Jordan, Morocco and Oman, and minor skirmishes in Kuwait, Lebanon, Mauritania, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Western Sahara. Phew. The widespread unrest shares the characteristics of civil disillusionment and pissed-offness at the standard of living and supression, uprising and the use of social media to communicate and mobilise the people.
WHY WAS THE GREAT WALL OF CHINA BUILT? Rabbits. No actually it was to protect the northern border of the Chinese Empire between the 5th and 16th centuries BC. It is not one but several walls, spanning 6,400 km.
WHERE DOES ‘DUDE’ COME FROM? It was first seen in print way back in 1870 in the US as a description of city men unfamiliar with the demands of rural life – i.e. what we would call a ‘townie’. “Dude Ranches” became popular in the early 1900’s for fellas wanting the rural experience. It was typically applied to a well dressed male who pretty much had no idea about ‘exurban’ life. It was resurrected, altered and popped by surfies in the 60’s.
WHAT IS HAMAS? It means ‘enthusiasm’ in Arabic, but is also an acronym for the “Islamic Resistance Movement”, which is the Palestinian Sunni Islamist political party that governs the Gaza Strip (a Palestinian territory). It also has a military wing. (Learn about what Sunni means here).
WHAT ARE HICCUPS? They are the result of irritation to the phrenic nerve (that controls movement and sensation of the diaphragm) resulting in diaphragmatic spasm. Common causes of this irritation are: a full stomach, spicy food, rapid temperature changes in the stomach, alcohol, shock, excitement, stress and the aroma of the rare furry-eyed echidna (I made up that last one).
WHO ARE THE TAMIL TIGERS? The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam is a militant (terrorist) organisation in Sri Lanka (used to be called Ceylon) that sought to create a Tamil state independent of the Sri Lankan Government. Their campaign raged into a civil war in Sri Lanka in 1983 and ended in 2009 when the Tigers were defeated by the Sri Lankan military. The Government has regained control of the Tamil Tiger’s virtual mini state (they called Tamil Eelam) in 76% of the Northern and Eastern provinces of Sri Lanka. The Tamil Tigers were responsible for the bombing assassination of Rajiv Ghandi in 1991.
WHAT IS A FATWA? It is a legal statement in Islam, issued by a Mufti (interpreter of Islamic law). Fatawa (plural) are most often used to settle a question where Islamic law is unclear. A fatwa was issued on the Americans (effectively declaring war) by Osama bin Laden in 1996.
MUSLIM, ISLAM, WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE? Well nothing really except that Muslims (the people) follow Islam (the religion). Islam is the second largest religion (as in population) in the world after Christianity. Muslims are the ‘adherents’ (not sticky people but followers) of Islam.
DO BIRDS FART? This may not be a question on everyone’s lips, but it has long confounded me, especially since I am acutely aware of the negative effects of Methane in our atmosphere (and am suffering from increasing stomach pain). Evidently (thanks again Google old mate), no one really knows. A credible sounding bird expert says not, on account of their short digestive tract and the lack of gas buildup. Others say that there is such a thing as the Avian Anal Emissions, in particular Forest Ang, who took this photo as proof. Hee hee. So my question remains unanswered really, but I think they do. This birdy has a go at it at least.
WHAT IS THE THEORY OF RELATIVITY? It is Albert Einstein’s greatest achievement – it tells us many things including what would happen to our view of the world if we travelled at the speed of light. It also incorporates his famous E=mcsquared formula, which shows us that energy and matter are different forms of the same thing. (eh??)
And that, my friends, is way too much for this little brain. I’m off to the shiny outdoors to chat to my seedlings and listen to the birds. xx