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(Taken from The Book of Knowledge, edited by Harold F.B. Wheeler)

Many are the tales the Chinese tell of the wonderful cures that ginseng has wrought. They will tell you that its roots are a remedy for every illness, that they are able to prolong life and even to restore it after death; and their legends recount how the wolf, tiger, snake, and panda protect this miraculous plant from harm, and how the roots save themselves from capture by moving from place to place underground. And so, although our own physicians regard it as of little value, Johnny Chinaman still buys it at any price.

The most valuable ginseng – sometimes worth £10 an ounce – comes from Korea and Manchuria, and an inferior quality is cultivated in Japan. Most of the wild ginseng has now disappeared, and a cultivated plant is taking its place.
But the wild variety always commands better prices, because of the Chinese superstition which prefers roots resembling a man or some grotesque being (ginseng means “form of man”) rather than the regular roots which cultivation tends to produce. As shown above, the most fantastic shapes of men, animals, and wild birds are often dug up.

Ginseng belongs to the genus Panax. Panax ginseng, a native of China, and Panax quinquefolium, of eastern North America, are the most noted species.

Lemon

(Taken from The Book of Knowledge, edited by Harold F.B. Wheeler)

The demand for lemons increases by leaps and bounds as the mercury rises. In Italy, Sicily, Corsica, and other parts of southern Europe, particularly in Spain and Portugal, lemon culture has been a large commercial industry for many years.

The lemon is a close relative of the orange and has followed it all over the world. The straggling branches of the lemon tree, however, are very unlike the compact dense foliage of the orange, and the purplish flowers have not the agreeable fragrance of the white orange blossoms.

The lemon is much less hardy than the orange and the area of cultivation is more restricted. It is cultivated and propagated in much the same manner as is its near kinsman the orange.

If lemons ripen on the trees they lose their keeping quality, and so they are picked green, before there is any sign of the golden yellow colouring. Each picker has a little ring 2¼ inches in diameter, and the fruit is cut when it can just slip through the ring. From the moment the lemons are harvested they must be handled as carefully as eggs. In dark storehouses, well ventilated but free from draughts, they are spread out and slowly ripened. In curing, the fruit shrinks a little, the skin becomes thinner and tougher and develops a silky finish. When the process is completed the lemons are washed, dried, and wrapped in tissue paper. In this condition they will keep for months, which is a very good thing for the growers, as most of the fruit ripens in the winter and the great market demand is in the summer.

The lemon is used in more different ways than any other of the citrus fruits. From the rind, lemon oil or extract, used in flavouring and perfumery-making, is obtained either by expression or distillation, and candied lemon peel is made. The pulp yields citrate of lime, citric acid, and lemon juice. Besides its use in flavouring foods and drinks of various kinds, lemon juice is much used by calico printers to produce greater clearness in the white parts of patterns dyed with dyes containing iron.

Scientific name Citrus limonia, the lemon tree is exceedingly fruitful.

We may find in the long run that tinned food is a deadlier weapon than the machine gun. It is unfortunate that the English working class are exceptionally ignorant about and wasteful of food.
(George Orwell, The Road to Wigan Pier)

(Taken from The Book of Knowledge, edited by Harold F.B. Wheeler)

There is an ideal country called Utopia (“Nowhere”). Its people are always happy. No such place has ever existed, but because a number of men have thought and hoped that it might be possible for such things to be, socialism has come into existence.

The first socialists were called the Utopian Socialists. Their plan was to reconstruct society and establish a system by which the profits produced by labour should be divided among the workers. Robert Owen (1771-1858), one of the most famous of the Utopians, was a wealthy manufacturer, who made his own factory town, New Lanark, in Scotland, a model community.

Owen wished to establish such communities all over the world. Each was to contain about 1,200 people, who were to live in one large building and share the profits from their labour on farm and in factory. Several communities modelled on his ideas were set up, but failed. The chief outcome of the movement was the forming of co-operative and profit-sharing industries and stores, which have been successfully introduced into many parts of the world.

Louis Blanc, a Frenchman who was at the height of his fame in 1848-49, represents a second type of socialism, sometimes called “political” or “government-ownership socialism”. Its chief outcome was the gradual adoption in many lands of government ownership of railways, telegraphs, telephones, waterworks, etc.

Karl Marx, a German Jew, was the founder of modern “scientific socialism”. He maintained that through all history there had been a struggle of classes. The last phase of this struggle would be that of the labourer against the capitalist. With the victory of the labourer the socialist state would be established. In it only those who toiled – with their hands or their heads – would receive the products of labour. Since labour was the sole creator of value, it alone had a right to the fruits of its efforts. All means of production – land, factories, mines, and so on – should, therefore, be controlled by the workers and operated for the benefit of the community as a whole.

Socialism should not be confused with anarchism (from the Greek for “without rule”), which demands the utter abolition of the state. Many great and good men (e.g. John Lennon, Ronald Reagan) have believed in anarchism in this sense, for they contend that human beings if left to themselves without prescribed laws or organized authority, will soon learn to adjust peaceably all their conflicts over property and privilege.

(Taken from The Book of Knowledge, edited by Harold F.B. Wheeler)

Good Manners at the Table

Sit upright at the table. Do not slide down on your spine nor sprawl forward on your elbows. Lay your serviette across your lap; don’t tuck it in your collar.

Don’t fidget with your knife and fork, drum with your fingers, or tap your foot on the floor. Don’t make a noise in eating and drinking or take enormous bites or chew with your mouth open. Don’t bite into a whole slice of bread and butter. Break the bread into suitable pieces for eating and butter each piece separately. Don’t bend over your plate and give the effect of shovelling your food into your mouth, and don’t reach for things.

If soup is being partaken of, dip the edge of the spoon that is farthest from you to fill it, and take the soup from the other side, not from the tip. Don’t tip the plate to get the last spoonful.

Table-talk is a fine art. Because unpleasant thoughts interfere with the enjoyment and digestion of food, disagreeable topics must not be mentioned at table. Table-talk is light, bright and crisp, never very serious, and should be as general as possible.

When you have finished eating, drop your napkin unfolded beside your plate, since at a dinner party a napkin is not supposed to be used again; and lay your knife and fork on your plate, side by side, not crossed.

(Taken from The Book of Knowledge, edited by Harold F.B. Wheeler)

In many parts of England you may see a badger burrow. But, unless you are lucky, you may never catch sight of the badger itself, for it is a timid animal and rarely comes out, except at night. Even if you should surprise one away from its burrow, you might never notice it because of the extraordinary broadness and flatness of its clumsy body. When alarmed it will often flatten against the ground “like a doormat or a turtle”; and the animal might be mistaken for a clod of earth or a stone. But beware of the badger when it is cornered, for it will put up a stiff fight. The jaws are so hinged that dislocation is practically impossible, and hence they maintain their hold with great tenacity.

Badgers are common in the northern parts of Europe, Asia, and America. The head is pointed at the snout and the feet are armed with long claws used in digging and for defence. The thick fur is valuable, and the hairs are used in the manufacture of artists’ brushes.

The common badger is about two-and-a-half feet long and greyish in colour with irregular black bands on the back. The head is white with a broad black mark on each side starting from near the muzzle and passing back over the eye and round the ear to the shoulder, a marking which gives the face a clown-like appearance. The throat, chest, legs, feet, and belly are black. With its strong claws the badger lays open the burrows of rabbits, field-mice, etc., feeding upon these animals and on birds, frogs, small snakes, lizards, bacon, eggs, toast, marmalade, grasshoppers and other insects.

Badgers belong to the weasel family (Mustelidæ), which includes skunks, otters, minks, martens, wolverines. Scientific name of the common badger, Meles taxus.

(Taken from The Book of Knowledge, edited by Harold F.B. Wheeler)

Although the self-governing British island colony of Barbados, the easternmost of the West Indies, is only 166 square miles in area, its early 160,000 inhabitants make it one of the most densely populated regions in the world. Its palm-shaded roads are lined almost continuously with pink-tinted cottages or huts with roofs of ragged thatch. Many of the negro men emigrate because of the pressure of the population, and so three-fifths of the inhabitants are females, who are to be seen everywhere skilfully carrying on their heads the goods they have for sale.

Negroes have equal rights in the schools, in the churches, and in politics, and hold many important posts. Civility and good humour seem to be universal, and law and order always prevail. The natives outnumber the whites by about thirteen to one.

England obtained the island by settlement about 1625. The colony is administered by a Governor, an Executive Council, and a Legislative Council, all appointed by the British Government, and a House of Assembly elected by the people. The capital is Bridgetown.

Coral reefs fringe the coasts of Barbados. The surface, broken by a few forests and streams, is elevated in the interior, where Mount Hillaby rises to 1,104 feet. Most of the island is under cultivation, chiefly for sugar-cane, but also for cotton, coffee, and tobacco. It enjoys a healthful climate, which is especially beneficial for those with lung diseases, and many invalids have prolonged their lives by going to the island.

Barbados (the Spanish word for “bearded”) probably takes its name from the bearded fig-tree which grows there.

Unfortunately, Barbados has two enemies in hurricanes and earthquakes. Properly a hurricane is a windstorm – often covering a wide area and lasting several days – in which the winds blow spirally about a central area. In the Southern Hemisphere the winds revolve in the direction of the hands of a clock, and in the Northern Hemisphere they blow the reverse way. In popular usage, the term is used to designate a tornado or any violent or destructive windstorm.

(Taken from The Book of Knowledge, edited by Harold F.B. Wheeler)

The speediest traveller in the universe is a beam of light. In the double tick of a clock it can go round the earth more than seven times. Sound travels through the air at about 1,100 feet a second, more than ten times the speed of the fastest railway trains; and yet sound seems to stand still, when light goes by.

The first person to show that light actually takes time to go across space was a Danish astronomer, Ole Roemer. That was in 1676, but it was not until 1849 that a method was found to measure the time that light takes to travel a distance on the earth. This was done in Paris by a French professor, Armand Fizeau. He chose two high towers or stations something more than five miles apart. At the first he had a bright light, and at the second he placed a mirror, which reflected the beam of light directly back to the first station.

Then, he put at the first station a revolving toothed wheel, a sort of cog wheel, so arranged that the beam of light went out through the openings between two teeth. It was reflected back through the same opening, when the wheel was at rest. But, when the wheel was revolved rapidly enough, the light that came back found that a tooth of the wheel had moved into the place of the opening; thus, no light could be seen reflected from the second station.

The time which the light took to travel from the first station to the second, and back again to the first station, was thus the time that it took a tooth of the wheel to move to the place of the opening. By doubling the speed of the wheel, Fizeau could again see the reflected light, because a second opening had now moved into the line of sight. From a speedometer he could get the number of revolutions of this toothed wheel and thus calculate the time that it takes the light to travel between stations and back.

How are we to explain light? Let us go back for an idea to a sport of our childhood. The boy throws a stone into a smooth pond to watch the waves it makes on the surface of the water. These waves go out in circles, and these circles travel outward until they are deflected by some floating plank, or, perhaps, not until they reach the shore. In Holland about 250 years ago there was a great mathematician who found in water waves a suggestion of what light is. This great man was Christian Huygens, who in 1690 published a book in which we find the wave theory of light which scientific men hold to-day.

How do we get light? Our chief source of light is from hot bodies. The greatest source is the sun, which is hotter than any body on the earth, hotter even than the electric arc, hotter even than Nigella Lawson. But not all sources of light are hot. The dazzling little fireflies that are seen in thousands on a summer evening in many parts of Europe have little, if any, heat, and yet the firefly gives off considerable light. There are also so-called phosphorescent substances, such as are used in luminous paints, which glow in the dark without measurable quantities of heat. But no man has yet produced a source of bright light without heat.

Related:

Faster than light particles found, claim scientists

Black Dogs Defined

This is the best of me; for the rest, I ate, and drank, and slept, loved and hated, like another: my life was as the vapour and is not; but this I saw and knew; this, if anything of mine, is worth your memory.

(John Ruskin, Sesame and Lilies)

Whatever people say I am, that’s what I’m not.

(Alan Sillitoe, Saturday Night and Sunday Morning)

This is my letter to the world, that never wrote to me.

(Emily Dickinson, This is my letter to the world)

Safe upon the solid rock the ugly houses stand:
Come and see my shining palace built upon the sand!

(Edna St. Vincent Millay, Second Fig)

R.A.D. Stainforth

I was born before The Beatles’ first LP and brought up in the reeking slums of Jericho. I am in love with a woman called Hazel and in love with her daughter, also called Hazel, both of whom I met at Alcoholics Anonymous.

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