The Symbolism of the Islamic Garden

Islamic gardens act as symbolic representation of the archetypal eternal heavenly garden, an attempt to provide a small peak into what could potentially wait for a person in the afterlife. Repetition of geometric shapes in Islamic gardens help to emphasize the link between the physical world and thereafter. Circular fountains represent Jannah, the Islamic representation of heaven, as the circle is symbolic of heaven. The square is always utilized as a symbol of the Earth, with circular fountains often found within square indentations to act as a metaphor for heaven and Earth meeting. The term “Jannat-al-Firdaws” which means “Garden of Paradise” in Arabic, is mentioned many times throughout the Quran, with Chapter 55 of Surat al-Rahman (pronounced “suu-rat al rack-man”), which means the “all merciful” in Arabic, holding the best and most descriptive accounts of what this garden truly would look like if experienced. Water plays a crucial role in these accounts, with multiple layers of symbolism for life present which is why water is the most important element within an Islamic garden as it is symbolic of the soul. Rain was and continues to be viewed as a merciful gift from heaven within Islamic culture as Islam stems from one of the hottest regions in the world. Water is essential to Islam and an Islamic paradise garden cannot exist without the incorporation of water to some degree. Islamic gardens are separated into 4 specific quadrants because of the “chahar bagh” (pronounced “cha-harr bahh”) which means “4 gardens” in the Persian language of Farsi, directly related to the 4 rivers of paradise, including a river of milk, honey, wine, and water, an order and harmony which underlies everything within an Islamic garden

The Reason Most Cats Adore Cat Nip

Catnip is a perennial herb which is a member of the mint family, specifically the species of the genus Nepeta (pronounced “nah-pee-tah”) in the family Lamiaceae (pronounced “lah-me-yay-see-aye”). The chemical compound in the nepeta cataria plant which attracts and affects felines is nepetalactone (pronounced “nah-pee-tal-ack-tone”). Nepetalactone is indigenous to Southern and Eastern Europe, the Middle East, Central Asia, and parts of China. When cats consume catnip orally the compound acts as a sedative, but when inhaled for its scent, it causes short bursts of hyperactivity. Nepetalactone is extracted via steam distillation and acts as a natural mosquito and fly repellent. Several scientific studies have demonstrated that leopards, cougars, and various species of lynx often react to catnip in a similar manner to their domestic house cat cousins, whilst lions and tigers may react strongly, but may also have little or no reaction whatsoever. 33% of cats are unaffected by catnip with the behavior theorized to be hereditary in nature. In 1962, it was discovered that susceptibility to catnip may be directly related to the Mendelian-dominant gene. Other plants can have similar effects upon felines including the roots and leafs of the valerian plant, silver vine which is sometimes referred to as “matatabi”, and Tatarian honeysuckle wood. Cats who do not respond to nepeta cataria are more likely to respond to one, some, or all of these alternatives plants. In addition to its use with cats, nepeta cataria is also a popular ingredient in herbal tisanes and teas, and is highly valued for its sedative and relaxant properties”

The Traditional Practice of the Japanese Geisha

Japanese geishas, referred to as “geiko” (pronounced “gay-ko”) first appeared 300 years ago during the Edo period, an era when Japan was closed to the rest of the world allowing its indigenous culture to flourish. There were once 80,000 geisha but that number has dropped to just 1000 during the modern day. It takes 5 long years to become a geisha, this time spent with no smartphone, no romantic relationships, and only 2 days off per month. Geishas undergo lessons in music and dance as well as tea making and etiquette. All food and lodging is provided by the geisha training institution so that students become completely and totally immersed within the geisha lifestyle. Geishas wear white masks of makeup as symbolism that what is concealed is more desirable than that which is revealed. Pink is painted onto the earlobes as a way to hide embarrassment from blushing, and bare skin is left in a “W” or “V” shape upon the back of the neck to accentuate the neck which is considered highly beautiful, sexual, and erotic in Japanese culture. Geishas are only supposed to entertain their client with highly cultured activities, and the profession is not supposed to be associated with sexual interaction

The Tradition and Method of Selecting a New Pope

Murder, bribery, and nepotism were the primary ways in which a pope would enter or exit the papacy prior to the 12th century. It was during the 12th century that cardinals who were senior clergy in Rome, Italy created what they referred to as a “college” to act as a council which would regulate the elections of future popes. This system became referred to as the “conclave” which refers to the practice of a “private meeting assembly of cardinals for the election of a pope”. The term “conclave” was chosen because of the Latin term “con” with means “with” and the Latin term “clavin” which means “key”, more literally translating to “locked room” as cardinals would be locked away to avoid the interference of outside politics. As of 1274 A.D., all papal elections are held in secret, adhering to this strict tradition in an attempt to remain unbiased. Elections are held again and again until a 66% majority is achieved at which point white smoke is released to signify that the council has reached a decision. The election ballets from each voting round are burned so that the election is completely anonymous and private, even for those who are present in the meeting. It is this burning which creates the iconography of the smoke being released to signify a decision. In the Middle Ages, cardinals added damp straw to the ballots which created black smoke to signify that a pope had not yet been chosen. White smoke was created by burning the paper alone, but during the modern day, chemical additives are added to ensure the white smoke color is as unambiguous as possible

The Italian Concept of Caffè Sospeso

In Italy, cafes often allow customers to purchase a suspended coffee, which is a drink paid for and donated to be consumed by a future customer at no cost, referred to as a “caffè sospeso” which means “suspended coffee” in Italian. This act of charity and humanitarianism does not allow the purchaser to know who consumes their donation, and does not allow the receiver to know who provided it, as the barista decides who should receive said gift. This act of kindness started in the 1930’s when poverty was rampant in Europe, as it was believed that a coffee provided at no charge revitalized an individual and made their entire day better, more so because of the act itself, rather than the coffee or money involved

The Advent of the Restaurant in Paris, France

The modern concept of the restaurant is a French idea, with the term “restaurant” being derived from the term “restaurer” which means to ”provide food for” in French, with a more literal translation of “restoration” in that a restaurant is a place to restore, replenish, and refill one’s energy. Chef Antoine Beauvilliers (pronounced “ann-twon boo-vill-ee-yay”) opened the Grande Taverne de Londres Restaurant (pronounced “gran tah-vern de lon”) in Paris, France in 1782. Fine cuisine was served at private tables, to the general public, an experience which until then had only been available within the homes of the nobility. The main idea which caught on was not only the introduction of the serving of food, but that the food being served wasn’t preselected as was customary during dinner banquets for nobility. The ability to choose from a selection of items upon a restaurant’s menu was very popular once made available to the Parisian public. The timing for this invention was absolutely perfect as the abolition of the French monarchy and related nobility during the French Revolution left many extremely talented chefs suddenly without work which lead to a large number of these chefs opening up restaurants of their own

The Reason Beer Bottles Are Brown and Green

Alcoholic beverages like beer are brown in color because clear glass allows ultraviolet light to penetrate which can alter the flavor profile. Bottles inevitably became tinted brown to prevent ultraviolet light from achieving full penetration. After World War II, green bottles became popular due to shortages of brown glass

The Bulking Agents Used in the Saffron Spice

saffron-bulking-agentBecause saffron is so expensive it’s often mixed with other plants which are not actually saffron but are closely related to saffron to build up the bulk of the weight of a purchase. Turmeric is a primary example of a plant often used to help bulk up supplies. Distributors also use plastic as it helps add weight and eye appeal whilst actually providing nothing more than visual esthetics. Scientists can perform deoxyribonucleic acid examinations to determine if a sample is actually pure saffron or not. High quality saffron should have a humid scent which indicates that it was picked fresh. If the scent of saffron is slightly rancid, it means that it is old or of low quality