Friday, September 22, 2017

Paul Johnston's path to full-time novel writing was circuitous.  He studied Ancient and Modern Greek at Oxford University, where he befriended another future crime writer, Robert Wilson (A Small Death in LisbonThe Blind Man of Seville).  After graduation, he worked for several shipping companies in London, Belgium and Greece, and then did a journalistic stint at a newspaper in Athens.  Finding that Greece agreed with him, Johnston moved with his wife, Vigdis, and their infant daughter to the small Aegean island of Antiparos in 1989.  There, he taught English in order to pay the bills, and at the same time tried to fulfill his long-held ambition to compose fiction--a dream undoubtedly fed by the fact that his father, Ronald Johnston, was a successful thriller writer (Black Camels of QashranParadise SmithFlying Dutchman, etc.).  Paul Johnston has since said that living away from the UK helped him to cut through the familiar myths about Scotland and write about his ancestral land with a freer hand.  Read an interview with Paul Johnston by Ali Karim and Simon Kernick at

A.Word.A.Day with Anu Garg
gung ho  (GUHNG-HO)  adjective  Extremely eager and enthusiastic.   From Chinese gonghe, an acronym from the Gongye Hezuoshe (Chinese Industrial Cooperative Society).  The term gonghe was interpreted to mean “work together” and was introduced as a training slogan by US Marine Corps officer Evans Carlson (1896-1947).  Earliest documented use:  1942.
Monday morning quarterback  (MUHN-day MOR-ning KWOR-tuhr-bak)  noun  One who criticizes others’ actions and offers alternatives with the benefit of hindsight.  In the US, professional football games are often played on Sundays.  A quarterback in a football game is a player who directs the offensive play of the team.  The term alludes to a person offering an alternative course of action after the fact, perhaps on a Monday morning around the office water cooler.  Earliest documented use:  1930.
Feedback to A.Word.A.Day
From:  Dan Duke  Subject:  Monday morning quarterback  A frequently used synonym in the game of bridge is “result merchant”.  A player who proclaims he or she knew exactly how to “play the last hand” after the hand is over. 
From: Ilan Cohen  Subject:  Monday morning quarterback  I had never heard of the Monday morning quarterback, but I love it.  It reminds me of one of my favorite images in French:  l’esprit d’escalier or stairway wit.  The witty comeback you think of as you leave the place.
From:  Andrew Pressburger  Subject:  Monday morning quarterback  In Italy, where soccer has been regarded as a religion of sorts, there used to be a Monday program on RAI (Italian television), called Processo di lunedi, i.e. The Trial of Monday.  In it, with the help of replays, the panel of “experts” would sock it to the referees for mistakes they had committed in the matches played the day before.

Identity theft protection following the Equifax data breach by Kristin Dohn  September 9, 2017  Extensive article from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.  If you're having trouble with a financial product or service, you can submit a complaint with the CFPB online or by calling (855) 411-CFPB (2372).

NAME CHANGES  American singer Frankie Valli (born Francesco Stephen Castelluccio on May 3, 1934)   American actor Jamie Farr (born Jameel Joseph Farah on July 1, 1934)  American  comedian, singer, actor, and producer Danny Thomas (born Amos Muzyad Yakhoob Kairouz on January 6, 1912)

The production of grana cheese in the Po Valley is generally thought to have begun in 1135 in the abbey of Chiaravalle.  We know that it was produced in many monasteries using special cauldrons.  This is how the first cheese factories were established and the first dairy producers and experts in the production of cheese developed the trade.  The monks called it caseus vetus, old cheese.  But the cheese consumers of the period were unfamiliar with Latin and instead called it by another name inspired by its unusual granular consistency.  This is how it acquired the name formaggio di grana (grana cheese) or simply grana, and was distinguished according to the province of production.  The most commonly cited granas are from the area of Lodi, considered by many to be the oldest, but also from the areas of Milan, Parma, Piacenza and Mantua.  Things changed on the cheese production front in 1951.  In Stresa on 1st June that year, European technicians and dairy-farm workers signed an “Agreement” whereby they established precise rules for naming the cheese and determining its characteristics.  It was on this occasion that “Grana Lodigiano” cheese was created, later to become “Grana Padano” and “Parmigiano-Reggiano”.

On September 22/23, 2017, the day and night will be almost equal in most locations.  In the Northern Hemisphere, the September equinox is on or around September 22, while the first equinox of the year, the March Equinox, takes place on or around March 21 every year.  For meteorologists, on the other hand, fall in the Northern Hemisphere begins about 3 weeks before the September equinox on September 1 and ends on November 30.  In the Southern Hemisphere, the September equinoxit is the vernal (spring) equinox.  Equinoxes are not day-long events, even though many choose to celebrate all day.  Instead, they occur at the exact moment the Sun crosses the celestial equator--the imaginary line in the sky above Earth’s Equator.  At this instant, Earth's rotational axis is neither tilted away from nor towards the Sun.  In 2017, the Sun's crosses the celestial equator from north to south on September 22, at 20:02 UTC.  Because of time zone differences, the equinox will take place on September 23, 2017 at locations that are at least 10 hours ahead UTC.  These include cities in eastern Australiaeastern RussiaGuamand New Zealand.  Read more at

GIARDINIERA:  ITALIAN PICKLED VEGETABLES   Giardiniera (pronounced JAR-di-NAIR-ah) means “from the garden” in Italian.  The concept has quite a long history in Italy, where fresh garden produce was pickled and marinated as a way of preserving it for the winter.  It was the early 1920s that giardiniera started to make a name for itself in the communities of Italian immigrants in Chicago.  Although it grew in popularity throughout the city, if you’ve never been to Chicago or tasted a Chicato style Italian beef sandwich, you may not have ever heard of this tangy, crunchy condiment.  In Italy, giardiniera is served as an antipasto, or appetizer.  Fresh, garden cauliflower, celery, carrots, bell peppers, hot peppers are the staples of Italian giardiniera, but sometimes you will see others added.  Since this is considered an appetizer in Italy, the vegetables are cut into one or two bite chunks, making the dish a bulky appetizer or side dish.  Find homemade giardiniera recipe at

Quick Giardiniera from EatingWell Magazine, March/April 2012  This quickly pickled, spicy Italian salad of mixed sliced vegetables is great for an antipasto platter, served with grilled meat or chopped up and put on a sandwich.

September 19, 2017  For the past three years, amateur archaeologists and historians in southern England have been working side-by-side with volunteers to excavate several seemingly related local Roman sites.  Now, just two weeks before the dig's scheduled conclusion, they've made a fantastic discovery: a rare 4th-century CE mosaic that is being hailed as "the most important of its type in Britain in more than half a century," according to The New York Times.  Dating to roughly 380 CE, the mosaic was unearthed near the village of Boxford in Berkshire.  In the project's first two years, the group members discovered a large Roman villa, a bathhouse, and a farmstead.  In 2017, they began excavating the main villa, a site that yielded pottery, jewelry, coins, and other ancient objects.  None of these artifacts, however, were as spectacular as the mosaic, which volunteers unearthed in a moment of serendipity shortly before funding for the dig ended.  Revealed sections of the artwork depict scenes featuring Bellerophon, a mythological Greek hero, along with other fabled figures. Bellerophon is famous in legends for capturing the winged horse Pegasus and for defeating the Chimera, a fire-breathing creature with a lion's head, a goat's body, and a serpent's tail.  Kirstin Fawcett  See pictures at

September 20, 2017  For the second time in two weeks, a powerful earthquake struck Mexico, toppling buildings, cracking highways and killing hundreds of people.  The 7.1-magnitude earthquake September 19, 2017 was about 650 kilometers from the epicenter of the 8.1-magnitude earthquake that hit September 8, said Jana Pursley, a geophysicist with the US Geological Survey.  Both earthquakes seem to be a result of the rupture of fault lines within the North American tectonic plate, according to Behzad Fatahi, associate professor of geotechnical and earthquake engineering at the University of Technology Sydney.  "It is not very unusual to get earthquakes and aftershocks occurring in sequence," Fatahi said.  "When fault lines rupture, they can induce further ruptures as a chain effect in other parts of the same fault or nearby fault lines."  "The downtown of Mexico City is notoriously vulnerable to earthquakes because of the very soft and wet ground underneath.  Its soil amplifies shaking like Jell-O on a plate, and is prone to liquefaction, which is the ability to transform dirt into a dense liquid when sufficiently churned," wrote John Vidale, a seismologist and director of the Southern California Earthquake Center.  CNN Meteorologist Pedram Javaheri said this has been the case for hundreds of years.  "Mexico City was built on what is now a dry lakebed," Javaheri said.  The city, one of the most densely populated in the world, is situated directly on top of it.  Both quakes occurred on the so-called Pacific Ring of Fire, a 25,000-mile area shaped like a horse shoe that stretches from the boundary of the Pacific plate and the smaller plates such as the Philippine Sea plate to the Cocos and Nazca plates that line the edge of the Pacific Ocean.  It is one of the most seismically active zones on the planet, and about 80% of all earthquakes strike there, said Hongfeng Yang, a seismologist at the Chinese University of Hong Kong.  Five tectonic plates--Cocos, Pacific, Caribbean, Panama and North American--collide in central and southern Mexico, making the region one of the most unstable, he added.  Faith Karimi and Chandrika Narayan  See graphic of Pacific Ring of Fire at  Issue 1773  September 22, 2017  On this date in 1888, the first issue of National Geographic Magazine was published.  On this date in 1896Queen Victoria surpassed her grandfather King George III as the longest reigning monarch in British history.  On this date in 1991, the Dead Sea Scrolls were made available to the public for the first time by the Huntington Library.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

The Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh is the largest museum in the North America dedicated to a single artist.  The Andy Warhol Museum is one of the four Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh and is a collaborative project of the Carnegie Institute, the Dia Art Foundation and The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts (AWFVA).  The museum is located in an 88,000-square-foot (8,200 m2) facility on seven floors.  Containing 17 galleries, the museum features 900 paintings, close to 2,000 works on paper, over 1,000 published unique prints, 77 sculptures, 4,000 photographs, and over 4,350 Warhol films and videotaped works.  In addition to its Pittsburgh location the museum has sponsored 56 traveling exhibits that have attracted close to 9 million visitors in 153 venues worldwide since 1996.  Andy Warhol was born Andrew Warhola August 6, 1928 in Pittsburgh to Andrej and Julia Warhola, Carpatho-Rusyn immigrants.  His first published commission was in the September 1949 issue of Glamour magazine.  His work was steady because he was quick and was willing to make changes as requested.  Warhol died February 22, 1987 from complications following gallbladder surgery.

Speculative fiction is a fiction genre speculating about worlds that are unlike the real world in various important ways.  In these contexts, it generally overlaps one or more of the following:  science fictionfantasy fictionhorror fictionsupernatural fictionsuperhero fictionutopian and dystopian fiction, apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic fiction, and alternate history.  It is often used as an umbrella term for science fiction and fantasy considered as a single genre

August 28, 2017  Thirty years ago, almost no one used the Internet for anything.  Today, just about everybody uses it for everything.  Even as the Web has grown, however, it has narrowed.  Google now controls nearly ninety per cent of search advertising, Facebook almost eighty per cent of mobile social traffic, and Amazon about seventy-five per cent of e-book sales.  Such dominance, Jonathan Taplin argues, in “Move Fast and Break Things: How Facebook, Google, and Amazon Cornered Culture and Undermined Democracy” (Little, Brown), is essentially monopolistic.  In his account, the new monopolies are even more powerful than the old ones, which tended to be limited to a single product or service.  “The Internet was supposed to be a boon for artists,” Taplin observes.  “It was supposed to eliminate the ‘gatekeepers’—the big studios and record companies that decide which movies and music get widespread distribution.”  Google, Amazon, Facebook, and Apple—Europeans refer to the group simply as gafa—didn’t eliminate the gatekeepers; they took their place.  Instead of becoming more egalitarian, the country has become less so:  the gap between America’s rich and poor grows ever wider.  Elizabeth Kolbert

Lullaby and goodnight, With roses bedight, With lilies o'er spread Is baby's wee bed.  Lay thee down now and rest, May thy slumber be blessed.  Brahms Lullaby, traditional words to the original of which was Johannes Brahms' "Wiegenlied:  Guten Abend, gute Nacht" ("Good evening, good night"), Op. 49, No. 4.  The lullaby was first performed in public on 22 December 1869 in Vienna by Louise Dustmann (singer) and Clara Schumann (piano).  bedight  verb  decorate  synonyms:  bedeckdeck  See a "wheel" of related words at

Giotto’s Campanile is the bell tower belonging to the Basilica of Santa Maria del Fiore in Florence.  It has a square base and is 84.70 meters tall.  In 1334, Giotto di Bondone (Vicchio 1267–Florence 1337), an Italian painter and architect, was made chief architect for the building of the complex of Santa Maria del Fiore.  He was a very popular, well-known artist during his time.  Vasari tells how Giotto was able to draw a perfect circle without a compass, the famous “O by Giotto”.  One of the most famous works of this artist are the frescos in the Basilica of Assisi, which depict the Stories of St. Francis.  This masterpiece astonished Giotto’s contemporaries for its modernity and beauty.  However, according to legend, Giotto devoted himself particularly to the construction of the majestic bell tower in Florence, overlooking the building of the cathedral.  At the time of Giotto’s death in 1337, only the first blocks at the bottom had been laid​​, already displaying some of the tower’s structural weaknesses.  The anonymous fourteenth century author of a Commentary on the Divine Comedy recounts the legend that Giotto died of grief for having given the bell tower “a too small bed for your feet.”  In reality, the base of the tower is more narrow than it should be, perhaps to give the effect of greater vertical momentum.  Numerous structural problems emerged during its construction, and the Black Death that plagued Florence slowed down work until its eventual completion in 1359.  This bell tower is now considered the most beautiful tower in Italy, due to its architectural structure and decorationsRead more and see many pictures at

Stetson University is a private, nonprofit university with four colleges and schools located across the I-4 corridor in Central Florida with the primary undergraduate campus located in DeLand.  In the 2017 U.S. News and World Report's guide to America's Best Colleges, Stetson ranks as the 5th best regional university in the South, 5th best for veterans among regional universities in the South and 6th best value school among regional universities in the South.  The Stetson University College of Law, located in Gulfport, Florida, was ranked 1st nationally in trial advocacy by U.S. News & World Report in 2017.  Stetson University was founded in 1883 by Henry Addison DeLand, a New York philanthropist, as DeLand Academy.  In 1887, the Florida Legislature enacted the Charter of DeLand University as an independent institution of higher learning.  DeLand University's name was changed in 1889 to honor hat manufacturer John B. Stetson, a benefactor of the university, who served with town founder, Henry A. DeLand, and others as a founding trustee of the university.  Stetson also provided substantial assistance to the university after DeLand, on account of financial reverses, was no longer able to do so.

John Batterson Stetson (1830–1906) was an American hatterhat manufacturer, and, in the 1860s, the inventor of the cowboy hat.  He founded the John B. Stetson Company as a manufacturer of headwear; the company's hats are now commonly referred to simply as StetsonsUnder Stetson's direction, The John B. Stetson Company became one of the largest hat firms in the world.  Stetson hats won numerous awards, but as his company grew, he "faced the challenge of developing a reliable labor force."   Reportedly, "people working in the hat trade at that time tended to drift from employer to employer" and "absenteeism was rampant."   Unlike most other employers, Stetson decided to offer benefits to entice workers to stay.  Stetson also made sure his employees had a clean, safe place to work, including building a hospital, a park and houses for his 5,000 employees.  Stetson's unusual moves helped him build a factory in Philadelphia that grew to 25 buildings on 9 acres (36,000 m2).  By 1915, nine years after Stetson's death, 5,400 employees were turning out 3.3 million hats.  While Stetson profited from his business, he also wanted to give back to his community.  Near the end of his life, Stetson began donating almost all of his money to charitable organizations.  He built grammar and high schools and helped build colleges, including Temple and Stetson Universities.  He also helped establish the YMCA in Philadelphia.  Stetson donated generously to the DeLand Academy (in DeLand, Fla.), which was renamed (1889) John B. Stetson University.  In 1900, Stetson University founded the first law school in FloridaStetson University Law School.  Stetson co-founded Sunday Breakfast Rescue Mission, a homeless shelter and soup kitchen, in 1878.  Sunday Breakfast Rescue Mission has since expanded to provide more services and is still in use for the homeless population of Philadelphia.  Stetson owned a mansion in DeLand where he died in 1906.  The John B. Stetson House is a mixture of Gothic, Tudor, and Moorish styles, and is open to the public for tours.  The actor Alan Young, known for his role in the sitcom, Mr. Ed, played Stetson in the 1962 episode "The Hat That Won the West" of the syndicated television seriesDeath Valley Days, hosted by Stanley Andrews  Issue 1772  September 20, 2017  On this date in 1519Ferdinand Magellan set sail from Sanlúcar de Barrameda with about 270 men on his expedition to circumnavigate the globe.  On this date in 1893Charles Duryea and his brother road-tested  the first American-made gasoline-powered automobile  Thought of the Day  “Mistakes are part of the dues one pays for a full life.” - Sophia Loren (born September 20, 1934)  Word of the Day  moonsickle  (poetic)  A thin crescent of the moon.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

September 8, 2017  FACEBOOK MAY HAVE MORE RUSSIAN TROLL FARMS TO WORRY ABOUT by Issie Lapowsky   When in comes to Russian propaganda, things are seldom what they seem.  Consider the case of the Internet Research Agency.  The shadowy St. Petersburg-based online-influence operation came under fresh scrutiny this week after Facebook disclosed that entities linked to Russia had placed some 5,000 phony political ads on its platform during the 2016 election cycle.  The IRA, which was the subject of a 2015 New York Times Magazine investigation, may have been behind many of the bogus Facebook ads, the company says.  Of course, things aren’t as simple as that. Russian corporate records indicate Internet Research Agency has been inactive since December 2016.  But that doesn’t mean that Russians no longer engage in such activity.  According to Russia researchers at the liberal advocacy group Center for American Progress, there’s reason to believe the Internet Research Agency is operating under a new name:  Glavset.

CONUS  Continental United States  OCONUS  Outside the continental United States  POTUS  President of the United States--coined by Walter P. Phillips in 1879  FLOTUS  First Lady of the United States
SCOTUS Supreme Court of the United States--coined by Walter P. Phillips in 1879

Walter P. Phillips, born in Grafton, Massachusetts in 1846, was a journalist, telegraph operator, and businessman who invented the Phillips Code.  He later became the head of the United Press.  The most well known remnants of the Phillips Code are the terms POTUSand SCOTUS.   Little is known about his early years, but he did not have much schooling.  He left school at age twelve and went to work on a farm.  Several years later, in 1861, he was hired by the American Telephone and Telegraph Company in Providence as a messenger.  Phillips worked his way up in the American Telephone and Telegraph Company, and became known as an "expert telegrapher," respected for his speed in sending and receiving messages.  By 1868, he was working for the Western Union Telegraph office in Providence, where his skill caught the attention of Samuel F. B. Morse.  Phillips was the winner of several telegraphy contests; in one contest, he accurately transcribed more than 2700 words in one hour, earning him a personal letter from Morse, along with a gift; the letter praised Phillips for his "dexterity" in the use of Morse code as well as his "faultless manner of recording" messages.

“I've got everything I need.  That's the definition of affluence.”  #15 in the Jack Reacher series of novels by Lee Child

Keep Calm and Carry On.  But people haven't kept calm.  This wartime slogan was first resold as a poster in 2001.  Then it made its way on to mugs, T-shirts, tea towels, mouse mats, aprons, and all manner of other items.  It soon started to be parodied.  One of the first--Now Panic and Freak Out--had at least a vague whiff of originality in 2008.  But five years on and the variants are in the thousands.  Keep Calm And Have a Cupcake.  Keep Calm And Have a Beer.  Keep Calm And Do the Dishes.  For Star Wars fans, the Yoda-inspired Calm You Shall Keep and Carry On You Must.  Amazon lists 442,000 items with "Keep Calm and" in the title.  Two-and-a-half million copies of "Keep Calm" were printed, to be distributed in the event of a national catastrophe, but remained in storage throughout the war.  It was all but forgotten until 2000, when a copy was discovered in a box of books bought at auction by Stuart Manley, a bookseller from Northumberland.  Tom Heyden

Ricotta is an Italian fresh cheese made from sheep, cow, goat or buffalo’s milk whey left over from the production of cheese.  Since the casein is filtered away from whey during cheese making process, ricotta is suitable for persons with casein intolerance.  Being low in fat and high in protein, ricotta is a dieter’s dream cheese.  Traditional Italian fresh ricotta is smoother than cottage cheese and tastes mildly sweet.  Ricotta is a popular ingredient in many Italian dishes like lasagna, manicotti, cassata, cheesecake, calzone, pizza, and ravioli and dips.  It is also suitable as a sauce thickener.

Surprisingly, it takes half a gallon of milk to get 1 1/2 cups of fresh ricotta. For the moistest, lightest consistency, let the curds drain only as long as specified.  Find recipe for making fresh ricotta cheese at

Sardinia is the second largest island in the Mediterranean Sea after Sicily.  It sits right next to the French island of Corsica.  I have a strong fondness for Sardinia for many reasons.  I love the natural beauty of the island, from the rugged mountainous interior to the pristine aquamarine beaches.  I love that the island is steeped in a rich history and has 1850 kilometres of coastline.  I’m also interested in the inhabitants because they have a considered way of eating--locally and seasonally.  Sardinia, just like Okinawa in Japan, is a Blue Zone.  A Blue Zone is where there is a concentrated population of permanent residents that have the highest level of centenarians (100 years old) or super centenarians (over 100 years old) in the world.  When I first visited Sardinia in 2004, I found it curious to see very elderly folk physically working.  They were farming, working on the streets and working in kitchens.  Why do Sardinians live so long?  I reckon it has a lot to do with their diet and lifestyle.  Sardinians eat locally grown food, mostly vegetables and not too much.  Generally, they don’t overindulge in alcohol, sweets or processed foods.  Sardinians keep their stress levels in check, and they are usually very calm, kind, generous and healthy folk.  I have developed this recipe with Cassola (Sardinian seafood stew) in mind and I have used our locally available seafood.  However, I have picked up a packet of fregola pasta at a local deli.  This is true Sardinian rolled semolina pasta.  You could use cous cous or the larger Israeli cous cous here instead.  Unlike mainland Italy, Sardinians are known for serving seafood dishes with cheese.  When serving, you may like to finely grate some pecorino or parmesan cheese over the seafood and finish with fennel fronds.  Brenda Fawdon  Find recipe for Sardinian Seafood, Fennel and Fregola at

Pane carasau is a traditional Sardinian flat bread, unmistakable for its thin, crispy sheets.  Because it has a long storage life, the bread was used by sheepherders during the long periods they spent taking care of their herds.  Pane carasau is ancient flat bread also known as “carta musica” (sheet music) due to its resemblance to the parchment paper that sacred music was written on.  Traces of the bread were found in the nuraghi (traditional Sardinian stone buildings) and it was therefore already in existence before 1000 BC.  Pane carasau, from the Sardinian “carasare”, which refers to the crush of bread, is without a doubt the most famous Sardinian bread in the world.  After having prepared the dough, it had to be rolled out into very thin sheets that were baked in a very hot oven (840°-930°F) until it puffed up like a ball.  Still today, these disks of bread have to be removed from the oven, and with great skill, cut along their circumference and divided into sheets.  The sheets are then stacked one on top of another with the pourous side facing the outside.  The bread is then baked another time to obtain its crispiness and characteristic color, or carasatura.  In the past, having been prepared for the sheepherders that had to attend their herds, the bread was folded in half during cooking, when the bread was still flexible, to reduce its size and allowing for it to fit in a knap sack.

Carbon dating shows an ancient Indian manuscript has the earliest recorded origin of the zero symbol.  The Bakhshali manuscript is now believed to date from the 3rd or 4th Century, making it hundreds of years older than previously thought.  The zero symbol evolved from a dot used in ancient India and can be seen throughout the Bakhshali manuscript.  Other ancient cultures like the Mayans and Babylonians also used zero symbols, but the dot the Bakhshali manuscript developed a hollow centre to become the symbol we use today.  It was also only in India where the zero developed into a number in its own right, the Bodleian Libraries added.  Bodleian Libraries said scholars had previously struggled to date it because it is made of 70 leaves of birch bark and composed of material from three different periods.  The manuscript was found by a farmer in a village called Bakhshali, in what is now Pakistan, in 1881 before being acquired by the indologist Rudolf Hoernle, who presented it to the Bodleian Libraries in 1902.  The creation of zero was one of the "greatest breakthroughs" in mathematics, Prof Marcus Du Sautoy of the University of Oxford said.  See picture of manuscript at  Issue 1771  September 19, 2017  On this date in 1778, the Continental Congress passed the first United States federal budget.  On this date in 1796George Washington's Farewell Address was printed across America as an open letter to the public.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Barney Google and Snuffy Smith, originally Take Barney Google, F'rinstance, is an American comic strip created by cartoonist Billy DeBeck.  Since its debut on June 17, 1919, the strip has gained a large international readership, appearing in 900 newspapers in 21 countries.  The initial appeal of the strip led to its adaptation to film, animation, popular song and television.  It added several terms and phrases to the English language and inspired the 1923 hit tune "Barney Google (with the Goo-Goo-Googly Eyes)" with lyrics by Billy Rose, as well as the 1923 record, "Come On, Spark Plug!"  Barney Google himself, once the star of the strip and a very popular character in his own right, has been almost entirely phased out of the feature.  An increasingly peripheral player in his own strip beginning in the late 1930s, Google was officially "written out" in 1954, although he would occasionally return for cameo appearances.  These cameos were often years apart—from a period between 1997 and 2012, Barney Google wasn't seen in the strip at all.  Google was reintroduced to the strip in 2012, and has been seen very occasionally since, making several week-long appearances.  Snuffy Smith, who was initially introduced as a supporting player in 1934, has now been the comic strip's central character for over 60 years.  Following "The Goo-Goo Song" (1900), the word "Google" was introduced in 1913 in Vincent Cartwright Vickers' The Google Book, a children's book about the Google and other fanciful creatures who live in Googleland:  "The Google has a beautiful garden which is guarded night and day.  All through the day he sleeps in a pool of water in the center of the garden; but when the night comes, he slowly crawls out of the pool and silently prowls around for food."   Aware of the word's appeal, DeBeck launched his comic strip six years later, and the "goo-goo-googly" lyrics in the 1923 song "Barney Google" focused attention on the novelty of the word.  When mathematician and Columbia University professor Edward Kasner was challenged in the late 1930s to devise a name for a very large number, he asked his nine-year-old nephew, Milton Sirotta, to suggest a word.  The youthful comic strip reader told Kasner to use "Google".  Kasner agreed, and in 1940, he introduced the words "googol" and "googolplex" in his book, Mathematics and the ImaginationThis is the term that Larry Page and Sergey Brin had in mind when they named their company in 1998, but they intentionally misspelled "googol" as "google," bringing it back full circle to Vickers' form.  In 2002, when Page set up a scanning device at Google to test how fast books could be scanned, the first book he scanned was Vickers' The Google Book.  DeBeck, who had a gift for coining colorful terms, is credited with introducing several Jazz Age slang words and phrases into the English language—including "sweet mama", "horsefeathers", “heebie-jeebies”, “hotsy-totsy” and “Who has seen the doodle bug?”  Snuffy's catchphrases “great balls o’ fire” and “time's a-wastin'” remain popular to this day.  In DeBeck's memory, the National Cartoonists Society in 1946 introduced the Billy DeBeck Award.  (Eight years later, the name was changed to the Reuben Award after Rube Goldberg.)  Snuffy Smith currently appears in 21 countries and 11 languages.  In 1995, the strip was honored by the U.S. Postal Service; it was one of 20 included in the Comic Strip Classics series of commemorative USPS postage stamps.

More than 90 percent of global trade moves by ship and the top 25 ports in North America account for a whopping 97 percent of total trade for the continent.  Read on to learn more about North America’s top ports in 2015, and just what cargo they are bringing in and sending out. 

Lillian Michelson:  Hollywood's Librarian  7,000 books.  100,000 periodicals.  Over 1,000,000 clippings.  This is the Lillian Michelson Research Library.  It is the largest private motion picture library in Hollywood and it’s been a passion of Lillian’s since 1961 when she happened upon it at the Samuel Goldwyn Studios.  Under the tutelage of a librarian named Lelia Alexander, Lillian learned how to have a seven-track mind--as questions poured in from filmmakers, needing research for films they were making--and every question was answered in detail--because nothing was more important to great storytelling than “getting it right.”  By 1969, the library was facing eviction.  Lelia was done, too, but she had a strange vision she shared with her pupil, “Lillian, I feel as if you’re going to own this library.”  Now, her husband Harold was making a nice living by this time, but “owning a library?”  Still, Lillian was compelled--or, as she put it “in a fit of insanity” to ask Harold, what would you think if I borrowed on your life insurance policy to buy that library?”  Harold paused, “Where are you going to put it?”  Lillian said, “I don’t know yet.”  Harold replied, “Sure.  Sounds like a terrific idea.”  If Harold were story-boarding this love story, he’d now cut to a frame showing Lillian moving every box of her massive library to AFI, after persuading them to give her space in their basement.  From there, Lillian helped to shape ten years’ worth of the next generation of great filmmakers.  In 1980, she met Francis Coppola--that man who defined film the same way you might define Harold and Lillian.  Once Coppola saw what she had--and, even better, saw the encyclopedic mind of the woman that came with this library--he made her library the central hub of his own dream--Zoetrope Studios.  The library would move a few more times--to Paramount and, most prominently, under Lillian’s care, via Jeffrey Katzenberg to Dreamworks Animation Studios in Glendale.  During their lives together, Harold and Lillian worked on the films of all of our lives:  Ben Hur, West Side Story, The Apartment, Chinatown, Rosemary’s Baby, Terms of Endearment and on and on.  As their boys grew into men, with prospering lives of their own, Harold and Lillian quietly became known, through their mentorship and giving back, the heart and soul of the best of what Hollywood can be.  The very definition of invaluable behind-the-scenes contributors--and true Hollywood royalty.  Sweetly, in 2004, Dreamworks Animation (who’d lent office space to the couple to continue work at their ripe young age) made a sequel to their greatest success and, let’s just say, there’s no coincidence Princess Fiona’s parents in Shrek 2 are named King Harold and Queen Lillian. 
LILLIAN MICHELSON RESEARCH LIBRARY  Dreamworks SKG 1000 Flower Street  Glendale, CA 91201  (818) 695-6445

Movie fans know the work of Harold and Lillian Michelson, even if they don't recognize the names.  Working largely uncredited in the Hollywood system, storyboard artist Harold and film researcher Lillian left an indelible mark on classics by Alfred Hitchcock, Steven Spielberg, Mel Brooks, Stanley Kubrick, Roman Polanski and many more.  Through an engaging mix of love letters, film clips and candid conversations with Harold and Lillian, Danny DeVito, Mel Brooks, Francis Ford Coppola and others, the deeply engaging documentary Harold and Lillian:  a Hollywood Love Story from Academy Award (R)-nominated director Daniel Raim offers both a moving portrait of a marriage and a celebration of the unknown talents that help shape the films we love.  Adama Films  100 min.  Harold and Lillian opened in New York on April 28, 2017 and Los Angeles on May 12, 2017.  Available in DVD and Blu-Ray

Equifax is one of many companies that collect information about you by  on September  14, 2017  Via NBR/CNBC:  “There are literally hundreds of smaller consumer-reporting companies [33-page PDF] operating in the U.S. and the smaller ones are collecting information you might not expect.  The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau maintains a self-reported list of the companies.  Consider Milliman IntelliScript, for example.  The company collects information on the prescription drugs you buy.  If you’ve ever authorized the release of your medical records to an insurance company, they might have shared them with Milliman.  Or look at Retail Equation, a company that monitors consumers’ return and exchange behavior at retail companies.  Company critics say the information collected can prevent legitimate returns from being accepted.  Consumer-reporting companies are governed by the Fair Credit Reporting Act, according to the CFPB.  That means consumers can request copies of their reports, though some will charge you for it.” [h/t Pete Weiss]  The New York Times provides answers to some of the many questions causing us considerable concern following the delayed announcement by Equifax of a massive breach of personal data that impacts perhaps half of the American population  See also FTC launches Equifax breach probe, warns consumers about credit scammers:  Posing as Equifax employees, crooks are calling to verify your account information by David Kravets at

On September 14, 2017, hundreds of spectators lined across a portion of the Benjamin Franklin Parkway to watch the boulevard turn into a glittering spectacle of moving lights.  It was the world debut of artist Cai Guo-Quang’s “Fireflies” performance. Twenty-seven pedicabs adorned in colorful handmade lanterns of all shapes and sizes wheeled their way down the Parkway in synchronized rhythm to the tune of something that resembled the Pennsylvania’s official state song.  Through an interpreter, Guo-Quang explained before the performance that growing up in China, playing with paper lanterns was a childhood pastime.  So when the Association for Public Art approached Guo-Quang to bring his work to Philly for the 100th Anniversary of the Parkway, he jumped at the chance to play with these lanterns once again.  Thousands of lanterns—aka the fireflies—were handmade by Guo-Quang in his hometown of Quanzhou, then carefully transferred to the U.S. this summer and installed onto pedicabs in a warehouse in Kensington.  Guo-Quang said the lanterns are symbols of his childhood, although new shapes like emoji’s have been added to the mix.  Coincidentally, aPA’s executive director Penny Balkin Bach, says only after the association commissioned Guo-Quang did they find out that Pennsylvania’s state insect is the firefly.  Melissa Romero  Read more and see pictures at

"Rocket Man" (officially titled as Rocket Man (I Think It's Going to Be a Long, Long Time)), is a song composed by Elton John and Bernie Taupin and originally performed by John.  The song first appeared on John's 1972 album Honky Château and became a hit single, rising to No. 2 in the UK and No. 6 in the US.  The song was inspired by the short story "The Rocket Man" in The Illustrated Man by Ray Bradbury, and echoes the theme of David Bowie's 1969 song "Space Oddity" (both recordings were produced by Gus Dudgeon).  But according to an account in Elizabeth Rosenthal's book His Song:  The Musical Journey of Elton John, the song was inspired by Taupin's sighting of either a shooting star or a distant aeroplane. Elton John - Rocket Man (Official Music Video)  4:42  President Donald Trump began September 17, 2017 with a stream of tweets taking a dig at North Korea's leader, referring to him as "Rocket Man".  Issue 1770  September 18, 2017  On this date in 1837Tiffany and Co. (first named Tiffany & Young) was founded by Charles Lewis Tiffany and Teddy Young in New York City. The store was called a "stationery and fancy goods emporium".  On this date in 1948, Margaret Chase Smith of Maine became the first woman elected to the United States Senate without completing another senator's term, when she defeated Democratic opponent Adrian Scolten.  

Friday, September 15, 2017

How to Clean a DVD   You need to wipe a DVD in a straight line from the center of the disc to the outside edge of a disc because DVD lasers are lead astray more often by a circular scratch or a scratch that follows the path of the laser than by a straight scratch, perpendicular to the path of the laser.  Also, never use a paper towel or any paper product to clean your DVDs because these products often have pieces of dirt and particles that will scratch the surface of the DVD.  Microfiber cloths are a quick way to clean a DVD.  Rubbing alcohol is used to clean DVDs.  Window cleaner, like rubbing alcohol, is a great way to clean sticky residues and dirt off a DVD.  Read more at

The Canada–United States border, officially known as the International Boundary, is the longest international border in the world between two countries.  The terrestrial boundary (including portions of maritime boundaries in the Great Lakes, and on the Atlantic, Pacific, and Arctic coasts) is 8,891 kilometres (5,525 mi) long, of which 2,475 kilometres (1,538 mi) is Canada's border with Alaska. Eight Canadian provinces and territories (YukonBritish ColumbiaAlbertaSaskatchewanManitobaOntarioQuebec, and New Brunswick), and thirteen U.S. states (AlaskaWashingtonIdahoMontanaNorth DakotaMinnesotaMichiganOhioPennsylvaniaNew YorkVermontNew Hampshire, and Maine) are located along the border.

Zucchini  This vegetable has, in its native Italian language, both a feminine form (zucchina with the plural zucchine) and a masculine form (zucchino with the plural zucchini).  We have imported a plural form and treat it as a singular noun.  It is a count noun when whole.  You can bring home six zucchini or zucchinis from the market.  When it is sliced, cooked and served, you have a dish of food that is talked about as a mass noun.

In 1947 Willa Cather's fellow modernist Katherine Anne Porter—a writer of whom Cather left no signs of awareness but who was keenly aware of Cather—wrote an aggressively humorous essay about Gertrude Stein in which she characterized the "literary young" who gathered around Stein in Paris in the 1920s as children stranded "between two wars in a falling world."  Porter's metaphoric adjective for the interwar period—"falling"—is evocative, if ambiguous, summoning echoes both of the "fallen" on the battlefield and of the "fall" from innocence in Eden, as well as the common phrase about the bottom dropping out from under one.  Cather's metaphor for the postwar period (it could not yet be called interwar at the time she was writing) was, of course, a different one—a metaphor of brokenness.  In the preface to Not Under Forty(1936) she famously declared that the world "broke in two" in 1922 "or thereabouts" (812).  Cather was scarcely alone in feeling this sense of rupture.  The very year she alluded to (in so strangely evasive a way), 1922, was indeed the year of T. S. Eliot's The Waste Land, with its insistent images of brokenness.  Michael North and others have pointed out that brokenness was a metaphor invoked not only by Eliot but by many writers struggling, during the postwar years, to convey their sense of how thoroughly their lives and life in general had been disrupted.  Europeans and Americans alike, perhaps people all around the world, were haunted by a feeling of having been severed from any intelligible past.  Janis P. Stout  Read much more at

Read book review of Bill Goldstein's The World Broke in Two:  Virginia Woolf, T. S. Eliot, D. H. Lawrence, E. M. Forster and the Year That Changed Literature by Glen Weldon at

For the 26th year, The Princeton Review has released its annual “Best Colleges” rankings*, including over 382 schools and 62 lists of rankings from “best classroom experience” to “biggest party school.”  Here are some of the 2018 list superlatives, ranging from the most beautiful campuses to the happiest student bodies to the biggest party schools.  One category is "Best campus food", and the winners are:  (1)  University of Massachusetts-Amherst (45,000 dining hall meals served daily); (2)  Bowdoin College; and (3)  Washington University in St. Louis.  Sophia Tulp   *Methodology:  Based on responses from 137,000 students at 382 schools (around 350 responses per school), Princeton Review compiled its 2016–17 data.  Students answered questions about academics, administration, student body and more, ranking their school in each category from “excellent to awful.”  Read the list at 

The College of William & Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia has a farm 17 miles from campus where a "sustainability intern" tends rows of zucchini and sweet potatoes.  Yale University has a 1-acre garden that is a hybrid farm and living-history laboratory.  Students thresh wheat and grind grain into a flatbread dough made from a recipe in Yale's Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library.  Virginia Tech students demanded more free-trade coffee in 2008, and dining-services Ted Faulkner went to Nicaragua, picked beans at a coffee estate that now supplies the school.  Quint Forgey and Patrick McGroarty  The Wall Street Journal  September 7, 2017

A thriving ecosystem of websites that allow users to automatically generate millions of fake "likes" and comments on Facebook has been documented by researchers at the University of Iowa.  Working with a computer scientist at Facebook and one in Lahore, Pakistan, the team found more than 50 sites offering free, fake "likes" for users' posts in exchange for access to their accounts, which were used to falsely "like" other sites in turn.  The scientists found that these “collusion networks” run by spammers have managed to harness the power of one million Facebook accounts, producing as many as 100 million fake "likes" on the systems between 2015 and 2016.  A large number of “likes” can push a posting up in Facebook’s algorithm, making it more likely the post will be seen by more people and also making it seem more legitimate.  Quid-pro-quo sites that give users points for liking a post in exchange for getting their own posts liked have long existed, violating Facebook's terms of service.  The researchers found that this activity has now been turbocharged because scam artists found a loophole to exploit code Facebook uses to allow third-party applications such as iMovie and Spotify to access a user’s Facebook account, automating a process that formerly was manual and involved many fewer likes.  A paper outlining the research was first posted September 6, 2017 and will be presented at the Association for Computing Machinery Internet Measurement Conference in London in November.  One of the authors is Nektarios Leontiadis, a threat research scientist at Facebook.  The networks identified by these researchers do not appear to be linked to another, extensive Facebook scam involving fraudulent "likes" that Facebook said it had disrupted in April.  That operation targeted popular publishers' pages with false "likes" in an attempt to gain more Facebook friends.  Facebook purged millions of fake accounts connected to that scam from USA TODAY, one of the primary targets, and others.  In the Facebook hacking scam detected by the Iowa researcher, users are knowingly entering into a agreement to falsely obtain "likes."  But they may not realize what they're giving up.  “Users think it’s relatively benign, but actually they’re handing over full control of their Facebook account,” said Zubair Shafiq, professor of computer science at the University of Iowa.  “They can also access all the information that’s available on your profile, see your posts, get your friends list, even read your private messages. We can't tell if this information is being collected and sold to others,” he said.  Elizabeth Weise

Since Kwame Alexander won the 2015 Newbery Medal for The Crossover, he’s been traveling far and wide in a whirl of evangelism for reading, poetry, friendship, self-expression, sports, music and love.  During a call to his Virginia home (where he was resting before lighting out for Ohio, Texas and beyond), Alexander says, “When I won the Newbery, I committed myself to being an ambassador of poetry and literature.  Nobody asked me to.  I just decided I’d give it two years and go everywhere.”  And so he has, from schools to TED talks, connecting with kids, teachers and librarians.  He also continued writing, and his latest YA novel-in-verse, Solo, co-written with Mary Rand Hess, weaves poetry, music and text conversations into a coming-of-age tale.  And now he does, through Solo and his other books, his speaking engagements and his work in Ghana, where this summer LEAP for Ghana will finish building a library.  There will be plenty more Alexander books, too, including novels-in-verse Swing (about baseball and jazz, written with Hess) and Rebound, the prequel to The Crossover.  “Most of us have forgotten that we love poetry, but it’s how we learn to communicate as children, in rhythm and rhyme and verse,” Alexander says.  “It’s my job to remind us how powerful it is, to help us become more confident, find and raise our voices, become more human . . . I want everyone to know words are cool, books are cool.  They’re the most transformative things.”  Interview by Linda M. Castellitto  August 2017

September 13, 2017  The Stavros Niarchos Foundation is partnering with The New York Public Library and the City of New York to support the complete renovation of the system’s largest circulating branch, Mid-Manhattan Library.  The Foundation’s $55 million gift will support the creation of a modern, central branch to hold the Library’s largest circulating collection and offer countless programs for children, teens, and adults.  In addition, it will help establish a “Midtown campus” that will reconnect the circulating library with the Library’s iconic research center, the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building, across Fifth Avenue, creating a free, open destination for thought and ideas in the center of Midtown.  The gift also establishes an endowment for programming at the renovated library.  The Mid-Manhattan Library renovation is expected to be complete in 2020, when the building will reopen as The Stavros Niarchos Foundation Library (SNFL).  Read more and see a list of the key elements of the new 100,000-square-foot library at  Issue 1769  September 15, 2017  On this date in 1863, Horatio Parker, American organist, composer, and educator, was born.  On this date in 1907, Fay Wray, Canadian-American actress, was born.