Friday, March 22, 2019

JAY WALKING AND JAY DRIVING  It has been said that people who take their lives in their hands in the big city by crossing the street anywhere dodge across in the pattern of a letter J—hence J-walking.  Do not believe this.  The experts are sure the jay is the bird, one of the American jays, presumably the common blue jay.  From around the last quarter of the nineteenth century, jay had been a slang term in North America for a stupid, gullible, ignorant, or provincial person, a rustic, bumpkin or simpleton.  I would guess it refers to the noisy chattering of these conversational birds.  Jay was an insulting term for a foolish chattering person back in the 1500s.  Some evidence recently unearthed by Douglas Wilson suggests jay walker was an adaptation of various earlier expressions, especially jay driver.  Against “Jay” Driving.  The city attorney prepared and submitted an ordinance which provides that teams and vehicles, including automobiles, keep on the right-hand side of the street when they travel farther than a half block and providing further that they shall not pass crossings at a speed faster than a walk.  Ogden Standard, Utah, 18 April 1906.  Other newspaper examples from the same period suggest that the prime characteristic of a jay driver was that he wandered about all over the road, causing confusion among other drivers.  It was explained in the Emporia Gazette of Kansas on 13 July 1911:  “A jay driver is a species of the human race who, when driving either a horse or an automobile, or riding a bicycle on the streets, does not observe the rules of the road.  It is the custom of the jay driver to drive on the wrong side of the street.”  In the second decade of the twentieth century we begin to see references in US papers to the new term jaywalkers, usually because city councils are passing ordinances to stop pedestrians crossing the street anywhere they wanted to.  The earliest I know of is this:  Kansas City used to consider itself a town of jay walkers.  That is another line in which New York deserves the discredit of being at the front of the procession.  A typical Manhattan [person] would be run over and trampled on the sidewalk if he tried to walk on State street in Chicago as he walks on Broadway, New York.  He has never heard of the prehistoric principle of keeping to the right—he ambles all over the sidewalk.  Washington Post, 7 May 1911.  (Reprinted from the Kansas City Star.)  Numerous others turn up in newspapers in the following couple of years:  in Washington DC in March 1913, in Fort Wayne, Indiana, in June that year (in a report which defines a jaywalker as “an alleged human being who crosses the street at other points than the regular crossings”) and in October in Lincoln, Nebraska.

Classic Matzo Ball Soup from Comfort in an Instant by our good friend Melissa Clark.  For the sake of efficiency, Melissa lays out the game plan for an easy multicooker version of the soup that may turn out a bit cloudy yet still delicious.  However, for the purists, she explains how to make the soup with a few extra steps so that it can be served with a crystal-clear broth.  Home-style or classical--either way sounds like comfort to us.

Cat's eye may refer to:  Cat's Eye (novel), a 1988 novel by Margaret Atwood, Catseye (novel), a 1961 science fiction novel by Andre Norton, Catseye (comics), Sharon Smith, a character from Marvel Comics, or Cat's Eye (manga), a 1983 Japanese manga about three cat burglar sisters.  Find many other uses at

February 24, 2018  The age of internet has exposed writers to new levels of examination, such as the allegations that Emma Cline, author of the best-selling novel The Girls, took ideas for the book from her ex-boyfriend’s emails, and the various claims that Guillermo del Toro’s Oscar contender, The Shape of Water, is based on a 1969 play, Let Me Hear You Whisper, or has copied scenes from two French films, Amélie and Delicatessen--allegations which Del Toro, or his representatives, have denied.  “Foreign-Returned”, by Sadia Shepard, published in the New Yorker , tells of a professional Pakistani couple working and socialising in America.  In an interview published online to accompany the story, Shepard acknowledged the “great debt” her story owes to Mavis Gallant’s “The Ice Wagon Going Down the Street”, itself published in the New Yorker in 1963, which tells of a professional Canadian couple working and socialising in Switzerland.  “Ice Wagon” is a story she returned to “year after year”, Shepard said.  In doing so she thought “this feels so Pakistani” and was excited by the idea of applying its “universal” truth to “a completely different context”.  Not different enough, according to a series of barbed Facebook posts by the novelist and critic Francine Prose.  That “debt”, she wrote, “is a scene by scene, plot-turn by plot-turn, gesture by gesture, line-of-dialogue by line-of-dialogue copy--the only major difference being that the main characters here are Pakistanis in Connecticut during the Trump era instead of Canadians in post WW-II Geneva.”  Prose, a devotee of Gallant’s fiction, went on to lament that her work “is now so unread” that Shepard could “claim to have written what’s essentially her story and publish it in the New Yorker”.  Jeremy Gavron  Read extensive article at

Psychologist Barry Schwartz takes aim at a central tenet of western societies:  freedom of choice.  In Schwartz's estimation, choice has made us not freer but more paralyzed, not happier but more dissatisfied.  TED Talk July 2005  19:33  See also Is the famous ‘paradox of choice’ a myth? at

Finland is officially the happiest country in the world for the second year in a row--and now the country wants to spread that happiness by offering people the chance to visit for free.  In line with the United Nations' World Happiness report, which gave Finland the happiest country title, the country's tourism arm Visit Finland launched the "Rent a Finn" initiative.  The premise:  People can book their own Finn, one of eight Finnish people who will serve as "happiness guides" aiming to share their connection to nature. Those interested can learn all about the guides via short profiles and videos on the Rent a Finn website.  To apply:   Tell the country about yourself in a short video, and talk about your connection to nature and why you'd want to go to Finland.  Fill out a form on the Rent a Finn website, with the video included.  Visit Finland will reach out to the visitors they've chosen.  The application is open now and people have until April 14, 2019 to finish (Finnish?) up.
Those chosen for the trip will visit the country for three days, and can go by themselves or with a friend or their family.  The exact dates might vary by host.  The trip is free, including both travel and host accommodation expenses.  Anywhere else you travel after that in Finland won't be paid for.  David Oliver

Word of the Day  noun  dihydrogen monoxide (uncountable)
(inorganic chemistry, humorous) HOwaterquotations ▼
The usual systematic name for water is hydrogen oxide, though it is more commonly just referred to as water.  March 22  is designated by the United Nations as World Water Day, which focuses on the importance of fresh water and the sustainable management of freshwater resources.

March 2019 is the fiftieth anniversary of the novel Slaughterhouse-Five or The Children’s Crusade:  A Duty-Dance with Death by Kurt Vonnegut.

Lawrence Ferlinghetti—who will turn 100 March 24, 2019—has a lot to celebrate. Once a standout poet of the Beat Generation, his bookstore has become a popular landmark and the small press of the same name is still in business after more than 60 years.  His 1958 book of poetry A Coney Island of the Mind sold more than a million copies.  Ferlinghetti has always been an advocate for the underdog, in part because of his own life story—and it's a tale right out of Dickens.  His father died shortly before he was he was born, and his mother was committed to a mental hospital shortly after.  He was raised by an aunt, and then by foster parents.  His new autobiographical novel, Little Boy, begins like this:  "Little Boy was quite lost. He had no idea who he was or where he had come from."  Tom Vitale

NCAA bracket 2019:  Printable March Madness bracket .PDF  Issue 2068  March 22, 2019 

Thursday, March 21, 2019

In June 2008, J.K. Rowling delivered the Commencement Address at the Annual Meeting of the Harvard Alumni Association.  Her speech was titled, ‘The Fringe Benefits of Failure and the Importance of Imagination.’  "It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all--in which case, you fail by default."  Link to Rowling's address at

Albert Einstein said, “Failure is success in progress.”  Failures do not mean end of life, rather they mean beginning of success. Those who learn to capitalise on their failures ultimately taste the success in life. 

Sometimes what is perceived a failure turns out to be a success.  Charles-Camille Saint-Saën's  Danse Macabre was poorly received at its premiere performance.  It became one of the composer's most beloved works.  Tchaikovsky's ballet The Nutcracker was a critical failure when it premiered in St. Petersburg in December 1892.  This work is loved all over the world today.  The American Organist magazine  March 2019

This  recipe for Smoky Pancetta Cod from the book 5 Ingredients by Jamie Oliver is a winner.  A filet of firm white fish (we tested with haddock) is wrapped with a slice or two of smoky, salty pancetta, then sautéed with a teeny bit of olive oil and finished with a branch of rosemary.  It could not be simpler.  Jamie serves his pancetta fish bundle with a side of lentils and sautéed spinach, but it’s just as delicious nestled up to a green salad tossed with a mustardy vinaigrette.  serves 2

A.Word.A.Day with Anu Garg
OK  (o-KAY, O-kay)   adjective:  satisfactory; not very good or very bad.  Correct.  Mediocre.  In good health.  noun  Approval or permission.  verb:  to authorize or approve.  adverb:  in a satisfactory manner.  interjection:  used to express acknowledgment or agreement.  In the 1830s, in Boston, there was a fad of making abbreviations; also of using jocular misspellings.  So “all correct” became of “oll korrect” which became abbreviated to OK.  The word would have ended as a fad, but along came US President Martin Van Buren (1782-1862).  During his re-election campaign of 1840, his supporters adopted the word OK as a nickname for him (short for Old Kinderhook; he was born in Kinderhook, New York) and the word has lived on ever since, not only in the English language, but most of the languages around the world.  Earliest documented use:  1839.  OK is an all-American word.  And like many things made in America, it’s used everywhere.  Not bad for a two-letter word.  It’s not often that a whole book is written about a single word.  Check out OK: The Improbable Story Of America’s Greatest Word.
bloodnoun   (BLUHD-naun)  noun  A bullfrog-- a heavy-bodied frog having a deep resonant croak.  Also known as bloody noun.  Of imitative origin.  Earliest documented use:  1910.
sockdolager   (sok-DOL-uh-juhr)  noun  1.  A decisive blow or remark.  2.  Something exceptional or outstanding.  Of unknown origin, apparently from sock.  Earliest documented use:  1830.  The word sockdolager turned out to be the cue on which John Wilkes Booth fired his shot at the 16th US President, Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865), in Ford’s Theater.  Lincoln was watching the play Our American Cousin and Booth, an actor himself and aware of the dialog, knew the line that brought the loudest burst of laughter from the audience was:  “Well, I guess I know enough to turn you inside out, you sockdologising old man-trap.”  Booth fired his gun at that precise moment to muffle the loud noise of his shot with the guffaws from the audience.
throttlebottom  (THROT-l-bot-uhm)  noun  A purposeless incompetent in public office.  After Alexander Throttlebottom, a Vice Presidential character in Of Thee I Sing, a 1931 musical comedy.   Earliest documented use:  1932.
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From:  SarahRose Werner Subject:  Oh, Kay!  When I read today’s word, OK, I immediately thought of the 1926 musical comedy, “Oh, Kay!” and its title song, “Oh, Kay, you’re okay with me!”  From:  Robert Hamilton  Subject:  Medical “OK”  There is an evolved meaning for the word OK in the medical community.  Example:  “We’re going to put a tube in your (fill in the blank) to make you better . . .  OK?”  Translation:  This huge hose is going where you really don’t want it to go and your disapproval is irrelevant.  From:  Mary Kaye Bates  Subject: sockdolager  We used to call heavy rainstorms sockdolagers in Maryland.  From:  Jake Sigg  Subject: sockdolager  One of the several nasty rapids in the Grand Canyon is Sockdolager Rapids.  Can’t tell you who named it or why, but it could have been John Wesley Powell in his historic 1869 trip down the Colorado through the Canyon.

Lawyer is a general term for a person who gives legal device and aid and who conducts suits in court.  What’s the difference between lawyer and attorney?  An attorney or, more correctly, an attorney-at-law, is a member of the legal profession who represents a client in court when pleading or defending a case.  In the US, attorney applies to any lawyer.  The word attorney comes from French meaning ‘one appointed or constituted’ and the word’s original meaning is of a person acting for another as an agent or deputy.  Barristers vs. solicitors  In the UK, those who practice law are divided into barristers, who represent clients in open court and may appear at the bar, and solicitors, who are permitted to conduct litigation in court but not to plead cases in open court.  The barrister does not deal directly with clients but does so through a solicitor.  What’s a counsel?  A solicitor would be the UK equivalent of the US attorney-at-law.  Counsel usually refers to a body of legal advisers but also pertains to a single legal adviser and is a synonym for advocate, barrister, counselor, and counselor-at-law.  As to the abbreviation ‘Esq.’ for ‘Esquire’ used by some lawyers, it has no precise significance in the United States except as sometimes applied to certain public officials, such as justices of the peace.  For some reason, lawyers often add it to their surname in written address.  However, it is a title that is specifically male with no female equivalent, so its use by lawyers should fade away.

Kumato™ tomatoes are very juicy and firm in texture, which makes them excellent for using fresh in salads.  Try using in a Caprese salad, or even simply drizzle them with olive oil and a shake of salt.  Kumato™ tomatoes are vine-ripened and ready to enjoy as soon as you get them, or they can be stored at room temperature for several days.  Only refrigerate cut or extra ripe tomatoes, as the cold will reduce their natural sugar leading to a loss of flavor.  The actual name of the tomato variety, which originated in Spain, is called “Olmeca”.  Kumato™ is the registered trademark name by Syngenta, which prefers the name Rosso Bruno for the Canadian and American markets.  Today, Kumato™ tomatoes are grown in Spain, France, Belgium, Holland, Switzerland, Greece, Turkey and Canada, where they grow and ripen under optimum climatic conditions to ensure a high fructose level and delectable firmness.  According to press releases from Syngenta, the Kumato™ tomato was developed from a variety from the Galapagos Islands, although no black tomatoes actually come from the Galapagos Islands.  Some people believe that perhaps Syngenta used a variety from the Galapagos, known as Lycopersicon cheesmanii, in crossbreeding. The Kumato™ tomato was launched in the United Kingdom in the early 2000’s, and within a few years was distributed in the United States to licensed resellers.

Super worm moon:  Images of the last supermoon of 2019  Worms are said to emerge from the soil around this time.

Columbia Journalism School and the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard are pleased to announce the five winners and the two finalists of the 2019 Lukas Prizes. The awards will be presented at a ceremony on Tuesday, May 7, 2019 at the Nieman Foundation in Cambridge, Mass.  Find winners and descriptions of books at  Issue 2067  March 21, 2019 

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

The Boston Latin School is a public exam school in BostonMassachusetts.  Established on April 23, 1635, it is the oldest and first public school in the United States.  The Public Latin School was a bastion for educating the sons of the Boston "Brahmin" elite, resulting in the school claiming many prominent Bostonians, Massachusetts citizens and New Englanders as alumni.  Its curriculum follows that of the 18th century Latin-school movement, which holds the "classics" to be the basis of an educated mind.  Four years of Latin are mandatory for all pupils who enter the School in the 7th grade, three years for those who enter in the 9th.  In 2007, the school was named one of the top twenty high schools in the United States by U.S. News & World Report magazine.  It is a part of Boston Public Schools (BPS).  See also

Boston Latin School’s (BLS) students founded a Youth Climate Action Network (YouthCAN) that now has 30 member-groups at schools across Massachusetts.  Students host a free Annual Climate Summit at MIT serving hundreds of students and educators.  Students run an Environmental Mentoring Program for elementary students.  The energy audit assessment is a unit project where they study electricity and then use their new understanding to conduct an electrical analysis of their home, writing a report for their family detailing how their family can save money.  The Boston Latin School Annual Teach-In on Sustainability has tripled demand for environmental courses.  The Zero-Sort Recycling Program cut Boston Latin School’s trash in half, and was replicated in 50 additional schools.  Read more at 

In the United States, an 1885 agricultural report listed no fewer than 87 varieties of lettuce.  Today, there are four basic types of lettuce:  butterhead, iceberg, loose leaf, and romaine.  Butterhead lettuce includes Boston and Bibb lettuces, which are characterized by a loose head and grass-green leaves.  Both have a soft “buttery” texture and a sweet, mild flavor.  A head of Boston lettuce resembles a flowering rose.  Bibb lettuce—also called limestone—forms a smaller, cup-shaped head.   John Bibb developed Bibb lettuce from Boston lettuce.  See also Lettuce Varieties by Molly Watson with interesting text (did you know you can eat young chrysanthemum
leaves?) and beautiful pictures at 

New York Times best-selling author Lewis Perdue’s twenty published books have sold more than 4 million copies and have been translated into every major language in the world along with more than a dozen other tongues.  Of his twenty published books, fifteen are thrillers and the remaining five cover wine, technology, and how porn has driven the technology and business model of the World Wide Web.  Perdue studied physics and biology in college and usually works those into his books.  He received his B.S. (1972) with distinction from Cornell University.  He has served on the faculties at UCLA and Cornell University, founded four companies including two technology firms, a wine company and a magazine, and been a top aide to a U.S. Senator and a state governor.  See also

US supreme court throws out Da Vinci suit  The Da Vinci Code author, Dan Brown, and his publisher Random House on November 13, 2006 won a legal victory against an author who claimed that parts of Brown's global bestseller were lifted from his own thriller.  Lewis Perdue, whose book Daughter of God was published in 2000, had claimed in a May 2003 letter to Brown's publisher that there were similarities between the two books. The publisher then filed a lawsuit against Perdue, seeking a "declaratory judgment" that no copyright infringement had taken place.  In response, Perdue filed a countersuit and asked for $150m in damages.  The U.S. Supreme Court denied his writ without comment and declined to hear the case.  Perdue will not, however, have to pay Random House's legal fees.  On The Da Vinci Crock, his blog dedicated to the case, Perdue asserts that the plot, pacing and structure of the two books are remarkably similar: both books open with an American mysteriously summoned to Europe to meet with the owner of a priceless collection of art; both feature clues hidden in artworks which lead the protagonists on their frantic, dangerous searches; and result in the simultaneous unfolding of two storylines.  However, lawyers for Random House asserted that the two works were radically different.  Perdue's work, said Brown's legal team, "is a 'shoot-em-up' thriller involving Nazis and Russian mafia, where husband and wife protagonists battle an ultranationalist Russian leader and a megalomaniacal cardinal seeking to depose the pope".  In the wake of the decision, Perdue defended his allegations on his blog but added that "one part of me is a little disappointed, but overall I am relieved to have this part of things over".  Michelle Pauli

The spring equinox, which marks the beginning of spring, and the final "supermoon" of the year will both occur on Wednesday, March 20, 2019.  The equinox, which means "equal night" will mark one of two times during the year when the Earth's axis is tilted neither toward nor away from the sun, resulting in a "nearly" equal amount of daylight and darkness at all latitudes, according to the National Weather Service.  The equinox will occur at 5:58 p.m. EDT and a second astronomical delight, the full moon/supermoon, will occur less than four hours later at 9:43 p.m. according to USA TODAY.  The supermoon will be the third and final of its kind in 2019.  Supermoons happen when the moon is a few thousand miles closer to Earth than usual.  On Wednesday, the moon will be about 14,000 miles closer to Earth than average, USA TODAY said.  The moon's closeness to Earth, naturally, makes it look extra close and extra bright--up to 14 percent bigger and 30 percent brighter than a full moon at its farthest point from Earth, NASA said.

After much social media derision that was not likely to become part of any Hudson Yards marketing, the development said on March 18, 2019 it would be “refining the language to be more clear.”  In its terms of service, which are not posted on the property but are available online, Hudson Yards said that it had the right to use any picture taken in the vicinity of the art installation for commercial purposes, with no royalty fees and no restrictions, forever.  And it did.  Now visitors “retain ownership of any photographs, text, audio recordings or video footage depicting or relating to the Vessel” that they create.  But if you want to send that photo out to your Instagram fans, you still “hereby grant to Company and its affiliates the right to repost, share, publish, promote and distribute the Vessel Media via such social media channel and via websites associated with the Vessel or Hudson Yards (including my name, voice and likeness and any other aspects of my persona as depicted in the Vessel Media), in perpetuity.”  It was a slight tweak—but one that was more similar to what most museums and other public venues currently have.  “It’s the difference between use and owning the underlying right exclusively,” New York lawyer Domenic Romano said.

March 20, 2019  This year’s inductees for the Library of Congress’s National Recording Registry include a speech from Sen. Robert F. Kennedy, the educational music of “Schoolhouse Rock!,” Jay-Z’s seminal album “The Blueprint,” soul, pop and disco songs that became anthems for underrepresented groups, and a number of other unique recordings.  Every year, the registry preserves 25 “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant” American recordings that are at least 10 years old.  The selection process begins with public input followed by recommendations from the board and ends with Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden making the final cut.  Travis M. Andrews  Read more, see pictures and find the complete list of inductees at  Issue 2066  March 20, 2019 

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Baby carrots first appeared in US supermarkets in 1989.  There are two types:  true baby carrots, and manufactured baby carrots.  In the 1980's supermarkets expected carrots to be a particular size, shape, and colour.  Anything else had to be sold for juice or processing or animal feed, or just thrown away.  One farmer wondered what would happen if he peeled the skin off the gnarly carrots, cut them into pieces, and sold them in bags.  He made up a few test batches to show his buyers.  One batch, cut into 1-inch bites and peeled round, he called "bunny balls."  Another batch, peeled and cut 2 inches long, looked like little baby carrots.  Bunny balls never made it.  But baby carrots were a hit.  They transformed the whole industry.  A "true" baby carrot is a carrot grown to the "baby stage", which is to say long before the root reaches its mature size.  The test is can you see a proper "shoulder" on each carrot.  These immature roots are preferred by some people out of the belief that they are superior either in texture, nutrition or taste.  They are also sometimes harvested simply as the result of crop thinning, but are also grown to this size as a specialty crop.  Certain cultivars of carrots have been bred to be used at the "baby" stage.  One such cultivar is 'Amsterdam Forcing'.  You will see them in the stores and are normally very expensive and displayed with some of the green showing to "prove" they are a "real" carrot.  There is also a baby variety called Thumbelina, or Paris Market shaped like a golf ball.  "Manufactured" baby carrotsor cut and peel, are what you see most often in the shops--are carrot shaped slices of peeled carrots invented in the late 1980's by Mike Yurosek, a California farmer, as a way of making use of carrots which are too twisted or knobbly for sale as full-size carrots.  Yurosek was unhappy at having to discard as much as 400 tonnes of  carrots a day because of their imperfections, and looked for a way to reclaim what would otherwise be a waste product.  He was able to find an industrial green bean cutter, which cut his carrots into 5 cm lengths, and by placing these lengths into an industrial potato peeler, he created the baby carrot.  The much decreased waste is also used either for juicing or as animal fodder.  Perhaps most important, the baby-cut method allows growers to use far more of the carrot than they used to.  In the past, a third or more of a carrot crop could have been easily tossed away, but baby-cut allows more partial carrots to be used, and the peeling process actually removes less of the outer skin that  you might imagine.  They are sold in single-serving packs with ranch dressing for dipping on the side. They're passed out on airplanes and sold in plastic containers designed to fit in a car's cup holder.  At Disney World, and MacDonald's burgers now come two ways:  with fries or baby carrots.  There is nothing "wrong" with manufactured baby carrots.  They are a food that humans have enjoyed for centuries, probably millennia, chock-full of goodness that we need to keep our bodies functioning.  Mr Yurosek died in 2005.  Read the full story here.  It also helped lift the industry out of a rut.  In 1987, the year after Yurosek's discovery, carrot consumption jumped by almost 30 percent, according to data from the USDA.   By 1997, the average American was eating roughly 14 pounds of carrots per year, 117 percent more than a decade earlier. The baby carrot doubled carrot consumption.  Read more and see pictures at

loanword (also loan word or loan-word) is a word adopted from one language (the donor language) and incorporated into another language without translation.  This is in contrast to cognates, which are words in two or more languages that are similar because they share an etymological origin, and calques, which involve translation.  Most of the technical vocabulary of classical music (such as concertoallegrotempoariaopera, and soprano) is borrowed from Italian, and that of ballet from French.  See also and

Cops & Doughnuts first opened in 2009 when nine officers in the police department of Clare, Michigan purchased the Clare City Bakery, which was about to go out of business due to the economic decline at the time.  Greg Rynearson, one of the officers, retired to focus on the bakery full time.  In addition to a full-scale bakery serving coffee and doughnuts, the store also features a diner and gift shop which sells police officer-related merchandise.  In 2015, the store had more than 500,000 visitors.  The owners also began distributing their doughnuts and coffee to other local retailers, including a "precinct" inside the Jay's Sporting Goods store in Gaylord.  A second location was opened in the former McDonald's Bakery in Ludington in 2016, and plans were announced to open a third location in Bay City.  

Public Libraries Harness the Power of Play by Donna C. Celano, Jillian J. Knapczyk, Susan B. Neuman    Sara, a librarian at a Texas library, closes The Seals on the Bus by Lenny Hort, a book she has just read with a group of 2- and 3-year-olds.  Seated on the floor around her, the children each wear a name tag in the shape of a car.  With their parents and caregivers nearby, the children sit calmly, listening to books about transportation and occasionally answering questions or making comments.  In between books, Sara leads them in rhymes and songs about cars and buses.  Other words pop up as the adults and children play: road, wheels, grocery store, traffic jam, crash, direction, stacked up.  The parents and caregivers start their own conversations about intersections with traffic jams, the parking lot at the grocery store, monster trucks, remote-controlled cars, drained car batteries, and directions to various places.  The children echo these conversations as they play:  “Here comes a monster truck!”  “Get out of the way, you’re about to crash!”  While it seems spontaneous and carefree, the din erupting in this library community room is actually a carefully planned strategy to strengthen parents’ (and other caregivers’) abilities to help their preschool children develop early language and literacy skills.  Thanks to a nationwide parent education initiative called Every Child Ready to Read (ECRR), an increasing number of librarians are focusing on helping parents interact with their young children in meaningful ways to increase vocabulary development.  These parent–child interactions in libraries involve activities in addition to reading books, such as the play session in the vignette.  What looks like play, however, is actually an important part of helping parents—and other family members and caregivers—prepare their young children for later success in school.  (It is important to note that while we often refer to parents and related terms like parent engagement, we believe in an inclusive concept of the parenting role.  Many children are raised by adults other than their parents, including grandparents, other family members, fictive kin, etc.)  Every Child Ready to Read emerged with this movement.  Developed in a joint effort by the Public Library Association and the Association for Library Service to Children, the program’s principles are seemingly simple: reading is an important life skill, learning to read starts at birth, and parents play instrumental roles as children’s first and best teachers.  Librarians encourage parents to engage with their children using five practices crucial to literacy development: talking, singing, reading, writing, and playing.  While these practices are already part of many families’ daily routines, ECRR librarians see their role as affirming that, and explaining why, parents are important to children’s literacy development.  The ECRR initiative, adopted in some capacity by nearly 50 percent of the 9,000 libraries throughout the United States, is rooted in a wealth of research showing that parent–child interactions are critical to children’s cognitive and social development, and are also a key predictor of later success in school.  Read much more and see graphics at

From:  Alex McCrae  Subject:  ailurophile & nidifugous  In this feline-inspired scenario I’ve co-opted a page from the Broadway stage, namely, the smash-hit musical, “Cats”, or perhaps a snippet from cosplay culture, where our rather alluring cat-like ailurophile cuddles up with her for-real pussycat, their tails lovingly entwined to form a furry symbolic heart.  Perchance an expression of their mutual affection?  Cosplay is a portmanteau of the words “costume” and “play”.  Essentially, a fantasy-based youth subculture where participants gather, dressed up as their favorite animal, comic book, or graphic novel superhero . . .  or villain.

From:  Eric Kisch   A THOUGHT FOR TODAY:  A hungry man is not a free man. - Adlai Stevenson, statesman (5 Feb 1900-1965)  Your Thought for the Day prompted me to remember an older sentiment on the same idea that was a great line in the Threepenny Opera of Brecht/Weill.  The line in the original German is Erst kommt das Fressen, dann die Morale.  As translated idiomatically and brilliantly by Marc Blitzstein, it goes, “First feed our face, then let’s talk right and wrong.”  That has the proper bite, and certainly conveys the German text and idea:  Literally “First comes the eating, then morality.” 

Pun Fun   Do twins ever realize that one of them is unplanned?  The word "swims" upside-down is still "swims".  100 years ago everyone owned a horse and only the rich had cars.  Today everyone has cars and only the rich own horses.  Why are goods sent by ship called CARGO and those sent by truck SHIPMENT?  Why is it called 'Rush Hour' when traffic moves at its slowest then?  Thank you, Muse reader!

A THOUGHT FOR TODAY  It's best to give while your hand is still warm. - Philip Roth, novelist (19 Mar 1933-2018)  Issue 2065  March 19, 2019 

Monday, March 18, 2019

Hell on Earth is actually a small town in Michigan where anyone can be mayor for a day.  Located near the college town of Ann Arbor in southeast Michigan, Hell is a fairly average township with an odd name, a name it has held since 1841.  There are a number of theories as to how the town received its name.  The most likely (but least fun) explanation is that it came from a pair of visiting Germans who described the town as “so schön hell,” (“so beautifully bright”) in the 1830’s.  Other theories concern town founder George Reeves, who, when asked for an opinion on naming the new town, supposedly replied “I don’t know, you can name it Hell for all I care.”  Another theory states that Reeves, who owned a general store and grist mill, was known to pay farmhands in whiskey, prompting their wives complain that their husbands had “gone to Hell again,” when they failed to turn up for supper.  Finally, some believe that the town was simply named for the swampy, mosquito-ridden conditions that early settlers in the area first encountered prior to the town’s founding.  Visit during winter to see “Hell freeze over,” or you may have the chance to jocularly tell someone to “go to Hell” in the course of giving directions.  For the price of $100, a visitor can become the “Mayor of Hell” for one day, receiving a key to the city and the opportunity to be ignominiously impeached at the end of the day.  See the town’s official website for details.  See also

In the 1950's and 1980's, Saturday morning were spent watching programs on your black and white television, and that would be your earliest memory of Jimmy Nelson.  He and his puppets, Danny O'Day and Farfel the dog, made the jingle--"N-E-S-T-L-E-S, NESTLES MAKES THE VERY BEST" . . .  and Farfel would sing . . . "Chawwclate!"  Read more and see pictures at  See also

"The Dog" is the twenty-first episode of Seinfeld.  The episode was the fourth episode of the show's third season.  It aired on October 9, 1991.  Jerry is on a plane back home when the drunk man next to him falls sick and asks Jerry to take care of his dog while he recovers.  He promises to call him and take the dog back when he comes to New York.  The dog "Farfel" (although it can frequently be heard barking loudly, the dog is never seen) turns out to be very disobedient and Jerry can't go out anywhere.

Farfel is a tiny, pellet-shaped egg noodle with ingredients similar to German spaetzle or Hungarian nokedli.  Farfel was once a popular side dish in Jewish Ashkenazi cuisine and was served simply seasoned alongside meat or poultry.  The word farfel is Yiddish.  Farfel is sometimes called egg barley, though it contains no barley, and doesn't much look like it, either.  You can find commercially prepared, ready to cook farfel in the kosher section of many supermarkets.  You will see the toasted egg barley available as well.  Look for Manischewitz Premium Enriched Egg Noodles Barley Shape and for Manischewitz Toasted Barley Shape Egg Noodles.  To further confuse matters, most folks nowadays are more familiar with matzo farfel, small bits of broken matzo used in Passover recipes.  Matzo farfel likely gets its name more from its size and shape, rather than its culinary qualities, for while it's small (though not as small as "real" farfel), it in no way behaves like an egg noodle in recipes.

Peak Bloom April 3-6, 2019 for cherry blossoms in Washington, DC  The peak bloom date is defined as the day when 70% of the Yoshino Cherry (Prunus x yedoensis) blossoms are open.  Peak bloom varies annually depending on weather conditions.  The most likely time to reach peak bloom is between the last week of March and the first week of April.  Extraordinary warm or cool temperatures have resulted in peak bloom as early as March 15 (1990) and as late as April 18 (1958).  The Yoshino trees typically bloom for a period of several days.  The length of the blooming period depends on weather conditions.  Cool, calm weather can extend the length of the bloom, and a rainy, windy day can bring an abrupt end to the ephemeral blossoms.  A late frost can prevent the trees from blooming at all.  Read more and see graphics at

The Strait of Sicily (also known as Sicilian StraitSicilian ChannelChannel of SicilySicilian Narrows and Pantelleria Channel is the strait between Sicily and Tunisia.  The strait is about 145 kilometres (90 mi) wide and divides the Tyrrhenian Sea and the western Mediterranean Sea, from the eastern Mediterranean Sea.  The maximum depth is 316 meters (1,037 ft).  Deep currents in the strait flow from east to west, and the current nearer the surface travels from west to east.  This unusual water flow is of interest to oceanographers.  There are regular ferries between Sicily and Tunis across the Strait of Sicily.  The island of Pantelleria lies in the middle of the strait.  See map at

While people generally consider the island of Sicily, just off the coast of the Italian Peninsula, to be European, it is in fact a part of the African plate.  The African plate itself contains large pieces of the Mediterranean Sea as well as the Atlantic Ocean, and Sicily forms the boundary of Africa’s Mediterranean sea plate.  The African plate is a large tectonic plate, one of the many that cover the surface of the Earth.  Tectonic plates float on top of the hot liquid magma of the Earth’s mantle like chunks of ice on a lake.  The African plate makes up a large part of the Earth’s crust, and includes not only the continent of Africa, but also large amounts of the Atlantic and Indian Oceans.  The African plate itself seems to be splitting apart.  The East African Rift valley runs from Ethiopia southward, creating some of Africa’s largest lakes, such as Lake Tanganyika.  This rift is a result of the eastern area of Africa diverging from the western area.  Geologists debate whether this means that Africa is in fact composed of two plates, or if the African plate itself is splitting into two pieces.  Chris Burke

One of America's most respected and enduring poets, W.S. Merwin, has died.  Merwin's poetry is known for its mystery and wonder, and he was twice named the U.S. poet laureate.  He also won a National Book Award and two Pulitzer Prizes.  Merwin died March 15, 2019 at his home in Hawaii.  He was 91 years old.  Merwin wrote a lot and for a long time.  As a 5-year-old in New Jersey, he wrote hymns for the Presbyterian church where his father was a minister.  Merwin found inspiration in his conservation work and in his Maui home.  He wrote the poem "Place" about his time there:  "On the last day of the world  I would want to plant a tree  what for  not for the fruit  the tree that bears the fruit  is not the one that was planted  I want the tree that stands  in the earth for the first time  with the sun already  going down  and the water  touching its roots  in the earth full of the dead  and the clouds passing  one by one  over its leaves"   Merwin's Maui home, where he raised more than 2,000 trees, will all be set aside as part of the Merwin Conservancy.  Noah Adams

Vessel (alternately called Hudson Yards Staircase) is a public structure and landmark that was built as part of the Hudson Yards Redevelopment Project in ManhattanNew York City.  Construction started in April 2017.  The structure topped out in December 2017 and opened on March 15, 2019.  The elaborate honeycomb-like structure rises 16 stories and consists of 154 flights of stairs, 2,500 steps, and 80 landings that visitors would be able to climb.  Designed by the British designer Thomas HeatherwickVessel is the main feature of the 5-acre (2.0 ha) Hudson Yards Public Square.  The structure also has ramps and elevators to make it compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990.  Stephen Ross, the CEO of Hudson Yards' developer Related Companies, said that The Staircase's unusual shape was intended to make the structure stand out like a "12-month Christmas tree."  The copper-clad steps, arranged like a jungle gym and modeled after Indian stepwells, would be able to hold up to 1,000 people at a time.  Heatherwick said that he intends for visitors to climb and explore the structure as if it were an actual jungle gym.  At the top of the structure, visitors could have views of the Hudson River coastline.   See graphics and technical details at

Marjorie Weinman Sharmat (November 12, 1928–March 12, 2019) was an American children's writer.  She has written more than 130 books for children and teens and her books have been translated into several languages.  They have won awards including Book of the Year by the Library of Congress or have become selections by the Literary Guild.  Perhaps Sharmat's most popular work features the child detective Nate the Great.  He was inspired by and named after her father, who lived to see the first Nate book published.  Sharmat's husband Mitchell Sharmat expanded Nate's storyline by creating Olivia Sharp, his cousin and fellow detective.  Husband and wife wrote four Olivia Sharp books published 1989 to 1991.  During the 1990s, their son Craig Sharmat (then in his thirties) wrote three Nate books with his mother.  In the mid-1980s Sharmat wrote three books published in 1984 and 1985 under the pseudonym Wendy Andrews.  Sharmat also wrote the Sorority Sisters series, eight short novels published in 1986 and 1987, romantic fiction with a sense of humor.  They are set in a California public high school.

Irish Soda Bread   Easy to make   Shaggy to look at   Good to eat 

A THOUGHT FOR TODAY  Smaller than a breadbox, bigger than a TV remote, the average book fits into the human hand with a seductive nestling, a kiss of texture, whether of cover cloth, glazed jacket, or flexible paperback. - John Updike, writer (18 Mar 1932-2009)  Issue 2064  March 18, 2019