Friday, February 28, 2014

If there's a hot-button item among travelers (other than airline fees), it's whether to allow cellphone voice calls on airplanes.  The Department of Transportation and the Federal Communications Commission seem to be at odds over whether to change the current rules prohibiting such calls.  The DOT is asking fliers for their opinions, even though the agency won't be making the decision, at least not on technical grounds.  The FCC last year started the process of considering changing its rule that prohibits such on-board phone calls above 10,000 feet.  DOT concedes that the FCC has the authority to decide "whether cellphones or other mobile devices used during flight would interfere with cellular networks on the ground and should continue to be banned."  But the DOT, which oversees the Federal Aviation Administration, says it has the authority to decide whether permitting voice calls on an airplane is "an unfair practice to consumers."  From its website: "Allowing voice calls on passenger aircraft may be harmful because people tend to talk louder on cellphones than when they're having face-to-face conversations.  They are also likely to talk more and further increase the noise on a flight, as passengers would not be simply talking to the persons sitting next to them but can call whomever they like.  An Associated Press-GfK poll last fall found that 48% of Americans oppose allowing cellphones to be used for voice while flying, compared with 19% who support it.  Since then, only Delta Air Lines has said up front it won't allow voice calls.  Meanwhile, the FCC points out that even if the agency changes the rules, it would be up to airlines to decide whether to allow voice phone calls in flight.  They would have to install an access system (similar to Wi-Fi), but they wouldn't be required to do so.  Back to the DOT.  The agency wants to know what you think about the potential rule change.  It's collecting comments until March 26.!documentDetail;D=DOT-OST-2014-0002-0018  Mary Forgione 

As mountain streamlets freely flow with water cool and clear, from towering grandeur, snow adorned, a source of strength all year.  Dosia Carlson

The Alps are the youngest and highest mountain system in Europe. They stretch across the western and southern part of the continent in a broad arc. The mountain range starts near the Mediterranean Sea on the border between France and Italy.  Then it curves north and eastward through northern Italy, Switzerland Liechtenstein, southern Germany, Austria and Slovenia.  The Alps are about 1,000 km long, the broadest section over 260 km wide.  During the Ice Age, which started about a million years ago, the Alps were covered with a thick blanket of snow.  Glaciers moved down valleys and made them wider and deeper.  As they moved they took rock and other material with them, creating moraines.  When glaciers started to melt water filled up behind these natural dams and created the alpine lakes we know today.  The largest of these glaciers is the Aletsch in Switzerland which reaches a length of about 25 km. The longest glacier of the eastern Alps is the 8 km long Pasterze, at the foot of the Großglockner.  The ice and snow of the alpine regions helped create the large rivers of today:  the Rhine, Rhone, Danube and the Po.   The Swiss Alps are often called 'Europe's water tower'.  Nearly 60 billion cubic metres of water are stored in its glaciers.  Even though their ice is called 'eternal', many alpine glaciers' lives may come to an end within this century.  For 150 years, most of them have been more or less constantly retreating, and since the eighties, their shrinkage has visibly increased.

The “Cthulhu Mythos” is a name given to the superficial elements of H.P. Lovecraft’s tales:  the fictional New England towns; the extraterrestrial “gods”, and the magical grimoires (see “His Creations”).  However, Lovecraft never used the term “Cthulhu Mythos” himself, on rare occasions referring to his series of connected stories as his “Arkham cycle.”  Instead, the term “Cthulhu Mythos” was coined by August Derleth after Lovecraft’s death.  As such, one could easily make the argument that Lovecraft never wrote any Mythos stories.  These elements have been used by a multitude of writers, several of them members of the “Lovecraft Circle.”  The Mythos has so captured the imaginations of readers that it is perhaps better known (and more widely read) than Lovecraft’s own work.  Many horror authors began their careers writing Mythos fiction, eventually moving on and finding their own voices.  Some of the members of the Lovecraft Circle that incorporated elements of the Mythos into their own work included Robert Bloch, August Derleth, Robert E. Howard, Henry Kuttner, Frank Belknap Long, and Clark Ashton Smith.  Later authors who also continued this tradition include Ramsey Campbell, Lin Carter, Stephen King, T.E.D. Klein, Brian Lumley, and Colin Wilson.

Shadows Over Baker Street--"Sherlock Holmes enters the nightmare world of H.P. Lovecraft"-- is a collection of short stories with Sherlock and Dr. Watson as principal characters in horror stories.  In A Case of Royal Blood, Holmes and H.G. Wells join forces.  In The Mystery of the Hanged Man's Puzzle, Holmes says:  "Goodly intentions are no use without goodly sums of money, Watson" 

Mast Brothers Chocolate  This artisanal chocolate factory creates bean-to-bar handmade candy in small batches and sophisticated flavors.  Founders Michael Mast and his older brother Rick—two bearded Iowa boys—came to New York to pursue careers in film and cooking, respectively. The pair discovered a flair for chocolate-making at Brooklyn dinner parties (finding later success  at local farmers' markets and boutiques), and turned their creative focus to cacao instead, sourced from small farms in Ecuador, Madagascar, and Venezuela.  The brothers produce around ten flavors, from a blend of almond and sea salt to the popular salt-and-pepper bar.  Each is wrapped in gold foil and thick Italian paper in vintage-inspired floral, paisley, and patterned prints.  Visitors congregate around the long kitchen table to taste their spoils and watch the unhusked chocolate nibs be ground with a stone granite roller. 

Ecce in Latin means behold.  Ecce Panis, an artisan bread making company based in New Jersey, means Behold the Bread.  In Latin Phrases and Quotes, the meaning for ecce signum is listed as:  behold the sign; here is the proof.

Who was Dick Donovan? by Bruce Durie  'Dick Donovan' was the pseudonym used by Joyce Emmerson Preston Muddock (1843-1934) for almost 300 detective and mystery stories and 28 novels written between 1889 and 1922.  Muddock also had a long but financially disastrous career as a journalist and wrote:  novels; historical fact and fiction; guide books and a rather self-aggrandising autobiography.  Far from being an imitator of Conan Doyle and Sherlock Holmes, Muddock’s fictional detective predated the Baker Street sleuth in the public’s ken and was, for a time, equally or more popular.  Intriguingly, “Joyce Emmerson Preston Muddock” was itself a pseudonym. Muddock was named at birth, much more prosaically, “James Edward Muddock”.   His characters included not only Dick Donovan, the Glasgow Detective, but also Russian Secret Service agent Michael Danevitch, Vincent Trill of the Detective Service, private detective Tyler Tatlock and early forensic criminologist Fabian Field among others.  Today, his horror tales are better known than his detective fiction, thanks to frequent reprints, and what he considered his “serious” fiction and historical writings have been completely consigned to the remainder bin of literary history.  One of his historical novels, “Young Lochinvar” was an early silent film, made by Stoll and starring Owen Nares.  Muddock did not start the tradition of using a pen name the same as that of the detective - Honeyman’s “James McGovan” stories did likewise, and everyone was cashing in on the earlier publishing success of the real-life James M’Levy, The Edinburgh Detective - but Muddock may well have embedded it as a technique for the genre.  It was later adopted by his American counterparts such as Ellery Queen and Hank Jansen.  He may also be responsible for the term “Dick” as applied to a private detective in America, where his works were hugely popular.  This one-man industry makes Conan Doyle's 60 Sherlock Holmes stories look thin by comparison.  The first Dick Donovan story – “The Saltmarket Murder Case” (Jan 1888) – is one of the earliest locked-room mysteries.  Find bibliography at,%20Dick

DuPont scientist Wallace Carothers invented nylon.  In 1953, James D. Watson and Francis Crick announced to friends that they had determined the chemical structure of DNA; the formal announcement took place on April 25 following publication in April's Nature (pub. April 2).  In 1954, the first color television sets using the NTSC standard were offered for sale to the general public.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Collage derives its name from the French verb coller, to glue.  The work of art is made by gluing things to the surface.  Collage became an art form during the Synthetic Cubist period of Picasso and Braque.  At first, Pablo Picasso glued oil cloth to his surface of Still Life with Chair Caning in May of 1912.  He glued a rope around the edge of the oval canvas.  Georges Braque then glued imitation wood-grained wallpaper to his Fruit Dish and Glass(September 1912). Braque's work is called papier collé (glued or pasted paper), a specific type of collage.  During the Dada movement, Hannah Höch (German, 1889-1978) glued bits of photographs from magazines and advertising in such works as Cut with a Kitchen Knife, (1919-20).  Fellow Dadaist Kurt Schwitters (German, 1887-1948) also glued bits of paper he found in newspapers, advertisements and other discarded matter beginning in 1919.  Schwitters called his collages and assemblages Merzbilder, a word derived from the German word "Kommerz" (Commerce, as in banking) which had been on a fragment of an advertisement in his first work, and bilder ("pictures").  The exclusive use of photos in collage is called photomontage.

Empathy and Sympathy--the difference  The noun empathy denotes the ability to understand and share the feelings of another.  The noun sympathy denotes feelings of pity and sorrow for someone else's misfortune.   Find examples of usage at  See also

The prefix em means into.  The prefix sym means with.  Prefixes that show direction or position:  circum- and peri- mean around; co-, col-, com-, con-, cor-, sym- and syn- mean with; ec-, er- and ex- mean out of; em-, en-, im- and in- mean into; infra-, hypo- and sub- means below, under; pre- and pro- mean in front of; super- means above or over; trans- means across or over.

The suffix "pathy" is from "pathos" (feeling or disease) spoken by people of Greece starting about 1000 B.C.

Borax, also known as sodium borate, sodium tetraborate, or disodium tetraborate, is an important boron compound, a mineral, and a salt of boric acid.  Powdered borax is white, consisting of soft colorless crystals that dissolve easily in water.  Borax has a wide variety of uses.  It is a component of many detergents, cosmetics, and enamel glazes.  It is also used to make buffer solutions in biochemistry, as a fire retardant, as an anti-fungal compound for fiberglass, as a flux in metallurgy, neutron-capture shields for radioactive sources, a texturing agent in cooking, and as a precursor for other boron compounds.  The term borax is used for a number of closely related minerals or chemical compounds that differ in their crystal water content, but usually refers to the decahydrate.  Commercially sold borax is usually partially dehydrated.  The word borax is from Arabic būraq meaning "white"; which is from Middle Persian bwrk, which might have meant potassium nitrate or another fluxing agent, now known as būrah.  Borax was first discovered in dry lake beds in Tibet and was imported via the Silk Road to Arabia.  Borax first came into common use in the late 19th century when Francis Marion Smith's Pacific Coast Borax Company began to market and popularize a large variety of applications under the famous 20 Mule Team Borax trademark, named for the method by which borax was originally hauled out of the California and Nevada deserts in large enough quantities to make it cheap and commonly available.

rucksack:  knapsack  German, from German dialect, from Rucken back + Sack sack
knapsack:  a bag (as of canvas or nylon) strapped on the back and used for carrying supplies or personal belongings  Low German knappsack or Dutch knapzak, from Low German & Dutch knappen to make a snapping noise, eat + Low German sack or Dutch zak sack

Follow-up on one of the "18 Bookstores Every Book Lover Must Visit At Least Once"  John K. King Used & Rare Books is Michigan’s largest used & rare bookstore, and one of the largest bookstores in the country.  Our main store in downtown Detroit actually consists of two buildings:  a four story bookstore in an old glove factory where most of our stock is kept, and another building directly behind (once the Otis Elevator Building) with offices, storage, a large collection of Art books, and a Rare Book Room.  The Rare Book Room and Art book area are open by appointment only.  However, the books in the Rare Book Room (some 20-30,000 books) are available for browsing and purchase on our website,  While the main store stock is not on a database or website, it is organized by subject and author within the store for easy shopping.  If you cannot make it to our store to browse for a certain title, please email us at, and we can have someone check our shelves for you.  We also have two other stores within the Detroit area:  The Big Bookstore at 5911 Cass Avenue, near Wayne State University in Detroit (313-831-8511), and, John King Books North at 22524 Woodward Avenue, just south of Nine Mile Road in Ferndale, Michigan (248-548-9050). Neither of those stores has its stock on a database, either, but the staff will be happy to check if you call in your requestsFind hours of operation at all three stores at

Feb. 24, 2014  Scientists using two different age-determining techniques have shown that a tiny zircon crystal found on a sheep ranch in western Australia is the oldest known piece of our planet, dating to 4.4 billion years ago.  Writing in the journal Nature Geoscience on Sunday, the researchers said the discovery indicates that Earth's crust formed relatively soon after the planet formed and that the little gem was a remnant of it.  John Valley, a University of Wisconsin geoscience professor who led the research, said the findings suggest that the early Earth was not as harsh a place as many scientists have thought.  To determine the age of the zircon fragment, the scientists first used a widely accepted dating technique based on determining the radioactive decay of uranium to lead in a mineral sample.  But because some scientists hypothesized that this technique might give a false date due to possible movement of lead atoms within the crystal over time, the researchers turned to a second sophisticated method to verify the finding.  They used a technique known as atom-probe tomography that was able to identify individual atoms of lead in the crystal and determine their mass, and confirmed that the zircon was indeed 4.4 billion years old.  To put that age in perspective, the Earth itself formed 4.5 billion years ago as a ball of molten rock, meaning that its crust formed relatively soon thereafter, 100 million years later.  The age of the crystal also means that the crust appeared just 160 million years after the very formation of the solar system.  The finding supports the notion of a "cool early Earth" where temperatures were low enough to sustain oceans, and perhaps life, earlier than previously thought, Valley said.  This period of Earth history is known as the Hadean eon, named for ancient Greek god of the underworld Hades because of hellish conditions including meteorite bombardment and an initially molten surface.  Will Dunham,0,7077837.story

Issue 1115  February 26, 2014  On this date  in 1909,   Kinemacolor, the first successful color motion picture process, was first shown to the general public at the Palace Theatre in London.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Beatrix Potter (1866-1943) wrote and illustrated some two dozen children's books that are now considered classics, including "The Tale of Peter Rabbit".  Although Beatrix Potter's name may not be a household word, that of her first artistic creation, Peter Rabbit, certainly is.  An entire industry has sprung up around this beloved character; one can find his image on everything from tea towels to toys.  Even though Potter's parents left her mostly in the care of governesses and servants, they nevertheless exerted tight control over her life.  She was educated at home and had virtually no contact with other children until her brother, Bertram, was born when she about five.  But even he was soon sent to boarding school, which meant that their time together was limited mostly to the summer holidays, which the family typically spent in Scotland or the English Lake District.  Other than her brother, Potter's only friends were her animals. She had a deep interest in and love for all creatures and kept several as pets, including mice, frogs, bats, rabbits, and even a hedgehog.  Her strong affinity for animals was not merely sentimental, however; she was a naturalist at heart, with a sharp eye for scientific detail.  Potter also displayed an early talent for drawing.  Her own pets as well as the animals she discovered while on vacation were often the subjects of her illustrations.  Another interest of Potter's was science, especially mycology, the study of fungi.  When she was in her late twenties, Potter decided to illustrate a book on fungi and made hundreds of precise drawings based on her observations.  Her uncle presented them to the director of the Royal Botanical Gardens on her behalf, but no one took them seriously.  Potter even made an actual scientific discovery and wrote a paper about it entitled "The Germination of the Spores of Agaricineae" for the Linnaean Society of London.  Since women were not allowed to attend the society's meetings, her uncle appeared before the members and read her paper.  The fact that she was a woman and a novice in the field put her at a distinct disadvantage, however, and eventually she gave up any serious attempts to draw or write about fungi.  From the time she was 14 until she was 31, Potter kept a journal that she wrote in secret code.  (It was finally decoded by Leslie Linder and published for the first time in 1966 and again in 1989.)  The year 1890 marked Potter's debut as a published illustrator.  Her animal drawings accompanied verses written by Frederic Weatherley in a book entitled A Happy Pair.  Potter remained virtually anonymous, however, by virtue of the fact that she signed her name simply as "H.B.P."
Three years later Potter wrote a letter to five-year-old Noël Moore, the seriously ill son of one of her former governesses.  To help cheer him up, Potter included in her letter the story of Peter Rabbit in words and pictures.  Friends who saw what she had done encouraged her to turn her ideas into a book.  Unable to find a publisher who would accept her work, Potter had the first version of The Tale of Peter Rabbit privately printed in 1900.  She had it reprinted in 1902, the same year she arranged for the first private printing of her second book, The Tailor of Gloucester.  By this time, Potter had begun to attract some attention in publishing circles.  Frederick Warne & Co. offered to publish The Tale of Peter Rabbit on the condition that she supply color illustrations.  Potter complied, and the book proved to be very successful.  Gale Encyclopedia of Biography

Sulzer Regional Library 4455 North Lincoln Avenue Chicago, is named after the first Caucasian settler to the area, Conrad Sulzer.  Sulzer was a Swiss immigrant who first made a living as an apothecary owner and later as a gentleman farmer.  He bought land in Lincoln Square in the late 1830s with a total of 100 acres.  This 5.1 million dollar library just doesn’t have books, but delightful whimsical chairs and tables as well!  The 115 plank chairs, winged chairs, trestle tables, and bigger rectangular tables were commissioned by Tannys Langdon of Hammond, Beeby & Babka architects, built by the Woodworking Corporation of New Paris Indiana, and painted by artist, Lori Coy.  The furniture was done in the Eastern European tradition using plywood with painted surface ornamentation instead of carving.  The themes include stylized folk art of Mid-Western flora and fauna, mythological creatures of European folk tales, and the four seasons.  Only 75 pieces remain within the library.  Some of the best reside in the mezzanine level of the library.  This area is only accessible during certain times of week or by appointment only.  If you reach the mezzanine level, just ask for Julie Lynch, she is the Librarian of the Historical Room and is very enthusiastic and helpful!  If you are not able to see the chairs do not despair there are many more on the main floor definitely worth checking out.  If you can, don’t forget to check the children’s reading area; some chairs are there too!  Heather Kendall   See stories and pictures for 12 different attractions in Lincoln Park including Architectural Artifacts  and The Old Town School of Folk Music at

"There are many men in London, you know, who, some from shyness, some from misanthropy, have no wish for the company of their fellows.  Yet they are not averse to comfortable chairs and the latest periodicals.  It is for the convenience of these that the Diogenes Club was started, and it now contains the most unsociable and unclubable men in town.  No member is permitted to take the least notice of any other one.  Save in the Stranger’s Room, no talking is, under any circumstances, allowed, and three offences, if brought to the notice of the committee, render the talker liable to expulsion.  My brother was one of the founders, and I have myself found it a very soothing atmosphere."  Sherlock Holmes, The Adventure of the Greek Interpreter

Extrasensory perception or ESP involves reception of information not gained through the recognized physical senses but sensed with the mind.  The term was adopted by Duke University psychologist J. B. Rhine to denote psychic abilities such as telepathy, clairaudience, and clairvoyance, and their trans-temporal operation as precognition or retrocognition.  ESP is also sometimes referred to as a sixth sense.  The term implies acquisition of information by means external to the basic limiting assumptions of science, such as that organisms can only receive information from the past to the present.

The "Great Game" (Rudyard Kipling made the phrase famous in the book Kim) arose from a complex of disagreements between Britain and Russia, and the weight to be assigned to each of the causes of the rivalry between them is still a subject of dispute among historians.  In the beginning, in 1791, when the British Prime Minister, William Pitt, opposed czarist annexation of Ochakov, a strategic port town belonging to the Ottoman Empire, it was for fear that Russia might become too powerful and might upset the existing balance of power.  But for a long time thereafter, that fear was forgotten as Britain and Russia both fought for their lives against Napoleon.  It was not until 1815, in the aftermath of the Napoleonic wars, that British fears of Russia began to revive  Read extensive article by David Fromkin from the Spring 1980 issue of Foreign Affairs at

The Great Game:  Afghanistan is a British series of short plays on the history of Afghanistan and foreign intervention there, from the First Anglo-Afghan War to the present day.  It is organised into three sets of four plays and draws its name from the 19th and 20th century Great Game, a geopolitical struggle for dominance between The British and Russian Empires.  The main plays are linked by monologues and duologues giving historical background and verbatim theatre edited by Richard Norton-Taylor from modern figures linked with western involvement in Afghanistan, such as William Dalrymple, Hillary Clinton, Stanley McChrystal and David Richards.  Premiering at the Tricycle Theatre in London in 2009, it had another 6 week run there before a tour of the USA.

Kim is a picaresque novel by Nobel Prize-winning English author Rudyard Kipling.  It was first published serially in McClure's Magazine from December 1900 to October 1901 as well as in Cassell's Magazine from January to November 1901, and first published in book form by Macmillan & Co. Ltd in October 1901.  The story unfolds against the backdrop of The Great Game, the political conflict between Russia and Britain in Central Asia.  It is set after the Second Afghan War which ended in 1881, but before the Third, probably in the period 1893–98.  The novel is notable for its detailed portrait of the people, culture, and varied religions of India.  In 1998, the Modern Library ranked Kim No. 78 on its list of the 100 best English-language novels of the 20th century.  In 2003 the book was listed on the BBC's The Big Read poll of the UK's "best-loved novel."

In general, when something is Procrustean, different lengths or sizes or properties are fitted to an arbitrary standard.  In a Procrustean solution in statistics, instead of finding the best fit line to a scatter plot of data, one first chooses the line one wants, then selects only the data that fits it, disregarding data that does not, so to "prove" some idea.  It is a form of rhetorical deception made to forward one set of interests at the expense of others.  The unique goal of the Procrustean solution is not win-win, but rather that Procrustes wins and the other loses.  In this case, the defeat of the opponent justifies the deceptive means.  Read about Procrustes (also known as Prokoptas or Damastes) of Greek mythology, Procrustean bed and Procrustean string at

Issue 1114  February 24, 2014  On this date in 1582, Pope Gregory XIII announced the Gregorian calendar.  On this date in 1917, the U.S. ambassador to the United Kingdom was given the Zimmermann Telegram, in which Germany pledged to ensure the return of New Mexico, Texas, and Arizona to Mexico if Mexico declared war on the United States.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Panna Cotta:  cooked cream  Find recipes at  (first recipe is Espresso Panna Cotta courtesy of Giada De Laurentiis--takes five minutes)
Terra Cotta:  cooked/baked earth  How to Bake Bread or Cake in Terra Cotta Pots by Jennifer Loucks

Hibernation and brumation  Technically, the term hibernation from the Latin hibernus pertains to winter and is reserved for warm-blooded vertebrates like birds and mammals. A vertebrate is an animal that has a backbone.  Tortoises are both ectotherms and vertebrates. They will go to sleep in the winter and the pulse rate and respirations may dip as low as four per minute. The minimum body temperature will be between about 52 and 59 degrees Fahrenheit.  That is an adaptation that saves energy when food is sparse and ambient temperatures are too low to warm reptiles, frogs, and toads to support  activity.  So, who came up with brumation?  What is it?  How is it different from hibernation? The Latin bruma refers to the winter solstice – hence, winter.  Reptile authority Dr. William W. Mayhew proposed the word “brumation” to indicate winter dormancy in ectothermic vertebrates that demonstrate physiological changes that are independent of body temperature.  An ectothermic animal is one that receives the heat it needs to raise its body temperature from outside the body, such as heat of the sun directly on the body.  A certain level of warmth is needed to support movement, digestion, and other functions.  Betty Burge

18 Bookstores Every Book Lover Must Visit At Least Once  by Ashley Lutz  See outstanding pictures including John K. King Used And Rare Books that houses more than a million books in an abandoned glove factory in Detroit's industrial wasteland; bookstore is a converted Dominican church in Maastricht, Holland; Corso Como, Milan, Italy--named one of the 10 most beautiful in the world--it doubles as a flea market; and Prairie Lights in Iowa City.  This bookstore is next door to the University of Iowa's famous Writer's Workshop, a program with famous alums including Kurt Vonnegut.  Thanks, Paul

Gertie the Dinosaur is a 1914 animated short film by American cartoonist and animator Winsor McCay.  It is the earliest animated film to feature a dinosaur.  McCay first used the film before live audiences as an interactive part of hisvaudeville act; the frisky, childlike Gertie did tricks at the command of her master.  McCay's employer William Randolph Hearst later curtailed McCay's vaudeville activities, so McCay added a live-action introductory sequence to the film for its theatrical release.  McCay abandoned a sequel, Gertie on Tour (c. 1921), after producing about a minute of footage.  Although Gertie is popularly thought to be the earliest animated film, McCay had earlier made Little Nemo (1911) and How a Mosquito Operates (1912).  The American J. Stuart Blackton and the French Émile Cohl had experimented with animation even earlier; Gertie being a character with an appealing personality distinguished McCay's film from these earlier "trick films".  Gertie was the first film to use animation techniques such as keyframes, registration marks, tracing paper, the Mutoscope action viewer, and animation loops.  It influenced the next generation of animators such as the Fleischer brothers, Otto Messmer, Paul Terry, and Walt Disney.  John Randolph Bray unsuccessfully tried to patent many of McCay's animation techniques and is said to have been behind a plagiarized version of Gertie that appeared a year or two after the original.  Gertie is the best preserved of McCay's films—some of which have been lost or survive only in fragments—and has been preserved in the US National Film Registry.  See many images at

A numeral is a symbol or name that stands for a number.  The number is an idea, the numeral is how we write it.
Example:  The numeral 2014 represents the numbered year 2014.

Ten Rules for Writing Numbers and Numerals by Michael  What is the difference between a number and a numeral?  A number is an abstract concept while a numeral is a symbol used to express that number.  “Three,” “3″ and “III” are all symbols used to express the same number (or the concept of “threeness”).  One could say that the difference between a number and its numerals is like the difference between a person and her name.  Find out about consistency, when to spell out numbers, use commas, two numbers next to each other, formal versus informal writing, starting sentences, and rounded or estimated numbers at

Sixty-five years ago, residents lined up at the Toledo Museum of Art to see more than 90 European paintings Nazis had buried deep in a German salt mine.  This dramatic period in art history — when military forces and art experts saved masterpieces stashed, stolen, and threatened to be destroyed by Adolf Hitler — is depicted in the recently released movie The Monuments Men.  In 1949, more than 100,000 people streamed into the Toledo museum during the 10-day exhibit of works by masters such as Rembrandt, Rubens, and Titian.  The paintings, valued then at $50 million, had been recovered from the mine by the 3rd U.S. Army in 1945.  Unlike other art-cache discoveries, the paintings in the Merkers mine were not prizes looted by Nazis.  They hailed from Berlin museums and had been tucked underground as the city faced attack.  Once uncovered, many works came to the United States until they could be returned to Germany.  During their U.S. stay, some of the paintings toured major cities including New York City, Philadelphia, Chicago, Los Angeles, Detroit, Cleveland, and Pittsburgh.  Toledo was the final stop.  The local museum’s then-assistant director Otto Wittmann, who died in 2001, joined the Army Air Force in 1941 and toward the end of the war investigated art stolen by Nazis to help return pieces to the appropriate country.  He’s listed as one of the Monuments Men, the term used for about 345 men and women of the Monuments, Fine Arts, and Archives section of the Allied armies, by the Monuments Men Foundation for the Preservation of Art.  The foundation was started by author Robert Edsel, who wrote a book that was adapted into the movie.  Vanessa McCray

Mavis Gallant (1922-2014) published her first story, “Madeline’s Birthday,” in The New Yorker, in 1951.  Over the next forty years, she contributed a hundred and sixteen short stories to the magazine, nearly as many as John Cheever.  In the 1976 story “Voices Lost in Snow,” Gallant uses the metaphor of snow to marvellous effect while describing a daughter’s strained relationship with her detached father.  The story’s winter imagery reflects the narrator’s feelings of confusion as she gazes up at unfamiliar adult scenarios and emotions.  Comparing the interactions between adult and child to a snowfall, Gallant highlights the precarious nature of childhood, when parents “seem to speak out of the lights, the stones, the snow; out of the crucial second when inner and outer forces join, and the environment becomes part of the enemy too.”
Mavis Gallant’s diaries were excerpted in the magazine last year and will be published soon by Knopf.  If you’d like to explore more of Gallant’s work in the meantime, please check out her 1956 short story “In Italy,” as well as this recent fiction podcast, in which Margaret Atwood reads “Voices Lost in Snow.”

Issue 1113  February 21, 2014  On this date in 1947, Edwin Land demonstrated the first "instant camera", the Polaroid Land Camera, to a meeting of the Optical Society of America.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Ghostposting  Now in his mid-70s, actor George Takei has found new fame as a beloved social media maven boasting millions of followers across his various social networking accounts.  But many of Takei’s virtual admirers might be disappointed to know that Mr. Sulu is not solely responsible for all that delightfulness.  Some of the humorous quips posted under his name were actually written by a ghostwriter being paid ten bucks per Facebook post.  As it turns out, Takei’s use of outside help for his social media work isn’t unique among celebrities.  Sarah Palin, Britney Spears, Kanye West and Barack Obama have admitted to using paid professional help to maintain their social media profiles.  Evan Dashevsky  The agents for US figure skaters Ashley Wagner and Gracie Gold both say sponsors draft some of their tweets, plugging their brands.

Fennel seeds are actually a spice, although the leaves, stalks and roots of the plant are known as an herb.  The bulb-like vegetable called fennel is related to the herb fennel, but is not the same plant.  Fennel has been around for thousands of years and food historians say that the name has Greek origins.  In 490 BC the Ancient Greeks fought with the Persians in the city of Marathon.  According to the story, the battleground was actually a field of fennel and the word for fennel is derived from the Greek word for “marathon”.  The Romans introduced the spice to the UK and other European countries and over time it was also transported East to Asia and China.  The Puritans took the spice to the US, where they called fennel seeds “meeting seeds”, due to the fact that during long church sermons or Puritan meetings, they chewed on the seeds to fend off hunger and tiredness.

Do you know the word mumpsimus?   It comes to us from medieval England.  Here’s the story:  There was a monk—call him Anselm—who habitually misrecited one of the Latin prayers.  Where the text called for sumpsimus (“we have taken”), Anselm would always say mumpsimus.  After a time, Anselm’s brethren corralled him: “You keep saying mumpsimus. ... Look, here’s the prayer book.”  “I don’t care,” Anselm replied.  “I’m not trading in your new sumpsimus for my old mumpsimus.”  Anselm gave us both the word mumpsimus and its definition:  One who continues perpetrating a clear error even after irrefutable correction.  Read four vignettes leading to a single moral about writing better briefs by Bryan Garner at  

Australia’s indigenous inhabitants had very good reasons for being nomadic.  One was ‘Kindal Kindal’, an imposing tree with shiny dark green leaves and sweet-smelling blossoms that grew on the eastern strip of the Great Dividing Range.  The Aborigines would congregate wherever the tree grew, to feast on its edible nuts which first had to be removed from hard, woody shells.  They regarded the nuts not only as a delicacy with rich nutritional value, but a source of valuable medical and cosmetic properties.  In the 1850′s, botanists Ferdinand von Mueller and Walter Hill discovered two species of these trees growing in the Queensland rainforests.  The named the smooth-shelled macadamia ‘Macadamia Integrifolia’ and the rough-shelled species ‘Macadamia Tetraphylla’.  The genus ‘Macadamia’ acknowledged a prominent scientist of the time, Dr John McAdam.  Macadamias, then, had both a tradition and a name, but their commercial potential was neglected to such a degree that the first commercial plantations were established in Hawaii from seeds sent from Australia.

Dr. John Macadam (1827-1865) was a doctor of medicine, government chemical analyst, Melbourne city health officer, lecturer in Melbourne University, and member of parliament and minister of Victoria, Australia. He studied chemistry at Anderson's (now Strathclyde) University and Edinburgh University, then medicine at Glasgow University, graduating in 1854, and arrived in Australia the following year.  Initially he taught chemistry and natural science at the Scotch College in Melbourne, and is also celebrated as one of the two umpires of the first recorded game of Australian-rules football in 1858.

 “America’s network of public libraries is older than America itself.  You can make a strong case that the precursor to our modern book-lending system was developed in Boston in 1636, in Charleston in 1698, by Benjamin Franklin and his Philadelphia cohort in 1731, or in the Massachusetts town that named itself after Franklin in 1790.  But what is indisputable is that this “amazing decentralized mutual aid” creation, as one librarian described it, was founded on a radical belief that all citizens have a right to information, art, and literature.  That these things are not a luxury, but a necessity, is an idea that turned the old elite concept of private libraries and ivory towers on its head . . . By being responsive to the unique needs of their communities, libraries have taken on sometimes surprising roles.  In Tulsa, Oklahoma, for example, the central branch of the City-County library has a case worker from the state’s Family and Children Services agency on hand four hours a day, five days a week.  In Ann Arbor, Michigan, you can check out musical instruments, microscopes, telescopes, and home tools.  In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, New York libraries offered direct assistance to residents who needed help rebuilding.  The Sacramento Public Library in California hosts Punk Rock Aerobics, led by one of its librarians.  Outside Rochester, New York, you can check out fishing poles.  In Dallas, Texas, a public library facilitates Coffee and Conversations, one-hour sessions for the homeless; more than 70 people attended the second meeting.  And in Woodbine, Iowa, you can borrow cake pans.”  Anna Clark

"Make soft" is Hawaiian for "be careful."  Example:  Make soft with the eggs in that package.

Mining for White Gold in March by Wendy Kummerer  One of the oldest agricultural crops native to North America, maple syrup was once referred to as “white gold.”  Native Americans were likely the first people to discover the many uses of maple syrup from sweetening their meats to using it as a treat for small children.  It is commonly thought that they then shared their discovery with early settlers.  Maple syrup production occurred in late March, during a time everything on the farm was relatively dormant – fences were mended, logging was completed and it was still too early to plow.  Farmers used maple sugar to make maple honey, sap beer, maple cream and maple butter.  A good yield of syrup might also have been used to trade or barter to buy new shoes, seed, fabric or even to pay taxes.  In the 1860s, production of maple syrup soared with the availability of sheet metal, which allowed for the manufacture of tin to make maple sugar buckets and bucket lids, metal spouts and evaporator pans.  The Festival of the Sugar Maples is an annual celebration of maple sugaring held the first two weekends in March at Coral Woods Conservation Area in McHenry County, Illinois.  March is chosen because by late February, a thawing/freezing cycle begins where temperatures rise above 40 degrees during the day and drop below 32 degrees at night.  The daytime warmth causes sap to flow to the tree’s branches to nourish developing buds, and then back to the roots when the temperatures drop again.  It is during this up and down flow of the sap that collectors can catch the sap run.  .

Issue 1112  February 19, 2014  On this date in 1674, England and the Netherlands signed the Treaty of Westminster, ending the Third Anglo-Dutch War.  A provision of the agreement transferred the Dutch colony of New Amsterdam to England, and it was renamed New York