Friday, January 30, 2015

More than 95 percent of the bananas sold in the U.S. are Cavendish, the cultivar that has dominated the market since the 1970s.   Here are five other types:  Baby  The Mini brand is trademarked by Chiquita; you'll find similar fruit sold by Dole under the Baby name.  More than one cultivar makes up the Baby/Mini category.  Chiquita's product is the Pisang Mas variety, originally from Malaysia; Dole's Minis include two types:  Ladyfinger and Orito.  Manzano  This variety, native to Central and South America, belongs to a subcategory known as apple bananas, and the name fits.  The texture of a Manzano is firmer than that of the Cavendish, and the scent is complex, marked by a strong tart-apple aroma.  Burro  This fruit—occasionally sold under the name chunky banana—is stubbier and fatter than the Cavendish.  The Burro is grown in Mexico.  Plantain  Actually an entire subset of the fruit, plantains are a kind of banana that is usually cooked.  With a few exceptions, these rarely reach the eat-raw sweetness of varieties like Cavendish (which are officially categorized as "dessert" bananas).  Plantains have been on our shores longer than the Cavendish and are a cheap and delicious substitute for potatoes or rice in many Latin American cuisines.  Red  This is, in my opinion, the most delicious of the alternative banana varieties available in the U.S.  Sometimes confused with a Philippine staple variety called Lacatan, the red banana has a sweet taste and a creamy texture.  Dan Koeppl   Read more at

tongue in cheek  In an ironic manner, not meant to be taken seriously.  This phrase clearly alludes to the facial expression created by putting one's tongue in one's cheek.  This induces a wink (go on - try it), which has long been an indication that what is being said is to be taken with a pinch of salt.  It may have been used to suppress laughter.  'Tongue in cheek' is the antithesis of the later phrase - 'with a straight face'.  The term first appeared in print in 'The Fair Maid of Perth', by that inveterate coiner of phrases, Sir Walter Scott, 1828:  "The fellow who gave this all-hail thrust his tongue in his cheek to some scapegraces like himself."  It isn't entirely clear that Scott was referring to the ironic use of the expression.

An oxbow lake starts out as a curve, or meander, in a river.  A lake forms as the river finds a different, shorter, course.  Oxbow lakes usually form in flat, low-lying plains close to where the river empties into another body of water.  Meanders that form oxbow lakes have two sets of curves: one curving away from the straight path of the river and one curving back.  Erosion and deposition eventually cause a new channel to be cut through the small piece of land at the narrow end of the meander.  The river makes a shortcut.  Oxbow lakes are the remains of the bend in the river.  Oxbow lakes are stillwater lakes.  This means that water does not flow into or out of them.  Oxbow lakes often become swamps or bogs, and they often dry up as their water evaporates.

The Story Behind Banksy by Will Ellsworth-Jones  When Time magazine selected the British artist Banksy—graffiti master, painter, activist, filmmaker and all-purpose provocateur—for its list of the world’s 100 most influential people in 2010, he found himself in the company of Barack Obama, Steve Jobs and Lady Gaga.  He supplied a picture of himself with a paper bag (recyclable, naturally) over his head.  Most of his fans don’t really want to know who he is (and have loudly protested Fleet Street attempts to unmask him).  But they do want to follow his upward tra­jectory from the outlaw spraying—or, as the argot has it, “bombing”—walls in Bristol, England, during the 1990s to the artist whose work commands hundreds of thousands of dollars in the auction houses of Britain and America.  Today, he has bombed cities from Vienna to San Francisco, Barcelona to Paris and Detroit.  And he has moved from graffiti on gritty urban walls to paint on canvas, conceptual sculpture and even film, with the guileful documentary Exit Through the Gift Shop, which was nominated for an Academy Award.  Read extensive story at

Q.  Where does the phrase old chestnut come from?  A.  It is said to go back to an exchange between the characters in a play by William Dimond, first performed at the Royal Covent Garden Theatre, London, on 7 October 1816.  It had the title of The Broken Sword; or, The Torrent of the Valley, and was further described as “A Melo-Drama in 2 Acts, adapted from the French” and also “a grand melo-drama: interspersed with songs, choruses, &c”.  Let a writer for the Daily Herald in Delphos, Ohio, take up the story, in a piece in the issue dated 23 April 1896, which said the play was “long forgotten”:  There were two characters in it — one a Captain Zavier and the other the comedy part of Pablo.  The captain is a sort of Baron Munchausen, and in telling of his exploits says, “I entered the woods of Colloway, when suddenly from the thick boughs of a cork tree” — Pablo interrupts him with the words, “A chestnut, captain; a chestnut.”  “Bah!” replies the captain.  “Booby.  I say a cork tree.”  “A chestnut,” reiterates Pablo.  “I should know as well as you, having heard you tell the tale 27 times.”  This sounds reasonable enough as the source, but there are some loose ends.  This sense of chestnut, for a joke or story that has become stale and wearisome through constant repetition, isn’t recorded until 1880.  Where had it been all that time, if the source was the play?  The word in this sense was claimed by British writers in the 1880s to have originally been American, though it became well known in Britain and according to the Oxford English Dictionary many stories about its supposed origin circulated in 1886-7.  The same newspaper report claims that the intermediary was a Boston comedian named William Warren, who had often played the part of Pablo:  He was at a ‘stag’ dinner when one of the gentlemen present told a story of doubtful age and originality.  ‘A chestnut,’ murmured Mr. Warren, quoting from the play. ‘I have heard you tell the tale these 27 times.’  The application of the line pleased the rest of the table, and when the party broke up each helped to spread the story and Mr. Warren’s commentary.”  You may take this with as large a pinch of salt as you wish, though a similar story, attributing it to the same person, is given in the current edition of Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable.  As the joke could have been made at any time the play was still known, and as it probably circulated orally for a long time before it was first written down, the long gap between the play’s first performance and its first recorded use isn’t surprising.  The old in old chestnut is merely an elaboration for emphasis — another form is hoary old chestnut — both of which seem to have come along a good deal later.

What do these song snippets have in common?  "The winter to us is as good as the spring."  "Never mind the Winter King, laughing and singing turns winter to spring."  "It's June in January because I'm in love with you."  They distract us and challenge our perceptions.

Jan. 28, 2015  Iconic sighting:  "iconic Boston Marathon finish line" was reported on ABC News.  Does that mean iconic Boston Marathon finish line--or iconic Boston Marathon?  Would it make sense to drop iconic?  I believe so.

Australian author Colleen McCullough, who wrote 25 novels during her career, died on Jan. 29, 2015.  She penned her first book, Tim, while living in America.  It was later made into a 1979 film starring Mel Gibson.  Her second novel, The Thorn Birds, became an international bestseller.  A story of forbidden love between a young woman and a priest in the Australian outback, the paperback rights sold for a then-record $1.9 million (£1.25m).  It was turned into a popular television mini-series in 1983, starring Richard Chamberlain and Rachel Ward.  Her last book, Bittersweet, was published in 2013.  McCullough was born in Wellington, New South Wales and spent most of her early life in Sydney.  Before turning to writing, she studied medicine both in Australia and overseas, establishing the neurophysiology department at the Royal North Shore hospital in Sydney.  She went on to spend 10 years as a researcher at Yale medical school in the US.  Issue 1250  January 30, 2015  On this date in 1969, the Beatles' last public performance, on the roof of Apple Records in London was broken up by the police.  On this date in 1971, Carole King's Tapestry album was released to become the longest charting album by a female solo artist and would sell 24 million copies worldwide.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Jan. 27, 2015  “ is a service, currently in beta, that allows users to create citation links that will never break.  When a user creates a link, archives a copy of the referenced content, and generates a link to an unalterable hosted instance of the site.  Regardless of what may happen to the original source, if the link is later published by a journal using the service, the archived version will always be available through the link.  In a sample of several legal journals, approximately 70% of all links in citations published between 1999 and 2011 no longer point to the same material.     

Nine maps that explained the Internet in 2014 by Andrea Peterson and Brian Fung  This was a big year for the Internet, from the U.S. debate over net neutrality to proposals to shift control of the worldwide Web to the global community.  See maps showing how Internet worked and how people used it in 2014 at

What is The Internet?  The Internet is a massive network of networks, a networking infrastructure.  What is The Web?  The World Wide Web, or simply Web, is a way of accessing information over the medium of the Internet.  It is an information-sharing model that is built on top of the Internet.  Read much more at

CAPERS  There’s a plant called capparis spinosa.  When the plant creates a bud -- this starts every year in the spring -- this bud is going to be a flower.  However, if you pick the bud before it becomes a flower, that’s a caper.  In fact, properly we should call it a caper bud; the whole plant is a caper plant and it has various parts, but what we all call a caper is a caper bud.  If you leave the bud on the plant, then a couple of weeks later it opens up and has a flower -- a beautiful purple and white flower.  If you let the flower fall off, it's replaced a little bit later in the season by a fruit.  That fruit is called the caper berry.  It looks like an olive; it's oblong.  It's much bigger than a caper bud, and it has a similar taste and it's treated a similar way.  It is not quite as intense-tasting as the caper bud, but it has a very similar flavor and it’s really quite delicious.  In Greece, they also like to use the leaves of the caper plant.  There are capers grown all over the Mediterranean.  Some are grown in Asia and in Australia.  Most people in the world of capers will tell you the very best capers come from a small island called Pantelleria that is off the coast of Sicily.  It's actually a little closer to Tunisia than it is to the main part of Sicily.  But that's it.  That's caper heaven.  On the Internet, almost everybody says, "Get the smaller ones.  They are better."  But that is one of those food myths that just won't go away.  The only reason that you hear it is because that's what everybody has always said, and nobody has really taken the trouble to really research it.  When I was in Pantelleria I kept asking, "What size do I want?"  Everybody I spoke to -- from producers and chefs to local food writers -- all said the big ones are much more flavorful.  They usually come in three sizes:  small, medium and large.  The downside with the larger ones is these are closer to springing open and becoming flowers.  They are not quite as tight in texture, they're not quite as firm, they have a flower inside them waiting to break out.  However, they have developed to the most gorgeous flavor.  David Rosengarten

Laura Elizabeth Richards (1850-1943) had distinguished parents and a home life that would early introduce her to the delights of language and fine arts as well as to a range of people and experiences.  Her father, Samuel Gridley Howe, "a restless social reformer . . . [who] later gain[ed] fame as an abolitionist," was also "the practical founder ... of the Perkins Institution and Massachusetts School for the Blind" in 1832.  Howe's star pupil -- and Laura's namesake -- was Laura Bridgman, a child who had been left blind and deaf after a bout with scarlet fever at age two.  When Bridgman was seven, Howe met her and brought her to Perkins, where she became the first blind and deaf person to learn language and "finger spell."  (Another Perkins student, Anne Sullivan, later taught Helen Keller.)  Richards's mother, the poet Julia Ward Howe, is perhaps best known as the author of "Battle Hymn of the Republic."  When still quite young, Richards was introduced to languages through her mother's love of music. As she explained in her autobiography, Stepping Westward, When we [children] gathered delightedly round the piano . . . we soon began to sing with [mother]. German songs, many of them brought back from Heidelberg by Uncle Sam Ward . . . sparkling French songs whose gayety was enchanting . . . Italian songs that flowed like water under moonlight; to say nothing of English and Scottish ballads without end.  We never knew that we were studying French, German, Italian; that we were acquiring a vocabulary . . .  Richards's first book, Five Little Mice in a Mouse Trap was published in 1880, as was The Little Tyrant; two additional titles, Our Baby's Favorite and Sketches and Scraps (the latter illustrated by her husband), appeared the following year.  The same decade saw additional publications, including retellings of folktales such as Beauty and the Beast and Hop o' My Thumb (both 1886), and both volumes about Toto (The Joyous Story of Toto [1885] and Toto's Merry Winter [1887]).  1889 produced Queen Hildegarde, which Richards described as "my first stumbling essay in books for girls").  This became the first of her Hildegarde seriesThe 1890s brought more girls books, including Captain January, perhaps now best known from the 1936 Shirley Temple movie.  She also published several interrelated stories: Melody (1893), Marie (1894), Bethsada Pool (1895), Rosin the Beau (1898).  Richards was also active in designing activities for youth and in community affairs in Gardiner.  In 1886, she created the Howe Club (named for her father), for her ten-year-old son Hal and his friends.  The group met for ninety minutes on Saturday evenings.  As Richards described it, I read to them -- first a poem, then Scott or Dickens for half the time; then there were apples -- or peanuts -- and games in many varieties, all with the pill of Information heavily sugar-coated.  To give the boys something that school in its crowded curriculum could not give; to enlarge first their vocabulary and then their horizon; to show them the fair face of poetry; first and last to give them a good time; this was my ardent desire.  The Howe Club lasted for approximately 25 years.  Additionally, Richards was involved in founding the Ten Times One Club (afterschool activities for children) and the Good Comrades Club (for young girls in the workforce).  Her interest in lifelong education led to her involvement with the History Class (later the Current Events club); this was an adult study group, where she and her husband "studied with ardor; wrote our papers with passion and read them . . . before a neighborly, friendly audience"  In 1895, she helped found the Women's Philanthropic Union (designed to correlate the activities of various women's organizations to avoid duplication of effort) and served as its president until 1921.  She and her husband also were two of the founders of the Gardiner (Maine) Library Association and participated in assorted fundraising activities for a library building (which her husband designed).  In the twentieth century, Richards continued to write children's stories and verse, including the two-volume Honor Bright series (Honor Bright:  A Story for Girls [1920] and Honor Bright's New Adventure [1925]), and an unsuccessful sequel to Captain January (Star Bright [1927]).  Her best-known collection of verse was Tirra Lirra:  New Rhymes and Old from 1932 (reissued in 1955 with a preface by May Hill Arbuthot), which incorporated early verses, many of which had been published in children's magazines, along with new material.  During this period, Richards also wrote biographies, some of family members or friends, including Florence Nightingale: Angel of the Crimea (1909), Two Noble Lives: Samuel Gridley Howe and Julia Ward Howe (1911), and Laura Bridgman:  The Story of an Opened Door (1928).  Richards and her sister Maud Howe Elliott co-authored Julia Ward Howe, 1819-1910 (1915), for which they received the Pulitzer Prize for biography in 1917.  Her final book, What Shall the Children Read, was published in 1939; the following year, the Gardiner Public Library Association issued Laura E. Richards and Gardiner, a compilation of Richards' poems and articles which had been previously published in local newspapers.  Read more and see pictures at  Issue  1249  January 28, 2015  On this date in 1754, Horace Walpole coined the word serendipity in a letter to Horace Mann.  On this date in 1855, a locomotive on the Panama Canal Railway, ran from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean for the first time.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Aunt Agatha's New & Used Mysteries, Detection & True Crime Books  "We have many, many books, used and new, that are not listed on our website, about 25,000 in all.  Come in and browse and find a treasure, or give us a call or drop us an email to inquire.  You can also search our inventory and order titles via our ABE Books page."  Aunt Agatha's, located in Ann Arbor, MI, won the  2014 Raven Award, presented by Mystery Writers of America.  Established in 1953, the award recognizes outstanding achievement in the mystery field outside the realm of creative writing.

Off of  Problem:  Of is unneeded.  Solution:  Substitute off or from.  (See list of wordy phrases at
Based off and its alternate form, based off of  Problem:  misuse of word based.  Solution:  Substitute based on.

Jan. 22, 2015  It’s been a long road bringing Kim Stanley Robinson’s Mars trilogy (Red Mars, Green Mars, and Blue Mars) to the small screen.  First it was James Cameron who held the rights, with the intention of creating a five-hour miniseries; later, Gale Ann Hurd had a similar idea, intended for Syfy.  The next network to set its sights on the trilogy was AMC, back in 2008 and fresh off the start of Mad Men and Breaking Bad.  Finally, Spike TV took over the rights—and according to Deadline, they’ve signed on Babylon 5 creator J. Michael Straczynski to adapt Red MarsRed Mars tracks the early colonization and terraforming of Mars, as told through the perspectives of the First Hundred who are chosen to leave behind an Earth suffering from overpopulation, ecological disasters, and the emergence of transnational corporations threatening to overthrow the world’s governments.  On Mars, the First Hundred debate the ethics of terraforming, namely how much power humans should have over an entirely new planet.  “The heart of this series tackles the question of what it means to be human—and can we sustain our humanity under incredible duress,” said Sharon Levy, Spike TV’s Executive VP of Original Series.  Robinson will serve as consultant on the series, which is being produced by Game of Thrones co-executive producer Vince Gerardis.  "The three novels — Red Mars (1993), Green Mars (1994), and Blue Mars (1996), which have won Nebula and Hugo Awards — are regarded as the best books written on the subject, and a holy grail for science fiction fans."  

What was fake on the Internet this week:  40-pound babies, topless Willow Smith and a double dose of UFOs by Caitlin Dewey  Find this week's nonsense you probably shouldn't share at

Jan. 22, 2015  More than 5,000 precious artifacts from the past have been recovered in an operation by the Carabinieri that has been described as the biggest recovery of stolen archeological items in history.  The collection comprises vases, bronzes, statues and frescoes, including rare pieces, stolen from different Italian archeological sites, spanning a period of 1,000 years, from the 1st century BC to the 2-3rd century AD.  They are estimated to be worth 40 million euros.  The items were found following an international investigation that began with the recovery of a vase by one of the most active ancient Greek vase painters in Southern Italy, Asteas, at the Getty Museum in Los Angeles.  The Carabinieri recovered the items, smuggled illegally from sites in Southern Italy for at least ten years; the antiquities still there were going to be restored and sold abroad.  Authorities plan to return the items to the archaeological museums of their supposed areas of origin, namely Lazio, Campania, Sardinia, Puglia, Basilicata and Sicily, where they will go on display for the public to see.   Silvia Donati

Klay Thompson set an NBA record for points in a quarter by scoring 37 points in the third quarter during Golden State's 126-101 home victory over Sacramento on January 23, 2015.  The previous mark of 33 points was shared by two renowned scorers: George Gervin and Carmelo Anthony.  Gervin set his mark in the second quarter of an April 9, 1978 game between the Spurs and the New Orleans Jazz. Anthony's outburst came in the third quarter of a Dec. 10, 2008 game between the Nuggets and TimberwolvesThompson's nine three-pointers in the third quarter also set an NBA record, eclipsing the previous record of eight three-pointers in a quarter, which had been shared by Michael Redd and Joe Johnson.

MARK YOUR CALENDARS:  Toledo Museum of Art 2015 Exhibitions
Drawn, Cut & Layered:  The Art of Werner Pfeiffer  Feb. 6-May 3, Canaday Gallery and Gallery I   For more than 50 years, Werner Pfeiffer (German-American, born 1937) has experimented with the multiple uses of paper as both a canvas and a structural material.  Much of his work as a sculptor, printmaker and painter suggests an attraction to machines and machine-like constructions.  The nearly 200 limited-edition and unique works of art in this exhibition include drawings, dimensional prints, 3-D collage, and sculptural and experimental books.
Best in Show: Animal Illustrations from the Mazza Collection  Feb. 13-July 5, Gallery 18  The Mazza Museum in Findlay, Ohio, holds the largest collection of original artwork by children’s book illustrators in the world.  About 50 works from that collection are on loan to the Toledo Museum of Art in this exhibition presented by the Marathon Petroleum Corporation.  Best in Show explores the theme of pets—all types of pets—as illustrated in children’s picture books from the 1930s to the present.
The American Civil War:  Through Artists’ Eyes  April 3-July 5, Galleries 28 & 29   This exhibition depicts major events of the American Civil War as seen through the eyes of the artist.  Commemorating the 150th anniversary of the end of the war, The American Civil War features approximately 50 objects drawn from the Toledo Museum of Art collection and local institutions and collections, including a monumental painting of the Battle of Cold Harbor by Gilbert Gaul that depicts Battery H, an artillery unit that included many soldiers from Northwest Ohio.
Gifts on Paper from The Apollo Society  April 10-May 31, Gallery 6   This installation contains all 10 works on paper given during the group’s history.  Objects—done in charcoal, ink, oil, photography, lithography, etching and wood engraving—include Paul Colin’s Art Deco portfolio Le tumulte noir (The Black Craze) featuring a young Josephine Baker; the 1570 seminal treatise Four Books of Architecture by Andrea Palladio and the monumental, meticulously drawn Clear, Wondrous, Ancient, Strange showing the four ancient cypresses growing at the foot of Dengwei Mountain in China.
Play Time  May 22-Sept. 6, Museum and Grounds/Select Toledo Locations   Play Time celebrates the art of diversion and engages visitors in multi-sensory, interactive installations across the entire 36-acre Museum campus and in select locations across the city.  Works include a giant red ball appearing in unexpected locations throughout the city; pop-up and temporary performances throughout the summer utilizing puppetry, pageantry and spectacle; and interactive works both indoors and outdoors.  Play Time opens Memorial Day weekend and closes Labor Day weekend.
From the Collection:  Three Hundred Years of French Landscape Painting  July 17-Oct. 11, Gallery 18   Drawn entirely from the holdings of the Toledo Museum of Art, From the Collection: Three Hundred Years of French Landscape Painting contains a single, stunning example selected from each of the many styles that define the French tradition of depicting scenes in nature.
Degas and the Dance–A Focus Exhibition  Oct. 15, 2015-Jan. 10, 2016, Canaday Gallery
Little Dancer of Fourteen Years, on loan from the Clark Art Institute of Williamstown, Massachusetts, occupies center stage in this exhibition that revolves around Hilaire Germain Edgar Degas (1834–1917), one of France’s leading Impressionists.  Twelve other works on the subject of ballet, including bronze sculptures and paintings, will be shown.  Issue 1248  January 26, 2015  
On this date in 1837, Michigan was admitted as the 26th U.S. state.  
On this date in 1838, Tennessee enacted the first prohibition law in the United States.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Find a consensus cloud using top book lists and prizes compiled from sources including Time, the National Review & the Pulitzer Prize.  Filter by author, nationality or gender and click to explore.  You can borrow them all free from your public library.  

Almost every recipe in every cookbook you've ever read says you must soak dried beans before you cook them.  In almost every case that advice is wrong.  Letting dried beans sit overnight in a bowl of cold water does nothing to improve their flavor or their texture.  In fact, it does quite the opposite.  While soaking shortens the unattended cooking time of beans somewhat, the time saved is marginal and there are no other labor-saving benefits.  Finally, soaking does absolutely nothing to reduce the gas-producing properties of beans.  These may be difficult ideas to get used to, flying as they do in the face of everything most of us have been taught about cooking beans.  One friend, an Arizonan, dismissed the idea out-of-hand, attributing it to my New Mexican background.  "What do they know about beans?" she said.  But cooking unsoaked beans is not new.  No less an authority than noted Mexican cookbook writer Diana Kennedy has advocated it for years. "If you want the best-flavored beans, don't soak them overnight, but start cooking in hot water," she says in "The Cuisines of Mexico" (Harper & Row: 1972).  Russ Parsons 

"Discretion is the better part of valor" is a succinct version of the original.   Falstaff:  To die is to be a counterfeit, for he is but the counterfeit of a man who hath not the life of a man; but to counterfeit dying, when a man thereby liveth, is to be no counterfeit, but the true and perfect image of life indeed.  The better part of valor is discretion, in the which better part I have sav'd my life.  Henry The Fourth, Part 1 Act 5, scene 4, 115–121 

We will visit Barcelona next September, and when I found it was 51 degrees Fahrenheit at 10 p.m. there on January 7, 2015, wanted to compare their latitude to that of Toledo, Ohio where it was 10 degrees Fahrenheit at 4 p.m.  (Toledo is six hours behind Barcelona.)  Barcelona is 41.23 and Toledo is 41.39.  Find Barcelona latitude, longitude and time at  
Then link to U.S. and Canadian cities to find Toledo.

The mission of KIPP is to create a respected, influential, and national network of public schools that are successful in helping students from educationally underserved communities develop the knowledge, skills, character and habits needed to succeed in college and the competitive world beyond.  There are currently 162 KIPP schools in 20 states and the District of Columbia serving 59,000 students.  More than 88 percent of our students are from low-income families and eligible for the federal free or reduced-price meals program, and 95 percent are African American or Latino.  Nationally, more than 93 percent of KIPP middle school students have graduated high school, and more than 82 percent of KIPP alumni have gone on to college.  There are 80 KIPP middle schools (grades 5-8), 60 elementary schools (grades Pre-K-4), and 22 high schools (grades 9-12).  Students are accepted regardless of prior academic record, conduct or socioeconomic background.

Jan. 24, 2015  They walk, perform tai chi, sit when they're told, dance to Michael Jackson's "Thriller" and speak 19 languages.  At just 2 feet tall, these robots are also apparently the jealous type.  Their eyes turn green when they want attention.  Over the past few months, robots Nancy and Vincent have also made international headlines as the first humanoid, or human-like, robots to make their home in a North American public library.  Introduced in October, their purpose at least so far is to demystify robotics, teach computer programming and, no less important, provide some wonder, said Westport (Connecticut) Library Executive Director Maxine Bleiweis.  "Traditionally, libraries are places where information is found and taken away.  But many people, like us, also believe libraries are places where information and ideas should be shared and exchanged," Bleiweis said.  "I see our library as a kitchen, where there's the potential for amazing things to be created. The robots are our latest ingredients, so now we're learning — and teaching others — how we can use them."  Currently, Nancy and Vincent are being used to teach Python, one of the most widely used computer programming languages.  Similar in build to Disney's Buzz Lightyear and made by the French company Aldebaran Robotics, Nancy and Vincent are equipped with two cameras, four microphones, voice and visual sensors and several types of programming software.  Their equipment gives them the ability to recognize sounds, tones and faces.  And with 24 joints, they can turn their heads, nod if they agree and stand upright after they've fallen.  Yet they're only as human as their programmers make them. As lifelike as they seem, neither Nancy nor Vincent can function without commands, Westport Library Digital Experience Manager Alex Giannini added, although it can be easy to forget it.  And at least for now, the library staff's primary plan is for them and patrons to discover the robots' abilities together.  Several area schools have asked about arranging science and technology field trips, and Giannini's hoping residents will rally around the idea of programming the robots to take part in a library-sponsored poetry competition in the spring.  Cindy Wolfe Boynton

Just off the coast of Naples and Salerno, between Cape Miseno and Amalfi, a great rock soars in the cobalt blue sea that surrounds it.  This Mediterranean jewel is the island of Capri.  According to some scholars, the etymology of the name Capri may be traced back to the Greek word Kapros (wild boar)Others believe instead that Capri is derived from the Latin word Capreae (goats)Caesar Augustus was the first to discover the charm of Capri when he visited the island in 29 BC.  So taken was he with the island's beauty that he traded the nearby fertile Ischia for it with the city of Naples.  This marked the beginning of Augustan rule.  He was subsequently followed by his successor Tiberius who embarked on an intense building program between 27 and 37 A.D., resulting in the construction of 12 villas.  Read more and see pictures at

Paraphrases from the novel Faces of the Gone by Brad Parks
On TV news, controversy is far better than actual news.  
Compositions of newspaper reporters are seldom confused with art.  Issue 1247  January 23, 2015  On this date in 1546, François Rabelais published the Tiers Livre, his sequel to Gargantua and Pantagruel.  
On this date in 1943, Duke Ellington played at Carnegie Hall in New York City for the first time.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

"In the Heart of the Sea," which opens March 15, 2015, tells the true story that inspired perhaps the most celebrated American novel, Herman Melville's "Moby-Dick."  It's the tale of the Nantucket whale ship Essex, which sunk in 1820 after it was rammed by a sperm whale, leaving its crew shipwrecked in the South Pacific for 90 days.  The screenplay by Charles Leavitt, adapted from Nathaniel Philbrick's 2000 nonfiction book of the same name, functions as a kind of origins story for "Moby-Dick," with Melville as a character played by Englishman Ben Whishaw.  Chris Hemsworth has the role of first mate Owen Chase, who wrote an account of the disaster which Melville eventually read.  Melville's fictionalized version of the Essex story has inspired countless Hollywood retellings over the decades, with actors as varied as John Barrymore, Gregory Peck and William Hurt taking on the role of Capt. Ahab.  In Howard and Hemsworth's case, the story is told as it really happened.  Rebecca Keegan

In English, we say fourteen, sixteen, seventeen, eighteen and nineteen, so one would think that we would also say one-teen, two-teen, and three-teen.  But we don’t.  We make up a different form:  eleven, twelve, thirteen, and fifteen.  Similarly, we have forty, and sixty, which sound like what they are.  But we also say fifty and thirty and twenty, which sort of sound what they are but not really.  And, for that matter, for numbers above twenty, we put the “decade” first and the unit number second:  twenty-one, twenty-two.  For the teens, though, we do it the other way around.  We put the decade second and the unit number first: fourteen, seventeen, eighteen.  The number system in English is highly irregular.  Not so in China, Japan and Korea.  They have a logical counting system.  Eleven is ten one.  Twelve is ten two.  Twenty-four is two ten four, and so on.  Four year old Chinese children can count, on average, up to forty.  The regularity of their number systems also means that Asian children can perform basic functions—like addition—far more easily.  Ask an English seven-year-old to add thirty-seven plus twenty two, in her head, and she has to convert the words to numbers (37 + 22).  Only then can she do the math:  2 plus 7 is nine and 30 and 20 is 50, which makes 59.  Ask an Asian child to add three-tens-seven and two tens-two, and then the necessary equation is right there, embedded in the sentence.  No number translation is necessary:  It’s five-tens nine.

Imply and infer are opposites, like a throw and a catch.  To imply is to hint at something, but to infer is to make an educated guess. 
To imply means to state indirectly (to include a suggestion in a message). 
To infer means to deduce  (to extract a suggestion from a message).

The Faroe or Faeroe Islands (in Faroese Føroyar) are 18 islands in the middle of the North Atlantic Ocean, northwest of Scotland and halfway between Iceland and Norway.  The Islands are a self-governing island territory of Denmark, although they politically aim for higher independence.  The Islands have a population of nearly 50,000, and a language and culture of their own.  When visiting the Faroes you are never more than 5km (3 miles) away from the ocean.  The countryside is dominated by steep mountains and there are about 70,000 sheep and some 2 million pairs of seabirds, including the largest colony of storm petrels in the world.   The Faroes were colonized by Norwegians in the 9th century.  According to history the first settler was Grímur Kamban, a Norwegian Viking who made his home in Funningur on Eysturoy in 825.  The Faroese population has largely descended from these settlers.  Recent DNA analyses have revealed that Y chromosomes, tracing male descent, are 87% Scandinavian.  However, the studies also show that mitochondrial DNA, tracing female descent, is 84% Scottish.  The Viking settlers established their own parliament called "ting" around 800.  Local tings were established in different parts of the islands. The main ting was established on Tinganes in Tórshavn.  About the turn of the millennium the Faroes came under control of the Norwegian king.  In 1380 the Faroes along with Orkney, Shetland, Iceland and Greenland, came with Norway into a union with Denmark.  At the end of the Napoleonic wars, by the Treaty of Kiel in 1814, Denmark was forced to cede Norway to Sweden, but kept the Faroes, Iceland, and Greenland.  After a referendum, which led to a very small majority voting for independence, in 1946 negotiations took place between the two countries and the outcome was the Home Rule Act in 1948.  The Faroese were from then on responsible for most matters of government.  The parliament can legislate on matters of local importance, and Danish laws can be rejected.  The Faroes are still represented in the Danish parliament by two representatives.  Also, since 1970 the Faroes have had independent status in the Nordic Council.  Furthermore, the Faroes have their own flag (Merkið).  Unlike Denmark, the islands are not a member of the EU and all trade is governed by special treaties.  The Faroe Islands' primary industry is the fishing industry, and the islands have one of the smallest independent economic entities in the world.

folderol  noun
nonsensical talk or writing; nonsense, foolish talk; mere nonsense; an idle fancy or conceit; a silly trifle  Etymology:  formed from meaningless syllables, the refrain of old songs

There are over 5,300 .gov domains.  About 1,300 of these are used by the federal government’s executive, legislative, and judicial branches. The rest are spread across states, territories, counties, cities, and native tribes.  This dataset is an interim release and a snapshot in time, taken on December 1, 2014.  The plan is for the complete dataset to be listed and regularly updated on, replacing the current limited set."  See list at

Canis Major is a constellation in the southern celestial hemisphere.  In the second century, it was included in Ptolemy's 48 constellations, and is counted among the 88 modern constellations.  Its name is Latin for "greater dog" in contrast to Canis Minor, the "lesser dog"; both figures are commonly represented as following the constellation of Orion the hunter through the sky.  The Milky Way passes through Canis Major and several open clusters lie within its borders, most notably M41, which covers an area around the same size as the full moon.  Canis Major contains Sirius, the brightest star in the night sky, known as the "dog star".  It is bright because of its proximity to our Solar System.  See graphics at

shortened words found recently while reading novels:  “totes adorbs” (“totally adorable”) and "scrip" (description).

Jan. 19, 2015  SANDPOINT, Idaho—One of Idaho’s most talked-about deer hunts took place last month not in the state’s spectacular backcountry, but at an airport within the city limits of this mountain community.  Archers staked out camouflaged hunting stands on the grounds of the Sandpoint Airport after the city authorized bows and arrows to cull a herd of white-tailed deer that officials say cause safety concerns for pilots.  But none of the hunters killed a single deer—prompting the airport’s manager to ask state officials for another hunt this year.  Urban deer hunts are playing out across America as cities and towns attempt to curb surging numbers of the herbivores.  The U.S. population of white-tailed deer, the most common across the nation, has soared to about 30 million from about 350,000 in 1900—creating hazards including increased collisions between animals and aircraft, according to a 2014 Federal Aviation Administration report.  FAA figures show 1,070 collisions between planes and deer in the U.S. between 1990 and 2013, causing an estimated $45.6 million in damage and other economic costs.  Jim Carlton  Issue 1246  January 21, 2015  On this date in 1789, the first American novel, The Power of Sympathy or the Triumph of Nature Founded in Truth, was printed in Boston, Massachusetts.  On this date in 1899, Opel manufactured its first automobile.

Monday, January 19, 2015

When calling a phone number in another country, there is usually a prefix you have to dial to indicate that you're placing an international call; this varies by country.  After that prefix, you must dial the international country code for the country you are calling, followed by the local number.  There are 9 calling zones:
1 - North America and several Caribbean countries
2 - Africa and some others like Greenland, Aruba
3 - Europe
4 - Europe
7 - Russia and parts of the former Soviet Union, like Kazakhstan
8 - East Asia and some services like Inmarsat
9 - Central Asia, South Asia and West Asia
Note:  The United States, Canada, and several Caribbean nations share the international calling code 1, with each US state (or parts of US states), province, territory, or island nation given its own three-digit "area code".  Find all country calling codes at

A.Word.A.Day with Anu Garg  "May you never be without books in the new year."
bildungsroman  (BIL-doongz-roh-mahn, -doongks-)  noun  A novel concerned with the maturing of someone from childhood to adulthood.  Example:  Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain.  From German, from Bildung (education, formation) + Roman (novel), from French roman (novel).  Earliest documented use:  1910.
locus classicus  (LO-kuhs KLAS-i-kuhs)  noun  An authoritative and often quoted passage from a book.  From Latin locus (place) + classicus (classical, belonging to the first or highest class).  Earliest documented use:  1853.  
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From:  Jeff Goodman   Subject:  bildungsroman
This word was one I heard often growing up, and my brother and I painted it in DayGlo on the wall of our basement.  Our mother was a literature professor and wrote frequently about the male-female double Bildungsroman (Jean Stafford’s The Mountain Lion and Willa Cather’s My Antonia).

People are nourished by other people.  The importance of social networks in health and longevity has been confirmed again by study of a close-knit Italian-American community in Roseto, Pennsylvania.  Study of the "Roseto Effect" began with a chance conversation over a couple of beers.  A local physician happened to mention to the head of medicine at the University of Oklahoma that heart disease seemed much less prevalent in Roseto than in adjoining Bangor, occupied by non-Italians.  When first studied in 1966, Roseto's cardiac mortality traced a unique graph.  Nationally, the rate rises with age.  In Roseto, it dropped to near zero for men aged 55-64.  For men over 65, the local death rate was half the national average.  The study quickly went beyond death certificates, to poke, prod, and extensively interview the Rosetans.  Instead of helping to solve the puzzle, all the data simply ruled out any genetic or other physical sources of the Rosetan's resistance to heart disease.  Two statistics about Roseto were eye-catching:  Both the crime rate and the applications for public assistance were zero.  Subsequent study showed that all of the houses contained three generations of the family.  Rosetans took care of their own.  Instead of putting the elderly "on the shelf," they were elevated "to the Supreme Court."  The scientists were led to conclude that the Roseto Effect was caused by something that could not be seen through the microscope, something beyond the usual focus of medical researchers.  It seemed that those groaning dinner tables offered nourishment for the human spirit as well as the body.  In fact, all of the communal rituals--the evening stroll, the many social clubs, the church festivals that were occasions for the whole community to celebrate--contributed to the villagers' good health.  In "The Power of Clan," an updated report on studies by Stewart Wolf, a physician, and John Bruhn, a sociologist, cover a broad period of time from 1935 to 1984.  They found that mutual respect and cooperation contribute to the health and welfare of a community and its inhabitants, and that self indulgence and lack of concern for others exert opposite influences.

Dec. 30, 2014  Google’s Philosopher by Robert Herritt   One day this past September, Google’s executive chairman, Eric Schmidt, sat down with a group of experts in Madrid to begin publicly discussing how Google should respond to a recent, perplexing ruling by the European Union’s Court of Justice.  In May, the court had declared that, in accordance with the European “right to be forgotten,” individuals within the E.U. should be able to prohibit Google and other search firms from linking to personal information that is “inaccurate, inadequate, irrelevant, or excessive.”  The Spanish authorities ruled that the search link should be deleted.  In May 2014, the European Court of Justice upheld the Spanish complaint against Google.  Since then, Google has received more than 140,000 de-linking requests.  Handling these requests in a way that respects both the court and the company’s other commitments requires Google to confront an array of thorny questions.  When, for instance, does the public’s right to information trump the personal right to privacy?  Should media outlets be consulted in decisions over the de-indexing of news links?  When is it in the public interest to deny right-to- be-forgotten requests?  The company is required by law to comply with the judgment, so it quickly assembled a panel of experts to help chart a path forward, starting with the meeting in Madrid.  Sharing the stage with Schmidt were the sorts of tech-industry insiders, legal scholars, human rights advocates, and media leaders that one might expect Google to call on, among them Wikipedia’s Wales; Le Monde’s editorial director, Sylvie Kauffman; and Google’s chief legal officer, David Drummond.  But there was one advisor who stood out:  an Oxford professor, trained in metaphysics, epistemology, and logic, named Luciano Floridi.  To build its court of philosopher kings, Google needed a philosopher.  Handling these requests in a way that respects both the court and the company’s other commitments requires Google to confront an array of thorny questions.  When, for instance, does the public’s right to information trump the personal right to privacy?  Should media outlets be consulted in decisions over the de-indexing of news links?  When is it in the public interest to deny right-to- be-forgotten requests?  Here’s where the dapper Italian philosopher comes in.  Floridi is a professor of philosophy and the ethics of information, and he is the director of research at the Oxford Internet Institute.  For more than a decade, he has distanced himself from the sort of conventional Anglo-American philosophy that occupied him for much of his early career.  Driven by the idea that, as he put it to me, “philosophy should talk seamlessly to its time,” he has set about developing a new approach to his discipline that he calls the philosophy of information.  Floridi has described PI, as it is known, as his attempt to provide “a satisfactory way of dealing with the new ethical challenges posed by information and communication technologies.”  Read much more at  Issue 1245  January 19, 2015  On this date in 1883, the first electric lighting system employing overhead wires, built by Thomas Edison, began service in Roselle, New Jersey.  On this date in 1893 Henrik Ibsen's play The Master Builder received its premiere performance in Berlin.