Monday, June 29, 2015

The United States ten-dollar bill ($10) is a denomination of United States currency.  The first U.S. Secretary of the Treasury (1789–95), Alexander Hamilton, is currently featured on the obverse of the bill, while the U.S. Treasury Building is featured on the reverse.  Hamilton is one of two non-presidents featured on currently issued U.S. bills, the other being Benjamin Franklin on the $100 billLarge size note history includes 1869:  A new $10 United States Note was issued with a portrait of Daniel Webster on the left and an allegorical representation of Pocahontas being presented to the Royal Court of England on the right side of the obverse.  This note is nicknamed a "jackass note" because the eagle on the front looks like a donkey when the note is turned upside down.  Small size note history includes 1942:  Special World War II currency was issued.  hawaii was overprinted on the front and back of the $10 Federal Reserve Note, and the seal and serial numbers were changed to brown.  This was done so that the currency could be declared worthless in case of Japanese invasion.  A $10 Silver Certificate was printed with a yellow instead of blue treasury seal; these notes were given to U.S. troops in North Africa.  These notes, too, could be declared worthless if seized by the enemy.  Read more history and see pictures at

A woman will appear on redesigned $10 bill in 2020.  Who will it be?  Will it be Susan B. Anthony or Harriet Tubman?  Eleanor Roosevelt or Rosa Parks?  Or another important woman from American history?  These will be among the names the nation ponders after the Obama administration’s announcement on June 17, 2015 that a woman will be featured on the $10 bill, the first time in well over a century that a female portrait will grace the United States’ paper money.  The redesigned bill will be unveiled in 2020 to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the right of women to vote.  The Treasury Department is launching a massive public campaign to solicit suggestions through social media and town halls for what the bill should look like and who should be on it.

Crater Lake is a caldera lake in the western United States, located in south-central Oregon.  It is the main feature of Crater Lake National Park and is famous for its deep blue color and water clarity.  The lake partly fills a nearly 2,148-foot-deep caldera that was formed around 7,700 years ago by the collapse of the volcano Mount Mazama.  There are no rivers flowing into or out of the lake; the evaporation is compensated for by rain and snowfall at a rate such that the total amount of water is replaced every 250 years.  At 1,943 feet, the lake is the deepest in the United States, and the seventh or ninth deepest in the world, depending on whether average or maximum depth is measured.  Crater Lake is also known for the "Old Man of the Lake", a full-sized tree which is now a stump that has been bobbing vertically in the lake for over a century.  The low temperature of the water has slowed the decomposition of the wood, hence the longevity of the bobbing tree.  Two islands are in Crater Lake; Wizard Island formed from a cinder cone that erupted after Crater Lake began to fill with water, and the smaller Phantom Ship has seven different trees living on it.  There are also colonies of violet green swallows and several varieties of wildflowers and lichens living there.  While having no indigenous fish population, the lake was stocked from 1888 to 1941 with a variety of fish.  Several species have formed self-sustaining populations.  See 15 of the most beautiful crater lakes in the world at  Find lists of volcanic, meteor, artificial, and crater lakes of unclear origin at

A Celebration of Reading by Karen Muller  May 18, 2015  The Mother of All Booklists: The 500 Most Recommended Nonfiction Reads for Ages 3 to 103, by William Patrick Martin, is basically a crowdsourced book list.  The author gathered 155 authoritative and influential lists of award-winning books and recommended reading lists from a spectrum of organizations, including parenting groups, state commissions on libraries, libraries, library publishers, library reviewing journals, school districts, and museums. The resulting 20,000 titles, categorized by age range, were ranked by frequency of recommendation.  This is the companion volume to A Lifetime of Fiction: The 500 Most Recommended Reads for Ages 2 to 102.  In 2012 Maura Kelly wrote “A Slow-Books Manifesto” in The Atlantic.  In The Slow Book Revolution:  Creating a New Culture of Reading on College Campuses and Beyond, editor Meagan Lacy picks up the theme and offers ways for academic libraries to support it.  “Slow books” is reading a book slowly, so as to savor the language, the plot development, and the messages.  Classics and works of literature hold up to the scrutiny and engagement—and on college campuses, they afford students with reasons to think and discuss in ways that assigned coursework reading may not.  Thirty essays covering everything from e-reading to marginalia to vampires make up The Pleasures of Reading: A Booklover’s Alphabet, by Catherine Sheldrick Ross.  Some essays draw on interviews conducted by graduate students that Ross, now a professor emerita of library science, taught in genre fiction and reading classes.  Other essays draw on Ross’s own extensive research and interviews of avid readers to answer a range of questions.  The result is a celebration of readers and the pleasures of reading, with musings on why we love to read, how books are marketed, how people choose their reading, and even a charming essay about unreadable books.

GOOD NEWS from the Nature Conservancy  (1) On March 23, 2014, all but one of the Morelos Dam’s 20 gates lifted, releasing a pulse of water into the Colorado River’s historical channel in Baja California, Mexico’s northwestern state, for the first time in more than a decade, thanks to an unprecedented international agreement.  Weeks later, a trickle met the ocean tides, and by late May the channel was dry again.  The delta had gulped down its long-deferred drink.  In late September 2014, scientists investigated the effects of all that water by looking for changes in the vegetation—the growth of cottonwood and willow saplings and plant life in general.  (2)  In eastern Oregon, sagebrush habitatas have been reduced to about half of their historic range.  When Jay Kerby and a team of Dept. of Agriculture scienctists used an industrial pasta extruder to encase multiple seeds in a pilow of soil--a dirt ravioli--the seedlings fare better than single seeds do.   (3)  By the Numbers:  40 million seedlings to be planted in Sao Paolo Brazil; researchers and volunteers have planted 5,000 nursery corals on ailing reefs in the Bahamas and the U.S. Virgin Islands; 271 acres along the Pawcatuck River added to the Francis Carter Preserve in Rhode Island; 38 miles along the Clearwater River in Washington now protected; 36 acres bought on St. Martin Island in Lake Michigan--will become part of the Green Bay National Wildlife Refuge.  (4)  Patterson Clark of Washington, DC makes wood block prints from inner bark, leaves, and pulped stems of unwanted invasive species.  Nature Conservancy magazine  June / July 2015

From a Muse reader  June 26, 2015  Last October we rode the maglev train from Shanghai to the airport and back, just for fun.  It topped out at 430 kph, about 267 mph.  We were about 20 feet off the ground with a glass-smooth ride and steeply banked turns.  We passed the oncoming maglev—both trains being six cars and closing at some 500 mph—in less than a second.  

As hundreds of people outside the court cheered in approval, the U.S. Supreme Court on June 26, 2015 swept away the last bans on same-sex marriage in Ohio and 12 other states, ruling that the U.S. Constitution requires states to not only permit same-same marriages but recognize those performed in other states.  In a 5-4 landmark opinion written by Justice Anthony Kennedy, the justices ended what just a decade ago was a searing debate between conservatives opposed to same-sex marriage and liberals who argued it discriminated against gay couples.  With the ruling, the court invalidated a ban against same-sex marriage approved by Ohio voters in 2004.  By doing so, the justices overturned a decision by a federal appeals court in Cincinnati which upheld same-sex marriage bans in Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee and Michigan.  Justices Sonia Sotomayor, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, and Elena Kagan joined Kennedy to form the majority while Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Antonin Scalia, Samuel Alito, and Clarence Thomas dissented.   Jack Torry & Samuel Votaw

U.S. Supreme Court opinions since 2009:

Job Opening--New Librarian of Congress by Sabrina I. Pacifici on The Atlantic – Robinson Meyer:  Experts say that a new librarian should digitize more works, raise more money—and use email.  “The current librarian, James Billington, has held the title since his appointment by President Reagan in 1987.  Though named by the president and confirmed by the Senate, the Librarian doesn’t change with every new White House.  After being appointed, Librarians are free to serve as long as they want—that’s why there have been only 13 of them since 1802.  In other words, this will be the first time a new Librarian has been appointed since the invention of the web.  The Librarian is a surprisingly powerful role.  In addition to claiming one of the best titles in government (though The Atlantic’s staff is split on whether “Senate Sergeant-at-Arms” or “U.S. Chief Justice” trump it), the new Librarian assumes considerable powers.  This person will not only run the largest library in the world, with thousands of staff of its own, but also oversee the Copyright Office, the department which manages the U.S. copyright system.  This gives them the power to declare what constitutes a copyright violation and what doesn’t. And the new Librarian could hold a potentially transformative role:  They could be the first Librarian, many experts say, to truly embrace the Internet as core to the Library’s mission.  For although Billington sometimes used the web in innovative projects like—a source of Congressional information online—the last decade had been marked by less expansion…The Library has already shown a willingness to digitize some of its holdings.  It says it now has 52 million primary sources online.  Thirty million of those are book pages, and more than 10 million of those are newspaper pages.  Its print and photos collection, which exceeds 1.1 million items, is a treasure.  And the Library has also absorbed other institution’s important digital archives, including the complete Twitter archive and the September 11 digital archive.  But those numbers pale against other efforts.  HathiTrust, a consortium of  university research libraries that have digitized their holdings, claims to have more than 4.7 billion pages digitized, from 13 million total volumes.”  Issue 1317  June 29, 2015  On this date in 1889, Hyde Park and several other Illinois townships voted to be annexed by Chicago, forming the largest United States city in area and second largest in population.  On this date in 1956, the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956 was signed, officially creating the United States Interstate Highway System

Friday, June 26, 2015

Matzo is an unleavened cracker-like bread that is traditionally eaten at Passover.  It is made with flour and water, and it is the flour-containing product that is deemed to be Kosher for passover.  Matzo meal is made by finely grinding matzo crackers into a breadcrumb-like consistency.  The most well known use for matzo meal is in matzo balls, but the versatile meal can also act as a binding agent in place of regular bread crumbs in foods such as meatballs and even as a thickener in some dishes.  The crumbs also effectively take the place of flour in desserts like almost-flourless chocolate tortes, adding a little structure to a dessert while still making it acceptable for traditional Passover meals.  Matzo meal is not wheat or gluten free, but since the crumbs are already cooked until very dry and crisp, they don’t add a lot of structure to a baked good like regular flour will.  It should not be substituted directly for flour in most recipes, but there are some (usually recipes only contain a very small amount of flour to begin with) where you can substitute matzo meal and still get a good result.

A few countries are using powerful electromagnets to develop high-speed trains, called maglev trains.  Maglev is short for magnetic levitation, which means that these trains will float over a guideway using the basic principles of magnets to replace the old steel wheel and track trains.  Learn how electromagnetic propulsion works, how three specific types of maglev trains work and where you can ride one of these trains at

A think tank (also called a policy institute) is an organization, institute, corporation, or group that conducts research and engages in advocacy in areas such as social policy, political strategy, economy, science or technology issues, industrial or business policies, or military advice.  Many think tanks are non-profit organizations, which some countries such as the US and Canada provide with tax exempt status.  While many think tanks are funded by governments, interest groups, or businesses, some think tanks also derive income from consulting or research work related to their mandate.  
Find a list of think tanks ranked as centrist, conservative, liberal and libertarian at

A simile is a metaphor, but not all metaphors are similes 
Metaphor is the broader term.  In a literary sense metaphor is a rhetorical device that transfers the sense or aspects of one word to another.  For example:  The moon was a ghostly galleon tossed upon cloudy seas. — “The Highwayman,” Alfred Noyes   
A simile is a type of metaphor in which the comparison is made with the use of the word like or its equivalent:  My love is like a red, red rose. — Robert Burns

Soft power is a concept developed by Joseph Nye of Harvard University to describe the ability to attract and co-opt rather than coerce, use force or give money as a means of persuasion.  Recently, the term has also been used in changing and influencing social and public opinion through relatively less transparent channels and lobbying through powerful political and non-political organizations.  Nye coined the term in a 1990 book, Bound to Lead:  The Changing Nature of American Power.  He further developed the concept in his 2004 book, Soft Power: The Means to Success in World Politics. The term is now widely used in international affairs by analysts and statesmen.

Disneyland is arguably America's greatest weapon in soft diplomacy.  Paraphrase from The Great Zoo of China, a novel by Matthew Reilly 

More on The Dark Night Rising  See a picture of a painting by Max Adamo (1837-1901) with legal documents spilling on the floor and a judge on a high bench.  Compare this to The Dark Knight Rises - Crane's Court Cases at  2:05  Thank you, Muse reader!

HARVEY POLLACK was all about the numbers.  And there was no one better at recording them than he.  Given the nickname “Super Stat” in 1966 by then-Bulletin sports writer George Kiseda, Pollack brought such terms as triple-double, blocked shots, assists and steals into the everyday basketball vernacular.  But the numbers stopped June 23, 2015, as Pollack passed away at the age of 93.  Born March 9, 1922, to immigrant parents, Harvey grew up in North Philadelphia and was a 1939 graduate of Simon Gratz High School.  He entered Temple University that fall.  By his senior year, Pollack began to be defined by basketball statistics.  In 1942, he started keeping his own stats as a student-manager for first-year basketball coach Josh Cody.  Not long after, at the urging of Temple’s legendary sports information director Bob Geasey, Pollack was sending his stats to all five Philadelphia daily newspapers.  The other city schools took notice that Temple’s stats were taking up two columns while theirs only took up one.  In 2002, Pollack became the first—and still only—statistician enshrined in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.  The impact he had on basketball statistics was similar to the impact his favorite player, Wilt Chamberlain, had on the record books.  The 76ers began publishing “Harvey Pollack’s NBA Statistical Yearbook” in 1966.  It has grown from 24 pages to almost 400 pages in its latest edition.  But Pollack’s greatest night as a stat man, sports writer and PR director was March 2, 1962, in Hershey, Pa.  Chamberlain, playing for the Warriors, scored 100 points against the New York Knicks and Pollack was the only media representative there.   He had the wherewithal to grab Paul Vathis, an Associated Press photographer who just happened to be at the game but not shooting it, to take a photo of Chamberlain in the locker room after the game.  Needing something to commemorate the historic event, Pollack scribbled “100” on a piece of paper.  Wilt held it up and Vathis shot what became one of the most iconic photos in sports history.  Mark Perner

June 16, 2015  The Board of Lucas County (Ohio) Commissioners created the honorary, un-paid position of Lucas County Poet Laureate in 2007.  The Lucas County Poet Laureate is modeled after the United States Poet Laureate and contributes to the community’s visible arts profile.  Lucas County’s Poet Laureate works with area schools to highlight the importance of poetry amongst children and encourages and mentors those interested in expressing themselves through the art of poetry.  The Board has appointed Dr. Jim Ferris to serve as Lucas County’s Poet Laureate, an honorary and un-paid position, for a two-year term commencing immediately and until June 16, 2017.

The Supreme Court on June 25, 2015 upheld a key provision of the Affordable Care Act, handing a major victory to the Obama administration.  The decision was 6-3, with Chief Justice John Roberts delivering the court's majority opinion.  Roberts and Justice Anthony Kennedy joined the court's liberals.  It's the second time in four terms the court has prevented the law from a major obstruction that would threaten its existence.  Instead, the Affordable Care Act again survives as the largest expansion of healthcare in half a century.  "Congress passed the Affordable Care Act to improve health insurance markets, not to destroy them," Roberts wrote in his opinion.  The key question in the case centered on whether the federal government had the ability to provide subsidies to help low-income Americans buy health insurance. 

I am proud to report that our colleague John Cannan has been cited by the U.S. Supreme Court in its decision in King v. Burwell, issued June 25, 2015.  The court cites John’s article from the Law Library Journal:  “A Legislative History of the Affordable Care Act:  How Legislative Procedure Shapes Legislative History,” 105 Law Libr. J. 131 (2013).  Maleeff, Tracy Z.  Here is the citing text from Chief Justice Robert’s majority opinion:   “The Affordable Care Act contains more than a few examples of inartful drafting.  (To cite just one, the Act creates three separate Section 1563s.  See 124 Stat. 270, 911, 912.)  Several features of the Act's passage contributed to that unfortunate reality.  Congress wrote key parts of the Act behind closed doors, rather than through “the traditional legislative process.”  Cannan, A Legislative History of the Affordable Care Act: How Legislative Procedure Shapes Legislative History, 105 L. Lib. J. 131, 163 (2013).  And Congress passed much of the Act using a complicated budgetary procedure known as “reconciliation,” which limited opportunities for debate and amendment, and bypassed the Senate's normal 60–vote filibuster requirement. Id., at 159–167.  As a result, the Act does not reflect the type of care and deliberation that one might expect of such significant legislation.  Cf. Frankfurter, Some Reflections on the Reading of Statutes, 47 Colum. L.Rev. 527, 545 (1947) (describing a cartoon “in which a senator tells his colleagues ‘I admit this new bill is too complicated to understand.  We'll just have to pass it to find out what it means.’ ”).”  See the slip opinion for King v. Burwell at

Word of the Day for June 26  not dog  noun  A vegetarian imitation-sausage, or hot dog sandwich made with one.  Issue 1316  June 26, 2015  
On this date in 1934, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the Federal Credit Union Act, which established credit unions.  
On this date in 1945, the United Nations Charter was signed in San Francisco.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Les Misérables movies--a guide to some of their historical references  The novel is set during a momentous era of French history, the period from 1815 (Waterloo) to 1833, just after the failure of the Paris uprising the previous year.  These years featured the fall of Napoleon, the return of the Bourbon monarchy to France, the overthrow of that monarchy in 1830 and its replacement by another branch of the royal family, the Orleanists, and the revolution of 1830, followed by an unsuccessful revolt in Paris in 1832.  Hugo also uses flashbacks to the French revolution that began in 1789, the Napoleonic wars of the early 1800 in Europe, and flashes forward to the revolution of 1848.  Given that the climactic scenes of the various movies and the stage musical all feature rousing scenes of revolutionaries in Paris, it's little wonder that viewers are sometimes confused about what event thay are watching.  The key events of the movie versions (except Lelouch's great update to the 20th century) relate to the period from 1815 to the July revolution that overthrew the Bourbon monarchy in 1830 and then to the failed June rebellion of 1832.  And the scenes of revolutionaries fighting in the barricades to occur in Paris during the 1830 revolution that overthrew King Charles X and stopped him re-establishing an autocratic rule.  It's easy to confuse the events of 1830 and 1832, especially since the success of the musical, which uses the iconic imagery of Delacroix's famous painting "Liberty Leading the People" in its climactic scene and also in its advertising.  In fact, many people confuse the July revolution and the 1832 revolt with the French Revolution that began in 1789.  Delacroix's huge painting "Liberty Leading the People" is one of the most famous political statements in the world of art, and key elements of it have been appropriated in several movie versions of "Les Misérables "and in the stage musical and its 2012 movie adaptation.  Many people associate the painting with the French Revolution of 1789, and those who have seen cinematic adaptations and the musical often believe it illustrates the 1830 July revolution that overthrew the restored Bourbon monarchy in the person of the reactionary Charles X and replaced it with Louis-Philippe (the "Citizen King") of the junior Orleanist branch of the royal family.  In fact, Delacroix's masterpiece commemorates the Paris uprising of June, 1832, the climactic event of Hugo's novel, an  attempt to remove the new monarchical government.  Yet the revolt was a failure and for almost two decades Louis-Philippe ruled with the support of the bourgeoisie.  Read extensive article and see pictures at

What's the connection between Les Misérables and The Dark Knight Rises ?  One of the most interesting features of the Batman finale is its focus on revolution.  Some see the movie as on the side of the wealthy and the privileged, casting Gotham's citizens as gullible, naive and jealous fools, tricked into insurrection.  Others see Batman as the defender of justice and stability, appealing to the better instincts of the population in a struggle against oppression.  As Alex Crumb has claimed recently:  "The Dark Knight is Les Misérables in Reverse". Crumb, writing about Tom Holland's 2012 movie, suggests that "Bane is Jean Valjean, and Batman is Javert". [érables-In-Reverse ]

Arthur Miller (1915-2005) was an American playwright whose biting criticism of societal problems defined his genius.  His best known play is Death of a Salesman.  Born in Harlem, New York in 1915, Arthur Miller attended the University of Michigan before moving back east to produce plays for the stage.  His first critical and popular success was Death of a Salesman, which opened on Broadway in 1949.  After graduating high school, Miller worked a few odd jobs to save enough money to attend the University of Michigan.  While in college, he wrote for the student paper and completed his first play, No Villain.  He also took courses with the much-loved playwright professor Kenneth Rowe, a man who taught his students how to construct a play in order to achieve an intended effect.  Inspired by Rowe's approach, Miller moved back east to begin his career.  Things started out a bit rocky:  His 1940 play, The Man Who Had All the Luck, garnered precisely the antithesis of its title, closing after just four performances and a stack of woeful reviews.  Six years later, however, All My Sons achieved success on Broadway, and earned him his first Tony Award (best author).  Working in the small studio that he built in Roxbury, Connecticut, Miller wrote the first act of Death of Salesman in less than a day.  Salesman won him the triple crown of theatrical artistry:  the Pulitzer Prize, the New York Drama Critics' Circle Award and a Tony.  In 1956, Miller left his first wife, Mary Slattery.  Shortly thereafter, he married famed actress Marilyn Monroe.  Later that year, the House of Un-American Activities Committee refused to renew Miller's passport, and called him in to appear before the committee—his play, The Crucible, a dramatization of the Salem witch trials of 1692 and an allegory of McCarthyism, was the foremost reason for their strong-armed summons.  However, Miller refused to comply with the committee's demands to "out" people who had been active in certain political activities.  In 1961, Monroe starred in The Misfits, a film for which Miller supplied the screenplay.

June 22, 2015  In terms of inventions we owe to World War II, such as nuclear power or the jet engine, a group of phrases developed in the boiler room of Harvard’s Memorial Hall as part of an effort to test military communication systems is probably one of the least well-known.  But they influence us in our daily life, every time we pick up a cell phone or place a VoIP call.  The phrases, called “Harvard sentences,” are phonetically balanced, in that they contain the full range of sounds used in everyday speech, making them perfect to test how we hear in loud places or over long distances.  So what does phonetically balanced mean?  The Harvard Sentences are used to test audio because they contain a full range of sounds you’d hear in typical sentence.  "There's hundreds and hundreds of these," says David Pisoni who directs the Speech Research Laboratory at the University of Indiana.   Today they're still used to test things like cochlear implants.  Software developers use them, too.  Basically anyone who needs a giant list of phrases.  While their actual meaning is insignificant, they can have a certain, poetic quality.  "A lot of these are kind of very prosaic and scenes from domestic life, 'Cats and dogs each hate each other,' "The birch canoe slid on the smooth planks,'" and every once in a while you get a really deep one, like 'Birth and death mark the limits of life," says science writer Sarah Zhang, who recently told the story of Harvard Sentences for the tech site Gizmodo   Jared Goyette   You can find a list of 720 sentences, and a tool you can use to create "poetry" with them at  Thank you, Muse reader!   See also

From June 15 through August 28, 2015 you can visit The Gallery at the Toledo Lucas County Public Library's main branch in downtown Toledo for the "Tossed & Found" exhibit.  Two local artists used salvaged parts as materials for the pieces.  Dani Herrera used denim, other old clothes, zippers, and even dryer lint in her pieces that are on display.  Some of them are of George Washington, Abraham Lincoln and Audrey Hepburn.  Josh Hoffman used broken pieces of vinyl records to make his works of art.  He says the idea started when he attended Central Catholic High School and had an assignment to do artwork with discarded items.   He came up with vinyl records and it has become a hobby ever since.  Many of his works involve The Beatles, and one features John Lennon.  Hoffman has 11 of his works on display and Herrera has 12. It is free to view them in The Gallery, on the second floor of the main library.  Tim Miller

Walter H. Chapman, one of the Toledo area’s best known artists and art teachers who was a prolific watercolorist—portraits by commission, landscapes and streetscapes—and encourager-in-chief to generations of novices, died June 23, 2015.  He was 102.  Until early March, Mr. Chapman continued to attend the weekly gatherings of the Tile Club, the exclusive painting and dining fraternity.  He’d been a member since 1954.  Mark Zaborney

James Roy Horner (August 14, 1953–June 22, 2015) was an American composer, conductor and orchestrator of film scores.  He was known for the integration of choral and electronic elements in many of his film scores, and for frequent use of Celtic musical elements.  Horner was an accomplished concert hall composer before he moved into writing film scores.  His first major film score was for the 1979 film The Lady in Red, but did not establish himself as a mainstream composer until he worked on the 1982 film Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.  Horner's score for Titanic is the best selling orchestral film soundtrack of all time while Titanic and Avatar, both directed by James Cameron, are the two highest-grossing films of all time.  Horner collaborated on multiple projects with directors Jean-Jacques Annaud, Mel Gibson, Walter Hill, Ron Howard and Joe Johnston.  Horner composed music for over 100 films, and won two Academy Awards, two Golden Globe Awards, three Satellite Awards, three Saturn Awards and was nominated for three British Academy Film Awards.  Read much more and see list of scores at  Issue 1315  June 24, 2015  On this date in 1497, John Cabot landed in North America at Newfoundland leading the first European exploration of the region since the Vikings.  On this date in 1597, the first Dutch voyage to the East Indies reached Bantam (on Java).

Monday, June 22, 2015

Satin Weave is one of three basic weave structures that have been in use since ancient times.  Satin weaves have a smooth, lustrous surface and possess the best draping qualities out of all the weave structures. The pattern of a satin weave is similar to a twill, but the floats (yarns that go over multiple warp or filling yarns before they dip under the surface) are very long-covering up to eleven other yarns.  Satin must be woven on a loom with at least six (and more commonly eight) harnesses.  Instead of having diagonal lines, the floats are usually staggered to make the surface look as smooth and seamless as possible.  This property is enhanced by packing the floats very close together.  Until the invention of manufactured fibers, satin fabrics were generally expensive to produce because they required large quantities of silk or very fine cotton yarns.  (With yarns any thicker, the floats would be so long that the cloth would be too fragile to wear.)  In the mythology surrounding silk weaving, the original source of the name for satin has been lost.  One suggestion is that is comes from the ancient Chinese port of Zaytoun.  Another is that satin was "called sztun until the Renaissance; then the Italian silk manufacturers changed the term to saeta to imply hair or bristle, a term which can be applied to fabrics of this type since they show a hairline and glossy surface" (American Fabrics, p. 198).  Satin weaving was invented in China more than two thousand years ago.  Although elaborate textiles such as brocade (a figured satin produced on a draw loom) were expensive and in many cases restricted to the upper classes, the cultivation of silk was widespread.  Limited amounts of silk fabric were exported to the West as early as the time of ancient Greece, but satin was not produced in Europe until the Middle Ages.  The scarcity of silk restricted the use of this material to the church, nobility, and upper classes.  Heather Marie Akou

Satin Island, a novel by Tom McCarthy, has a first-person narrator, known as U.  Read comprehensive review at

A.Word.A.Day with Anu Garg
performative   (puhr-FOR-muh-tiv)   adjective  Relating to a statement that functions as an action by the fact of its being uttered.  Some examples of performative utterances are I promise, I apologize, I bet, I resign, etc.  By saying I promise a person actually performs the act of promising.  From Old French parfournir, from par (through) + fournir (to furnish).  Earliest documented use:  1922.
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From:  Ron Davis  Subject:  performative  My favorite word in any language is the Hungarian word “tegezlek”, which means “I address you in a grammatically familiar manner.”  Besides being performative, it packs a lot of meaning into one word, and it expresses a concept we don’t even have in English.  In another level of self-referentiality, I am very happy to have learned the word “performative”, and to have this opportunity to use it for the first time.

Joseph Hillstrom King (born June 4, 1972), better known by the pen name Joe Hill, is an American author and comic book writer.  He has published three novels—Heart-Shaped Box, Horns and NOS4A2—and a collection of short stories titled 20th Century Ghosts.  He is also the author of the comic book series Locke & Key.  Hill's parents are authors Stephen and Tabitha KingHill chose to use an abbreviated form of his given name (a reference to executed labor leader Joe Hill, for whom he was named) in 1997, out of a desire to succeed based solely on his own merits rather than as the son of Stephen King.  After achieving a degree of independent success, Hill publicly confirmed his identity in 2007 after an article the previous year in Variety broke his cover.  He was born in Hermon, Maine, and grew up in Bangor, Maine.  His younger brother Owen is also a writer.  At age 9, Hill appeared in the 1982 film Creepshow, directed by George A. Romero, which co-starred and was written by his father.  Joe Hill is a past recipient of the Ray Bradbury Fellowship.  He has also received the William L. Crawford award for best new fantasy writer in 2006, the A. E. Coppard Long Fiction Prize in 1999 for "Better Than Home" and the 2006 World Fantasy Award for Best Novella for "Voluntary Committal".  His stories have appeared in a variety of magazines, such as Subterranean Magazine, Postscripts and The High Plains Literary Review, and in many anthologies, including The Mammoth Book of Best New Horror (ed. Stephen Jones) and The Year's Best Fantasy and Horror (ed.) Ellen Datlow, Kelly Link & Gavin Grant).

The first time Grigory Kessel held the ancient manuscript, its animal-hide pages more than 1,000 years old, it seemed oddly familiar.  A language scholar at Philipps University in Marburg, Germany, Dr. Kessel was sitting in the library of the manuscript’s owner, a wealthy collector of rare scientific material in Baltimore.  At that moment, Dr. Kessel realized that just three weeks earlier, in a library at Harvard University, he had seen a single orphaned page that was too similar to these pages to be coincidence.  The manuscript he held contained a translation of an ancient, influential medical text by Galen of Pergamon, a Greco-Roman physician and philosopher who died in 200 A.D.  It was missing pages and Dr. Kessel was suddenly convinced one of them was in Boston.  Dr. Kessel’s realization in February 2013 marked the beginning of a global hunt for the other lost leaves, a search that culminated in May with the digitization of the final rediscovered page in Paris.  Scholars are just beginning to pore over the text, the oldest known copy of Galen’s “On the Mixtures and Powers of Simple Drugs.”  It may well provide new insights into medicine’s roots and into the spread of this new science across the ancient world.  “On so many levels it’s important,” said Peter Pormann, a Graeco-Arabic expert at the University of Manchester who now leads a study of the text.  The manuscript held by Dr. Kessel that day was a palimpsest:  older text covered up by newer writing.  It was a common practice centuries ago, a medieval form of recycling.  In this case, 11th-century Syrian scribes had scraped away Galen’s medical text and had overwritten hymns on the parchment.  The hymn book itself is of interest, but for now it is the original text, all but invisible to the naked eye and known as the undertext, that has captured the imagination of scholars.  Mark Schrope  Read more and see pictures at

When Caroll Spinney was a kid, he showed an interest in puppets, and was teased in school about it.  His father was a stern man with a bad temper, but his mother encouraged Spinney's interest and actually built a puppet theatre for him.  As Caroll Spinney reminisces in the wonderful documentary, "I Am Big Bird," "She didn't realize she was giving me my career."  "I Am Big Bird" documents Caroll Spinney's forty-plus years playing the big yellow bird (and the greasy grouch Oscar in the trash can--maybe one of the best dual roles in history) on "Sesame Street".  Spinney walks us through what is involved in playing Big Bird.  He is inside the huge Big Bird suit, and his right arm is lifted up into Big Bird's head to make the mouth move.  With his pinky finger, he manipulates Big Bird's eyelids and eyeballs with a little lever up in the head.  Spinney's left arm is down in Big Bird's left arm, and the right arm is attached by a triangle of invisible fishing wire, so it moves in response on its own.  Spinney cannot see out of the suit, so strapped to his torso is a tiny monitor showing him the outer world (only in reverse).  And taped in front of his eyes, on the interior of the suit, is the script, with his lines circled meticulously.  Sheila O'Malley  See also:

June 19, 2015  The Korean math prodigy at one of the nation’s top high schools received letters from Harvard professors, encouraging her to bring her brilliant abilities to Cambridge next fall instead of accepting her admission to Stanford University on the opposite coast.  As the student struggled to decide between five-figure scholarship promises from both schools, she received a novel offer:  She could spend two years at each elite school as part of an arrangement just for her.  The exciting dual-enrollment opportunity garnered star-struck coverage from Korean media outlets, which dubbed her the “Genius Girl.”  But none of it was true.  The baffling hoax has stunned Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology in Fairfax County, the top-ranked magnet program known as an intellectual proving ground for science wunderkinder, technology gurus, engineering buffs and math wizards — many of whom earn their way to the nation’s most prestigious colleges.
The senior’s tale of academic conquest of admission into what turned out to be a bogus program apparently was designed to impress her parents, peers and teachers as part of the annual cutthroat competition for the relatively tiny number of spots at the nation’s top schools.  The faked admission story went much further than most teen fantasies:  It made its way to the international media.  T. Rees Shapiro  Issue 1314  June 22, 2015  
On this date in 1942, the Pledge of Allegiance was formally adopted by Congress.  
On this date in 1944, Franklin D. Roosevelt signed into law the Servicemen's Readjustment Act of 1944, commonly known as the G.I. Bill.  

Friday, June 19, 2015

Thousands of tree species grow across our world, shaped, like all living things, by their environments.  But few trees reflect the succeed-at-all-cost aspect of nature's handiwork as clearly as the giant baobab trees of Africa, Madagascar and Australia.  These species of Adansonia (named in honor of French botanist Michel Adanson) are native to harsh, sun-soaked plains where rainfall is a rarity.  In response, they've evolved with obese water-storing trunks, stubby branching, sparse foliage and deeply plunging root systems.  Remarkably, baobabs, particularly the African baobab (Adansonia digitata), thrive in our humid climate if planted on sunny, well-drained sites.  Also known as upside-down tree, the African baobab, among Earth's longest-lived plants, slowly grows 75 feet tall with a trunk circumference that can exceed 85 feet.  Its crown of short, thick, tapering branches, covered with twiggy stems that are frequently   leafless, strongly resembles a root system, making the baobab seem like a tree that's been yanked from the ground and shoved back upside down.  When cultivated in wetter climes, such as Florida and Hawaii, the African baobab develops more foliage and retains it most of the year.  The glossy, moisture-hoarding leaves are composed of several 6-inch-long leaflets.  Increased numbers of those handsome leaves mean heavy production of the baobab's bizarre, wonderfully fragrant flowers.  These strange-looking blossoms, dangling on lengthy stems, are about 6 inches in diameter with snow-white petals that curl back to reveal masses of red stamens.  Charles Reynolds  
NOTE that one of the largest collections of Madagascan baobab trees under glass is in the Cleveland Botanical Garden & Conservatory. and

List of states by order of admission into the union  Take a guess on a particular state's date of admission and then find the answer here: 

John Rogers (1829–1904) was an American sculptor who produced very popular, relatively inexpensive figurines in the latter 19th century.  He became famous for his small genre sculptures, popularly termed "Rogers Groups", which were mass-produced in cast plaster.  Often selling for $15 apiece, the figurines were affordable to the middle class.  Instead of working in bronze and marble, he sculpted in more affordable plaster, painted the color of putty to hide dust.  Rogers was inspired by popular novels, poems and prints as well as the scenes he saw around him.  John Rogers portrayed in his plaster statuettes ordinary, everyday, urban and rural people doing ordinary, everyday things.  Through his Rogers Groups he offered an unrivaled transcript of the manners, sports, amusements, social customs, domestic interests, costumes, and even modes of furnishing of the period.  John Rogers made statues of Civil War soldiers, family groups, literary topics, theater scenes and historical figures.  His statues ranged from eight to forty-six inches tall.  Between 1860 and 1893 Rogers sculpted approximately 85 different, mostly patented groups of statuary.  During that period, some 25 workman in his New York factory turned out thousands of plaster castings of his works.  Of some subjects executed by John Rogers, only a few copies were cast and sold.  Of other John Rogers Groups, thousands were sold.  In Rogers' 30-year career, the artist sold over a million dollars of sculpture, a lot of money for art in those days.  It is estimated that a total of 80,000-100,000 plaster casting of his groups were produced during John Rogers’ lifetime.  His studio at The New Canaan Historical Society, 13 Oenoke Ridge, New Canaan Connecticut, now known as the John Rogers Studio, was designated a U.S. National Historic Landmark in 1965.

2013:  The Astor family name conjures up images of the Gilded Age and one of American’s richest families at a time of great prosperity and optimism for the country, but the family’s 420-acre estate has fallen on hard times.  Rokeby in Hudson Valley, New York has been owned by the Astors for nearly 180 years.  The 43-room main house was built in 1815 and then added to by every new owner so that it came to represent the classic 'American Gothic style.'  Today it remains home to a slew of less-than-wealthy heirs to the Astor and Livingston fortunes, but looks more like a rundown museum than the home of what was once one of America's richest families.  
2012:  Icelandic artist Ragnar Kjartansson's nine-screen installation The Visitors (2012) is a pop-music video in extremis, breaking every protocol for the genre.  It's long (at 64 minutes), slow and repetitive.  There are no quick cuts, cool costumes or visual hijinks.  The work—one of the most enthralling I've seen in years—was created at Rokeby Farm, a once magnificent but now faded Hudson Valley mansion (still inhabited by an eccentric cast of descendants of the original owners).  While playing a spare, enigmatic song, from a poem ("A pink rose, in the glittery frost, a diamond heart, and the orange red fire . . . ") by Ásdís Sif Gunnarsdóttir—Kjartansson's former wife—the musicians were isolated in different rooms and filmed on single, stationary cameras.  Their performances were recorded in one take, and while they could hear the others through headphones, they couldn't see one another, making for a poignant mix of togetherness and solitude.  Gregory Volk

Gravadlax (also called gravlax, grav laks, cured salmon) is Scandinavian salmon,"lax"  being the Middle English word for that mighty fish, and “grave” a relic of the time when fish was put into holes in the ground and covered in salt to preserve it for the wild and freezing winter ahead.   Felicity Cloake   Find pictures and recipe at  See also

On June 17, 2015 the Unicode Consortium released Unicode 8, which includes 37 new emojis such as the Face With Rolling Eyes, Hugging Face, Taco,Cheese Wedge and Hockey—both ice and field varieties.  Five emoji modifiers are included with Unicode 8, bringing the total number of new characters to 41.  

Unicode is a standardised encoding system that provides a unique number for every character, no matter what the platform, no matter what the program, no matter what the language, without any risk of corruption.  Before Unicode, no single encoding could contain enough character to cover all languages used by European Union.  The Unicode Standard has been adopted by such industry leaders as Apple, HP, IBM, JustSystem, Microsoft, Oracle, SAP, Sun, Sybase, Unisys and many other products.  Unicode is the official way to implement ISO/IEC 10646 (Universal Multiple-octet Code character Set or UCS)  Members of the Unicode Consortium (non-profit organization founded to develop, extend and promote use of the Unicode Standard) include major computer corporations, software producers, database vendors, research institutions, international agencies, various user groups, and interested individuals.  Issue 1313  June 19, 2015  On this date in 1586, English colonists left Roanoke Island, after failing to establish England's first permanent settlement in North America.  On this date in 1910, the first Father's Day was celebrated in Spokane, Washington.