Wednesday, August 31, 2016

In 2013, at a conference on endangered languages, a retired teacher named Linda Lambrecht announced the extraordinary discovery of a previously unknown language.  Lambrecht--who is Chinese-Hawaiian, 71 years old,--called it Hawaii Sign Language, or HSL.  In front of a room full of linguists, she demonstrated that its core vocabulary--words such as “mother”, “pig” and “small"--was distinct from that of other sign languages.  The linguists were immediately convinced.  William O’Grady, the chair of the linguistics department at the University of Hawaii, called it “the first time in 80 years that a new language has been discovered in the United States--and maybe the last time.”  But the new language found 80 years ago was in remote Alaska, whereas HSL was hiding in plain sight in Honolulu, a metropolitan area of nearly a million people.  The last-minute arrival of recognition and support for HSL was a powerful, almost surreal vindication for Lambrecht, whose first language is HSL.  For decades, it was stigmatised or ignored; now the language has acquired an agreed-upon name, an official “language code” from the International Organization for Standardization, the attention of linguists around the world, and a three-year grant from the Endangered Languages Documentation Programme at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London.  But just as linguists were substantiating its existence, HSL stood on the brink of extinction, remembered by just a handful of signers.  Unless the language made a miraculous recovery, Lambrecht feared that her announcement might turn out to be HSL’s obituary.  Three years after announcing its existence, Lambrecht is still unearthing her language sign by sign.  She may be the only person in the world who still uses HSL on a regular basis, signing into a camera while a linguist named James “Woody” Woodward and a handful of graduate students from the University of Hawaii document her every move.  Led by Lambrecht, Woodward, and researcher Barbara Earth, the project aims to document what may be the last-ever conversations of native HSL signers.  The goal is to record at least 20 hours of high-quality video footage of natural HSL and then transcribe, translate, and archive it.  The researchers hope that this work--along with a series of illustrated handbooks depicting over 1,000 signs, and a regular class at the University of Hawaii set to begin next year--will jump-start the revitalisation of HSL.  The project faces numerous obstacles. The first is the scepticism of many of the remaining signers themselves.  Hawaii’s tiny deaf community is deeply divided.  Some say HSL is not a real language, others see it as backward; still others are sceptical of Lambrecht.  Read much more at

Peri- is a Greek prefix.  That means that it will normally be associated with roots from the Greek language.  (There may be some exceptions, but that will be the rule).  It means "around" or "about."  For example, the word perimeter literally means "measurement around."  And that pretty well describes what a perimeter is.  This may occasionally be confused with the Latin prefix per-.  Per- means "completely" or "by, by means of, through."  For example, perfect literally means "completely made or done."  Percent means "by the hundred."  Para- can be a Greek root or a prefix and literally means "alongside, beside."  It usually suggests something similar but not identical or something that aids or accompanies something else.  The Latin root -para- is less common in English and means "beyond."  For example, parachute literally means "alongside a fall" or "with a fall," in the sense that a parachute accompanies someone falling.  Even the word paragraph literally means "written alongside," because the paragraph mark or indentation is noted along the margin of the page.  We can also understand the distinction between perimeter and parameter, which sound very similar and whose root is the same.  We see the less common Latin meaning for para- in paranormal, which means "beyond the normal."

Ekphrastic writing is a Greek term for “writing about art.”  In the Toledo Museum of Art's annual Ekphrastic Poetry Contest, visitors write original poems inspired by objects in the Museum’s collection.  Judges review the entries based on originality, form, language, grammatical skill, and the creative interpretation of ekphrastic writing.  Cash and/or and membership prizes are awarded, and the winning poems are displayed next to the works of art that inspired them.  Judges reviewed nearly 300 entries to select winners in adult, high school and middle school categories.  Among the judges on this year’s panel was Joel Lipman, former Lucas County poet laureate, who has taught ekphrastic writing at the Museum.  In addition to the place winners, Lipman selected additional poems to be honored for “Judge’s Special Merit.”  Find a list of 2016 winners and the art works that inspired their poetry, plus link to poems at 

Siping is a process of cutting thin slits across a rubber surface to improve traction in wet or icy conditions.  Siping was invented and patented in 1923 under the name of John F. Sipe.  The story told on various websites is that, in the 1920s, Sipe worked in a slaughterhouse and grew tired of slipping on the wet floors.  He found that cutting slits in the tread on the bottoms of his shoes provided better traction than the uncut tread.  Another story is that he was a deckhand and wanted to avoid slipping on a wet deck.  John Sipe's invention was unsuccessful.  It was applied to solid rubber tires, rather than pneumatic tires, and so the tires had poor wet grip anyway, owing to their limited contact patch.  It was his son, Harry E. Sipe, who popularised the use of sipes in the USA for the new low-pressure balloon tires around 1939.

August 29, 2016  For cash-strapped life insurance companies, the deal sounds almost too good to be true:  A state law allows them to create complex financial instruments to transfer liabilities to new subsidiaries, wiping huge obligations off their balance sheets.  So-called "shadow insurance" agreements have exploded over the last decade.  But a growing number of critics, including economists and consumer advocates, say the practice threatens the solvency of insurers and puts policyholders and taxpayers at risk.  These opaque instruments are emerging in places like Cedar Rapids, Iowa, at the headquarters of TransAmerica Life, a subsidiary of the Netherlands-based Aegon NV.  Joseph M. Belth is a professor emeritus of insurance at Indiana University.  He calls the practice "a shell game" and has asked Iowa to release more documents related to companies that use it.

An August 30, 2016 Google search using "pasta all'amatriciana"recipe brought up about 108,000 hits.  The dish is named for the town of Amatrice, about an hour east of Rome.  Mario Batali's recipe uses thinly sliced guanciale pancetta (or good bacon) and freshly grated Pecorino Romano.  

Amatrice, located in central Italy, was devastated by a 6.2 magnitude earthquake and powerful aftershocks on August 24, 2016.  Nearly 300 lives have been lost.  Both architecture and infrastructure have suffered significant damage, with many buildings left in ruins.   Many visitors had come to town for the now-canceled Sagra dell’Amatriciana, a festival that had been scheduled for this past weekend.  It would have been the 50th annual celebration of the city’s most famous dish:  Pasta all’Amatriciana [ahl-ah-mah-tree-CHAH-nah].  This isn’t just any old spaghetti with meat sauce but rather a sublime dish topped with a tomato-based sauce that features guanciale [gwan-CHAH-leh—cured hog’s jowl—pecorino cheese, and hot pepper flakes.  To support efforts to rebuild Amatrice (pronounced ah-mah-TREE-cheh), chefs around Italy and the rest of the world are joining in a culinary campaign and using the pasta dish as a fund-raising tool.  Italian graphic artist and blogger Paolo Campana, who lives in Rome, first suggested the idea on his Facebook page soon after the earthquake.  As simple as the dish’s few ingredients, the effort is very straightforward:  Restaurants should feature Pasta all’Amatriciana on their menus and donate money to the Italian Red Cross for each plate ordered.  By the next day, 700 restaurants in Italy had already signed up for what is being called AMAtriciana, with the capitalized letters emphasizing the Italian word for love.  Each establishment will donate 2 Euros to relief efforts for every order of the dish.

In Toledo, Mancy’s Italian Grill at 5453 Monroe St., the menu lists  Bucatini all’ amatriciana | Spicy Pomodori Sauce, Tube Spaghetti, Crushed Red Pepper, Pancetta, Onion, Romano Cheese  The origin of this dish was Amatrice, Italy devastated by an earthquake, $2 for every dish sold will be sent to the Italian Red Cross #eatforitaly  Issue 1520  August 31, 2016  On this date in 1895, German Count Ferdinand von Zeppelin patented his Navigable Balloon.  On this date in 1897, Thomas Edison patented  the Kinetoscope, the first movie projector.

Monday, August 29, 2016

SOME YEARS AGO, the science writer George Johnson was wrapping up work on his book “The Ten Most Beautiful Experiments” and looking for illustrations to accompany the text.  One chapter dealt with Isaac Newton’s demonstration that white light was made of many colors.  Johnson wanted to include a drawing of the experiment from Newton’s journal, in Newton’s own hand.  “Considering that the experiment was done in the 17th century, you might assume that it was in the public domain and I could use it,” Johnson told me.  And that’s what he assumed.  What he didn’t foresee was that the journal in which the drawing appears is owned by New College, at the University of Oxford., and that he would have to pay Oxford for the drawing.  The college told Johnson it would grant permission to use the drawing in return for a copy of Johnson’s book; plus a “facility fee” of £200—about $400 at the time.  Johnson already had a high-resolution copy of the drawing that he’d found on the web.  But his publisher, fearful of legal action, insisted that he pay New College.  In a series of email exchanges, Johnson bargained the New College bursar down to £150 and a promise of dinner when the bursar next visited the U.S.  (The bursar hasn’t yet collected on the meal.)  Johnson is not the only writer who’s been plagued by problems with fair use.  Last month, I wrote about two University of California professors who had to pay $1,844 to use three quotations from The New York Times in a book about public health.  Each was 90 to 100 words long.  The authors have launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise the money and call attention to what they think was unfair treatment a reasonable point, especially since The Times (like other news media) quotes from published sources all the time, and seldom has to pay for the privilege.  The legal term for such free quotation is “fair use.”  In the United States, copyright protection for authors and other creators comes with the explicit understanding that others have “the right to use copyrighted material without permissions or payment under some circumstances—especially when the cultural or social benefits or the use are predominant.”  That seems straightforward enough.  But it has puzzled and worried journalists for decades.  Not everyone agrees that fair use is complicated.  I asked Peter B. Hirtle, an archivist at the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard, and a former intellectual property officer at Cornell, how he made decisions about what constitutes fair use.  “That’s really easy,” said, “You can use as much info as you need in order to tell a story, but no more than that.  It might be 10 words, it might be 50 words, it might be longer.”  But to many science writers and other journalists, it doesn’t seem nearly that easy.  That’s especially true for podcasters, who are concerned about how copyright applies to that relatively new medium.  The trouble is that questions about fair use arise on a case-by-case basis.  There is no scale by which to measure it.  You find out only when a copyright holder sues you for unfair use, and a court makes a ruling (or the case is settled out of court).  Paul Raeburn

Panhandle appears to have originated as a reference to part of Virginia, but it became established in print during the 1880s to describe the Texas panhandle (often capitalized Panhandle).  There’s at least one Texas reference back to 1870, but the term was not exclusive to that state:  an Indiana legal dispute dating to 1877 involved the Panhandle and Junction railroad, and there’s an Alaska panhandle source from 1896.  Our friends at Oxford English Dictionary  date panhandler as slang for beggar to 1893.  The Inland and American Printer and Lithographer, Volume 23 from April, 1899, includes this comment in an anecdote describing a tramp (itinerant) printer:  Technically, he was what is called a panhandler; that is, his arm was the handle and his hat was the pan.  This isn’t definitive, but it offers believable clarification of the metaphor behind panhandler:  the handle (arm) isn’t sufficient, it’s the pan (hat or other receptacle) at the end that completes the image.  Data reveals that panhandle (geographic sense) was lightly used beginning in the 1880s.  It was probably a regionalism, growing slowly after 1900 to a peak in 1942 that it didn’t reach again until almost 1970; it then crept upwards, reaching a new plateau from about 1992 to 2003, after which use has dropped.  Panhanlder has seen even less use, slowly increasing from around 1900 to a peak around 1937.  It faded, reached a similar frequency again in 1979, then crept to a new peak in 1998, from which it’s been slowly retreating.  Christopher Daly

In Thomas Pynchon's novel Vineland (1990), addicted ''tubefreeks'' are pursued by the National Endowment for Video Education and Rehabilitation (NEVER).  The organization sends out agents to detain and de-tox those most severely afflicted with tubal abuse and other video-related disorders. 

Thomas Ruggles Pynchon, Jr. (born 1937) is an American novelist.  A MacArthur Fellow, he is noted for his dense and complex novels.  His fiction and nonfiction writings encompass a vast array of subject matter, genres and themes, including history, music, science, and mathematics.  For Gravity's Rainbow Pynchon won the 1974 U.S. National Book Award for FictionMore commonly classified as a postmodernist author, Pynchon's work has also been described as "high modern".  Along with its emphasis on sociopolitical themes such as racism and imperialism, its awareness and appropriation of many elements of traditional high culture and literary form, Pynchon's work explores philosophical, theological, and sociological ideas exhaustively, though in quirky and approachable ways.  Pynchon has revealed himself in his fiction and non-fiction as an aficionado of popular music.  Song lyrics and mock musical numbers appear in each of his novels, and, in his autobiographical introduction to the Slow Learner collection of early stories, he reveals a fondness for both jazz and rock and roll.   See also Advice for Thomas Pynchon Newbies at

Nacre, also known as mother of pearl, is an organic-inorganic composite material produced by some molluscs as an inner shell layer; it also makes up the outer coating of pearls.  It is strong, resilient, and iridescent.  Nacre is found in some of the most ancient lineages of bivalves, gastropods, and cephalopods.  However, the inner layer in the great majority of mollusc shells is porcellaneous, not nacreous, and this usually results in a non-iridescent shine, or more rarely in non-nacreous iridescence such as flame structure as is found in conch pearls.  Both black and white nacre are used for architectural purposes.  The natural nacre may be artificially tinted to almost any color.  Nacre sheets may be used on interior floors, exterior and interior walls, countertops, doors and ceilings. Mother of pearl buttons are used in clothing either for functional or decorative purposes.  Nacre is also used to decorate watches, knives, guns and jewellery.  Nacre inlay is often used for music keys and other decorative motifs on musical instruments.  Many accordion and concertina bodies are completely covered in nacre, and some guitars have fingerboard or headstock inlays made of nacre (as well as some guitars having plastic inlays designed to imitate the appearance of nacre).  The bouzouki and baglamas (Greek plucked string instruments of the lute family) typically feature nacre decorations, as does the related Middle Eastern oud (typically around the sound holes and on the back of the instrument).  Bows of stringed instruments such as the violin and cello often have mother of pearl inlay at the frog.  It is traditionally used in the valve buttons of trumpets and other brass instruments as well.  Mother of pearl is sometimes used to make spoon-like utensils for caviar, so as to not spoil the taste with metallic spoons.  See pictures at

The ancient Romans knew how to keep the interior of their villas dry when it rained.  They covered their roofs with overlapping curved tiles so the "imber" (Latin for pelting rain or "rain shower") couldn't seep in.  The tiles were, in effect, "rain tiles," so the Romans called them "imbrices" (singular "imbrex").  The verb for installing the tiles was "imbricare," and English speakers used its past participle--"imbricatus"--to create "imbricate," which was first used as adjective meaning "overlapping (like roof tiles)" and later became a verb meaning "to overlap."

imbricate structure  (1) A sedimentary structure characterized by imbrication of pebbles all tilted in the same direction, with their flat sides commonly displaying an upstream dip.  Synonym of:  shingle structure  (2) A tectonic structure displayed by a series of nearly parallel and overlapping minor thrust faults, high-angle reverse faults, or slides, and characterized by rock slices, sheets, plates, blocks, or wedges that are approx. equidistant and have the same displacement and that are all steeply inclined in the same direction (toward the source of stress).

America's love affair with the automobile and the development of a national system of superhighways (along with the occasional desire to seek out paths less-traveled) is a story belonging to the 20th century.  So the word shunpike, too, must be a 20th-century phenomenon, right?  Nope.  Toll roads have actually existed for centuries (the word turnpike has meant "tollgate" since at least 1678).  In fact, toll roads were quite common in 19th-century America, and "shunpike" has been describing side roads since the middle of that century, almost half a century before the first Model T rolled out of the factory.

August 27, 2016  John Ellenby has died at 75 by Robert X. Cringely  John Ellenby was a British computer engineer who came to Xerox PARC in the 1970s to manufacture the Xerox Alto, the first graphical workstation.  He left Xerox in the late 1980s to found Grid Systems, makers of the Compass—the first full-service laptop computer.  In the 1990s he founded Agilis, which made arguably the first handheld mobile phone that wasn’t the size of a brick.  Finally he set up a company in both New Zealand and San Francisco to do geographical mapping data before most of us even knew we needed it.  The man pioneered four technology industry segments, putting him on the same level as Steve Jobs.  Issue 1519   August 29, 2016  On this date in 1915, Ingrid Bergman, Swedish actress, was born.  On this date in 1920, Charlie Parker, American saxophonist and composer, was born.   

Friday, August 26, 2016

What's the difference between science fiction and fantasy?  This discussion is one that’s still in progress—and probably will be for some time to come--so the boundaries aren’t clearly marked.  Still, many seem to agree that possibility is a determining factor.  Science fiction explores what is possible (even if it’s improbable), while fantasy explores the impossible.  Of course, possibility comes with some measure of subjectivity, which is what complicates matters.  Let’s turn to Ray Bradbury, author of, among other great novels, Fahrenheit 451 and The Martian Chronicles, who has written in both genres.  He described science fiction this way:  Science fiction is really sociological studies of the future, things that the writer believes are going to happen by putting two and two together . . . Science fiction is a logical or mathematical projection of the future.

Science fiction deals with scenarios and technology that are possible or may be possible based on science. Some science fiction such as far-future space opera or time travel stories may seem implausible, but they are still not beyond the realm of scientific theory.  On the other hand, fantasy general deals with supernatural and magical occurrences that have no basis in science.  Fantasy is an older genre of literature than science fiction; in fact, fantasy is arguably the oldest genre.  If we look back at the earliest surviving stories from human civilisation such as the Sumerian Epic of Gilgamesh or the ancient Greek myths, we find stories of gods, monsters and magic.  Science fiction is a relatively recent genre of the last century or so with origins going back only a few hundred years before that.

sett  noun  (1) The system of tunnels that is the home of a badger. (2) The pattern of distinctive threads and yarns that make up the plaid of a Scottish tartan. (3) A small, square-cut piece of quarried stone used for paving and edgingWiktionary

Heaven, Hell, or Hoboken  It’s got history, fame, groundbreaking firsts, and a ton of great bars and restaurants packed into one itty-bitty square mile (well, two if you count the area underwater, but nobody does).  Just across the Hudson from Manhattan, Hoboken, New Jersey is the fourth most densely populated area in the United States, and has been newsworthy since before it became an “official” city in 1855.  The first North American Brewery was built in Hoboken at Castle Point.  The modern zipper was developed in Hoboken in the early 20th century.  The first recorded baseball game was played at Elysian Fields between the Knickerbocker Club and New York Nine in 1846.  The first central A/C in a public space was installed in Hoboken Terminal.  The first Blimpie was opened in 1964 by students of the Stevens Institute.  The first electrified train was driven by Thomas Edison from Hoboken to Montclair.  In the early 19th Century, Inventor Colonel John Stevens (whose son, Edwin A. Stevens, left the money for Stevens Institute of Technology) developed it waterfront as a resort for wealthy New Yorkers.  The Colonel, among many other things, is the founder of the Hoboken Land and Improvement Company, which designed the street grid and some buildings which still survive.  By the late 1800s, Hoboken was a thriving port town with shipbuilding and other successful factories.  Through WW I it remained busy with millions of doughboys passing through.  In fact, almost all of the troops sent to Europe went through Hoboken (with the phrase “Heaven, Hell, or Hoboken” their mantra for an early return by Christmas, 1917).  Many films, including Julie and Julia, Funny Girl and, The Station Agent were filmed at Hoboken Terminal.  On the Waterfront starring Marlon Brando was filmed in Hoboken.  Beth Fisher

George Washington launched a two-pronged invasion of Canada in September 1775 with the goal of bringing the “14th colony” into the revolutionary fold.  Initial hopes were high because British General Guy Carleton had been forced to send two of his four regiments south to deal with the rebels in Boston, leaving only a few hundred men to fend off an assault on Quebec, the capital city strategically located at the mouth of the St. Lawrence River.  Plans called for General Philip Schuyler to advance with 1,700 troops from New York north along Lake Champlain to take Montreal. Then he would meet up outside Quebec with a force of 1,100 led by Colonel Benedict Arnold, who landed at the mouth of the Kennebec River in Maine on September 19 and set out through unsettled wilderness just as winter set in.  Arnold believed the late season would work in his favor, because the St. Lawrence River would soon freeze and prevent the British from sending reinforcements by boat.  He’d badly miscalculated the distance he had to travel, and most of his supplies were ruined in leaking bateaux, the 400-pound, flat-bottomed cargo boats that his men were forced to carry around unnavigable rivers.  Hunger, fatigue and bone-chilling cold took a toll on the men as they wandered through “a direful, howling wilderness,” reported Isaac Senter, a doctor from Rhode Island.  By the time Arnold arrived on the outskirts of Quebec in early November, one-third of his men had turned back and the rest were a sorry sight.  By May 1776, Arnold had to concede defeat. With the spring thaw on the St. Lawrence and 10,000 British re­inforcements headed their way, Carleton himself led a small force to rout the Americans remaining outside the city.  The American army was in full retreat, finally sailing down Lake Champlain in mid-June.  It had been a valiant effort, but the 14th colony was lost for good.  Read more at

In 1792, Congress passed the first presidential succession act.  This act was fraught with political wrangling between the Federalists and Antifederalists, as much early U.S. policy was.  The Federalists did not want the Secretary of State, since Thomas Jefferson held the position, and he was emerging as a leader to the Antifederalist camp.  Some were wary of the President Pro Tem of the Senate, because of the apparent mixing of the branches of government so recently established.  Ditto the House Speaker and the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.  The eventual compromise did include two persons to fall in line past the Vice President.  The President Pro Tem of the Senate first, then the Speaker of the House.  The issue was taken up again in 1886, when the Congressional leadership was removed from the line and replaced with the Cabinet, with the Secretary of State falling first in line.  Finally, the 1947 Act added the Speaker of the House and President Pro Tem back in the line (but reversed from the 1792 order).  The 25th Amendment reiterates what is stated in Article 2, Section 1:  that the Vice President is the direct successor of the President.  He or she will become President if the President cannot serve for whatever reason.  The 25th also provides for a President who is temporarily disabled, such as if the President has a surgical procedure or if he or she become mentally unstable.  The original Constitution provides that if neither the President nor Vice President can serve, the Congress shall provide law stating who is next in line.  Currently that law exists as 3 USC 19, a section of the U.S. Code.  This law was established as part of the Presidential Succession Act of 1947.  Find the line of succession at

Q.  What are the northernmost, southernmost, easternmost, and westernmost cities in the United States?  A.  Barrow, Alaska, is the northernmost; Hilo, Hawaii, is the southernmost; Eastport, Maine, is the easternmost; and Atka, Alaska, is the westernmost city in the country.  See also  Issue 1518  August 26, 2016  On this date in 1791, John Fitch was granted a United States patent for the steamboat.  On this date in 1920, the 19th amendment to United States Constitution took effect, giving women the right to vote.  Word of the Day:  yeasayer noun  (1)  One whose attitude is positive, optimistic, confidently affirmative.  (2)  One who habitually agrees uncritically.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Q.  Which one has primacy in English:  "vermilion" or "vermillion" (as a color)?  See answer plus a graphic at  The word vermilion came from the Old French word vermeillon, which was derived from vermeil, from the Latin vermiculus, the diminutive of the Latin word vermis, or worm.  It has the same origin as the English word vermin.  The name originated because it had a similar color to the natural red dye made from an insect, the Kermes vermilio, which was widely used in Europe.  The first recorded use of vermilion as a color name in English was in 1289.  The term cinnabar was used interchangeably with vermilion until the 17th century, when vermilion became the more common name.  By the late 18th century 'cinnabar' applied to the unground natural mineral only.  Vermilion is a dense, opaque pigment with a clear, brilliant hue.  The pigment was originally made by grinding a powder of cinnabar, the ore which contains mercury.  The chemical formula of the pigment is HgS (mercury(II) sulfide); like most mercury compounds it is toxic.  See many graphics at

Is there such a thing as a photographic memory?  And if so, can it be learned? by Alan Searleman  In the scientific literature, the term eidetic imagery comes closest to what is popularly called photographic memory.  The most common way to identify eidetikers (as people with eidetic imagery are often called) is by the Picture Elicitation Method.  In it, an unfamiliar picture is placed on an easel and a person carefully scans the entire scene.  After 30 seconds have elapsed, the picture is removed from view, and the person is asked to continue to look at the easel and to report anything that they can observe.  People possessing eidetic imagery will confidently claim to still "see" the picture.  In addition, they can scan it and examine different parts of it just as if the picture were still physically present.  Consequently, one of the hallmarks of eidetic imagery is that eidetikers use the present tense when answering questions about the missing picture, and they can report in extraordinary detail what it contained.  You might expect that an individual who claims to still see a picture after it has been removed would be able to have a perfect memory of the original picture.  After all, a perfect memory is what is usually implied by the commonly used phrase "photographic memory." As it turns out, however, the accuracy of many eidetic images is far from perfect.  In fact, besides often being sketchy on some details, it is not unusual for eidetikers to alter visual details and even to invent some that were never in the original. This suggests that eidetic images are certainly not photographic in nature but instead are reconstructed from memory and can be influenced like other memories (both visual and nonvisual) by cognitive biases and expectations.

An eponym is a person (real or fictitious) from whom something is said to take its name.  The word is back-formed from "eponymous", from the Greek "eponymos" meaning "giving name".   A few examples:  Achilles, Greek mythological character – Achilles' heel, Achilles tendon; Adam, Biblical character – Adam's apple, adamite; Cincinnatus, Roman politician – Cincinnati, Ohio (indirectly); and Moses Cleaveland – the city of Cleveland, Ohio

The ball peen hammer is a kind of peening hammer that has 2 ends.  1 end is shaped like an ordinary hammerhead while the other is ball shaped.  It has a handle that is like that of a regular hammer and the material can vary, which includes wood, metal or fiberglass.  This kind of hammer is also called a machinist’s or engineer’s hammer.  The head of the ball peen hammer is usually harder than that of a claw hammer so it is highly unlikely that it will break or chip on contact.  If you want to set rivets in metal by hand, your best choice of tool for the job should be the ball peen hammer.  Riveting entails the use of a soft metal nail that is driven through a hole drilled in metal sheets or boards.  Rivets are the usual means of joining 2 metal sheets together aside from welding, and you can make a great permanent joint if you will be able to do the task right.  The process will require cutting the unused material on one side and then peening the shaft of the nail that is jutting out on the opposite side.  Striking it with a ball peen hammer will form a mushroom shape at the end of the nail, effectively fastening the 2 metal sheets together.

Prefixes are key morphemes in English vocabulary that begin words.  The prefix super- and its variant sur- mean “over.”  We all know that the DC Comics hero Superman is the hero who stands “over” all other men in power. Speaking of superstars, the football game that stands “over” all other football games is, you got it, the Super Bowl.  The Super Bowl features the superior teams from the AFC and theNFC divisions facing off against each other, that is, the two teams that stood “over” all the rest during the football season.  School systems love to have members of management who stand “over” all others, such as superintendents, who are in charge of entire school systems.  They supervise, or watch “over” the schools in their respective districts.  A variant of the prefix super-, which also means “above,” is the morpheme sur-.  For instance, a surname is that name which is “over” a family and thereby identifies it, or the family’s last name.  The surface of something is etymologically the face that lies “over” what it’s covering.  When you surpass everyone else’s SAT scores at your school, you pass “over” them all, thus getting the highest score.  One who takes a survey of people wants to look “over” what they think.  And have you ever been hit with a surcharge on your cell phone bill, those sneaky little charges that go “over” what you are supposed to pay?

Lake Baikal, in eastern Siberia, is the deepest lake in the world with a maximum depth of 1,632m.  It is also the world’s largest volume of fresh water:  23,000 cubic km.  One-fifth of all the fresh water in the world is located Lake Baikal.  Baikal is also the world’s most ancient freshwater lake, it originated 20-25 million years ago.  It is 636 km long, 79 km wide.  There are 27 islands in Lake Baikal, most of them uninhabited.   Baikal's coastline measures 2100 kilometers (around 1300 miles).  More than 300 streams and rivers flow into Lake Baikal, but there is just one outlet, the Angara.

Q.  What is the meaning of the German word einfach?  A.  frugal  just   plain  simple simply
Find frugal in other languages and link to other terms at

English poetry employs five basic rhythms of varying stressed (/) and unstressed (x) syllables.  The meters are iambs, trochees, spondees, anapests and dactyls.  Each unit of rhythm is called a "foot" of poetry.  Find easy-to-understand examples at

August 11, 2016  The 'Chork' is a combination of both a pair of chopsticks and a fork ** Follows success of Spork--a spoon/fork mash-up popularized by KFC ** Chorck has plastic chopsticks at one end and a three-prong fork at other ** Panda Express announced they will introduce the new utensil soon.  Read more and see pictures at

August 12, 2016  America's Olympic medalists must pay state and federal taxes on the prize money they get for winning.  The U.S. Olympic Committee awards $25,000 for gold medals, $15,000 for silver and $10,000 for bronze.  That's not all.  Olympians also have to pay tax on the value of the medals themselves.  Gold and silver medals are made mostly of silver, while bronze medals are composed of mostly copper.  Rio's medals are among the largest and heaviest ever and contain about 500 grams of either silver or copper.  The value of a gold medal is about $564; silver is worth about $305.  Bronze is worth a negligible amount so it's not taxed.  The U.S. is one of the only countries that doesn't provide government funding to its Olympians.  Proposed federal legislation would make "the value of any medal or prize money" awarded during the Olympics or Paralympics exempt from income taxes.  The bill was passed by the Senate last month and is being considered by the House. It would apply to earnings from January 1, 2016 to January 1, 2021.  Ahiza Garcia  Issue 1517  August 24, 2016  On this date in 1682, William Penn received the area that is now the state of Delaware, and adds it to his colony of Pennsylvania.  On this date in 1891, Thomas Edison patented the motion picture camera.  Word of the Day:  hilum  noun  (1) The eye of a bean or other seed; the mark or scar at the point of attachment of an ovule or seed to its base or support.  (2)   The nucleus of a starch grain.  (3)  A depression or fissure through which ducts, nerves, or blood vessels enter and leave a gland or organ; a porta.

Monday, August 22, 2016

To coin a word, you can postdict as well as predict.  The Double-Tongued Dictionary provides this cite:  Approximately one in five suspect identifications from sequential lineups may be wrong.  As a result, no existing eyewitness identification procedure can relieve the courts of the burden of decide after the fact (or postdicting) which eyewitness identifications are accurate versus inaccurate.  This sense seems relatively established in the literature of psychology, where its sibling term postdictor is flung about with abandon.  Postdiction is also used in a dismissive sense  to refer to "prediction after the fact" by people who are skeptical of, you know, prophecies.  Think Nostradamus.  As defined in Wikipedia, retrodiction is a way to test theories by comparing against past results in situations when comparing against future ones is impractical.  You see this in economics, when economic models are tested by running them against data from the past to see if your model can, for example, accurately predict the mortgage crisis.  Some might say that this constitutes that other, more dismissive sense of postdiction, but hey.  WordzGuy, technical writer and editor

Mary Oliver (born September 10, 1935) is an American poet who has won the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize.  The New York Times described her as "far and away, [America's] best-selling poet".  Mary Oliver was born to Edward William and Helen M. V. Oliver in Maple Heights, Ohio, a semi-rural suburb of Cleveland.  Her father was a social studies teacher and an athletics coach in the Cleveland public schools.  She began writing poetry at the age of 14, and at 17 visited the home of the late Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Edna St. Vincent Millay, in Austerlitz, upper New York state.  She and Norma, the poet's sister, became friends, and Oliver "more or less lived there for the next six or seven years, running around the 800 acres like a child, helping Norma, or at least being company to her," and assisting with organizing the late poet's papers.

The West Side Tennis Club is a private tennis club located in Forest Hills, a neighborhood in the New York City borough of Queens.  The Club has 38 tennis courts in all four surfaces (clay court, Har-Tru, grass court and hardcourt), a junior Olympic-size swimming pool and other amenities.  It is the home of the Forest Hills Stadium, a 14,000 seat outdoor tennis stadium and concert venue.  It is most notable for hosting the U.S. National Championships, renamed the US Open Tennis Championships in 1968, a total of 60 times, first from 1915 to 1920, and then again from 1924 to 1977.  In addition, the finals of the Davis Cup were held at the club 10 times, more than any other venue.  The US Pro tournament was held at the venue 11 times, and another big professional tournament, the Tournament of Champions, was held at the venue 3 times.  Currently, the stadium is used as an outdoor concert venue.  The club was founded in 1892 when 13 original members rented land on Central Park West for three clay courts and a small clubhouse.  Ten years later, the land had become too valuable, and the club moved to a site near Columbia University with room for eight courts.  In 1908, the club moved again to a property at 238th Street and Broadway.  The new site covered two city blocks and had 12 grass courts and 15 clay courts.  The club hosted the International Lawn Tennis Challenge (now known as the Davis Cup) in 1911.  With crowds in the thousands, the club leadership realized that it would need to expand to a more permanent location. In 1912, a site in Forest Hills, Queens, was purchased.  The signature Tudor-style clubhouse was built the next year.  In 1915, the United States Lawn Tennis Association National Championship, later renamed the U.S. Open, moved to West Side.  By 1923, the success of the event necessitated the construction of a 14,000-seat horseshoe-shaped stadium that still stands today.  In 1975, the tournament was switched to Har-Tru clay courts.  By 1978, the tournament had outgrown West Side, and the USTA moved the tournament to its new site in Flushing Meadows.  Following the 1978 departure of the Open the stadium fell into disrepair, by 2011 it was called a "crumbling ruin" and was denied landmark status by the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission. The West Side Tennis Club received an offer in 2010 to raze the stadium and replace it with condominiums.  However, in mid-2013, the stadium re-opened as an outdoor concert venue with Mumford & Sons performing the inaugural concert.  Since then the Forest Hills Stadium has held a regular summer concert series featuring the likes of Santana, Zac Brown Band, D'Angelo, Van Morrison, and others.  It is also the summer home of The New York Pops.  The stadium also has a history of use as a filming location.  The Alfred Hitchcock film Strangers on a Train (1951) was filmed in part during the 1950 Davis Cup finals at the West Side Tennis Club on 25–27 August 1950.  Several scenes in Wes Anderson's The Royal Tenenbaums were filmed in and around the stadium including the "Windswept Fields" meltdown of Richie Tenenbaum.

Bison in Arizona?  The story behind Grand Canyon National Park's bison bind by Ron Dungan   The Arizona herd represents an unusual chapter in the history of bison.  Biologists estimate that 30 to 60 million of the animals, also known as buffalo, once roamed North America, until their numbers were whittled down to a handful by the 1880s.  But early conservationists stepped in to save them from extinction, and in the early 1900s, a man named Charles Jesse Jones, a hunter, rancher, expert roper and former buffalo skinner who had seen the bison’s demise first hand, brought a herd of the animals to northern Arizona.  His efforts earned him the nickname Buffalo Jones, though some of his work seems puzzling by today’s standards.  Jones drove his bison to northern Arizona long before Americans talked about ecosystems or ecology.  He cross-bred them with cattle, and after a few years, abandoned the project, leaving some of the herd behind.  The bison, which retain some cattle genes, have lived in Arizona ever since.  Read extensive article and see pictures at

June 27, 2016  Danuta Hübner, the head of the European Parliament’s Constitutional Affairs Committee (AFCO), warned Monday that English will not be one of the European Union’s official languages after Britain leaves the EU.  English is one of the EU’s 24 official languages because the U.K. identified it as its own official language, Hübner said.  But as soon as Britain completes the process to leave the EU, English could lose its status.  “We have a regulation … where every EU country has the right to notify one official language,” Hübner said.  “The Irish have notified Gaelic, and the Maltese have notified Maltese, so you have only the U.K. notifying English.”  “If we don’t have the U.K., we don’t have English,” Hübner said.  English is one of the working languages in the European institutions, Hübner said, adding:  “It’s actually the dominating language,” the one most frequently used by EU civil servants.  The regulation listing official languages of the EU would have to be changed unanimously by remaining countries if they want to keep English as an official language, Hübner said.  However, an EU source explained that the regulations governing official languages are themselves subject to more than one translation.  The 1958 regulation regarding the official languages of the EU, which was originally written in French, does not say clearly whether a member country--Ireland or Malta for instance--can have more than one official language, an EU source said.  Interpretations of the French wording tend to conclude that this might be possible, whereas the English version appears to rule this out.  Hortense Goulard

No one is flying home from Rio with more medals than the U.S. women.  The full American squad—both men and women—won the most medals overall, 121, as has often been the case in the Summer Games.  But first in London four years ago, and again in Rio, the U.S. women have captured most of those medals.  The U.S. women took 61, the men had 55, and there were five in mixed events, including equestrian and mixed-doubles tennis.  How good were the American women?  They won 27 of the 46 American golds.  This trend became clear in London, where the American women won 58 medals of all colors, compared to 45 for the U.S. men, the first time the women outpaced their male counterparts.  New Zealand and Jamaica were once again the biggest overachievers.  New Zealand, home to just 4 million, won 18 medals, up from 13 in London, and in a range of sports that included rowing, sailing, cycling, canoeing, rugby, golf and track and field.  Jamaica, with fewer than 3 million people, relied on its blazing sprinters to win 11 medals, just one short of its tally in London.  Greg Myre with Katie Daughert on research  Issue 1516  August 22, 2016  On this date in 1770, James Cook named and landed on Possession Island, and claimed the east coast of Australia for Britain as New South Wales.  On this date in 1902, Theodore Roosevelt became the first President of the United States to ride in an automobile.  Quote of the Day  You don't have to burn books to destroy a culture.  Just get people to stop reading them. - Ray Bradbury, science-fiction writer (22 Aug 1920-2012)