Monday, October 31, 2016

Running amok comes from psychiatry of the late 1700s and early 1800s.  When Europeans sent out explorers, they found societies on Pacific islands in which some individuals would suddenly go on what we would now call "spree killings."  Local people attributed these attacks to possession by aggressive spirits, and therefore not the fault of the attacker.  Amok, or running amok, is derived from the Malay word mengamok, which means to make a furious and desperate charge.  Captain Cook is credited with making the first outside observations and recordings of amok in the Malay tribesmen in 1770 during his around-the-world voyage.  He described the affected individuals as behaving violently without apparent cause and indiscriminately killing or maiming villagers and animals in a frenzied attack.

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From:  Alex McCrae   Subjects:  poodle-faker and duck soup   Folks who viewed the film Amadeus may recall arts patron Holy Roman Emperor Joseph II opining that the young Mozart’s compositions-in-progress were overwrought with . . .  “too many notes”.  Echoing our “poodle-faker” USAGE example, classical music ‘gossipers’ of the day apparently argued that Hungarian maestro, Franz Liszt, like the great Mozart, had added far too many (extraneous) notes to his self-penned works; merely in hopes of his captivating the hearts and favor of the choicest high-society, well-heeled grand-dames of his age . . . the quintessential poodle-faker.  Those zany Marx brothers, in their classic madcap movie, Duck Soup and I daresay, most of their other ‘slap-schtick-infused’ filmic feature romps, made it all look so easy-peasy . . .  like veritable duck soup.  Yet most aficionados, and serious students of classic comedy would likely concur that conveying humor on-screen, or on the standup comedy stage, requires well-honed, practiced material, and impeccable comedic timing.
From:  Dave Campbell  Subject:  duck soup  The brilliant satire Duck Soup is generally considered one of the two greatest comedies by the Marx Brothers.  When asked for an explanation of the title, Groucho suggested that you “take two turkeys, one goose, four cabbages, but no duck, and mix them together. After one taste, you’ll duck soup for the rest of your life.”

Why would clams be happy?  It has been suggested that open clams give the appearance of smiling.  The derivation is more likely to come from the fuller version of the phrase, now rarely heard--'as happy as a clam at high water'.  Hide tide is when clams are free from the attentions of predators; surely the happiest of times in the bivalve mollusc world.  The phrase originated in the north-eastern states of the USA in the early 19th century.

Amendment XXV  PRESIDENTIAL DISABILITY AND SUCCESSION  The Twenty-fifth Amendment was passed in order to clarify what happens upon the death, removal, or resignation of the President or Vice President and how the Presidency is temporarily filled if the President becomes disabled and cannot fulfill his responsibilities.  Far from being a theoretical problem, a plan of succession has frequently been necessary.  On eight separate occasions, a President has died in office and several other times, the President has either resigned from or been removed from office.  Similarly, on seven occasions, the Vice President has died in office and one Vice President–Spiro Agnew-resigned in the middle of his term.  This has meant that for nearly 20% of U.S. history, there has been no Vice-President in office who can assume the Presidency.  See also

Wang Wei (701-761 C.E.) is often spoken of, with his contemporaries Li Po and Tu Fu, as one of the three greatest poets in China’s 3,000-year poetic tradition.  Find four poems by Wang Wei translated by David Hinton, including theWheel-Rim River Sequence with the best-known of its 18 parts, Deer Park"No one seen.  In empty mountains, a hint of drifting voice, no more.  Entering these deep woods, late sun-light ablaze on green moss, rising." at

As of January 1, 2017, all digital materials hosted on the web by the Center for Research Libraries (CRL), that derive from source materials in the public domain or for which CRL has secured the requisite rights and permissions, will be available without restriction.

Australia moves about 7cm north-north-east every year because of the movement of the Earth’s tectonic plates.  But it means a gap between Australia’s latitude and longitude as it is shown on local coordinates, which move with their local continent--and global coordinates, which don’t.  The latitude and longitude given by modern global navigation satellite systems, such as GPS, are fixed to the rest of the world and as such offset as the Australian continent drifts over time.  The Geocentric Datum of Australia, the country’s local coordinate system, was last updated in 1994, and Australia is now about 1.5m further north-north-east (or, to give the metric used in a BBC infographic:  about the height of a kangaroo).  Daniel Jaksa of Geoscience Australia, the body responsible for mapping the continent, told Guardian Australia the shortfall between the two systems would be addressed with an upcoming change.  “We’re working on moving Australia’s latitude and longitude to reflect our actual position in the world.”  Australia will shift its longitude and latitude by 1.8m in the direction of its tectonic motion from 1 January 2017, with the overcorrection meaning the local and global coordinates will align in 2020.  Similar corrections were made in 1966, 1984 and 1994.  Every nation does updates of this sort but Australia is located on the fastest-moving continental tectonic plate, which means more regular activity.  Jaksa said the fact the global coordinates did not reflect tectonic motion could have negative impacts for any technology that used that data--for example, in the future, self-driving cars.  “[The coordinates] we find in Australia for GPS are actually different to the local ones.  It’s a problem for us when we want to integrate local mapping information with global systems like Google Maps or Apple Maps used on smartphones.  “It’s not just self-driving cars, it’s self-driving tractors, mining equipment--drones going around delivering pizzas that are currently being developed.”  Accurate, consistent data was also important for scientific investigation, Jaksa noted--“not just everyday mapping”.  Elle Hunt

Pumpkin Patch Deviled Eggs recipe or make your usual egg filling adding cooked, mashed butternut squash or pumpkin for an orange color.  Or, add pumpkin pie spice mix to the filling. 

Pumpkin Pie Spice Mix  3 tablespoons ground cinnamon, 2 teaspoons ground ginger, 2 teaspoons ground nutmeg, 1 ½ teaspoons ground allspice and 1 ½ teaspoons ground cloves.  Mix the spices together in a small bowl.  Store the mixture in a clean small jar or spice container.  See also 10 pumpkin spice recipes from Elizabeth Buxton at  Issue 1544  October 31, 2016  On this date in 1587, Leiden University Library opened its doors after its founding in 1575.  On this date in 1913, the Lincoln Highway, first automobile highway across United States, was dedicated.

Friday, October 28, 2016

July 15, 2016  Cats have worked as the world's fuzzy exterminators for at least 10,000 years. That's when wild cats cozied up to the Natufians, the first human farmers who stored grain, which attracted rodents.  Agile and nocturnal, cats need little light to hunt.  With rodents most active at night, cats became their perfect nemesis.  Cats have worked as rat catchers in New York bodegas, Disneyland and ships during World War II.  Knowing this history, Tree House Humane Society of Chicago organizers started the Cats at Work roject five years ago.  It transplants these colonies to areas that need their kind of help.  Jen Christensen  Cats don't talk back.  They are terrific employees.  They work for mice.  Read about the “working cat” program of the Animal Humane Society at

What is Indian summer and where does this term come from?  As with so many words and phrases, there’s debate over precisely where and when this one arose.  But most sources put it in the same general time and place:  late Colonial America, sometime between the 1770s and 1790s.  The term had probably been in use for some time.  Some individuals insist, quite stridently, that an Indian summer can take place only after the first frost.  Many disagree.  There’s enough slack in the meaning of this word that it might be considered a regionalism:  in some places, Indian summer is simply warm weather after cool; in others, the first frost rule holds firm.  Those who won’t budge on the frost idea sometimes invoke the National Weather Service to support their claims, but that’s a mistake.  Their definition is fairly simple:  “An unseasonably warm period near the middle of autumn, usually following a substantial period of cool weather.”  You’ll note no mention of frost.  An example of how arbitrary some definitions can be comes from The Old Farmer’s Almanac, which has by far the strictest qualifying time frame, insisting that Indian summer can only take place in a 10-day window from November 11th to November 20th.  In case you’re wondering:  typographically, a small minority of users capitalize both words.  This isn’t standard, and no major source capitalizes the “summer” portion.  Christopher Daly  Read much more at

The Nicholas Brothers were a team of dancing brothers, Fayard (1914–2006) and Harold (1921–2000), who performed a highly acrobatic technique known as "flash dancing".  With a high level of artistry and daring innovations, they were considered by many to be the greatest tap dancers of their day.  Their performance in the musical number "Jumpin' Jive" (with Cab Calloway and his orchestra) featured in the movie Stormy Weather is considered by many to be the most virtuosic dance display of all time.  Fayard Antonio Nicholas was born October 20, 1914, in Mobile, Alabama.  Harold Lloyd Nicholas was born March 17, 1921, in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.  The Nicholas Brothers grew up in Philadelphia, the sons of college-educated musicians who played in their own band at the old Standard Theater—their mother at the piano and father on drums.  At the age of three, Fayard would always sit in the front row while his parents worked, and by the time he was ten, he had seen most of the great African-American vaudeville acts—particularly the dancers, including such notables of the time as Alice Whitman, Willie Bryant, and Bill Robinson.  The brothers were fascinated by the combination of tap dancing and acrobatics.  Fayard often imitated their acrobatics and clowning for the kids in his neighborhood.  Neither Fayard nor Harold had any formal dance training.  Fayard taught himself how to dance, sing, and perform by watching and imitating the professional entertainers on stage.  He then taught his younger siblings, first performing with his sister Dorothy as the Nicholas Kids, later joined by Harold.  Harold idolized his older brother and learned by copying his moves and distinct style.  Dorothy later opted out of the act, and the Nicholas Kids became known as the Nicholas Brothers.  The Nicholas Brothers taught master classes in tap dance as teachers-in-residence at Harvard University and Radcliffe as Ruth Page Visiting Artists.  Among their known students are Debbie Allen, Janet Jackson, and Michael Jackson.  One of their signature moves was to leapfrog down a long, broad flight of stairs, while completing each step with a split.  Its most famous performance formed the finale of the movie Stormy Weather.  In that routine, the Nicholas Brothers leapt exuberantly across the orchestra's music stands and danced on the top of a grand piano in a call and response act with the pianist, to the tune of Jumpin' Jive.  Fred Astaire once told the brothers that this dance number was the greatest movie musical sequence he had ever seen.  In another signature move, they would rise from a split without using their hands.  Gregory Hines declared that if their biography were ever filmed, their dance numbers would have to be computer generated because no one now could emulate them.  Ballet legend Mikhail Baryshnikov once called them the most amazing dancers he had ever seen in his life.  See filmography at

dissensus ‎(plural dissensuses)  noun  Disagreement, especially when widespread.  From Latin dissēnsus ‎(disagreement, quarrel; dissension, conflict); or a blend of dissent +‎ consensus

Paul Beatty became the first American to win the Man Booker Prize October 25, 2016.  His novel,The Sellout, was chosen unanimously by the judges, who lauded the book for its “inventive comic approach to the thorny issues of racial identity and injustice.”  Philip Roth’s book collection arrives October 27, 2016 at the Newark Public Library, the setting of his novella Goodbye, Columbus.  Nearly four thousand books will be sent to the library from Roth’s home in Connecticut, where the collection “has more or less taken over the premises.”  Roth says his decision to donate his books comes from his advanced age and lack of heirs.  “I’m glad that my books are all going to be together.” Roth said. 

Which States Allow Voters to Snap Ballot Box Selfies? by Erik Ortiz and Phil McCausland  "These states, as well as Washington, D.C., have no laws on the books explicitly banning selfies or electronic recordings, although many election officials told NBC News that they discourage the act because it holds up lines or can compromise other voters' privacy."  Find chart at

The Julia Child Foundation for Gastronomy and the Culinary Arts announced in May 2016 that Rick Bayless would be the recipient of the second-annual award.  (Jacques Pepin was the inaugural recipient.)  "To get this award, it's like my career has come full circle," Bayless said at the time.  "I grew up at a barbecue restaurant with a very limited menu; I used to watch every single 'French Chef' episode.  I'd sit in front of the TV, because I couldn't afford to buy the book, and write down and make those dishes.  "If it weren't for Julia Child, I wouldn't be where I am now."  The award honors an individual who has made a profound and significant difference in the way America cooks, eats and drinks.  The award carries with it a $50,000 grant, which will go to Bayless' Frontera Farmer Foundation, which awards grants to small Midwestern farms.  The award ceremony is part of the Smithsonian Food History Gala, held October 27, 2016 at the National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C.  Phil Vettel 

The Food History Gala is a black-tie fundraising dinner to benefit the programs and exhibitions of the museum’s Smithsonian Food History Project.  Rick Bayless created the three-course menu for the evening:  Shrimp and Scallop Ceviche Verde, Carne Asada in Mole Negro and Mesquite chocolate cake.  Wines paired with the meal have been provided by Margerum Wine Co., Alma Rosa Winery and Vineyards, and Andrew Murray Vineyards.  Beers paired with the meal have been provided by Alaskan Brewing Co., Allagash Brewing Co., Dogfish Head Brewery and New Belgium Brewing Co.  Issue 1543  October 28, 2016  On this date in 1846, Auguste Escoffier, French chef and author, was born.  On this date in 1897, Edith Head, American costume designer, was born.  Word of the Day greeking noun  Nonsense text or graphics inserted into a document as a placeholder to create a dummy layout, or to demonstrate a type font; the practice of using such placeholder text or graphics.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Monoculars and binoculars are both optical instruments that allow you to magnify and view distant objects.  Although they both share the same telescopic technology, and you can for use them for the same purpose, they have different features.  The most obvious differences between monoculars and binoculars are the way they look and the way you use them.  Monoculars look like small telescopes.  They have a single lens that you hold up to one eye--you choose which eye to use.  Binoculars have two lenses, and you need to hold the device in front of both eyes to look at objects.  If used for long periods, you may find that binoculars are easier on your eyes compared to monoculars because they don't put a strain on just one eye.  Monoculars are typically much smaller and lighter than binoculars--the smallest can be thumb-sized.

The three-point turn (sometimes called a Y-turn, K-turn, or broken U-turn) is the standard method of turning a vehicle around to face the opposite direction in a limited space, using forward and reverse gears.  This is typically done when the road is too narrow for a U-turn.  See graphic at

Briefly soaking meat in a solution of baking soda and water raises the pH on the meat’s surface, making it more difficult for the proteins to bond excessively, which keeps the meat tender and moist when it’s cooked.  Our recipes typically call for a 15- to 20-minute treatment, but what if your dinner prep is interrupted and that time is doubled or even tripled?  To find out if a soak longer than 15 to 20 minutes would do more harm than good, we treated 12 ounces each of ground beef, sliced chicken breast, and sliced pork with baking soda—¼ teaspoon for the beef and 1 teaspoon for the sliced meats—for different lengths of time before cooking them.  We were surprised to find that samples that were treated for 45 minutes were identical to those treated for only 15 minutes.  Here’s why:  The acid/base reaction happens very quickly and does not build much over time.  In fact, when we weighed the samples of treated ground beef before and after cooking, we found that the sample that had been treated for 45 minutes retained a mere 3 percent more moisture when cooked than meat that was treated for only 15 minutes.

Bibliography of Published Baseball Music and Songs in the Collections of the Music Division at the Library of Congress contains a listing of over 400 musical works and songs related to baseball.  The paths of baseball and musical composition have crossed several times in their respective evolutions.  For example, from 1895 to 1920, a time marked by the American heyday of the parlor piano and the  prominence of the popular music publishing industry called "Tin Pan Alley," it was common for family and friends to gather around the piano for an evening's entertainment.  This national pastime began to decline in the 1920's with the rise of the broadcasting and recording industries.  Coincident with this unique musical era, baseball, THE national pastime, experienced what some writers call its "Silver Age:" a time when dual major league status was re-established, when the World Series was instituted, and when Ty Cobb and Babe Ruth became the heroes that composers rhapsodized about!  Indeed, it was the songwriters who first designated baseball as "America's National Game."  Brooklyn is mentioned 21 times in the bibliography, including BROOKLYN BASEBALL CANTATA:  A HUMOROUS CANTATA.  Kleinsinger, George (m); Stratton, Michael (w). New York: Mills Music, Inc., 1949. 

The Shot Heard Round the World   On Oct. 3, 1951, one of Major League Baseball's greatest moments took place.  In the bottom of the 9th inning, the New York Giants beat the Brooklyn Dodgers 5-4, winning the National League Pennant.  Batter Bobby Thomson's three-run homer became legendary.  It was the first nationally televised sporting event.  The two teams:  longtime New York rivals, the Giants and the Dodgers.  Big shots from the movies, TV, the underworld were there; authors from Steinbeck to Don DeLillo have immortalized the event.  The game ended with a homerun hit by Bobby Thomson off Ralph Branca known as the shot heard 'round the world.  See also

The Sanford Underground Research Facility is in the former gold mine in the town of Lead (pronounced "leed" not "led"), South Dakota.  More than 200 international institutions conduct research at the lab, shielded by one mile of solid rock.  The name of Lead City was chosen because of the large number of "leads" or outcroppings of ore in the area.

Lead has been called the richest 100 square miles on Earth.  Over a period of 126 years, miners pulled more than 41 million ounces of gold and 9 million ounces of silver from the Homestake Mine, the largest mine in the western hemisphere.  Prospectors began arriving in the Black Hills in the mid-1870s.  In the early mining years, miners hammered the rock with picks, their way lit with candlelight, and mushed mules pulling carts filled with ore.  In later generations, miners broke the rock with pneumatic drills and powerful explosives, producing a seemingly limitless stream of riches.  In December 2001, however, that limit arrived.  Homestake mined its final ore and left behind more than 370 miles of tunnels from the surface to the 8,000-foot level.  Today, those caverns house world-leading research that seeks to understand the riches of the universe.

The story of the famous Black Hills Gold Rush has been told and retold.  These accounts include countless history books, numerous fictional novels and most recently HBO’s loosely historical series, Deadwood.  The times of “fabulous fortunes” were sensational, wild, perhaps wicked and short lived.  The actual Deadwood/Lead gold rush began in 1875 and ended in 1877.  Yet gold was to play a huge role in the area’s history, economy and development for many, many years to come.  Toward the end of the big Black Hills gold rush, mining magnate, George Hearst arranged to purchase one of the most promising claims in the Lead/Deadwood area for $70,000 and incorporated it as the Homestake Mining Company.  That was the beginning of a story with a list of accomplishments, both technological and civic that is over 126 years.  Uncover the fascinating story of the Homestake Gold Mine at the Homestake Visitor Center at 160 West Main Street, Lead SD.

Card money is a type of fiat money printed on plain cardboard or playing cards, which was used at times as currency in several colonies and countries (including Dutch Guiana, New France, and France) from the 17th century to the early 19th century.  Where introduced, it was often followed by high rates of inflation.  Read more and see pictures at

PSEUDONYMS   John le Carré  (David John Moore Cornwell born 1931);  Jon Trace (Michael Morley born 1957); John Denver (Henry John Deutschendorf, Jr. born 1943)  Mr. Atomic (twins Mark and Michael Kersey)  Issue 1542  October 26, 2016  On this date in 1825, the Erie Canal opened from Albany, New York to Lake Erie.  On this date in 1936, the first electric generator at Hoover Dam went into full operation.

Monday, October 24, 2016

The National Book Foundation announces Cave Canem as the recipient of its 2016 Literarian Award for Outstanding Service to the American Literary Community.  Cave Canem, known as a home for African-American poets, will receive the award at the 67th National Book Awards Ceremony and Benefit Dinner on November 16, 2016.  This is the twelfth year that the Foundation has presented the Literarian Award, which traditionally is given to an individual for a lifetime of achievement in expanding the audience for books and reading.  This year’s ceremony will mark the very first time that the award is given to an organization.  The Foundation will award Robert A. Caro its 2016 Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters.  Caro, the acclaimed biographer of The Power Broker and the multivolume biography The Years of Lyndon Johnson, is being honored for his exceptional work and significant impact on American literature.  Caro is the 29th recipient of the Foundation’s Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters (DCAL), which was created in 1988 to recognize a lifetime of literary achievement.

Behold the rain which descends from heaven upon our vineyards; there it enters the roots of the vines, to be changed into wine; a constant proof that God loves us, and loves to see us happy.  Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790)

Quotes of Henry James, American-born, British novelist, playwright, and literary critic 
1.  "Deep experience is never peaceful."  (Madame de Mauves, 1874)
2.  "True happiness, we are told, consists in getting out of one's self; but the point is not only to get out—you must stay out; and to stay out you must have some absorbing errand." (Roderick Hudson, 1875)
3.  "Three things in human life are important.  The first is to be kind.  The second is to be kind.  And the third is to be kind." (Qtd Leon Edel, Henry James:  A Life, 1972)  Read more quotes at

Airport terminals are getting longer for bigger planes.  Philadelphia International Airport passengers who hoof it from one end to the other from Gate F39 to Gate A26 walk 1.5 miles and cross a county line.  The walk between Atlanta's international and domestic terminals is 1.67 miles.  Orlando, Chicago and Newark airports have removed moving walkways to put in more seating or create space for bars and restaurants.  The Wall Street Journal  September 29, 2016   

The Divine Comedy is an epic poem by Dante Alighieri, begun c. 1308 and completed 1320, a year before his death in 1321.  It is widely considered the preeminent work of Italian literature and is seen as one of the greatest works of world literature.  The poem's imaginative vision of the afterlife is representative of the medieval world-view as it had developed in the Western Church by the 14th century.  It helped establish the Tuscan language, in which it is written, as the standardized Italian language.  It is divided into three parts:  InfernoPurgatorio, and Paradiso.  The work was originally simply titled Comedìa and the word Divina was added by Giovanni Boccaccio.  The first printed edition to add the word divina to the title was that of the Venetian humanist Lodovico Dolce published in 1555 by Gabriele Giolito de' Ferrari.

All the variety, all the charm, all the beauty of life is made up of light and shadow.  Leo Tolstoy (1828–1910).  Anna Karenin, Part I, Chapter XI

Kiplinger report – “We ranked all 50 states on cost of living, taxes, health care and other factors important to retirees.  Here are the three states that fared the worst.  Finishing dead last is New York. Living expenses in the Empire State are 29% above the national average.  More worrisome:  The percentage of residents 65 and up living in poverty is above average, too.  The runner-up is New Jersey.  The Garden State’s tax policies can be tough on retirees.  There’s a 7% state sales tax and steep local property taxes.  The combined state and local tax burden is the second highest in the nation.  Rounding out the three worst states for retirement is California.  Housing is expensive, and taxes can take a big chunk out of your nest egg.  Most retirement income is subject to tax, and California imposes the highest income tax rates in the nation.”

A guide to information on the upcoming elections from the Maureen and Mike Mansfield Library at the University of Montana  Link to Fact Check org,, League of Women Voters Presidential Guide, and U.S. Election Commission at  

Toledo Museum of Art, Gallery 18  Oct. 28, 2016–Feb. 12, 2017   The Libbey Dolls, formerly known as the Doucet Dolls, were the product of the World War I aid effort. The porcelain factories at Limoges and Sèvres aided in the recovery by putting wounded soldiers, outof-work artisans and young men back to work making French novelties.  Out of their production came this collection of 78 fashion figures, depicting French style from A.D. 493 to 1915.  The dolls were purchased in 1917 by Toledo Museum of Art founder Edward Drummond Libbey at the Permanent Blind Relief Fund’s Allied Bazaar in New York, in what was hailed as the “greatest single purchase made at the Allied Bazaar.”  (The dolls sold for $30,000, the equivalent of about $680,000 today.)  The Libbey Dolls are connected with prominent French couturier of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Jacques Doucet, who created the dolls’ clothing, using inspiration from works of art by great French artists like Nicolas Lancret and Louis-Léopold Boilly, as well as drawings and engravings from late 19th-century fashion publications.  The Libbey Dolls:  Fashioning the Story will explore the extraordinary story of this collection while showcasing French fashion design and the strong connection between fashion and the art world.  The dolls were put on display at the Museum from 1917 until 1972, when the figures were pulled from permanent view.

October 22, 2016  Guests at President Obama's final concert at the White House had to go through three security checkpoints before placing their cellphones in brown paper bags that would be returned to them at the end of the night.  No one questioned the low-tech security precaution that removed their ability to post on Twitter, Facebook or SnapChat about the concert.  A white billowing tent, decorated with chandeliers and colorful uplighting, had been constructed for the evening's concert, which will be broadcast on BET on Nov. 15.  A six-page program for the event, titled "Love and Happiness," was placed on gold Chiavari chairs for guests to shed light on just who would be gracing the stage:  Usher, Jill Scott, Michelle Williams, Yolanda Adams, Janelle Monae and even R&B throwback group, Bel Biv Devoe.  And most interestingly--historically speaking--rap acts were also on the program, including Common, The Roots, and De La SoulJoi-Marie McKenzie  Issue 1541  October 24, 2016  On this date in 1857, Sheffield F.C., the world's oldest association football club still in operation, was founded in Sheffield, England.  On this date in 1861, the first transcontinental telegraph line across the United States was completed, spelling the end for the 18-month-old Pony Express.

Friday, October 21, 2016

An oast, oast house or hop kiln is a building designed for kilning (drying) hops as part of the brewing process.  They can be found in most hop-growing (and former hop-growing) areas and are often good examples of vernacular architecture.  They consist of two or three storeys on which the hops were spread out to be dried by hot air from a wood or charcoal-fired kiln at the bottom.  The drying floors were thin and perforated to permit the heat to pass through and escape through a cowl in the roof which turned with the wind.  The freshly picked hops from the fields were raked in to dry and then raked out to cool before being bagged up and sent to the brewery.  The word oast itself also means "kiln".  The earliest surviving oast house is that at Cranbrook near Tunbridge Wells which dates to 1750 but the process is documented from soon after the introduction of hops into England in the early 16th century.  Early oast houses were simply adapted barns but, by the early 19th century, the distinctive circular buildings with conical roofs had been developed in response to the increased demand for beer.  Square oast houses appeared early in the 20th century as they were found to be easier to build.  In the 1930s, the cowls were replaced by louvred openings as electric fans and diesel oil ovens were employed.  Hops are today dried industrially and the many oast houses on farms have now been converted into dwellings.  One of the best preserved oast house complexes is at The Hop Farm Country Park at BeltringSee many pictures at

RYE – England’s best preserved village?  Rye was once a major harbour for warships, an important member of the Cinq Ports, and given the title ‘Rye Royale’ by Elizabeth I.  But eventually the sea gave up the battle against the silt and beat a retreat.  Now at low tide small fishing boats lie on their sides in a muddy channel while sheep graze on the Romney Marsh between Rye and the nearest beach, several kilometres away.  It’s all very genteel these days, but Ryers also take pride in their grimy past, the smuggling era in particular.  Rye was the haunt of the owlers, as smugglers were known in the eighteenth century.  In dark back rooms, deals were done on smuggled liquor, tea and luxury goods, and also on wool and banned English language bibles.  ‘Pssst--wanna buy a cheap bale of Romney Marsh and a couple of gospels?’  The Mermaid Inn, now an upmarket hotel, was the hub of these nefarious activities, and night ghost tours are run through the secret passages of the town.  Inspired by a visit to Rye, Rudyard Kipling wrote A Smuggler’s Song, ending, ‘Them that asks no questions, isn’t told a lie, So watch the wall, my darling, while the gentlemen go by!’  See pictures at  Read A Smuggler's Song at  Read about the cinque ports of England at

Lamb House  The Lamb family were the greatest power in Rye, England for 250 years but their house is probably more famous as the home of the expatriate American writer Henry James and later, the writer E.F. Benson.  It is a modest brick-fronted Georgian house completed by James Lamb in 1723, the same year in which he became Mayor for the first time.  The family sold the house in 1860.  Some thirty years later Henry James visited Rye and was attracted to the house, not expecting he could ever acquire it.  But in 1899, age 55 and already an established literary figure on both sides of the Atlantic, he was able to report ‘It has fallen’ and he bought the property for £2000.  He spent most of the last 18 years of his life in Lamb House of his house and wrote some of his most highly regarded works here, including The Awkward Age, The Wings of a Dove, The Ambassadors and The Golden Bowl. In the winter he dictated his work to his secretary in the green Room on the first floor but in the summer months he preferred the Garden House which stood at the top of West Street  at right angles to the main house.  Unfortunately, the Garden House was destroyed by a bomb in 1940.  Henry James entertained many eminent figures of the day at Lamb House, among them H.G. Wells, A.C.and E.F. Benson, Max Beerbohm. Hilaire Belloc, G.K. Chesterton, Joseph Conrad, Stephen Crane, Ford Maddox Ford, Edmund Gosse, Rudyard Kipling, Hugh Walpole and Edith WhartonAfter James’ death in 1916 the house became the home of brothers, A.C. and E.F. Benson.  The view from the bow window of the Garden House was to give E.F. Benson the inspiration for his Mapp and Lucia novels.  In 1950 the widow of Henry James’ nephew and heir, Mrs Henry James Jr., presented Lamb House to the National Trust.  It is open to visitors two days a week April–October.  As for E.F. Benson, regular tours are conducted which connect events and people in the Mapp and Lucia books to their Rye locations.  Benson was not the last eminent literary person to live in Lamb House.  Among those who have resided there since it became a National Trust property are Rumer Godden,  Montgomery Hyde and Brian Batsford

Not surprisingly for an important shipbuilding town, Ryers emigrated, and in Rye ships too.   Besides their  shipbuilding and trading pursuits, economic hard times and the pursuit of religious freedom motivated some to seek a life elsewhere—but to honour their origins by creating new Ryes:   in New York and New Hampshire in the USA and in Victoria, Australia.  "In 1660 three men originally from Rye in Sussex, England, living in Greenwich, Connecticut, purchased a tract of land on the beautiful shore of Long Island Sound from Mohegan Indians.  It cost them eight coats, seven shirts and four pounds ten shillings sterling.  Little did the three--Peter Disbrow, John Coe and Thomas Studwell--realize that they were thereby starting the oldest settlement in what is now affluent Westchester County, New York.  Confusingly, it now includes both the Town of Rye and the City of Rye, separate municipalities.  The former has three times the population of the latter, which in turn has three times the population of Rye, Sussex."

If you visited Iceland and asked someone what they called the smelling organ in the middle of their face, they'd tell you, nev.  In Japan, it's hana.  To Sar speakers in southern Chad it's kon, and among the Zuni tribe of the southwestern United States, it's noli.  In fact, you could go to more than 1,400 places around the world, question speakers of more than 1,400 different languages, and hear 1,400 words that contain the sound "n."  But all of them mean the same thing:  nose.  That's one of the findings of a sweeping study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences which found evidence of strong associations between the sounds in words and the ideas they represent in completely unrelated languages from all corners of the world.  Despite a long-standing assumption in linguistics that the sounds we pick to signify certain concepts are arbitrary, the researchers argue that at least some associations are more universal than you'd think.  "Most models for how words come into our lexicon are predicated on this assumption that the sound doesn't tell you anything about what it represents," said Jaime Reilly, a cognitive psychologist and speech pathologist at Temple University who was not involved in the study.  "So the really neat thing about this paper is it sort of questions whether that arbitrariness assumption actually holds across all words."  A century ago, Ferdinand de Saussure—one of the founders of modern linguistics—wrote about the arbitrary relationship between signals (or the words we use) and the signified (the concepts we're trying to describe).  For example, there is nothing inherent about the term "cat" that calls to mind the fluffy, mildly standoffish felines we keep in our homes.  That we can say "cat" and other English speakers know what we're talking about is a result of convention.   A series of studies starting in 1929 have documented what's called the "bouba/kiki" effect:  People from societies across the world almost universally associate round shapes with the made-up word "bouba" and spiky shapes with the non-word "kiki."  Within languages, research has shown that sounds can become associated with idea—for example, English words having to do with sight, like "glance," "glimmer" and "glare," all start with the sound "gl."  This notion that vocal sounds carry meaning in and of themselves, and that meaning can be mapped onto the ideas they're used to represent, is called "sound symbolism."  Sarah Kaplan

Q.  What is the opposite of decline?  A.  noun:  improvement, ascent, progress  verb:  accept, advance, develop.   Find many more antonyms for decline at  

Nikon’s Small World showcases the beauty and complexity of life as seen through the light microscope.  The Photomicrography Competition is open to anyone with an interest in microscopy and photography.  The video competition, entitled Small World In Motion encompasses any movie or digital time-lapse photography taken through the microscope.  See the 2016 winners at  Deadline for 2017 competition is April 30, 2017.  Issue 1540  October 21, 2016  On this date in 1945, women were allowed to vote in France for the first time.  On this date in 1959, in New York City, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, opened to the public.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

October 12, 2016  Functioning as a sort of Hearst Castle of the Uncanny, San Jose’s Winchester Mystery House stands as a National Register of Historic Places-listed testament to firearms heiress Sarah Pardee Winchester.  Spanning 24,000 square feet, the labyrinthine residence is architecturally stunning despite its not-so-subtle eccentricities.  Features such as forced-air heating and push-bottom gas lighting were considered state-of-the-art during the time of its nonstop construction from 1884 to Winchester's death in 1922.  That being said, the home is really quite something to behold:  2,000 doors, 10,000 windows, 47 fireplaces, 47 staircases, 52 skylights, six kitchens, three elevators, two basements and 13 bathrooms.  Naturally, the 13th bathroom has 13 windows and 13 stairs leading up to it.  To play skeptic for a moment, it is peculiar that it took this long for the hidden attic room to be discovered considering the tireless preservation work that has been carried out at the mansion, open to the public since 1932, for decades now.  Impossible, no—but implausible, sure, and more than just a bit considering that the Winchester Mystery House is one of San Jose’s top tourist attraction and Halloween is just around the corner.  As noted by the Smithsonian earlier this year, delayed discoveries of hidden rooms within the enigmatic mansion aren't totally unprecedented.  In 1975, restoration workers unearthed a room containing nothing more than a couple of chairs and a turn-of-the-century speaker.  Whatever the case, the 161st room is currently not open for public tours although frequent visitors with "Skeleton Key" memberships will be able to access the attic area and take a peek at the freshly disinterred chamber.  As for the items reportedly discovered in the hidden room—a dress form, pump organ, artwork, sewing machines, Victorian couch and, from the looks of it, at least one creepy doll—they've been relocated to a more accessible area of the mansion’s grounds where they’ll be on display as part of a new attraction dubbed Sarah’s Attic Shooting Gallery.  Connecticut-born Sarah Winchester herself is the subject of an upcoming supernatural thriller that will star Helen Mirren as the heiress who, unfortunately for historians, never kept a journal and employed notoriously tight-lipped staff.  The biopic will reportedly be shot on location at the mansion.  Matt Hickman

A Toronto-based creative agency called The Garden has created the "Tell America It's Great" campaign, complete with a hashtag and a video.  "It's no secret that America is going through a hard time right now," the company said in a blog post.  "The election has exposed some pretty scary realities that will likely challenge them for years to come, regardless of who's elected.  They've been bombarded with a tremendous amount of negativity and it's likely that for many of them, the immediate future seems rather bleak."  The company put out an open call for Canadians to share videos of what they like about America and what makes it great, and then made a mashup video of a diverse group of Canadians singing America's praises, extolling the virtues of things like national parks, Tupac and Biggie, and the disability rights movement.

SECRETS  The Justice Department has kept classified at least 74 opinions, memos and letters on national security issues, including interrogation, detention and surveillance, according to a report released October 18, 2106 by the Brennan Center for Justice.  Also still classified are between 25 and 30 significant opinions issued between 2003 and 2013 by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC), the secretive federal court that interprets the law governing foreign intelligence-gathering inside the United States.  And at the State Department, 807 international agreements signed between 2004 and 2014 have not been published.  Ellen Nakashima  Read more at
SECRETS  Executive Order 13526- Classified National Security Information  December 29, 2009
Sec. 1.2.  Classification Levels.  (a)  Information may be classified at one of the following three levels: 
(1)  "Top Secret" shall be applied to information, the unauthorized disclosure of which reasonably could be expected to cause exceptionally grave damage to the national security that the original classification authority is able to identify or describe. 
(2)  "Secret" shall be applied to information, the unauthorized disclosure of which reasonably could be expected to cause serious damage to the national security that the original classification authority is able to identify or describe. 
(3)  "Confidential" shall be applied to information, the unauthorized disclosure of which reasonably could be expected to cause damage to the national security that the original classification authority is able to identify or describe.  See entire regulation at

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz) said October 17, 2016 that if Hillary Clinton is elected, Republicans will unite to block anyone she nominates to the Supreme Court.  Speaking on WPHT-AM radio's "Dom Giordano Program" in Philadelphia, McCain pledged to obstruct any Clinton Supreme Court nomination for the current or any future vacancy.  "I promise you that we will be united against any Supreme Court nominee that Hillary Clinton, if she were president, would put up," he declared.  Given that two of the sitting justices are 80 or older, and another is 78, there is a strong possibility that the next president will have more than one high court opening to fill.  The current court has been operating with just eight members since last February when Justice Antonin Scalia died unexpectedly.  Republicans have refused since then to confirm President Obama's nominee, Judge Merrick Garland, on grounds that filling the slot should be left to the next president.  Nina Totenberg  ttp://  See update to Supreme Court nominee story at

President Barack Obama's final State Dinner October 18, 2016 was a swirl of dolce vita diplomacy, Italian designer gowns and plates of Mario Batali pasta easing a bittersweet end to one of the presidency's best perks.  The evening's chef, Mario Batali, said between preparation sessions on October 17 he was honored--but also anxious at the prospect of serving 500 guests in a temporary tent 200 yards from the White House kitchen.  "If there's one thing that I'm not going to sleep well about tonight, it's only going to be the hot plates," Batali said.  "I think I'll be shaking in my orange crocs tomorrow when it's about a half-hour before service."  In the end, the dinner was another "last" on a long list of final moments for the Obamas.  Speaking during his toast Tuesday, Obama said he was reminded of his visit to the Colosseum in Rome in 2014.  "It was late in the day, it was quiet, the sun was going down, and as I walked across those ancient stones worn by the history of 2,000 years, it was a humbling reminder of our place here on earth," he said.  "In the grand sweep of time, each of us is here only for a brief moment. So many of the things that we focus on each day, the political ups and downs, the successes and the setbacks, those things are fleeting."  "What matters in the end is what we build," he said.  "What matters is what we leave behind."  Kevin Liptac  Read more and see pictures at  Issue 1539  October 19, 2016  On this date in 1789, John Jay was sworn in as the first Chief Justice of the United States.  On this date in 1900, Max Planck discovered the law of black-body radiation (Planck's law).  Word of the Day  Pullman  noun   1.  A railroad passenger car; especially one of the luxurious ones named after the eponymous Pullman Palace Car Company.  2.  A train made up of Pullman coaches (American engineer and industrialist George Pullman, who founded the Pullman Palace Car Company, died on October 19, 1897.)