Friday, December 30, 2016

The Palestra, often called the Cathedral of College Basketball, is a historic arena and the home gym of the University of Pennsylvania Quakers men's and women's basketball teams, volleyball teams, wrestling team, and Philadelphia Big 5 basketball.  Located at 235 South 33rd St. in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on the campus of the University of Pennsylvania, near Franklin Field in the University City section of Philadelphia, it opened on January 1, 1927.  The Palestra has been called "the most important building in the history of college basketball" and "changed the entire history of the sport for which it was built."  The arena originally seated about 10,000, but now seats 8,725 for basketball.  The Palestra is famed for its close-to-the-court seating with the bleachers ending at the floor with no barrier to separate the fans from the game.  Since its inception, the Palestra has hosted more games, more visiting teams, and more NCAA tournaments than any other facility in college basketball.  The building was completed in 1927 and named by Greek professor William N. Bates after the ancient Greek term palæstra, a rectangular enclosure attached to a gymnasium where athletes would compete in various sports in front of an audience.  Penn's Palestra was built adjacent to and today is connected to Hutchinson Gymnasium.  The Palestra hosted its first basketball game on January 1, 1927.  Pennsylvania defeated Yale 26-15 before a capacity crowd of 10,000, then the largest crowd ever to attend a basketball game on the East Coast.

Although the spelling of sojurn confuses many people into thinking it means “journey,” a sojourn is actually a temporary stay in one place.  If you’re constantly on the move, you’re not engaged in a sojourn.  A sojourn is an impermanent stay reached by journey, or a period of temporary residence. (The words sojourn and journey are cognate through their roots in the French word jour, meaning "day".)

A journal (through French from Latin diurnalis, daily) has several related meanings:  (1)  a daily record of events or business; (2)  a private journal is usually referred to as a diary; and (3)  a newspaper or other periodical, in the literal sense of one published each day.  Many publications issued at stated intervals, such as academic journals (including scientific journals), or the record of the transactions of a society, are often called journals.  In academic use, a journal refers to a serious, scholarly publication that is peer-reviewed.  A non-scholarly magazine written for an educated audience about an industry or an area of professional activity is usually called a trade magazine.

Response to the article Artificial intelligence and Your Career--a Lighthearted Look:  The internet is great for quick answers and general information, but if you’re wanting something more in-depth and credible, you aren’t going to get it for free, and that’s where the library comes in.  With all the misleading info on the internet, it would be a nightmare if the only info we had access to was the free stuff on the internet.  Perrysburg, Ohio librarian

The English language is filled with metaphors, similes, and idioms, and many of them revolve around food and the act of eating.  Examples:  Comparing apples to oranges, rotten to the core, an apple a day keeps the doctor away, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, go bananas, sour grapes, pie in the sky, one smart cookie, a piece of cake, eat humble pie, that’s the way the cookie crumbles, tough cookie, you’re toast, flat as a pancake, nuts about something, hard nut to crack, in a nutshell, work for peanuts, cool as a cucumber, two peas in a pod, in a pickle.  Find many more food figures of speech at Maya Rook's blog, A Slice of Earthly Delight.

"We shall never achieve harmony with land, any more than we shall achieve absolute justice or liberty for people. In these higher aspirations the important thing is not to achieve, but to strive."  - Aldo Leopold (born in Iowa in 1887)  Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve was established in 1996.  It is the only unit of the National Park System dedicated to the rich natural and cultural history of the tallgrass prairie ecosystem.  This 10,894 acre portion of the once vast tallgrass prairie is being preserved as a critical resource for the benefit, education, and enjoyment of this and future generations. It is a unique private/public partnership between the National Park Service (the primary land manager) and The Nature Conservancy (the primary landowner).  Tallgrass prairie once covered more than 170 million acres of the United States, from Indiana to Kansas and from Canada to Texas.  Nearly all of it is gone, plowed under for agriculture or urban development.  An ancient past survives in the irreplaceable Flint Hills tallgrass.  In prehistory, what is now a sea of grass, was once a shallow sea of water.  Two hundred to 300 million years ago the gray and white rock limestone and steel tough chert commonly called "flint" began to form from this Permian Sea floor and the famous Flint Hills geology.  The result was shallow, rocky land considered unsuitable for plowing but excellent for pasture.  The natural prairie cycle of weather, fires, and animal grazing--once bison, now cattle--has sustained the tallgrass prairie and its diverse plant and animal species ever since.  Now you can find over 500 species of plants, nearly 150 species of birds, 39 species of reptiles and amphibians, and 31 species of mammals.

Copyright is Not Inevitable, Divine, or Natural Right by Ken Sawdon   In September 2016 an important copyright lawsuit was settled in India that helps students and allows academia to continue to provide education for the majority of people.  In 2012, a few large textbook publishers had brought a photocopying service and Delhi University to court over the practice of creating unlicensed coursepacks and allowing students to photocopy portions of textbooks used in their classes.  The Delhi High Court dismissed the case and held that coursepacks and photocopies of chapters from textbooks are not infringing copyright, whether created by the university or a third-party contractor, and do not require a license or permission.  Beyond the immense benefits to students and academics, the ruling had some interesting wording that gained attention online.  Unlicensed custom coursepacks are not covered under fair use in the U.S., but they are in India.  The case was brought to the courts by Oxford University Press, Cambridge University Press, and Taylor & Francis against the Rameshwari Photocopying Service—a business that provides booklets based on course syllabi—and Delhi University.  It started in 2012 when the courts restrained the photocopier from creating copies of academic resources.  “But Delhi University supported the photocopiers, saying the use of reproduced copyrighted books by [students were] ‘reasonable educational needs’ and should not be treated as infringement.  Students also rallied behind the kiosk, saying most of the books were too expensive,” according to the Hindustan Times.  The university pointed to the existing copyright exceptions and the fact that the materials were clearly being used for educational purposes, not meant for commercial exploitation.  Read more at

December 1, 2016  The tally of law blogs in our directory has topped 4,000.  Sarah Mui and Lee Rawles present the 10th Annual Blawg 100 list from the American Bar Association.

The celebration of the new year on January 1st is a relatively new phenomenon.  The earliest recording of a new year celebration is believed to have been in Mesopotamia, c. 2000 B.C. and was celebrated around the time of the vernal equinox, in mid-March.  In 567 the Council of Tours abolished January 1 as the beginning of the year.  In 1582 the Gregorian calendar reform restored January 1 as new year's day.  Although most Catholic countries adopted the Gregorian calendar almost immediately, it was only gradually adopted among Protestant countries.  The British, for example, did not adopt the reformed calendar until 1752.  Until then, the British Empire—and their American colonies—still celebrated the new year in March.  Borgna Brunner

On December 31, 2016, a “leap second” will be added to the world’s clocks at 23 hours, 59 minutes and 59 seconds Coordinated Universal Time (UTC).  This corresponds to 6:59:59 pm Eastern Standard Time, when the extra second will be inserted at the U.S. Naval Observatory’s Master Clock Facility in Washington, DC.  Read press release at  Issue 1671  December 30, 2016  On this date in 1678, William Croft, English organist and composer, was born.  On this date in 1952, June Anderson, American soprano and actress, was born.  Thought for the Day  The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there. - opening line of the 1953 novel The Go-Between by L.P. Hartley (30 Dec 1895-1972)

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Hither and yon means:  Here and there; to this place and that place.  Origin:  'Hither and yon' is an old English expression meaning 'here and there' or 'to and fro'.  There have been several variants of 'thither' over the years - 'dider', 'thyder', 'thether' and now 'there'.  'Yon', which is of course a contraction of 'yonder', has a life all of its own.  Here's how those various words have been put together over time to mean 'here and there' or 'to and fro':  - 1412 - 'Here and yonder' - John Lydgate's translation of the History of Troy.  - 1413 - 'Hyder and thyder' - recorded in the mediaeval manuscript The Pylgremage of the Sowle.  - 1837 - 'Hithering and thithering' - Jane Carlyle, in a letter to her husband Thomas.  This may seem to be the first example of 'hither and thither' in print but it appears that it was there being used to mean 'going to and fro in a confused manner' i.e. 'dithering'.  Thomas Carlyle also used the expression later in his own writing, but it wasn't widely adopted with that meaning.  Read more and find additional examples at

HOW THE NATIVES PRONOUNCE NAMES:  Boise  BOY-see  *  Nevada  Nih-VA-duh (almost rhymes with Nebraska)  *   Oregon  ORE-ih-gun  *  Cairo (Illinois) KEH-ro  Cairo (Georgia) KAY-ro Cairo (Egypt) KAI-ro  *  Lima (Ohio) LYE-ma  Lima (Peru) LEE-ma

One of the most widely appreciated and imitated writers of light verse, Frediric Ogden Nash was born in Rye, New York, on August 19, 1902, to Edmund Strudwick and Mattie Nash.  He came from a distinguished family; the city of Nashville, Tennessee, was named in honor of one of his forbearers.  Nash attended Harvard College, but dropped out after only one year.  He worked briefly on Wall Street, and as a schoolteacher, before becoming a copywriter.  In 1925, he took a job in the marketing department with the publishing house Doubleday.  Nash’s first published poems began to appear in the New Yorker around 1930.  His first collection of poems, Hard Lines (Simon & Schuster), was published in 1931.  The book was a tremendous success; it went into seven printings in its first year alone, and Nash quit his job with Doubleday.  Nash worked briefly for the New Yorker in 1932, before deciding to devote himself full-time to his verse.  Nash considered himself a “worsifier.”  Among his best known lines are “Candy / Is dandy, / But liquor / Is quicker” and “If called by a panther / Don’t anther.”

The Republic of Seychelles is a small island nation consisting of an archipelago of 115 islands in the Indian Ocean off the eastern coast of Africa.  The natural environment of Seychelles is a stunningly beautiful topical paradise, with crystal clear blue water and pristine white sand beaches.  The economy of Seychelles is largely dependent on preserving a healthy natural environment for tourism purposes and to maintain sustainable fisheries, and the Seychellois people are deeply interconnected with the wild nature of the island ecosystems in their every day lives.  The Seychelles government has therefore taken significant action to establish a nation that is committed to preserving and protecting its natural environment by enacting policies that protect more than half of the nation’s total terrestrial land area and 30% of its marine territory by law.  The government of Seychelles has demonstrated its dedication to conserving and protecting its natural environment by enacting laws and policies that work to ensure the long-term vitality and preservation of its wild nature.  The Constitution of the Republic of Seychelles, which was enacted in 1993, guarantees its citizens the right to a clean environment, and at the same time also obliges its citizens to work to protect the Seychelles’ natural environment.  Article 38 of the Constitution of Seychelles states that it is “the right of every person to live in and enjoy a clean, healthy, and ecologically balanced environment,” and that that the state undertakes the responsibility of taking measures to protect, preserve, and improve the environment and to ensure the judicious and sustainable usage and management of Seychelles’ natural resources.  Article 40 of the Constitution of Seychelles dictates that “it shall be the duty of every citizen of Seychelles to protect, preserve, and improve the environment.”  The language incorporated into Seychelles’ Constitution establishes its commitment to preserving its environment, and it has furthered this dedication set forth in the Constitution by enacting several policies to ensure the long-term preservation of its wild nature.  In July of 2011, the Seychelles government announced its intention to declare several new protected areas in the archipelago, resulting in over half (50.59%) of its total land area becoming protected by law.  In addition to protecting its terrestrial land area, Seychelles has also demonstrated a significant dedication to protecting its marine environment as well.  Seychelles has created fourteen Marine Protected Areas covering 30% of the nation’s total marine territory, with 15% of the total marine environment being designated as no-take areas.  Read more and see pictures at

A Muse reader has asked for a list of favorite books I read during 2016.  I read about 50 books a year, many from the public library (the largest supplier of books in the U.S.).  I may choose books from reviews, best-seller lists, by author--or recommended by reviewers or friends.  Sometimes I choose books for no reason.  My list for 2016:  Underworld by Don DeLillo, The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery,  The Gods of Guilt by Michael Connelly, Visitors by Anita Brookner, Silence by Thomas Perry, Murder One by Robert Dugoni, Vineland by Thomas Pynchon, and You Should Pity Us Instead by Amy Gustine.

It’s nearly the end of the year, which means it must be time to collect and review the various Word of the Year (WOTY) nominees and “winners” for 2016.  Oxford Dictionaries this year, as in most years, made an odd choice.  Oxford’s selection was “post-truth,” an adjective they define as “relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.”  That barely begins to capture what this phrase means and how it’s used.  Oxford hopes each year’s WOTY “captures the ethos, mood, or preoccupations” of the year just past.  That applies well to post-truth.  They note that the use of post-truth increased by over 2000% from 2015, which is data but not necessarily useful data.  Post-truth had not even registered with me prior to Oxford’s selection of it and I’m not completely behind this one.  The choice seems contrived, as if they went out of their way to find a word they could broadly apply to the politics of the past year, even if it wasn’t heavily used.  And their mainstreaming of this term seems to go in the opposite direction of their intent.  Elevating it doesn’t highlight or address the problem of post-truth:  it normalizes it and trivializes it.  Oxford had several better candidates on their short list, with adulting and alt-right being the best.  Both terms crossed my desk much more than post-truth, in many different contexts.  As with post-truth, their proposed definition of alt-right is far too watered down. T hey also included a new popular definition of woke, showing that they might be more tuned into the culture than they sometimes get credit for.  The Australian National Dictionary Centre chose “democracy sausage.”  Which, it turns out, is an actual food item, and not the metaphor you might have expected.  Those crazy Aussies.  Read all about it at     Christopher Daly  Read much more at

Paraphrase from For Better or Worse comic strip on December 26, 2016  Does your doll work on batteries?  Nope.  On imagination.

Watership Down author Richard Adams dies aged 96 on December 24, 2016   Watership Down, a children's classic about a group of rabbits in search of a new home after their warren was destroyed, was first published in 1972.  Adams was 52 when he wrote it.  It went on to become a best-seller, with tens of millions of copies bought around the world.  Watership Down was made into a film version in 1978 and enjoyed huge success, but was notoriously frightening for young children, with its graphic, apocalyptic scenes of impending doom.  The film's theme song Bright Eyes, sung by Art Garfunkel, spent six weeks at the top of the UK charts the following year.  The event that changed Richard Adams' life occurred on a car journey with his family to see Twelfth Night at Stratford-upon-Avon.  His bored children asked for a story and he began telling them a tale about a group of rabbits attempting to escape from their threatened warren.  Adams was persuaded to write it all down, a process that took him more than two years, but he was, at first, unable to find a publisher.  Many of his rejection letters complained that the book was too long and his characters did not fit the common perception of cuddly bunnies.  Eventually, in 1972, after 14 rejections, the publisher Rex Collings saw the potential and agreed to take it on with an initial print run of 2,500 copies.  A new animated series of the book, co-produced by the BBC and Netflix, is due to be aired in 2017 with four hour-long episodes.  Read more and see pictures at  Issue 1670  December 28, 2016  On this date in 1895, Wilhelm Röntgen published a paper detailing his discovery of a new type of radiation, which later will be known as x-rays.  On this date in 1902, the Syracuse Athletic Club defeated the New York Philadelphians, 5–0, in the first indoor professional football game, which was held at Madison Square Garden.

Monday, December 26, 2016

The 6 greatest A Christmas Carol adaptations by Robert Keeling   Charles Dickens’ tale was his reaction to the relatively new issue of urban poverty and was a warning against cold-hearted attitudes towards the problem.  Read descriptions of the author's favorite A Christmas Carol films from 1938, 1951, 1971, 1983, 1984 and 1992 at

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From:  Denny Beck  Subject:  Crepuscular  In the 1950s a small library on wheels called a bookmobile visited our grade school monthly.  Because our home was in a small enclave surrounded by undeveloped fields and forests, I became fascinated with nature, including the sky.  I eventually read every bookmobile book about astronomy and meteorology.  That’s how I learned crepuscular rays were those inspirational rays beaming down from clouds like a scene from a Renaissance painting.  Anti-crepuscular rays beam up.
From:  Gordon Tully  Subject:  Crepuscular  The terms for times around sunrise and sunset never fail to confuse me.  There are three twilights:  civil, nautical and astronomical, in which the sun is 6, 12, and 18 degrees below the horizon respectively.
From:  Buddy Gill  Subject:  degustation  The word degustation reminds me of the Latin adage “De gustibus non est disputandum”, which my mother explained with the wellerism:  “Everyone to his own taste, as the old lady said when she kissed the cow.”

wellerism  (WEL-uh-ri-zuhm)  noun  An expression involving a familiar proverb or quotation and its facetious sequel.  It usually comprises three parts:  statement, speaker, situation.  Examples:  "We'll have to rehearse that," said the undertaker as the coffin fell out of the car.  "Prevention is better than cure," said the pig when it ran away from the butcher.  After Sam Weller and his father, characters known for such utterances in Charles Dickens's novel Pickwick Papers.  Earliest documented use:  1839.

Humblebrags have probably existed for a while, but we know to call them that only because of Harris Wittels.  Wittels, a comedian, writes for NBC comedy Parks and Recreation.  Wittels’s coinage has evolved into a sociological achievement:  It bridges the gap between bragging and false modesty.  The humblebrag is even real enough to crop up in fiction.  In Tom Rachman’s novel The Imperfectionists, a cub reporter picks up an egomaniacal older journalist, Snyder, at a Cairo airport:  “Wicked to be back in the Mideast,” Snyder says.  “I am so exhausted, you have no idea.  Just got back from the AIDS conf.”  “The AIDS what?”  “The AIDS conference in Bucharest.  It’s so dumb—I hate getting awards.  And journalism is not a competition.  It’s not about that, you know.  But whatever."  If you made a Venn diagram of self-promotion, the phenomenon of humblebragging sits in the overlap of two distinctly American pathologies—where manipulative self-consciousness meets our maniacal desire to succeed. What feels better than an ego boost?  An ego boost everyone knows about.

Read extensive articles and see beautiful pictures of bookstores:  Guide for Bookstore Pilgrims by Ann Patchett at  and Temples for the Literary Pilgrim by The New York Times at

It was my first dinner party in France and I was chatting with a Parisian couple.  All was well until I asked what I thought was a perfectly innocent question:  “How did the two of you meet?”  My husband Eric (who is French) shot me a look of horror.  When we got home he explained:  “We don’t ask that type of question to strangers in France.  It’s like asking them the color of their underpants.”  It’s a classic mistake.  One of the first things you notice when arriving in a new culture is that the rules about what information is and is not appropriate to ask and share with strangers are different.  Understanding those rules, however, is a prerequisite for succeeding in that new culture; simply applying your own rules gets you into hot water pretty quickly.  A good way to prepare is to ask yourself whether the new culture is a “peach” or a “coconut”.  This is a distinction drawn by culture experts Fons Trompenaars and Charles Hampden-Turner.  In peach cultures like the USA or Brazil people tend to be friendly (“soft”) with new acquaintances.  They smile frequently at strangers, move quickly to first-name usage, share information about themselves, and ask personal questions of those they hardly know.  But after a little friendly interaction with a peach, you may suddenly get to the hard shell of the pit where the peach protects his real self and the relationship suddenly stops.  In coconut cultures such Russia and Germany, people are initially more closed off from those they don’t have friendships with.  They rarely smile at strangers, ask casual acquaintances personal questions, or offer personal information to those they don’t know intimately.  But over time, as coconuts get to know you, they become gradually warmer and friendlier.  And while relationships are built up slowly, they also tend to last longer.  Coming from a peach culture as I do, I was taken aback when I came to live in Europe 14 years ago.  My friendly smiles and personal comments were greeted with cold formality by the Polish, French, German, or Russian colleagues I was getting to know.  I took their stony expressions as signs of arrogance, snobbishness, and even hostility.  So what do you do if, like me, you’re a peach fallen amongst coconuts?  Authenticity matters; if you try to be someone you’re not, it never works.  So go ahead and smile all you want and share as much information about your family as you like.  Just don’t ask personal questions of your counterparts until they bring up the subject themselves.  Erin Meyer

In reading a novel set in 1930, "head honcho" and Reader's Digest Condensed Books were mentioned.  However, honcho was not used until the 1940s by Americans, and the condensed books produced by Reader's Digest started in 1950.

The Reader's Digest Association, Inc. is a worldwide publisher and distributor of magazines, books, recorded music, and home video packages, which are sold through a variety of distribution channels, including direct mail, display marketing, direct response television, catalogs, retail, and the Internet.  Its major publication is the monthly general-interest magazine Reader's Digest, which is the world's most widely read magazine with a global readership of more than 100 million, and is available in 48 editions and 19 languages.  The company also publishes numerous special-interest magazines and books that include do-it-yourself, cooking, health, gardening, and children's titles.  To market its many products, the Reader's Digest Association uses an extensive consumer database that is considered to be one of the largest in the world.  The first edition of Reader's Digest was dated February 1922, and contained 64 pages.  Its small measurements, about 5.5 inches by 7.5 inches, allowed readers to carry it in a pocket or purse and was a unique innovation among magazines at the time.  The lead article was by Alexander Graham Bell and was on the importance of self-education as a lifelong habit.  DeWitt Wallace spent much of the magazine's first year in the New York Public Library reading articles to summarize in future issues, while Lila Wallace kept her job.  The first edition was judged to be a success when there were no cancellations of subscriptions after its release.  By September 1922, the couple was able to rent a garage and apartment for their editorial offices, choosing to live in Pleasantville, New York, where they had been married in 1921.  Additional promotional letters brought in new subscribers, and within a year of its first edition, circulation had risen to 7,000.  After four years, circulation was up to 20,000, and by 1929 it had risen to an astounding 216,000 subscribers.  Read much more at

The Oxford English Dictionary defines a "honcho" as "[o]riginally, the leader of a small group or squad; hence, anyone in charge in any situation; the 'boss.' "  Merriam-Webster goes a bit further into the etymology of the word, noting that it comes from the Japanese word "han" (which means squad) and chō (which is defined as head or chief).  According to Fighting Talk: The Military Origins of Everyday Words and Phrases, the Japanese army would call squad leaders or sergeants in the army "hon-cho."  The first published references to the word came in 1947, when New Zealand-born journalist James M. Bertram used it in his book The Shadow of a War:  A New Zealander in the Far East, 1939-1946.  While Bertram's memoir was written in 1947, there are several indications that the word "honcho" had been used by soldiers and other military personnel for years before that.  Lakshmi Gandhi  See also

LexisNexis® announced on December 20, 2016 that it will retire its online legal research service,®, changing U.S. legal professionals to the company’s Lexis Advance® solution.  Issue 1669  December 26, 2016  On this date in 1898, Marie and Pierre Curie announced the isolation of radium.  On this date in 1963, the Beatles' "I Want to Hold Your Hand" and "I Saw Her Standing There" were released in the United States, marking the beginning of Beatlemania on an international level.  Word of the Day  Boxing Day  noun  The day after Christmas; the 26th of December.

Friday, December 23, 2016

Samuel Hopkins Adams (1871–1958) was an American writer, best known for his investigative journalism and muckraking.  From 1891 to 1900, he was a reporter for the New York Sun where his career began, and then joined McClure's Magazine, where he gained a reputation as a muckraker for his articles on the conditions of public health in the United States.  Adams considered himself a freelance writer and used his writings to support himself.  In 1905 Adams was hired by Collier's to prepared articles on patent medicines.  In a series of 11 articles he wrote for the magazine in 1905, "The Great American Fraud", Adams exposed many of the false claims made about patent medicines, pointing out that in some cases these medicines were damaging the health of the people using them.  The series had a huge impact and led to the passage of the Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906.  Adams was a prolific writer, who wrote fiction as well. "Night Bus", one of Adams's many magazine stories, became the basis for the film It Happened One Night.  Adams's first solo novel was in 1908, Flying Death, which added to his mystery collection.  His best-known novel, Revelry (1926), based on the scandals of the Harding administration, was later followed by Incredible Era (1939), a biography of Harding.  Among his other works are The Mystery (1907), with S. E. White, Average Jones (1911), The Secret of Lonesome Cove (1912), The Health Master (1913), The Clarion(1914), The Unspeakable Perk (1916), Our Square and the People in It (1917), Success (1921), Siege (1924), The Gorgeous Hussy (1934), Maiden Effort (1937), The Harvey Girls (1942; adapted into the 1946 movie musical starring Judy Garland), Canal Town (1944), Plunder (1948), Grandfather Stories (1955).  In addition to his many books, Adams also wrote 415 short stories and articles.  Adams last book, Tenderloin (1959), was a novel about his newspaper days and was published after his death. This novel was later made into a Broadway musical.

The Harvey Girls is a 1946 MGM musical film based on the 1942 novel of the same name by Samuel Hopkins Adams, about Fred Harvey's famous Harvey House waitresses.   Directed by George Sidney, the film stars Judy Garland and features John Hodiak, Ray Bolger, and Angela Lansbury, as well as Preston Foster, Virginia O'Brien, Kenny Baker, Marjorie Main and Chill Wills.  Future star Cyd Charisse appears in her first film speaking role on film.  The Harvey Girls won an Academy Award for Best Song for "On the Atchison, Topeka, and the Santa Fe", written by Harry Warren and Johnny Mercer.  The role of "Em" as originally intended to be played by Ann Sothern, but because of her personal problems, it went to Angela Lansbury, her fourth film role.  Despite Lansbury having a good voice, her voice was dubbed by Virginia Rees.  Byron Harvey Jr., the grandson of Fred Harvey of the Fred Harvey Company, had an uncredited role as a train conductor.  The Harvey Girls was the first re-union on film for Ray Bolger and Judy Garland since 1939's The Wizard of Oz

Ray Bolger in The Harvey Girls 1946  3:07

How the world's largest landfill became New York's biggest new park, by Karrie Jacobs   On Staten Island, 50 years of garbage has been transformed into a bucolic landscape.  As more rooftops start to double as farms and towers become artificial forests, it's clear that hybrid objects, those that are part manmade and part natural, are a hallmark of 21st century design.  Engineered Nature, a five-part series, explores the emergence of this new hybrid world.  The hill I’m standing on in East Park, one of five areas that will make up the completed park, is composed entirely of garbage, the municipal solid waste generated by the people of New York City for 53 years, from 1948 to 2001 . With my yogurt containers, my paper towels, and my Baggies—and the help of eight million fellow New Yorkers—I built this hill.  Fresh Kills ("Kill" comes from a Dutch word for waterway), by the time it was finally closed in 2001, was New York City’s last functioning landfill.  We now bury our garbage in neighboring states and haul some of it to a plant in New Jersey that burns it to generate power.  Read more, see pictures and link to the first four articles in the Engineered Nature series at

Demagogue has a very long history.  The word comes down to us nearly unaltered from the classical Greek dēmagōgos, usually translated as “leader of the people” (from dēmos, “people,” and agōgos or agein, “to lead”).  In its original sense—in Greek—the term was intended to give a label to someone who spoke for the people, usually with their support and acceptance.  This early use viewed a demagogue as a voice of the people, the person who stood up for the collective and expressed their opinions.  According to some sources, being a demagogue acquired negative connotations almost immediately.  This is essentially where the word stands today and has remained for the past couple of centuries.  Outside of historical descriptions, I suspect you’ll be hard pressed to find the word used with a neutral or positive intent.  Keeping in the vein of political science, Patricia Roberts-Miller, at the University of Texas at Austin, has done a tremendous amount of work analyzing what demagoguery (a 19th century expansion of the word and concept) really is and what it means for all of us.  You could spend hours, if not days, reading all of her thoughts on the subject, but a clear and simple place to start is this recent blog post  I find it extremely interesting how she unfolds modern demagoguery to show that it is, in essence, not an integral part of an inclusive and fair democracy but a dangerous threat to it.  Christopher Daly

Quotes from City of Saints, #1 in the Art Oveson mystery novels and winner of the 2011 Tony Hillerman Prize, by Andrew Hunt  “What you don't know about me could fill Fenway Park—and we might have to set aside part of Wrigley Field, too.”  "Ruffling feathers was his specialty . . . "  "Timidity visited me, poured himself a glass of milk, propped his feet on the ottoman, and made himself right at home."

Andrew Emerson Hunt (born 1968)  is a Professor of History at the University of Waterloo in Canada.   He is also the Director of the Tri-University Graduate Program in History.  Hunt was born in Calgary, Alberta.  He is a descendant of one of the founders of the University of Deseret (the original name of the University of Utah).  At age one he was relocated to the United States with his American parents E. K. Hunt and Linda Hunt.  Andrew Hunt was raised in California and Utah  Issue 1668  December 23, 2016  On this date in 1823, the Troy Sentinel printed Clement Clarke Moore’s “A Visit from St. Nicholas” between a piece on taking honey from the hive and a marriage announcement.  It was the first of many appearances in periodicals of what soon became a very popular poem.  In 1823, St. Nicholas calls to Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Dunder, and Blixem.  Various scholars have pointed out the similarities between “Dunder” and the Dutch word for “thunder”; and “Blixem” and “bliksem”—lightning.  More recent versions of the poem, however, have the last two named “Donder” and “Blitzen.”  See also Revisiting "A Visit from St. Nicholas" at  On this date in 1893, the opera Hansel and Gretel by Engelbert Humperdinck was first performed.  Quote of the Day  “Every noon as the clock hands arrive at twelve, I want to tie the two arms together, And walk out of the bank carrying time in bags.”  The Night Abraham Called to the Stars: Poems  (forty-eight poems written in the form called ghazal) Robert Bly poet (b. 23 Dec 1926)

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Plum pudding is a steamed or boiled pudding frequently served at holiday times.  Plum pudding has never contained plums.  Why is Plum Pudding called Plum Pudding when there are no plums in it?  In the 17th century, plums referred to raisins or other fruits.  Plumb is another spelling of plum.  Prune is actually derived from the same word as plum--the Latin word was pruna, which changed in the Germanic languages into pluma.  But the terms were quite confused in the 16th and 17th centuries and people talked about growing prunes in their garden.  Find recipes for plum pudding and nutmeg sauce at

Charlotte Perkins Gilman wrote in a variety of genres, including "The Yellow Wallpaper," a short story highlighting the "rest cure" for women in the 19th century; Woman and Economics, a sociological analysis of women's place; and Herland, a feminist utopia novel.  Charlotte Perkins Gilman wrote in favor of equality between men and women. 

Founded sometime before 1100 A.D., Timbuktu quickly grew from a seasonal camp for storing salt and other goods to a major center for caravan trade.  Travelers coming from the west brought gold to trade for salt from mines to the east.  Some of these travelers chose to make the location their permanent dwelling, and before long the town became a city.  By the early 1300s, Timbuktu belonged to the Empire of Mali and was truly prospering.  During this period, Europe was awash in rumors of Timbuktu’s seemingly endless wealth and resources.  It’s said that, in 1324, Mali’s sultan, Mansa Moussa, made a pilgrimage to Mecca with 60,000 slaves and servants and so much gold that, during his visit to Cairo, the price of the precious metal dropped precipitously.  Arabic explorer Ibn Battuta visited the famed city 30 years later, and his descriptions of the bustling metropolis stoked the flames of European imagination.  While Europeans struggled with a minor ice age and the bubonic plague, they dreamt of streets lined with gold in Timbuktu.  The city was a sort of African El Dorado, hidden somewhere south of the Sahara.  It wasn’t until the late 15th century, however, that Timbuktu experienced its “Golden Age.”  But it was books, not gold bars, that brought Timbuktu its prosperity.  Hundreds of scholars studied at the nearly 200 maktabs (Quranic schools).  These scholars worked as scribes, thus increasing the number of manuscripts in the city.  (You can browse through digital versions of some of the manuscripts here.)  Visiting strangers were treated like royalty in hopes that they’d share their knowledge and books with Timbuktu’s scholars.  As California State University’s Brent Singleton, wrote:  “the acquisition of books is mentioned more often than any other display of wealth, including the building and refurbishment of mosques” in texts from the era.  Timbuktu was one of the world’s great centers of learning.  Never had African Muslims seen a better time to be a scholar (or a librarian).  But when Moroccan troops seized control of the city in 1591, it began a long decline that pitted Timbuktu’s historic reputation against its increasingly depressing condition.  All the while, European explorers, their imaginations fired by Romanticism and lyrical poets (including Alfred Tennyson, who won a Cambridge poetry contest for his poem about Timbuktu), were making the dangerous trek into Africa in search of the mysterious city.

Journey to Mali:  1350-1351 by Ibn Battuta  Read about Battuta's trip, see many graphics and link to a BBC documentary, The Lost Libraries of Timbuktu, at

The Race to Save Mali’s Priceless Artifacts:  When jihadists overran Timbuktu last year, residents mounted a secret operation to evacuate the town’s irreplaceable medieval manuscripts by Joshua Hammer  Smithsonian Magazine  January 2014  Read the riveting story at and borrow the book, The Bad-Ass Librarians of Timbuktu, from a public library.  (It took me four months to get the book through interlibrary loan, but it was worth the wait.) 

Cyclone—the word has struck dread in the hearts of many facing its fury.  For others, it means only a swirl of counterclockwise winds around a low pressure center.  It first surfaced in the Indian city of Calcutta from the mind of an Englishman.  While serving as President of the Marine Court of Calcutta, Henry Piddington, a former sea captain, studied the stormy weather of the Indian Ocean.  He had particularly focused on the devastating tropical storm of December 1789 that inundated the coastal town of Coringa with three monstrous storm waves that killed more than 20,000.  In a presentation to the Asiatic Society of Bengal around 1840, Piddington described that 1789 storm as a "cyclone," a term derived from the Greek word "kyklon" which means moving in a circle, like the "coil of the snake." Piddington introduced the word to mariners in his 1848 book The Sailor's Horn-Book for the Law of Storms whose purpose was to explain to seaman the theory and practical use of the Law of Storms.  "I suggest that we might, for all this last class of circular or highly curved winds, adopt the term 'Cyclone' from the Greek kyklos (which signifies amongst other things the coil of a snake) as expressing sufficiently the tendency to circular motion in these meteors."  In the book, he warned sailors that the storms in the Bay of Bengal blew with consistently-changing, counterclockwise winds.  The book included transparent storm cards with wind arrows for use by the captain to chart a course toward safer waters by sailing with the wind and then out of harm's way.  The term gained wide acceptance, then received a broader usage.  By 1856, the term was used to describe the storms we now call tornadoes:  the Kansas Cyclone of Wizard of Oz fame.  In many parts of the Midwest, tornado shelters are still called cyclone cellars.  In 1875, the international meteorological community adopted the term to describe a low pressure system with counterclockwise wind field.  Today, only tropical storms of the Indian Ocean are still called Cyclones.

The Worst Hurricanes In Terms of Loss of Life In the United States  The Great Galveston Hurricane  September 8, 1900  This unnamed hurricane caused the greatest loss of life of any Hurricane in recorded US history.  First tracked in Cuba as a tropical storm on Sept. 3, it hit Galveston as a Category 4 Hurricane.  An estimated 6,000–12,000 people died as storm tides of eight to 15 feet washed over the barrier island.  The tragedy was documented in the book, Isaac’s Storm.  Read about the deadliest hurricanes in the United States and around the world at

Isaac's Storm:  A Man, a Time, and the Deadliest Hurricane in History by Eric Larson   In 1627, German mathematician Joseph Furtenbach aimed a loaded cannon in the sky to prove Galileo's theory that the earth rotated on a fixed axis.  He fired the cannon--and when it fell to earth--the ball descended to the west of Furtenbach and the muzzle. **  In 1899, a blizzard swept much of the South.  Icebergs ten feet high flowed down the Mississippi.  **   The undersea landscape, or bathymetry, of Galveston Bay is similar to that of the Bay of Bengal.  **  Hurricanes use wind to harvest moisture and deliver it their centers.  **  In the hurricane of 1900, the wind blew the water out of Galveston Bay and into the city.  **

Imagine the special people in your life waking up on Christmas morning (or another winter holiday) to find a gift-wrapped book on their bed!  Be a part of this special holiday book tradition.  How it’s done:   (1)  Select a book.  It can be a new book, a donated book, or a cherished book that is handed down from one generation to the next with a heartfelt inscription.  (2)  Wrap it.  A gift carefully wrapped, holds the mystery of what story or adventure is waiting to be discovered, and presents the book as the special gift it is!  (3)  Place the book at the foot of a child’s bed.

December solstice ‎(usually uncountable, plural December solstices)
(astronomy)  The moment when the sun reaches the southernmost point of the sky, occurring on December 21–22.  That would be winter solstice in the northern hemisphere and summer solstice in the southern hemisphere.  Issue 1667  December 21, 2016  On this date in 1879, the world premiere of Henrik Ibsen's A Doll's House took place at the Royal Theatre in Copenhagen, Denmark.  On this date in 1937, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, the world's first full-length animated feature, premiered at the Carthay Circle Theatre.  Word of the Day  glitten  noun  A cross between a glove and a mitten, often in the form of a fingerless glove with an attached mitten-like flap that can be used to cover the fingers.