Friday, September 28, 2018

In Napoleon’s entourage a young man from Grenoble, Marie-Henri Beyle, known through his writing as Stendhal, earned his spurs.  He made his first acquaintance with Italy in 1800, when he crossed as a dragoon with the army of liberation over the Grand Saint-Bernard pass to fight the Austrians, and it was to remain his country of predilection.  And he ‘fell’, as he put it, with Napoleon in 1814.  After the Treaty of Fontainebleau, he settled for a while in Milan, and later in life was to be French consul at Trieste (then run by Austria) and Civitavecchia.  Many of his greatest books are set in Italy, including his autobiography The Life of Henry Brulard (Brulard was one of his many aliases), which opens with the writer looking out from the Janiculum Hill with ‘the whole of Rome . . . from the ancient Appian Way with the ruins of its tombs and aqueducts to the magnificent garden of the Pincio, built by the French, spread out before [him].’  He travelled widely, briefly visited Spain, spent 2 years as a quartermaster in northern Germany (whence his pen-name) and of course was in Russia with the Grande Armée, on a journey to Moscow and back that turned into a horrendous saga of frostbite and starvation.  He visited London three times, and even contributed articles to English-language journals on the cultural life of Paris.  Stendhal liked to pepper his French with anglicisms, and was one of the first writers to popularise the use of the word ‘tourist’ in French.  It was on one of his visits to Italy in 1817 that Stendhal described an experience that brought the literary swoon into tourism.  Visiting the Basilica of Santa Croce, he found a monk to let him into the chapel where he could sit on a genuflecting stool, tilt his head back and take in the prospect of Volterrano’s fresco of the Sibyls without interruption.  The pleasure was keen.  ‘I was already in a kind of ecstasy,’ he writes, ‘by the idea of being in Florence, and the proximity of the great men whose tombs I had just seen.  Absorbed in contemplating sublime beauty, I saw it close-up—I touched it, so to speak.  I had reached that point of emotion where the heavenly sensations of the fine arts meet passionate feeling.  As I emerged from Santa Croce, I had palpitations (what they call an attack of the nerves in Berlin); the life went out of me, and I walked in fear of falling.’  It was something he had observed about himself: ‘when a thought takes too strong a hold of me,’ he writes in his autobiography, ‘I fall down.’  There were to be many cases resembling Stendhal’s experience in the 19th-century—the hypersensitive Marcel Proust had constant attacks of the vapours (and asthma) writing his novel In Search of Lost Time,and Dostoevsky is known to have become terribly agitated when he saw the famous painting of the dead Christ by Hans Holbein in Basle (and made his pregnant wife fear he was going to have one of his epileptic fits).  The German poet Rainer Maria Rilke wrote in his first Duino Elegy:  ‘beauty is nothing but the beginning of terror, which we are still just able to endure, and we are so awed because it serenely disdains to annihilate us.’  Philosophers were getting in on the act too.  Immanuel Kant, in his Critique of Judgement, hypothesised that the contemplation of aesthetically stimulating objects induces ‘a rapidly alternating repulsion and attraction produced by one and the same object.  The point of excess for the imagination . . . is like an abyss in which it fears to lose itself.’  Kant’s ideas were further developed in the 19th-century, when aesthetics abandoned the classical idea of imitation and took on the idea that contemplating an object might be a self-activity experienced as an attribute of the object.  This kind of involuntary emotional projection was called Einfühlung:  it is the German word that was brought into English as ‘empathy’.  Iain Bamforth

Stendhal, pseudonym of Marie-Henri Beyle, (born January 23, 1783, Grenoble, France—died March 23, 1842, Paris), one of the most original and complex French writers of the first half of the 19th century, chiefly known for his works of fiction.  His finest novels are Le Rouge et le noir (1830; The Red and the Black) and La Chartreuse de Parme (1839; The Charterhouse of Parma).  Stendhal is only one of the many pseudonyms Henri Beyle adopted.  As a student he grew interested in literature and mathematics. In 1799 he left for Paris, ostensibly to prepare for the entrance examination to the École Polytechnique, but in reality to escape from Grenoble and from paternal rule.  His secret ambition on arriving in Paris was to become a successful playwright.  But some highly placed relatives of his, the Darus, obtained an appointment for him as second lieutenant in the French military forces stationed in Italy.  This led him to discover PiedmontLombardy, and the delights of Milan.  The culture and landscape of Italy were the revelation that was to play a psychologically and thematically determining role in his life and works.  In 1802 the 19-year-old Henri Beyle was back in Paris and at work on a number of literary projects, none of which he completed.  During Stendhal’s lifetime, his reputation was largely based on his books dealing with the arts and with tourism (a term he helped introduce in France), and on his political writings and conversational wit.  The uncompleted Lucien Leuwen (1894) is perhaps the most autobiographical of Stendhal’s novels.  The Charterhouse of Parma is Stendhal’s other masterpiece.  It fuses elements of Renaissance chronicles, fictional and historical sources, recent historical events (the Napoleonic regime in Italy, the Battle of Waterloo, the Austrian occupation of Milan), and an imaginative, almost dreamlike transposition of contemporary reality into fictional terms.  The novelist Honoré de Balzac, in a famous article on The Charterhouse of Parma published in La Revue parisienne in 1840, was the only one to recognize his genius as a novelist.  Stendhal’s literary fame came late in the 19th century, and this posthumous fame has steadily grown since then, largely because of the devotion of “Beylistes” or “Stendhalians” who have made of him a true cult.  Stendhal has now come to be recognized as one of the great French masters of the novel in the 19th century.  Victor Brombert

“We must have a pie.  Stress cannot exist in the presence of a pie.”  David Mamet, Boston Marriage
 "I enjoy cooking with wine.  Sometimes I even put it in the food . . . "  "People who love to eat are always the best people.   "Find something you're passionate about and keep tremendously interested in it."  Julia Child

Eye-Opening Short Stories Everyone Should Read by George Saunders  July 2014   Recently, a friend said to me, "Hey, George, if a space alien beamed you up to his ship and demanded that you explain what being human is like, what would you say?"  "Well," I said, "I'd advise the alien to spend a few days reading short stories."  Stories are the deep, encoded crystallizations of all human knowledge.  They are rarefied, dense meaning machines, shedding light on the most pressing of life's dilemmas.

January 5, 2018  The discovery of legible text on paper pulled from the cannon of Blackbeard’s flagship paints a picture of the sailors.  Work by conservationists from North Carolina’s Department of Natural and Cultural Resources shows that Blackbeard and his crew got a kick out of reading “voyage narratives”—a popular form of literature in the late 17th and early 18th century that chronicled the true accounts of maritime expeditions.  Specifically, Blackbeard kept a copy of Edward Cooke’s A Voyage to the South Sea, and Round the World, Perform’d in the Years 1708, 1709, 1710 and 1711, detailing the British naval officer’s participation in a global expedition aboard the ships Duke and Dutchess.  The conservators made the discovery while working on artifacts pulled from the wreckage of Blackbeard’s flagship, the Queen Anne’s Revenge, which ran aground near Beaufort Inlet, North Carolina in 1718.  Blackbeard stole the ship from the French in 1717, when it was being used as a slave ship (the French had stolen the merchant ship from its original British owners in 1711, when it was called the Concord).  The dreaded pirate gave the vessel a new name, added 40 guns, and made it his flagship.  The wreck was re-discovered in 1996, and most of the ship’s 27 known cannons have been raised.  The researchers found 16 tiny fragments of paper in a mass of wet sludge crammed inside the chamber of a breech-loading cannon (how it got there is anyone’s guess).  The largest piece was only the size of a quarter, but it’s exceptionally rare to find paper in a submerged wreck—particularly one that’s 300 years old.  Paper tends to deteriorate rapidly under water.  Working with specialist paper conservators and scientists from the department’s Division of Archives and Records, along with the Winterthur/University of Delaware Program in Art Conservation, the Queen Anne’s Revenge Conservation Lab researchers worked to preserve and study the fragments.  As work progressed, it became clear that some of the fragments still contained traces of legible printed text.  After months of research, the bits of paper were sourced back to the first edition of Cooke’s book, published in 1712.  As noted, voyage narratives were a popular genre at the time, often inspiring both real and fictional voyages.  Cooke’s book describes the rescue of Alexander Selkirk, who had been marooned on an island for four years—an account that inspired Daniel Defoe’s 1719 novel Robinson Crusoe.  George Dvorsky  See graphics at

Lawrence Martin-Bittman (1931–2018), formerly known as Ladislav Bittman, was an American artist, author, and retired professor of disinformation at Boston University.  Prior to his defection to the United States in 1968, he served as an intelligence officer specializing in disinformation for the Czechoslovak Intelligence Service.  The Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia and the subsequent end to the Prague Spring became a driving force behind his decision to leave for the United States in 1968.  Defectors at this time, most particularly those fleeing the Soviet Union and/or those formerly in positions of government or intelligence are considered "a valuable source of information" by the US government; the government as such spends at least a year's time debriefing defectors and helping them settle down to their new life.  As part of this process, he changed his name from Ladislav Bittman to Lawrence Martin (and later, Lawrence Martin-Bittman) shortly after his debriefing concluded.  He was sentenced to death in absentia in 1974 by the Czechoslovak government for treason by way of his defection, a sentence that was not lifted until 20 years later.  In 1972, 4 years after his defection to the United States, Bittman was given a teaching position at Boston University, primarily teaching classes about international media, particularly the press.  He began to incorporate classes on disinformation, propaganda, and international intelligence to make use of his former career.  In 1986, this led to him founding a new center in Boston University's school of journalism specifically about disinformation.

Anger:  an acid that can do more harm to the vessel in which it is stored than to anything on which it is poured.  Seneca the Younger (c. 4 BC – AD 65), fully Lucius Annaeus Seneca and also known simply as Seneca, was a Roman Stoic philosopher, statesman, dramatist, and—in one work—humorist of the Silver Age of Latin literature.  also attributed to Mark Twain  Issue 1960  September 28, 2018 

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

This herbaceous take on a blondie is crispy, gooey and impossible to stop eating by Becky Krystal   Find recipe for Salted Honey Bars With Thyme at

In the works of Jorge Luis Borges, the library appears frequently as a metaphor representative of life and its secrets.  It becomes a metaphysical location, posing questions about the nature of time, life, and the universe itself.  The librarian becomes a metaphysical figure, leading the search for answers to life’s questions.  This article examines the way in which the Borgesian library metaphor has crossed over from the realm of literature into the realm of popular television.  By examining two episodes of the BBC series Doctor Who, the TNT franchise The Librarian, and several episodes of Joss Whedon’s cult television series Buffy the Vampire Slayer, it demonstrates that the metaphysical questions posed by the library and its librarian in Borges’s short stories are quite similar to the metaphysical questions posed by the library and its librarians in popular television, demonstrating that the Borgesian library has crossed over into the realms of popular culture.  See also Putting Borges’ Infinite Library On the Internet at   Read The Library of Babel, originally published in Borges' collection The Garden of Forking Paths in 1944, at or borrow it from a library. 

Jorge Luis Borges notes that his family name, like Burgess in English, means "of the town", "bourgeois".   Pronounce Jorge Luis Borges as hor-hay  loo-EESS  BOR-hayss.

Gadsby is a 1939 novel by Ernest Vincent Wright written as a lipogram, which does not include words that contain the letter E.  The plot revolves around the dying fictional city of Branton Hills, which is revitalized as a result of the efforts of protagonist John Gadsby and a youth group he organizes.  Though vanity published and little noticed in its time, the book is a favourite of fans of constrained writing and is a sought-after rarity among some book collectors.  Later editions of the book have sometimes carried the alternative subtitle 50,000 Word Novel Without the Letter "E".  Despite Wright's claim, published versions of the book may contain a handful of uses of the letter "e".  The version on Project Gutenberg, for example, contains "the" three times and "officers" once.   See full text of Gadsby at
The sonnet form, most commonly used for love poems, was created in Italy in the 13th century and made popular by Renaissance poets such as Petrarch.  The Italian sonnet (also called the Petrarchan sonnet) is made up of 14 lines of iambic pentameter (lines of ten syllables in a ti-tum, ti-tum, ti-tum rhythm).  Its argument is in two parts, an octave (eight lines) outlining a problem or question, followed by a sestet (six lines) offering a resolution; the transition between the two at the start of the ninth line is called the volta or ‘turn’.  The octave rhymes abba abba, while the sestet can have a looser rhyme scheme, often cde cde or cd cd cd.  The sonnet was brought to England in the early 16th century by Sir Thomas Wyatt and was particularly fashionable in the 1590s.  The Elizabethan sonnet (also called the Shakespearean sonnet) is also in iambic pentameter, but it usually follows a structure of three quatrains (four line stanzas) of cross-rhyme followed by a couplet:  abab cdcd efef gg.  The volta usually still comes with the ninth line, but in Shakespeare’s sonnets it often comes with the 13th.  Scholars believe that Shakespeare wrote and revised his sonnets during the 1590s and early 1600s.  They were first printed in 1609 in a quarto volume (Shakes-Speares Sonnets) containing a sequence of 154 sonnets concluded by a longer poem, A Lover’s Complaint.

It’s time to read by flashlight with your kids at the Toledo Lucas County Public Library!  We're partnering with Metroparks Toledo to give out free flashlights (while supplies last) to families who read together at any library location throughout the month of October in 2018.  Pick up a flashlight at any Flashlight Frenzy program (or you can use your own), snap a photo reading by flashlight, then:   Go to  Upload your Flashlight Frenzy photo and share why you love the Library and/or reading.  Be entered to win a FREE night of camping at Metroparks Toledo  One winner will be chosen and alerted via email each week in October. 

U.S. Pizza Museum, inside the Roosevelt Collection at 1146 S. Delano Court W., Chicago, open 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Friday; 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. on weekends.  Admission is free and reservations are required.  Vintage menus, pizza boxes, and pizza-centric pop-culture memorabilia are proudly displayed on the walls and behind glass cases.  It’s a tribute to the many different styles of pizzas across the country and not just reduced to New York versus Chicago.  Founder Kendall Bruns started by collecting menus, but his hobby grew to tracking down toys (a Spider-Man figure comes with a slice of pizza; Peter Parker is from Queens, N.Y.), limited-edition pizza boxes (check out Pizza Hut’s Star Wars promotions), and other vestiges of days of pizzas past.  The pop-up museum has traveled to various pizzerias around Chicago, but Bruns hopes he’s found a permanent home at the Roosevelt Collection.  Officially, the exhibit only runs through October 2018.  The museum will have pizza for special events, but it won’t be regularly available.  Pizza is best enjoyed fresh.  Bruns does want to assemble a map of nearby pizzerias for visitors.  Deep dish from Lou Malnati’s and tavern thin from Pat’s Pizza are both close.  Chicago is the home of the only two Bonci Roman-style pizzerias in the country.  It makes sense for a pizza museum to call Chicago home.  See many pictures at

President Donald Trump’s second address to the United Nations reiterated the same point he made last year:  His America is a sovereign one, and every nation is on its own.  “America is governed by Americans,” he said to the UN General Assembly on September 25, 2018.  “We reject the ideology of globalism and accept the doctrine of patriotism.”  Alex Ward  Read entire speech at

Americans have been banning books since at least the 1800's, when Harriet Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin was met with widespread censorship in the south over its abolitionist message. Since then, hundreds of books have been challenged and banned by libraries, school districts, and even federal courts.  Banned Books Week began in 1982 to draw attention to these widespread challenges to the free distribution of literature.  The event was intended to show that banning attempts haven't been levelled only at famously controversial books, but also at beloved titles like Charlotte's Web and The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes.  Check out some of the banned, challenged, and contested books The Strand has on our Banned Books table below.  Is your favorite book on the list?  Thank you, Muse reader!

Restaurant owner says Maine asked her to stop giving lobsters marijuana by Chris Mills Rodrigo   Charlotte Gill clarified that she had not been selling the "smoked" lobster to customers in a letter published on the restaurant's website September 23, 2018.  “We are not currently selling this meat, (nor have we).  The lobster that we have prepared thus far was purely for our own testing and study as well as to be able to have a conclusive base of information to work from when we were eventually met with these questions,” she said.  While the state has asked Gill to stop the process, they have not mandated that the restaurant stop testing medical cannabis on the lobsters.  Gill wrote on her restaurant's site that she hopes to address concerns and start selling the lobsters by mid-to-late October.  David Heidrich, spokesperson for the Maine Medical Marijuana Program, told the Herald that medical marijuana laws only apply to humans, implying that the state does not find the project to be legal.  “Lobsters are not people,” he said.

Jorge Agustín Nicolás Ruiz de Santayana y Borrás, known in English as George Santayana (1863–1952), was a philosopher, essayist, poet, and novelist.  Originally from Spain, Santayana was raised and educated in the United States from the age of eight and identified himself as an American, although he always kept a valid Spanish passport.  At the age of forty-eight, Santayana left his position at Harvard and returned to Europe permanently, never to return to the United States.  Santayana is popularly known for aphorisms, such as "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it", "Only the dead have seen the end of war", and the definition of beauty as "pleasure objectified"  Issue 1959  September 26, 2018   Thought for Today  "A child educated only at school is an uneducated child." — George Santayana, (died this date in 1952).

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

The existence of the so-called halo effect has long been recognised.  It is the phenomenon whereby we assume that because people are good at doing A they will be good at doing B, C and D (or the reverse—because they are bad at doing A they will be bad at doing B, C and D).  The phrase was first coined by Edward Thorndike, a psychologist who used it in a study published in 1920 to describe the way that commanding officers rated their soldiers.  He found that officers usually judged their men as being either good right across the board or bad.  There was little mixing of traits; few people were said to be good in one respect but bad in another.  In his prize-winning book “The Halo Effect”, published in 2007, Phil Rosenzweig, an academic at IMD, a business school near Lausanne in Switzerland, argued:  Much of our thinking about company performance is shaped by the halo effect … when a company is growing and profitable, we tend to infer that it has a brilliant strategy, a visionary CEO, motivated people, and a vibrant culture.  When performance falters, we're quick to say the strategy was misguided, the CEO became arrogant, the people were complacent, and the culture stodgy … At first, all of this may seem like harmless journalistic hyperbole, but when researchers gather data that are contaminated by the halo effect--including not only press accounts but interviews with managers--the findings are suspect. 

strait  noun  narrow area of water that connects two larger areas of water noun (DIFFICULTY)
straits  difficult situationespecially because of financial problems  In today's twitterverse, you will sometimes see dire straits spelled as dire straights.

Dire Straits were a British rock band formed in London in 1977 by Mark Knopfler (lead vocals and lead guitar), David Knopfler (rhythm guitar and backing vocals), John Illsley (bass guitar and backing vocals), and Pick Withers (drums and percussion).  The band became one of the world's best-selling music artists, with records sales of over 100 million.  Their first hit single "Sultans of Swing", from their self-titled debut album, reached the top ten in the UK and US charts in 1978.  They released hit singles in the 1980s, such as "Private Investigations" (1983), "Money for Nothing" (1985), and "Walk of Life" (1985).  Their most commercially successful album was Brothers in Arms (1985), which has sold more than 30 million copies and was the first album to sell a million copies on the compact disc (CD) format.  Dire Straits' sound was drawn from a variety of musical influences, including jazzfolk, and country, though mainly from the blues-rock of J. J. Cale.  Their stripped-down sound contrasted with punk rock and demonstrated a roots rock influence that emerged from pub rock.  Many of Dire Straits' compositions were melancholic.  According to the Guinness Book of British Hit Albums, Dire Straits have spent over 1,100 weeks on the UK albums chart, ranking fifth all-time.  Brothers in Arms is the eighth-best-selling album in UK chart history.  Their career spanned 15 years.  They split in 1988, reformed in 1991, and disbanded again in 1995.   See also

Hermann Rorschach grew up in Switzerland.  One of the most popular games of his youth was Blotto or Klecksographie, a game requiring players to make up poems or act out charades based on what they see in an inkblot.   Rorschach enjoyed the game so much that his classmates nicknamed him "Klecks," the German word for "inkblot."  Rorschach's interest in inkblots continued into adulthood.  While studying patients with schizophrenia in medical school, Rorschach observed that, when asked what they saw in the inkblots, the patients gave responses much different from those of his friends.  He wondered if the inkblots could be used to create profiles of different mental disorders.  Perhaps people with depression interpreted the images differently than those with anxiety or schizophrenia or no mental illness.  With his hypothesis established, Rorschach began studying 405 subjects, 117 of whom were not psychiatric patients.  Each person was presented with a card and asked, "What might this be?"  This was repeated with as many as 15 different cards per subject.  Rorschach didn't analyze what the subjects saw, but rather the characteristics of what they reported, including if they focused on the image as a whole or on a smaller detail, or if they took a long time to provide an answer.  For example, one card shows an image often interpreted as depicting two people.  If the subject took a long time to respond, he or she might be revealing problems with social interactions.  After four years of research, Rorschach believed that his test could help diagnose mental illness and interpret a patient’s behavior.  Rorschach published his findings and ten standard inkblot cards in 1920.  The popularity of the test grew, reaching its zenith in the 1950s and 1960s.  Modern psychology has questioned the usefulness and accuracy of the test.

The McGurk effect is mind-blowing.  It involves showing a person's lips making the shape of one sound—like "bah"—while the audio is actually the person saying "fah."  What's interesting is that your brain changes what you "hear" based on what you see.  It's "bah" all the way through, but when we see "bah" our minds transform "bah" into "fah."  Chris Higgins  Link to BBC video illustrating the McGurk effect at

A typeface is a fully accomplished work of design.  But unlike most forms of art and design, it also becomes a tool:  a work of design that generates other design, transports new meanings, and deeply influences the way people engage with our products.  Graphic designers have always used typography to visually connote written language, conveying aspects like mood, personality and age.  Many experiments have shown how different typefaces can make a message more or less trustworthy and appealing to readers.  One of these experiments was conducted in 2013 by filmmaker and author Errol Morris and the New York Times.  The results show that readers were more likely to agree with an essay if the font used was Baskerville, rather than other fonts such as Comic Sans and Helvetica.  Author Alessio Laiso and colleague Rick Sobiesiak selected four typefaces applied to four different websites, conducting a relatively simple survey of 73 participants from 17 countries.  Learn the results at  

The Baskerville font was developed in the 18th century by John Baskerville (1706–1775) and its clear, sharp image set it apart from others of its time.  John Baskerville was a major figure in the improvement of print technique and typography and his work influenced the work of such famous designers as Didot in France and Bodoni in Italy.  The fonts of John Baskerville were composed of more contrasting elements than any print characters that had been designed before.  They needed finer paper and printing ink in order to display and highlight their details.  Baskerville can often still be found in use in books and magazines.  See sample of Baskerville, trademark of the Monotype Corporation, at

Monotype Imaging Holdings, Inc. is a Delaware corporation based in Woburn, Massachusetts.  It specialises in digital typesetting and typeface design as well as text and imaging solutions for use with consumer electronics devices.  Monotype Imaging Holdings and its predecessors and subsidiaries have been responsible for many developments in printing technology.  Monotype developed many of the most widely used typeface designs, including Times New RomanGill SansArialBembo and Albertus.  Monotype has carried out a series of acquisitions from 2000 onwards of companies such as Linotype GmbHInternational Typeface CorporationBitstream Inc. and FontShop.  This has gained it the rights to many further widely known designs, including HelveticaITC Franklin GothicOptimaAvant GardePalatino and FF DIN.  It also owns the MyFonts online retailer used by many independent font design studios.  Issue 1958  September 25, 2018 

Monday, September 24, 2018

Wheels were introduced by Celtic peoples during the Roman era, and the mouldboard plough, a major innovation in plough technology, was invented in the 18th century.  Modern ploughs are usually reversible ploughs, mounted on a tractor.  The painting, Ploughing in the Nivernais, was completed by the French artist Rosa Bonheur in 1849 and is now in the Musée d'Orsay in Paris.  Read more and see graphics at

September 18, 2018  Greater than the sum of its parts by Savannah Mitchem   When it comes to designing and optimizing mechanical systems, scientists understand the physical laws surrounding them well enough to create computer models that can predict their properties and behavior.  However, scientists who are working to design better electrochemical systems, such as batteries or supercapacitors, don't yet have a comprehensive model of the driving forces that govern complex electrochemical behavior.  After eight years of research on the behavior of these materials and their properties, scientists from the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Argonne National Laboratory, DOE's National Renewable Energy Laboratory and the University of Colorado-Boulder have developed a conceptual model that combines existing theories to form a more general theory of electrochemistry that predicts previously unexplained behavior.  The new model, called the Unified Electrochemical Band-Diagram Framework (UEB), merges basic electrochemical theory with theories used in different contexts, such as the study of photoelectrochemistry and semiconductor physics, to describe phenomena that occur in any electrode.  The research began with the study of alpha manganese oxide, a material that can rapidly charge and discharge, making it ideal for certain batteries.  The scientists wanted to understand the mechanism behind the material's unique properties so that they could improve upon it.  "There wasn't a satisfying answer to how the material was working," said Argonne scientist Matthias Young, "but after doing a lot of calculations on the system, we discovered that by combining theories, we could make sense of the mechanism."  Extensive testing of several other materials has helped the scientists develop the model and demonstrate its usefulness in predicting exceptional phenomena.  "The model describes how properties of a material and its environment interact with each other and lead to transformations and degradation," said Young.  "It helps us predict what will happen to a material in a specific environment.  Will it fall apart?  Will it store charge?"

The Reference Library and Education and Engagement Department at the Toledo Museum of Art have joined forces to place two Little Free Libraries in the David K. Welles Sculpture Garden, making them the first Little Free Libraries located in the downtown Toledo area.  People can take books, then return them, or put in a different book.  Librarian Alison Huftalen and Archivist Julie McMaster will present a Preserving Your Family Treasures Workshop on Saturday, December 8, 2018 at 11 a.m.  Participants may bring examples of personal books, papers, photographs and small artifacts.  Cost is $20 members, $25 nonmembers.  Sign up at  For questions, please contact Head Librarian, Alison Huftalen at or (419) 255-8000 x7386

September 19, 2018  SOUTHWEST HARBOR, Maine   In an effort to be more humane, the owner of a roadside lobster shack on Mount Desert Island is selling lobsters that have been exposed to marijuana smoke before they are cooked.  Charlotte Gill, owner of Charlotte’s Legendary Lobster Pound in the Southwest Harbor village of Seawall, has treated lobster by blowing marijuana smoke into a plastic box with a lobster in it before the lobster goes in the cooking pot.  She said killing the lobster by stabbing it through its head or by electrocuting it can be quicker, but also can be cruel if not done correctly.  Gill, a licensed medical marijuana caregiver, said Wednesday that the practice is “kinder” for the lobster, which in addition to being boiled alive has to endure a stressful environment of being kept in a crowded tank with other lobsters before it is killed.  This past March, Switzerland banned the practice of boiling lobsters alive over concerns that the crustaceans feel pain when cooked.  Gill said that in an experiment, she put a lobster in a box with a few inches of water in the bottom and then blew marijuana smoke into the water, letting it bubble up into the air in the sealed box.  The lobster, named Roscoe, appeared to be more relaxed for the next three weeks.  She later released him back into the ocean.  “The fear is gone,” she said, describing Roscoe’s state post-treatment.  “Everything wants to feel safe.”  Gill said research indicates lobster do have cannabinoid receptors that make them feel the effects of the drug, but there is no effect on people who eat lobster that have been treated with marijuana before the crustaceans are cooked.  It makes the meat taste better, she said, because the lobster are not stressed in captivity leading up to being eaten, and there is no buildup in the lobster’s muscle tissue of THC, which is the primary psychoactive chemical compound found in the marijuana plant.  Bill Trotter  Thank you, Muse reader! 

Are You an Extravert, Introvert, or Ambivert?  What is an ambivert, and why does it matter? by Ronald E. Riggio  November 27, 2017   Research by psychologist Adam Grant (and others) has focused on those individuals who are neither strongly extraverted, nor strongly introverted—what has been termed “ambiverts.”  Whereas extraverts enjoy being with and interacting with others, and introverts enjoy solitude, ambiverts are characterized as being ambivalent about social situations—sometimes enjoying the company of others, but also enjoying being alone at times.  See also What is an Ambivert? (and take a quiz) at

Researchers led by Northwestern Engineering’s Luis Amaral sifted through data from more than 1.5 million questionnaire respondents to find at least four distinct clusters of personality types exist—average, reserved, self-centered, and role model—challenging existing paradigms in psychology.  “People have tried to classify personality types since Hippocrates’s time, but previous scientific literature has found that to be nonsense,”said co-author William Revelle, professor of psychology at Northwestern University’s Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences.  The new study appears in Nature Human Behaviour.  The new research combined an alternative computational approach with data from four questionnaires, attracting more than 1.5 million respondents from around the world.  The questionnaires, developed by the research community over the decades, have between 44 and 300 questions.  People voluntarily take the online quizzes, attracted by the opportunity to receive feedback about their own personality.  These data are now being made available to other researchers for independent analyses.  Average people are high in neuroticism and extraversion, while low in openness.  This is the most common personality type.  The Reserved type is emotionally stable but not open or neurotic.  They are not particularly extraverted but are somewhat agreeable and conscientious.  Role models score low in neuroticism and high in all the other traits.  They are good leaders, dependable and open to new ideas.  Self-Centered people score very high in extraversion and below average in openness, agreeableness, and conscientiousness.  Read more, including descriptions of character traits, at

Banned Books Week 2018 is September 23-29.  It brings together the entire book community—librarians, booksellers, publishers, journalists, teachers, and readers of all types—in shared support of the freedom to seek and to express ideas, even those some consider unorthodox or unpopular.  The books featured during Banned Books Week have all been targeted with removal or restricted in libraries and schools.  The American Library Association (ALA) won't release the top ten challenged books for 2018 until after the year is over.  ALA will publish it in April 2019.  Explore banned and challenged books by topic, genre, time, and audience at  Issue 1957  September 23, 2018   Word of the Day  gamboge  noun   One of several species of trees of the genus Garcinia found in South and Southeastern Asia, especially Garcinia xanthochymus.  The resin of the gamboge tree; a preparation of the resin used as a pigment or for medicinal purposes.  deep yellow colour.  Today is Constitution Day in Cambodia.  The Constitution was signed by King Norodom Sihanouk on this day 25 years ago in 1993.  See gamboge color sample at Wiktionary

Friday, September 21, 2018

frank·in·cense  derived from Old French “francencens” which translates to “high-quality incense.”  Frankincense essential oil is distilled from the resin of the Boswellia tree that grows in many regions within northern Africa and the Middle East.  Oman, Somalia, and Ethiopia are the most prominent suppliers today.  Frankincense is also referred to by its Arabic name, “olibanum,” derived from “al Luban,” which means “milk,” describing the milky sap that comes from the “wound” in the tree after an incision is made in the bark.  The tree secretes the sap to heal and seals the “wound,” helping prevent infection.  The sap is given time to harden on the tree into small golden nuggets of resin known as “tears” before being collected for extraction.  Traditionally, frankincense was used for hundreds of years in incense, primarily in ancient rituals because of its promise to bring tremendous healing properties.  Priests, rabbis, and medicine men around the world—especially in the Middle East—appreciated frankincense essential oil for its antiseptic, anti-inflammatory, and rejuvenating properties.  This oil can be used topically on the skin when diluted with a carrier oil, to disinfect surfaces in the home, or diffused and released into the air.  Frankincense and myrrh—the gum or resin from the Commiphora myrrha tree—can be combined for an even more effective solution for killing germs.  It is important to recognize that there is a difference between frankincense essential oils and frankincense fragrance oils.  Frankincense essential oils are safe to use for the healing benefits highlighted above, as long as the oil is 100 percent pure and high quality.  Frankincense fragrance oils, however, are safe to use as incense, perfumes, or as deodorants, but they shouldn’t ever be used—or expected to produce results—as a healing agent.  They should also never be applied directly to the skin or inhaled through a vaporizer or diffuser.   

nostalgia  noun  1770, "severe homesickness considered as a disease," Modern Latin, coined 1668 in a dissertation on the topic at the University of Basel by scholar Johannes Hofer (1669-1752) as a rendering of German heimweh "homesickness" (for which see home + woe).  From Greek algos "pain, grief, distress" (see -algia) + nostos "homecoming," from neomai "to reach some place, escape, return, get home," from PIE *nes- "to return safely home" (cognate with Old Norse nest "food for a journey," Sanskrit nasate"approaches, joins," German genesen "to recover," Gothic ganisan "to heal," Old English genesen "to recover").  French nostalgie is in French army medical manuals by 1754.  Originally in reference to the Swiss and said to be peculiar to them and often fatal, whether by its own action or in combination with wounds or disease.  By 1830s the word was used of any intense homesickness:  that of sailors, convicts, African slaves.  "The bagpipes produced the same effects sometimes in the Scotch regiments while serving abroad" [Penny Magazine," Nov. 14, 1840].  It is listed among the "endemic diseases" in the "Cyclopaedia of Practical Medicine" [London, 1833, edited by three M.D.s], which defines it as "The concourse of depressing symptoms which sometimes arise in persons who are absent from their native country, when they are seized with a longing desire of returning to their home and friends and the scenes their youth . . . "  It was a military medical diagnosis principally, and was considered a serious medical problem by the North in the American Civil War.  Transferred sense (the main modern one) of "wistful yearning for the past" first recorded 1920, perhaps from such use of nostalgie in French literature.

July 13, 2016  Silence, blessed silence, may be a neurological blessing to your mind.  Prolonged silence has been shown to spur new cell development in the brain (among mice), while shorter periods of noiselessness between sounds have put people into more relaxed states.  These findings and others are reported by David Gross in a Nautilus roundup of scientific research on the benefits of silence.  It also notes that silence can be considered a rare commodity in our media-saturated world.  There are fewer and fewer places were true silence reigns, and it's the very rarity of the experience that may be responsible for the neurological effects found by researchers.  The most intriguing study was one that focused on mice, not humans.  Imke Kirste, a biologist at Duke University, was interested in triggering regenerative effects on brain cells using auditory stimuli.  For her study, Kirste subjected three groups of adult mice to three types of sound:  music, white noise and infant mouse calls.  Meanwhile, a fourth group meant to serve as a control listened to two hours of silence per day.  The first three groups experienced some positive effects, but nothing long-lasting.  Unexpectedly, it was the "control group" that produced the effect Kirste was looking for--the development of new brain cells in the hippocampus, a brain region involved in the encoding of new memories.  (People who have experienced severe damage to the hippocampi can have trouble forming new memories and may even lose earlier memories.)  Kirste hypothesizes that the unusual experience of a silent environment prompted the mouse brains to increase in activity, as a response to a strange new situation.  In another study on the effects of sound, Luciano Bernardi investigated the efficacy of music in modulating stress in people.  A medical researcher at the University of Pavia in Italy, Bernardi and his colleagues C. Porta and P. Sleight played short tracks of music in six different styles to human subjects and observed their physiological reactions.  A two minute pause was inserted into all of the musical sequences used in the study.  The researchers had not planned to investigate the effects of the pause, and yet this short two-minute silence produced a deeper state of relaxation in the participants than any kind of music.  Silence--particularly periods of silence contrasted against other sounds--may be just what the doctor ordered for people who are dealing with stress.  John Rosca

LIBRARIES ARE BORING  Think libraries are boring?  Think again.  Take a look and see just how NOT boring we are!  Watch various versions of "libraries are boring" and determine for yourself whether the message intended is what you perceive.  For the Muser, negative advertising implants the negative rather than the positive message.

September 19, 2018  Arthur Mitchell, one of the first black ballet dancers, has died in New York City at the age of 84  The pioneering African-American dancer rose from a childhood in Harlem to perform leading roles under renowned choreographer George Balanchine.  He was one of the most popular dancers with the New York City ballet in the 50s and 60s and was the first black dancer to gain international stardom.  Mitchell said his greatest achievement was bringing black people into ballet.  In 1969 he co-founded the Dance Theatre of Harlem, which was the first major classical ballet company in America to prioritise black dancers.  See graphics and link to video at

ART NEWS  Boston:  “Winnie-the-Pooh:  Exploring a Classic,” is on view in the Museum of Fine Arts Torf Gallery, 184, September 22, 2018-January 6, 2019; timed-entry tickets are required for everyone visiting the exhibition:  adults, youth, and children, members and nonmember visitors alike.  Youngstown:  John Mellencamp:  Expressionist Exhibition:  September 20-November 18, 2018  John Mellencamp:  Expressionist is an exhibition of the most recent art works from the multi-expressional, creative spirit of legendary musician, long-time activist and accomplished painter, John Mellencamp.  Though known primarily for his music, Mellencamp has seriously pursued painting for more than 35 years.  Louisiana:  The contemporary saga of the 16th-century Salvator Mundi painting continues after news broke on September 18, 2018 that the work spent nearly 50 years in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.  The Wall Street Journal reports that it was part of a family home collection there, the owners of which had no inkling that it was painted by Leonardo da Vinci.  

Architect Robert Charles Venturi Jr. died September 18, 2018, at the age of 93 in his home in Philadelphia.  According to his son Jim Venturi, he was free of pain and listening to his favorite Beethoven piano sonatas.  With him was his wife and longtime collaborator architect Denise Scott Brown.  Hailed as a catalyzing force of the Postmodern architecture style, the Princeton-trained architect published his groundbreaking treatise, Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture, in 1966.  The text is credited with redirecting the profession’s prevailing Modernist sensibilities toward a more sophisticated, historically referential approach.  In 1964, Venturi completed the seminal project of his career:  the Vanna Venturi House in Chestnut Hill, Pennsylvania, which he designed for his mother and demonstrates many of the principles he espoused in Complexity and Contradiction.  Venturi received the 1991 Pritzker Architecture Prize, as well as the 2016 AIA Gold Medal—an accolade that, unlike the Pritkzer, honored both Venturi and Scott Brown.  Born in Pennsylvania on June 25, 1925, Venturi was raised a Quaker.  He received both his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Princeton University, graduating summa cum laude in 1947, then receiving his Master of Fine Art degree in 1950. From 1954 to 1956, he studied at the American Academy in Rome as a Rome Prize Fellow.  Upon returning to the United States, Venturi taught a course in architectural theory at the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Architecture; and throughout the rest of his career lectured at institutions including Yale, Princeton, Harvard, University of California at Los Angeles, Rice University and the American Academy in Rome.  A film Bob and Denise directed and produced by Jim Venturi is expected to be released in 2019.  Miriam Sitz   See picture of the Vanna Venturi house at  Issue 1956  September 21, 2018  Thought for Today  There is a crack in everything.  That's how the light gets in. - Leonard Cohen, musician and writer (21 Sep 1934-2016)  Word of the Day  utopographer  noun  One who describes a utopia.  The English writer H. G. Wells, who probably coined the word in his 1927 novel Meanwhile: The Picture of a Lady, was born on this day in 1866.