Wednesday, October 31, 2018

"The opera ain't over until the fat lady sings."  This modern-day proverb is credited to San Antonio sports writer/broadcaster Dan Cook.  Cook wrote the phrase in an article in 1976 and then used it again on TV in 1978.  Cook, who used the quip during an NBA playoff game, was trying to give San Antonio Spurs fans hope after their team lost a game against the Washington Bullets and was on the brink of elimination.  But historians argue that the phrase may be older than that.  It may have originated from an old Southern proverb, "Church ain't over until the fat lady sings."  At any rate, this was the name chosen for Ireland’s own ‘The Fat Lady Sings’.

Humphrey Bogart was not the model for the Gerber Baby, nor was the Gerber Baby drawn by Bogart’s mother, a commercial illustrator.  A drawing of Humphrey as an infant was made by his mother and was used in advertisements for a different brand of baby food many years before Gerber was founded, however.  Bogart’s mother, Maud Humphrey Bogart, enjoyed a successful career as a commercial illustrator.  The connection here is obvious:  Bogart’s mother was both a commercial artist and a portrait painter of children, her drawings of baby Humphrey were used in national advertisements for a brand of baby food, and Gerber is the most well-known brand of baby food in America.  Mix these facts together, shake well, and you’ve got the makings of a baby food legend.  But Gerber did not begin marketing baby food until 1928, by which time Humphrey Bogart was nearly 30.  When the company put out the call for baby face images to use in advertising campaigns for their newly-developed baby foods, they chose Ann Cook (née Turner) of Westport, Connecticut, the daughter of cartoonist Leslie Turner.  A charcoal drawing of four-month-old Ann had been prepared and submitted to Gerber by her neighbor, a New England artist named Dorothy Hope Smith.  Ann Cook’s image began appearing on Gerber products in 1928, and it became the company’s official trademark in 1931.  The famous “Gerber baby” has appeared in every Gerber advertisement and on the packaging of every Gerber product ever since.  The identity (and even the sex) of the Gerber Baby has been the subject of much speculation over the years. The Humphrey Bogart tale has been the most prominent rumor, and more than a few woman have come forward and claimed to be “the” Gerber baby (or the mother of said baby) over the years as well.  To settle any lingering identity and ownership issues, Gerber paid Cook a one-time cash settlement of $5,000 in 1951.  (Dorothy Hope Smith was originally paid $300 for the rights to her drawing; neither she nor Cook were paid royalties for the use of the image.)  As an adult, Ann Cook raised four children of her own and taught literature and writing in Tampa, Florida,schools for 26 years.  Since retiring from teaching in 1989, she has penned two mystery novels, Trace Their Shadows and Shadow Over Cedar Key.

The true grasses, family Poaceae (formerly Gramineae), is one of the most speciose plant families, comprising over 10,000 species with a Gondwanan origin approximated at about 80-100 million years ago (although there are fossil specimens that potentially push the origin earlier).  Distributed world-wide, the true grasses are absent only in parts of Greenland and Antarctica, and are the most economically important group of monocots, as this family includes the true grains, pasture grasses, sugar cane, and bamboo.  Species in this family have been domesticated for staple food crops (grains and sugar, for example), fodder for domesticated animals, biofuel, building materials, paper and ornamental landscaping, among other things.  Grasslands cover at least 20% of the earth’s surface.  See also List of plants in the family Poaceae at

speciose  adjective  (taxonomy)  Rich in species, such as when many species are members of a single genus

Forget Inspector Montalbano; Archimedes was Sicily’s first famous detective.  Archimedes was born in 287 B.C. in the coastal city of Syracuse.  The ancient Romans and Greeks considered Archimedes the greatest mathematician who had ever lived.  He also made great innovations in astronomy, geometry, mechanics, hydrostatics and optics and he made far more inventions--certainly far more which actually worked--than Leonardo Da Vinci.  Archimedes’ genius for engineering and general problem-solving made him the king’s “Go-To” man for all problems.  The best known story about Archimedes in modern times is the tale of how he solved a crime scientifically, CSI-style. King Hiero had given a large amount of gold to a goldsmith, to make a crown for a temple statue.  When the crown came back it was very beautiful, but looked a bit of a funny colour.  King Hiero suspected the goldsmith had kept some of the the gold for himself, and replaced it with the same weight of silver.  Could Archimedes prove whether he had really done this, King Hiero wanted to know?  The crown was very nice, he emphasised (even if it did look a bit silvery) so Archimedes had to figure it out without melting it down.  Silver and gold have different densities, so Archimedes needed to know both the weight and the volume of the crown.  The weight was easy, but how to figure out the volume of something so twiddly?  He realised that if he filled a container to the brim with water and then put the crown in it, the exact volume of the crown would be displaced and could be measured.  Legend has it that he tested this idea by filling his bath to the brim and getting into it, and was so excited he ran outside stark naked shouting “Eureka! I’ve got it!”  In reality he would not have shouted Eureka, as the ancient Greek for for “I’ve got it” was “Heureka”.  Since the letter H was a tiny weeny letter in the Greek alphabet, just the size of an apostrophe, people always seem to forget it.  Read more and see graphics at

Purple cauliflower gets its beautiful hue, which can vary from pale to jewel-toned, from the presence of the antioxidant anthocyanin, which is also found in red cabbage and red wine.  Orange cauliflower was first discovered in Canada in 1970, although it took years of crossbreeding before it was widely available.  The color comes from a genetic mutation that allows the plant to hold more beta carotene.  It also contains about 25% more vitamin A than white cauliflower.  Kelli Foster  Link to recipes at

When October Books, a small bookshop in Southampton, England, was moving to a new location down the street, it faced a problem.  How could it move its entire stock to the new spot, without spending a lot of money or closing down for long?  The shop came up with a clever solution:  They put out a call for volunteers to act as a human conveyor belt.  As they prepared to "lift and shift", they expected perhaps 100 people to help.  "But on the day, we had over 200 people turn out, which was a sight to behold," Amy Brown, one of the shop's five part-time staff members, told NPR.  Shoulder to shoulder, community members formed a line 500 feet long:  from the stockroom of the old shop, down the sidewalk, and onto the shop floor of the new store.  Cafes brought cups of tea to the volunteers.  People at bus stops joined in.  Passersby asked what was happening, then joined the chain themselves.  October Books, founded in 1977, calls itself "more than a bookshop."  It sells political and current affairs books, fiction and children's books, and and some food and fair-trade products.  "There's been people who've been visiting us and buying books from us for 40 years" as the store has moved around the city numerous times, Brown said.  "So a lot of people feel quite invested in it as a thing."  The new, permanent location of October Books has its grand opening on November 3, 2018.  Laurel Wamsley  See pictures at

National Endowment for the Arts  Oct 30, 2018  In her novel, The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein, young adult Kiersten White retells Mary Shelley’s classic.  In White’s book, we get the story from Elizabeth Lavenza—the childhood companion and then wife of scientist Victor Frankenstein.  Kiersten White closely follows the outline of Shelley’s Frankenstein, but by changing the point of view to Elizabeth, we get another story entirely about Victor Frankenstein, the monster, and Elizabeth herself.  31:02

He's been referred to as the JRR Tolkien of Chinese literature and the grandfather of martial arts novels--but very few people have heard of him outside the Chinese-speaking world.  Novelist Louis Cha, who wrote under the name Jin Yong, died on October 30, 2018 in Hong Kong at the age of 94.  He had become a household name across many Chinese-speaking parts of Asia, having sold millions of books and inspiring a whole genre of TV shows, comics and even video games.  October 31, 2018  Issue 1979  304th day of the year

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Part and parcel  The Oxford English Dictionary illustrates its variety over the past couple of centuries with these:  parcel of workparcel of weatherparcel of nonsenseparcel of sprayparcel of rogues and parcel of shares.  It can mean a quantity of a commodity offered as a single transaction, a lot, so a tiny package of diamonds offered for auction and your three-tonner load of equipment are both parcels.  All of these in various ways perpetuate the first sense of a parcel as being a constituent or part of some larger whole, a portion or division.  This reflects its origins:  parcel has come to us via Old French from the post-classical Latin particella, a part or portion.  That makes part and parcel a tautology, since both words in effect mean the same thing.  English loves this kind of doublet:  nooks and crannieshale and heartysafe and soundrack and ruindribs and drabs.  Many derive from the ancient legal practice of including words of closely similar meaning to make sure that the sense covers all eventualities:  aid and abetfit and properall and sundry.  Part and parcel is a member of this second group—it appeared in legal records during the sixteenth century.  Southern US English has the mildly humorous variant passel—deriving from a nineteenth-century pronunciation of parcel and often preceded by whole—suggesting a largish group of people or things (passel of problemspassel of accusationspassel of experts).

On August 6,1926, on her second attempt, 19-year-old Gertrude Ederle became the first woman to swim the 21 miles from Dover, England, to Cape Griz-Nez across the English Channel, which separates Great Britain from the northwestern tip of France.  Ederle was born to German immigrants on October 23, 1906, in New York City.  She did not learn to swim until she was nine years old, and it was not until she was 15 that she learned proper form in the water.  Just two years later, at the 1924 Paris Olympics, Ederle won a gold medal in the 4 x 100 meter relay and a bronze in the 100- and 400-meter freestyle races. In June 1925, Ederle became the first woman to swim the length of New York Bay, breaking the previous men’s record by swimming from the New York Battery to Sandy Hook, New Jersey, in 7 hours 11 minutes.  That same summer, Ederle made her first attempt at crossing the notoriously cold and choppy English Channel, but after eight hours and 46 minutes, her coach, Jabez Wolff, forced her to stop, out of concern that she was swallowing too much saltwater.  Ederle disagreed and fired Wolff, replacing him with T.W. Burgess, a skilled Channel swimmer.  On August 6, 1926, Ederle entered the water at Cape Gris-Nez in France at 7:08 a.m. to make her second attempt at the Channel.  The water was predictably cold as she started out that morning, but unusually calm.  Ederle persevered through storms and heavy swells, and, finally, at 9:04 p.m. after 14 hours and 31 minutes in the water, she reached the English coast, becoming the sixth person and first woman to swim the Channel successfully.  Furthermore, she had bettered the previous record by two hours.  Ederle damaged her hearing during the Channel swim, and went on to spend much of her adult life teaching deaf children in New York City to swim.  She died in 2003 at the age of 98.

Some countries have multiple capitals.  In some cases, one city is the capital for some purposes, and one or more others are capital for other purposes, without any being considered an official capital in preference to the others.  Find list at

If you live in or have ever visited a citrus-growing region like California or Florida, you may have come across a large tree with what looked like thousands of tiny, oval-shaped oranges.  However, these likely weren’t oranges but kumquats, the most diminutive member of the citrus family.  Kumquats may be the most radical of the citrus fruits, not just for their size, but because of how you eat them.  Kumquats are ready to go when you simply pluck them off the tree and eat away.  The paper-thin skin is where the sugar lies, and there’s virtually no bitter pith.  The flesh is extremely, mouth-puckeringly, sour.  The seeds, while sometimes a bit crunchy, are small and edible.  So what are kumquats used for?  Most people use them for kumquat marmalade to be used as a spread, or for baking and cooking purposes.  Others simply sliver them and add them to salads.  Many chefs also pickle and preserve them in sugar, salt, or vinegar and use them as condiments for other dishes.  In Chinese and Vietnamese cuisine, kumquats are often smashed with honey, ginger, or even salt and made into a tisane to heal colds and flu.  Garrett McCord  Read about different kinds of kumquats at

Kiwi berries  Hmmm, the best way to describe these kumquat-sized  "Passion Poppers" ?  Well, first of all they are cute.  These grape-tomato-sized, greenish-brown fruits simply scream adorable.  They are not furry like kiwis (so no peeling is necessary) but they look and taste like kiwis.  Carolina Santos-Neves  Link to recipes using kiwi berries at

beneficiate:  Treat (a raw material) to improve its properties.  It seems to be most commonly done through grinding, but can be accomplished in other ways, such as flotationleaching, and magnetic separation.  Here’s a little on the topic of beneficiation, purely from the economic side, from the government of South Africa.  It’s all about adding value as materials move up the chain.  The first use of beneficiation in English is cited as 1873, in an American mining publication.  Christopher Daly

Author Washington Irving’s fairytale character Rip Van Winkle is a prime exemplar of shuteye carried to the extreme.  During Colonial America times, the humble Dutch-American villager falls into a deep sleep in the bucolic Catskill Mountains of Upstate New York, awakening some twenty years later, having no clue that he’d slept through the entire Revolutionary War era.  Many literary scholars are of the opinion that Irving drew on earlier folktales of long-slumbering characters, awakening befuddled, finding themselves in another world, so to speak.  Similar yarns have come to us from ancient Greek, Germanic, Irish, Scots, Native American, and Talmudic lore.  Alex McCrae

Orson Welles on Cold Reading  Welles describes a "shuteye" with a hotel clerk analogy  3:40

The comedy of A Confederacy of Dunces is writ large in and between its many lines:  a grand farce of overeducated white trash, corrupt law enforcement, exotic dancing and the nouveau riche in steamy New Orleans.  The Pulitzer committee thought highly enough of Toole's comic prowess to give his only novel the Prize posthumously.  Therein lies the tragedy of this huge and hugely funny book:  John Kennedy Toole didn't live to see this now-classic novel published.  He committed suicide in 1969 at the age of thirty-two.  It was his mother who was responsible for bringing his book to public light, pestering the hell out of Walker Percy, who was teaching at Loyola in 1976, to read it until finally that distinguished author relented.  In his foreword to A Confederacy of Dunces, Percy laments the body of work lost to the world of literature with the author's death, but rejoices "that this gargantuan tumultuous human tragicomedy is at least made available to a world of readers."  Sharon Shulz-Elsing  A Confederacy of Dunces was ranked #58 on the Great American Read list.  See

Despite its unique name, the Hunter’s Moon will not appear much different from other full moons throughout the year, becoming officially full at 12:45 p.m. EDT October 31, 2018 and continuing to appear full throughout Wednesday night.  Many of the names given to full moons date back hundreds of years to the Native Americans and were passed on to colonial Americans when they arrived in North America.  “The Algonquin Native American tribes referred to October’s moon as the full Hunter’s Moon because [it signaled the] time to go hunting in preparation for winter,” the Old Farmer’s Almanac said.  “Since the harvesters have reaped the fields, hunters can easily see the fattened deer and other animals that have come out to glean (and the foxes that have come out to prey on them)."  This is just one of many names given to October’s full moon over the centuries by cultures all around the world.  Brian Lada  October 30, 2018  Issue 1978  303rd day of the year  Word of the Day  talaria  noun  (Greek mythologyRoman mythology)  The winged sandals worn by certain gods and goddesses, especially the Roman god Mercury (and his Greek counterpart Hermes).  Wiktionary

Monday, October 29, 2018

Long famous as the source of port wine, the Douro is now also renowned for its fine, rich unfortified wines, both red and white.  This is one of the wildest, most mountainous and rugged wine regions of Portugal, cut through in deep twists and turns by the River Douro.  Defying gravity on the steep slopes along the banks of the river and its tributaries, the vines are planted in poor, schistous soils.  In the centre of the region, the historic, narrow, stone-walled vine terraces have been named a UNESCO World Heritage Site, while elsewhere, modern terraces are wider, buttressed by steep banks of earth.  The wine region follows the course of the river down from the Spanish border to a point near the town of Mesão Frio, about 90km up-river from the city of Porto (Oporto).  Here the Serra do Marão rises up, protecting the region from the influence of the Atlantic Ocean.

Douro Valley, Tabuaco & Senhora Do Convento  High in the Douro Valley is a pace few have been and where time stands still.  Pick cherries from the trees, wander cobblestone streets, through terraced vineyards and drink port wine under a blanket of stars.  Explore Senhora Do Convento Winery and 12th Century Monastery.  2:12

A glimpse of Alto Douro Wine Region, Portugal, a UNESCO World Heritage Site where wine has been produced for some 2000 years  3:36

Paratha (Flaky South Asian Flatbread) Recipe by SOHLA EL-WAYLLY   Paratha is a unique South Asian flatbread, often used to scoop up curries and dip into raitha, that's got tons of crispy layers.  The special flaky quality of this bread is achieved through a double-roll procedure that fills it with countless layers of ghee, or Indian-style clarified butter, similar to the way puff pastry is layered with butter.  See recipe and link to 6:49 video at

Do you know the difference between hardwoods and softwoods  There are many differences, and it is a complex issue.  Not all hard woods are hardwoods and not all soft woods are softwoods.  Balsa is an incredibly soft hardwood while yew is a very hard softwood.  The definition is based on reproduction.  Hardwood trees are angiosperms.  They are flowering plants that reproduce with seeds that have a covering (acorns, apples).  Softwoods are gymnosperms which aren't flowering and have seeds that fall to the ground with no covering (pinecones).  Most hardwoods lose their leaves in the winter while most softwoods are evergreens.  It gets more complex.  Hardwoods have pores in the wood which are used to transport water.  Softwoods move water differently so they have no pores.   Examples of hardwood trees include alder, apple, balsa, beech, cherry, eucalyptus, hickory, mahogany, maple, oak, teak, and walnut.  Examples of softwood trees are cedar, Douglas fir, juniper, pine, redwood, spruce, and yew.  For a quick identification, hardwood trees have flowers and softwood trees don't.  The density and strength of the wood don't define it as a hardwood or softwood.  The terms came from an old logging camp rule of thumb about how difficult it was to saw various types of wood.  Then scientists stepped in to add precise definitions which completely clouded the words.  The next time you want to confound someone, tell them that balsa is a hardwood.  See table of hardwoods and softwoods at

FREE ITEMS FROM THE LIBRARY OF CONGRESS, a sample page  The Library believes that this content is either in the public domain, has no known copyright, or has been cleared by the copyright owner for public use.  Each set of content is based on a theme and is first featured on the Library's home page.  These sets are just a small sample of the Library's digital collections that are free to use and reuse.  The digital collections comprise millions of items including books, newspapers, manuscripts, prints and photos, maps, musical scores, films, sound recordings and more.  Whenever possible, each collection has its own rights statement which should be consulted for guidance on use. Learn more about copyright and the Library's collections.
October 5, 2018  Crows Can Build Compound Tools Out of Multiple Parts, And Are You Even Surprised by Michelle Starr   Well, we didn't think it was possible, but we should have had more faith in our feathered corvid friends:  crows just got even cooler.  Researchers have discovered that crows don't just use single objects as tools; they can also make them out of multiple parts that are individually useless.  We already knew that corvids--crows and ravens--are capable of reasoning cause and effectsolving multi-step puzzlesplanning for the future and even fashioning simple tools out of sticks and paper.  But making compound tools is something that has only ever been observed before in primates--specifically, humans and and great apes.  "This multi-compound tool construction required dexterity and perseverance," the researchers wrote.  "It involved both combining hollow elements with sticks and the other way around, as well as turning the tool to insert the solid end in another hollow element.  Accidental discovery of this recursive process (treating a 2-element compound as a potential part for further combination and construction of a 3-element one, and so forth) seems implausible."  It's also the first time compound tool construction using more than 2 parts has been observed in an animal other than a human.  That doesn't mean crow cognition is similar to that of humans and apes necessarily--but it does provide some insight into the cognitive processes involved in problem solving, the researchers said.  And it adds yet another piece to the growing body of evidence that crows and ravens are the coolest of all the birds.  Their paper has been published in the journal Nature Scientific Reports.  Michelle Starr  See pictures at

Frankenreads  An international celebration of the 200th anniversary of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein for Halloween 2018 organized by the Keats-Shelley Association of America.  Be sure to watch the livestream of the central Frankenreads reading of Frankenstein at the Library of Congress beginning 9 a.m. Wednesday, October 31st, 2018 at!  And share your own comments, pictures, and videos on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube with the hashtag #frankenreads!  Frankenstein was ranked #43 in the 2018 favorite books contest Great American Read.

The Great Galveston Storm came ashore the night of Sept 8, 1900, with an estimated strength of a Category 4.  It remains the deadliest natural disaster and the worst hurricane in U.S. history.  From 6,000 to 12,000 people died on Galveston Island and the mainland.  Texas' most advanced city was nearly destroyed.  John Burnett  Read more and see pictures at  The Muser's maternal grandmother lived through the Galveston hurricane and never got over her fears during driving rainstorms.

Q.  What connects Guster, Wilfer and Quilp?  A. They are characters in the writings of Charles Dickens.  See Who's who in Dickens, a complete  Dickens repertory in Dicken's own words, 2nd edition by Thomas Alexander Fyfe at  

The bestseller list for paperback fiction in the October 28, 2018 issue of our local newspaper includes four books from the past:  Kevin Kwan's Crazy Rich Asians (2013), its two sequels--China Rich Girlfriend (2015) and Rich People Problems (2017)--and Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale (1985). 

The Great American Read--What They Missed  This list is for novels that you think should have been included as a finalist for The Great American Read sponsored by PBS.  Find titles with series information, if applicable, at  The first ten titles are Fahrenheit 451 , The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn , A Wrinkle in Time (Time Quintet, #1) , Animal Farm , The Kite Runner , Little House in the Big Woods (Little House, #1), Brave New World , Where the Sidewalk Ends , All the Light We Cannot See , and One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest .  Issue 1977  October 29, 2018  302nd day of the year

Friday, October 26, 2018

October 15, 2012  Lemonade apples  Elongated pale green apples with faint yellow-red patches, a little bit like Golden Delicious but more green than yellow, shape long kind of like Red Delicious but without the ribs.  New Zealand Lemonade is not the first apple to be named Lemonade.  In New Berlin, Wisconsin there is a heirloom apple orchard which grows (amongst others) two varieties only known to this particular orchard:  the Old Church apple and the Lemonade apple.   See pictures and tasting notes at

"When the Internet began it was more valuable as an investigative tool . . . It seems to have become one big chat-room for lonely people."  "Some people needed others to lose in order to feel like winners."  Survival of the Fittest, 13th novel in the Alex Delaware series by Jonathan Kellerman 

Herbert Spencer (1820–1903) was an English philosopher who initiated a philosophy called ‘Social Darwinism’.  He coined the term ‘survival of the fittest’ seven years before Darwin’s publication of his theory of natural history, The Origin of the Species in 1859.  Spencer became an enthusiastic supporter of Darwin’s theory of evolution, believing it could also be applied equally well to human societies.

An essential ingredient in Korean cuisine, gochugaru (or kochukaru) is a coarsely ground red pepper with a texture between flakes and powder.  Traditionally, gochugaru is made from sun-dried chile peppers, and versions that are prepared in this manner are still considered the best tasting.  The flavor is hot, sweet, and slightly smoky.  Substitutes like crushed red pepper or cayenne just don't compare.  Look for gochugaru ar Asian markets and online, and store in an airtight container, away from heat and light.  Gochugaru is a common ingredient in kimchi, dipping sauces for spring rolls, dressing, and marinades.  Link to recipes using gochugaru at

Mannerism, Italian Manierismo, (from maniera, “manner,” or “style”), artistic style that predominated in Italy from the end of the High Renaissance in the 1520s to the beginnings of the Baroque style around 1590.  The Mannerist style originated in Florence and Rome and spread to northern Italy and, ultimately, to much of central and northern Europe.  The term was first used around the end of the 18th century by the Italian archaeologist Luigi Lanzi to define 16th-century artists who were the followers of major Renaissance masters.  Read more and see graphics at

Bolivia is the only wine region in the world where you can visit a good quality vineyard in the morning and a coffee plantation in the afternoon.  The country has 4 wine regions, and its most northerly--Samaipata--is not only on the border of the Amazon rainforest, but also on the very edge of cool climate seasonality.  Any further north than this and the climate becomes tropical, with temperatures too warm all year round to grow grapes, whereas coffee beans thrive.  Bolivia has some of the highest altitude vineyards in the world.  Her biggest and best wine region, the “Central Valley”, lies in the “foothills” of the Andes around the town of Tarija in the south of the country, at altitudes between 1600–2250mts.  Only Salta, roughly 300kms south and just across the border into Argentina, has higher vineyards than this anywhere else in the world.  These high altitude vineyards are essential at this latitude--Tarija lies just south of the Tropic of Capricorn--because the nights are cool and daytime temperatures rarely rise above 35C.  They produce red wines with powerful aromatics and immense fruit concentration, combined with a welcoming freshness.  Bolivian wine has a rich and fascinating history dating back to the early Spanish settlers, who planted vines around the wealthy silver-mining city of Potosi back in the mid 16th Century.  The result of this is that Bolivia has some of, if not the oldest vines in the world which are still used for wine production.

TOM LONDON  (1889-1963)  Over the course of a career that lasted almost fifty years, Tom London amassed an incredibly long list of serial, feature, and television acting credits.  He portrayed a widely varied assortment of character types--bullying thugs, cagy slickers, upright lawmen, rascally sidekicks, solid citizens--with unvarying believability; his thin and deeply-lined face made him look both shifty and tough enough to be an effective heavy, while his pleasant, Southern-inflected voice and genial smile made it equally easy for him to play sympathetic roles.  The majority of his screen appearances were in B-western features, but his serial filmography is quite substantial as well; not counting stuntmen, the only actor who appeared in more chapterplays than London did was his frequent co-worker, the similarly prolific Edmund Cobb.  Like most serial character actors, London played bits far more often than major parts--but was always immediately recognizable--and always entertaining--even in a walk-on role.  Tom London was born Leonard Clapham in Louisville, Kentucky.  He went on the road as a traveling salesman before he was out of his teens, working the East Coast and the Midwest before abandoning this career for a job with Chicago’s Selig Polyscope Company--one of the earliest American movie studios; he initially worked as a prop man for Polyscope, but soon took on other duties with the company, among them that of equestrian stuntman.  When Polyscope’s owner, William Selig, shifted the studio’s base of operations from Chicago to California in 1909, young Clapham appears to have temporarily returned home to Kentucky, but by the early 1910s had rejoined the Selig outfit on the West Coast.  In 1915 he left his behind-the-scenes job at Polyscope and began seeking acting work, winning one of his first credited parts in the Universal silent serial The Purple Mask (1916).  Read more and see many graphics at

The Nose Knows by Amanda Pampuro   Purple and pleasant, lavender has long been used by folk medicine to induce calmness.  Now, a study published October 23, 2018 in Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience offers new insight into how linalool, one of the relaxation-inducing components found in lavender, works.  Researchers in the physiology department at Kagoshima University in Japan found that linalool, a terpene alcohol naturally found in lavender, decreased anxiety levels in laboratory mice when simply inhaled and does not need to enter the bloodstream to work.  In addition to effectively decreasing anxiety in mice, linalool does not cause detrimental side effects associated with medications often prescribed to reduce anxiety.

To Kill a Mockingbird was voted by viewers as America’s #1 best-loved novel in The Great American Read.  One of the best-loved stories of all time, To Kill a Mockingbird has been translated into more than forty languages, sold more than forty million copies worldwide, served as the basis for an enormously popular motion picture, and voted one of the best novels of the twentieth century by librarians across the country.  It views a world of great beauty and savage inequities through the eyes of a young girl, as her father—a crusading local lawyer—risks everything to defend a black man unjustly accused of a terrible crime.  To Kill a Mockingbird lead The Great American Read voting from the first week, and kept the lead for the entire five months of voting, despite strong competition from the rest of our five finalists.  See final rankings at

Three books have emerged with one of the world's most lucrative literary awards.  At a ceremony October 25, 2018 in Austin, Texas, judges named the winners of the Kirkus Prize—the select few plucked from among 1,193 books published in the past year.  Ling Ma's novel Severence took home the prize for fiction.  Call Them by Their True Names, an essay collection by Rebecca Solnit, won in the nonfiction category.  And the picture book Crown:  An Ode to the Fresh Cut earned the young readers' literature prize for author Derrick Barnes and illustrator Gordon C. James.  Each winning book nets $50,000 for the folks behind it, along with the slightly less tangible—though surely no less rewarding — laurels of recognition.  Colin Dwyer

October 25, 2018  An artwork created by an artificially intelligent program has been sold at auction for $432,000 (£337,000).  The painting, called Portrait of Edmond Belamy, was created by a Paris-based art collective called Obvious.  The artwork was produced using an algorithm and a data set of 15,000 portraits painted between the 14th and 20th Centuries.  To generate the image, the algorithm compared its own work to those in the data set until it could not tell them apart.  The portrait is the first piece of AI art to go under the hammer at a major auction house.  See picture at  Issue 1976  October 26, 2018  299th day of the year

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Homemade Labneh Recipe–AKA tangy, thick, creamy yogurt cheese.  Serve it Middle Eastern-style as a dip with lots of olive oil and a sprinkle of good Za’atar.  Or simply use it in place of cream cheese.  Find recipe and pictures at

 Za’atar spice is a blend of savory dried herbs like oregano, marjoram or thyme, and earthy spices like cumin and coriander, with sesame seeds, salt and the most important ingredient of all . . . sumac!  The Arabic word za'atar, pronounced ZAH-tahr, also means "thyme").  Sumac is available at Middle Eastern markets. 

Roman numerals traditionally indicate the order of rulers or ships who share the same name.  They are also sometimes still used in the publishing industry for copyright dates, and on cornerstones and gravestones when the owner of a building or the family of the deceased wishes to create an impression of classical dignity.  The Roman numbering system also lives on in our languages, which still use Latin word roots to express numerical ideas.  A few examples:  unilateral, duo, quadricep, septuagenarian, decade, milliliter.  Placing any smaller number in front of any larger number indicates subtraction.  Larger numbers were indicated by putting a horizontal line over them, which meant to multiply the number by 1,000.  Find meanings of I, V, X, L, C, D and M at
Gertie the Dinosaur is a 1914 American animated short film by Winsor McCay.  Although not the first animated film, as is sometimes thought, it was the first cartoon to feature a character with an appealing personality.  The appearance of a true character distinguished it from earlier animated “trick films”, such as those of Blackton and Cohl, and makes it the predecessor to later popular cartoons such as those by Walt Disney.  The film was also the first to be created using keyframe animation.  The film has been selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry, and was named #6 of The 50 Greatest Cartoons of all time in a 1994 survey of animators and cartoon historians by Jerry Beck.  Link to the 12:18 video at  Animation begins at 6:30.

February 28, 2018  FOR MANY WINEMAKERS, CONCRETE IS THE BEST OF BOTH WORLDS by Courtney Schiessl   For years, oak was the stamp of quality winemaking.  Oaked reds were more likely to get top scores by wine critics in the 1980s; and by the 1990s, winemakers sought out ways to impart oak flavors using oak chips and shavings.  But over the past decade, taste trends have shifted. That’s not to say that oak has disappeared in the cellar, but more consumers now seek wines without oak.  Winemakers are thus cutting back on new oak usage, and some brands release bottles labeled “unoaked” or “lightly oaked.”  Stainless steel vessels are the most popular options for unoaked wines, but recently winemakers have varied their preferences in the cellar.  Over the past decade, more winemakers have started using concrete tanks, a fermentation and aging alternative that offers the best of both steel and oak.  The trend has taken hold in both the Old and New Worlds, where many winemakers feel that concrete’s sturdiness and quality of wine produced outweighs the upfront cost and bulk of the tanks.  Historic Bordeaux producer Domaine de Chevalier installed 10 large concrete tanks in 2014, and Argentinian winery El Enemigo exclusively uses concrete eggs for fermentation.  And in case it seems like concrete tanks may just be a fashion, know that the trend dates all the way back to the ceramic amphorae of ancient Greek and Roman times.

Going back into the history of fermentation can be quite a wild ride, especially when considering just how much has changed.  In the days when the ancients first approached the magic of fermentation, a variety of materials were experimented with.  Clay and concrete, for example, were commonly employed before metal and other materials came to popularity, and would continues to be used commonly today.  While seldom utilized anywhere in the world on a grand scale anymore, these materials are experiencing a bit of a resurgence in modern craft brewing thanks in large part to experimental breweries attempting to trace the roots of their art all the way back to whence it first began.  Take Ohio’s Great Lakes Brewing Company, for example, where clay fermentation vessels used to recreate ancient an Sumerian brew is the highlight of the tour.  Dogfish Head Brewery, one of the largest craft producers in the country, has gained plenty of recognition for the popularization of “ancient ales,” including the brewery’s take on what is claimed to be the oldest-known fermented beverage in the world, sold commercially as Chateau Jiahu.  Eric Neilson

To give up the ghost means to expire or die, or in the case of a mechanical object, to stop working.  The phrase give up the ghost may be traced back to the King James Bible, printed in the early 1600s.  The term is used in several places in the Bible.  The phrase is usually translated in these times as giving up one’s spirit, rather than ghost.

Todt Hill, Staten Island has a summit of 409.2 feet above sea level.  It is the highest point along the Atlantic coastline south of Cadillac Mountain on Desert island, Maine.  It boasts views of the Verrazzano Narrows Bridge and the Lower New York Bay.  This provides residents with spectacular views , which historically offers the most expensive real estate on Staten Island.  Lot sizes are at least 100 by 100 feet, but one can still find estates with one or more acres here.  The bucolic feeling of the area is due to many large lots, mature trees, grand homes and  open space.  The wedding scene from the original Godfather movie was filmed at 57 Carlton Place, located off Ocean Terrace.  Todt Hill also includes the private seminary of St. Charles Seminary which is offers open space and includes  a portion of the former estate of renowned architect Ernest Flagg, known as “Stone Court“.  The seminary owns the former home of Ernest Flagg, which is a NYC Landmark.

October 23, 2018  "Turning beer into vinegar is an ancient tradition,” writes Cleveland chef Jonathon Sawyer in his new cookbook, House of Vinegar: The Power of Sour.  [But] we can thank the British for popularizing it.  While most of Europe was focused on making wine and wine vinegars, the British were brewing beer and making beer vinegars.”  But everything old is new again, as they say.  So the craft beer trend that has grown in recent years has naturally taken a turn as that specialty beer gets converted into vinegar.  Fermentation (another trend in the food world that’s actually an age-old practice) is the process that unlocks the potential of the beer, the vinegar created from it, and subsequently the food you’ll make with it.  Mr. Sawyer is a rock star of the food world, making Ohio proud.  He was named Best Chef:  Great Lakes in 2015 by the James Beard Foundation, and has competed on the Food Network's Chopped Grill Masters Napa and Iron Chef Gauntlet.  And he has taken an opportunity, with this new book, to cement his legacy further by sharing the power of sour.  Mary Bilyeu  Article includes recipe for Boccanegra (Chocolate-Vinegar Cake).

Strict in-context zone (stay off Twitter and Facebook in this area)  Non Sequitur comic strip  October 24, 2018  Issue 1975  October 24, 2018  297th day of the year  Word of the Day  false negative  noun  result of a test that shows as absent something that is present.  (statistics)  A type II error (accepting the null hypothesis when it is false).  Wiktionary