Friday, May 31, 2019

What’s the Difference Between Raisins, Sultanas, and Currants?  by Kelli Foster   Raisins are dried grapes, specifically dried white-fleshed grapes.  These grapes are initially green in skin color and darken as they dry, becoming a dense, dark-colored dried fruit containing small seeds and bursting with sweet flavor.  Sultanas, sometimes just called golden raisins, are golden-colored dried grapes that are made from various varieties of seedless white-fleshed grapes.  The skin of these fruits start off as pale yellow in color, but unlike raisins, don’t darken in the same way as they dry.  Compared to raisins, sultanas also easily absorb liquid, but are smaller and slightly sweeter.  While raisins and sultanas are sweet and grow on vines, true black and red currants are quite tart and grow on bushes.  The name currant on its own just refers to the fresh currant fruit.  So what exactly are the sweet, dried fruits labeled Zante currants?  These are not actually proper currants!  They come from very small grapes (about one-fourth the size of standard grapes), and that’s where some confusion may arise.  Here’s the history:  Around 1911, the commercial cultivation of black currants was outlawed, as it was believed they were spreading disease that affected the U.S. timber industry.  Shortly thereafter, Greece started exporting Zante currants, small, dried grapes that were a fraction of the size of standard grapes.  Supposedly when the first shipment reached the U.S., the word “Corinth” was mistakenly translated into “currant,” and the name stuck.  Since true currants were banned for some time, people came to know Zante currants as currants.

It makes sense that Sun-Maid and its competitors in the raisin sector, all working and living in the same water-hungry valley, might not be the best of friends.  But the American raisin industry, which is estimated to be worth about $500 million, is particularly fractious.  Other groups of farmers also band together to set prices; while raisin growers do that, they do not tend to cooperate on much else.  That includes a reluctance to work together on raisin advertising, which is especially strange given that the raisin industry commissioned and paid for one of the world’s most recognizable advertising campaigns.  The first California Dancing Raisins commercial debuted on television in the fall of 1986.  You may recall the ad with their version of Marvin Gaye’s “I Heard It Through the Grapevine.”  These anthropomorphic raisins, conceived as an R&B group in the Motown mold, were some of the first animated characters created with Claymation.  Raisin sales spiked.  But success bred discontent.  Even as Sun-Maid benefited disproportionately from the ads as the biggest brand in town, Barry Kriebel, then the company’s president, worked to limit his competitors from profiting in the same manner.  He was dead set on restricting the way that the dancing raisin was displayed on the packaging of other brands—and Sun-Maid, which now represents about 40 percent of the industry, was big enough to put the pressure on.  Barry Kriebel “and I fought like cats and dogs,” said Kalem Barserian, 81, the leader of the Raisin Bargaining Association, which represents raisin farmers as they negotiate prices with raisin processors, including Sun-Maid.  Mr. Kriebel prevailed, poisoning good feeling in the industry about the Dancing Raisins.  In 1994, a majority of raisin packers petitioned to terminate the funding, halting the commercials.  Raisin farming (like most kinds of farming) is risky.  So, starting in the mid-20th century, raisin farmers began committing a significant share of their crop to a communal supply.  And through these years, demand for raisins has fallen.  The number of acres given over to the Thompson seedless grape, traditionally grown for raisins, has been halved from 2000 to 2019.  The U.S. used to provide 50 percent of the global raisin market.  Now it’s down to about 20 percent.  Turkey exports more raisins than America does.  China, Iran and South Africa have become more competitive in this space.  Jonah Engel Bromwich  Read more and see pictures at

THE EASY WAY TO COOK DRIED BEANS  Rinse beans and place in large pot of boiling water.  Turn off heat, cover, and let sit one hour.  Cook beans about thirty minutes.  Test for doneness.  If not done to desired consistency, continue to cook in covered pot until you are satisfied with the taste.

Quicksilver may refer to:  Quicksilver (metal), the chemical element mercury.  Find other uses such as in music, film. television, fiction and computing at

Soldiers Memorial Military Museum, located in downtown Saint Louis, is a state-of-the-art museum facility honoring local military service members, veterans, and their families.  Originally opened in May 1938, Soldiers Memorial reopened in November 2018 following a two-year, $30 million revitalization overseen by the Missouri Historical Society.  With the help of Mackey Mitchell Architects and numerous local craftsmen, every effort was made to maintain the architectural and historic integrity of the art deco building while also bringing it up to contemporary museum standards.  Additionally, Soldiers Memorial is now LEED certified and fully ADA compliant.  The Court of Honor, located across Chestnut Street, has also been updated to include a fountain recognizing each of the five branches of the military and a reflecting pool.  Walkways connect the Court of Honor to Soldiers Memorial, uniting these two important spaces of reflection and remembrance.  Under the operational leadership of the Missouri Historical Society, which also operates the Missouri History Museum in Forest Park and the Library & Research Center on Skinker Boulevard, the exhibits at Soldiers Memorial relate St. Louisans’ stories of service in their own words through oral histories, archival materials, and firsthand accounts.  Also featured are hundreds of artifacts, many of which have never been displayed before.  Find location and visitor information at

"There is no other place on Earth like this," Angie Carl says.  Her voice carries across the swamp of North Carolina's Black River as we sit floating in kayaks at the knees of our elders, an ancient stand of bald cypress trees.  Following markers of neon-pink ribbons tied to branches, we've paddled to this remote stand to recreate a journey that Carl took eight years ago guiding David W. Stahle, a University of Arkansas scientist.  Carl is the fire and coastal restoration manager for The Nature Conservancy’s Black River Preserve.  Stahle is one of the deans of using dendrochronology (growth rings) and radiocarbon dating to study the climate hundreds or even thousands of years into the past.  The two conservationists had come upon the oldest living trees in the U.S. east of California and some of the oldest in the world.  Testing would later reveal that one of them is at least 2,624 years old, making it alive when Nebuchadnezzar II built the Hanging Gardens in Babylon, when the Normans invaded England, and when Shakespeare first set quill to paper.  After examining the timber cores in the lab—measuring tree rings and taking radiocarbon readings—Stahle and his team today published a paper in IOP Science moving the bald cypress up the list of oldest living tree species to number five, behind the Sierra juniper of California and ahead of the Rocky Mountain bristlecone pine.  The Great Basin bristlecone pine of California remains the oldest, non-clonal living tree in the world at 5,066 years.  (These individual trees are distinct from a clonal colony, such as Pando in Utah, a group of trees that have all grown from the same root system.)  The value of the ancient bald cypresses in North Carolina goes beyond bragging rights at the old tree club.  Tree rings offer a treasure trove of climate history going back thousands of years before the development of climate record keeping using science instruments (widespread use of rain gauges began in the late 19th century).  Bald cypresses are particularly adept at preserving the record of rainfall during the growing season.  "It's an amazing coincidence that the oldest known living trees in eastern North America also have the strongest climate signal ever detected anywhere on Earth," Stahle says.  Jim Morrison  See pictures at  Thank you, Muse reader! 

Aretha Franklin named The 2019 Pulitzer Prize Winner in Special Awards and Citations  Her many countless classics include “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman,” “Chain Of Fools,” “I Never Loved A Man (The Way I Love You)”; her own compositions “Think,” “Daydreaming” and “Call Me”; her definitive versions of “Respect” and “I Say A Little Prayer”; and global hits like “Freeway Of Love,” “Jump To It,” “I Knew You Were Waiting (For Me),” her worldwide chart-topping duet with George Michael, and “A Rose Is Still A Rose.”  The recipient of the U.S.A.’s highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal Of Freedom, an eighteen (and counting) GRAMMY Award winner--the most recent of which was for Best Gospel Performance for “Never Gonna Break My Faith” with Mary J. Blige in 2008--a GRAMMY Lifetime Achievement and GRAMMY Living Legend awardee, Aretha Franklin’s powerful, distinctive gospel-honed vocal style has influenced countless singers across multi-generations, earning her Rolling Stone magazine’s No. 1 placing on the list of “The Greatest Singers Of All Time.”  Aretha Franklin died in her hometown of Detroit, Mich. on August 16, 2018.  Find 2019 Pulitzer Prize winners at  Issue 2104  May 31, 2019

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

The high school basketball experience at Riverside High School is unusual.  Start with the building itself.  A motorist might do a double take traveling westbound along 30th Street where the former Heslar Naval Armory rises four stories at the edge of the White River.  Inscribed around the rotunda entrance of the 60,000-square foot white building are the names of significant figures in Naval history, including David Farragut, who rose to acclaim for his role for the Union in the Civil War and best known for his line:  “Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead!” at the Battle of Mobile Bay in 1864.  It is easy to get lost in the history here.  Workers broke ground on the armory in 1936 as a Works Project Administration program that put nearly 200 local men to work for two years.  The building was designed as a Naval training center, but also as a community center for residents in the area.  The $500,000 building was dedicated in October of 1938 and immediately put to use as a training center for men who would go on to serve in World War II.  In 2015, the United States Navy Reserve and Marine Corps Reserve moved out of the building.  Ownership transitioned from the city to Indiana Landmarks to Herron High School, which set about a $10.6 million renovation project to turn the former Naval armory into a second school modeled after Herron, a public charter school located at 16th and Pennsylvania streets and member of the Indianapolis Classic Schools network based on a classical, liberal arts education.  So began Riverside High School.  The school’s sports teams are the perfectly-named Argonauts.  Kyle Neddenreip

The Turing Test was passed for the very first time by supercomputer Eugene Goostman during Turing Test 2014 held at the renowned Royal Society in London on June 7, 2014.  'Eugene', a computer programme that simulates a 13 year old boy, was developed in Saint Petersburg, Russia.  The development team includes Eugene's creator Vladimir Veselov, who was born in Russia and now lives in the United States, and Ukrainian born Eugene Demchenko who now lives in Russia.  The Turing Test is based on 20th century mathematician and code-breaker Turing's 1950 famous question and answer game, 'Can Machines Think?'  The experiment investigates whether people can detect if they are talking to machines or humans.  If a computer is mistaken for a human more than 30% of the time during a series of five minute keyboard conversations it passes the test.  No computer has ever achieved this, until now.  Eugene managed to convince 33% of the human judges that it was human.  This historic event was organised by the University's School of Systems Engineering in partnership with RoboLaw, an EU-funded organisation examining the regulation of emerging robotic technologies. 

Broccoli, botanically known as Brassica oleracea italica, is native to the Mediterranean.  It was engineered from a cabbage relative by the Etruscans—an ancient Italian civilization who lived in what is now Tuscany—who were considered to be horticultural geniuses.  Its English name, broccoli, is derived from the Italian word broccolo, which means "the flowering crest of a cabbage," and the Latin brachium meaning arm, branch, or shoot.  When first introduced in England in the mid-18th century, broccoli was referred to as "Italian asparagus."  There are records of Thomas Jefferson, who was an avid gardener, experimenting with broccoli seeds brought over from Italy in the late 1700s, but although commercial cultivation of broccoli dates back to the 1500s, it did not become a popular foodstuff in the United States until Southern Italian immigrants brought it over in the early 1920s.  The large head and thick stalk broccoli we are most familiar with is Calabrese broccoli (named after Calabria, Italy), although it is typically labeled simply as broccoli.  Even though it is available in stores year-round, it is a cold-weather crop.  There is another variety that features several thin stalks and heads called sprouting broccoli, and you may also come across Romanesco broccoli, which is tightly packed in a cone shape and is bright green in color.  If you like broccoli, you may want to try broccolini, also called baby broccoli, which is a cross between broccoli and kale, or you might find broccoflower, a cross between broccoli and cauliflower, an appealing snack if you're a fan of both of these flowering vegetables.  Peggy Trowbridge Fillippone   Link to histories of other foods at

PARAPHRASES FROM The Third Victim, a novel by Lisa Gardner  * Salacious rumors are more appealing than hard, cold facts.  *  Do you want a solution or an excuse to be angry? 

Authors and translators the Muser is grateful for

Life is a Highway: Art and American Car Culture  June 15, 2019-September 15, 2019  The Toledo Museum of Art Canaday Gallery   The first large-scale domestic exhibition to provide a historical overview of this topic with an emphasis upon the Midwest, Life is a Highway will bring together a diverse selection of artists to showcase the automobile’s reshaping of the 20th-century American landscape and cultural attitudes of self-expression.  Featuring more than 100 works from the Toledo Museum of Art’s own collection and both private and public loans, this exhibition will chart the rise of automobility as a visual icon of American identity.  With works spanning from early depictions through the Pop Artists’ portrayal of the automobile’s impact upon consumer culture to the present, the car’s image as a symbol of newness, freedom and independence, mobility, and renewal will be explored.  Organized through four themes that call attention to the social, aesthetic, environmental, and industrial dimensions of its legacy, this exhibition will include a range of visual media.  This is a ticketed exhibition.  A selection of original paintings by McClelland Barclay (1891-1943) from Stephen D. and Julie Taylor's collection, will be in Galleries 4 and 5. 

Artists the Muser is grateful for

A. Word.A.Day with Anu Garg
Haussmannize  (HAUS-muh-nyz)  verb tr.  To redevelop or rebuild an area, especially on a massive scale.  Coined after Georges-Eugène Haussman (1809-1891) who was appointed by Napoleon III to carry out the renovation of Paris.  Earliest documented use:  1865.
MacGyver  (muh-GY-vuhr)  verb tr.  To improvise an ingenious solution using whatever is available at hand.  After Angus MacGyver, a secret agent in the television series MacGyver, who was known for improvising ingenious solutions to the problems he faced.  He carried a Swiss Army knife and duct tape.  Earliest documented use:  1992.  Some related terms, though not synonyms, are kludge and jury-rig.
macadamize  (muh-KAD-uh-myz)  verb tr.  To construct or pave a road with small, broken stones bound with asphalt or tar.  After John Loudon McAdam (1756-1836), civil engineer, who pioneered this method of building a road.  Earliest documented use:  1823.  McAdam also appears in the word tarmac.  The word was originally a trademark, coined by combining tar + McAdam.
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From:  Andrew Pressburger  Subject:  Haussmannize  Probably the most famous inhabitant of Boulevard Haussmann was the writer Marcel Proust, author of the novel In Search of Lost Time (better known in English as Remembrance of Things Past).
From:  John Slobodniuk  Subject:  MacGyver’d It  We had an air conditioner removed and it left a hole for two years.  I finally decided to try to fix it.  I did it by using several beer coasters, a rusty screw, and some putty while my wife was at work.  Painted it over it and BOOM... new wall!  When my wife got home, she asked what I did. I replied “MacGyver’d it.”  That’s all that needed to be said.
From:  Jorge del Desierto  Subject:  macadamize   In the French-speaking province of Quebec, Canada, many old words remain due to its centuries-long isolation from France after the British conquest.  The word char (chariot) is still used to describe an automobile.  Macadam is a wonderful word for poet and musicians.  Jean-Luc Ferland, a ‘60s icon in the province’s music scene, wrote Les fleurs de macadam (1962)  2:40 video  Issue 2103  May 28, 2019

Friday, May 24, 2019

At the time of the first Earth Day in 1970, the Cuyahoga River had long been a pollution problem.  Cleveland had been a major industrial city since the 1880s, and the mayor then called the river “an open sewer through the center of the city.”  But when the Cuyahoga River caught fire in Cleveland in 1969, many believe it became the symbol of out-of-control pollution that was needed to get the Clean Water Act passed.  The word “cuyahoga” means crooked.  When you look at a map, the Cuyahoga’s path forms a U-shape—beginning in northeastern Geauga County, running south and west, through Akron, then turning back north to Cleveland on Lake Erie.  And in the late 1960s, those last few miles leading to Lake Erie were lined with steel mills and factories.  At that time, little had been done to stop the pollution.  A few months after the fire, Time magazine picked up the story and ran a photo of an earlier, much worse fire.  Later that year, Congress passed the National Environmental Policy  Act.  It was the precursor to the Environmental Protection Agency, which was established in 1970—the year of the first Earth Day.  Indeed, President Nixon, who generally supported environmental clean-up efforts, vetoed a bill passed by Congress to create national water quality standards because of the high price tag.  Congress overrode his veto.  That law was the Clean Water Act.  Julie Grant

Burn On by Randy Newman - Sail Away  1972  There's a red moon rising On the Cuyahoga River Rolling into Cleveland to the lake . . . Burn on, big river, burn on Burn on, big river, burn on  (beginning and ending lyrics)  See all lyrics at   2:34

The Royal Palace of Madrid is the official residence of the Spanish Royal Family at the city of Madrid, although now only used for state ceremonies.  The palace has 135,000 square metres (1,450,000 sq ft) of floor space and contains 3,418 rooms.  It is the largest functioning Royal Palace and the largest by floor area in Europe.  King Felipe VI and the Royal Family do not reside in the palace, choosing instead the significantly more modest Palace of Zarzuela on the outskirts of Madrid.  The palace is owned by the Spanish State and administered by the Patrimonio Nacional, a public agency of the Ministry of the Presidency.  Several rooms in the palace are regularly open to the public except during state functions.  An admission fee of €13 is required, however some days it is free.  The palace is located on the site of a 9th-century Alcázar ("Muslim-era fortress"), near the town of Magerit, constructed as an outpost by Muhammad I of Córdoba and inherited after 1036 by the independent Moorish Taifa of Toledo.  After Madrid fell to King Alfonso VI of Castile in 1083, the edifice was only rarely used by the kings of Castile.  In 1329, King Alfonso XI of Castile convened the cortes of Madrid for the first time.  King Felipe II moved his court to Madrid in 1561.  The old Alcázar was built on the location in the 16th century.  After it burned 24 December 1734, King Felipe V ordered a new palace built on the same site.  King Carlos III first occupied the new palace in 1764.

 “What in tarnation?” is one of a wide variety of euphemistic expressions of surprise, bewilderment or anger that arose in 18th and 19th century America.  Perhaps due to our Puritan legacy, Americans were, during this period, especially creative in devising oaths that allowed us to express strong emotions while still skirting blasphemy.  Such inventions as “heck,” “drat,” “darn,” “gosh,” “jiminy,” “gee-whiz” and “goldarn” were all devised to disguise exclamations that would have been considered shocking in polite society.  “Sam Hill,” for example, is simply an early 19th century euphemism for “hell” (and while there have been many people named Sam Hill throughout history, the expression does not come from the name of any particular Sam Hill).

Before you do any cooking with rhubarb, you ought to at least try it raw.  Remove all leaves as they are poisionous.  Find five ways to use rhubarb at  Find 70 recipes for rhubarb at

right up one's alley/right down one's alley  In one's specialty, to one's taste.  These idioms use alley in the sense of "one's own province," a usage dating from the early 1600s.  [First half of 1900s]  Also see cup of tea.

Here is my full summer reading list by Bill Gates  Upheavalby Jared Diamond.  Nine Pintsby Rose George.  A Gentleman in Moscowby Amor Towles.  Presidents of Warby Michael Beschloss.  The Future of Capitalismby Paul Collier.  See descriptions of suggested books for summer 2019 at

Omani author Jokha Alharthi has won the 2019s Man Booker International Prize--the first Arabic writer to do so.  Her novel Celestial Bodies centres on the lives of three sisters and their families coming to terms with social changes in Oman.  Judges described it as "a richly imagined, engaging and poetic insight".  Alharthi shares the award of £50,000 ($63,000) with her translator, the American academic Marilyn Booth.  "I am thrilled that a window has been opened to the rich Arabic culture," Alharthi told journalists after the ceremony at the Roundhouse in London.  Alharthi has previously written two collections of short fiction, a children's book and three novels in Arabic.  Issue 2102  May 24, 2019

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Montserrat library  Though the existence of manuscript works has been recorded since the monastery was founded in the 11th century, it was in the 12th century that Montserrat established its own scriptorium, which was particularly active in the 14th and 15th centuries.  The establishment of a printing press here by Abbot Cisneros in 1499 was decisive in furthering the monastery’s cultural mission.  The library collections continued to grow and diversify throughout the 17th and 18th centuries.  According to the records, its shelves held thousands of books.  However, the most tragic moment in its history came during the Napoleonic Wars when, in 1811, the monastery was destroyed and most of the library’s treasures were lost.  The library as it stands today was founded in the late19th century and grew particularly under the abbacy of Father Antoni M. Marcet (1913-1946) when, in just a few years, the library’s collections rose from 15,000 volumes to around 150,000.  Later, acquisitions ceased or were made more difficult, firstly due to the Spanish Civil War and later by the Second World War.  Over the last few decades, however, the number of volumes in the library has doubled.  Particularly outstanding are the sections on philosophy, theology, Bible studies, patrology, liturgy, music and art history.  The library also contains excellent sections on universal general history, particularly medieval and European, as well as the history of Catalonia and the countries of the Crown of Aragon, with an important collection of works devoted to local history and the Spanish Civil War.  See pictures and link to contact information and planning a visit at

In 2018, Japanese artist Fujiko Nakaya brought her unique “fog sculptures” to Boston, revealing immersive yet fleeting works of art in one of the city’s biggest green spaces.  The exhibition, Fog x FLO: Fujiko Nakaya on the Emerald Necklace, was held in a chain of Boston parks known as the Emerald Necklace.  Nakaya has been known for her fog installations since the 1970s and has created such pieces at sites like the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao and the Tate Modern in London.  Alex Butler  Read more and see pictures at  See also and find a list of works, awards and achievements.

Henrik Ibsen (1828-1906) was one of the world's greatest dramatists.  He was the leading figure of an artistic renaissance that took place in Norway at the end of the nineteenth century, a renaissance that also included the painter Edvard Munch.  Ibsen grew up in poverty, studied medicine for a while, then abandoned that to write plays.  In 1858, he published his first play, The Vikings at Helgeland.   Ibsen obtained a scholarship to travel to Italy, where he wrote the plays that would establish his reputation, Brand and Peer Gynt.  These were long, historical verse plays.  He lived most of the rest of his life in Italy and Germany.  Starting in 1869, he began to write prose plays.  Some critics would say that at this point in his life, Ibsen abandoned poetry and took up realism.  In 1877, he began what became a series of five plays in which he examines the moral faults of modern society.  In order of appearance, the plays were The Pillars of Society, A Doll's HouseGhosts, An Enemy of the People, and The Wild Duck.  An Enemy of the People attacks the institution of the liberal newspaper.  Like all of the plays in this series, An Enemy of the People deals with the extent to which individual desires and beliefs are compromised by society.  In particular, the play focuses on the ways in which an individual can be ostracized by the society he is trying to help.  Like all of Ibsen's plays, An Enemy of the People was originally written in Norwegian and is full of untranslatable wordplay.

Rough and Tumble Historical Association, Inc. is a 501(c)(3) non-profit museum located on 33 acres in Lancaster County in PA that helps preserve America's Agricultural and Industrial history by holding events throughout the year.  We have many operating exhibits as well as numerous Steam Traction Engines including the 2nd oldest running steam traction engine in the USthe Schiedler built in 1886 recently restored.  We have a large building of stationary steam sngines.  You will see some of the best restored John Deere, IH, and Rumely tractors around to name a few.  Watch our blacksmiths forging items.  Founded in 1948, we are celebrating our 71th year in 2019 with the unique history as one of the longest and earliest running organizations of this type in the U.S.  The 71st R & T Threshermen's Reunion is to be held August 14th to the 17th in 2019 featuring Minneapolis Moline and Water Pumping Equipment.  The 20th Annual Empire Expo  will be held by The Empire Tractor Owners Club in conjunction with the 71st Annual Threshermen’s Reunion.  Rough and Tumble is located at 4997 Lincoln Highway East (U.S. Route 30) in Lancaster, PA.  Phone:  717-442-4249

stonewall (n.)  also stone wall, Old English stanwalle; see stone (n.) + wall (n.).  As nickname of Confederate General Thomas J. Jackson (1824-1863), bestowed 1861 on the occasion of the First Battle of Bull Run, supposedly by Gen. Bernard Bee, urging his brigade to rally around Jackson, who was "standing like a stone wall." 
stonewall (v.)  "to obstruct," 1889 in sports; 1914 in politics, from metaphoric use of stone wall (n.) for "act of obstruction" (1876).  Related: Stonewalledstonewalling (defined in Century Dictionary as "parliamentary obstruction by talking against time, raising technical objections, etc.," and identified as originally Australian).

There are approximately 350 different shapes of pasta, and according to authors of the cookbook, The Geometry of Pasta, there are 1,200 different names.  For example, farfalle is also known as “bowtie” or “butterfly.”  Jacob Kennedy, chef and co-author of the cookbook, says,  “The flatter and longer shapes combine well with olive oil and cream sauces, while sturdier shapes, such as orecchiette, work well with chunkier and more assertively flavored sauces.  Tomato and simple cream and butter sauces are universal and will go well with basically all pasta.”  While cooking pasta, be sure to use a large pot to give the pasta room to grow and move; this also prevents it from sticking to the bottom and sides.  Remember to add salt--there is an Italian saying to flavor the water as salty as the sea to properly season the pasta.  Olive oil is unnecessary in the water, as the pasta will be finished in the pan with the sauce.  Once the pasta is nearly cooked, drain and transfer it into a pan with the warmed sauce where it will finish cooking.  This ensures that the pasta is well coated.

KILOGRAM REDEFINED  When scientists met at the General Conference on Weights and Measures in Versailles in November 2018,  and voted for the change, they were realizing the founding dream of the metric system.  The metric system—which evolved into the International System of Units, or SI—was designed to be “for all times, for all people.”  For more than a century, the kilogram had a very simple definition:  It was the mass of a hunk of platinum-iridium alloy that’s been housed at the International Bureau of Weights and Measures in Sèvres, France since 1889.  Starting May 20, 2019, the kilogram will be defined by the Planck constant.  Written out, the Planck constant is 6.62607015 × 10-34 m2kg/s.  Every unit in the Planck constant is defined by an unchanging force of nature.  The meter is defined by the speed of light.  The second is defined by characteristics of the atoms in the element cesium.  And once the value of the Planck constant was measured and agreed upon, it means the kilogram can be set too.  Don’t worry:  The new kilogram has the same mass as the old kilogram.  That’s because scientists used the old kilogram to measure the value of the Planck constant.  Brian Resnick

WORD OF THE DAY  orature  noun   The oral equivalent of literature:  a collection of traditional folk songsstories, etc., that is communicated orally rather than in writing. 
May 21 is World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development or Diversity Day, which is recognized by the United Nations to highlight the value of cultural diversity and the need for people to live together in harmony.  Wiktionary  Issue 2101  May 21, 2019

Monday, May 20, 2019

The law of unintended consequences, often cited but rarely defined, is that actions of people, and especially of governments, always have effects that are unanticipated or "unintended."  The concept of unintended consequences is one of the building blocks of economics.  Adam Smith's "invisible hand," the most famous metaphor in social science, is an example of a positive unintended consequence.  Smith maintained that each individual, seeking only his own gain, "is led by an invisible hand to promote an end which was no part of his intention," that end being the public interest.  "It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, or the baker, that we expect our dinner," Smith wrote, "but from regard to their own self interest."  In 1692 John Locke, the English philosopher and a forerunner of modern economists, urged the defeat of a parliamentary bill designed to cut the maximum permissible rate of interest from 6 percent to 4 percent.  Locke argued that instead of benefiting borrowers, as intended, it would hurt them. People would find ways to circumvent the law, with the costs of circumvention borne by borrowers.  To the extent the law was obeyed, Locke concluded, the chief results would be less available credit and a redistribution of income away from "widows, orphans and all those who have their estates in money."  The first and most complete analysis of the concept of unintended consequences was done in 1936 by the American sociologist Robert K. Merton.  In an influential article titled "The Unanticipated Consequences of Purposive Social Action," Merton identified five sources of unanticipated consequences.  The first two, and the most pervasive, were ignorance and error.  Merton labeled the third source the "imperious immediacy of interest."  By that he was referring to instances in which an individual wants the intended consequence of an action so much that he purposefully chooses to ignore any unintended effects.  (That type of willful ignorance is very different from true ignorance.)  A nation, for example, might ban abortion on moral grounds even though children born as a result of the policy may be unwanted and likely to be more dependent on the state.  The unwanted children are an unintended consequence of banning abortions, but not an unforeseen one.  "Basic values" was Merton's fourth example.  The Protestant ethic of hard work and asceticism, he wrote, "paradoxically leads to its own decline through the accumulation of wealth and possessions."  His final case was the "self-defeating prediction."  Here he was referring to the instances when the public prediction of a social development proves false precisely because the prediction changes the course of history.  For example, the warnings earlier in this century that population growth would lead to mass starvation helped spur scientific breakthroughs in agricultural productivity that have since made it unlikely that the gloomy prophecy will come true.  Merton later developed the flip side of this idea, coining the phrase "the self-fulfilling prophecy."  In a footnote to the 1936 article, he vowed to write a book devoted to the history and analysis of unanticipated consequences.  By 1991, Merton, age eighty, had produced six hundred pages of manuscript but still not completed the work.  Social Security has helped alleviate poverty among senior citizens.  Many economists argue, however, that it has carried a cost that goes beyond the payroll taxes levied on workers and employers.  Martin Feldstein and others maintain that today's workers save less for their old age because they know they will receive Social Security checks when they retire.  If Feldstein and the others are correct, it means that less savings are available, less investment takes place, and the economy and wages grow more slowly than they would without Social Security.  The law of unintended consequences is at work always and everywhere.  In 1968, for instance, Vermont outlawed roadside billboards and large signs in order to protect the state's pastoral vistas.  One unintended consequence was the appearance of large, bizarre "sculptures" adjacent to businesses.  An auto dealer commissioned a twelve-foot, sixteen-ton gorilla, clutching a real Volkswagen Beetle.  A carpet store is marked by a nineteen-foot genie holding aloft a rolled carpet as he emerges from a smoking teapot.  Other sculptures include a horse, a rooster, and a squirrel in red suspenders.  Rob Norton

Nothing has just one consequence.  Consequences fan out in all directions over time.  Life is like playing piano with oven mitts on.  You go to hit one key and others get hit in the process.

In 1890, New Yorker Eugene Schieffelin wanted to look out his window and see the same kind of birds in the sky that Shakespeare had seen.  Inspired by a mention of starlings in Henry VI, Schieffelin released 100 of the non-native birds in Central Park over two years.  (He wasn’t acting alone--he had the support of scientists and the American Acclimatization Society.)  The birds didn’t just survive; they thrived and bred like weeds.  Unfortunately, Schieffelin’s plan worked too well.  Far, far too well.  The starlings multiplied exponentially, spreading across America at an astonishing rate.  Today, we don’t even know how many of them live in the U.S., with official estimates ranging from 45 million to 200 million.  Most, if not all, of them are descended from Schieffelin’s initial 100 birds.  The problem is that as an alien species, the starlings wreak havoc because they were introduced into an ecosystem they were not naturally part of and the local species had (and still have) no defense against them. 

Traffic is a mess in Georgetown.  The Washington, D.C. neighborhood didn't want the subway in their area.  Now their penalty is constant congestion.  See also Five Examples of the Law of Unintended Consequences by Mark J. Perry at

Noah's Ark Pudding Asure is a cornucopia of healthy ingredients like dried fruits, legumes and whole grain wheat that are sweetened with sugar and fruit juices and cooked all together in one pot.  This pudding traditionally contains apricots, raisins, currantsfigspine nuts, walnuts, hazelnuts, chickpeas and navy beans to name just a few ingredients.  Some cooks even add chestnuts, lima beans, bulgur wheat and slivers of fresh coconut.  Almost anything goes.  Turkish legend has it that the first version of 'aşure' was made by Noah himself.  After weeks on the ark, the waters began to recede.  As food stocks dwindled, Noah decided to throw bits of everything he had left on the ark into one pot.  What he got was a delicious pudding that kept he and his passengers well-fed until the ark finally rested on Mount Ararat in eastern Turkey.  Some say 'aşure'(aah-shoor-EY) is the oldest dessert in the world.  There is no set recipe for making Noah's ark pudding.  There are hundreds, if not thousands of variations.  Find recipe serving six at  See also Noah's Pudding at  As a project, have a group of people bring items of their choice and put everything together.

The Panama Papers are 11.5 million leaked documents that detail financial and attorney–client information for more than 214,488 offshore entities.  The documents, some dating back to the 1970s, were created by, and taken from, Panamanian law firm and corporate service provider Mossack Fonseca, and were leaked in 2015 by an anonymous source.  The documents contain personal financial information about wealthy individuals and public officials that had previously been kept private.  While offshore business entities are legal (see Offshore Magic Circle), reporters found that some of the Mossack Fonseca shell corporations were used for illegal purposes, including fraudtax evasion, and evading international sanctions.  "John Doe", the whistleblower who leaked the documents to German journalist Bastian Obermayer from the newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung (SZ), remains anonymous, even to the journalists who worked on the investigation.  "My life is in danger", he told them.  In a May 6, 2016, statement, John Doe cited income inequality as the reason for his action, and said he leaked the documents "simply because I understood enough about their contents to realize the scale of the injustices they described".  He added that he had never worked for any government or intelligence agency and expressed willingness to help prosecutors if granted immunity from prosecution after SZ verified that the statement did in fact come from the source for the Panama Papers, the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) posted the full document on its website.  SZ asked the ICIJ for help because of the amount of data involved.  Journalists from 107 media organizations in 80 countries analyzed documents detailing the operations of the law firm.  After more than a year of analysis, the first news stories were published on April 3, 2016, along with 150 of the documents themselves.  The project represents an important milestone in the use of data journalism software tools and mobile collaboration.  The documents were dubbed the Panama Papers because of the country they were leaked from; however, the Panamanian government expressed strong objections to the name over concerns that it would tarnish the government's and country's image worldwide, as did other entities in Panama and elsewhere.  This led to an advertising campaign some weeks after the leak, titled "Panama, more than papers".  Some media outlets covering the story have used the name "Mossack Fonseca papers".

In one of the most grating pop culture collisions of all time, Canadian joke-popsters Barenaked Ladies wrote the theme song for long-running sitcom The Big Bang Theory, and as a special send-off for the May 16, 2019 series finale, the band unveiled a brand new version of the song.  The new rendition features frontman Ed Robertson performing solo with an acoustic guitar, presenting a slightly more solemn version of the usually peppy tune.  Barenaked Ladies recently performed the new acoustic rendition of The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.  Sarah Murphy  Link to both versions of the song and watch the live performance at

Herman Wouk (pronounced WOKE), the versatile, Pulitzer Prize winning author of such million-selling novels as “The Caine Mutiny” and “The Winds of War” died May 17, 2019 at 103.  Wouk was just 10 days shy of his 104th birthday and was working on a book until the end, said his literary agent Amy Rennert.  Rennert said Wouk died in his sleep at his home in Palm Springs, California, where he settled after spending many years in Washington, D.C.  Among the last of the major writers to emerge after World War II and first to bring Jewish stories to a general audience, he had a long, unpredictable career that included gag writing for radio star Fred Allen, historical fiction and a musical co-written with Jimmy Buffett.  He won the Pulitzer in 1952 for “The Caine Mutiny,” the classic Navy drama that made the unstable Captain Queeg, with the metal balls he rolls in his hand and his talk of stolen strawberries, a symbol of authority gone mad.  A film adaptation, starring Humphrey Bogart, came out in 1954 and Wouk turned the courtroom scene into the play “The Caine Mutiny Court-Martial.”  Other highlights included “Don’t Stop the Carnival,” which Wouk and Buffett adapted into a musical, and his two-part World War II epic, “The Winds of War” and “War and Remembrance,” both of which Wouk himself adapted for a 1983, Emmy Award-winning TV miniseries starring Robert Mitchum.  “The Winds of War” received some of the highest ratings in TV history and Wouk’s involvement covered everything from the script to commercial sponsors.  Hillel Italie  Issue 2100  May 20, 2019

Friday, May 17, 2019

Tender Is the Night, semiautobiographical novel by F. Scott Fitzgerald, published in 1934  is the story of a psychiatrist who marries one of his patients; as she slowly recovers, she exhausts his vitality until he is, in Fitzgerald’s words, un homme épuisé (“a used-up man”).  At first a charming success, Dick Diver disintegrates into drunkenness, failure, and anonymity as his wife Nicole recovers her strength and independence.  Fitzgerald’s portrayal of the Divers’ life of lassitude was a reflection of his years spent among the American expatriate community in France; his insight into Nicole’s madness came from his observations of his wife Zelda’s mental breakdowns.  Diver is said to be based on the author’s friend Gerald Murphy, but the character reflects much of Fitzgerald as well.  A revised version, which appeared in 1948, abandons the original edition’s flashbacks and relates the story in chronological order.

In his 1884 poem Ode to a Nightingale, John Keats wrote:  "Tender is the night and haply the Queen-Moon is on her throne"  F. Scott Fitzgerald co-opted the phrase "tender is the night" for his 1934 novel.  49 years later, Jackson Browne used the title for his song about the wonders of love.

In early 1998, the Modern Library polled its editorial board to find the best 100 novels.  The board consisted of Daniel J. BoorstinA. S. ByattChristopher CerfShelby FooteVartan GregorianEdmund MorrisJohn RichardsonArthur Schlesinger Jr.William Styron and Gore Vidal.  Ulysses by James Joyce topped the list, followed by F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby and Joyce's A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man.  The most recent novel in the list is William Kennedy's Ironweed, published in 1983; the oldest is The Way of All Flesh by Samuel Butler, which was written between 1873 and 1884, but not published until 1902.  Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness, serialized in 1899, is the only novel published in the 19th century; it was later republished in book form during 1902.  Conrad has four novels on the list, the most of any author.  William FaulknerE. M. ForsterHenry JamesJames JoyceD. H. Lawrence, and Evelyn Waugh each have three novels.  There are ten other authors with two novels.  See list at

Tender Is the Night is a 1962 film directed by Henry King and starring Jennifer Jones and Jason Robards. King's last film, it is based on the novel of the same name by F. Scott Fitzgerald.  The soundtrack featured a song, also called "Tender Is the Night", by Sammy Fain (music) and Paul Francis Webster (lyrics), which was nominated for the 1962 Academy Award for Best Song

The Best Green Salad in the World by Samin Nosrat  The menu description gives little away:  “leafy greens in sherry vinaigrette.”  A visual inspection of the dish reveals only leaves of endive, butter lettuce, frisée and watercress all piled as high as gravity will allow, topped by a drizzle of dressing studded generously with shallots and mustard seeds.  See also World’s Best Salad Ever by Lori, The Kitchen Whisperer at

Brobdingnag is a fictional land in Jonathan Swift's 1726 satirical novel Gulliver's Travels occupied by giants.  Lemuel Gulliver visits the land after the ship on which he is travelling is blown off course and he is separated from a party exploring the unknown land.  In the second preface to the book, Gulliver laments that this is a misspelling introduced by the publisher and the land is actually called Brobdingrag.  
The adjective "Brobdingnagian" has come to describe anything of colossal size.  Read more and see graphics at

Jeff Koons 'Rabbit' Fetches $91 Million, Auction Record For Work By Living Artist by Laurel Wamsley  A 3-foot-tall silver bunny just set an art world record.  Rabbit, by the playful and controversial artist Jeff Koons, sold for more than $91 million at Christie's Auction House--the most ever for work by a living artist at auction.  Robert Mnuchin, an art dealer and the father of the Treasury Secretary, had the winning bid on behalf of a client.  The stainless steel sculpture is a faceless space bunny, a balloon that's not a balloon.  The piece was one of 11 works that were offered from the collection of magazine publisher S.I. Newhouse, the longtime chairman of Condé Nast who died in 2017.  The sculpture was cast in 1986 in an edition of just three, plus an artist's proof.  The one sold Wednesday was the last one in private hands, with the others in the collections of The Broad Art Foundation in Los Angeles, the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago, and the National Museum of Qatar.  Rabbit was turned back into a balloon to float above Manhattan in the 2007 Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.  See picutres at

Mayor Rahm Emanuel unveiled two new buildings in January 2019 that contain libraries as well as affordable housing units.  The project is a collaboration between the Chicago Public Library, which has 81 locations throughout the city, and the Chicago Housing Authority, with a goal of providing housing and educational opportunities under the same roof.  The new buildings offer 44 senior apartments, 30 CHA units and 14 affordable units in the Irving Park neighborhood; and 29 affordable apartments, 37 CHA units and 7 market-rate units in Little Italy.  Another mixed-use building is expected to open later this year in West Ridge on the city’s North Side.  And a new public library is slated for construction on CHA-owned land near the Altgeld Gardens public housing project on the Far South Side.  The monthly rent for both CHA and affordable apartment units are set at 60 percent of the area’s median income--occupants of CHA units are eligible for further rent assistance through vouchers.  The buildings were designed by some of Chicago’s top architects chosen from a design competition held by the city.  John Ronan Architects designed Irving Park’s Independence Branch Library and Apartments (4204 N. Elston Ave.); the Taylor Street Apartments and Little Italy Branch Library (1336 W. Taylor St.) was designed by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill.  The project underway in West Ridge is designed by Perkins+Will.  Evan Garcia

I.M. Pei, the versatile, globe-trotting architect who revived the Louvre with a giant glass pyramid and captured the spirit of rebellion at the multishaped Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, has died at age 102.  Pei’s works ranged from the trapezoidal addition to the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., to the chiseled towers of the National Center of Atmospheric Research that blend in with the reddish mountains in Boulder, Colorado.  His buildings added elegance to landscapes worldwide with their powerful geometric shapes and grand spaces.  Among them are the striking steel and glass Bank of China skyscraper in Hong Kong and the Fragrant Hill Hotel near Beijing.  His work spanned decades, starting in the late 1940s and continuing through the new millennium.  Pei, who as a schoolboy in Shanghai was inspired by its building boom in the 1930s, immigrated to the United States and studied architecture at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University.  He advanced from his early work of designing office buildings, low-income housing and mixed-used complexes to a worldwide collection of museums, municipal buildings and hotels.  He fell into a modernist style blending elegance and technology, creating crisp, precise buildings.  His big break was in 1964, when he was chosen over many prestigious architects, such as Louis Kahn and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, to design the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum in Boston.  No challenge seemed to be too great for Pei, including the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, which sits on the shore of Lake Erie in downtown Cleveland. Pei, who admitted he was just catching up with the Beatles, researched the roots of rock ’n’ roll and came up with an array of contrasting shapes for the museum.  He topped it off with a transparent tentlike structure, which was “open—like the music,” he said.  In 1988, President Ronald Reagan honored him with a National Medal of Arts.  He also won the American Institute of Architects Gold Medal, in 1979.  President George H.W. Bush awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1992.  Pei officially retired in 1990 but continued to work on projects.  Two of his sons, Chien Chung Pei and Li Chung Pei, former members of their father’s firm, formed Pei Partnership Architects in 1992.  Their father’s firm, previously I.M. Pei and Partners, was renamed Pei Cobb Freed & Partners.  Ieoh Ming Pei (pronounced YEE-oh ming pay) was born April 26, 1917, in Canton, China, the son of a banker.  He later said, “I did not know what architecture really was in China.  At that time, there was no difference between an architect, a construction man or an engineer.”  Kathy McCormack   I.M. Pei died May 16, 2019 in New York.  Issue 2099  May 17, 2019