Monday, May 10, 2021

A mercy rule, slaughter rule, knockout rule, or skunk rule ends a two-competitor sports competition earlier than the scheduled endpoint if one competitor has a very large and presumably insurmountable scoring lead over the other.  It is called the mercy rule because it spares further humiliation for the loser.  It is common in youth sports in North America, where running up the score is considered unsporting.  It is especially common in baseball and softball in which there is no game clock and a dominant team could in theory continue an inning endlessly.  The rules vary widely, depending on the level of competition, but nearly all youth sports leagues and high school sports associations and many college sports associations in the United States have mercy rules for sports including baseball, softball, American football and association football.  However, mercy rules usually do not take effect until a prescribed point in the game (like the second half of an association football game).  Thus, one team, particularly if it is decidedly better than a weaker opponent, can still "run up the score" before the rule takes effect.  For instance, in American football, one team could be ahead by 70 points with three minutes left in the first half; in baseball, the better team could have a 20-run lead in the second inning, but the game would still continue.

Books entitled Mercy Rule:  Tom Leveen (story of high school students) and John Lescroart  (5th in the Dismas Hardy series) 

The expression straight from the horses’s mouth, which means reliable or on good authority, has two possible origins.  The most likely is that it comes from horse-racing circles:  a tipster supposedly has inside information so good that it comes straight from the horse.  According to the Random House Historical Dictionary of American Slang, the expression goes back to 1917.  The second possibility is that a smart buyer examines a horse’s teeth to determine its age and general health, so reliable information about the animal comes from its mouth.  This, by the way, is the origin of the expression “don’t look a gift horse in the mouth” (don’t quibble about something you aren’t paying for). 

Hematite, also spelled as haematite, is a common iron oxide compound with the formula, Fe2O3 and is widely found in rocks and soils.  The name hematite is derived from the Greek word for blood due to the red coloration found in some varieties of hematite.  The color of hematite is often used as a pigment.  Ochre is a clay that is colored by varying amounts of hematite, varying between 20% and 70%.   Red ochre contains unhydrated hematite, whereas yellow ochre contains hydrated hematite (Fe2O3 · H2O).  The principal use of ochre is for tinting with a permanent color.  The red chalk writing of this mineral was one of the earliest in the human history.  The powdery mineral was first used 164,000 years ago by the Pinnacle-Point man, possibly for social purposes. 

Barbara Newhall Follet wrote of a little girl called Eepersip, who loves the outdoors as much as she did, who doesn’t want to be confined in a house with walls and windows, binding her life.  The world of brick and glass is too restrictive for the wild child, and Eepersip longs to shed the trappings of civilisation.  So she runs away from home.  She runs first to the meadow, then to the sea, and last to the mountains, and she gives her heart in equal measure to all of them.  She lives in these wild places without fear, learning how to be free, and she sees joy and glory everywhere.  It was Barbara’s custom, on her own birthday, to give her mother a gift.  At the age of eight she decided that on her ninth birthday this gift would take the form of a book.  And so, alone in her room, with the door shut tight, she worked at her typewriter, shaping her tale until it was almost perfect.  She was educated at home so she had plenty of time to write.  Day after day, week after week, she wrote.  She hoped to make a handful of copies, to share with friends, but the original copy was for her mother.  It was a story about a small child in the wilderness.  It was called The House Without Windows.  Just a few days after she finished writing, while the family were sleeping, a fire broke out in the kitchen.  The Folletts were lucky to escape with their lives.  Most of their belongings were destroyed, along with the fresh manuscript, so lovingly typed.  Every word Barbara had written--gone.  At this point many children would have given up.  Not Barbara.  Immediately she began the long task of reconstructing her story, word by carefully chosen word, from memory.  Three years she spent, sometimes leaving her text for months at a time, but always returning to it.  In 1926, Barbara was 12 and the book was finally complete (again).  Her father was so impressed that he took the manuscript to work with him.  He was, at this time, working for the publisher Alfred Knopf.  Imagine the excitement when a blue letter arrived, and within it the offer to publish Barbara’s story:  2,500 copies were printed, and all sold out.  Her story of Eepersip and her life in the house without windows went on to become a bestseller, and Barbara was hailed as a child genius.  By 18, Barbara was hiking the Appalachian Trail in the company of a young man called Nickerson Rogers, each night sharing his small tent or lying together beneath the ceiling of stars.  Later they travelled to Europe, wandering through Spain, France, Germany, sometimes working, always writing, keeping notes for future manuscripts.  And what things they must have seen, as they worked and walked their way through this turbulent time between the wars.  On their return to America they settled into an apartment, marrying in 1934 and taking jobs.  And Barbara began to feel her dreams slipping away to the familiar tune of work and domesticity.  She still wrote, but her work was no longer in favour with publishers and the rejections hurt.  And then, in 1939, on 7 December, Barbara Rogers, née Newhall Follett, walked out of the apartment she shared with her husband.  She left no note, took only a few dollars and some shorthand notes.  She was never seen again.  Jackie Morris 

The second Saturday of May in 2021, is the first of the two World Migratory Bird Days in the year.  These days were established by the Secretariats of the Agreement on the Conservation of African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbirds and the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals to highlight the importance of protecting migratory birds and their habitats.  The arctic tern has the longest migration known in the animal kingdom, travelling between the Arctic and Antarctic.  Wikipedia 

The Social Security press office announced on May 7, 2021 that the top ten girl names in 2020 are Olivia, Emma, Ava, Charlotte, Sophia, Amelia, Isabella, Mia, Evelyn and Harper.  The top ten boy names in 2020 are Liam, Noah, Oliver, Elijah, William, James, Benjamin, Lucas, Henry and Alexander.  The Social Security office also compiled the top five boy and girl names that are rising in popularity the fastest and have been affected by pop culture.  The girl names include Avayah, Denisse, Jianna, Capri and Rosalia.  The boy names include Zyair, Jaxtyn, Jakobe, Kylo and Aziel.  Lexi Lonas 

Archaeologists discovered the fossilized remains of nine Neanderthals at a prehistoric cave site south of Rome, the Italian Cultural Ministry announced on May 8, 2021.  The oldest of the remains date from between 90,000 and 100,000 years ago, while the other eight are believed to be younger, dating from 50,000 to 68,000 years ago.  The findings include skulls, skull fragments, two teeth and other bone fragments.  The fossilized bones were found at the Guattari Cave in San Felice Circeo, which is roughly 56 miles southeast of Rome.  Neanderthals died out roughly 40,000 years ago, but small traces of their DNA still exist in modern humans.  H.J. Mai 

The softer you sing, the louder you're heard. - Donovan, musician (b. 10 May 1946)  Issue 2362  May 10, 2021 

Friday, May 7, 2021

In back-to-back wars fought between A.D. 101 and 106, the emperor Trajan mustered tens of thousands of Roman troops, crossed the Danube River on two of the longest bridges the ancient world had ever seen, defeated a mighty barbarian empire on its mountainous home turf twice, then systematically wiped it from the face of Europe.  Trajan’s war on the Dacians, a civilization in what is now Romania, was the defining event of his 19-year rule.  The loot he brought back was staggering.  One contemporary chronicler boasted that the conquest yielded a half million pounds of gold and a million pounds of silver, not to mention a fertile new province.  The booty changed the landscape of Rome.  To commemorate the victory, Trajan commissioned a forum that included a spacious plaza surrounded by colonnades, two libraries, a grand civic space known as the Basilica Ulpia, and possibly even a temple.  Towering over it was a stone column 126 feet high, crowned with a bronze statue of the conqueror.  Spiraling around the column like a modern-day comic strip is a narrative of the Dacian campaigns:  Thousands of intricately carved Romans and Dacians march, build, fight, sail, sneak, negotiate, plead, and perish in 155 scenes.  Completed in 113, the column has stood for more than 1,900 years.  Andrew Curry  Read much more and see graphics at 

A.Word.A.Day with Anu Garg

Canterbury tale  (KAN-tuhr-ber-ee tayl)  noun  A story that is long, tedious, or absurdly implausible.  After The Canterbury Tales c. 1400 by Geoffrey Chaucer.  It’s a collection of 24 stories told in verse by a group of pilgrims as they travel from London to Canterbury.  Earliest documented use:  1575.

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From:  Lawrence Crumb  Subject:  Heathrow Tales  Heathrow Tales:  A parody of the prologue to The Canterbury Tales, from Punch, Apr 2, 1975.  AWADmail Issue 977

From:  David Auerbach  Subject:  plotz  Early film credit: 1966 Woody Allen movie What’s Up, Tiger Lily?  He dubbed a Japanese spy film with a completely different story about a secret egg salad recipe that was so good you could plotz.  That word has stuck itself inside my head ever since I first saw that movie.

From:  Eileen Saks  Subject:  plotz   This word always reminds me of the Stephen Sondheim musical Assassins, and the song “How I Saved Roosevelt”.  Bystanders at the attempted assassination of FDR in Miami are recounting how their actions saved him.  One couple sings:  The crowd’s breaking up and I hear these shots and I mean lots I thought I’d plotz  my stomach was tied in knots.  (more)  

From:  Alex McCrae   Subject:  plotz and gelt  The word plotz took me back to my Warner Bros. Animation Studios days, early 1990s, and in particular, my small contribution to the great success of Animaniacs.  The skit-formatted animated series was driven by the frenetic and wacky antics of siblings Yakko, Wakko, and Dot Warner, celebrated 1930s animated cartoon characters, who’d been cooped up in the iconic Warner Bros. Burbank water tower for decades.  They broke out of sequester in the early ‘90s.  The CEO in this fictional version of Warner Studios at the time was the portly Thaddeus Plotz.  Here, the mischievous Warner sibs smash through a studio backdrop, sparking his ire.  Disney’s insatiably avaricious Scrooge McDuck is the quintessential money-grubbing businessman.  His Scottish thrift has become legendary.  Here, wearing a vintage ’20s-era bathing suit and signature top hat, he’s literally swimming in his amassed riches, inside his storied vault, gleefully reveling in his ubiquitous wealth . . .  “gelty” as charged!  AWADmailissue978 

While serving in World War II, Joseph Heller concluded that war was a farce in which anyone crazy enough to shirk combat was considered sane enough to fight.  That became the theme of a novel he wrote several years later.  Heller titled his novel Catch-18.  Just as this book was about to be published in 1961, its editor discovered that an upcoming novel by Leon Uris was called Mila-18.  “He had stolen our number,” the editor, Robert Gottlieb, later recalled.  So Gottlieb and Heller began to kick around alternative figures.  Eleven was out, due to the recent movie Ocean’s 11Fourteen wasn’t funny.  Twenty-six lacked a certain je ne sais quoi.  The challenge of finding a new number began to disturb Gottlieb’s sleep.  One night it came to him:  22.  In the morning he called Heller and said, “I’ve got it.  It’s Catch-22.  It’s funnier than 18.”  Heller agreed.  What made 22 funnier than 18?  “Who knows,” Gottlieb told TV host Charles Osgood.  “It just sounds funnier.”  Although there are other ways to describe paradoxical experiences—a no-win situation; a double binddamned if you dodamned if you don’t—“Catch-22” is the idiom we use most often.  Whom should we credit with coining that concept?  Heller?  Gottlieb?  Both?  Call it a co-coinage.  Ralph Keyes  Excerpted from The Hidden History of Coined Words.  Used with the permission of the publisher, Oxford University Press.  Copyright © 2021  Read extensive article at 

nexus  noun  form or state of connection.  (Canada, US, finance, law) The relationship between a vendor and a jurisdiction for the purpose of taxationestablished for example by the vendor operating a physical store in that jurisdiction.  connected group; a network, a web.  A centre or focus of something.  (grammar) In the work of the Danish linguist Otto Jespersen (1860–1943):  a group of words expressing two concepts in one unit (such as a clause or sentence).  (Ancient Rome, law, historical) A person who had contracted a nexum or obligation of such a kind that, if they failed to pay, their creditor could compel them to work as a servant until the debt was paid; an indentured servant

 First, second, and third person are ways of describing points of view.  First person is the I/we perspective.  Second person is the you perspective.  Third person is the he/she/it/they perspective.  Most of the time when people talk about themselves, they speak in the first person.  It would certainly be eccentric to talk about yourself in the third person all the time, but you may do it once in a while for comedic effect or to grab someone’s attention.  Tina:  Let’s get sushi for lunch.  It’s Jeff’s favorite!  Tom:  No, Jeff  hates  sushi.  I think he’d rather get burritos.  Jeff:  Um, does Jeff get a vote?  Brittney Ross

“Yeah, it’s weird seeing what an inefficient science their ancient rules of science are, but his neighbor being the proficient person she is outweighs either of us lightweights disagreeing.”  Comment on an unhelpful spelling rule in the comic strip Pearls Before Swine March 10, 2021.  

Gnocchi are a variety of pasta consisting of various thick, small, and soft dough that may be made from semolina, ordinary wheat flour,  egg,  cheese,  potato,  breadcrumbs,  cornmeal or similar ingredients, and possibly including flavourings of herbs, vegetables, cocoa or prunes.  The dough for gnocchi is most often rolled out before it is cut into small pieces about the size of a wine cork.  The little dumplings are then pressed with a fork or a cheese grater to make ridges that can hold sauce.  Alternatively, they are simply cut into little lumps.  Gnocchi are usually eaten as a replacement for pasta in the first course, but they can also be served as a contorno (side dish) to some main courses.  The word gnocchi may be derived from the Italian word nocchio, meaning a knot in wood, or from nocca, meaning knuckle.  It has been a traditional type of Italian pasta since Roman times.  It was introduced by the Roman legions during the expansion of the empire into the countries of the European continent.  In Roman times, gnocchi were made from a semolina porridge-like dough mixed with eggs, and are still found in similar forms today, particularly the oven-baked gnocchi alla romana and Sardinia's malloreddus which do not contain eggs.  The use of potato is a relatively recent innovation, occurring after the introduction of the potato to Europe in the 16th century.  Potato gnocchi are particularly popular in AbruzzoFriuli-Venezia GiuliaVeneto, and Lazio.  As with other mashed potato dishes they are best prepared with starchy potatoes to keep a light texture.  Issue 2361  May 7, 2021

Wednesday, May 5, 2021

The name Cissie is a diminutive of Cecilia, Frances and Priscilla.  It is of Latin and Germanic origin and comes from the following roots:  (CAECILIUS) (FRANK) and (PRISCUS).

Knock, knock.  Who’s there?  Noah.  Noah who?  Noah good place we can get something to eat?  Find other knock, knock jokes at

Per aspera ad astra is a Latin phrase meaning "through hardships to the stars" and is the motto of many organizations.  It may also refer to:  Per Aspera Ad Astra (film), a 1981 Soviet science fiction film, songs, and last chapter in the Mafia II video game.  "Per Aspera Ad Astra" is the personal motto of Julie Payette, 29th Governor General of Canada and a former astronaut with 25 days in space. 

The final Seal of Kansas and the state motto, Ad astra per aspera (to the stars through difficulties)were adopted through a joint resolution during the first Kansas legislative session on May 25, 1861.

"A Sound of Thunder,"a science fiction short story by Ray Bradbury, was first published in Collier's magazine in June 28, 1952, and was very widely reprinted for decades.  The story was based on the idea of the butterfly effect, in which a very small event could cause a major change in the outcome of later events.  Bradbury's story, set in 2055, concerned the use of a time machine to travel back into the very distant past.  In the story the killing of a butterfly during the time of dinosaurs caused the future to change in subtle, but meaningful ways.  Jeremy Norman  Link to 29:22 radio adaption at  See also and

Francis Scott Key Fitzgerald (1896–1940) was an American novelistessayistscreenwriter, and Short story writer.  He was best known for his novels depicting the flamboyance and excess of the Jazz Age—a term which he popularized.  During his lifetime, he published four novels, four collections of short stories, and 164 short stories.  Although he temporarily achieved popular success and fortune in the 1920s, Fitzgerald only received wide critical and popular acclaim after his death.  He is widely regarded as one of the greatest American writers of the 20th century.  Fitzgerald's works have been adapted into films many times.  One of the earliest Fitzgerald short stories was adapted into a 1921 silent film The Off-Shore Pirate.  Tender Is the Night was the subject of the eponymous 1962 film, and made into a television miniseries in 1985.  The Beautiful and Damned was filmed in 1922 and 2010.  The Great Gatsby has been adapted into numerous films of the same name, spanning nearly 90 years:  1926194919742000, and 2013 adaptations.  In 1976, The Last Tycoon was adapted into a film starring Robert de Niro and in 2016 it was adapted as an Amazon Prime TV miniseries starring Matt Bomer.  His short story, "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button," was the basis for a 2008 film.   In 2015, an editor of The Strand Magazine discovered and published for the first time an 8,000-word manuscript, dated July 1939, of a Fitzgerald short story titled "Temperature".  Long thought lost, Fitzgerald's manuscript for the story was found in the rare books and manuscript archives at Princeton University, his alma mater.  As described by Strand, "Temperature", set in Los Angeles, tells the story of the failure, illness and decline of a once successful writer and his life among Hollywood idols, while suffering lingering fevers and indulging in light-hearted romance.  The protagonist is a 31-year-old self-destructive, alcoholic named Emmet Monsen, whom Fitzgerald describes in his story as "notably photogenic, slender and darkly handsome".  It tells of his personal relationships as his health declined with various doctors, personal assistants, and a Hollywood actress who is his lover.  Fitzgerald bibliographies had previously listed the story, sometimes referred to as "The Women in the House", as "unpublished", or as "Lost--mentioned in correspondence, but no surviving transcript or manuscript".  In 2017, a rediscovered cache of Fitzgerald's short-stories was published in a collection titled I'd Die For You.


Nick by novelist Michael Farris Smith pulls Nick Carraway out of the shadows and into the spotlight in this prequel to the Great Gatsby published in January 2021. 

A 19-member honors class at the University of Iowa has written a new “fan fiction” version of “The Great Gatsby ”  U-I Professor Harry Stecopoulos had his students collaborate on creating a completely new telling of the classic 1925 story by F. Scott Fitzgerald.  “It’s not the same novel.  The characters are largely the same but it’s a different plot,” Stecopoulos says.  “For example, Gatsby is an African-American woman who is an art forger, so a major change there.”  The U-I students’ story is still set in the 1920s and in New York City but he says it’s very much an original account.  Their new book is called “Gilded in Ash.” 

Shirred eggs, also known as baked eggs, are eggs that have been baked in a flat-bottomed dish; the name originates from the type of dish in which it was traditionally baked.  Shirred eggs are considered a simple and reliable dish that can be easily varied and expanded upon.  An alternative way of cooking is to crack the eggs into individual ramekins, and cook them in a water bath, creating the French dish œufs en cocotte.  See also Middle Eastern Baked Eggs at and Italian Baked Eggs at 

It turns out we have Peter Rabbit to thank for England's Lake District National Park by Steele Marcoux   The anthropomorphic characters of Beatrix Potter's world have an undeniable, irresistible charm.   Rendered in whimsical yet sophisticated detail and characterized by forgivable foolishness, childlike silliness, and plenty of naughtiness, Potter's depiction of English countryside wildlife appeals to children and adults alike.  It seems only fitting that the origins one of the most successful literary franchises of all time would have sprung from the imagination of a child whose only friends were her pets and who grew up to be one of the greatest conservationists of the 20th century.  Indeed, Potter's childhood drawings and paintings of plants and animals reveal an early fascination with the natural world that would continue into adulthood—fueling her professional life, personal pastimes, and, ultimately, her conservation of England's Lake District.  When she died in 1943, Potter left 4,000 acres of countryside to the National Trust, along with her 14 farms and her sheep.  Today, that land is home to an estimated two-thirds of the world's population of Herdwick sheep tended to by National Trust rangers and tenant farmers.  The National Trust also manages Hill Top as Potter's personal museum, having left it furnished just as it was during her life.  Thank you, Muse reader!  Issue 2360  May 5, 2021 

Monday, May 3, 2021

“Don’t be so melodramatic, this isn’t the opera!”  “The most savory grape, the one that produces the wines with best texture and aroma, the sweetest and most generous, doesn't grow in rich soil but in stony land; the plant, with a mother's obstinacy, overcomes obstacles to thrust its roots deep into the ground and take advantage of every drop of water.  That, my grandmother explained to me, is how flavors are concentrated in the grape.”  “ . . . love is a free contract that begins with a spark and can end the same way.” Portrait in Sepia by Isabel Allende   

Chicory is a somewhat bitter tasting winter vegetable that offers a touch of vitamin-rich splendour and variety to our dining during the chillier and darker months.  Chicory, Belgian endive and radicchio are differing varieties of the same plant, Cichorium intybus.  Unfamiliar to many, chicory is an immensely versatile vegetable which is a pleasure to eat whether it’s raw, braised or roasted.  But what has chicory got to do with coffee?  Plenty of tales abound relating to the origins of the chicory we eat today because edible chicory is the product of complex cultivation processes.  These processes had to be discovered at some point and, most likely, they developed in 19th century Belgium.  Today’s cultivated chicory originates from the common chicory, a blue flowered plant that grows along the fringes of fields.  When starved of light, this plant’s roots send out shoots, and we have come to know these as chicory.  Nowadays it’s mostly cultivated in special growing containers filled with a solution of plant nutrients.  Although chicory is available in our supermarkets all year round, its main season extends from November through to April.  The biggest producers are to be found in France, Holland and, of course, Belgium, in whose cuisine chicory is utterly indispensable!  Richard Williams  Find recipes at

A cordillera is an extensive chain of mountains or mountain ranges.  The term is borrowed from a Spanish word with the same meaning that itself comes from cordilla, a diminutive of "cuerda" ("rope").  The term is most commonly used in physical geography and is particularly applied to the various ranges of the Andes of South America and less frequently to other mountain ranges in the "ridge" that rims the Pacific Ocean.  In Colombia and Venezuela, cordilleras are named according to their position:  Cordillera OccidentalCentral, and Oriental.  Various local names are used for the cordilleras in EcuadorPeruBoliviaChile, and Argentina.  Such mountain ranges have a complex structure, which is usually the result of folding and faulting accompanied by volcanic activity. In South America, the ranges include numerous volcanic peaks.  The Andes cordillera has Ojos del Salado, the highest active volcano in the world and second-highest point in the Western Hemisphere. 

namby-pamby (adj.)  "weakly sentimental, affectedly nice, insipidly pretty," 1745, from the satiric nickname of English poet Ambrose Philips (1674-1749), "a good Whig and a middling poet" [Macaulay] mocking his sentimental pastorals addressed to infant members of the nobility.  Used first in 1726 in a farce credited to Carey (Pope also used it).  Related:  Namby-pambical.


Savoy cabbage is also known as curly cabbage.  With ruffled, lacy, deeply ridged leaves, Savoy cabbages are perhaps the prettiest cabbages around.  The leaves are more loosely layered and less tightly packed than green or red cabbage, although its uses are similar.  It is delicious thinly sliced in salads, quickly stir-fried, or braised in butter.  Savoy cabbage is a bit more tender than other cabbages and works nicely as a fresh and crunchy wrap; try using it in place of rice paper or tortillas with your favorite fillings.  Link to recipes and find pictures and information on several cabbages at 

Hay-wire is the light wire that was used in baling machines to tie up bales of hay.  At the turn of the 20th century the expression 'a haywire outfit' began to be used in the USA.  This was used to describe companies that patched-up faulty machinery using such wire, rather than making proper long-term fixes.  In 1905, The US Forestry Bureau Bulletin described a 'Hay wire outfit' as 'a contemptuous term for loggers with poor logging equipment'.  By 1920, the use of haywire to mean 'awry' or 'out of control' was recorded in Dialect Notes, Volume 82:  "Hay wire.  Gone wrong or no good.  Slang." 

Travel the historic Chesapeake and Ohio Canal on this virtual tour by Lydia Schrandt   The Chesapeake and Ohio Canal extends for 184.5 miles from Washington, DC to Cumberland, Maryland.  For nearly a century, the canal served as a lifeline for settlements along the Potomac River.  Construction started on the C&O Canal in July of 1828 and was completed in 1850.  For nearly 100 years--1831 to 1924--the canal served as a critical transportation corridor used to ship goods from the Allegheny Mountains (like coal).  In 1971, the canal became a designated National Historical Park.  See gorgeous pictures at

The 2021 Kenturtle Derby at the St. Louis Aquarium at Union Station is the second annual Race for the Romaine.  Turtles Kyle, Benedict, Morty and Randy compete for the crown of lettuce in the Winner's Circle.     Kyle ran for the Romaine and took the Winner’s Splash.  Then he went back to the starting line and ran it again.  Watch at  42:13  or a spoof at  11:18 

147th Kentucky Derby had five hours of TV coverage, 2:30-7:30 p.m.  on May 1, 2021.  Race started at 6:57 and the time was of the actual race was 2:01.02. 

Medina Spirit won by a half-length at the Derby, giving Bob Baffert his seventh victory, the most of any trainer in the race's 147-year history.  Medina Spirit led all the way in the 1¼ miles.  He paid $26.20, $12 and $7.60.  The victory was worth $1.86 million.  Jockey John Velazquez earned his fourth Derby victory aboard the colt that was purchased as a yearling for $1,000 and was a bargain-basement buy at $35,000 last July for current owner Amr Zedan of Saudi Arabia.  Read extensive article and see order of finish for the 19 horses at  Issue 2359  May 3, 2021 

Friday, April 30, 2021

The War of the Pacific, also known as the Saltpeter War and by multiple other names, was a war between Chile and a Bolivian–Peruvian alliance from 1879 to 1884.  Fought over Chilean claims on coastal Bolivian territory in the Atacama Desert, the war ended with a Chilean victory, which gained for the country a significant amount of resource-rich territory from Peru and Bolivia.  The Chilean Army took Bolivia's nitrate-rich coastal region, and Peru was defeated by the Chilean Navy.  Battles were fought in the Pacific Ocean, the Atacama Desert, the Peruvian deserts, and the mountainous regions in the Andes.  For the first five months, the war played out in a naval campaign, as Chile struggled to establish a marine resupply corridor for its forces in the world's driest desert.  In February 1878, Bolivia imposed a new tax on a Chilean mining company ("Compañía de Salitres y Ferrocarril de Antofagasta", CSFA) despite Bolivia's express guarantee in the 1874 Boundary Treaty not to increase taxes on Chilean persons or industries for 25 years.  Chile protested and solicited to submit the issue to mediation, but Bolivia refused and considered it a subject of Bolivian courts.  Chile insisted and informed the Bolivian government that Chile would no longer consider itself bound by the 1874 Boundary Treaty unless Bolivia suspended the enforcement of the law.  On February 14, 1879, when Bolivian authorities attempted to auction the confiscated property of the CSFA, Chile's armed forces occupied the port city of Antofagasta.  Peru, bound to Bolivia by a secret 1873 treaty of alliance, tried to mediate the dispute but on March 1, 1879, Bolivia declared war on Chile and called on Peru to activate its alliance while Chile demanded that Peru declare its neutrality.  On April 5, after Peru refused the latter request, Chile declared war on both nations.  Even though the 1873 treaty and the imposition of the 10 centavos tax proved to be the casus belli, there were deeper, more fundamental reasons for the outbreak of hostilities in 1879.  On the one hand, there was the power, prestige, and relative stability of Chile compared to the economic deterioration and political discontinuity which characterised both Peru and Bolivia after independence.  On the other, there was the ongoing competition for economic and political hegemony in the region, complicated by a deep antipathy between Peru and Chile.  In this milieu, the vagueness of the boundaries between the three states, coupled with the discovery of valuable guano and nitrate deposits in the disputed territories, combined to produce a diplomatic conundrum of insurmountable proportions.  Afterwards, Chile's land campaign bested the Bolivian and Peruvian armies.  Bolivia withdrew after the Battle of Tacna, on May 26, 1880.  Chile's forces occupied Lima in January 1881.  Remnants and irregulars of the Peruvian army waged a guerrilla war but did not change the war's outcome.  Chile and Peru signed the Treaty of Ancón on October 20, 1883.  Bolivia signed a truce with Chile in 1884. 

What's the meaning of the phrase 'hanky-panky'?  Trickery--double dealing.  Also, more recently, sexual shenanigans.  This is one of those nonsense terms that was just made up as having an attractive alliteration or rhyme, like 'the bee's knees', 'the mutt's nuts' etc.  The words themselves have no inherent meaning, although it is possible that 'hanky-panky' derives as a variant of 'hoky-poky' or 'hocus-pocus'.  The term is first recorded, in relation to its original 'trickery' meaning, in the first edition of 'Punch, or the London Charivari', Vol 1, September 1841:  "Only a little hanky-panky, my lud.  The people likes it; they loves to be cheated before their faces.  One, two, three--presto--begone.  I'll show your ludship as pretty a trick of putting a piece of money in your eye and taking it out of your elbow, as you ever beheld."

At the age of 14, Ida Tarbell witnessed the Cleveland Massacre, in which dozens of small oil producers in Ohio and Western Pennsylvania, including her father, were faced with a daunting choice that seemed to come out of nowhere:  sell their businesses to the shrewd, confident 32 year-old John D. Rockefeller, Sr. and his newly incorporated Standard Oil Company, or attempt to compete and face ruin.  She didn’t understand it at the time, not all of it, anyway, but she would never forget the wretched effects of “the oil war” of 1872, which enabled Rockefeller to leave Cleveland owning 85 percent of the city’s oil refineries.  Almost 30 years later, Tarbell would redefine investigative journalism with a 19-part series in McClure’s magazine, a masterpiece of journalism and an unrelenting indictment that brought down one of history’s greatest tycoons and effectively broke up Standard Oil’s monopoly.  By dint of what she termed “steady, painstaking work,” Tarbell unearthed damaging internal documents, supported by interviews with employees, lawyers and—with the help of Mark Twain—candid conversations with Standard Oil’s most powerful senior executive at the time, Henry H. Rogers, which sealed the company’s fate.

Gefilte fish was, at first, a dish of convenience.  On the Sabbath, religious Jews are not permitted to separate bones from flesh, so it was convenient to grind the fish sans bones.  It was also a dish of faith.  The fact that these Jewish families could, in fact, eat fish allowed them to more legitimately sanctify special, holy days.  And it was a dish of resourcefulness.  Using the gefilte fish recipe, families who were unable to afford an entire fish to feed all of their children were able to stretch the limits of just one.  The poorer the family, the more breadcrumbs or matzo meal they might add to the mixture.  As was later canonized in Barbara Cohen’s memorable children’s book, “The Carp in the Bathtub,” gefilte fish was a dish of sacrifice, too.  In the late 19th and early 20th century, many Jews in New York City would keep a fish in their tiny tenement apartments in order to prepare the dish, giving up their one and only bathtub (or, in many cases, the bathtub they shared with neighbors) so it would be fresh for Passover or Shabbat.  And lastly, it was a dish of wisdom.  As with many traditions from many cultures, there's an element of practicality at play here:  Horseradish, which is typically served alongside gefilte fish, actually has an antimicrobial component.  Rebekah Lowin         

For Graham Greene he was "unquestionably our best thriller writer".  John le Carré once called him "the source on which we all draw".  With the six novels he wrote in the years leading up to the second world war--five of which have been reissued by Penguin Modern Classics--Eric Ambler revitalised the British thriller, rescuing the genre from the jingoistic clutches of third-rate imitators of John Buchan, and recasting it in a more realist, nuanced and leftishly intelligent--not to mention exciting--mould.  His novels were all out of print by the time he died in October 1998.  Thomas Jones  Read extensive article at

“ . . . a trial-by-tabloid will sink a career.”  “I put ground nutmeg on my shrimp.  Some curry powder for heat.  And for sweetness, a splash of 7 Up.  You surprised?”  The Chef, a novel by James Patterson with Max DiLallo  Find six recipes, including one for Crab Gumbo, from the Killer Chef Food truck at the end of the book

Rigmarole means complicated, bothersome nonsense, so it might seem that, like gobbledygook, kerfuffle, to-do, and blabbityblab, the word’s origin is onomatopoeic or fanciful.  But there is a story behind rigmarole that goes back to a 13th century list of names known as the Ragman Roll.  Edward I of England, also known as Hammer of the Scots, forced members of the Scottish nobility to swear fealty to him by signing oaths of allegiance that were collected on a number of parchments that together made up what came to be called the Ragman Roll (or Ragman Rolls, or Ragman’s Roll).  Why Ragman?  There’s some disagreement about that.  It may contain a Scandinavian root related to cowardice (in Icelandic ragmenni means coward).  Or it could go back to a medieval word for the devil.  Ragman was also the name of a game where a scroll of parchment had strings hanging from it that pointed to various (likely bawdy) verses in the scroll.  Players would choose a string to find their verse, and it would be read out to the entertainment of all.  Over time ragman roll, for a long roll of parchment full of “nonsense,” eventually became rigmarole, a long, unnecessarily time-consuming hassle.  Arika Okrent

Timothy Gager is the author of sixteen books of fiction and poetry.  His latest, Poems of 2020, is his ninth of poetry.  Timothy hosted the successful Dire Literary Series in Cambridge, Massachusetts from 2001 to 2018, and as a virtual series starting in 2020.  Timothy was the co-founder of The Somerville News Writers Festival.  He has had over one-thousand works of fiction and poetry published, of which seventeen have been nominated for the Pushcart Prize.  His work also has been nominated for a Massachusetts Book Award, The Best of the Web, The Best Small Fictions Anthology and has been read on National Public Radio.  Timothy is the Fiction Editor of The Wilderness House Literary Review, and the founding co-editor of The Heat City Literary Review.  A graduate of the University of Delaware, Timothy lives in Dedham, Massachusetts with some fish and two rabbits, and he is employed as a social worker.  Issue 2358  April 30, 2021