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The Year in Science

From the first "mixed embryo" animals to seven more-than-13-billion-year-old galaxies, a review of the year's inventions, discoveries, and general scientific achievements (graphic): http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20121228-2012-distilled

Short Stature, Big Impact

This excerpt from Deng Xiaoping and the Transformation of China, by Ezra F. Vogel, focuses on the leader's formidable mission to transform his country from chaotic, insular state to competitive market economy: http://delanceyplace.com/index.php
   A borader overview of Deng and his legacy: http://www.cnn.com/SPECIALS/1999/china.50/inside.china/profiles/deng.xiaoping/

I'll Drink to That!

A few international alternatives to champagne for toasting each other and the new year: http://www.bbc.com/travel/blog/20121212-liquid-traditions-around-the-world

The Birth of a Movie

On Dec. 28, 1895, the Lumière brothers of France (whose last name, fittingly, means "light") screened the world's first commercial film. And if you think violence in the movies is a comparatively new phenom, think again (video): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_OaOCN3pHDQ

Just Because: 'The Gulag Archipelago'

This exceptional, iconic three-volume book by Russian writer Aleksandr I. Solzhenitsyn (full title: The Gulag Archipelago, 1918-1956, An Experiment in Literary Investigation) was published in the West in December 1973 and circulated underground in the Soviet Union until its publication there in 1989. It is based on eyewitness accounts and Solzhenitsyn's own experiences as a prisoner in a labor camp.

Chapter 1: Arrest

    How do people get to this clandestine Archipelago? Hour by hour planes fly there, ships steer their course there, and trains thunder off to it—but all with nary a mark on them to tell of their destination. And at ticket windows or at travel bureaus for Soviet or foreign tourists the employees would be astounded if you were to ask for a ticket to go there. They know nothing and they've never heard of the Archipelago as a whole or of any one of its innumerable islands.
    Those who go to the Archipelago to administer it get there via the training schools of the Ministry of Internal Affairs.
    Those who go there to be guards are conscripted via the military conscription centers.
    And those who, like you and me, dear reader, go there to die, must get there solely and compulsorily via arrest.

Cars at the Speed of Science

In which Dr. Diandra Leslie-Pelecky, a nanomaterials researcher and teacher, writes ~ very entertainingly ~ about things like friction, grip, the power curve, and NASCAR: http://www.buildingspeed.org/blog/

Malala, the Militants, & the Media

via poynter.org
 "We needed a doll, didn’t we? We needed this story that will fill the belly and we needed Malala to say these things. Everyone else is scared to say things." What role, if any, did the media (and, by extension, the public's hunger for this kind of story) play in the attempted murder of Malala Yousafzai? An interview with the journalist who made the documentary that brought her into the spotlight: http://www.psmag.com/politics/new-york-times-on-malala-yousafzai-pakistan-49715/
   Malala is the runner-up to Time magazine's Person of the Year, according to Poynter.org, and in a recent story hitting the Internet, has been named Teenager of the Year by "The Times," though which "Times" the sources are referring to is unknown right now! Her very real influence as an inspiration is exemplified in this story from the International Business Times: http://www.ibtimes.com/2012-year-review-malala-yousafzai-real-person-year-959588

Photo Memo

Wake up to coffee beans harvested from elephant dung!  © Getty Images
Photographs of some of the lesser-known interesting moments in the year just past (slideshow): http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20121219-2012-weird-and-wonderful

Rosie the Executor

In the wild and wacky world of North Korea, women are having to step in to support the family while their husbands pay to be out of work at the jobs they are required to hold (print and audio versions): http://www.npr.org/2012/12/28/168193827/out-of-desperation-north-korean-women-become-breadwinners

Rediscovering Rye

In the midst of the holiday season as we are, perhaps now is a good time to learn about whiskey vs. bourbon, the Prohibition, rye vs. corn, and Templeton, Iowa (print and audio versions): http://www.npr.org/blogs/thesalt/2012/12/26/167615838/the-rebirth-of-rye-whiskey-and-nostalgia-for-the-good-stuff

Take Care

From the remains of diseased and otherwise debilitated individuals who nonetheless lived into their teens or beyond, archaeologists are deducing that ancient peoples took care of their own: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/18/science/ancient-bones-that-tell-a-story-of-compassion.html?hp&_r=1&pagewanted=all&

(Glazed) Nuts to You

On my third batch
I just tested this recipe, and I and my family can all vouch for it! ~ quick and easy Glazed Walnuts. FYI, I followed the suggestion in one of the comments and used a splash of bourbon. It turns out that is a good idea (and D.C., if you're reading this, I will be bringing some to the party!): http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/ellie-krieger/maple-glazed-walnuts-recipe/index.html

Things Fall Apart

Exposing the history and individual components of iFixit, the start-up that helps the rest of us repair our own electronic gadgets ~ if we dare: http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-ifixit-20121225,0,6361335.story

A Brick House

The first window                    from www.lbc.co.uk
Could this be the best job in the world? Duncan Titmarsh, a father of two, was hired to build a huge Advent calendar out of Legos for London's Covent Garden. It took more than 600,000 bricks (story and video): http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-20798476

Round About

Watch as a spider creates its web (video): http://www.laboiteverte.fr/une-araignee-tisse-sa-toile/

Who Did It Best?

Metro Train's "Dumb Ways To Die"
The most notable ad campaigns of the year, according to Forbes (slideshow with links to the ads): http://www.forbes.com/pictures/efkk45edfml/procter-gambles-best-job/

No Way! Way.

No. 8 is Venus, the two-faced cat. TODAY Show/NBC
Remember the giant eyeball (see "Eye-ai-eye!," Oct. 15, 2012)? Well, in terms of the bizarre things that have surfaced this year, you ain't see nothin' yet. National Geographic counts down the top ten weirdest stories of 2012 (slideshow with links to the full stories): http://newswatch.nationalgeographic.com/2012/12/17/top-ten-weirdest-stories-of-2012/

Decay Upon a Midnight Clear

A petri tree Stephanie Mounaud, J. Craig Venter Institute
Who says scientists have no creative streak ~ or sense of humor? Stephanie Mounaud, an infectious disease researcher, uses her favorite specimens to create holiday-themed art (slideshow): http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2012/12/pictures/121221-fungus-artwork-christmas-holiday-science/#/holiday-themed-fungus-petri-dishes-snowman_62639_600x450.jpg

After the Fall

The saying goes that only two things will survive the apocalypse: cockroaches and Cher. These five species will be along for most of the ride, as they apparently can survive climate change: http://www.care2.com/causes/5-species-most-likely-to-survive-a-climate-change-disaster.html?page=1

Too Much, the Magic Bus

Great idea! When you get on this bus, you don't know where you'll end up ~ only that, wherever it is, it'll be somewhere that needs your help: http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-beat-do-good-bus-20121222,0,1112940.story

Snow, Snow, Go Away

One of the first snow plows ~ horse-drawn, of course. Schwartz Boiler Shop
A pictorial history of the many ways we've tried to remove or coexist with snow over the years: http://www.mentalfloss.com/blogs/archives/111333

See Dog and Human Play

Dr. Alexandra Horowitz of the Horowitz Dog Cognition Lab at Barnard College wants to know how you play with your dog!: http://www.doghumanplay.com/

Hello ummm ummm So Honored ...

Cross Hall, White House                                         AP
For those few who get to meet the Obamas at the annual White House Christmas party, the pressure is on to come up with just the right thing to say in 18 seconds: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-20686066

Hallelujah Indeed



Leonard Cohen's classic "Hallelujah!" almost wasn't ~ and now, thank God, it's everywhere and here to stay (story and video): http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-20778621
   Bon Jovi does one of the best versions I've ever heard (video): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5JET3H98iCo

In the Picture

So-called citizen science projects, like Snapshot Serengeti, for example, use the help of anyone who wants to lend a hand to identify and catalog photos and data (story and audio): http://www.pri.org/stories/science/citizen-science-project-needs-your-help-to-catalog-africa-s-great-animals-12399.html

It's Complicated

A recent large online study finds that no one component alone can explain or constitute what we call intelligence. The conclusion is that no one test can measure it: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/12/121219133334.htm

Moving Mountains

First it was villages sacrificed to the Three-Gorges Dam. Now China is planning to raze 700 (yes, you saw that right) mountains to build a huge mega-city (story and video mock-up of the project): http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/dec/06/china-flatten-mountain-lanzhou-new-area

Who Is Park Geun-hye?

Jeon Heon-Kyun/EPA
She's South Korea's newly elected president ~ and the country's first female president and the daughter of a dictator besides ~ that's who: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-20787271

Got Cough?

I don't know about you, but once a cold migrates down to my chest, that's it. I'm coughing for weeks. Friends of mine who tend to run to the doctor for that sort of thing come back with (of course) a prescription for antibiotics. They tell me they feel better right away, but, I've noticed, they're still usually coughing. A study of 2,000 patients in Europe showed that antibiotics are no better than a placebo at getting rid of a non-pneumonia cough caused by a chest infection: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-20767470

The Children's Hour

We can only begin to imagine how hard this holiday season is for the people of Newtown, Conn. While we probably can't do much to make it merry, we can do some things to lighten the load. One is to donate to the local Youth and Family Services organization, which is providing counseling and general emotional support: http://www.newtownyouthandfamilyservices.org/
   The parent of a child at a nearby elementary school has put together a Newtown Memorial Fund. According to the site, the goal is to "provide a memorial to the victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School tragedy, and establish academic scholarships in the victims’ names for classmates and generations of Newtown students to come": http://newtownmemorialfund.org/about/
   Cards and letters of condolence can be sent to Message of Condolence, P.O. Box 3700, Newtown, CT 06470.
   And let's not forget the children whose lives were impacted by Super Storm Sandy. Joy Huang and Kimberley Berdy, who saw first-hand the turmoil it brought to families' lives, have put together a website through which you can help make this holiday season happier for an area child: http://secretsandy.org/

Uh-oh ....

Not too sure whether I should post this, as, while it's an interesting thing, it's not necessarily in my (or women's) best interests! But oh, well. It's from wisegeek.com:

"One study has shown that men who live in polygamous cultures live 12% longer, on average, than men who live in cultures that enforce monogamous marriage. Researchers are unsure why this is true, but many suspect that having many children with more than one wife contributes to the longevity of these men. The study compared the lifespans of men who were more than 60 years old and lived in countries that practiced polygamy to those who lived in nations that did not allow polygamy."

The Homemade Gift

How cool is this? Scrabble coasters! MadeByMarcy/Etsy
Some great, original, and green ideas for make-them-yourself gifts ~ and instructions for how to do it: http://inhabitat.com/greenholidaygiftguide/diy-holiday-gifts/
   No time? Here are some green gifts made by others for you to give (or receive!): http://inhabitat.com/greenholidaygiftguide/green-handmade-gifts/bamboo-clock-etsy/

Artistic Visions

Paik and one of his many TVs in 1983   Lim Young-kyun

"He was really the first artist to deconstruct technology and give it back to us," says Michael Mansfield, associate curator at the Smithsonian American Art Museum, of Korean-born artist Nam June Paik. He was also the first to use the term "electronic superhighway," back in 1974.

An Unkind Cut

Examination of the mummy of King Ramesses III leads to the conclusion that he was murdered by having his throat slit (CAUTION: the pictures may be a little much for the younger set): http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-20755264

PresidentialList

Hmmm. This will come first in the list of posts, but, of course, I wrote it after "RoyalList." Writing that one made me wonder if we have any similar mnemonic device for our presidents. Couldn't find anything as simple and short, but there is a poem that works pretty well, until we get to Taft. I think a new author must have taken over at that point, because the rest doesn't flow nearly as well, so I took it upon myself to rewrite the rest (and make a couple of little changes in the second and third stanzas):

George Washington leads them, the great and the true.
John Adams succeeds him, and Jefferson, too.
Madison follows, and fifth comes Monroe,
with John Quincy Adams and Jackson below.

RoyalList

Willie, Willie, Harry, Steve
Harry, Dick, John, Harry Three.
Edward One, Two, Three, Dick Two,
Henry Four, Five, Six, then who?
Edward Four, Five, Dick the Bad,
Harrys twain, and Ned, the lad.
Mary, Lizzie, James the Vain,
Charlie, Charlie, James again.
William and Mary, Anne o'Gloria,
Four Georges, William and Victoria,
Edward Seven, Georgie Five,
Edward, George and Liz (alive).

   Apropos of not much (well, actually, there is a reason I was looking this up*), a little poem English schoolchildren learn to help them remember the names of all the English kings and queens, starting with William the Conqueror (who became king when he defeated Harold II Godwineson at the Battle of Hastings in 1066). A full list, including bios, is here: http://www.britroyals.com/rulers.htm
   *OK, last night, I went to see one of my all-time favorite comedians, Eddie Izzard, who sometimes alludes to how we Americans are rather illiterate when it comes to history and the rest of the world. And, so as not to feel too much as if he was referring specifically to me, I decided to refresh my knowledge of English history, starting with the royals. ... Izzard, btw, was in typically fine fettle.

Amazon ~ Not the River

See? Boxes upon boxes upon boxes ...
It's chaotic storage inside the Amazon.com warehouse. You have never seen so many boxes in your life, and though that should come as no surprise, it still does (story and slideshow): http://www.amusingplanet.com/2012/12/inside-amazons-warehouse.html

The Victims

The names and pictures ~ and a little about them ~ of the victims of the Connecticut massacre (slideshow): http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/gallery/2012/dec/16/sandy-hook-shooting-victims-pictures#/?picture=401158467&index=0
  Of course, there are many more victims who are left behind to grieve for their loved ones and friends. Their classmates and students are forever changed, as are most of us.

The High Life in Middle-earth

Hobbiton                                  Matt Munro
Hobbiton, Mordor, and everything in between. Here's how JRR Tolkien's world was rebuilt in New Zealand and why it looks and feels so very real (story and link to slideshow): http://www.bbc.com/travel/feature/20121205-a-return-to-middle-earth
   But that's not the only place that's home to a Hobbit domicile, and this one is a little closer (story and audio): http://www.npr.org/2012/12/15/167253552/no-orcs-allowed-hobbit-house-brings-middle-earth-to-pa

Coming Home?

For a long time, we've been watching the trend of companies outsourcing their work or even moving wholesale out of the country. That all could be changing ~ and in a more sustainable way ~ in a move led by GE: http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2012/12/the-insourcing-boom/309166/1/

Christmas Dance

screen shot from "The History of the Nutcracker Ballet"
A brief history of that quintessential ballet of the season, "The Nutcracker" (video): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rGkWczs4_lc

ATLAS Shrugged

ATLAS, one of the two experiments being used at CERN to try to pin down the Higgs boson, has returned an interesting result: The Higgs' two daughter particles, when subjected to Einstein's formula for mass, give two slightly different measurements for their parent. This has some scientists looking forward to the end of the Standard Model: http://www.economist.com/blogs/babbage/2012/12/higgs-boson

The Real Evil (IMHO)

I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that, contrary to what we're hearing from our politicians, now is the time to talk about why tragedies like the one in Newtown, Conn., seem to keep occurring in this country. This in no way should suggest that my heart doesn't bleed for those whose lives were blown apart on Dec. 14. Nor is it to imply that we shouldn't, as a nation, take the time to mourn the lives lost, both children's and adults'. As a parent, I don't even want to consider the depth of the grief that losing a child would cause, because if I put myself in that place, I'm afraid, I wouldn't be able to climb out.
   But I hear people throwing around the word "evil" to describe shooter Adam Lanza and what he did. Granted, I know no more about him and his life than most of the rest of us, but from what I have read so far, I am pretty sure he was not evil. And that word concerns me. It is an easy one to trot out when something like this happens (remember

Ya Know What I'm Sayin'?

New York, New York, it's a helluva town ~ except, apparently, for languages, which both live and die there (story and audio): http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-20716344

The Whole Truth and Nothing But

Are poinsettias really poisonous? Does sugar really make one hyper? We learn these things and pass them along, but are they really true?: http://www.parade.com/health/2012/12/16-ken-jennings-because-i-said-so-parenting-myths-christmas-story.html

Bright Ideas

Liter of Light requires only a plastic bottle, water, and bleach.
How to provide light to those in developing countries not yet serviced by electricity? Why, like this: http://www.care2.com/causes/5-crazy-ways-to-light-the-developing-world.html?page=1

Moment of Silence

No links today, Dec. 14, 2012. It doesn't seem right on a day of such horror and sadness on the other side of the country. And, yes, I am aware that there are people all over the world experiencing the same kind of horror and sadness every day in war, in repression, in disasters both natural and human-made. But I know about this particular episode and it fills me with sorrow ~ sorrow for all people who are feeling this kind of grief in their lives. So, no links today, Dec. 14, 2012.

from layoutsparks.com

Back to the Wall

Visitors check out a portion of the panorama.                © Asisi
Yadegar Asisi, an Iranian-Austrian artist who grew up in East Berlin (how's that for a curriculum vitae?) and is known for his panoramas, has painted his vision of life on both sides of the Berlin Wall during the Cold War. Fittingly, it is on exhibit near Checkpoint Charlie: http://www.bbc.com/travel/blog/20121212-bringing-the-berlin-wall-back-to-life

Share the Love (of Reading)

Just some of the books available this year
Wow! Last year, volunteers handed out half a million books in 5,800 towns across the country! To participate in this year's World Book Night (April 23), sign up and pick out your favorite book from the list on the website. You'll get 20 free paperback copies to give away to non- or light readers to encourage them to become major readers. The idea is that your enthusiasm for that particular book will be contagious ~ and remember, readers are leaders!: http://www.us.worldbooknight.org/

To Boldly Go

An interactive timeline of NASA's firsts during its 50 years of space exploration: http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/50years/

Space Oddity

Bowie's sixth album, Alladin Sane
A retrospective of sorts of the many faces and stages of singer-songwriter David Bowie: http://moreintelligentlife.co.uk/content/arts/matthew-sweet/beauty-bowie

Behind the Design

The Olympic cauldron   Getty Images
Seed Cathedral, Shanghai    Iwan Baan
An interview with the amazingly creative Thomas Heatherwick, designer of the 2012 Olympic cauldron and London's new buses, among other things (video): http://www.economist.com/blogs/prospero/2012/12/thomas-heatherwick-design

Face Their Fears

Caution is urged if you plan to read the Encyclopedia Paranoiaca, by New Yorkers (you knew it had to be, didn't you?) Christopher Cerf and Henry Beard. You may never be the same (story and video): http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-20649025

A Most Excellent Man


In honor of Human Rights Day, Dec. 10, a profile of the man who founded Amnesty International, which in the 51 years of its existence has grown to more than 3 million members (me being a proud one of them) in more than 150 countries: http://www.amnestyusa.org/about-us/amnesty-50-years/peter-benenson-remembered

BC = Before Cell (Phones)

Life before (for some, a reminder; for others, a history lesson!) and after cell phones (cartoon): http://20px.com/blog/2012/12/06/life-before-and-after-cell-phones/

Light's On, No One's Home

Do you recognize David's Oath of the Horatii?      Bence Hajdu
What if they painted a painting and no one came? Hungarian artist Bence Hajdu takes famous paintings and re-imagines them without the people (story and slideshow): http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/10/17/abandoned-paintings-hunga_n_1932892.html

Time Has Come Today

If you feel like you're always running a little behind, you might prefer this clock to the one you currently use. Its single hand makes one full revolution every year, passing over the many colors on its face that mark the seasons (video): http://www.designboom.com/technology/worlds-first-year-long-clock-thepresent-by-m-ss-ng-p-eces/?player=video

The Big Bambu

The project was designed by American artists Mike and Doug Starn. © Mike and Doug Starn
Rome's latest sculpture is made of bamboo, looks like a large nest, and is climbable (story and slideshow): http://www.designboom.com/art/mike-and-doug-starn-big-bambu-at-macro-in-rome/

To 10 of 2012

Member of a new species of night monkey  Alexander Pari

From new mammals in Peru to sugar in space and a Maya megacity, National Geographic counts down the top 10 discoveries of 2012 (slideshow): http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2012/12/pictures/121203-top-ten-new-discoveries-2012/

Would That Be 'GeishO'?

Eitaro's sister, Malka, helps him apply his makeup.          © EPA
The only male Geisha in Japan and his sister carry on their mother's quest to revive the tradition (story, slideshow, video): http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2243392/Japans-male-geisha-Eitaro-following-dead-mothers-foot-steps.html

How To Think Like a Genius

The key, the author says, is to "think productively, not reproductively." He follows this advice with several strategies used by creative geniuses, gleaned from their notebooks and correspondence: http://www.creativitypost.com/create/how_geniuses_think

No Fair

Artist's rendition of a Keatley Creek pit house      by Eric Carlson
Could there ever be a fair society? Was there ever such a society, and if so, when and why did it change? A biologist and a documentary-film maker examine the remains of an ancient fishing village at Keatley Creek, British Columbia, to discover how inequality began and how the concept of fairness developed (story and videos): http://www.psmag.com/culture/the-evolution-of-fairness-45681/

A Nobel Future

In honor of Alfred Nobel, who died Dec. 10, 1896, an interview with the executive director of the prestigious Nobel Foundation: http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20121210-the-nobel-prizes-in-the-21st-cent

Music in the Key of Trash

Landfill Harmonic
Unbelievable and inspirational. The inhabitants of a landfill village in Paraguay make instruments from their findings ~ and beautiful music from their creations (video): http://vimeo.com/52129103
   Find out more here: http://www.creativevisions.org/get-involved/cap/landfill-harmonic

Dinosaurs in Lava

Meteors, schmeteors. Fossil analysis in India lends credence to the theory that, waaaayyyy before the tragedy at Pompeii, the dinosaurs may have been the first to succumb to volcanoes' deadly power: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/12/08/volcanoes-killed-dinosaurs-india_n_2258395.html

Words To Live By

Oprah Winfrey always wanted to be a teacher, and now she has that opportunity ~ an opportunity (and this is important) that she created for herself. Of course, she's actually been doing it for years. Here, she shares the lessons she passes on to the graduating students of her Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls. These lessons are equally applicable to boys and to adults of both genders: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/oprah-winfrey/oprah-winfrey-teaching_b_2232402.html

Hippo Sweat

This fascinating information comes to us courtesy of wiseGEEK (www.wisegeek.com):

   Hippos might appear to sweat blood, but the truth is far less grisly. A hippopotamus doesn't actually perspire in the same way that humans do. Instead, it secretes a substance made up of a red pigment called hipposudoric acid and an orange pigment called norhipposudoric acid. Both secretions protect the hippo's skin from the sun. Hipposudoric acid also functions as an antibiotic.

More about hippos:

Good Night Earth

NASA's Earth Observatory/NOAA
Our twinkling lights mimic the stars above in NASA's beautiful photographs of our planet (story, slideshow, video): http://www.latimes.com/business/technology/la-fi-tn-black-marble-nasa-20121205,0,1846562.story

A Formal Quiz

Who knew? The word tuxedo comes from ... hmmm. Probably shouldn't give that one away. What do you know about the tuxedo? Take the Tux Text and find out: http://www.latimes.com/features/image/alltherage/la-ar-test-your-tuxedo-knowledge-20121204-quiz,0,3238621.story

A Syndrome No Longer

A self-described "proud Aspie" muses on the ramifications of Asperger's removal from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM) of Mental Disorders: http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/dec/04/aspergers-syndrome-autism-spectrum-disorder

Christmalele

Hurry! If you play the ukulele and want to be part of the Music Center's outdoor Ukulele Christmas Orchestra Dec. 14, you have until Dec. 10 to sign up!: http://www.musiccenter.org/events/activearts/UKULELE-CHRISTMAS-ORCHESTRA/

Now, THAT's Adaptation!

We all know that birds will use all kinds of things to build their nests: twigs, feathers, rags, yarn, ... Researchers in Mexico noticed that city birds have been picking up cigarette butts, and of course, they wondered what that was all about. It turns out that the nicotine residue in the used filters may repel parasites. What effect it has on developing chicks is still unknown: http://rsbl.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/9/1/20120931.full

Can They Go Home Again?

Helena (left) and sister Lizbeth, Buenos Aires, Chihuahua REUTERS/Jose Luis Gonzalez
Drought, conflict, and not enough farmland are causing many in a Mennonite community in northern Mexico to consider returning to the land their ancestors left more than a century ago (see related post, "Mennonite Women in Mexico," Feb. 25, 2012) (slideshow): http://www.reuters.com/news/pictures/slideshow?articleId=USRTR38QMA#a=1

The City That Isn't

The National Congress building         AFP/Getty Images
In the 1950s, architect Oscar Niemeyer, who died recently at age 104, designed the buildings for Brazil's capital, Brasília. It was meant to be a utopia, a clean, egalitarian, glowing vision of the future. So, some 50 years, later, is it? (story and video): http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-20632277

What's on Your Mind?

InteraXon
A new entry in the brainwave-sensing arena is a thin headband called Muse (company story and videos): http://www.indiegogo.com/interaxonmuse?c=home

Certified App

These are actually German cows.                  photo by dip
A new app will tell you which stores carry certified humane products and which products are certified humane. The creatures will thank you: http://hfac.convio.net/site/MessageViewer?em_id=3301.0
  In case you'd rather just look it up online: http://www.certifiedhumane.org/index.php?page=producers-products

Zombies at CERN!

Mayans and Zombies and CERN ~ oh, my! The idea of the Large Hadron Collider working its magic ~ and perhaps opening up a worm hole or two ~ on the end date of the Mayan calendar (12/21/12) was just too much for two physics students from the University of Manchester, England. So they made a low-budget (practically no-budget) indie movie about it, adding in a few Zombies because ... well, that was the only thing that was missing. And CERN actually let them film it there! (story and videos): http://news.discovery.com/space/decay-chronicles-cerns-zombie-apocalypse-121119.html
   Although the above-referenced story gives the release date as end of November, the official website says it'll be online Dec. 8: http://news.discovery.com/space/decay-chronicles-cerns-zombie-apocalypse-121119.html
   CAUTION: As one can imagine with a film featuring Zombies, Decay (and its trailer) are a bit gory and scary, i.e., not for the little ones or anyone who tends to get nightmares.

The Good, the Bad, and the Uuuuuuugly

A peek at what's crankin' at the L.A. Auto Show (slideshow): http://www.vanityfair.com/style/stick-shift/2012/12/the-los-angeles-auto-show#slide=1

Power Position

Economist
We know the new faces of China, but who really wields the power?: http://www.economist.com/news/china/21567427-who-really-holds-power-china-vertical-meets-horizontal

25 Windows

The Economist counts down the days with a new kind of Advent calendar ~ in which each clicked-on (or "opened") window reveals a new and interesting graphic: http://www.economist.com/blogs/graphicdetail/2012/12/christmas-countdown?spc=scode&spv=xm&ah=9d7f7ab945510a56fa6d37c30b6f1709

Lucky Number 13

"Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction." On Dec. 6, 1865, Congress ratified the 13th Amendment to the Constitution: http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/13th-amendment-ratified

Upwardly Mobile

What does it take the keep the world's tallest building ~ Dubai's Burj Khalifa ~ running smoothly? (video): http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-20526216

Doing Good at Any Age

From Bhagwati Agrawal, whose company installs rainwater-capture systems in the villages of his native India, to Judy Cockerton, who founded a foundation to help foster children, the winners of the 2012 Purpose Prize: http://www.encore.org/prize/2012prizewinners

What Would Mary Say?

Irish author Colm Toibin's new book, Testament of Mary, envisions the life of Jesus's mother after the crucifixion (CAUTION: some details are, as you can imagine, rather gruesome and not appropriate for the young or the very sensitive) (story, audio, and book excerpt): http://www.npr.org/2012/11/13/164960060/testament-of-mary-gives-fiery-voice-to-the-virgin

When Women Sleep ... or Not

Researchers have found that the negative effects of sleep apnea on the brain are greater for women than for men: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/12/121203150006.htm

A Pesticide May Worsen Food Allergies


A new study is showing a possible link between the growing incidence of food allergy among Americans and the use of pesticides containing a specific chemical. This chemical, in the dichlorophenol family, is also found in chlorinated water: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/12/121203081621.htm

Rock Artist

Michael Grab
Hard to believe: Nothing but gravity and balance hold together the beautiful rock sculptures that artist Michael Grab creates (slideshow and video): http://www.laboiteverte.fr/des-tas-de-cailloux/

'The Coolest Piece of Junk Ever'

Using the force of the Internet, a true Star Wars fan is building an accurate, full-scale replica of the Millennium Falcon ~ with the help of a few friends around the world (story and video): http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-20536090

Cat Attack!

Fubirai
Photographer Fubirai takes pictures of the cats on Cat Island in Fukuoka, in southwestern Japan. Note: It's in Japanese, but you can get a translation (of sorts!). The pictures themselves need no translation, but what you might want to know is that there are more pictures; just click on the tiny arrow at the bottom of the page (slideshow): http://d.hatena.ne.jp/fubirai/

The Final Frontier

NASA's Voyager 1 is exploring the last layer of our heliosphere before it gets to interstellar space (story and slideshow): http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/news.php?release=2012-381&cid=release_2012-381

A Lucky Rabbit

Before Mickey, there was a rabbit named Oswald, who taught Mr. Disney a big lesson, then pretty much disappeared ~ and who may be making a comeback: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-19910825

When Green Is All-White

There's an interesting truth many in the environmental movement may have noticed but that few have talked about: It, as this author very diplomatically puts it, looks more like a Romney coalition than an Obama one: http://www.earthisland.org/journal/index.php/elist/eListRead/the_environmental_movement_doesnt_resemble_the_obama_coalition/

Oh, Yes, They Can (& They Did)!

There's a new museum in South Korea. Some might call it a head of its time (story and slideshow): http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/11/27/us-korea-toilet-idUSBRE8AQ05820121127

Aboard Bike

Inventor Izhar Gafni and his bike                   REUTERS
An Israeli inventor has come up with a serviceable, rather cool-looking $20 bicycle. How can this be? It's made from cardboard. And how can that be? Watch and learn (video): http://www.npr.org/blogs/thetwo-way/2012/10/15/162949884/for-about-20-cardboard-bicycle-could-change-the-world-inventor-says

Seeing Bulbs in a New Light

WWET? (What Would Edison Think?) We have the incandescent and the fluorescent, not to mention LEDs and (not that I've heard of these) OLEDs. Well, add to that list the plastic bulb, aka the Fipel (for field-induced polymer electroluminescent) bulb. Really. Plastic. And, in addition to its not containing mercury or other dangerous substances, it's apparently more efficient and emits a better quality of light: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-20553143

Heart of Darkness

The Democratic Republic of Congo, by all accounts, is an amazingly beautiful country. At the same time, it is the scene of some of the most horrific and ugly human interaction ever. How did this happen? In many ways, its gifts became the seeds of its horror from the very beginning (story, slideshow, videos): http://stream.aljazeera.com/story/dr-congo-understanding-conflict
   In 1899, Joseph Conrad (né Józef Teodor Konrad ‪Nałęcz‬ Korzeniowski) published a novella as a three-part series in a magazine. Heart of Darkness is about Congo, a place Conrad knew from his own time there eight years before. It is, IMHO, one of the finest,

Techfail

Apparently, Skyfall, the latest James Bond movie, does not pass the tech test. It's interesting to learn why, but really, do we care?: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-20555621

It Takes a Family

Could we be returning to the togetherness of the past? Some families are building homes to house the extended, multigenerational family: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/11/30/us/building-homes-for-modern-multigenerational-families.html?_r=0&adxnnl=1&hpw=&adxnnlx=1354410203-SNf956dmHThfpnCwYXv14w

It's That Season (and Always Has Been)

Paris, 1965     © Bettmann/CORBIS
Photographs of holidays past from around the world (slideshow): http://www.cntraveler.com/daily-traveler/2012/12/photos-vintage-store-holiday-christmas-windows-new-york-paris#slide=1

Time To Enjoy

A crazy collection of clever and creative clocks (slideshow): http://www.funzug.com/index.php/artwork/awesome-stylish-clocks-collection.html

Curse of the Spaun

An artificial brain called Spaun can perform more than one function, like ours, and hesitates and falters like ours. It all sounds a little too close for comfort until one gets to the part about how much time it takes to run a simulation (story and video): http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/11/30/artificial-brain-spaun-software-model_n_2217750.html

China's New Leaders

"They are distinguished by their lack of distinction." This is how Elizabeth Economy, senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, summed up China's new leadership on Fareed Zakaria GPS. Short bios of the seven men who were chosen by China's Party elders to lead what, for the time being at least, is still the world's most populous country: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-china-20321603

Why Did I Think of That?

You know those random thoughts that seem to pop up out of nowhere? They're not so random, and if you look hard enough, you can trace them back to their origin: http://www.spring.org.uk/2012/11/mind-pops-memories-that-come-from-nowhere.php

Math vs. the Physical World

How big is infinite? Is space infinite, or is it like the Earth, which we can circumnavigate, never finding an end or edge? And if so, is it still infinite? (video): http://www.newscientist.com/blogs/nstv/2012/11/infinity-in-the-real-world-does-space-go-on-forever.html

The Ant Patrol

There is a flower that seems somehow to be attracting a kind of ant that keeps a certain kind of bee ~ a kind that doesn't help the flower pollinate ~ away: http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg21628935.400-weaver-ants-help-flowers-get-the-best-pollinator.html

In the Beginning

Using a new paradigm called loop quantum cosmology, scientists say, they are starting to understand, in greater detail, the origin of the universe: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/11/121129143452.htm

Christmas Kicks

This year is the 85th anniversary of the Radio City Rockettes, and to celebrate, their show is a retrospective of Christmas performances through the years. Dancer Christina Cichra gives some behind-the-scenes facts about what it's like to be a Rockette (practicing six hours a day, six days a week before the season starts, for example): http://www.examiner.com/article/q-a-with-rockette-christina-chicra-on-the-2012-radio-city-christmas-spectacular

Touring the Apocalypse

Suggestion #1, La Ruta Maya: The Doomsday Ride Courtesy Tour D'Afrique
In all the excitement about the fiscal cliff, we seem to have forgotten about the real precipice on our horizon: the End Times. Remember 12/21/12? For those who have been concerned about it ~ or who just became concerned ~ a convenient and practical list of the places where you might want to be on that date (slideshow): http://www.cntraveler.com/daily-traveler/2012/11/mayan-apocalypse-destinations-mexico-zombie-tours#slide=1

The 'Star Trek' Vision

"We [need to] provide every student with the knowledge, the tools, and the motivation to become conscientious choice-makers and engaged change-makers for a restored and healthy and humane world for all." Zoe Weil co-founded and is the president of the Institute for Humane Education. Here, she talks about her vision for education and our children's future ~ which is also the future of the world (video): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t5HEV96dIuY

Sofa Safety

Something to read and be aware of before you go out to buy a new couch, armchair, carpet padding ... : http://www.motherjones.com/blue-marble/2012/11/couch-flame-retardants-cancer-toxic

Preserving the Native Past

Curtis with some of his subjects   screen shot from BBC video
Author Timothy Egan discusses his new book, Short Nights of the Shadow Catcher: The Epic Life and Immortal Photographs of Edward Curtis. In the early 1900s, Curtis began to photograph, record, and film Native Americans and their disappearing lifestyle. His quest, supported by President Theodore Roosevelt and funded by J.P. Morgan, resulted in a beautiful, sensitive, and truly priceless collection for the ages (story and video): http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-20351012

'Hello? Who's There?'

The December issue of reason magazine has an interesting article about how the government can use our cell phones to track us and listen to conversations, most often legally and without a warrant. I can't find that article online yet, but I did find this one, about a device the LAPD and a few other police departments use. As explained in this article, "when LAPD fires up a StingRay, it's often the most powerful signal in the area. Instantly, the department's spy equipment becomes the go-to 'tower' for every cellphone and mobile device nearby — not just the phone carried by the suspect they're tracking": http://www.laweekly.com/2012-09-13/news/LAPD-stingray-spying-cellphone/

O, Women of Oman

A young woman photographs her grandmother working on a dishdasha Kelsy Wilson
National Geographic gave cameras to some women artisans of Oman so that they can record "the evolution of their living craft heritage in a time of rapid and necessary transition" (story and slideshow): http://newswatch.nationalgeographic.com/2012/11/27/from-tradition-to-modernity-omani-women-artisans-document-their-changing-lives/

Alternating Current

France is embarking upon a renewable-energy project that uses tide-driven turbines on the ocean floor just off the coast. The first to benefit from it will be 3,000 homes in Brittany. (And p.s., apparently, the turbines pose no threat to fish) (video): http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/taxonomy/term/22644/121119/the-earth-project-tidal-wave

An American in the Middle East

New Yorker Gershon Baskin is working to advance the cause of peace in the Middle East. While his work is mostly behind the scenes (you've never hear of him, right?), he is in touch with some of the most influential and powerful people in the area: http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/middle-east/israel-and-palestine/121126/gershon-baskin-israel-hamas-gaza-peacemaker

Grading the Work

In the apparel department, Forever 21 got a D-, while H&M got a B+. Skechers earned an F, Walmart a D+, and 7 for all Mankind a C+. American Eagle got a B, and Zara an A-. Free2Work grades companies in several industries on their performance in the area of labor abuse, including child labor and slavery. You can check out their assessment procedure and how they've graded some of the products you use most. They also have a free downloadable phone app: http://www.free2work.org/

Toe-Tappin' Types of Tunes

The Sleepy Man Banjo Boys are anything but sleepy and there's not a man among them, but there is one banjo (along with a guitar and fiddle), and they are definitely boys ~ brothers, even ~ and  amazingly talented to boot (video): http://www.ted.com/talks/teenaged_boy_wonders_play_bluegrass.html

Funny Girl, Not-So-Funny Past

From delancyplace.com, an excerpt from William Mann's Hello, Gorgeous. In it, the author talks about Barbra Streisand's father, who died when she was almost 2, and the abusive man who became her stepfather seven years later: http://www.delanceyplace.com/view_archives.php?2120

Out of the Grave

Ten famous people (besides Yasser Arafat) whose bodies were exhumed for one reason or another: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-20507503

Oppan Santa Style

Truly the ultimate in holiday lights ~ Gangnam Style (video): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9jWN5Myxtwg&feature=player_embedded#!

Don't Get Me Started.

A comparison of countries' literacy and graduation rates and other relevant factors ranks the U.S. number 17 in terms of quality of education. Finland and South Korea took the top two spots. According to the report, “More important than money ... is the level of support for education within the surrounding culture." I am biting my tongue. Hard: http://www.ibtimes.com/us-17th-global-education-ranking-finland-south-korea-claim-top-spots-901538

About a Face

For Isabelle Dinoire, the French recipient of the first face transplant, life has not been easy since the operation in 2005. The media hounded her. People stared and still do. She will be on immunosuppressant drugs for the rest of her life. She has thought many times about giving up, but then she looks in the mirror and thinks about the woman whose face she got. "And I tell myself, I'm not allowed to give up." (CAUTION: the before and after photos may be upsetting to younger children): http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-20493572

Not Your Parents' Classroom

"Smart" desks linked to a smartboard. Sharing. Active problem-solving. A three-year study found that this kind of environment helps children with their math skills: http://www.newsdaily.com/stories/bre8am003-us-desks/

Carrot, Egg, or Coffee?

How do you react to adversity? Like coffee, which changes the hot water ~ the environment into which it's thrown ~ those who do best go with the flow: http://www.creativitypost.com/psychology/When_You_Cant_Change_Your_Circumstances_Change_Yourself

Gimme Shelter

A worker paints the framework of a roof in Wuhan   Reuters/Stringer
Fifty-one fascinating pictures of the architecture of China, old and new (slideshow): http://www.theatlantic.com/infocus/2012/11/chinese-architecture-old-and-new/100409/

Our House in the Middle of Our Street

Luo Baogen's house is in Wenling Reuters/China Daily

In China, Luo Baogen and his wife refused to move out when their neighbors did, and so the planned road was built around their house. They say the compensation offered by the government was not enough (story and video): http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-20463192