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It's a Small World After All

A visit to Lebanon's entertainment park, the Tourist Landmark of the Resistance ~ or Hezbollahland, as it is known to locals:

One Person's Junk ...

Vince Hannemann from The Junk King, by Evan Burns
 ... is another person's cathedral. Meet Vince Hannemann, the Junk King, builder-creator of a unique and special place in Austin, Texas (video):

Farther From Home

Soldiers from Ethiopia fought alongside us in the Korean War. Their tradition of bringing home all their fighters, dead or alive, inspired us to do the same (story and audio):

Art on a Limb

Bespoke (TM) Fairings by 3D Systems Corp.
Far from hiding or camouflaging their artificial limbs, some are choosing to show them off as accessories and personal statements (slideshow):

Susanne's Pura Vida

Guatemalan children stuff plastic bottles to make eco-bricks.
Born in East Germany the year the Berlin Wall was built, jailed in her teens for trying to escape, "traded" in a diplomatic negotiation, Susanne Heisse took many detours (including fashion design) on her way to what she calls her destiny. Eventually, she found her way to Guatemala, where she started the Pura Vida movement based on using plastic trash for building. An amazing woman with an amazing life and spirit (story and video):

Swede and Green

Stockholm at night        Getty Images
Can a recycling program be too successful? Ask Sweden! The Swedes are having to import trash from the rest of Europe, because they're not generating enough to power their waste-to-energy program:

Campaigns, Inc.

In two widely read (at the time) but little-known (now) short novels, author Upton Sinclair described, first, his campaign for governor of California (fiction that came true), and then, his defeat (nonfiction), which he ascribes to what he called the Lie Factory run by the opposition. This was in the early '30s, and the real-life version of the Factory was actually the world's first political-consulting firm:

A Treasure Surfaces

Four centuries ago, invaders from Sweden loaded up a barge with several tons of marble sculptures taken from castles and palaces in Warsaw, Poland. They were sailing up the Vistula River when the barge sank, and the treasures were lost, both to the invaders and to the invaded. Now, due to a drought that has substantially lowered the level of the river, these artifacts have surfaced (slideshow):

Colors and Scents

Don't know why I'm surprised, as people think of everything ~ and there'll be someone who wants it every time, but look what I found at a local paint store:
It's packets of scent (and there are many from which to choose, including Cool Linen, Fresh Air [I guess for those who don't have windows], and Spring Rain!) that you stir into your paint, and those little gray circles on top of the display box are smell samples. According to the display, paint SCENTsations! ~ that's what the product is called ~ will "turn your paint into a long-lasting air freshener." It will (again, according to the display) "eliminate odors or just refresh a room."

Survivor: Senkaku/Diaoyu

I found this double-page spread in my paper, the L.A. Times, this morning, Sept. 28. It's probably in other papers as well. Like many of us, I was aware that there is a dispute about the ownership of these islands, but also like many of us (I'm assuming), I wasn't too sure of the details ~ or, as I'm learning, the severity of the impasse and its ramifications. Some background:

1 Saved, 60 Million Doomed

On Sept. 28, 1918, so the tale goes, a British soldier took aim at a wounded German soldier but didn't fire. That lucky German soldier, the story continues, was one Adolf Hitler:

Just Because: "Silent Spring"

illustration from Silent Spring, 40th Anniversary Edition
Rachel Carson's seminal warning to mankind, Silent Spring, was published on Sept. 27, 1962:

1: A Fable for Tomorrow

   There was once a town in the heart of America where all life seemed to live in harmony with its surroundings. The town lay in the midst of a checkerboard of prosperous farms, with fields of grain and hillsides of orchards where, in spring, white clouds of bloom drifted about the green fields. In autumn, oak and maple and birch set up a blaze of color that flamed and flickered across a backdrop of pines. Then foxes barked in the hills and deer silently crossed the fields, half hidden in the mists of the fall mornings.
   Along the roads, laurel, viburnum and alder, great ferns and wildflowers delighted the traveler's eye

Three Into One

It seems it is possible for one child to have three biological parents. The issue is now being debated in England. An explanation of the debate and the process:

Earth Shoe

Stella McCartney has a new kind of shoe ~ it's biodegradable and made from renewable resources:

Building Interest

Residential development, Singapore; Studio Daniel Libeskind and DCA Architects PTE LTD
The shortlist of contenders for the 2012 World Building of the Year award (slideshow):

Picture the Stars

Hubble has given us the most fantastic view of our universe to date (story and video):


"This is the thing I wanted to write next," says J.K. Rowling of her new book, The Casual Vacancy, coming out this week. Here, a (very British) interview with her about this novel and, of course, those other books she wrote and how "they really kept me going through some very rough times" (video):

Water World

Google Maps can give you the "Street View" of six special places below the ocean waves (and thank you, KC, for finding this!) (video):
During the mapping, divers discovered a new, pygmy seahorse:

Power Purse

Just charge it! A little invention called the Everpurse will charge your phone on the go: (story and videos):

Long on Luck

Shorty, a 15-year-old poodle who was lost during Hurricane Katrina, will be reunited with his original family:

Animal Eyes

Infographic explains how the eye works differently in various animal species and in humans. For example, horses have a blind spot and see two of everything!:

What's the (Gray) Matter?

It's Albert Einstein's brain, and there's an app for it! The National Museum of Health + Medicine Chicago has made its digitized images of Dr. Thomas Hardy's collection of slides of sections of the theoretical physicist's brain available for downloading on the iPad:

New (Air)ship Shape

Taking advantage of  evolving technology and new materials, a company in California is experimenting with a kind of blimp that could transport cargo but also house casinos, hotels, and spas (story and video):

The Things They Own

Ready for long winter, in Shanxi/Huang Qingjun
Illustrating a quickly vanishing way of life, a Chinese photographer documents families from all walks of life and their possessions (story and slideshow):

Waste Not

It's a tough statistic to swallow, but apparently 40% of our food in the U.S. goes to waste. It isn't our problem alone, however, and the European Union has named 2014 as the "year against food waste":
In our own effort to turn this mortifying situation around, the EPA has started the Food Recovery Challenge:

'Wit and Surprise and Playful Spirit'

Vivian Maier/John Maloof Collection

It's hard to know which is more intriguing, the story of a photographer named Vivian Maier or the story of how her work was found and is now being shared. What is easy is seeing that her photographs are very, very special indeed:

Just Because: "The Last Samurai"

This is one of my favorite books in the world, and one of the only ones I can imagine rereading every few years. Unfortunate title, as people think I'm talking about the Tom Cruise movie or get it confused with Akira Kurosawa's Seven Samurai, which actually plays a big role in this book. The Last Samurai is by Helen DeWitt, who is, IMHO, a total genius. That said, here's the beginning (after the Prologue):

1: Do Samurai Speak Penguin Japanese?

   There are 60 million people in Britain. There are 200 million in America. (Can that be right?) How many millions of English-speakers other nations might add to the total I cannot even guess. I would be willing to bet, though, that in all those hundreds of millions not more than 50, at the outside, have read A. Roemer, Aristarchs Athetesen in der Homerkritik (Leipzig, 1912), a work untranslated from its native German and destined to remain so till the end of time.
   I joined the tiny band in 1985. I was 23.
   The first sentence of this little-known work runs as follows:

It's the Ig Nobels!

The wonderful, prestigious Ig Nobel awards were handed out at a ceremony at Harvard University on Sept. 20. Among the winners in various fields was a British-U.S. team that came up with the "Ponytail Shape Equation" (yes, for real) that, together with the Rapunzel Number (ditto), "can predict the shape that hair will take when it is drawn behind the head and tied together":

From Korea With Love

It's spicy and is eaten by the shovelful in Korea. It is also, apparently, one of the world's healthiest foods, loaded with Vitamins A, B, and C ~ and with our tummy's best friend, lactobacilli:,,20410300,00.html

Vlad the Prevailer

When Vladimir (as in Putin) wants the world to know of his exploits (as in leading a crane on its migratory path via motorized hang glider), an editor ignores him at her peril:

A New Old Type

Love your computer but miss your old Underwood? Well, guess what? You can have both! It's one of those "Duhhh ~ why didn't I think of that?" moments. Fortunately for us all, even though you and I didn't, someone else did (story and video):

Like Edison versus Tesla

For those who are interested in/intrigued by/can't wait for this sort of thing, the schedule and other pertinent details regarding the 2012 Presidential and Vice-Presidential Debates:

Like Ali versus Foreman

For those who are interested in/intrigued by/can't wait for this sort of thing, it's Jon Stewart vs. Bill O'Reilly in "The Rumble in the Air-Conditioned Auditorium," 8 p.m. EDT, Oct. 6! But you have to purchase a "seat" (in front of your computer) for the live-streamed event (a whole $4.95, and most will go to charity):

Breaking Up the Chemical Romance

A few years ago, my husband and I met up with a group of friends for a snowshoeing hike in Sequoia. One of them is an ontological surgeon, and at dinner, of course, the conversation turned to his work. It was during this discussion that he made a comment I never forgot. He said of the causes of cancer (and I'm repeating this as close to word-for-word as my memory will allow), "I would never say this publicly, but I'm convinced that it's almost entirely environmental."
Herewith, a list of the top ten toxins to avoid:

Life in the Key of Prodigy

Gavin George  Image capture from THNKR video
Meet Gavin George, a 9-year-old Star Wars-loving science aficionado who also skis and who happens to be one of the most accomplished pianists around ~ he plays Chopin, for heaven's sake! (story and video):

Déjà Vu All Over Again

When we were just a few years into our marriage, my husband and I were invited to the wedding of a client of his. We didn't know anyone there and ended up at a dinner table at which we were by far the youngest couple. We struck up a conversation with the couple closest to us, who looked to be in their early 70s. They were lovely people and seemed so very happy together that we asked them for their secret to a successful marriage. It turns out that they, too, were newlyweds.
This is their story: They had met and dated in college, but lost touch after graduation. Each met and married someone else and raised a family. One's spouse died, the other got divorced, and they found each other again at a class reunion.
Thanks in great part to social media, this kind of later-love scenario is becoming more common:

It's the Cotton-Pickin' Future

It can be done. Cotton of the Carolinas, launched six years ago with the goal of growing, making, and selling T-shirts sustainably and locally, is now making those shirts from its very first organic harvest. This, one hopes, is just the beginning:

Healthy Outlets

September 23 is National Plug-In Day, in support of EVs and hybrids (and their owners) everywhere:

Fire in the Sky

Who knew? There is such a thing as a fire tornado. As proof, this one in Australia was captured on film (story and video):

Hanging Ads (& a Recipe)

Here's something new, at least for me: ads on that paper cover that's sometimes put over wire hangers. This one is titled "Dry Cleaner's Chronicle," and it is apparently the "Santa Monica Edition, July 2012." It's for a "holistic spa" and includes a promo code for 18% off. There's also a recipe on there for a "Master Cleanse Drink, aka: Beyonce Knowles Diet." Wanna know what it is? OK:
10 oz filtered water
2T organic lemon juice
2 T organic maple syrup
1/10 t ground cayenne pepper
Mix ingredients well. The copy goes on to say "This detoxification drink has some amazing benefits such as weight loss, improving skin complexion, and increasing energy." ... (Of course, I can't let that go by without noting that those last two benefits should read "improved skin complexion, and increased [or, simply, "greater"] energy.")

Giant Tear-Jerker

A gardener in England has grown what was "officially" declared to be the World's Heaviest Onion, weighing in at 18 pounds. I have another title to bestow here: The gardener and his wife-assistant, Peter and Mary Glazebrook, have got to be the World's Cutest Couple (story and video):

The famous onion.
Image capture from BBC video

Just Because: 'Havana Nocturne'

The subtitle of this book is How the Mob Owned Cuba ... and Then Lost It to the Revolution. It's by T.J. English.

Part One: Mobster Mambo
Chapter 1: Feeling Lucky

   When Charles Luciano of Naples, Italy, boarded a huge freighter in the autumn of 1946 and headed out to sea, he had many things on his mind but only one thing that mattered: Cuba. The Pearl of the Antilles was to be his salvation, the place where he would ascend once again to the top of the most powerful crime organization in the free world. After a long decade of prison and exile, he deserved nothing less.

Rodriguez Redux

Once upon a time, a singer-songwriter named Rodriguez quit the business and went back to construction work to make a living. He didn't know it, but in South Africa, his songs were getting lots of air time, and finally, years later, a fan tracked him down. Now there's a documentary out about his life, and Rodriguez is singing again (story and video):

Danuta's Story

A page from Danuta's diary, drawn by her friend with pencils brought from Poland
Instead of starting grammar school in 1939, little Danuta Maczka began the long, tortuous journey of a refugee when the Soviets invaded her native Poland from the east. This journey took her from Siberia, through Uzbekistan to Iran and Palestine to Italy and finally to London, where she settled and raised a family:

Why Green Tomatoes

An informative, interesting (and somewhat upsetting) interview with the author of Tomatoland: How Modern Industrial Agriculture Destroyed Our Most Alluring Fruit. An excerpt, from the author, Barry Estabrook: "Well, as one large Florida farmer said - he said I don't get paid a single cent for flavor. He said I get paid for weight. And then he went on to say, and I don't know of any supermarket shopper who tastes her tomatoes before she puts them in her shopping cart":

Popeye Was Right

Researchers at Vanderbilt University have made a more powerful biohybrid solar cell by combining the photosynthetic capabilities of spinach with silicon:

Walking on Sunshine

Screen shot from the video    BBC News
Three Chinese tightrope walkers have set a world's record for walking on a 350-meter-high, 1,400-meter-long wire (that's approximately 1,150 feet up and 4,600 feet long) ~ without nets (video):

But How Does This Affect ME???

Using a non-partisan procedure that is described on the "Sources" page, UC Berkeley students created a website that shows how the two presidential candidates' financial policies would affect you, your area, and the country:

The Head of Red Is Not Yet Dead

There's been a rumor flying around that the redhead, that compelling abnormality, may end up a thing of the past, but is it true? (story and video):

Wild Life

There are more than 100 species of lemur, and they all live on the island of Madagascar. Darwin would have loved it (slideshow):

The World's Only a Click Away

Some blind people are able to use their own form of echolocation by clicking their tongue. It allows them to determine not only how far away an object is but even what it's made of (story, video, audio):

Thing To Do ~ Sept. 22

"California and the Civil War" honors the 150th birthday of the Drum Barracks Civil War Museum in Wilmington with a special admission-free day of displays, demonstrations, and more:

On a Planet Far, Far Away

Astronomers are now thinking that the "habitable zone" around a star is larger than previously thought and that planets and moons that could not sustain human life could be home to extremophiles, like some of Earth's lichens and bacteria:

Can You Say 'Peace,' Boys and Girls?

A game ~ identify in which of 18 languages the given translation of the word peace is written:

The Fruited Plain

This is a fascinating website that chronicles, with text, drawings, and compelling photographs, the history of the state of Nebraska:
The Shores family near Westerville, Custer County, Nebraska, 1887
Photo by Solomon Butcher

The Best-Known Least-Well-Known Man

Presenting the amazing genius who changed the face of our world, and no, it's not Albert Einstein or Thomas Edison or Marie Curie or Alexander Graham Bell. Meet the most famous man most people have not heard of ~ Nikola Tesla:

Blast From Our Past

Houston, Texas, May 1943 Flickr/Library of Congress
Color photographs from the 1930s and '40s (slideshow):;previous

Dancing on a Fine Line

The school's curves were not in line with Soviet aesthetics. Nick Miroff for NPR
A Cuban-born ballet star with London's Royal Ballet who wants to return to Havana and turn an abandoned art school into a cultural and dance center has inadvertently rekindled an old controversy over privatization (story and audio):

Networks Connecting

Science is now catching up to ages-old unconventional wisdom regarding the interconnectedness of, well, everything. Literally everything, from subatomic particles to the systems of the human body to the world's social systems to the universe itself:


Screen shot from Skateistan: To Live and Skate Kabul
Among the tanks, the ruins, the detritus of war, the youth of Kabul are learning something new—skateboarding—and 40 percent of those skating are girls. The sport was introduced to the country by an Australian skateboarder in 2007, who went on to found an NGO to build a park on the donated grounds of the Afghan National Olympic Committee:
The Skateistan website (videos, including a nine-minute documentary):

"Albatross! Albatross! Albatross!"

It has inspired Samuel Taylor Coleridge (The Rime of the Ancient Mariner) and Monty Python (the albatross sketch, quoted above), among others. Now the mighty seabird, which can glide for thousands of miles without once flapping its wings, is being studied by aeronautics engineers in a recent example of the field of biomimicry:

Can't Cover the Can

A BBC journalist learns that, although China seems to be making an effort to be more open about what can be covered, there is one subject that is strictly forbidden:

The Medal Count Continues

The T12 and T46 men's marathon  Getty Images
From Day 11 of the Paralympics and as London readies for the Closing Ceremonies ( ), the medal count has China at Number 1, the U.S. at 6:

Survival of the Fittest

From how to build an emergency campfire or emergency shelter to recognizing grizzly-bear behavior to saving a hypothermia victim, Backpacker magazine offers up a whole passel o' survival tips and guidelines:
Attitude and mind-set are just as important as—and maybe more so than—skills and equipment, contends a writer for National Geographic. For example, "Forcing your brain to think sequentially—in times of crisis and in day-to-day life—can quiet dangerous emotions":

Focus on Old Age

Pwa Saw Village, Bagan, Burma (2006) Sky Bergman
Photographer Sky Bergman chronicles old age across the world in Lives Well Lived, a project inspired by her grandmother (story, videos):

Let Your Inner Designer Out

Are you a designer at heart? You might consider entering HP and Project Runway's Project Laptop Bag Competition. The deadline is Sept. 8: