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Email LOL

In a video from 1997, how to use a new communication device called email and why anyone would want to! (story and video):

Lotsa Matzoh

David Handschuh/New York Daily News
Unleavened bread. It sounds easy enough to make, but it's not if you're doing it right (slideshow):

On the Avenue (Fifth Avenue)

David Handschuh/New York Daily News
New York's traditional Easter parade was just as colorful as the season it ushers in (slideshow):

Great Balls of Fire

More fascinating trivia from

"Gravity affects the shape of a flame by anchoring down the colder air at the base of the flame, while the heated gas rises up, resulting in a teardrop shape. This effect is known as buoyancy, or the floating of less dense materials in liquid and gas. In space, flames are shaped like round spheres and are commonly referred to by scientists as flame balls. This shape occurs because the heated gas of the flame expands in all directions in the weightlessness of microgravity instead of rising upward.

"More about gravity and flames:
  • "A flame ball in space is much weaker than a standard flame on Earth. For example, a flame ball generally produces about 1 to 2 watts of thermal power. A birthday candle flame on Earth is about 50 to 100 watts.


Facebook stats show how the equal-marriage-rights symbol proliferated, chronologically and geographically. Also, a slideshow offers alternate versions of the sign:

Lovely As a Tree

Get ready for National Poetry Month, otherwise known as April. There's even a link to where you can sign up to get a poem a day in your inbox!:

Merchant on Avon

Our friend Bill Shakespeare, it seems, was more than a mere writer. Historical archives show that he was also quite the businessman, and sometimes a ruthless one at that (story and video):

Meaningful Buildings

Peter Zumthor           screen shot
Brother Klaus Chapel, commissioned by a farmer in Germany  screen shot
"If someone wants a well-made building custom-designed to its purpose and to its site, that's my client. If somebody wants a Zumthor building, that's not my client," says architect Peter Zumthor, winner of the prestigious Pritzker Prize in 2009 and, now, of the Royal Institute of British Architects' Royal Gold Medal. His designs are simple, meaningful, evocative, and quietly powerful:

"He has the strangeness of someone who’s been famous too long, constantly surrounded by people telling him how wonderful he is and serving his every need," writes Neil McCormick of musician and Voice judge William Adams, aka And yet will does serve up some interesting thoughts on pop music and the pressures on musicians in the age of the Internet:

Beautiful and Damned

Zelda Sayre, 1918
A few months ago, I posted an excerpt from a book about Zelda Fitzgerald, who has fascinated me ever since I started reading her husband's work and, through it, learned about her (see "Just Because: 'Zelda: A Biography,' " Nov. 2012). There's a new book out about her now, whose description of her and her wild, creative, and ultimately tragic life leads one to think of her as "the original It girl." If she wasn't the first, she was certainly one of the most affecting. Her husband, F. Scott, called her "the first American Flapper." But there's another label I would give her, too, and that is "the quintessential Steel Magnolia":

Child of the Universe

"What the meaning of your life is, is what you make it."   screen shot
When video cameraman (among other things) Zia Hassan met a 9-year-old his fiancee was babysitting, he knew he had to film the boy discussing his favorite subject, cosmology. "You have no proof that there's anything out there," the child says. "The only proof is yourself and where you are in the universe, and you can only make theories. You can never know the truth" (story and video):

Power to the Panthers

Huey Newton poster, 1967

"The Black Panthers weren’t alone in theorizing that the black community was a 'colony in the mother country' and calling for self-determination as part of a global struggle against imperialism. What distinguished them was their advocacy of armed self-defense against the police." A Q&A with Joshua Bloom and Waldo E. Martin, Jr., authors of Black Against Empire, the history and politics of the Black Panther party:

Light in the City

© Julien MAUVE
This series from photographer Julien Mauve explores the "promise of an adventure about to start" offered by lights in the night:

One Fish, New Fish

Natural History Museum, London
It's a new species! It's a new genus! Fish found in an Amazon tributary is partly transparent but has a bright blue belly:

Whither the Payphone?

Remember the payphone? Or perhaps the question should be, Have you ever seen a payphone? They used to be all over the place, and before the cell phone, they were crucial. Many of New York's payphones still exist, though most don't work. What to do with them? (story and video):

Invisible in New York

Manhattan's sanitation workers sweep more than 6,000 miles of streets several times a week and collect 11,000 tons of household trash and 2,000 tons of household recycling every day. Does that earn them the undying gratitude of the populace? Fuggedaboudit!:

Can You Hear Me Now?

For the first time ever, scientists have managed to cloak a three-dimensional object from sound waves:

The Bittersweet Story of Chocolate

the old slave quarters, Roça Bombaim     Getty, Mark Fletcher
It's the 1820s and Europeans are developing a taste for chocolate, which, up to now, has come at great pains from Central America. Enter São Tomé and Príncipe, off the western coast of Africa. When the Portuguese discovered that cacao would grow well there, they at last had a use for the islands, which they had been the first Europeans to find, more than 400 years earlier. And thus began a cycle of land clearing, plantation building, slave importation ~ and cacao exportation:


This student hauls goods to earn money for his tuition.  Paolo Pellegrin
A story about a young (17-year-old ... ) bride using one of the many tunnels between Egypt and Gaza to get to her wedding ( led me to a story and more photos of the underground complex (story and slideshow):

Collective Conscious

screen shot
Scientists have created a group of tiny bots that, together, act much like an ant colony. Instead of laying down a scent trail for others to follow, they use light, and eventually, through trial and error, all find the shortest distance between two points (story and video):


The Swedish have a term for something that cannot be found with a search engine ~ any search engine: ogooglebar. Google took umbrage at this use of its name, and the Swedish Language Council backed down. Which leads us to one question: Who owns words and their meaning?:

Checkpoint Carlos

near Monumental Plaza de Toros, Tijuana           Keith Skelton
Images of the wall separating Mexico and the United States. Would President Ronald Reagan have demanded it be torn down? (slideshow):
canyon filled in with 35,000 truckloads of dirt  Maria Teresa Fernandez

Reflections of Time

Tom Hussey
Dallas-based photographer Tom Hussey's series "Mirror" was inspired by the comment of an 80-year-old World War II vet (story and slideshow):

Sun, Sun, Sun, Here it Comes

Amazing photograph of a solar prominence, taken by a NASA spacecraft:

The Book of Malala

The latest in our continuing coverage of Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani girl who was shot by a Taliban soldier for daring to speak out about girls' right to an education: She has signed a $3 million book deal. "I want to tell my story, but it will also be the story of 61 million children who can't get education," she said (See "Malala Update," Feb. 7, 2013):

Very Public Libraries

photo credit: me

Not too long ago, an adorable little structure appeared on a triangular median in Santa Monica Canyon. A little after that, I happened to be walking in the area of an evening and stopped by. Inside are a bench and a couple of shelves filled with books, mostly children's books ~ good ones. Then someone told me that there's another impromptu library in the adjacent town. Apparently, it's one of those things that seem to take people's fancy everywhere at about the same time (story and slideshow):

SF Has My ♥ ~ and a Reward

For all its efforts to prepare for the effects of climate change, San Francisco has been named the U.S. Earth Hour Capital for 2013 by an international jury:

Basquiat's Back

Lizzy Himmel, B'klyn Museum/AP/AP

Artist Jean-Michel Basquiat's ex was prescient enough to keep his notebooks, postcards, and other artifacts ~ and even bought the apartment they had shared and kept the walls just the way he had left them. But "now is the time," she says, to bring it all out in the form of a book ~ and probably a show and sale:

Meet Your Peeps

The Peeps go marching 20 by 20, hurrah, hurrah. David Handschuh/New York Daily News
Peeps are turning 60, and to celebrate, we get a tour of the factory, which, apparently, is a very rare treat (story and video):

T-t-t-tat's All, Folks!

Boris Roessler/AP
Photos from the 21st annual International Tattoo Convention, which took place March 22-26 in Frankfurt (slideshow):

For Whom the Bridge Tolls

At least twice during my high school/college years, I had the happy surprise of driving up to the tollbooth at the San Francisco end of the Golden Gate Bridge and having the attendant tell me with a smile that "the young gentleman in the car ahead of you just paid your toll." I'd look up only to see whoever it was driving off with a wave in the rear-view mirror or out the window. A couple of times, I did it to my mother, though I can't for the life of me remember why we were driving into the city separately. Once, the attendant passed me a guy's business card (and no, I never called him).
   Anyway, the point is that these kinds of human moments won't be happening anymore, as the attendants have collected their last tolls. Like so many people, they are being replaced by an electronic system:

Here's Looking at You, Katydid

"These bugs are bling, and it must be so important to them to show bright and colourful markings; they might be small, but they have a big impact," says Polish photographer Ireneusz Irass Waledzik. I would agree with that last bit, particularly when they're photographed like this (slideshow):

That's Some Sweet Sauce, Man

kicking back after sniffing fuel   Igor Shpilenok/Barcroft Media
Some bears in eastern Russia's Kronotsky Nature Reserve have taken to sniffing the aviation fuel in discarded barrels left there by workers:

You Are a Fungus

Some people have trouble thinking that we're related to apes. Imagine how they'd feel if they knew we are also closely related to mushrooms! From

"Mushrooms are fungi, which are actually genetically closer to animals than they are to plants. Scientists use a genealogical path known as the Tree of Life to trace the evolution of living organisms, and they have determined that fungi share a common ancestor with animals and are completely branched off from plants. Fungi and animals have to turn to external sources for their food sources, but plants can produce their own nutrients. Chitin, a complex carbohydrate responsible for cell wall structure, is a molecule that is shared by fungi and animals but is not found in plants.

"More about fungi:
  • "Fungal infections are difficult to treat in humans and animals because the ingredients that affect fungus can also negatively affect the host of the infection because of their shared genetic relationship.

In Living Color

Colored powder is thrown in honor of Krishna and Radha.      Poras Chaudhary/Getty
Photos from India's Holi festival, which ushers in the spring harvest season and celebrates the victory of good over evil, in a vividly colorful way (slideshow):

Slow Connections

Don't blame your son who's visiting for a few days and using your computer for how slow the Internet's been lately, like I did today. It's not his fault. It's actually bigger ~ and more disturbing ~ than that:

Do You See What I Saw?

Chaotic Moon's new Helmet of Justice for bicyclists video-records evidence in case of an accident. The idea was born of an employee's own experience with a hit-and-run driver (story and video):

Hurry Up and Wait

Sandy Huffaker/Getty Images
Most Californians would agree that it's less of a hassle to fly to Hawaii or Back East these days than it is to drive down to Baja. And the problem isn't on the south side of the border, either. While it's a relative breeze going down, the wait to get back into the States is painful at best. Good news: There's now an app for that:,0,7200936.story

A Home of One's Own

                                   © $300 House
Initiated in 2010, the $300 House ( is an open design challenge to individuals and companies to come up with inexpensive, sustainable housing for the growing number of individuals who are moving to the world's cities and living in poverty on its fringes. Several ideas have already taken shape (story and slideshow):

The Upside of Climate Change?

Melting glaciers are leaving behind some treasures for archaeologists, like a woolen tunic from circa the year 300 (story and video):

Rites of Spring

celebrating Nowruz, the Kurdish and Iranian new year  AP/Getty Images
Ah, Spring! A time of flowers, fuzzy baby animals ~ and a plethora of religious holy days (while the information is timely, the dates aren't; this article was published in 2009) (slideshow):
   Even the nonreligious celebrate:

So You Say You Like it Spicy?

The peppers keep getting hotter, and there's always someone around who'll volunteer to eat one:

Horses and People and Trains, Oh, My

Creative Time

Artist Nick Cave is known for his Soundsuits ~ colorful, fanciful costumes made from materials that rustle and whisper and sigh. In a work called "HEARD NY," he is bringing his creations to New York City's Grand Central Terminal (story, slideshow, very short preview video):

An Eyeful of Iron

Mathias Vejerslev

In honor of the 124th anniversary (next year's should be big) of the opening of the Eiffel Tower on March 31, 1889, a few facts about that iconic sculpture:
  Also in its honor, a list of 10 famous buildings that, like the Tower, at first appalled the public and critics:

Little Orange Street People

Has Google Maps' street view option changed "how we interact with the physical world," as Andy Miah, director of the Creative Futures Institute at the University of the West of Scotland suggests it has? Probably, to a certain extent, and exactly how it has depends on the individual.
   On the one hand, some may start to view the world as if on a screen, as if it were not entirely real. "Our memory of the place may become inextricable from that virtual experience," Miah says. On the other, being able to see a place ahead of time can be helpful. John Haas, a lecturer at Northwestern University, uses it before he travels. "It's definitely changed the way I would approach travel. ... I look at Street View first to see where I'm going, what's around me," he says:

Sometimes There's a Man

The original Dude, Jeff Dowd, was there.        Mae Ryan/KPCC
The weekend of March 23-24 marked the 15-year anniversary of the Coen Brothers' (arguably) epic film The Big Lebowski. Ergo, Lebowski Fest, complete with White Russians and, of course, bowling:

When This You Be, Remember Me

Animal studies and human data seem to be proving that links between a mother's health during pregnancy and her child's health later in life could be just as strong several generations down the line, nor are they confined just to the female ancestor:

Boom and Bust

How did you do during the recession? How about now? In case you're wondering how others did, here's an overview by industry and state (story, graph, and interactive map):

Images of the Future

Qahtan Ibrahim, from Iraq, was one of the finalists.
The finalists and winners of the BBC's "What if" competition imagining a world without words represent just about every continent. There were two main categories ~ moving and still images ~ and more than 800 entries (story and moving and still images):

A Pterosaur Named Daisy

Daisy continues to collect bones. REX Features

Want to have a new species named after you? Simple! Just find it. Little Daisy Morris, 9, was 5 when she saw some blackened bones in the sand while vacationing with her family on the Isle of Wight. The flying reptile has been named Vectidraco daisymorrisae in her honor:
   And who, exactly, is this child, and what has she been up to since her significant find?:

Lights Out All Over the World

Earth Hour as celebrated in Jakarta, Indonesia   AP Photo/Dita Alangkara
Earth Hour, which was from 8:30 to 9:30 p.m. local time on March 23, brought the world together in a symbolic display of the power of unity and the importance ~ and feasibility ~ of sustainability and energy conservation (slideshow):
Greece's Parthenon temple, before and after 8:30 p.m.      AP Photo/Kostas Tsironis

All for One

The Coronado house was purchased in 1991 for $1.15 million.  NBC 7 San Diego
The case of Elba Esther Gordillo spotlights the ease with which money can be laundered through property investment in the United States. The longtime head of Mexico's National Union of Education Workers, now charged with the embezzlement of almost $160 million in union funds, was arrested in February and has been in jail since. Her six-bedroom home in Coronado Cays sits unoccupied, just one of several properties linked either directly or indirectly through family members to her.
   While Mexican authorities are preparing their case against Gordillo, the question that surfaces here, says attorney John Owens, formerly head of the criminal division at the U.S. attorney’s office in San Diego, is, “Did anyone in the United States help to facilitate these crimes? These types of crimes are not usually committed alone”:

Live and Help Live

In 1993, Peterson (left) visited the "Hanoi Hilton" prison with John McCain. Getty Images
Former POW Pete Peterson went through hell in the years after his capture in Vietnam. Then, in 1997, on the same day he had been shot down so many years before, he revisited the village that had taken him prisoner, this time as the U.S. ambassador to Vietnam, a post given him by President Clinton. As a voice of reconciliation, he has been working on making the country a safer place, by encouraging the government to institute helmet laws and through the NGO he founded, The Alliance for Safe Children:

Apple Doesn't Fall Far From TV

Steve Jobs was working on it; Tim Cook is working on it. Television cable and satellite companies, of course, don't want anything to do with it, but it's predicted to be the company's next big thing ~ Apple TV. Says one exec at a digital media investment company, “This will be Tim Cook’s first ‘holy shit’ innovation”:

Hand-Crafted Humans

BGI technicians at work  from MIT Technology Review
An interview with evolutionary psychologist and university lecturer Geoffrey Miller, who contributed his DNA to China's "genius baby" program, aka the Cognitive Genetics Program at the Beijing Genome Institute (BGI):
   Excerpts from the documentary DNA Dreams, by Bregtje van der Haak, about the work of BGI (and which, btw, is screening at USC on April 8, for those who think they can stomach it). "The advantage of China," says one researcher there, "is that the regulations in this field are relaxed" (video ~ CAUTION: a lot of this work is with animals, and the footage ~ as well as its implications ~ can be upsetting and distressing):

Go Further

Timothy Leary (left) and Neal Cassady on board c. Allen Ginsberg Estate. licensing via Corbis
Here's the true acid test: Ken Kesey's daughter Stephanie is trying to raise funds to restore her dad's famous (infamous?!) Further Bus, of Tom Wolfe's seminal Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test fame. She says the bus is deteriorating and in danger of being lost to history. Funds would also go "to promote and preserve the legacy of author Ken Kesey":
   This is not the first time the old bus has been given a chance at a second life. Back in 2006, Kesey's son Zane and others pulled it out of a swamp on the Kesey family farm, picked off the moss, and fixed it up:

Extra! Punxsutawney Phil Indicted!

Phil's in big trouble.                      Keith Srakocic/AP
Ohio prosecutor Michael Gmoser has filed an indictment against the nation's favorite groundhog for "misrepresentation of early spring." How heated is Gmoser about the unrelenting cold? He's asking for the death penalty. "There's a lot of people who want a piece of him," he said of Phil. "I know because I'm getting recipes from around the country":

A Ship in Time

How to build the world's largest ship in 76 seconds (video):

Light Board

screen shot
This beautiful little video, Firefly, directed by Jan Minol, takes skateboarding to new lights (video):


Evidence that individuals' DNA can change in a lifetime call into question theories about the dates of early human migration and human evolution:

Black in the Wild West

Vincent Jacobs, rodeo rider   Sarfraz Manzoor

"I bet you nine out of 10 people in this country think that cowboys were all white—as I did," says Jim Austin. So he and his wife, Gloria, founded the National Multicultural Western Heritage Museum, in Fort Worth, Texas, to put that particular piece of misinformation to rest. In reality, it is now believed, about 25% of cowboys were black:

Braveheart's Revenge?

On Sept. 18, 2014, the voters of Scotland will be asked one question: Should Scotland be an independent country? Announcing the date of the referendum, First Minister Alex Salmond said, “I believe it will be the day we take responsibility for our country, when we are able to speak with our own voice, choose our own direction and contribute in our distinct way.”
   Some of the many other questions that will have to be answered:
   P.S., I can't help but call your attention to the fact that the first minister is a Salmond and his deputy is Nicola Sturgeon. I'm sure I'm not the first to comment on this finny coincidence. Nonetheless ...

The Unknown Climber

the Everest expedition, with Lowe (third from left), Hillary (second from right) AP
Sometimes, one can learn the most interesting things by reading the obituaries. For example, George Lowe, who passed away recently, was the last surviving climbing member of the first team to summit Mt. Everest. That was back in 1953, when such an expedition really was a bare-bones adventure. The more famous climber, of course, was Sir Edmund Hillary, but by all accounts, it was Lowe who was the real backbone of the group:,0,6335220.story

Greening the City ... or Not

a sidewalk-strip garden in West Seattle        West Seattle Blog
I'm fairly sure that, sooner or later, city ordinances will catch up to the times, but for now, here's a short list of the cities where urban gardeners are welcome (Seattle and Portland leading the way, not surprisingly) and those where they're not (yet, one can only hope):

Doctor, Doctor, Give Me the News

Fascinating statistics about the cost of healthcare, from our friends at Do with them what you will:

"The United States had the highest healthcare spending of any country in 2011, spending more than $2.7 trillion US Dollars (USD). That's almost 18% of its gross domestic product (GDP) and more than the entire GDP of Great Britain. The United States' healthcare spending is equal to roughly $8,223 USD per person, which is more than two-and-a-half times the average of $3,200 USD per person in developed countries. Other countries that have the highest healthcare spending per person include Norway, Switzerland and the Netherlands. The Netherlands, France, Germany, Switzerland and Canada followed the US in terms of healthcare spending as a percentage of GDP, with each country spending 11-12% of its GDP on healthcare.

"More about healthcare spending :
  • "Among developed countries, Mexico and Turkey spend the least on healthcare per person, with each spending a little more than $900 USD per person in 2011.

For Sale: 1 Wedding ~ Mint Condition

There's a new online service in town, and it recycles weddings. Say you've been stood up at the altar or were the one doing the standing up, or let's say you both got cold feet at the last minute. The situation needn't be a total bust. You can sell it all ~ all that planning, the flowers, the site, the gown ~ to this company, which in turn will sell it at a discount to some starry-eyed couple that may actually go through with it:

The HItchhiker's Guide to Neutrality

A survey of English-language books of the 20th century points to a decline in the number of words describing emotion. Specifically, the study focused on words describing anger, disgust, fear, joy, sadness, and surprise. One of the many interesting findings was that fear-related words made a comeback in the '70s and continued to grow in number from then on:

Dawn's Early Light

New data from the European Space Agency's Planck satellite seem to prove that the universe is about 80 million years older than previously believed and that it contains more matter and less dark energy than scientists had thought:

Fahrenheit 2013

Remember the wall-size screens that captivated Montag's wife in Fahrenheit 451? Welcome to the 2013 version, and of course, it's all about advertising. "We believe that in the future all surfaces in urban areas could be interactive displays," says Robert Walter, a member of the Technical University of Berlin team that is working on two interactive applications. "This presents great opportunities and challenges as it will need to be attractive and work in an intelligent way" (story and video):

Reinventing the Egg Carton

the one we're used to (left) and Valicsek's  ©BBC/Nora Denes
A short history of the egg carton, leading up to the present day and a new, improved container created by Hungarian design student Eva Valicsek (story and slideshow):

Abuse and Autism

A new study ~ of almost 55,000 women ~ shows a link between a mother's childhood abuse and her chances of having an autistic child. While it may not be a simple cause-and-effect connection, it does seem to be a connection of some sort:

Tokyo Trending

screen shot/HBNAM of Streetfsn
I wish I had the guts to put together outfits like some of the oh-so-chic ones out on the streets of Tokyo (not that I'd have anywhere to wear them). Instead, I click through these pictures and drool (slideshow):

March of the Cherry Blossoms

a sign of things to come photo credit: me
Beautiful cherry blossoms are lighting up smiles and lightening hearts all around the world (slideshow):

All Owl, Owl the Time

screen shot
It's an owl cam!! This little owl above is waiting for the last egg, which you can see just below its chest, to hatch. There are already fuzzy little babies sleeping in the warmth and comfort of the nest (live-streaming video):

Spring Hath Sprung

photo credit: me
In honor of the first day of spring, which began at 7:02 a.m. (EDT) on March 20, this from

It is a common misconception that the day and night are each exactly 12 hours long on the spring equinox — the day when the center of the sun crosses over the Earth's equator, which is typically about 20 March. On the spring equinox, also known as the vernal equinox, there is slightly more daylight than darkness. It is actually two to three days before the equinox when the days are nearly equal parts day and night. For example, three days before the equinox, there is about one more minute of darkness, but on the day of the event itself, there might be about eight more minutes of daylight.

More about the spring equinox:
  • The spring equinox and the fall equinox, or autumnal equinox, are the only days of the year when the sun rises from due east and sets at due west.

The World's Watering Hole

screen shot
Check out the pictures people have sent in from literally all over our planet as part of the Earth Day campaign and, if you want, join the community by uploading your own (photos, photos, photos):

Sew Some Good

Michael Swaine at work in the Tenderloin              Gil Regio, Jr.
Once a month, Michael Swaine sets up his old (repeat: old!) sewing machine on a street in San Francisco's Tenderloin district and mends people's clothes for free. And he's been doing this for 12 years. Says he, "My small act is mostly a gesture, and for some it means a lot, but I think the bigger importance is the example of participating, of being a citizen and acting outside of what is normal” (story and slideshow):