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A River Runs

Arcadia Creek, Kalamazoo, Michigan                                                         Paul
Good news for those who love nature, happy creatures, and the sound of flowing water: More cities are uncovering the rivers that were cemented over or otherwise forced underground, some more than a century ago. Seattle, Kalamazoo, and Seoul have done it, Yonkers is in the process, and San Francisco, Baltimore, and Detroit are thinking about it:

Portrait of the Artist As a Street Child

Splitty #1                                                                               Merijn Kavelaars

Merijn Kavelaars is a young Dutch painter ~ well, he actually makes short films, too. He is, according to his website, self-taught and recently had showings in Copenhagen, Amsterdam, and Shanghai. His work is very childlike, busy, and colorful, with more than a touch of the street to it ~ kind of Jackson Pollock and David Hockney meet John Lennon (artist's website):

Miracles in the Mud

A microorganism with a previously unseen chemical structure and potential to be made into a new antibiotic has been discovered on the ocean floor off the coast of California. First tests show it to be effective in combating anthrax and methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus:

The Filming of Oflag 17a

 the camera was hidden in a hollowed-out dictionary                  screen shot
For all our faults ~ and they are legion ~ human beings are also amazingly resourceful and many are unbelievably brave. The biggest breakout of World War II took place in a French prisoner-of-war camp in Austria in 1943. Preparations for the escape and views of the camp itself were actually filmed by the prisoners with a camera hidden in a hollowed-out dictionary. The film was then hidden in the heels of their shoes. Of all the prisoners who escaped, one is still with us and just celebrated his 100th birthday (story, video):

Vindication for Night Owls

Yes! We night owls knew it all along, didn't we? And a new study proves it: Night owls rule the roost:

City Surreal

screen shot
Part MC Escher, part video game in style, this filmic tour of an eerie uninhabited urban jungle was part of a University of Greenwich student's graduation project. The accompanying thesis was titled "Time and Relative Dimensions in Space: The Possibilities of Utilising Virtual[ly Impossible] Environments in Architecture" (video):

All Beauty, No Beast

Wodaabe men show off for women at a Gerewol.                        Timothy Allen
I first learned of the existence of the nomadic Wodaabe of Niger at an exhibit at a local photography museum. As there were only a couple of photos of them as part of a larger presentation, called No Strangers, there was not a lot of information available. Well, here's information and lots of photographs:

Waiting for the Flood

Kivalina has a total land area of 1.9 square miles.                   Bob Hallinen/AP
The 400 Inuit residents of an island village off the coast of Alaska are destined to become the world's first climate refugees when the ocean covers their land in 10 years' time. Meanwhile, the area is becoming more and more attractive—and accessible, thanks to the receding ice—as a huge source of fossil fuel (story, video):

'I Could'a Been Somebody'

The quote above comes from a famous scene in the movie On the Waterfront ( Reviewing that scene, I see that it completely exemplifies that particularly American yearning described by the author of this excerpt. The following is from

   In today's selection -- most Americans resist the idea that they live in a class-based society. But, however fluid, these classes do exist, leaving Americans with a unique challenge in figuring out where they stand in society -- and a unique need to achieve in order to gain respect. And thus "How'm I doin'?" -- former New York Mayor Ed Koch's famous question -- can be viewed as the quintessential American question:

   "[When sociologists interview Americans about the subject of class,] being told that there are no social classes in the place where the interviewee lives is an old experience for sociologists. ' "We don't have classes in our town" almost invariably is the first remark recorded by the investigator,' reports Leonard Reissman, author of Class in American Life (1959). 'Once that has been uttered and is out of the way, the class divisions in the town can be recorded with what seems to be an amazing degree of agreement among the good citizens of the community.' The novelist John O'Hara made a whole career out of probing into this touchy subject, to which he was astonishingly sensitive. While still a

Lives of the Artists

Fantastic! Infographics covering the lives of 10 abstract painters and, cleverly, using the artists' own style and palette in the depiction:

A Ration of Hope and Hate

This beautiful story offers a firsthand, child's eye view—and, through it, an innocent, very human picture—of food rationing in Beijing in the 1970s:

For the Love of a Cat

three bland cats                                   KW

There is a reason cats have a reputation for standoffishness, and it's that they're standoffish. One of my favorite sayings about this species is "Dogs come when they're called; a cat takes a message and gets back to you later." But cats can be just as loving as dogs. Really! Here are 10 physical indications of feline love:

Tricky Dick

RESOLVED, That Richard M. Nixon, President of the United States, is impeached for high crimes and misdemeanors, and that the following articles of impeachment to be exhibited to the Senate:
   On July 27, 1974, the House began its impeachment of President Richard Nixon, resulting in his eventual resignation from office:

Just Because: 'Midnight's Children'

IMHO, Salman Rushdie is, quite simply, a magician and a genius. Completely beyond his storytelling skill, it's the way he puts words together, his erudition, his immense scholarship, the informed and perceptive way he has of looking at the world. Here's some good background, context, and a conversation with Deepa Mehta, who directed the film adaptation of the novel (print, audio versions):


The Perforated Sheet

   I was born in the city of Bombay ... once upon a time. No, that won't do, there's no getting away from the date: I was born in Doctor Narlikar's Nursing Home on August 15th, 1947. And the time? The time matters, too. Well then: at night. No, it's important to be more ... On the stroke of midnight, as a matter of fact. Clock-hands joined palms in respectful greeting as I came. Oh, spell it out, spell it out: at the precise instant of India's arrival at independence, I tumbled forth into the world. There were gasps. And, outside the window, fireworks and crowds. A few seconds later, my father broke his big toe; but his accident was a mere trifle when set beside what had befallen me in that benighted moment, because thanks to the occult tyrannies of those blandly saluting clocks I had been mysteriously handcuffed to history, by destinies indissolubly chained

Sit Down and Watch the Stand-Ups

Vulture's list of the 10 comedy stand-up specials to watch includes Abbott and Costello's Colgate Comedy Hour, Kathleen Madigan's Gone Madigan, and Eddie Murphy's Raw. Needless to say, much of it is indeed raw, so check them out at your own risk (story, videos):

A Bug in Her Ear

Came across this in my online wanderings and, after many minutes of back-and-forthings, decided it should be shared (you can thank me later). I honestly did not know this could happen, though, really, when you think about it ... (story, video):

Surviving in Somalia

the room in which Judith Tebbutt spend most of her time in captivity
In September 2011, English couple Judith and David Tebbutt were at a beach resort off the coast of Kenya when Somali pirates struck. David was killed, and Judith, barefoot and in her pajamas, was forced onto a speed boat. Here, she talks about her six months of captivity and how she made it through (story, audio):

How Does That Feel?

A new study shows that, contrary to our previous understanding, psychopaths can feel empathy. The difference between them and most people is that they can turn it on and off, and the default position, if you will, is off. This suggests that it might be possible to help people with this condition to switch it on and keep it on:

Here, Kitty, Kitty

To all cat lovers who are allergic to cats ~ there is hope! Scientists have isolated the specific cause of your misery, which will lead to a cure:

Houseboats and Rail Cars and Caves, Oh, My!

Kokopelli Cave Bed and Breakfast, New Mexico                         steamboat323
Summer's slipping by and you still haven't been out of town? As this list of .... ummm, unique B&Bs proves, you don't have to travel far to feel like you've been someplace out of the ordinary and to come back with a good story to tell:

Thank You, Ms. Thomas

in her usual front-row seat, 1986              Frank Johnston/the Washington Post
An ode of sorts to the formidable and inimitable Helen Thomas, often called the dean of the White House press corps, who died on July 20. It was written in 2003:
   Great opinion piece by Katrina vanden Heuvel about Thomas and the importance of an independent, gutsy press (column, link to slideshow):

Camp Combat

screen shot/Luca Locatelli for the New York Times
For four days last spring, 32 teams from 17 countries and the Palestinian Territories competed in the fifth annual Warrior Competition at the King Abdullah II Special Operations Training Center in the Jordanian desert. Between contests like Hostage Rescue, they listened to speeches, watched promotional videos ("All this cool stuff, and we can't do any of it."), had tea and carrot cake, checked out the vendors, attended a mixer, and, of course, sat around telling stories (An Iraqi had offered to help one U.S. combatant, A., find the men who killed Saddam. According to A., the conversation went like this: Iraqi: “I know this guy. Give me a gun and a car, and I will kill him!” A.: “Dude, I hear you. And it sounds like a good idea to me on so many levels. But my government will put me in jail.”) and drinking rum-and-Cokes (story, video, slideshow):
   P.S., The Chinese won.

Les Américains Barbares

I have been trying to cull my "stuff," and in doing so, came upon an essay I wrote in college that surprised and shocked me. But for a few names, it could have been written today: 

   Somewhere in our storage room, in some big box, along with all the family’s other reminders of hectic years, is a bundle of yellowed slips of paper, each bearing an 11-year-old boy’s carefully handwritten message: “Please vote for Mr. Kennedy.” He—my little brother—had made many, virtuously laboring for long days in order to contribute his part to his hero’s campaign. He had worked hard, but had only had time to distribute one-third of his leaflets before he heard that not only were they no longer necessary but they were quickly becoming superfluous to the fast-moving citizens of a fast-moving country.
   But that is his story, and he can relate it better than I can. I, however, also have a story, one that is quite different, for I was not in the United States when I learned of Robert Kennedy’s assassination. Allegedly for the advancement of my fluency in the French language—but, I suspect, so that I could catch up to my classmates in age before entering high school—I was locked away (because that's how I saw it) in a school in Switzerland.
   It was a difficult nine months, but I came away from them having learned much more than just another language. For me, academic learning that year took second place to social learning. My roommate was Iranian, and my classmates belonged to every country imaginable. We were a miniature United Nations in every aspect except

American Beauty

Le Figaro
She's tough, she's smart, and she's fearless. Kimberley Motley grew up in Milwaukee, the daughter of a North Korean mother and African American father, has the titles "Mrs. Wisconsin" and "Esquire" under her belt, and for the last five years has been the one foreigners in Afghanistan turn to when they're in legal trouble. The only foreign litigator in the country, Motley recently has begun using her skills to help the most powerless of the powerless ~ Afghan women:
  Here is a recent interview with Motley:

'I Just Hope People Won't Give Up'

Michael Neugebauer
A wonderful interview with the amazing and wise Jane Goodall, whose experiences and work over the decades have given her a singular, global view of life on this planet. Although she is best-known for her work with primates, her most recent book is called Seeds of Hope: Wisdom and Wonder From the World of Plants:

The Buddhist Years

from our friends at

In today's selection -- the first great unifier of large parts of the Indian subcontinent was Ashoka the Great (304-232 BCE), who converted to Buddhism after witnessing the bloody horrors of his own wars, and used the moderating influence of Buddhism to help unify the widely different peoples in his realm. He sent missionaries throughout his empire and as far away as Greece and Egypt. This was the first great expansion of Buddhism, which until then had been found mainly in the northeast near where Siddhartha Gautama himself had lived and taught. The size of his empire was not matched within India for another 2,000 years, and he was ahead of his time in enjoining "respect for the dignity of all men and, above all, religious toleration and non-violence." Buddhism continued to figure prominently for centuries more, though it was never as deeply rooted as Hinduism, and was ultimately displaced by Islam, whose promise of

Family of Man


The common ancestors of all humans are thought to have lived 2,000-3,000 years ago. The term "common ancestor" is used in the study of human genetic heritage and refers to an individual from which a group is directly descended. It is thought that anyone who was alive about 3,000 years ago is either an ancestor of everyone now on Earth or not an ancestor of anyone now on Earth.

More about human ancestors:
  • All people of European descent are thought to have the first Holy Ruler of

Can't We Just Call it Brukland?

Apparently, we Americans are guilty of not knowing our England from our Britain from our United Kingdom, and the Brits are getting their knickers all in a twist about it. The sub-headline of this article sums up their case: "Some US television networks proclaimed the royal baby news by welcoming the arrival of the 'future king of England', forgetting about the rest of the UK." I immediately began to worry about the mistakes I have probably made. And then I turned on The Daily Show, which is temporarily being hosted by the fabulous and brilliant John Oliver, himself a Brit. And what did I hear him call the royal baby but "the future king of England":

Jump-Starting Detroit

It is possible that Detroit's recent bad news could be its best news and could, in fact, eventually make the city a leader in sustainability and efficiency. As the saying goes, sometimes you have to hit rock bottom before you do what it takes to save yourself. In this case, the Detroit Future City (DFC) long-term plan may be the "what it takes":

From the Archives: RoyalList

Most of my posts are not time-sensitive, and most of them link to very wonderful things. Because I don't want anyone to miss out on them, I will occasionally re-post some of my favorites, like this one (and, of course, this particular post is making its reappearance at this particular time because, as you may know, the recently arrived Royal Bébé has not yet been given a name):
Kate & George Alexander Louis (or GAL) Scott Heavey/Getty

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:
   *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.

A Gibbon Named Goliath

A couple of years ago, I took a group of schoolchildren on a field trip to the Gibbon Conservation Center in Saugus (California). We got a personalized tour by the founder, Alan Mootnick, a wonderful man who had been fascinated by gibbons ever since he was a young child and who still and quite obviously felt a special kinship with them as a species ~ and, at the center, with them as individuals. Alan died a couple of weeks after our visit, but his staff continues his work. Today, I got a newsletter from them with a wonderful story about one of their charges:

   If you've been following Goliath's story, this young male was born to Chloe (a Javan gibbon) about 15 months ago.  Chloe was unable to provide nutritious milk, so Goliath was raised by the staff until he was strong enough to return to his family.  Even when hand-fed, he was taken outside to bond with his mother on every sunny day, so they were very familiar with each other as Goliath was growing.

   Chloe (Goliath’s mom) shares an enclosure with Ivan, our oldest gibbon (he's 40!). Ivan is Goliath's great-great grandfather! When Goliath visited, Ivan was fascinated … especially when Goliath was still an infant and wasn't very mobile. Once Goliath found his gibbon legs and began to move around, Ivan was pretty tolerant, but

Peace in the Valley

solar power comes to Spiti                                                            screen shot
I had never heard of the Spiti Valley, so when I came across this video, courtesy of the Earth Hour people, of course I had to watch it. Part of India, the Spiti Valley is in the Himalayas, between India and Tibet ("Spiti" means "The Middle Land"), and is often referred to as Little Tibet for its physical similarities to that region. Culturally similar as well, it is home to one of the world's oldest monasteries. The area is rugged and remote, and it opened to tourists only in 1992. While the people of the valley are self-sufficient, they are now promoting eco-tourism as an additional way of supporting themselves (video):

Whence War?

Two anthropologists in Finland argue that archaeological evidence from Europe, the Middle East, and western Asia shows that war originated only within the last 10,000 years, taking place more often as states grew and expanded, in the last 4,000 to 6,000 years. The theory has more than its share of critics, however:

The Little Prince

So it's a boy for Kate and Wills. As he starts on his journey in this world, barring unforeseen circumstances, he can look forward to a life that not many of us can imagine ~ one of privilege and comfort but also of pressure and constraint, of ivory-tower seclusion but also of unrelenting scrutiny:
   Here's a slideshow highlighting the royal family's many palaces and other residences, complete with interesting trivia:
the State Room of the Royal Yacht Britannia                      Martin Moos/Getty

You Are There, Somewhere

views of Earth from Cassini (left) and Messenger NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute and NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Carnegie Institution of Washington
On July 19, NASA's Cassini spacecraft took a picture of Earth from its vantage point near Saturn 900 million miles away. A couple of days later, the spacecraft Messenger, orbiting Mercury, also took pictures of us (see "The Bigger Picture": "Cassini's picture reminds us how tiny our home planet is in the vastness of space," said Cassini project scientist Linda Spilker, "and also testifies to the ingenuity of the citizens of this tiny planet to send a robotic spacecraft so far away from home to study Saturn and take a look-back photo of Earth" (story, slideshow):

Once in a Lifetime (and That Might Be Enough)

The giant corpse flower (aka Titan Arum) in Washington, D.C., is blooming! (story, live-stream video):

Royal Labor Pains

As we await the birth of Princess Diana's first grandchild (see where my sympathies lie?), a little history about Britain's royal births and the not-always-healthy traditions and fads they started (chloroform, forceps ... ):

Froome To Move

Tim Ireland/PA
This year's winner of the Tour de France, Britain's Chris Froome, started out mountain biking on the dirt roads of Kenya when he was 12 (story, video):
   It should come as no surprise that, from the year of the first Tour de France to today, the average speed of the riders has risen dramatically. Perhaps less obvious is the fact that both the average number of entrants and the number of those who finished rose steadily over the years (story, chart):

Who Are You?

portrait mask from cigarette butt found on Flatbush Avenue          screen shot
In order to draw attention to the possible future uses of genetic technology, like genetic surveillance, a New York artist recreates faces using DNA taken from random trash on the street (video):

Call of the Wild

Scientists have figured out how to identify a wolf by its howl and can now do so with 100 percent accuracy (story, audio, links to videos):

On the Money


The city with the most millionaires living in it is Tokyo, Japan, according to 2012 estimates by WealthInsight. Tokyo has more than 460,000 people with net assets of $1 million US Dollars (USD) or more, excluding their primary homes. One factor is thought to be that Japan has a higher population concentration in Tokyo, whereas other countries’ millionaire populations tend to be spread amongst more cities. New York is the US city with the most millionaires—more than 389,000, which ranks second in the

Good Words

Not normally one for pithy sayings, angels, and belief-systems-of-the-moment, I was nonetheless impressed by the simple, honest truth of these five principles, gleaned from a couple's trip around the world:

Beautiful Mothstrocities

the Atlas Moth                                   Sandesh Kadur/© Nature Picture Library
It is National Moth Week! Who knew? And who knew, too, that there are possibly as many as 500,000 moth species? Heck, moths are so awesome that New Jersey governor Chris Christie even wrote a letter recognizing NMW! (official website with videos):
   We all talk about the beauty of butterflies, but the amazing variety of colors, sizes, and patterns in the moth family is just as spectacular (slideshow):

Come Dive With Me

Online viewers have  a choice of Camera 1, Camera 2, and Quad (above).                    screen shot
A group of researchers is exploring the wreck of an early-19th-century, copper-clad ship deep in the Gulf of Mexico. So far, they have found some well-preserved artifacts and discovered that it was 84 feet long and equipped with cannons. You can explore with them and listen to the scientists, via a live feed from the research vessel Nautilus (story with link to live-stream video):

Experiments in Patience

Called "the world's most durable battery," the Clarendon Dry Pile powers a bell that has been ringing nonstop since 1840. An atmospheric clock at the University of Otago in New Zealand has been going strong, without winding, since 1864. These are just two of seven of the world's longest-running experiments:

'Addicted to Speed'

The only thing that counts is winning.                              © Tomasz Gudzowaty
Illegal car racing ~ the really brazen, nerves-of-steel kind ~ has taken over the streets of and around Mexico City, and the only thing that breaks up the party is the cops. Laws? Fuggetaboudem:
   The photographs accompanying this article are stellar (slideshow):

Defying the Odds

The team's prosthetic arm passed the test.                                         UC Irvine
A group of students from a low-performing middle school in the Watts neighborhood of Los Angeles took top honors at a national competition with their design for a prosthetic arm. The arm is deceptively simple and low-budget, made of a plastic water bottle, wire, metal rod, and clamp. "Just because we're from here doesn't mean we're not smart," commented Jacqueline Sanchez, one of the team members. Indeed:,0,6120200.story

Writing on the Wall

As the inside of the pyramids will attest, the Egyptians have always written on walls. The tradition continues now, with the people sharing their thoughts on the revolution and other social issues, but with paint this time. A journalist takes a tour of Cairo's graffiti (video):

Their Theremin Show

a theremin                    from
The theremin is a pretty cool musical instrument. In a city in Japan, 272 people set a world record ~ confirmed by Guinness World Records ~ for the most people playing theremins together:
   Here's a video of the theremin's inventor, Leon Theremin, playing his instrument:

The Other Royals

King Albert II

Across the Channel from England, the royal family of Belgium readies for the abdication of King Albert II after two decades on the throne. His oldest son, Philippe, will be enthroned July 21 (story, slideshow):

Wild Thing

The National Wildlife Federation is putting together Hike-and-Seek family events in lots of major cities around the country. While they're taking place this fall, now is the time to register:

Meet Your Mask Maker

A mask by Reynolds adorns the tombstone of Malcolm McLaren.    screen shot
Musician, son of a train robber, and maker of death masks: Meet Nick Reynolds. A mask, he says, "is far more tactile than a photograph. It's got weight, it's got form, it's three-dimensional. Every little wrinkle and line is a repository of countless memories." OK, so add "poet" to that list of descriptors (story, video):

Bee Weird

 2010 winner Tibor Szabo                                                                             AP
Canada's Clovermead Bee Beard Competition, July 27, Aylmer, Ontario. What can I say that hasn't been said before? Go apiary?:

The Bigger Picture

Look up at Saturn (or in that general direction) and wave starting at 5:27 p.m. ET on July 19, because that's when NASA's Cassini spacecraft will be taking a picture of our home planet. If you miss that opportunity for your 15 seconds of fame, you can opt for a makeup photo, taken by the Messenger spacecraft orbiting Mercury, at 7:49 a.m., 8:38 a.m., or 9:41 a.m. ET on July 20 (story, video):

Motown, Cadillac, and Joe Lewis

screen shot
Eminem's "Letter to Detroit" (video):

Dementia Dogs

Kaspa with his humans, Ken and Glenys Will                from
The psychological benefits to humans of having a pet are well-documented. Dogs, in particular, like seeing-eye and search-and-rescue dogs, give physical aid as well. Now, two couples in Scotland affected by the dementia of one of the partners have their specially trained dog to thank for being able to live a more relaxed, normal life again:

Boarding Area

It sounds like something out of Twilight Zone, and it definitely belongs in the "life is stranger than fiction" department. For the last four months, a young Palestinian man has been living in Kazakhstan's Almaty International airport, closely guarded and unable to leave. A refugee, he was born in Iraq, but his parents died when he was 16 and he has no siblings. He has no visa, either, so he can't enter Kazakhstan, and Israel won't let him into the Palestinian territories. The U.N. has decided he wouldn't be safe in Iraq. So, there he is, subsisting on airplane food and Skyping with a cousin in Norway whenever the airport's sketchy Internet connection fires up:

You Can't Make a Basket If You Don't Shoot

Basketball players as philosophers? Who woulda thought, but then, here's the proof:

Hiding in Plain Sight

What's it like to be in the government's witness protection program? For a former Las Vegas mobster, one of the hardest parts is having to live with a strong, identifiable Chicago accent he can't seem to lose:

Summer Sights

Brighton Beach, England, July 7                                Reuters/Luke MacGregor
Death Valley, California, July 15                           David McNew/Getty Images
We're about halfway through summer now, and what better time to take a peek at how the season's progressing and how we and other mammals are enjoying it (or, in some cases, not) around the globe (slideshow):

Talk of Ages

Here's a fun quiz. Listen to a voice and guess how old the speaker is:

Around the World in 196 Books

Ujwala Prabhu
 Last year, writer Ann Morgan set a goal for herself ~ to read a book from every country of the world in one year. It wasn't as easy as it sounds. What? It doesn't sound easy? My point exactly:
  If you want to try it (or if you're just curious), here's the list:

Optimistic Progress on Depression

Four simple questions could be all that's needed to identify women suffering from depression:

The Cause of the Fever

With a new test that distinguishes between viral and bacterial infection by measuring gene activity, we may be one step closer to putting an end to our current damaging over-prescription and overuse of antibiotics:

Oil's Well If It Ends Wells

Tackling climate change from another angle, the global divestment movement urges organizations and local governments to pull financial support of fossil fuels. “By acting locally, we can send a message to the world that investment in fossil fuels is a losing proposition and that loosening our dependence on fossil fuels will increase our quality of life,” says Portland mayor Charlie Hales, who is pushing for the state to divest all its holdings in fossil fuels:

Given an Inch, They'll Take a Mile

You'd think that, all things being equal (and drugs being off the table), the Tour de France cyclists can't go any faster and that, in the end, it can only now come down to stamina and luck. But no. There are those who are still managing to find ways to make cyclists more aerodynamic. A millisecond here, a millisecond there, and pretty soon, you're talking real time (story, video):

Jest for Fun: House Hunters Intergalactica

from the New Yorker

In Your Face

The ingredients and history of pepper spray, including the arresting fact that the FBI agent who led the study that approved it as a method of crowd control had taken $57,000 from a pepper spray manufacturer:
   After seeing the picture of that Brazilian woman being sprayed, you may be wondering what happened to her:

Dead Law Standing

Many states have some form of the "Stand Your Ground" law that most of us learned about only on the night George Zimmerman shot and killed Trayvon Martin. It wasn't invoked during Zimmerman's criminal trial, but it may be at the center of a civil proceeding, if Martin's family chooses to call for one:
   For a lighter take on the law, see

The Nose Knows

Here's a primer on making your own scents, be they colognes, bath powders, or massage oils. It's easier than you might think:
   And, in case you missed it the first time around, here's my post about one of the most compelling (in a beautifully repulsive kind of way) books I know:
   For some ideas, see also

Just Because: 'Brave New World Revisited'

In 1931, Aldous Huxley wrote his famous novel Brave New World (published in 1932). In 1958, he wrote a kind of update to it, which he called Brave New World Revisited. As prescient as BNW was, other than a few technical details, Revisited could have been written today (by certain writers; there are some points I don't really agree with):


In 1931, when Brave New World was being written, I was convinced that there was still plenty of time. The completely organized society, the scientific caste system, the abolition of free will by methodical conditioning, the servitude made acceptable by regular doses of chemically induced happiness, the orthodoxies drummed in by nightly courses of sleep-teaching—these things were coming all right, but not in my time, not even in the time of my grandchildren. I forget the exact date of the events recorded in Brave New World; but it was somewhere in the sixth or seventh century A.F. (After Ford). We who were living in the second quarter of the twentieth century A.D. were the

It's Beer for Your Ears

Do not open immediately after playing!                                           screen shot
OK. Not that we needed this, but who cares? It's extremely cool. Now here's the question: What do you get when you cross Thomas Edison with a beer bottle? And here's the answer (video):

Mysterious Author Unmasked

In case you haven't heard, JK Rowling (author of the Harry Potter series) wrote a mystery book under a pseudonym, it's pretty good, it's now soaring up the charts, and another mystery is in the works. Not surprisingly, she says she had hoped to remain anonymous for a little while longer. So who figured out that "Robert Galbraith" was really she ~ and how? It took a little high-tech detective work:

A People Apart


In today's selection - the Dogon people of Mali. Isolated high in the cliffs of Mali near the city of Bandiagara, you will find the Dogon people, who have one of the most distinctive cultures in the world. Although their religious icons, masks, sculptures and architecture have in some respects become representative of Africa, their distinctiveness came from their intense, centuries-long desire to separate themselves from the dangers of their world:


"We had chosen Bandiagara because all of the tour books had described the little town as the gateway to the homeland of the Dogon, a people fabled throughout West Africa for their flinty independence and unusual lifestyle. Their lore had spread so deeply into

Survivor: Airplane

Not to be a fear-monger or anything, but apparently, there are some things you can do to ensure a better chance of surviving a plane crash (not, I rush to add, that there are many of those):

Twelve Syllables With Caesuras ~ Alexandrine

And here's what I learned this morning: The alexandrine is a form of poetry with 12 syllables per line. Technically, it should have a pause (a caesura) after the sixth, with the stress being on the sixth and the twelfth. Alternatively, a line can be divided into three four-syllable sections (see title of post, in case you hadn't noticed!). The form was named after Alexander the Great, about whom a poem was written in this style. It was most popular in French and German and, apparently, not so easy to do in English. One contemporary poet, however, has written a book in alexandrine (and you'll note that the title has six syllables). While there are 12 syllables in each line, she didn't bother with the stressed ones. Can't blame her for that.

from In This World of 12 Months
by Marcella Durand

Your voice carries easily through liquid; bridge is
halved by fog, as your tongue is divided in mist.
The fog of machinery augmented by steam.

Baby, It's Coal Outside (and In)

Is it possible that coal could have a future as a building material?:

His Fathers' Name


"Gerald Ford, the 38th president of the United States, was given the name Leslie Lynch King Jr. when he was born. He was named after his father, Leslie Lynch King. His mother, Dorothy Gardner King, and his father got divorced within six months after the birth in 1913, and she got remarried in 1916 to Gerald Rudolff Ford. After the marriage, Leslie Lynch King Jr. began being referred to as Gerald R. Ford, but he did not legally change

Got Candy?

I see that I am not the only one obsessed with Candy Crush. I am at once gratified (yay! I can keep playing!) and dismayed (oh, s#*&! I can keep playing!!) to learn that I have 356 levels to go before I get to the end of the game ... :

Second Coming

A new atomic timekeeper, the strontium optical lattice clock, can measure time to within one second every 300 million years. Still, that's not perfect. "Even an accuracy of a second in 300 million years still means a lag of about 0.01 of a nanosecond over the course of a day," says the lead researcher, Jerome Lodewyck. Picky, picky, picky:

Which Quatorze Juillet?

the fête on the Champ de Mars
It's called Bastille Day and it's celebrated on July 14, but which July 14 does it really honor? July 14, 1789, or July 14, 1790? One was a day of bloodshed, the other was chosen for the Fête de la Fédération (Festival of the Federation), a distinctly more peaceful and hopeful moment in time:

Opera on the Road

For 12 hours once a year starting 10 years ago, Tijuana's Street Opera Festival fills Colonia Libertad with music and song:

Private ~ Keep Out

Along with all the news coming out lately about our lack of privacy ~ whether that came as a surprise or not ~ comes news of a Swedish company that's working on an instant messaging system that will be completely secure. It will be free, but they could use help at this phase ~ or not: Apparently, they're totally funded now! (story, video):
   For more details, check out their website:

The Mouse and He

On the shoulders of giants, indeed. Most of us may not be familiar with the name Douglas C. Engelbart, but we sure are with the invention of the man behind the moniker ~ in fact, we're all using it right now. The mouse. "Visionary" only begins to describe him, and "several light years behind" only begins to answer the question Where would we be without him?:

Out of the Mouths of Babes

REUTERS/Brendan McDermid
Remember Malala Yousafzai? Of course you do. Having recovered from her near-death experience, this brave and inspirational Pakistani girl celebrated her 16th birthday by addressing the United Nations. This is, quite honestly, an amazing speech and worth your time and attention (video):


Paul Mathis has an idea, and that idea has a symbol: Ћ . It stands for "the," the most commonly used word in typing. So, Mathis suggests, why not add that symbol to the standard keyboard? Already, that would have saved me six keystrokes in this post alone (I'm counting the ~ oops! eight! ~ title)

Storming the Mount

Matthieu Cabby et famille break out les couleurs.         James Startt/Bicycling
Sometimes, it seems like the whole world celebrates Bastille Day, July 14. Just Google it to learn what's going on in your area. And for more, including background and information about a rather unique way of celebrating, see my post from last year, "Allons, Enfants!":
   For the Tour de France cyclists, it's sure to be the best of times and the worst of times, as they will be climbing the torturous and extremely windy Mont Ventoux on Bastille Day ~ and remember, as this is the 100th Tour, a win this year is particularly meaningful:

It's a Miracle!

the church that started it all                        Andrea Giannotti, Gabriele Rossetti
It seems that a special kind of pavement, as in streets and sidewalks, that has been sprayed with titanium dioxide can help cut down on nitrogen oxide pollution by as much as 45 percent:
   Interestingly, this is not a new invention, nor was it invented by the Dutch, as is stated in a recent LA Times article. It was invented by an Italian company in 2006, and that, in itself, is an interesting story. It all started with a Richard Meier-designed church on the outskirts of Rome:
   More about the church, including lots of photos:

What a Doll

Well, here's some singular trivia to trot out at your next social gathering, courtesy of the folks at

"The Barbie doll has had a belly button since 2000. In 1959, the doll was created by Ruth Handler, who with her husband, Eliot Handler, went on to co-found the Mattel toy manufacturing company. The original Barbie was the first adult-proportioned doll and was modeled after the glamorous image of Hollywood actresses of the 1950s, with either brunette or blonde hair, red pursed lips and highly arched eyebrows but no belly button. The design was updated in 1971 to give Barbie bright blonde hair, whiter teeth and tanner skin, but the body was not altered to include a belly button. In 1997, after

Some Kind of Wonderful

From the wonderful people at one of my favorite sites, the wonderful, and to counteract all the rather discouraging things we keep hearing in the news, "11 Places Where Wonderful Things Are Happening" (make that 12, including the Mental Floss offices ~ wonderful!):

Snowden's Entourage

Meet some of the people who are helping NSA leaker Edward Snowden ~ and the one who's in love with him (and, no, it's not his former girlfriend):

Fixing DNA

Gene therapy that corrected mutations in the DNA of three children with the genetic disease metachromatic leukodystrophy seems to have been successful. They're all in kindergarten now and doing well:

A Census Consensus

As of July 11, World Population Day, there are 7.2 billion people on this planet. It is projected by that the year 2050, we'll be at ... well, the U.N. and the Population Reference Bureau say 9.6 and the U.S. Census Bureau says 9.4. How do they know this, why can't they agree, and why, in 2000, did the U.N. predict that the number would be 8.9 billion?:

Take Two Poems and Call Me in the Morning

Forgive me, body before me, for this.
Forgive me for my bumbling hands, unschooled
in how to touch: I meant to understand
what fever was, not love.

   So begins a poem by Dr. Rafael Campos, who teaches and practices general internal medicine in Boston. A good poem, he says, is "not so different from providing the best, most compassionate care to our patients”:

Atlas Didn't Shrug

You can download the interesting Atlas by Collins app (for iPhone and iPad) for free during a trial offer they're having. While the reviews are not stellar (but whose are?), they are pretty good, and now might be the right time to try it and see what you think (video):

Behind Every Successful Summit ...

the Earth's highest mountain
I remember wondering about this when I first heard about Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay and then learning about all the Westerners who have summited Mount Everest with the help of Sherpa guides. Why were they the ones written about, and not the Sherpas, without whose hard work and courage, in most cases, they never would have made it? (print, audio versions, slideshow):