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Shut Down

According to an NBC News story quoting the Office of Management and Budget, the 1995 and 1996 government shutdowns, which lasted a total of 27 days, cost $1.4 billion. That, the story continues, is $2 billion in today's dollars (
    To understand the reasons for the high cost, it behooves one to understand the set of rules governing such an event ~ rules written in the late 1800s:

Bad Food! Bad! Sit! Stay!

I was happy to see the recent spate of articles about food waste and the confusion over "consume by" dates. Personally, I've never paid attention to them, and I've always been shocked (shocked, I tell you!) by the perfectly good food I've seen friends blithely toss down the drain and into the trash can (not even a composting bin). Maybe this momentary coverage of the latest issue du jour will give some pause for thought. To that end, here's a list of five foods that do not go bad the instant their "sell by" date is reached. And to it, I would add one more: cheese. Just cut off the colorful bits and enjoy the rest. Honestly!:

Caffeine, Free ~ Sept. 29

National Coffee Day (who knew?) is Sept. 29, and there are a few deals to be had at certain chains and companies!:

The Emotional Email

It had to happen. Researchers at the National Research Council Canada have put together a program that can deduce your gender and personality by analyzing the words you use in your emails or other social media. Yup. Fascinating ~ and yet somehow creepy:

The Sight of Sound

Kraftwerk's "Transistor"                                Martin Klimas

Wanna know what "Time" really looks like? How about "Toccata and Fugue in D Minor"? German photographer Martin Klimas did, so he photographed the way pools of paint reacted on a membrane when the sound was turned way up high. He calls the results sonic sculpture:

Just Because: 'Behind the Beautiful Forevers'

My brother gave me this book for some holiday, or maybe for my birthday. I can't remember. Either way, I finally started reading it during my recent vacation, and though I haven't finished it, I have to say that, like everything he has recommended, it's very good and extremely worthwhile. The subtitle is "Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity," and it's by New Yorker staff writer Katherine Boo. As a reporter, Boo spent a lot of time in India, and this book is what is called on the jacket "narrative nonfiction."

prologue: between roses
July 17, 2008—Mumbai

Midnight was closing in, the one-legged woman was grievously burned, and the Mumbai police were coming for Abdul and his father. In a slum hut by the international airport, Abdul's parents came to a decision with an uncharacteristic economy of words. The father, a sick man, would wait inside the trash-strewn, tin-roofed shack where the family of eleven resided. He'd go quietly when arrested. Abdul, the household earner, was the one who had to flee.
   Abdul's opinion of the plan had not been solicited, typically. Already he was mule-brained with panic. He was sixteen years old, or maybe nineteen—his parents were hopeless with dates. Allah, in His impenetrable wisdom, had cut him small and

The Best Vintage

bottled memories                             screen shot
How incredibly cool is this?!? Here's a how-to on this creative way of displaying pictures (slideshow):

Changing Their Minds

De Mello and her students                                 from the Projeto Uerê website
Brazilian social activist Yvonne Bezerra de Mello teaches the children of the favelas (slums) according to a method based on neuroscience. She developed this approach after 30 years of research in the slums of Rio and elsewhere, and it works so well that it has been adopted by 150 state schools in the city and is being studied by teachers around the world. "Intelligence can be repaired," de Mello says, "and we have found the way to do it":

Not Who You Think You Are

We now know that what we do, where we live, and how we live can change our genetic makeup. Fascinating enough, but that's just the beginning. Scientists are learning more about something some had long suspected: Sometimes, our genetic makeup is not ours alone. The ramifications of this reality are deep for geneticists, for genetics counselors, and even for forensic scientists:

No Comment

The website of the 141-year-old Popular Science magazine will no longer be allowing comments on its articles. The online content director explains why, saying "because comments sections tend to be a grotesque reflection of the media culture surrounding them, the cynical work of undermining bedrock scientific doctrine is now being done beneath our own stories, within a website devoted to championing science":
    And along those lines, Stephen Colbert comments on youtube's move to moderate comments (not for the younger crowd) (video):
    (P.S., "Ron Paul 2012") 

To Read or Not To Read

In honor of Banned Books Week (Sept. 23-29), here's a list of some of the books that have been challenged and/or banned here and around the world. It includes classics like To Kill a Mockingbird ("Challenged at the Moss Point, MS, School District [1996] because the novel contains a racial epithet. Banned from the Lindale, TX, advanced placement English reading list [1996] because the book 'conflicted with the values of the community.'"), Sons and Lovers ("In 1961 an Oklahoma City group called Mothers United for Decency hired a trailer, dubbed it 'smutmobile,' and displayed books deemed objectionable, including Lawrence's novel."), The Call of the Wild ("Banned in Italy [1929], Yugoslavia [1929], and burned in Nazi bonfires [1933]."), and Lady Chatterley's Lover ("Dissemination of Lawrence’s novel has been stopped in China [1987] because the book 'will corrupt the minds of young people and is also against the Chinese tradition.'"):

Waka Waka.

stag, New Year's Day, Romania                     Charles Fréger
Strohmann, carnival, Germany               Charles Fréger
From Poland to the Pyrenees and many places in between and beyond, creative and beautiful animal costumes are still a large part of the festivities (and thanks to my son for finding this) (slideshow):

Museum Day ~ Sept. 28

On museum day live!, Saturday, Sept. 28, admission to certain museums around the country is free. But you'll need special tickets (story and link for tickets):
   Go here ~ ~ to find out which museums around you are participating.

The Finger

I honestly did not know this! from

Fingers and thumbs do not contain any muscles. Rather, they are composed of bone, ligaments and tendons. The tendons connect the skeletal structure of the fingers to the palm and forearm muscles to make movement possible.

More about fingers:
  • The skin on the fingertips has many more nerve endings compared with most of the body.
  • Contrary to popular belief, cracking the knuckles will not cause arthritis.
  • On average, women have longer index fingers and men have longer ring fingers.

Meeting Merkel

Merkel celebrates winning her third term.                                                 AFP
W gave her the friendly little back rub seen 'round the world, so he was obviously feeling close to her, but what do we really know about Germany's Angela Merkel? (story, videos):

My Very French Vacation

the countryside around Bédoin                                                                   KW
So here are a few observations from my recent visit to France:
    1. The Jack Russell terrier is, without a doubt, the most popular dog there, both in the country and in Paris. They were everywhere!
    2. In case anyone is interested, in Paris, it's all about red lipstick. Interestingly, it can look sophisticated or punk, depending on who's wearing it.
        2a. Gray hair can be chic and beautiful.
    3. Freeway noise barriers are at a slight angle, like this: \—/. For the most part, when the freeway goes over a river or other picturesque area, the barriers are transparent. I did a little research to try to find out why the angle, whether, for example, that had an effect on the barrier's efficacy, but all I could find was one reference to it as a way of mitigating a high barrier's visual effect. For an interesting summary of barrier research, see
    4. Roundabouts are a great way to slow traffic down, add interest (via vegetation

Plugging In, Turning On

I'm not saying Europe is perfect or that we're not, but after two (magnificently wonderful) trips there in the last few years, I feel that one thing they have all over us is cultural maturity. Of course, as with everything, there are benefits and shortcomings to both zeitgeists, the older and the younger. My focus just now is on the general, everyday attitude toward the environment, current resources, the past, and the future of all. They acknowledge the complexity of the interactions involved. For example, they have, for the most part, kept the narrow streets of their past and, instead of widening them, have learned to live with them. They drive small cars (i.e., they understand that bigger is not necessarily better; in fact, glitter and pretension are notably bad form). They take the metro (which goes everywhere). They walk a lot. There are easily accessible rental bikes and itty-bitty cars everywhere: rent one here, drop it off there.
   I was reminded of all this by an email noting that Sept. 28-29 are, together, National

United State

I do love William Carlos Williams, and here's another reason why:

by William Carlos Williams

So different, this man
And this woman:
A stream flowing
in a field.

How (Not) To

We are in France. When I have a little more time, I'll share some of the interesting things I've learned and seen here, but in the meantime and for your edification, here's a shot of a very educational poster my husband saw the other day and had the presence of mind to photograph for posterity!

We Are There Yet!

It's official. We have now entered interstellar space. Newly analyzed data from NASA's Voyager 1 show that, for the last year, it has been traveling through the ionized gas that is in the space between the stars. "We literally jumped out of our seats when we saw these oscillations in our data," said Don Gurnett, who led the analytical work together with the plasma wave science team at the University of Iowa, Iowa City. "They showed us the spacecraft was in an entirely new region, comparable to what was expected in interstellar space, and totally different than in the solar bubble":

The ... You Know, That Thingie

Ha! There really is a word for that familiar, craggy kind of smell of the rain: petrichor. It comes from the Greek words petra (stone) and ichor (blood of the gods and goddesses) and was coined by two Australian researchers in 1964. Mental Floss' John Green is full of fascinating facts like this as he teaches us 48 Things You Didn't Know Had Names (video):

The Smell of Wartime in the Morning

An interview with Jeremy Scahill, national security correspondent for The Nation and author of Dirty Wars: The World Is a Battlefield and the recent documentary of the same name, regarding America's covert wars, Obama's use of drones, and more (video):

Biiiiig Building

Linda Garrison
The largest building in the world is the Pentagon, in Washington, D.C. But guess where the world's second-largest is? It's Parliament Palace, in Bucharest, Romania. Built by the country's infamous dictator, Nicholae Ceausescu, it is 12 stories high and has more than 3,000 rooms. (It is also, fyi, the world's heaviest building and the largest administrative building.) The parliament still meets there, and there is a conference center, but most of it is unused these days (story, slideshow):

This Is Your Brain on Sleep

An animal study has found that sleep turns on the genes that foster the formation of myelin, which protects the nerves of the brain. Lack of sleep turns on the genes involved in cell death and cell stress response. Just one more reason to catch your z's:


Batman was there.                                                    Scott Olson/Getty Images
Aug. 31 marked the celebration of Harley-Davidson's 110th birthday. Share the pride and the joy through photos of the event and attendees (slideshow):

Faster Than We Thought

With the help of radiocarbon dating and computer models, a team of archaeologists has put together a definitive timeline of early Egyptian culture. It concludes that the space of time between the advent of farming and rule by a monarch was much shorter than previously thought:

Who Said That?

Quick! Whose last words were purportedly "I should never have switched from Scotch to martinis"? (Hint: It's the same person who claimed, a few years earlier, that "the whole world is three drinks behind"):

A Little Soot With That Ice?

A study led by NASA scientists found that soot from an industrializing Europe led to the end of the Little Ice Age in the mid-1800s. The black particles settled on glaciers, absorbing the heat from the sun and thereby causing the ice to melt:

The Iceman (and the Typist) Cometh

Milkwoman, Cheshire, England, ca. 1950 George Pickow/Three Lions/Getty Images
An interesting and charming little group of photographs of five jobs that don't exist anymore except in some people's memories (slideshow):

From Sea to Plastic Sea

Most of us do our share and more to recycle, feeling very virtuous as we rinse and toss. We know that our plastic and other recyclables will go to a recycling plant that will sort it and distribute it accordingly. For most of our plastic, that means sending it to China. Yes, that's right. Sending it (think carbon footprint). To China. Because we don't have the facilities to deal with it ourselves. Well, now, as could have been foreseen, China's getting a little pickier about the plastic it accepts. And that has resulted in some of our localities limiting the kinds of plastic they are able to accept, which means more plastic, once again, in our landfills:

Heart of the Matter

Where is the sultan's magnificent heart? Sultan Suleiman I (Suleiman the Magnificent) was born in 1494 and died, some say of surprise at the end of his siege of a Hungarian castle, in 1566. His body was taken back to Constantinople, but his heart, legend has it, was buried there. Or was it?:

Motivation Equation

a slight reworking of Maslow's theory
Seventy years ago, psychologist Abraham Maslow published "A Theory of Human Motivation," which prioritized people's needs into five levels and posited that when the basest (the physiological) was met, the need to meet the next higher one would kick in, and so on to the highest (self-actualization). The theory was embraced by the business world, but it also attracted its share of critics. It has since been flipped, flopped, and reworked, but none of that, contends one psychologist, negates its huge role in shifting the study of psychology from focusing on external rewards to understanding the importance of internal needs:

Syria 101

Shia, Sunni, Alawite, Druze, Assad, Al-Qaeda ... The history of this area is long and the alliances many and complicated, but the fact is that, at its base, what we're talking about here is real people. People like you and me. Around 100,000 killed, almost 7,000 of those children, and about 2 million refugees so far. And now the U.S. is considering military action. How can we wrap our heads around all this? Here is one good place to try (story, video):
   Another resource is this town hall put together by It's from Aug. 30, so some of the comments are already out of date, but the background information is valid and informative (video):