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Homer's Halloween Hell

Homer had enough trouble in two dimensions, but one Halloween episode had him becoming three-dimensional. The episode was filled with enough abstruse and enigmatic numbers, theorems, and formulas to give the average mathphobe nightmares for years. Fear no longer! Simon Singh, author of The Simpsons and Their Mathematical Secrets and a Ph.D. in particle physics, is here to explain it all to us mere mortals:

Dyckia Rondonopolitana, I Presume?

a vegetarian pirhana! Thommaso Giarrizzo/WWF
a species of titi monkey      Thomas Defler/WWF
The World Wildlife Fund reports that more than 400 new species of plants (mostly these) and animals have been found in the Amazon in the last four years. The scientists were working in an under-explored part of the rainforest (story, lots of beautiful photos):

It's About Time

Hmmmm. Fascinating but hard to wrap one's head around. If I have this right, the theories of quantum mechanics and general relativity, which do not agree right now, can be unified by something called quantum entanglement. Quantum entanglement is the factor that allows us to notice the passage of time:
   For an explanation (of sorts!) of quantum entanglement, see

Second Sole

When shoes are too used to be passed along to someone else or to a charity, they've always ended up in a landfill. Not anymore. A group of British scientists has come up with a low-cost way to easily separate the materials so that each can be recycled and end up in things like playground surfacing or new shoes:
   Team leader Shahin Rahimifard explains how it's done (video):


a dress made of cow nipples by England's Rachel Freire
A roundup of truly macabre (albeit creative) fashion designs ~ reduce-reuse-recycle, anyone? (slideshow, links to the original stories):

'They Have the Right To Be Children'

Kakenya Ntaiya
Kakenya Ntaiya saw a different life for herself than the one she was born to follow in Kenya. So at the age when the other girls were getting married, she, who had been engaged at age 5, went to school. Now, armed with a Ph.D. and the will to make a difference, she has returned to her Maasai community and opened a boarding school for girls. "When you give the girls information," she says, "vital information that they're not getting anywhere ~ they make the right choices, they make the right decisions" (video):

The Faces of Fear

Nightmares Fear Factory
Nightmares Fear Factory, in Niagara Falls, Canada, apparently well known for its terrifying tableaux, takes pictures of its "guests" reacting to the horrors lurking around every corner. This particular one must have been a doozie (lots of pictures with some pretty humorous captions):

The Very Cultured Cat

Booker, of The Book Nook of Mexico

In addition to being on the lookout for rare, used, new, and out-of-print books for their customers, the folks at AbeBooks in British Columbia, Canada, keep a catalog of bookstore felines and their stories, as told by their resident humans. (FYI, they're always ready for new editions):

Lives in the Sand

Agadez, on the edge of the Sahara, is on one of the main migrant routes.  AFP
In the western hemisphere, migrants from Central America risk everything to cross over into the United States. On the other side of the Atlantic, those fleeing from war and famine in the Middle East and Africa risk it all for a new life in Europe. On Oct. 28, it was reported that dozens of migrants were suspected to have died of thirst in the Sahara desert, but that's just the latest in a string of such tragedies. Here are statistics and a map of the routes taken by those trying to get to Europe:

U.$$$. Broadband

According to a study by the New America Foundation, not only does the cost of high-speed internet access in the United States vary widely from area to area, but it can be up to five times as expensive as in some other countries. Why? Deregulation and lack of competition, says a former special assistant to President Obama on science, technology, and innovation policy. Different technologies, choice, and building for the future, says the chairman of an e-forum supported by broadband companies:
   P.S., The New America Foundation (NAF), whose study yielded the data used in this article, is kind of interesting:
   P.P.S., Discover the Networks, whose information about the NAF is at the link above, is rather interesting, too:
   Always good to know who the players are.

Ale Well and Good

a bit about beer from

The Scottish beer Armageddon is believed to be the world's strongest with a 65% alcohol content. Most beers are around 4% - 8% alcohol content by volume. Armageddon beer is produced by the Brewmeister Brewery, which uses a freeze fermentation method to achieve the high alcohol content. In the United States, this beer is currently unavailable for sale in stores and can only be purchased on the brewery website.

More about beer:
  • There is evidence that the earliest civilizations, including the ancient Sumerians and Babylonians, brewed beer. In fact, the ancient Sumerians had a deity of beer called Ninkasi.

  • Although barley beer was invented on the territory of modern day Iran, it is illegal to consume it there presently.

  • A beer enthusiast, or a person who loves beer, is called a cerevisaphile.

'Who's That Kid?'

Ronan and mom                                                               REX/Startraks Photo
Who, indeed, is Ronan (né Satchel) Farrow? Well, at 25, he's a lawyer, diplomat, author, and starting in January, an MSNBC weekday show host. Apparently, he's a lot more, too ~ and that's without even mentioning his endlessly fascinating background:

A Toddler's Tolstoy

After the Mozart Effect and Baby Einstein, you knew classical literature board books had to be just a step behind. And why not? “If we’re going to play classical music to our babies in the womb and teach them foreign languages at an early age, then we’re going to want to expose babies to fine art and literature,” says Linda Bubon, an owner and children’s book buyer at a Chicago bookstore:

Fall Back

Not everyone loses an hour in the spring and gains it back in the fall. And not everyone who does, gets that hour back on the same day. In fact, in places like the EU, Mexico, and Israel, citizens get to sleep in that extra hour on the last Sunday of October. Here in the U.S., it happens one week later. Japan tried Daylight Saving Time once and may again, and England is still deciding whether it's a good idea (story, video):
   So why the different dates? Find out this and more interesting stuff about the time change here:

Spacious Skies

screen shot
I don't know which is more interesting, the story of how this guy and his friends quit work (feeding cockroaches? really?) to go traveling, or the beautiful time-lapse video he made while on the road (story, video):

So, This Candy Goes into a Bar ...

Halloween, as we all know, isn't about thrills and chills alone ~ it's also about sugar! Which makes this the perfect time for a little candy quiz (do you know where the name PEZ comes from?):
   If you haven't had your fill yet, here's a list of America's favorite candies ~ good to know before you go shopping for treats (slideshow):

Eat This With That

OK, I have not tried this and have no idea whether it makes sense or if it works, but it is interesting. There is a theory that we can help our bodies (aka ourselves) by avoiding certain food combinations and sticking to others. The idea is that some kinds of food break down faster than others, and you don't want them to ferment while they're stuck behind something that moves more slowly through the system (story, link to PDF of food chart):

'Flagrant Violations of the Law'

Think of Louisiana and oil, and one automatically thinks of the disastrous BP spill in 2010, whose effects are still being felt. But BP isn't the only polluter of those shores, and Shell's, Exxon Mobil's, and others' documents dating back at least 30 years show how much those companies knew, when they knew it, and what they did about it (not much):
   A great 2010 interview with the writer of that piece, Ken Silverstein, on why he decided to quit his post as Washington editor at Harper's and become, instead, a contributing editor. In a nutshell, he says this about that: "I began to feel like every story I wrote, I’d written five years ago or ten years ago or fifteen years ago, or all three. 'Lobbyists Kill Off Health Care Reform' or 'Private Special Interests Pouring Money into Campaigns.' It’s not that I don’t think these are good and important stories, but I started feeling like I didn’t want to be writing them anymore":

The New Freak Show

Rich Pell
"Sea monkeys," goats that spin silk, mutant fruit flies. A small museum in Pittsburgh exhibits living creatures that have been altered by humans:
   The museum's website itself is beyond fascinating. Kind of like a train wreck by the side of the road ~ it's disturbing, frightening, and repulsive, but you can't look away:

The Chicken and the Pea Ciric
For the last few years, I've based my egg- and dairy-buying on one thing only: that the products are coming from animals that are being treated humanely. But I keep reading that the labels can't always be trusted. Even farms that do treat their hens humanely aren't totally in the clear, through no fault of their own:
   So what to do? Maybe the best way to end the suffering of egg-laying hens is to stop eating eggs. One company has come up with a faux, plant-based "egg," and its marketing is based on that premise:

Spirits of the Scribes

Papa pours himself a stiff one.   Tore Johnson/Time Life Pictures/Getty Images
Booze and/or drugs and creativity have long been intertwined. Writer Robert Moor, who worked at a distillery, did a little research into the favorite libations of some of our more colorful and creative authors and how they flavored the pages of their works:
  Writers write about it, singers sing about it, poets write odes to it. But is their creativity helped or harmed by a little tipple? The answer depends on so many factors, but one thing is sure: Our libraries would be the poorer without it:

A Good Live Band

They were already a hit in Britain but hadn't yet played the Ed Sullivan Show when the Beatles really got a hold on their audience with a rockin' seven-song set recorded for Swedish radio 50 years ago this month (story, audio from the performance):
   And here they are on a Swedish TV show in 1963 (note that you can actually hear them ~ the funny thing is, some of the girls in the audience, who are all up front, actually look uninterested!) (video):

Test Your State of Being

Personality-wise, which state do you really belong in? (Apparently, I should be in Oregon. I can think of worse places!) Added bonus here: Find out how your state ~ and all the states ~ rates in terms of Openness, Conscientiousness, Extroversion, Agreeableness, and Neuroticism (story, link to test):

Time for Coffee

Researchers precisely pinpoint the perfect time of day to have that much anticipated caffeine break ~ and what to do afterward:

Nuclear Arctic

One of the repercussions of climate change is the opening up of the Arctic, including its undiscovered natural gas. Most of that area belongs to Russia, which is now planning a floating nuclear power plant to provide the energy to find and extract, well, the other kind of energy:

Long May it Wave

The first 3D map of the movement of stars in the Milky Way shows that our galaxy is undulating. The question now is, Why?:

Vows Among the Cows

newlyweds at the farm                  Francine Orr

One Central California dairy farmer has figured out a way to keep his small family farm afloat (and it isn't easy in these days of drought, federal ethanol policies, and corporate takeovers) ~ he rents it out for weddings. "It's just that they don't call them dairy weddings, because people tend to think about flies and manure," he explains. "It's 'barn weddings' or 'farm setting'" (story, slideshow, video):,0,5168215.htmlstory#axzz2ifQucxVc

Book It

Last year, I gave my books to Project Hope Alliance.
April 23 is World Book Night, and you can be part of the 2014 celebration by becoming a Book Giver. You have to apply and be accepted, and you'll be given 20 copies of the book you choose from their list to give out to light and/or nonreaders. The application deadline is Jan. 5. You never know ~ the book you give may inspire someone to go back to school or continue in school, or even to write his/her own book one day (website):

How D'You Like Them Apples!

screen shot
Fall apples are being harvested in Japan these days. Now, that wouldn't make the news except that, where most of us look at a Fuji and see fruit, there's at least one rebel farmer over there who sees a canvas. He pastes stencils on the fruit so that, while the part that gets sun turns red, the part that doesn't stays green or yellow, and voilà ~ art! (story, video):

In Memory of My Donation

the Cuban Friendship Urn

A tour of some of our capital's lesser-known memorials and monuments is an eye-opening ~ and sometimes smile- or sigh-provoking ~ experience. It makes for an interesting history lesson, too (story, link to slideshow):,0,3660784.htmlstory

It Happens

Mercury? In retrograde? Yeah, so ... ? Well, apparently, when Mercury is in retrograde, which is now ~ Oct. 21 to Nov. 10 ~ things happen, and they're not good things. Like we say things we didn't mean, computers malfunction, things like that. And this is not, some people swear, just another scary Halloween story (story, video):

They Just Do It

NYC mayor Michael Bloomberg Tim Sheaffer

Vanity Fair's 2013 list of the people who make the decisions that change our lives. Not surprisingly, four of the top ten under the subheading "The Disrupters" control social media, half of the remaining six are in the computer biz, and number seven, a newcomer to the ranking, is the head of the NSA. Number one under the "Powers That Be" subhead are Jay Z and Beyoncé:

True Tales From the Tomb

Friends of Wardsend Cemetery
Friends of Wardsend Cemetery

Want some really spooky stories to tell this Halloween? These come from an old cemetery in England called Wardsend. It opened in 1857, saw its last funeral in 1977, was officially closed about a decade later, and forgotten and neglected, fell into disrepair. It became overgrown and soon came to resemble the dark, spooky, shadow-filled cemeteries of one's nightmares. Recently, the local council cleaned it up and a group called Friends of Wardsend Cemetery put together this website and now offers tours of the place. The fact that these stories of some of the town's and the cemetery's inhabitants are true makes them just that much better, don't you think?:

Science Fiction

The online Cambridge Dictionary defines science as "the systematic study of the structure and behavior of the natural and physical world, or knowledge obtained about the world by watching it carefully and experimenting." Most of us have come to equate science with impartial truth and fact, but that view is being questioned. More and more studies have not been able to be duplicated (one of the prerequisites for a study to be considered conclusive), many statistical errors are not caught, and as a psychologist interested in this problem explains, "There is no cost to getting things wrong":

An Eye for an Eye

Can you tell your Eurasian lynx from your sand cat or your Senegal bushbaby from your aye-aye lemur ~ just by looking at their eyes? Try this quiz and find out (I got 6 out of 15 ~ oooops!):

For a Few Rubles More

on the back of a bicycle taxi, Paris                                                             KW
A couple of years after the Berlin Wall fell and the Soviet Union became Russia and its former satellite countries, I found myself talking with a Polish man in the grocery store. I asked him how everyone was doing there, and the first thing he told me was that his country was being overrun by the Russian mafia. It was tragic, frustrating, and frightening, he said. Fast forward to my summer trip to France, where we saw graffiti in a couple of different places that read "Russian Mafia" in large black letters. In Paris, where tourist signs were once in English and German or Italian, they are now in English and Russian (see pic above).
   We heard a lot of Russian in Paris and on the Riviera, and that's just one of the signs of how much things have changed in the Motherland. There's a lot of money there, and those who have it want everyone to know. German photographer Frank Herfort became fascinated with all the new buildings that have been going up in the area. "You feel that each building wants to scream out that I'm the best, the biggest, the richest," he says (slideshow):


Everything (well, pretty much everything) you always wanted to know ~ or knew and forgot and wanted to know again ~ about Halloween, courtesy of those masterful maniacs over at mental floss:
   And did you know that candy corn has marshmallow in it? or that it takes four to five days for it to go through the whole process of being made? Here's how the magic happens (video):

Knit a Treat

Nosferatu's Count Orlok                                                              Quintet 2012
All it takes is a pair of knitting needles, some yarn, and lots of creativity and talent to make these clever little Halloween decorations ~ or, if you're really prolific, treats for the neighborhood children (slideshow):

They Could've All Been Us

A 1.8-million-year-old skull found in the republic of Georgia is forcing scientists to question just how many branches of hominins there really were. "The significance is difficult to overstate," according to Tim White, a UC Berkeley expert on human evolution. "It is stunning in its completeness. This is going to be one of the real classics in paleoanthropology" (story, video):

A Place Called Home

Insect House, southern France                                      KW
One of the towns we stayed in when we went to France in September was called La Brigue. The day after we got there, a friend and I went exploring the wooded hillside behind our hotel and came upon this charming little abode (left). The sign says "Insect House. creation of a wild habitat with natural materials." Whether you own an acre or a postage-stamp-size balcony, you, too, can create a wildlife habitat ~ and you can register yours as a Certified Wildlife Habitat. Schools and even whole communities can do this, too:

Pocket Poet

This is the poem that Poem-A-Day sent out today:

poem I wrote sitting across the table from you
by Kevin Varrone
if I had two nickels to rub together
I would rub them together

like a kid rubs sticks together
until friction made combustion

and they burned
a hole in my pocket

into which I would put my hand
and then my arm

and eventually my whole self—
I would fold myself

into the hole in my pocket and disappear
into the pocket of myself, or at least my pants

but before I did
like some ancient star

I'd grab your hand

Creative Habits


In today's selection—in his marvelous new book, Daily Rituals, Mason Currey profiles the work habits of 161 famously creative people—including scientists, novelists, mathematicians, painters and poets. What is striking about most of them? Even those we might consider wildly creative? They work very hard, and have ploddingly consistent work habits. Here are selections from two:

Pablo Picasso

"Throughout his life, Picasso went to bed late and got up late. At the Boulevard de Clichy [in 1911], he would shut himself in the studio by 2:00 p.m. and work there until at least dusk. Meanwhile, his girlfriend of seven years, Fernande, was left alone to her own devices, hanging around the apartment, waiting for Picasso to finish his work and join her for dinner. When he finally emerged from his studio, however, he was hardly good company. 'He rarely spoke during meals; sometimes he would not utter a word from beginning to end,' Fernande recalled. 'He seemed to be bored, when he was in fact

The Last Witness

Ford with the Dalai Lama
A fascinating obituary of the last ~ and perhaps only ~ Westerner to have been in Tibet when it was taken over by the Chinese. Briton Robert Ford was in the country at the invitation of its government in order to help install a radio communications network there. In an interview with the Daily Mail in 1955, he recalled those fateful days: "Although heavily outnumbered, the Tibetans fought courageously—fighting for the Dalai Lama. On several occasions we heard that Chinese troops had leapt into the icy river waters to escape the Tibetan soldiers.” Ford was arrested and held for almost five years, an experience he described in his 1957 book, Captured in Tibet. After his release, he joined the British Diplomatic Service and served in posts around the world, but he continued his support of the Tibetan people:

Know Before You Throw

Bras? Really? Prosthetic limbs? Really? As I was looking around for how to recycle my refrigerator's old water filter (because, apparently, Frigidaire doesn't have such a program ...), I came upon this list of other things one wouldn't automatically think could be recycled but that can be:

Good (Mood) Books

There's a group in England called The Reading Agency that puts together lists of particularly uplifting books. Here's this year's list, culled from readers' suggestions (pdf):
   Here's the 2012 list:
   And here's a list of books recommended for those with specific issues, like depression, anger, sleep problems, phobias, etc. (pdf):

Bridge to ... Who Cares?

626 feet up at the Marina Bay Sands, Singapore
circular pedestrian overpass, Shanghai
These skybridges are so gorgeous and amazing and creative, it almost doesn't matter where they lead (lots and lots of photos):

What Remains

Used to be the only choice one had for one's body after the spirit left it was burial. Then came cremation and cryonics. But wait, there's more! (story, videos):

The Many Lives of Carrie White

Sissy Spacek played Carrie in the first movie.
What is it about Carrie? From the publication of the horror novel in 1974 to this year's remake of the movie, Stephen King's heroine has gone through a series of iterations, many of which reflect the changing times but all of which prove the universality of the revenge fantasy (story, slideshow):

Everthing Old Is New Again in NYC

923 44th St., July 1, 1928, and now   Marc A. Hermann, NY Daily News Archive
Marc Hermann, New York Press Photographers Association historian, transposes old crime and other scenes into their modern-day settings (slideshow):

Reading and Writing in Reykjavik

In the land of Asgard and Valhalla, books are a big deal.            Claus Sterneck
Per capita, Iceland has the honor of being the country with the most books read and written. There are story plaques on public buildings, sagas on napkins and coffee cups, and public benches that link to your smartphone and tell a story:

The Things We Absorb

Our skin is porous, which means it absorbs a lot of what we put on it ~ makeup, shaving cream, body lotions, shampoos, nail polish, sunscreen. It is an unfortunate reality that we in the U.S. are exposed in this way to many chemicals that the citizens of other countries are not. Many companies even sell two versions of the same product ~ with and without controversial ingredients ~ one for the U.S. and the other for elsewhere (slideshow):
   I thought that my drugstore eye makeup remover was as pure as a commercial product could be, as it was supposed to be gentle and hypoallergenic, but when I finally looked at the list of ingredients (after using it for years!), I was unpleasantly surprised. So I decided to do some research and found an easy-to-make, three-ingredient DIY remover that works without being too oily. It's equal parts water (purified, if possible, of course), witch hazel, and sweet almond oil (or any kind, I think). That's it. Simple and inexpensive. Just remember to shake it before using. Disclaimer!: Of course, as with almost anything, different people react differently to the same thing. For example, the witch hazel could sting the eyes, but as I am careful and keep my eyes tightly closed, I haven't had a problem. Use your judgment here.
   Here's a list of ingredients to avoid when shopping for body-care products (wallet-size cards to print out):

Your Average Man

Nickolay Lamm
Meet Todd, an avatar of the average American ~ and Japanese, Dutch, and French (they were all given the same name) ~ man, based on anthropometric data from each country's national health center. Among the interesting facts all these Todds show us are that American men are shorter and rounder than they were 50 years ago, that they are fatter than the men from those other countries, that the Netherlands' men are really tall, and that Japan's are getting there:

It Started With One Step

Katherine Connor and friend                                                           Peggy Dyer
National Geographic Traveler's picks for its 2013 Travelers of the Year include the American author of The Volunteer Traveler's Handbook, an Englishwoman who founded an elephant sanctuary in Thailand, and a young Australian family that is spending the year driving through Africa (slideshow, links to interviews):
   Back on the home front, a travel blogger helps underserved girls ~ and now families ~ get their first passport. "I think travel should be available to everyone, particularly children," she says. "The sooner they explore, the better for the world":

A Home of Their Own

Sweetwater has a pool and farm.  Winni Wintermeyer for the New York Times
As the number of children with autism grows and these children grow into adulthood, more living options are becoming available for them. One of these is Sweetwater Spectrum, in Sonoma, Calif. Founded by parents, the residence for 16 adults was built following guidelines set out by Kim Steele and Sherry Ahrentzen in their Advancing Full Spectrum Housing. Its founders hope it will become a model for similar homes around the country (story, slideshow):

The Flight of the Totonacas


They twirl upside-down from a platform high in the sky on which sits a flautist, following the ages-old tradition of their people. They represent earth, wind, fire, and water circling the sun, and their flight is a tradition that the Totonacas in Mexico hope to continue for generations to come (story, great video):

The 984-Foot Asparagus

I did not know this. Did you? From those omniscient individuals at
The Eiffel Tower was originally supposed to be in Barcelona, but the city thought it would be an eyesore, and rejected Gustave Eiffel's plans. That meant he was forced to repitch the project elsewhere. Luckily, Eiffel found a home for his idea in Paris, where the Tower could serve as the main archway for the 1889 International Exposition.
   The Tower didn't exactly go over well with the Parisians, either. The enormous iron structure was immediately belittled by critics, and one especially harsh reviewer

The Smell Test

Fascinating! ~ and so important. A study by a graduate student at the University of Florida has shown that a simple smell test using peanut butter can pinpoint those in the first stages of Alzheimer's (story, video, slideshow):

And the Winners Have Been ... UPDATE
The first Nobel Peace Prize was awarded in 1901. It went to businessman Jean Henri Dunant of Switzerland (see and economist Frédéric Passy of France. Interested in learning who's won since then? (story, interactive chart):
   It's quite possible that our little Malala Yousafzai just may win this year, but she's not sure that she should. "There are many people who deserve the Nobel Peace Prize, and I think that I still need to work a lot," she said when asked about it. "In my opinion, I have not done that much to win the Nobel Peace Prize":
   For a graphic explaining the nominating process, see
   This year's winner is the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (story, video):

Disney Feels Good

Disney has figured out a way of allowing viewers to "feel" textures, using electrostatics to simulate friction. "If we artificially stretch skin on a finger as it slides on the touch screen, the brain will be fooled into thinking an actual physical bump is on a screen even though it is smooth,” explained Ivan Poupyrev, director of the interaction group at Disney Research (story, video):

His Dog Spot

the late Cal Worthington and one of his "dogs"                              youtube
Love him (OK, recognize him) or hate him (Frank Zappa called him a monster), anyone who watched TV in Southern California between 1971 and the 1990s has to admit that car dealer Cal Worthington's ubiquitous ads were hard to forget ~ mostly because they were on so often. And the man didn't even like cars!:

Urine Luck

Well, like so many things we blithely throw away, it turns out that our urine has many valid uses ~ and the Smithsonian knows them all:

The Whole Sorrowful Land

Last year, I shared a very eye-opening piece on the Democratic Republic of Congo and its tragic history of war, colonialism, slavery, and exploitation. (The post included, btw, a link to Joseph Conrad's awesome Heart of Darkness, from which comes the title of this post [see below for the excerpt.]):
   Africa may seem a continent away (*smile), but what goes on there is important to us all. It is also important to understand why what is going on there (or anywhere) is going on. In this case, it started in the late 15th century (story, video):
   Here's the passage from which I got the title for this post: "She was savage and superb, wild-eyed and magnificent; there was something ominous and stately in her

Gotta Make Art

Francisco de Pájaro
When ya gotta, ya gotta, and Spanish artist Francisco de Pájaro (a pájaro is a bird!) has to create. So when his hometown of Barcelona passed a law forbidding painting on the street, he found new, albeit temporary, canvases in the trash we leave behind ~ and moved to London (story, lots of photos, and note ~ some of them may be a little too graphic for children):

Brilliant Creations

Michel Séméniako
The illuminating work of French photographer Michel Séméniako. Translation of the captions: Since the 1990s, he's been using a technique called light painting to give color to nighttime landscapes. ... (for the videos:) Valery Faidherbe filmed the creation of one of Michel Séméniako's photos ... and put together a montage in which light, time, and space merge (photos, videos):

Just Because: 'The Thousand Hour Day'

The first time I found this book, it was in one of my parents' many crammed, wonder-filled bookshelves. It's a long book, and emotionally draining, but I couldn't put it down. The title refers to the six weeks after the Nazis invaded Poland. The book, a historical fiction by W.S. Kuniczak, follows the stories of various people in completely diverse situations but all in that same period of time.
   I loaned it to someone, never got it back, and forgot who had it. That was several years ago. Since then, I had occasion to recall it many times, wishing I still had it, but as I couldn't remember the exact title or the name of the author, Google as I might, I couldn't find it.
   The second time I found this book, I was in a rental condo in Mammoth. This was last summer. I noticed that the owners were readers and that they read some pretty heavy-duty books. Intrigued, I started looking through their bookshelves ~ and guess what I found? Right.
   Because there's so much to this book, a part of one section alone won't give an idea of its scope, so I'm regaling you with a couple of excerpts. Also, I usually post the first few paragraphs of a book, but in this case, I'm starting a little further in.

Hang yourself, brave Crillon;
We fought at Arques and you
were not there.
Fall 1939

And soon, my friend, we shall
have no more time for dances …
Sunday, August the twenty-seventh

   Coming to Berlin at this time had been his idea. The office in New York had seen no need for it. They had not been sure that anything would happen. The world had circled above reality for ten years, after all. They thought the British and the French would do it again: shuck off their obligations and back away smiling. Then Roosevelt wrote to Hitler asking for guarantees that German appetites were satisfied after Austria, the Sudetenland, Memel and the Czechs, and Hitler read the letter in the Reichstag, rattling off a long list of names of countries, planets, states and geographic equations in which Germany had no interest (all to the thunderous laughter of the deputies), and William Shirer cabled his report about the reasonable nature of Hitler’s demands, and the foreign

Meanwhile, Back in North Korea

Children extol the joys of agricultural self-reliance.            David Guttenfelder
In a story in National Geographic, a journalist and photographer share their views of North Korea, which they have visited several times in the last year. Although their movements are restricted and they are under the constant, vigilant watch of their "minder," they are able, once in a while, to catch a fleeting glimpse of life behind the facade (story, link to slideshow):