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'Trust Me'

Whatever this thing called "trust" is, it appears we Americans have a lot less of it than we used to. Whereas in 1972, half of us trusted our fellow human, now, a third of us do. And that's before we get to our politicians. Eighty-one percent of us trust them only "part of the time" (surprising, that ~ that's a lot more often than I thought it would be): http://www.kcet.org/updaily/socal_focus/commentary/west-is-eden/across-america-trust-is-freefalling-simple-glimmers-of-resurrection-from-ventura.html
   Could it be that those conducting the survey talked only to Baby Boomers? Because I know that my husband and I shudder every time our 24-year-old son says he'll be using Ride Share, Uber, or Airbnb. And that's because we don't trust people, and he does. So do his friends. If they didn't, things like Ride Share, Uber, and Airbnb couldn't exist (story, slideshow): http://www.wired.com/2014/04/trust-in-the-share-economy/

The History Cycle

Here in the U.S., there's Rails to Trails, in which old rail lines have been turned into bike paths. In Europe, there's the Iron Curtain Trail, which is exactly what it sounds like ~ a bike path along the Soviet-created border between western Europe and the USSR and its captive "satellite" countries (story, link to audio version): http://www.pri.org/stories/2014-07-30/it-was-once-worlds-most-important-political-border-now-its-bike-path

Just Don't Call Them Bums

the hobo crown                                                                             screen shot
Something pretty momentous happens every second weekend in August in the town of Britt, Iowa. Hobos from around the country converge for the National Hobo Convention, a highlight of which is the election and crowning of the Hobo King and Queen. Last year, after much speechifying, the winner of the King's crown was ... oh, I'm not gonna tell you; you'll have to watch the video. It's for your own good, really ~ among the many useful tips you'll get is the recipe for Pizza Soup and words of wisdom from the new King: "You better keep dreaming, because dreams do come true" (video): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vU-PBQ5LLqA
   For a brief history of the convention and other fascinating tidbits, including the preferred etymology of the word "hobo," go to the website http://www.brittiowa.com/hobo/

A New Leaf

Melchiorri's design for photosynthetic facade dezeen.com
A man-made (specifically, art-student-made) leaf uses plant chloroplasts embedded in silk fibers to transform CO2 and light into oxygen. As is sometimes the case, the string of comments below the story is just as worthwhile as the story itself ~ including the one pointing out the fallacy of the inventor's contention that plants can't be grown without gravity. Still, it's a pretty impressive ~ and promising ~ achievement (story, video): http://gizmodo.com/the-first-man-made-biological-leaf-turns-light-and-wate-1612646588

An Island in Time

Ruhleben A. Grohs/Maurice Ettinghausen collection/Harvard Law School Library
Of all the curiously fascinating tales about human behavior in wartime, one of the most moving is the Christmas Truce of 1914 (http://www.history.com/topics/world-war-i/christmas-truce-of-1914). Another story with roots in that same war may not be as heartrending, but it is equally interesting, and it has to do with a category of people one doesn't usually think about when thinking about war. What does one do if the country in which one is living and working suddenly becomes the enemy of one's own? This is the story of the approximately 5,000 Britons who were trapped in Germany when World War I broke out: http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-28420676

Mystery at the Mansion

Built by the oil-rich Doheny family in the 1920s, Greystone Mansion more than holds its own among the massive homes going up all around it these days. When you add in its history, it becomes not only one of the more beautiful properties, but one of the most intriguing as well. In fact, it could be the perfect single-image stand-in for the idiom about money not buying happiness: http://www.kcet.org/socal/departures/columns/lost-landmarks/we-shall-never-know-murder-money-and-the-enduring-mystery-of-greystone-mansion.html?fb_ref=fbrecbar

Stats on a Plane

It seems that air travel has become riskier of late, but how dangerous is it really? Since January, there have been five fatal commercial passenger plane incidents. Three were weather-related, one had criminal causes, and one, of course, is still of unknown origin. In total over the last 20 years, there have been 435 incidents, and in general, according to this chart, the number per year has shrunk considerably and consistently (interactive infographic): http://www.bbc.co.uk/bbc.com/future/bespoke/20140724-flight-risk/

It's About Time

Ellar Coltrane plays Mason, Jr.
A friend who had just seen Boyhood wanted to see it again and, happily for me, invited me to go with her. I don't go to many movies; most, I've found, are not worth the price, the search for parking, the waiting in line. Boyhood, however, is another story entirely. Of course, it has its critics (what movie doesn't?), but IMHO, it is an extraordinary film. The director and main actor are extraordinary (as one can easily see in this piece) ~ and the process by which the film was made is extraordinary (disclaimer of sorts: I can't decide whether it would be better to read this article before or after seeing the movie) (story, videos): http://www.theguardian.com/film/2014/jul/06/richard-linklater-ellar-coltrane-boyhood-interview-dear-process

Awesome Orkney

the Ness of Brodgar, Orkney                                                          screen shot
About 3,300 years before the Romans built Hadrian's Wall and 3,000 years before the Chinese began construction of the Great Wall, the Stone Age residents of an archipelago off northern Scotland built a wall that rivaled those more recent accomplishments. It encircled a group of buildings, including one of the largest roofed structures in prehistoric northern Europe. "The people who built this thing had big ideas," says Nick Card, excavation director with the Archaeology Institute at the University of the Highlands and Islands. "They were out to make a statement." What, exactly, that statement was is what Card and his team of archaeologists are trying to find out: http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2014/08/neolithic-orkney/smith-text
   Despite a short excavation season of six weeks per year, Orkney has been a rich source of archaeological treasure for decades. "If you scratch the surface, it bleeds archaeology," says archaeologist Card (video): http://video.nationalgeographic.com/video/magazine/ngm-orkneys?utm_source=NatGeocom&utm_medium=Email&utm_content=pom_20140727&utm_campaign=Content

All Wrapped Up

Humans aren't the only creatures who give gifts, givers often underestimate how much a receiver will appreciate the gift of cash, and true giving improves our psychological health. Here's your brain on gifts, both when giving and when receiving (infographic): http://www.gonedigging.co.uk/blog/2014/07/24/the-science-behind-giving/

Just Because: 'Ailsa Paige'

illustration by Francis Vaux Wilson
Long story short (pun intended ~ read on), a friend was getting rid of some old (and I mean old) Saturday Evening Posts. The one from June 18, 1910 ("5 cts. the copy"), promoted, on its cover, the beginning of story titled Ailsa Paige, by one Robert W. Chambers. It sounded vaguely familiar to me, so I grabbed it. As it turns out, Chambers (1865-1933) was once considered one of the better short-story writers of this country. He is perhaps best known for what most call "eerie" horror stories, one of his most popular books being his second, a collection of short stories titled The King in Yellow. Later, he turned to romance and historical fiction (http://www.yankeeclassic.com/miskatonic/dliterature/authors/chambers/bio/rwcbio1.htm). Ailsa Paige falls into the "romance" category. In this version, it starts with a note from the author.

AUTHOR'S NOTE ~ Among the fifty-eight regiments of Zouaves and the seven regiments of Lancers enlisted in the service of the United States between 1861 and 1865 it will be useless for the reader to look for any record of the 3d Zouaves and the 8th Lancers. The red breeches and red fezzes of the Zouaves clothed many a dead man on Southern battlefields; the scarlet swallow-tailed pennon of the Lancers fluttered from many a lance-tip beyond the Potomac; the histories of these sixty-five regiments are known. But no history of the 3d Zouaves or of the 8th Lancers has ever been written save in this narrative; and historians and veterans would seek in vain for any records of these two regiments ~ regiments which might have been, but never were.

I

   The butler made an instinctive movement to detain the intruder but he flung him aside and entered the drawing-room, the servant recovering his equilibrium and following on a run. Light from great crystal chandeliers dazzled him for a moment; the butler again confronted him, but hesitated under the wicked glare from his eyes. Then, through the brilliant vista the young fellow caught a glimpse of a dining-room, a table where silver crystal glimmered, and a great, gray man just lowering a glass of wine from his lips to gaze at him with quiet curiosity.
   The next moments the intruder traversed the carpeted interval between them and halted at the table's damask edge, gazing intently across at the solitary diner, who sat leaning back in an armchair, his heavy right hand still resting on the stem of a claret glass, a cigar suspended between the fingers of his left hand.
   "Are you Colonel Arran?"
   "I am," replied the man at the table coolly; "who the deuce are you?"
   "That's what I came here to find out!" replied the other with an insolent laugh.

Hear, Say

U.N. interpreters, 2012                                               UN Photo/JC McIlwaine
Speaking a foreign language is a complicated enough task for the brain, but imagine simultaneously saying in one language what you're hearing in another. Now imagine doing that in the pressured atmosphere of someplace like the United Nations, where a misunderstanding could potentially blow up into an international incident. Small wonder that, as one interpreter says, "after an hour, your brain explodes." Here, interpreters who translated for Mikhail Gorbachev, Deng Xiaoping, and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad talk about the challenges and rewards of their profession: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/jul/25/interpreters-world-events-gorbachev-reagan-deng-xiaoping-ahmadinejad

Robofans

FTW
As RoboCup 2014, ostensibly the world's biggest robot event, comes to a close with Australia's victory over Germany (story, video: http://www.cnet.com/news/robot-soccer-world-cup-2014/), what better time to be reading a story about South Korea's robotic baseball fans? Personally, I'm waiting for the day when we have robots in the stands watching robots on the field and we humans can just enjoy a relaxing day at the beach (or wherever) and not have to deal with the stadium parking and traffic: http://www.bbc.com/news/technology-28484536

Boko Koran in Nigeria

In the shadow of Boko Haram, in the country where that group kidnapped almost 300 schoolgirls, the Koranic schools of the north are beginning to consider the benefits of adding some elements of a more modern education to the curriculum. "The world is changing," declares Sufi cleric Dahiru Bauchi, who oversees about 150 schools. "It's like the right and left hand: the right hand is the Islamic education, the elegant hand, and the left hand does the everyday work." Just like in many other countries, though, while the government talks up the importance of such schools ~ even calling them "laboratories of peace" ~ it doesn't always come through with the necessary funding: http://harpers.org/blog/2014/07/the-many-faces-of-boko/

Smart Brass

the healthy brass doorknob
Antibiotics, antimicrobials, and germicides. Our "more is better" philosophy has led us to a dangerous place where the solutions we have counted on to keep us safe no longer work as well as they used to (http://amrls.cvm.msu.edu/pharmacology/historical-perspectives/what-lies-beyond). And now triclosan is out, as well it should be. So where to now? Back to the future, perhaps. from wisegeek.com:

Brass can really disinfect itself--certain metals have been found to inactivate bacteria, including staphylococcus and E.Coli, that can cause disease. For example, brass doorknobs have been found to automatically disinfect themselves within eight hours and are often selected as a sanitary option for healthcare facilities. Brass has also been found to destroy fungi by 99% within six hours, according to a University of Southampton study. This disinfecting property is due to what is referred as the oligodynamic effect, in which ions from metals denature proteins in bacteria cells. Brass and other metals, such as

Feather or Not

KW
You may need to replace your child's dinosaur place mats. A recent fortuitously accidental find seems to point to the conclusion that most or all of the prehistoric creatures may have been clad in some combination of scales and feathers ~ even those that didn't fly: http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/new-study-suggests-that-any-kind-of-dinosaur-could-have-feathers-not-just-birds/2014/07/24/9df81d9e-1346-11e4-98ee-daea85133bc9_story.html

The L.A. Connection

northbound freight train, Mexico    AP/Rebecca Blackwell
What goes around, comes around. As the U.S. debates how best to deal with the recent influx of mostly very young immigrants from Central America (http://somanyinterestingthings.blogspot.com/2014/03/which-way-home.html, http://somanyinterestingthings.blogspot.com/2014/06/suffer-little-children.html), this article points to a major but little-known factor in the violence they're trying to escape: Los Angeles gangs that have set up shop, mainly in Honduras and El Salvador. Says L.A. County gang specialist John Sullivan, "These gangs are part of the cultural fabric of the U.S., not Central America. We deport them, and they're bigger and badder than any gangs there, and they dominate." Out of the frying pan, into the fire, or vice versa?: http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2014/07/140723-immigration-minors-honduras-gang-violence-central-america/

There's No Place Like Dome

DP Architects
As a city, Singapore has a lot to recommend it, and now it can add one more achievement to its list of must-sees: the world's largest domed structure. It's their Sports Hub, with a capacity of 55,000. It houses a stadium with retractable roof that can host soccer, rugby, cricket, or athletic matches; an aquatic center; a multipurpose hall; and a retail area with climbing wall and water park. And that, of course, is just the beginning (story, slideshow): http://www.gizmag.com/singapore-sportshub-dparchitects/32975/

Blanketing the Mountains

Peter Klaunzer/EPA
Christo would be impressed. Rarely have I seen something that so accurately illustrates the George Bernard Shaw quote "You see things; and you say 'Why?' But I dream things that never were; and I say 'Why not?'" For the second time, two brothers aided by Swiss artists have created an interactive art installation they're calling Bignik ~ 160,000 square feet of patchwork cloth spread out over a mountain that became the scene of a monumental picnic: http://www.cultivatingculture.com/2014/07/09/bignik-picnic-dreams-made/

Bottling Billie Jean

screen shot
Every once in a while, a music video comes to my attention that is so clever and shows such creativity and talent that I have to share it. Like, for example, Fredde Gredde's amazing rendition of Killer Queen (video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=o57xEVHrYvE), which I shared way back in 2011. LOVE. IT. Well, here's another, by a group called, appropriately enough, the Bottle Boys ~ Michael Jackson's Billie Jean done on beer bottles (video): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NkbZlautuUc

Just Because: 'The Future of the Mind,' Part 4

Yes, I'm a slow reader. So sue me. (Actually, I've been holding onto this for a couple of days to post it today, knowing that I'll be incommunicado until July 22.) In the meantime, here's another interesting selection from Michio Kaku's latest:

   One scientist who has been fascinated ... by the genetics of what makes us "human" is Dr. Katherine Pollard, an expert in a field called "bioinformatics," which barely existed a decade ago. In this field of biology, instead of cutting open animals to understand how they are put together, researchers use the vast power of computers to mathematically analyze the genes in animals' bodies. ...
   Dr. Pollard knew that most of our genome is made of "junk DNA" that does not contain any genes and was largely unaffected by evolution. This junk DNA slowly mutates at a known rate (roughly 1 percent of it changes over four million years). Since we differ from the chimps in our DNA by 1.5 percent, this means that we probably separated from the chimpanzees about six million years ago. Hence there is a "molecular clock" in each of our cells. And since evolution accelerates this mutation rate, analyzing where this acceleration took place allows you to tell which genes are driving evolution.
   Dr. Pollard reasoned that if she could write a computer program that could find where most of these accelerated changes are located in our genome, she could isolate

Ha Ha Stop Ha Ha No Really Stop

icanhas.cheezburger.com
Seriously, why do we laugh when we're tickled? Well, most of us, anyway. I know a few people who don't ~ not that I've even thought about tickling in ages. Still, it is a fascinating phenomenon because, as is pointed out in this article, not everyone finds it amusing, but most can't help laughing, which, of course, sends the wrong signal ... : http://mentalfloss.com/article/57808/why-do-we-laugh-when-were-tickled

Healthy, Wealthy, and Wise, Maybe, But ...

A new study seems to show that early risers are less honest in the evening, while the opposite is true for night owls (story, links to quiz determining one's body clock, infographic): http://www.bbc.com/news/education-28327921

How Did We Ever Live Without ... ?

a broom-cleaning dust pan!                                                            quirky.com
From the "Why Didn't I Think of That?" Department (and I can't put this any better than the original headline did) ~ insanely clever products you need in your life: http://www.buzzfeed.com/alannaokun/23-insanely-clever-products-you-need-in-your-life?bffb

The New Cupcake

Erica/Cannella Vita

First pink was the new black, then black was, then orange, and now there's the new cupcake, only no one can agree on what that is. Some think it's the macaron, some, the pie, and some ~ notably the folks who bailed out Crumbs Bake Shop, think it's the cupcake. Proving once again (http://somanyinterestingthings.blogspot.com/2014/07/information-illustrated.html) that a good infographic is the new infographic, here's one on how many times various food items (and not always desserts!) have been called "the new cupcake" in news articles over the past eight years (story, infographic): http://www.slate.com/blogs/browbeat/2014/07/16/the_new_cupcake_cliche_graphed_macarons_doughnuts_pie_and_every_other_new.html

Lions, Tigers, Bears, and Jeans ~ Oh, My!

screen shot
Well, it can't get much more innovative than this: Jeans "distressed" by zoo animals auctioned off as a fundraiser for said zoo. The Japanese line is called, appropriately enough, Zoo Jeans. Who wouldn't want a pair? (story, video): http://www.psfk.com/2014/07/denim-jeans-zoo-animals.html#!bgdHP5

Building Bad

If good fences make good neighbors (as the old saying goes), what do bad houses do? If these now-historic (and one contemporary) so-called spite houses are any indication, they just continue the feuds that motivated their construction in the first place. Funny how time sometimes mellows "nasty" into "quirky": http://weburbanist.com/2014/03/31/spite-houses-12-structures-built-just-to-annoy-people/

Weird Grammar

a personal favorite!                                                                       screen shot
How heartening it is to know that there are others who, like me, are a bit obsessive about vocabulary, spelling, and grammar and what seems to be their devaluation these days. It is, IMHO, just another example of our lower standards in almost every facet of life ~ but I don't want to get too political here. Suffice it to say (and I've said this before) that, as George Orwell illustrated in his seminal Nineteen Eighty-Four, if you don't have the words, you can't think the thoughts. The corollary to that, of course, is that if we can't communicate our thoughts in a coherent way ~ if, for example, we don't understand the difference between "I was," "I have been," and "I had been" or "he could be" and "he could have been" ~ debates will be meaningless and fraught with misunderstanding. So, for those who might not have had the satisfaction of hearing "Weird Al" Yankovic's Word Crimes, voilà ~ enjoy! (video): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8Gv0H-vPoDc&feature=kp

Magic Mirrors

Sumner, right, shows an amputee how to use the mirror.                        © AFP
The problem of the phantom limb has plagued most amputees since the first such surgery was performed, probably in ancient Greece. Canadian Stephen Sumner lost a leg in a motorcycle accident. After years of pain, he found a deceptively simple, low-cost solution, and he's spreading the word in one of the areas that can use it most ~ Cambodia: http://mosaicscience.com/story/mirror-man

Say Hey for the Bidet

Tallyho
Apparently, Americans aren't the only ones who are unfamiliar with the humble bidet. Here, BBC readers confess the many creative ways they've used the porcelain throne's little partner. Glenn, from Warrington, England, for example, admits the following: "In 1984, aged 11, I went on my first holiday abroad to Mallorca. Upon entering the hotel bathroom I excitedly exclaimed to my father that they had a special hair washing sink. I probably made the stinky egg face when he explained what it really was. I still washed my hair in it": http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-28237337

Beautiful BiblioBenches

Most bus stop benches have ads on them. Some are a little more clever ~ and compassionate ~ like those in Vancouver that transform into shelters at night (http://somanyinterestingthings.blogspot.com/2014/07/a-new-kind-of-bed-sit.html). And then there are the benches of London, which for now anyway, look like open books ~ 50 different books, in fact, from Peter Pan to Cat in the Hat to Bridget Jones's Diary and Mrs. Dalloway (story, lots of pix): http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2687557/James-Bond-Sherlock-Holmes-Bridget-Jones-sit-classic-Londons-BookBench-festival.html

The Internet Never Forgets

the House of Mr. H                                   Michael Gakuran
Well, hardly ever. There's a saying ~ You can't go home again ~ that seems to apply pretty well to the online sites of one's youth. What happens to the worlds created in the ether when their site is shut down? Some have been permanently removed, but more and more are being saved. “When we founded Archive Team, it was in a dearth of recognition that these communities had lasting historical and societal value,” Internet advocate Jason Scott explains. “They were considered to be byproducts, like a street corner ~ thinking of it as the point where two streets collide, rather than being a hangout that when removed, removes the entire community”: http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2014/07/what-happens-when-digital-cities-are-abandoned/373941/
   Just like those who enjoy exploring ghost towns or abandoned malls, there are those who troll the Internet for abandoned virtual communities. Gakuranman's tales of adventure through forgotten sites are well illustrated and make for fascinating reading: http://gakuran.com/category/haikyo-ruins/

Le Jour de Gloire

Many of the stones of the Pont de la Concorde came from the Bastille. Asco-TP
Happy Bastille Day! Interestingly, the infamous prison whose storming marked the beginning of the French Revolution is no longer. It fell even before some of the revolution's most famous victims. Bits and pieces of it, as well as other memento mori, however, can still be seen around the country: http://mentalfloss.com/article/57792/11-remnants-bastille-you-can-still-see-today
   Parisians are celebrating the day with fireworks (mais, bien sûr!), free admission to museums, and parades (website): http://en.parisinfo.com/discovering-paris/major-events/paris-celebrates-july-14th

To Thrill a Mockingbird

Harper Lee, in 2007                                         Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
I don't know anyone who doesn't think To Kill a Mockingbird is one of the best novels ever written. Fortunately for us all, the movie made from the book, which starred the great Gregory Peck, was also superlative (and we all know how infrequently that happens!). Harper Lee, who wrote the above-mentioned narrative, never ~ to anyone's knowledge ~ wrote another book and remains a rather reserved figure. It wasn't until this year, on her 88th birthday, that Lee agreed to allow Mockingbird to be released as an e-book (http://somanyinterestingthings.blogspot.com/2014/04/just-because-to-kill-mockingbird.html). from our bibliophilistic friends at wisegeek.com:

American author Harper Lee makes an estimated $3.3 million US Dollars (USD) in royalties each year for her 1960 novel To Kill a Mockingbird, which is the only novel she ever published. This is equivalent to around $9,000 USD each day. To Kill a Mockingbird tells the story of a white Alabama lawyer defending a black man falsely accused of rape during the Great Depression through the point of view of the lawyer’s young daughter. The novel sells between 750,000 to one million copies every year, to high schools in

Information, Illustrated

Who doesn't love a good infographic? I myself have posted the links to quite a few over the years, illustrating everything from the story of our garbage (http://somanyinterestingthings.blogspot.com/2012/04/where-does-our-trash-go.html) to how much space is really out there (http://somanyinterestingthings.blogspot.com/2012/03/scroll-through-space.html) to a group of them covering the lives of famous artists (http://somanyinterestingthings.blogspot.com/2013/07/lives-of-artists.html). Well, the inevitable has happened, and that's not necessarily a bad thing: Someone has decided to compile the best of each year's infographics from the U.S., the first tome being titled, appropriately, The Best American Infographics 2013 (story, video): http://www.brainpickings.org/index.php/2013/10/08/best-american-infographics-david-byrne/?utm_source=buffer&utm_campaign=Buffer&utm_content=buffer5a6cb&utm_medium=twitter

Lights in the Night

screen shot
"This has nothing to do with man ~ it's completely natural," notes one appreciative observer of the largest firefly show, maybe, in the world. The spectacle, which takes place every year in a forest in Tennessee, draws almost as many viewers as it does performers (video): http://www.cbsnews.com/videos/tennessee-fireflies-a-summertime-light-show/
   One can just sit in the gloaming and enjoy the sight of the twinkling lights ... or, if one is of the scientific persuasion, one can try to understand the "why" behind it all. "So little is known about the biology of fireflies," says James Lloyd, of the University of Florida, Gainesville. "What on Earth are they doing out there?" Here's what we do know ~ and it's just as fascinating as the sight is beautiful (video): http://sciencefriday.com/video/07/03/2014/in-a-flash-firefly-communication.html
   If you are lucky enough to live in an area frequented by these little creatures, you can help scientists at Boston's Museum of Science, Tufts University, and Fitchburg State College by keeping track of the ones you see: https://legacy.mos.org/fireflywatch/

Debt Reduction 101

Colorado's take on reducing student debt ~ by allowing high school students to concurrently earn an AA for free ~ seems to be working (video): http://globalpublicsquare.blogs.cnn.com/2014/07/12/where-america-works-how-denver-is-tackling-the-student-debt-problem/
   In 2013, 24,000 students across the state took part in the program, with participation by Native Americans, Hispanics, and African Americans growing: http://www.denverpost.com/ci_22631060/colorado-high-schoolers-enrolled-college-classes-up-15

The Operative Word

"Good intelligence depends in large measure on clear, concise writing," according to CIA Director of Intelligence Fran Moore. You know, like referring to "enhanced interrogation techniques" instead of the rather less genteel "torture." Or "sleep management" as opposed to "sleep deprivation." To this end, the agency actually has its own Style Manual & Writers [sic] Guide for Intelligence Publications: http://www.openculture.com/2014/07/the-cia-style-manual-writers-guide.html#comment-961849
   More tips from the top (it turns out that the CIA hates redundancy almost as much as it does what it calls "pretentious words" ... is "pretentious" a pretentious word?): http://mentalfloss.com/article/57743/11-grammar-lessons-leaked-cia-style-book

Park Here

Wikimedia Commons
from our wise friends at wisegeek.com:

The largest protected park on Earth is Greenland‘s Northeast Greenland National Park, which is approximately 357,917 square miles (927,000 square km) or about two times the size of the state of California. It was established in 1974 and contains an estimated 40% of the worldwide population of musk ox. Other animal species that live in Northeast Greenland National Park include walruses, snowy owls, polar bears, and arctic foxes. Due to its Arctic location, the park area barely reaches above freezing temperatures in the summertime, has little sunlight, and is in extreme darkness for around four months of the year.

More about nature reserves:
  • Australia’s Great Barrier Reef Marine Park is home to the Great Barrier Reef coral reef, which is the largest living structure in the world.

  • The largest marine reserve on Earth is the Chagos Marine Protected Area, located in the British Indian Ocean Territory--it’s around twice the size of

Occupy the Moon

From those wonderful folks at Occupy Sandy (http://occupysandy.net/), who continue to do so much good for others (in so many arenas beyond Sandy's) ~ posted with the comment "Enjoy!"


Independence Day?

pretty positive                                                                        © Getty Images
As we inch toward fall, we'll be hearing more and more about an upcoming Scottish referendum. In September, voters will be asked this question: "Should Scotland be an independent country?" Current polls have it at 60/40, with 60 percent of voters preferring to remain part of the UK. Who is eligible to vote, and what percent of the vote determines which answer won? How did it get to this point, anyway?: http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-scotland-13326310
   The Daily Mail imagines life just before and in the aftermath of a "Yes" vote: "9 a.m., Malibu, California. Sir Sean Connery instructs his London broker to withdraw the last of his money from RBS, only to be told it's now 5 p.m. in London and the banks are shut" (story, slideshow, videos): http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2619458/So-happens-Scotland-votes-yes-Camerons-quit-Queen-furious-Shetlands-taken-oil-Scottish-economy-tanking-A-brilliant-imagining-life-Union.html

The Autodidactic Polymath

Creative Commons
Speaking of the creative mind (and we were ~ see post immediately below), in her study of the type, neuroscientist Nancy Andreasen has found that most do share certain traits. "You cannot force creativity to happen ~ every creative person can attest to that," she says. "But the essence of creativity is making connections and solving puzzles": http://www.fastcompany.com/3032830/the-future-of-work/secrets-from-the-brains-of-13-creative-geniuses

William Styron Slept Till Noon

William Styron                     Curt Richter
Flannery O'Connor
and Flannery O'Connor devoted three hours a day to creative work (at least during the period in question) ~ or so we learn from The Daily Routines of Famous Creative People. Of course, the obvious question is, How do the authors know this? The answer: from the subjects' own diaries and letters, among other sources. The similarities and the differences are interesting ~ and some of it, like that Franz Kafka slept from only 6 a.m. to 8:30 a.m. and again from 3:30 p.m. to 8 p.m., could explain a lot (story, interactive infographics): http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/07/09/daily-routines-of-famous-creatives_n_5571536.html?utm_hp_ref=mostpopular

The Greatest Mind Game Ever Played

Even though I remember this match and even some of the details, I found myself on the edge of my seat as I read this. from wisegeek.com:

Today's encore selection -- from The 48 Laws of Power by Robert Greene. The Soviet Union's masterful Boris Spassky versus America's unpredictable Bobby Fischer was the greatest chess match of all time. At the time, it was a proxy for the cold war between the U.S. and Russia -- fought without nuclear weapons. It was Ali versus Frazier, the Yankees versus the Red Sox, and the Superbowl all rolled into one. Spassky was the reigning champion and the USSR was dominant in chess:

"In May of 1972, chess champion Boris Spassky anxiously awaited his rival Bobby Fischer in Reykjavik, Iceland. The two men had been scheduled to meet for the World Championship of Chess, but Fischer had not arrived on time and the match was on hold. Fischer had problems with the size of the prize money, problems with the way the money was to be distributed, problems with the logistics of holding the match in Iceland. He might back out at any moment.

"Spassky tried to be patient. His Russian bosses felt that Fischer was hu­miliating him and told him to walk away, but Spassky wanted this match. He knew he could destroy

A Grain for All Reasons

Fonio is a gluten-free grain grown, for now, mostly in West Africa. Given that it can easily be grown organically as it needs no pesticides and that it requires little water but is still nutritious, it may soon be The Next Big Thing (video): http://video.nationalgeographic.com/video/news/140708-fonio-grain-vin

Pictures on a Thousand Words

Los Angeles artist Mike Stilkey has this thing about painting on things other than canvases. In this particular case, that means on books. The outside of books. Lots of books in piles (and don't worry, these books are salvaged books) (story, video, lots of pictures): http://www.thisiscolossal.com/2014/07/new-paintings-on-salvaged-books-by-mike-stilkey/

From On High

first prize: eagle over Indonesia                                                    Capungaero
Drones. I don't know about you, but for me, the mere word conjures up deeply disturbing scenes reminiscent of something from George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four. But there are actually more pleasant uses for these flying bots, and one of them is the amazing pictures that can be taken with their help. A website called dronestagram (http://www.dronestagr.am/) ~ you knew there eventually had to be one, didn't you? ~ is collecting such photos and videos from around the world and recently held a contest. The winners are shown here (slideshow): http://www.thedailybeast.com/galleries/2014/07/10/amazing-aerial-photos-taken-from-drones.html

In an Old House in Paris ...

Hard to believe, but Madeline ~ that saucy little redhead who was not afraid of mice and who loved winter, snow, and ice ~ turns 75 this year. To mark the occasion, the New York Historical Society is holding an exhibit called Madeline in New York, because, you might as well know, that is actually where she was born. Equally surprising and unexpected is the intriguing story of her creator, Ludwig Bemelmans (story, video): http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-28233820
   A sweet little animated version of the story, from 1952 (video): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HHuQlcO7hyI#t=15

FauxTube

As we lurch from one international crisis to another, the fake video is becoming more common ~ and aside from the obvious issues that raises, it poses real problems for aid workers and journalists. Amnesty International has launched a website, the Citizen Evidence Lab, that can help one determine the authenticity of a video: http://blog.amnestyusa.org/middle-east/real-vs-fake-how-to-authenticate-youtube-videos/

Talk Like an Egyptian

Some languages are harder to learn than others, and it doesn't always have to do with how much they resemble one's own. (Egyptians, btw, speak Arabic, one of the hardest languages for native-English-speakers to learn, according to the Foreign Service Institute of the U.S. Department of State) (story, infographic): http://www.mnn.com/lifestyle/arts-culture/stories/what-are-the-hardest-languages-to-learn

Hello, My Name Is HD 186283 b

illustration NASA/ESA/A Schaller
Astronomers are discovering so many new planets that they're running out of creative names and have turned to us for help. In the program NameExoWorlds, the public is being asked to vote on names suggested by astronomy clubs around the world for 305 newly discovered planets: http://newswatch.nationalgeographic.com/2014/07/09/name-that-alien-planet-contest-unveiled/