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Got Game

What with everything going on in Phoenix this weekend, i.e., the Super Bowl and the PGA Phoenix Open, we're thinking sports. (Incidentally, according to one survey, 47% of Americans watch the Super Bowl for the football, while 41% tune in for the commercials and as an excuse to party with friends and family. See below for more factoids.) And a little farther from home, there's tennis being played, in the form of the 2015 Australian Open. It's drawing to a close now, which means it's time to look forward to the French Open (May 24-June 7) and Wimbleton (June 29-July 12). And what better way to get ready than by gathering a few pieces of tennis trivia with which to entertain your fellow enthusiasts? from

The record for the longest pro tennis match was 11 hours, 5 minutes and took place over the course of three days. The 2010 Wimbledon tennis match was between John Isner from the US and Nicolas Mahut from France. It finally ended in the maximum fifth set with a final score of 70-68, and a victory for Isner. The tennis match went on for so long because neither opponent was able to break the

All Dolled Up

screen shot
Once upon a time, in a remote village on one of Japan's main islands, there lived 37 people and 350 dolls. The dolls were ~ and are being ~ made by Ayano Tsukimi, one of the residents, and each is made to resemble a villager who has either died or moved away. "When I was a child," Tsukimi explains, "there was a dam here. There was a big company and hundreds of people used to live here." She herself moved away for a time, but then she returned, 11 years ago, and started making her dolls shortly after that, beginning with one that looked like her father (video):

Chip In

The reporter shows off his chip.                                                     screen shot
Well, it's finally happened. An office block ~ this one is in Sweden ~ is placing a chip under tenant companies' employees' skin. The tiny chip goes on the hand and allows the chipee to, for example, open a door by touching its lock or use the copier without having to enter an ID number. In the near future, apparently, they'll also be able to pay for a meal at the cafeteria by way of the chip. (Take that, Apple Pay!) The interesting angle to all this is the ostensible motive behind it all. "We want to be able to understand this technology before big corporates and big government come to us and say everyone should get chipped ~ the tax authority chip, the Google or Facebook chip," says Hannes Sjoblad, "chief disruption officer" at the Swedish bio-hacking group that organized the process (story, video):

From China With Drugs

It's hardly news that many well-established, wealthy families got that way through less than ethical means. What is always surprising is just how well-established ~ even respected ~ some of those families are and have been. from

Today's encore selection -- from The Imperial Cruise: A Secret History of Empire and War by James Bradley. Whether Caribbean rum, Prohibition-era bootlegging, or Chinese opium, more than a few American and European fortunes have been alleged to come from unexpected sources:

"On March 17, 1905, one of the most significant weddings in American history took place in a house in New York City at 8 East 76th Street, between Madison and Fifth avenues. At 3:30 p.m., [President Theodore Roosevelt's daughter] Miss Alice Roosevelt -- serving as a bridesmaid dressed in a white veil and holding a bouquet of pink roses -- opened the ceremony as she proceeded down the wide stairs from the third floor to the second-floor salon. The bride -- her cousin Eleanor Roosevelt --followed, and behind her was President Theodore Roosevelt, who would give his niece away to the bridegroom, his fifth Cousin Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
   "Eleanor wore a pearl necklace and diamonds in her hair, gifts from Franklin's rich Delano relatives. Even though Franklin had never made much money himself, Teddy knew that he would be able to care for his new wife: FDR was heir to the huge Delano opium fortune.
   "Franklin's grandfather Warren Delano had for years skulked around [China's] Pearl River Delta dealing drugs. Delano had run offices in Canton and Hong Kong. During business hours, Chinese criminals would pay him cash and receive an opium chit. At night, Scrambling Crabs -- long, sleek, heavily armed crafts -- rowed out into the Pearl River Delta to Delano's floating warehouses, where they received their Jesus opium under the cover of darkness. The profits were

Formerly Known As 'Old Age'

Yvonne Dowlen at 85                                                     Vladimir Yakovlev/Rex
Russian photojournalist Vladimir Yakovlev has traveled the world taking pictures of people who are truly aging gracefully ~ by refusing to "act their age." He's calling his project Age of Happiness, and just looking at these photos does bring out the happy, not to mention the hope that it is indeed possible to keep on keepin' on (slideshow):

Ötzi's Ink

Marco Samadelli
Remember the 5,000-year-old hunter found back in 1991 in an Alpine glacier and named Ötzi (or Oetzi) the Iceman ( He's been a real source of amazement for scientists, who most recently photographed and mapped all of the man's 61 tattoos. They used a technique that allowed them to see markings no longer visible to the naked eye, including some that they speculate could have been early attempts at acupuncture, perhaps to relieve joint pain. According to Marco Samadelli, the scientist with EURAC's Institute for Mummies and the Iceman who developed the procedure, "Each shot was taken seven times, using a different wavelength each time. This enabled us to cover the different depths at which the carbon powder used for the tattoos had been deposited":

What Would Lincoln Do?

If our 16th president thought it was hard holding 34 states together, what would he have done with 124? This map of the country as it could have looked had it included all the states that have been proposed at one time or another was put together by Andrew Shears, assistant professor of geography at Mansfield University of Pennsylvania. He describes how he came up with it: "... on Wikipedia, I discovered a list that really intrigued me like none other: the List of U.S. State Partition Proposals. For a geographer/cartographer who's a U.S.-specialist and who's interested in alternate history, this was Kryptonite for my productivity. From this list, I stumbled onto listings for U.S. Territories that Failed to Become States and the listing for the hypothetical 51st State. I even came across a nice little book called Lost States, a humorous account from Michael Trinklein that briefly explores a number of random states that never quite happened":

Do You Uke?

Ah, the ukulele. Visions of Hawaii, Steve Martin, Tiny Tim ... hmmm ... how to get that one out of the ether? Oh! George Harrison belonged to the Ukulele Society of Great Britain. Eddie Vedder did a whole album called Ukulele Songs. Zooey Deschanel. William H. Macy. Tony Blair. (Tony Blair?!?) The point is, we may make fun of it and it may have its dips in popularity, but the ukulele (which apparently means "jumping flea" in Hawaiian) always comes bouncing back, as it is doing now (story, videos):
   This is the least creepy video I could find of Tiny Tim singing his memorable "Tiptoe Through the Tulips." View at your own risk:

Big Rock

Getty Images
I seem to be posting a lot of space stuff these days, and here's one more. On January 26, an asteroid with the warm and fuzzy name 2004 BL86 will be zipping past us, so close (745,000 miles) and so bright that we'll be able to see it with a small telescope or maybe even binoculars. It's pretty big ~ about a third of a mile across ~ and is, in fact, the largest asteroid to come that close to us until 2027 (and it's even bigger than that one). You may want to get to know it because, apparently, while it poses no risk to us this time, it will be revisiting us in about 200 years and could collide with Earth at that time:
   Here's an interactive map showing the best places in Southern California to get a good view of the night sky and its delights:

A Quest Is the Answer

A few years ago, I met a soft-spoken, visionary, purposeful man named Kojo Obeng. Actually, I hired him as a teacher at my school. Little did I know then that he was a miracle worker. But I learned in short order. I watched as he introduced our children to a role-playing board game he developed called Mastery Quest. And I watched as even the most recalcitrant and the shyest and the least assertive among them blossomed under his tutelage. So when he posted a detailed description of this wonderful game and its objectives, I knew I had to share it (

A Quest in a Nutshell
Each child is immediately immersed into a theatrical role-play scenario, something that children do instinctually. The purpose of the role-play scenario is to immediately engage the “Questers'” attention, increasing the likelihood they will put forth maximum effort on all game levels—intellectual, socio-emotional and physical.
The scenario that the Questers role-play in includes an entire galaxy with systems of worlds that can be traveled to through space. The worlds have their own unique environments, people and cultures. In this scenario, each Quester's goal is to attain the highest Level of Power by gaining mental, social and physical points.
During the process of gaining higher Levels of Power, the Questers must decide how they will respond to the various perspectives and actions of peers and “Game Master”-controlled personalities and

Spinning Backwards

Mercury is in retrograde ~ you might want to warn your Facebook friends. No, really, it's such a meme! (In fact, I've posted about it before: But what is it, exactly, and is there any truth to it? Three or four times a year, a fantastic optical illusion takes place in which the planet Mercury appears to spin backwards for about three weeks. The popular belief is that this is a time of chaos. Computers crash, contracts are broken, phone lines go down ... FYI, among the suggestions I saw when looking through articles about this are doubling down on the Rescue Remedy and taking a teaspoon of hemp oil every day:
   And here's the scientific explanation for the illusion:

Seeing the Light

C. Mayhew & R. Simmon (NASA/GSFC) NOAA/NGDC, DMSP Digital Archive
I first started noticing the orange glow from Santa Monica, just down the coast, a few years ago. It brightened steadily over a couple of years until it lit up the bedroom so much that I couldn't sleep. My solution was investing in a pair of eye shades, which I've been wearing nightly ever since. "There are more lights, and the lights we have are brighter," says Paul Bogard, who wrote The End of Night about this very issue. In fact, according to Scott Kardel, managing director of the International Dark Sky Association, "Light pollution's been growing at a rate faster than the population has been growing." He adds that "As lighting gets cheaper, people use more of it." But there is hope for those of us who would prefer to sleep sans eye shades and to actually see stars when we look up at night (video):

As the Earth Turns

screen shot
How long ago did eukaryotes develop? (And what are eukaryotes, anyway?) When and why was the first mass extinction? How many extinctions have there been? What is C4 photosynthesis, and when did plants start doing it? Here's a wonderful summary, presented in a simple timeline form, of the most important events in Earth's history, including links to related videos:

Walk This Way

The story of Santa Monica's Third Street Promenade mirrors that of commercial streets in urban areas all over the country except, in many cases, in one respect. When its first attempt at creating a walking street failed, instead of giving up, the city doubled down and hired a San Francisco (yay, cheers the Bay Area native) firm to redesign the area and ended up with an impressive success (story, lots of great historical pictures):!dsgcns

Nice Dry

J. Adam Fenster/University of Rochester
Scientists have come up with the ultimate water-repellent surface. Using a high-powered laser, they etch minute parallel grooves into a metal surface, and it is the nanostructures in these grooves that do the trick. Water drops actually bounce off, as opposed to rolling off, as they do on a Teflon-coated surface. The metal also becomes self-cleaning, as the droplets gather dust before bouncing off. Currently, it takes too long to complete the etching process for it to be used on a larger scale, but the hope is that, one day, the technique will be used to produce airplane wings that don't ice up, for example, or hygienic medical implements (story, video):

Fast Forward

beauty outside your "window" 24/7
Self-tying shoes (aka the Nike Mag, aka the Marty McFly shoe), a scenery channel (much in the style of 1984, if you have that turn of mind), and thumb-recognition door locks are a few of the inventions likely to be introduced this year. Whether you choose to indulge and how you choose to do so are (still) up to you. Oh, and according to this list, the FAX machine is making a comeback (slideshow):

Just Because: 'Blood Brother: The Gene That Rocked My Family'

Mona and Jim
A few months ago, my friend and former co-worker Mona Gable emailed that a book of hers was being published. Of course, I bought a copy, but at the time, I read only the first few pages before life intervened. The other day, I was sick in bed and picked it up again. This time, I read the entire thing, cover to cover. I couldn't put it down. It is the story of how, four years ago, Mona discovered that her little brother had Huntington's disease, which is genetic, and of how it turned her and her family's world upside down. She exposes her reactions, her thoughts, her grief courageously, with a simple, sometimes raw, honesty that makes it easy for a reader to put him/herself in her position and to understand how the premature loss of a beloved sibling can be doubly devastating.

 Blood Brother

One late winter morning in 2011, I sat in the waiting room at UCLA's pediatrics clinic. Although I have children, I wasn't there because of them. I was there to see if I was going to die anytime soon. After three weeks of agony, I was about to get the results of my genetic test for Huntington's disease.
   Oddly, as I sat in the room with its cheerful murals of Disney characters, my husband and a gaggle of parents and toddlers around me, I was more numb than afraid. I suspect I was still in shock. I was also still grieving my youngest brother's death.
   Until a few months before, I had been only vaguely aware of Huntington's. I knew it was the fatal

Who's Buried in Greek Tomb?

tomb reconstruction                                                 Greek Ministry of Culture
They say it couldn't possibly be Alexander the Great's mother, but some keep hoping. On January 20, we'll all know for sure whose skeleton it is that was found in a mysterious tomb in northern Greece. The tomb contained huge sphinxes and amazing mosaics and, beneath the floor of the third chamber, a skeleton that may or may not be that of a 54-year-old woman:
   As if anyone needed any more reasons to visit Greece, the Polycentric Museum of Aigia is due to be completed this year. It will be, the head of the Imathia Antiquities Ephorate explains, "units scattered around a vast archaeological park of 50 hectares including the tomb cemetery." Intriguing? Yes, but if you can't make it to Greece anytime soon, you'll be happy to know that you won't have to travel there to learn first-hand all about Alexander the Great and the Hellenistic world (story, video slideshow):
units scattered around, a vast archaeological park of 50 hectares including the tomb cemetery,” - See more at:

units scattered around, a vast archaeological park of 50 hectares including the tomb cemetery,” - See more at:

Just Because: 'The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock'

the young T.S.
It was one hundred years ago this June that the world was introduced to a certain J. Alfred Prufrock. T.S. Eliot (1888-1965), then a graduate student in philosophy, began writing the eponymous poem when he was 22, and it was published five years later, in 1915. The poem (originally subtitled "Prufrock Among the Women") is as well known for its many literary allusions ~ the epigraph is from Dante's Inferno ~ as for the way in which it bridges the poetic styles of the mid- to late 19th and early 20th centuries, embodying both Romanticism and Modernism. Eliot himself described it as a "drama of literary anguish." You can hear him reading it, obviously many years later, here: . There's a beautifully illustrated version of most of it (a work in progress) here: .

                                          S'io credesse che mia risposta fosse
                                          A persona che mai tornasse al mondo,
                                          Questa fiamma staria senza piu scosse.
                                          Ma periocche giammai di questo fondo
                                          Non torno vivo alcun, s'i'odo il vero,
                                          Senza tema d'infamia ti rispondo.

LET us go then, you and I,
When the evening is spread out against the sky
Like a patient etherized upon a table;
Let us go, through certain half-deserted streets,
The muttering retreats
Of restless nights in one-night cheap hotels
And sawdust restaurants with oyster-shells:
Streets that follow like a tedious argument
Of insidious intent
To lead you to an overwhelming question ...
Oh, do not ask, "What is it?"
Let us go and make our visit.

Room To Move

José Campos
Everyone's talking about tiny houses ( and how that's a thing. Maybe somewhere it is, but in my neighborhood, it's all about "the bigger the better." Small older houses are being torn down and replaced by edifices built as high as legally possible and to within an inch of the property line on all sides. What people do with all that space is beyond me, but that's neither here nor there. What is here, or will be shortly, is a concept that might have those big-house people thinking about downsizing. The MIMA House has movable/removable walls, or panels. As is explained on the website, "The finish panels are available in a variety of colors or wood veneer. They can have different colors on either side, so the decor of the house can be changed just by flipping the panels over. Similar panels can be used to cover the windows as needed for privacy or to block out unwanted sunlight and views" (website with slideshow):!mima-house/cktf

Pain in the Brain

A study has found that there are two separate brain networks related to pain, one for physical pain and one for pain that is linked to thoughts and emotions. This study, in which volunteers controlled the amount of pain they felt with their thoughts, relates to the findings of a study of chronic-back-pain sufferers. The area of brain activity was the same in both groups. "It's a major finding," according to Northwestern University's Dr. Vania Apkarian, who studies pain and brain plasticity. "For the first time, we've established the possibility of modulating pain through two different pathways":

Cooking in Perfection

We're all more careful now about what we eat. We scrutinize labels. We eschew sugar and certain fats. Some of us buy only organic, some also stick to products from animals that were humanely raised. But there's another ingredient in a healthy diet, and that's the kitchenware we use for preparing and serving meals. What kind of cookware is best? What's the real story about BPA? Are nonstick pans really unhealthy? This guide was written for the parents of small children, but the information is good and applies equally to all of us:

Thoughts Alone

"You don't really think about anything," explains Martin Pistorius of the 12 years he spent in a coma starting when he was 12 years old. "You simply exist. It's a very dark place to find yourself because, in a sense, you are allowing yourself to vanish." A couple of years into his vegetative state, he says, he began to wake up, but he couldn't move and no one noticed. Finally, he made the decision to prove that he existed, and it seems that that decision affected his body. Now 39, he is married, graduated from college with a degree in computer science, and has written a book about his experience (story, slideshow, video):


Ask them if they care.
Possibly useless information that is still, somehow, intriguing: The city duck, apparently, can be distinguished from its compatriots in the country by the tone of its quack. Who knew? from

Ducks have accents based on their location, according to research conducted by Middlesex University in London. They found that ducks’ quacks varied depending on the particular region of England they lived in, similarly to the humans’ regional accents. For example, ducks in the busy city of London were more likely to have a louder, more abrasive quack that is thought to be comparable to the Cockney accent of East Londoners. In comparison, ducks in the rural peninsula of Cornwall were found to have a quieter, calmer tone to their quacks. The difference in duck accents is thought to perhaps be the result of environment, as city ducks must be louder to be heard over traffic and street noise than rural ducks. 

Six Decades of Happy

GE's Carousel of Progress                                                                    © Disney
This year, Disneyland ~ the real, original one in Anaheim ~ turns 60. Which seems as good a time as any to prognosticate a little about which of its current rides will still be around 40 years from now, at the Disney Centennial. FWIW, my vote is that they bring back the original Carousel of Progress (now at the Florida resort) and the Swiss Family Robinson Tree House, but that's just me. Plus, this author apparently believes the Storybook Land Canal Boats to be vulnerable. I sincerely hope he's wrong (story, slideshow):

His Kingdom in Israel

celebrating Shavuot                                          David Silverman/Getty Images
This belongs squarely in the "You Meet the Most Interesting People in the Obits" department. Ben Ammi Ben-Israel (né Ben Carter) died on December 27 in Beersheba at the age of 75. In 1966, he had a vision that led him to Liberia with 350 adherents, and from there to Israel. There, he built a community in Israel's Negev Desert that ultimately grew to a population of 3,000. They were the Black Hebrews, descended from the Lost Tribes of Israel. Ben-Israel's group observed the Sabbath but wore African-style clothes and practiced polygamy (as so many cults founded by men do). As one can imagine, he and his group were not immediately accepted by their new homeland:

The Past Is Present

Algiers, 1960                                                                     Nicolas Tikhomiroff
When I was young, I lived for a year in the French-speaking part of Switzerland. One of the things I remember quite vividly from that time was the many dark-haired, dark-eyed, serious-looking men working construction jobs, repairing the streets. They were, as I came to know them, "les Algériens." They were in that particular part of Switzerland, I guessed, because it was French-speaking, and they were French-speaking, I learned, because Algeria had been a French colony from 1830 until the people won their independence in a bloody eight-year war that ended in 1962. Is it a coincidence, then, that the Charlie Hebdo attackers were "of Algerian origin"? This Beirut-based journalist thinks not (story, slideshow, video):

Lowest Common Exterminator

More than three million people marched in France to protest the recent Paris terrorist attacks that left 17 dead. Farther south, in Nigeria, a 10-year-old girl detonated her suicide vest, killing 19 and herself and wounding at least a dozen more. The world did not tweet about it, nor did world leaders converge on Abuja in a show of sympathy and solidarity. It would be easy to chalk the difference in the global response to racism and/or media bias, says the author of this piece, but that would be, for the most part, incorrect. The real issue here, he writes, is "something far more sinister: the ravages of state failure":
   Tragic events are moving quickly in Nigeria, where Boko Haram is fighting for power. Since the above-linked piece was written, several hundred ~ maybe as many as 2,000 ~ were killed in the town of Baga and two female suicide bombers killed at least four and injured dozens in attacks in Potiskum.

The 'The' Name Game

It all started innocently enough, with a botched coup attempt in The Gambia ( Not "Gambia," but "The Gambia." Why the "The"? Is it like The Ukraine? I resolved to resolve the question. And, no, as it turns out, it's not like The Ukraine, because The Ukraine hasn't been The Ukraine since the fall of the Soviet Union. It's now simply Ukraine. So The Gambia is more like The Bahamas, in that they are the only two countries that officially add the "The" to their names:
   Now, the answer to why anyone would want to conduct a coup there is easier to understand ~ unfortunately so. The country has been in the hands of a ruthless dictator for two decades. So ruthless, in fact, that one observer calls it "the North Korea of Africa":

They All Came to Paris

One of the biggest meetings of world leaders ever was occasioned by a tragedy (story, video: Oddly, the United States was represented only by its ambassador, but joining most of Paris in a march of solidarity against terrorism were prime ministers and presidents from Denmark, Jordan, Germany, Palestine, Israel, England, Mali, and on and on. So many that, even when they were marching elbow to elbow, it was impossible to get them all in one picture. And bundled up as they all were, who can tell who's who? (photo with IDs):

Dream Destinations

Fogo Island Inn, Newfoundland, Canada                                WAFClough/Flickr
OK, so most of us can't afford to stay in these beautiful, sustainable places on National Geographic's Unique Lodges list, but what the heck ~ we can dream, can't we? Each one, Nat Geo says, "represents tourism as it should be" and they all "set the standard for authentic and responsible travel." Whatever. More to the point here is that they're really fun to look at:

Iraq Ink

Dante does eyebrows.                                                                    screen shot
"Anyone who works with the U.S., it changes your culture." So says a 26-year-old former security contractor. This is Baghdad, but that statement could have been made almost anywhere. The man who made it is in line for a tattoo, which proves his point. Tats are just on the edge of being accepted in this religious, conservative society. The tattoo artist he's seeing also once worked for the U.S., as an interpreter. In fact, it was a soldier, himself a tattooist, who noticed the young man's drawings and suggested he consider that line of work. Now he has his own shop in a cosmopolitan neighborhood and works on everyone from militia members to moms (story, video):

Deep Space

I've been getting a message on my iPhone saying I don't have enough space ~ for anything. Most annoying, especially when it was popping up while I was trying to take pictures during our trip to Portugal! I managed it then by deleting a few games, but recently, it's started up again. The timing couldn't have been better for these tips I found on Huff Post, which I pass along as a public service in case I'm not the only one plagued by this predicament:

A Bustle in Your Hedgerow

Lyrics and questionable accusations of plagiarism notwithstanding, Led Zeppelin's eight-minute-long "Stairway to Heaven" is often called one of the greatest rock songs of all time. So how does a song like that get written? It all started, according to the songwriter, guitarist Jimmy Page, with the idea of a composition that "started with quite a fragile exposed acoustic guitar" and "would keep unfolding to more layers and more moods." And the recorders? Not his idea, he says. He had envisioned electric piano (story, videos):
   "I struggle with some of the lyrics from particular periods of time," singer and lyricist Robert Plant admits. "Maybe I'm still trying to work out what I was talking about. Every other f**ker is." ... 'Cause you know sometimes words have two meanings (video):
   OK. Did you know that Pat Boone recorded a version of the song? I believe the mere thought of it falls neatly into the "so bad it's good" category. And the thing is, it's only one of the more than 100 versions listed here:

Who Is Charlie Hebdo?

Stéphane Charbonnier, the late editor of Charlie Hebdo           Michel Euler/AP
By now, news of the horrific massacre at a Paris-based satirical weekly called Charlie Hebdo has made the rounds, and protesters around the world are holding signs proclaiming "Je Suis Charlie," or "I am Charlie." So who is this Charlie Hebdo? Simply put, no one. The "Hebdo" is a common abbreviation of the word "hebdomadaire," which means "weekly" in French. And the "Charlie"? A little more complicated. It's an allusion to Charlie Mensuel (Charlie Monthly), a magazine co-founded by Georges Bernier, who also founded the magazine that became Charlie Hebdo. The "Charlie" was for ~ who else? ~ Charlie Brown, the main character in the Peanuts comic strip that the magazine ran. It was also a joke about former French president Charles de Gaulle, and that part is a longer story:

Who IS That Guy?

He was just reelected speaker of the House, where he'll be leading the largest Republican majority in more than 60 years. But as John Boehner well knows from his last tenure, many of those Republicans don't like the word "compromise." Their recalcitrance led to the 113th Congress enacting the second-lowest number of laws of any Congress in 50 years, which in turn led to its having the lowest approval ratings ever and to Boehner being called "easily the worst House speaker in modern history." And while he was reelected, there were 25 votes cast against him. On the other end, President Obama has very little to lose in his last two years, and he often mentions his willingness to use executive action and the presidential veto. So who would want to be speaker under those circumstances? Just who is this John Boehner?:

Desperately Seeking Susy

It's a new year, and our search for the big answers continues. One reason we may be making great progress toward them in 2015 is that the Large Hadron Collider, closed for two years, will reopen in March. Its mission now, after having found the Higgs boson, has to do with something called supersymmetry, aka Susy. No one knows for sure that this a real phenomenon, physicists just hope it is, as it could help explain a lot of very basic and perplexing things, including why the aforementioned Higgs boson even exists:
   What, exactly, is supersymmetry? A Fermilab scientist explains (video):

Donkeys and Pac-Mans and Sims, Oh, My!

Remember "Oregon Trail"? Of course you do! How about "SimCity"? "Donkey Kong"? "Carmen SanDiego"? "Zelda"? Probably the last thing you need is yet another time suck, but here it is anyway. The Internet Archive has put all of these old faves and many more online. (I just tried out "Oregon Trail" ~ just to make sure I'm not pointing you in the wrong direction, mind you ~ and can attest to the fact that it works and is just as much fun as you remember it being.) You're welcome:

The Old Wives Were Right (Again)

"Are you going out like that? You'll catch your death of a cold." Oh, come on! Everyone knows you can't catch a cold from the cold ~ that's just an old wives' tale. Shows how much we know. A new study seems to show that our antiviral defense cells, like those in the nose, don't work as well in colder temperatures:
   So, while we all start knitting nose warmers, we still need to remember those other important rules, like frequent hand-washing:

Its Own Best Ally

When Germany invaded Poland on September 1, 1939, the Poles figured they had just enough capability to hold them off until their allies came to their aid. That aid never came, and Poland was doomed. Small wonder, then, that the Poles are a bit cynical about promises of help in case of attack and are, instead, reviving the Home Army and working on an ambitious rearmament program against a possible Russian offensive. Such an offensive may seem unlikely, but then there's Ukraine ... :

It's No Libertarian Paradise

When I think of Singapore, I inevitably remember the case of that American boy who was sentenced to a caning in 1994 for stealing some road signs and for vandalism he denied committing. That ruling put the area in the spotlight for a while. Articles discussed its spotlessness and negligible crime rate, characteristics that residents of big U.S. cities might view longingly. But ... (and there's always a "but," isn't there?) that comes at a price. The independent watchdog organization Freedom House lists Singapore as "partly free." One resident sums it up this way: "If you keep to yourself, life is very comfortable here. But if self-expression is important, you will be stymied at every turn":

Out of the Frying Pan, Into the Freeze

Think of immigration, and we immediately imagine the challenges of learning a new language and adapting to a new culture. There is, however, one more reality that many immigrants to the U.S. have to deal with, one that, I suppose, would be easy enough for any Californian or Floridian to understand: the shock to the system of having to move from the sun to the snow. How does one dress? How does one keep from slipping on icy sidewalks? At least one organization, the International Institute of Minnesota, helps newcomers from warmer climes deal with the realities of winter in the northern states (story, video):

When the Resolve Dissolves

Calvin and Hobbes                                                                    Bill Watterson
Don't feel so bad if you can't seem to keep your New Year's resolutions. You're not alone, at least according to these statistics from

Only 8% of people actually achieve their New Year's resolutions, according to 2014 Journal of Clinical Psychology statistics. About 45% of Americans make any resolutions at all. The most common New Year's resolution is to lose weight, followed by being more organized, being careful with money, enjoying life, and stopping smoking. Self-improvement and education resolutions rank the highest at 47%, while relationship-related resolutions rank the lowest at 31%. Being able to work towards a resolution can be the most difficult, as only 75% of those who made any resolution maintained it through the first week. The percentage lowers over time: 71% maintained their resolution through two weeks, and 46% maintained their resolution through 6 months. For those looking to meet their New Year's resolutions, it is recommended that people

It Could Be Worse

measuring eels for the Zoological Society                                       screen shot
The first Monday of the new year, and it's back to work. How're you feeling about that? Perhaps your sentiments should include gratitude that you're not Stephen Mowat, of the Zoological Society of London. "I once had to dissect a tub of dead eel guts (and stomach the smell) to examine parasites living in their swim bladders," he recalls of his job. And that was "moments before jumping into a suit for a meeting with government officials." What I'm saying here is that no matter how bad you think your job might be, there really are worse ones out there. Here's a list of five, including Mowat's, that just might make you appreciate your long hours and obnoxious boss a little more:
   Mowat and his co-workers' efforts in eel conservation, slippery though they may be, are paying off (video):

The Whale Behind the Tale

from Mocha Dick: The Legend and Fury
"Call me Ishmael." So begins one of our English-language classics, Moby Dick, Or the Whale, with one of the most famous lines in all of literature (to read the book online, go to Just as many authors are inspired by real life, Moby Dick author Herman Melville based his story on that of an actual whale. This explanation is from

The inspiration for Herman Melville's 1851 novel Moby Dick was based on a real albino sperm whale called Mocha Dick. During the growth of the whaling industry in the Americas in the mid 1800s, Mocha Dick gained a reputation of being one of the most feared whales in the ocean. Mocha Dick was reported to be docile if left alone, even swimming along ships. However, when provoked, the 70 foot (21.336 m) whale would become aggressive and attack ships with his body. During the 28 years that Mocha Dick hunted, he reportedly attacked 100 ships, 20 of which were completely destroyed.

Dancing With Light

screen shot
"Pixel" is an hour-long performance in which 11 dancers interact with digital projections. It was created by French performance artists Adrien Mondot and Claire Bardainne, whose goal, they say, is for "people to forget the border between real and virtual, material and imaginary worlds." They do this with the help of software they built "that allows us to manipulate graphic shapes as if they were real." What else would one expect from a computer scientist and juggler (Mondot) and a graphic and stage designer (Bardainne)? (story, video excerpts):