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A Well-Oiled Routine

We've all used it at one time or another. In fact, it probably ranks up there with duct tape as one of those things it's always good to have on hand. But how many of us know who invented WD-40 or even what the name means? Here, in this Q&A with WD-40 Co. CEO Gary Ridge, is a little bit of everything you've never thought about wanting to know about this oleaginous product. And just to tempt you, the name stands for "water displacement, 40th formula":

Mr. Tupper's Wares

Probably the best business partnerships are those between the one with the head in the clouds and the one with the feet solidly planted on the ground ~ if both can accept that drastic difference, appreciate each other's aptitudes, and tolerate each other over the long term. Witness the juicy, almost unbelievable story of Earl Tupper and Brownie Wise. Tupper had ideas, he had big dreams, and he had the genius it took to look at things in a new way. He started inventing things in his teens, but nothing took off. Then, in the 1940s, working at a plastics company, Tupper got hold of some polyethylene, and after much experimenting managed to come up with a kind of plastic that was moldable and didn't have the strong odor of polyethylene. With it, he created the tubs with locking lids we know as Tupperware. They were revolutionary and useful, and yet, they didn't take off until Tupper hooked up with a cleaning-supplies saleswoman named Brownie Wise. It was she who began introducing them to housewives at "Tupperware parties." Unfortunately, the partnership soured and Tupper sold the company, using the proceeds to buy himself an island in Costa Rica. And Wise?:
   For short histories and interesting trivia about various of the ingenious inventions that, while not all indispensable, have made our life a little bit easier ~ things like coffee filters, adhesive tape, umbrellas, bar codes, rubber bands, and chopsticks ~ check out It takes a while to load, but it's worth it.

In King Kong's Footsteps

according to one estimate, only 100,000 koalas remain                 Joel Sartore
If you happen to be within 20 blocks of the Empire State Building on the evening of August 1, look up. There, along the southern face of that iconic edifice, you'll see manta rays, snakes, elephants ~ a whole catalog of endangered species. It'll be the first time the building has been the canvas for moving images. The event is the brainchild of one Travis Threlkel and filmmaker and photographer Louie Psihoyos, who are referring to it as a "weapon of mass instruction." It all started four years ago, explains Psihoyos, as they were discussing extinction and trying to figure out “the most dramatic thing we could do to get the world to know about what we’re losing.” The point, says Threlkel, "is to create something beautiful. Not bum people out":

Four Founders Found

Of course you remember Jamestown from your U.S. history classes. Over the last years, we've learned more and more about that settlement and the people who lived there, for good or ill. And now we know a lot more. The remains of four of the founders ~ Sir Ferdinando Wainman, a nobleman; the Rev. Robert Hunt, a chaplain; Capt. Gabriel Archer, a soldier; and Capt. William West, an explorer (who was somehow related to Wainman) ~ were identified using a combination of chemical analyses, 3D imaging, genealogy, and the way they were buried. By studying the teeth, for example, archaeologists learned not only how old each individual was, but how long each had been in Jamestown prior to death. Once their identities were established, journals, letters, and other documents added details to round out the story of each life (story, video):
   To learn, or relearn, more about Jamestown, go to (story, links to more, video):

It's What You Think It Is

another interpretation                                                                 J.V. Mallow
How much do we influence what we see and experience, and how much does that influence our theories? Dr. Robert Lanza, who has done pioneering work in cloning and stem cell research, believes that we cannot come up with a "theory of everything" without taking human consciousness into account. In this, he is in accord with other thinkers, including University of Oxford mathematician and physicist Sir Roger Penrose. Lanza cites the famous double-slit experiment in which a particle behaves either like a single solid or a wave depending on whether it's being observed, and concludes, “Not a single particle out there exists with properties until it is observed.” Taking the concept further (and into the realm of the surreal), he posits that one explanation for our existence could be that it is we who create the parameters that make our life on Earth possible (story, video):

A Little Polonium With Your Tea?

Litvinenko                                                                                                         Alistair Fuller/AP
Investigators are pretty sure they now have the answer to how Russian former spy Alexander Litvinenko was killed in 2006. For months, everyone was flummoxed. He had entered a hospital in London complaining of severe pain after having had tea at a hotel. He showed all the signs of radiation poisoning, but Geiger counter tests came up negative. Then, a scientist who had worked on Britain's atom bomb program years ago, overheard colleagues discussing the results of his blood and urine tests, which showed an almost imperceptible spike in the trace. He recognized that spike as a characteristic of polonium-210. "Polonium is deadly—100%," says Professor Ian Shipsey. "If it's ingested in the body it destroys cells." It is also hard to detect, as it emits alpha, as opposed to gamma radiation, which is what Geiger counters recognize. Litvinenko died the day polonium-210 was confirmed as the source of his illness. Chillingly fascinating, yes ~ but the story doesn't end there (story, video):

Land Before Time

Doggerland recreated                                                                       National Geographic Channel

Like ashes the low cliffs crumble,
    The banks drop down into dust, 
The heights of the hills are made humble,
    As a reed's is the strength of their trust;
As a city's that armies environ,
    The strength of their stay is of sand:
But the grasp of the sea is as iron,
            Laid hard on the land. 

So writes the English poet and novelist Algernon Charles Swinburne (1837-1909) in By the North Sea. Could he have imagined what we now know, that the North Sea was once Doggerland, a bucolic and beautiful strip that connected the United Kingdom with the European mainland? Rife, apparently, with marshes, rivers, and lakes, Doggerland was a hunting and fishing paradise for the hunter-gatherers of the region. All that ended, however, with the end of the last ice age. Water from the melting glaciers slowly drowned the land, whose inhabitants, it is surmised, had already traveled to higher ground. The final insult was a mega-tsunami caused by a terrific undersea landslide:
   Swinburne's poem about the North Sea is long but evocative. There is a reason he was, in his time, considered by many to be the successor to Alfred, Lord Tennyson, and Robert Browning:

Art Ads Up

screen shot
What artist couldn't use a little good P.R., and what freeway motorist couldn't use a little gorgeous scenery every once in a while? (OK, so I'm not talking California, but Massachusetts freeways, which are mostly pretty enough already, but whatever ... ) Artist Brian Kane created a win-win with his temporary installation of beautiful photographs of nature on a rented digital billboard. The images change with the day and time of day, so commuters always have something to look forward to. Hey, come do that in L.A.! (story, photos, video):

Cuban Evolution

Elián at Union of Young Communists meeting, 2010                                                                   AP
Things change, and while the Cuba of the pre-revolution 1950s is no more, neither is that of the 1990s or early 2000s. "Since assuming power from his brother Fidel in 2006, Raul Castro has gently edged Cuba towards a more market-based economy. The partial liberalization of private enterprise, home ownership and foreign direct investment are all suggestive of an economy in transition," according to this article. But with U.S. companies salivating over the possibilities and the Carnival cruise line having just gotten U.S. permission to stop there, the question is how Cuba will manage this new phase of its economic evolution (story, videos):
   Remember Elián González, the little Cuban boy who landed in Florida after the boat carrying him, his mother, and others broke down? Elián's mother died, but he was rescued and taken to live with relatives in Miami, starting a tug of war between them and the boy's father back in Cuba. Eventually, he was sent back, and now, 15 years later, he's commenting on the turn in U.S.-Cuba relations. "The establishment of relations at the embassy level is a measure of the Cuban revolution throughout history," he said. "While they [Washington] continue to criticize our model ... it has been recognized they have a failed policy":

Mrs. Livingstone, I Presume?

the Livingstones
Behind every great man, etc., etc. This is the story of Mary Livingstone (née Moffat; 1821-1862), wife of the famed Scottish medical missionary and explorer Dr. David Livingstone. Mary married him when she was 24 and had six children, one of whom died in infancy. She accompanied her husband on some of his expeditions, crossing the Kalahari Desert twice and enduring all kinds of hardships. On one such foray, she suffered a stroke. Mary died in Africa, of malaria. By all accounts, she and her husband were extremely close and shared goals, adventures, and convictions. Yet, while he lies in Westminster Abbey, Mary is in a simple grave in Chupanga, Mozambique, that is not quite so easy to find:

Deal or No Deal?

It's a great, transformative deal and will save the world from certain destruction. It's the worst thing that has ever happened to the world and will lead directly to our certain annihilation. There's no denying that the Obama administration's nuclear deal with Iran is a major step, but in which direction? Whom to believe? This is one of the most objective and informative examinations of the issue I could find, and its points echo those of other analyses. The conclusion seems to be that both sides have legitimate points but that, in the end, it is a risk worth taking:
   Digging down a little deeper into politics and international relations, we will always find the major corporations and the money trail. This commentary touches on that reality. It came from a site by a group called "EA Worldview," whose editor (and the writer of this piece), Scott Lucas, according to the site, is a professional journalist and professor of International Politics at the University of Birmingham and was also once adjunct professor at Tehran University and a member of the Executive Board of the Center for American Studies and Research at American University Beirut:
   Anyone who wonders "what we get out of it" or who is skeptical of money being a driving force here might want to read this: and

Good Hair Days

Nasir Sobhani gives Chris a cut and a shave                                                               Sarah Matray
There's a guy in Australia who's paying it forward in a big way. A former drug addict, he's now an apprentice barber who gives free haircuts to the homeless in his hometown of Melbourne. What's more, he does it on his one day off a week. "A homeless person doesn't get the respect and attention needed," he says. "So letting them know that they are worthy of human interaction is actually the main purpose here." And a good makeover doesn't hurt, either (story, video, lots of photos, inc. before-and-afters!):

The Women Behind the Mockingbird

Tay Hohoff and friend
I once had the opportunity to speak with the editor of one of my all-time favorite children's books. It is, IMHO, a truly beautiful book, and it always brings me to tears. So imagine my surprise when the woman sighed and said that the manuscript that had first come across her desk only barely resembled the book I so love, and that it had taken two years of back-and-forth with the author and hard work on her part to get it into its final shape. It seems that the road to Harper Lee's opus was very similar. The editor of that classic was Tay Hohoff, and according to this article, it was she who guided the process that turned the narrator from a 26-year-old Jean Louise into the younger Scout, Atticus from, by all accounts, a bitter, racist man into the patient father and lawyer with the quiet courage to do the right thing, and Go Set a Watchman into To Kill a Mockingbird:
   Clarissa Atkinson was an assistant at J.P. Lippincott, which published Mockingbird, at the time of Lee and Hohoff and recalls those years in a blog. "Miss Hohoff not only stood up to the important suits in the office," she writes; "she had her own suits, some of them pin-striped. It’s not difficult for me to believe that her influence on Lee and on Mockingbird was substantial – more than that, if she was indeed responsible for the decision to tell the story we know in the voice of the nine-year old narrator":

Brave New Postcapitalist World

"As with the end of feudalism 500 years ago, capitalism’s replacement by postcapitalism will be accelerated by external shocks and shaped by the emergence of a new kind of human being. And it has started," writes English journalist and author Paul Mason. It's powered by, he says, three profound societal shifts. Information technology, according to Mason, "has reduced the need for work, blurred the edges between work and free time and loosened the relationship between work and wages. ... Second, information is corroding the market’s ability to form prices correctly. That is because markets are based on scarcity while information is abundant." And last, "we’re seeing the spontaneous rise of collaborative production: goods, services and organisations are appearing that no longer respond to the dictates of the market and the managerial hierarchy." As for "the emergence of a new kind of human being," while I, admittedly, am judging by only a limited and very specific population, I can vouch for their existence ~ and for their integrity and sincerity (story, video):

TED Talk

The old dictum is that one should never talk religion or politics in polite company, but I've been finding lately that fewer and fewer actually believe or follow that rule. Which I, personally, find refreshing. I mean, unless you're a farmer or a sailor, how interesting is tomorrow's weather after the first couple of comments? Yes, there are still those who get overly agitated by such topics or refuse to consider any opinion other than their own, and then it's better to change the subject ~ fast. But how do you do that and still engage in meaningful conversation (assuming that you can't sneak away)? Here's a little compendium of TED Talks that, together, answer that question (story, videos):

Books of Ages

Atwood, left, with Paterson in the Norwegian forest                                        Bjørvika Utviklingay
In a misty Norwegian forest last summer, a Scottish artist named Katie Paterson oversaw the birth of an ambitious 100-year project, Future Library. It began with the cutting down of trees, but fear not. Those trees will be used to build the library that will house the result of the project, and 1,000 new trees were planted in their place. For the next century, one author will submit a book manuscript each year (Margaret Atwood had the honor of being the first, to be followed, this year, by David Mitchell) that will eventually be printed on pages made from those 1,000 trees (story, video, link to audio version):

Time and Money

In some areas near my home, it now costs $2 to park for one hour. Almost everywhere, meter hours have lengthened from the traditional 9 a.m.-5 p.m. to 7 a.m.-8 p.m. or even 9 p.m. ~ or even, in some places, 24/7. There are also now electronic meters, with one per every so many spaces. With these, not only does one not get to take advantage of any time that might be left over from the previous car (or one's own car, for that matter), but one must find the machine, pay when the shortest option is often longer than one needs, and run back to the car to place the receipt on the dash. And it all started with lawyer (figures, don't it?) and publisher Carlton C. Magee (1872-1946) of Oklahoma City, who was smart enough to patent his innovation and charge cities for every one:

The Polaroid Project

4/28/79                                                             Jamie Livingston
This story resembles in many ways that of Finding Vivian Maier ( in that we follow, here in a 2008 Mental Floss article, the circuitous route by which a writer/blogger, Chris Higgins, discovers the identity of the man who took the photos posted on what was then an anonymous website. In a time long before Instagram or Facebook or even blogs, a college student named Jamie Livingston (1956-1997) started taking a Polaroid picture a day, images from his life. Unlike Maier's photographs, these are not particularly artistic or interesting in and of themselves, though they do get much better over time, perhaps as he becomes more invested in this as a long-term project. What makes each compelling is its role in the totality and in the chronicle of the last 18 years of a man's life (story, link to photos website, updates):

A Robotic Reception

"you rannng?"                                                                                                      IB Times ~ Japan
Japan has long been a leader in robotics, so it comes as no surprise that a hotel with mostly robotic staff has opened as part of an amusement park there. Beyond its obvious status as a tourist attraction, the Henn Na Hotel (the name means "Weird Hotel" but is also a play on words, as "hen" is part of the Japanese word for "change") is an attempt at lowering the cost of a hotel stay in a country known for high prices. Guests are greeted by a robot (a young woman for the Japanese, a dinosaur for the English-speakers, and what does that insinuate?!?), surrender their bags to a mechanical arm or automated cart, and gain entry to their room by facial recognition instead of card or key. There are still a few things, like security, that require the human touch, however. Another? "[Robots] still can't make beds," admits Hideo Sawada, who runs the hotel (story, video):

Just Because: 'The Swerve'

I came upon this book by Stephen Greenblatt just the other day, in a little canvas-covered A-frame at 7,800 feet up in the High Sierra. It was raining as we hiked the 11.5 miles in to Bearpaw Meadow, and it continued to rain that evening and the next afternoon. But the tent cabins were dry (if not warm ... ), as were the primitive kitchen and common room, with its covered porch overlooking the Western Divide. Perfect reading weather. We have been there before, and one of the first things I do on arriving is check out the camp library ~ three shelves of donated books, guestbooks, and guides to the local flora and fauna. Skipping the preface (and as the version I held didn't include the first pages of photographs), I didn't realize until I hit the first footnote that the book was about a person who actually existed. (Yes, I admit it: I'd never heard of Poggio Bracciolini.)  Of course, works of history being what they are, it's difficult if not impossible for an author to be completely objective and accurate even about generalities because, really, we weren't there (and even if we had been ...). Indeed, one review I read calls Swerve a polemic. Another states that it places too much blame on the Roman Catholic Church and too much importance on the works of Lucretius. Most, however, have nothing but praise for the book whose subtitle is How the World Became Modern.



IN THE WINTER OF 1417, Poggio Bracciolini rode through the wooded hills and valleys of southern Germany toward his distant destination, a monastery reputed to have a cache of old manuscripts. As must have been immediately apparent to the villagers looking out at him from the doors of their huts, the man was a stranger. Slight of build and clean-shaven, he would probably have been modestly dressed in a well-made but simple tunic and cloak. That he was not country-bred was clear, and yet he did not resemble any of the city and court dwellers whom the locals would have been accustomed to glimpse from time to time. Unarmed and unprotected by a clanging suit of armor, he was certainly not a Teutonic knight—one stout blow from a raw-boned yokel's club would have easily felled him. Though he did not seem to be poor, he had none of the familiar signs of wealth and status: he was not

And Now We Know

xkcd (of course!)
We came, we saw, we concocted ...

What's Motivating Mrs. Mugabe?

President Robert and Grace Mugabe
Zimbabwe's president, Robert Mugabe, is 91 years old. This makes him the oldest leader in the world. It also, especially in light of the fates of neighbors Muammar Gaddafi and Saddam Hussein, makes his 49-year-old wife more than a bit concerned about her own future. Her rise from village chicken-seller to first lady suggest that Grace Mugabe has both ambition and moxie. Her nicknames, ranging from "Lady of the Revelation" to "Gucci Grace," suggest that she is a complex character. And her latest moves have people suggesting that she may be eying her husband's job. So who, exactly, is Grace Mugabe? This is a fascinating profile of her, her husband, and the country:

Memories of Naked Men

Chris Osbum
You might have noticed that more than a couple of my posts have had to do with memory and the loss thereof, and there's a good reason for that. As the author of this article notes, "Ask anyone over the age of 40 what worries them most about growing older and the answer that comes back is almost always the fear of losing your memory." So the findings of this study about the best way to keep that from happening were nothing short of heartening ~ and yes, they have something to do with the title of this post:

The Unknown, Known

lymphatic vessel in blue, immune cells in red                  University of Virginia
You'd think, with all the studies and scans and experiments, we'd know everything there was to know about the brain, physically anyway. But no! This finding is amazing and could have profound effects on how we think of and treat neurological diseases ~ and it necessitates an updating of our anatomy books. A new technique allowing researchers to look at the entire meninges (or covering of the brain) showed that there are lymphatic vessels in the brain, something that had not been known. Immune cells move though the lymphatic system to fight infection and disease throughout the body, and now we know that they reach the brain, too (story, link to audio version):

Talking to Humans

screen shot from
I've posted a bit over the years about Brandon Stanton and his Humans of New York (HONY) website and books (, because they're just that superb (and p.s., the comments that follow his posts are equally profound and inspiring). Stanton and Dave Isay, founder of the app StoryCorps, are featured in a TED article on interviewing and storytelling. "I’ve learned there is nothing people won’t tell you if you ask in a compassionate and legitimately interested way,” he says:

That Other July Revolution

So, the Fourth of July has come and gone, and now it's time to remember another significant revolution, one that was inspired at least in part by ours. The July 14, 1789, storming of the Bastille prison in Paris to release the seven inmates held there at the time marked the beginning of the French Revolution. (In France, the day is known as le quatorze juillet ~ the Fourteenth of July ~ or la fête nationale ~ the national celebration.) A little over a month later, King Louis XVI (1754-1792), who was later executed, signed the Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen, which outlined the rights of all citizens regardless of their social position. The day became an official holiday in 1880 and, like our Fourth of July, is celebrated with parades and fireworks (website, including a link to live coverage of the fireworks):
   Interestingly, there is also a second quatorze juillet that is sometimes referenced on that date (, and it has more to do with peace than with conflict.
   Of course, the most famous novel about this period of French history has to be Charles Dickens's A Tale of Two Cities, and should you decide to tackle it (all 300-plus pages in the paperback edition) but don't have a copy on you, go to

Writing on the Wall

Oh, those Brits! Even their graffiti artists possess that rather dry sense of humor that we on this side have come to know and appreciate, as witness this exchange between one and those who would try to erase the signs of his presence (story, mostly in photos):

Just Because: 'Dune'

Dune is considered by many to be the best science fiction novel ever written. True or not, the fact is that this book written 50 years ago continues to have a huge cult following. It also continues to have relevance ~ maybe especially now, in dry California, in a time of world instability and change. Even I, who is admittedly not a fan of the genre, enjoyed it (when reading it together with my son many years ago) enough to consider re-reading it, something I rarely do. Our dog at the time, officially named Eddy, became to me, forever after, Muad'Dib.
   The story of the man who wrote this book, Frank Herbert (1920-1986) ~ and how he came to write it ~ is as interesting as the book itself. He was, as one might imagine, a Renaissance man. (He once described himself as a "technopeasant.") And, as happens often with the brainchildren of free- and forward-thinkers, his novel was not an immediate success. It was rejected by almost two dozen publishers before it finally found a home, with a publisher of hobby and trade magazines (story, video):

Book One

    A beginning is the time for taking the most delicate care that the balances are correct. This every sister of the Bene Gesserit knows. To begin your study of the life of Muad'Dib, then, take care that you first place him in his time: born in the 57th year of the Padishah Emperor, Shaddam IV. and take the most special care that you locate Muad'Dib in his place: the planet Arrakis. Do not be deceived by the fact that he was born on Caladan and lived his first fifteen years there. Arrakis, the planet known as Dune, is forever his place.
—from "Manual of Muad'Dib" by the Princess Irulan

   In the week before their departure to Arrakis, when all the final scurrying about had reached a nearly unbearable frenzy, an old crone came to visit the mother of the boy, Paul.
   It was a warm night at Castle Caladan, and the ancient pile of stone that had served the Atreides family as home for twenty-six generations bore that cooled-sweat feeling it acquired before a change in the weather.
   The old woman was let in by the side door down the vaulted passage by Paul's room and she was allowed a moment to peer in at him where he lay in his bed.
   By the half-light of a suspensor lamp, dimmed and hanging hear the floor, the awakened boy could see a bulky female shape at his door, standing one step ahead of his mother. The old woman was a witch shadow—hair like matted spiderwebs, hooded 'round darkness of features, eyes like glittering jewels.
   "Is he not small for his age, Jessica?" the old woman asked. Her voice wheezed and twanged like an untuned baliset.
   Paul's mother answered in her soft contralto: "The Atreides are known to start late getting their growth, Your Reverence."
   "So I've heard, so I've heard," wheezed the old woman. "Yet he's already fifteen."
   "Yes, Your Reverence."
   "He's awake and listening to us," said the old woman. "Sly little rascal." She chuckled. "But royalty has need of slyness. And if he's really the Kwisatz Haderach ... well. ... "
   Within the shadows of his bed, Paul held his eyes open to mere slits. Two bird-bright ovals—the eyes of the old woman—seemed to expand and glow as they stared into his.

The Brain Germane

Patricia Marx
OK, I'll admit this is not "interesting" as much as it is amusing. So sue me. (No, really, don't.) The thing is, probably anyone younger than a certain age won't particularly enjoy this little treatise. For everyone else, it's (very) dark humor ~ kind of scary, but I figure, if we have the brain cells to understand and laugh at it, things can't be all that bad for us yet. And the part about the number of years of education predicting how quick the downhill slide is once it starts? I'm just thankful I was so prescient in deciding to stop after my master's. And now, I'll finally open up the puzzle book a friend gave me for my last birthday ~ if I can remember where I put it. (She said it was because she knows I like this kind of thing ... ):

Such a Curious Dream

It was 150 years ago this week that Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland was published. We all know of and have probably seen at least some of the seemingly limitless movies (animated and not), musicals, various editions, and merchandise (remember Tom Petty's video for "Don't Come Around Here No More"?: It's also pretty much common knowledge that Carroll (né Charles Lutwidge Dodgson), a mathematically gifted but shy young man with a stammer and delicate health, wrote his classic and its sequel, Through the Looking Glass, for one Alice Liddell, the daughter of the dean of Christ Church College, Oxford, where Carroll was sub-librarian:
   As with so many books, especially children's books, like Winnie-the-Pooh, for example, a great part of the success is due to superior illustrations, and when we think of Alice, we usually visualize her as she was originally drawn. Alice was illustrated by John Tenniel, whose drawings on paper were carved into woodblocks that were then made into electrotype, or metal, copies. The color plates in the 1911 edition were by Harry G. Theaker (Macmillan website with history, piece by Alice's great-granddaughter, great factoids, timeline, video):
   The poems we know best, Jabberwocky and The Walrus and the Carpenter, are both from Looking Glass. That book ends with another poem, with which we're less familiar but that is, while not as whimsical, lovely in its own right:

A boat beneath a sunny sky,
Lingering onward dreamily
In an evening of July—

Football Players and Fire Fighters

Raymond Avenue, back in the day
Looking for something appropriate for the Fourth, I was perusing some iconic photographs representing our country, both the good and the bad over the decades, when I came across an essay I wrote my freshman year of college, probably in answer to some assignment. It occurred to me that what I had written all those years ago is as much a nod to "grass-roots America" as some of the photos (not, of course, that I'm in any way comparing the quality). It is also, as much as anything, a snapshot (if you will) of a place in time ~ of a place and time ~ and an unwitting account of change and the vagaries of generational tastes and mores.

   If you were to make a right turn at the Juliet Theatre, the one featuring Cops and Robbers and announcing the coming of the sensational Jesus Christ, Superstar, and walk past a few small stores, including Gladmore, "Your Clothes' Best Friend" ("What one little Indian can do, dry cleaning can undo"), and Rose Marie's Boutique, and if you were very, very hungry indeed, you would stop under the sign indicating the humble home of the College Drug and Luncheonette, at 48 Raymond Ave.
   We have all been told that it's not right to judge a thing by its exterior. If you remembered this, you would walk past the various cardboard posters in the window proclaiming Sealtest ice cream to be the best, the piece of gray cardboard on which someone had scribbled with a failing pen "Sorry, No Bare Feet," and the two or three athletic awards on display, to open the frail screen door. You wonder vaguely whether it will fall off as its hinges squeak irritatingly. Straight ahead of you, taped onto the cigarette machine only a few steps away, is a friendly reminder from the local AMEN (Americans Mobilized to End Narcotic Abuse) chapter.
   There are not many people sitting at the wood, high-backed booths, but there are three or four old men at the bar skimming the Sports section of the Daily News. Two waitresses hover over them. One is very young, the other is older and tired-looking. You walk over to the juke box, which doesn't seem very well used. It contains hits by such groups as The Four Seasons, Percy Faith and Orchestra, Spanky and Our Gang, and Morton Gould and Orchestra. Over each booth is a framed, yellowing cartoon signed "Gary." One of them depicts a young woman, presumably from the nearby Vassar College, facing a muscular young man with a crew cut and a letter on his bulky sweater. The printed caption reads, "But I thought you were coming tomorrow." There are also many posed pictures of football players. They are autographed and dedicated in flowing, illegible script.

   Johnny Klein has owned the College Drug and Luncheonette, better known to its employees as "The Drug," since July of 1947, two years after he moved to Poughkeepsie. "My wife is the real boss," he jokes as he slaps a grilled cheese sandwich together. Hanging over the opening of his shirt pocket is a piece of plastic on which are clipped two Bic pens. The piece of plastic has something written on it,

Smelling Like a Rose

Rose Garden, Exposition Park                                    KW
A couple of weeks ago, a friend and I found ourselves strolling through the Rose Garden of L.A.'s Exposition Park. The garden was established in 1927 with the planting of 15,000 bushes. There are more than that now, of every color and hue one imagines roses to bear. What most of them don't have, however, is a scent. It's disconcerting, really. We must have bent over dozens of them, and of those, only a couple gave off any kind of rose-like aroma. As one might expect, this is largely the result of our breeding them for color and shape. Something had to give, and it was the smell. Well, scientists have figured out how they might breed that smell back, and it has to do with a little enzyme that goes by the romantic name RhNUDX1:

It's an Idea

This year's Aspen Ideas Festival (June 28-July 4) is almost over, but you can still hear and watch some of the talks. No one can accuse the presenters of shying away from the hard topics ~ this year's theme is "Smart Solutions to the World's Toughest Challenges." There were sessions on North Korea, impact investing, urban innovators, Greece, race and policing, the environment, the Middle East, the aging brain, terrorism, mindfulness, prison reform, data ethics, nanotechnology, religious racism, coding, the Constitution, empathy, the politics of inequality, the fourth world, functional robotics, and the universe. For example. The speakers were too many for me to even attempt a representative list (website):
   As the festival is co-hosted by the Aspen Institute and The Atlantic, the magazine is carrying reports from the field:

Private Photos, Public Picture

"Time-Lapse Mining from Internet Photos"               photo credit: Nadav Tobias
We all know by now that what we do in Vegas ~ or anywhere else ~ rarely stays in Vegas ~ or anywhere else. Take vacation pictures. Google and University of Washington researchers have created a program that combines photos of the same places into time-lapse videos. They used shots uploaded to public sites, sorted them by place tags and time stamps, removed the people, and manipulated them so that they show more or less the same perspective. The result tracks, for example, a glacier as it retreats or a skyscraper as it's built. Scientists elsewhere are using more or less the same technology to examine human behavior (story, video):

In the Time of Humans

According to an email I received, there will be an interesting-sounding website joining the www pantheon on July 8, just in time for the 26th anniversary of World Population Day on July 11. "This interactive site," the email reads, "will explore how key historical milestones affected the global population, demographic trends and projections." It is being created by Population Connection, a group whose former name, Zero Population Growth, better described its bent. If, however, the site is objective and factual, which one hopes it will be, it could be a fascinating overview of life in the time of humans:
   Can't wait until the 8th? Here are a couple of sites that have brief summaries of humankind's greatest hits. There have been three major population explosions, and all came at very obvious and understandable times ~ the beginning of agriculture and settled communities; the Industrial Revolution; and the advent of health care improvement (diet, sanitation, medicine) (story, video): and (story, link to interactive map):