Thursday, January 31, 2013

Notable Quotes

A periodic posting of some notable quotes:

1. If the sky falls, hold up your hands.

~ Spanish Proverb

2. One is not idle because one is absorbed. There is both visible and invisible labor. To contemplate is to toil, to think is to do. The crossed arms work, the clasped hands act. The eyes upturned to Heaven are an act of creation.

~ Victor Hugo (1802-1885, French poet, dramatist, novelist)

3. Fame is a pearl many dive for and only a few bring up. Even when they do, it is not perfect, and they sigh for more, and lose better things in struggling for them.

~ Louisa May Alcott (1832-1888, American author)

4. Nobody realizes that some people expend tremendous energy merely to be normal.

~ Albert Camus (1913-1960, French existential writer)

5. I cannot divine how it happens that the man who knows the least is the most argumentative.

~Giovani della Casa (1503-1556, Papal secretary of state)

6. The first and the best victory is to conquer self.

~ Plato (BC 427?-347?, Greek philosopher)

7. It takes courage to lead a life. Any life.

~ Erica Jong (1942-, American author)

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Ambiverts - the Happy (and Successful) Middle

Although the concept of ambiversion has been around for some time, it has gotten a closer look with new research conducted by Adam Grant, a professor at Wharton School of Management. His work entitled, "Rethinking the Extraverted Sales Ideal: The Ambivert Advantage" will be published soon in Psychological Science. To get the gist of the study, read Daniel Pink's recent article in the WP where he examines Adam's study which upends the conventional thinking on successful personality types. Most people believe that extroverts make the best leaders and introverts the worst. While it's true that introverts are not very successful salespeople or leaders, it turns out that extroverts aren't much better either! Rather, people who are somewhere in between, the ambiverts, are actually the most successful. Ambiverts are better at reading people and have better judgement in knowing when to speak up and when to keep their own counsel. Pink states, "They’re not quiet, but they’re not loud. They know how to assert themselves, but they’re not pushy." Pink himself is a well-known author and journalist and has written about the changing workplace, so his WP article on Adam's research falls into his area of expertise. It turns out that most people do fall in the ambivert category, which is a happy state of affairs for most of us!

Sunday, January 27, 2013

National Geographic Society's 125th Anniversary

Cover of January 1915 National Geographic Magazine
Cover of January, 1915
National Geographic Magazine
public domain Wikimedia Commons
Founded January 27, 1888, this iconic organization helped to literally globalize our view of the world. No one alive today has been untouched by their scientific and educational efforts throughout the world.  I remember as a grade schooler watching NGS documentaries about Jacques Cousteaus' undersea explorations and thinking I could do that  someday. Their ubiquitous yellow bordered monthly magazine graced many a coffee table, though that's becoming scarcer as print vanishes. Happily, their online and television presence continues to grow, expanding their outreach into newer frontiers.  Interestingly, no one quite knows what to do with their collections of NGS magazines cluttering basements; at some point, these will become valuable to collectors. Still, their motto, "Inspiring people to care about the planet" continues to define their mission. Happy Birthday, NGS! Thanks for giving the world a larger window into our home planet and beyond.

1. NGS celebrates its 125th.
2. NPR asks explorers to reflect on NGS' 125th.
3. WP gallery of NGS highlights.
4. Guardian's photo highlights of NGS.
5. NGS FB page with history and accolades.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Frigid Arctic Air Encases Us in its Wintry Mantle

Ye gods! Talk about the Big Chill. As anyone who lives on the east coast or mid-west knows  all too well, we've had a run of bitterly cold sub-zero days the past week. All one can do is hunker down under multiple layers and wait for the Big Thaw. It's so cold, even the internet feels freezingly slow!  Watch the LiveScience video below to see the daily progress of the arctic air as it plunges a good chunk of the country under its wintry mantle.

Friday, January 25, 2013

75th Birth Anniversary of Etta James

A powerful and legendary voice that can never be stilled, even with her passing last year. She led a complicated, sometimes painful, but musically rewarding life.  She was a major influence on several modern singers including Jennifer Hudson, Adele, and Beyonce. A couple of nice tributes were published recently in her honor from Huffpost and LA Times.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

The First Presidential Library to Hire a “Wikipedian in Residence”

Bouncy Wiki logo By Wikimedia Foundation
Bouncy Wiki logo By Wikimedia Foundation
The Chronicle of Higher Education reports that the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library at the University of Michigan is the first  presidential library in the United States to employ a “Wikipedian in residence” on its staff. What a change from recent years when Wikipedia was often decried as an unreliable and non-authoritative information source. Of course, it can still be unreliable and non-authoritative, but with an increased level of community oversight, it's rapidly becoming an indispensable research tool. I realized a few years ago that Wikipedia was at a turning point when I read a New York Times article that reported that courts had cited Wikipedia in making cases. With time and even better oversight, Wikipedia can only get better.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013


1.  BBC - Z isn't what it used to be.
2.  NYT - Logging a life - the last calendar.
3.  NYT - The Incredible Journey redux.
4.  NYT - Rapturous research.
5.  Slate - Polaroid Fotobars print out social media photos.
6.  Discovery - Flexible Papertab to redefine tablets.
7.  USNews - Best overall diets.
8.  WP - Maryland v. Virginia - funny rivals.
9.  WP - 10 words you should use more in 2013.
10. WP - Learning to love cereal helped dogs evolve.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

"Mad, Bad, and Dangerous to Know"

Lord Byron
George Gordon Byron, 6th Baron Byron
by Richard Westall - Wikimedia Commons
It's the 225th birth anniversary of George Gordon Noel Byron, 6th Baron Byron, otherwise known simply as Lord Byron. He is considered one of the leading poets of the Romantic Movement and personified the era with his flamboyance and notorious behavior. Today he is often described as the original rock star. The description of Lord Byron as, "mad, bad, and dangerous to know" comes from Lady Caroline Lamb, one of his paramours, upon their initial meeting. A number of websites explore his poetry, as well as his legendary life - see links below.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Martin Luther King, Jr Day

Martin Luther King Jr
Martin Luther King, Jr with medallion
photo by Phil Stanziola, NYWT&S
Library of Congress Collection
List of Little Known Facts about MLK (various sources)*:

1. In 1934, five years after his birth, his family discovered Martin's name had been recorded wrong on his birth certificate. The certificate said Michael King, so his name had to be legally changed to Martin Luther King Jr.
2. In 1939, Martin sang with his church choir in Atlanta at the gala premiere of the movie Gone With The Wind.
3. He skipped the 9th and 12th grades in school and entered Moorehouse College at age 15.
4. He had Bachelor degrees in sociology and theology. In 1955 he received his PH. D. from Boston University.
5. From 1957 until his death in 1968, he traveled more than 6 million miles. He gave over 2500 speeches during his travels. He also wrote 5 books and had published countless numbers of articles in newspapers and magazines.
6. In 1964, at age 35, he was the youngest person to receive the Nobel Peace Prize.
7. According to a Gallup poll, King is the second most admired person in the 20th century.
8. In a contest sponsored by the Discovery Channel, he was voted the 3rd Greatest American of all time.
9. Presently there are 900+ U.S. cities that have streets named after King.
10. King is 1 of 10 20th century world martyrs who has a statue at Westminster Abbey.
11. Martin Luther King Jr. was a Trekkie - King watched the show with his family and even convinced actress Nichelle “Lt. Uhura” Nichols to stay on the show. The gifted orator reportedly told her: "You are part of history, and it’s your responsibility, even though it wasn’t your career choice."
12. Martin Luther King’s  “traveling bible” was used to swear in President Obama at his second inauguration.
13. He spent his wedding night in a funeral home - when MLK Jr. married Coretta Scott in 1953, the newlyweds were not allowed to spend their honeymoon in a white-owned hotel, so the couple spent their wedding night at a black funeral home.
14. His favorite pie was pecan - The American icon's favorite foods were fried chicken and pecan pie.
15. 'I Have A Dream' was largely improvised -  according to his autobiography, King's famed "I Have A Dream" speech was largely improvised.
16. He had the heart of a 60-year-old when he died - although King was only 39 when he was assassinated, his autopsy revealed he had the heart of a 60 year old. The doctor believed this was a result of heavy stress.
17. Martin Luther King, Jr Day was not recognized as a national holiday by all fifty states until 2000.
18. The U2 song Pride (in the Name of Love) was written about Martin Luther King, Jr.
19. He was the first African American to be named Time Man of the Year (1964).
20. The Martin Luther King Memorial  on the National Mall is the first to honor a non-president.

* Huffington Post
  London School of Economics
  Holiday Inn Blog

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Earth to Moon: Why is She Smiling?

NASA reports that they have successfully communicated via laser with a satellite orbiting the moon, their Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO). The video above explains the process clearly and comprehensibly. They state in their press release:

" As part of the first demonstration of laser communication with a satellite at the moon, scientists with NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) beamed an image of the Mona Lisa to the spacecraft from Earth."The iconic image traveled nearly 240,000 miles in digital form from the Next Generation Satellite Laser Ranging (NGSLR) station at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., to the Lunar Orbiter Laser Altimeter (LOLA) instrument on the spacecraft. By transmitting the image piggyback on laser pulses that are routinely sent to track LOLA's position, the team achieved simultaneous laser communication and tracking."This is the first time anyone has achieved one-way laser communication at planetary distances," says LOLA's principal investigator, David Smith of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. "In the near future, this type of simple laser communication might serve as a backup for the radio communication that satellites use. In the more distant future, it may allow communication at higher data rates than present radio links can provide.""

Friday, January 18, 2013

Danny Kaye's 100th Birth Anniversary

Kaye singing the Ugly Duckling
I will forever associate Danny Kaye with Hans Christian Andersen, which may be unfair to Kaye's legacy since his talents shone in other great films as well. But his performance in Hans Christian Andersen was so charming and captivating that it's the first thing I think of when Danny Kaye is mentioned. Even though the movie is not billed as an accurate biopic of Anderson, Kaye brought the fanciful imagining to life and provoked continuing interest in Andersen's fairy tales. Kaye is also well-remembered for his portrayal as Phil Davis in White Christmas, which is a favorite holiday film among many. Kaye had a very endearingly eccentric and goofy nature that sparked life into his films as showcased in the film clips below. He was also known as the UN's first ambassador-at-large and made signifcant contributions to its humanitarian efforts.
Inchworm (Hans Christian Andersen)
Copenhagen (Hans Christian Andersen)
Court Jester (famously hilarious routine)
White Christmas (creative dance routine) 

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Finally Got That Empty Middle Seat!

Airplane cabin Wikimedia Commons
Airplane cabin - Wikimedia Commons
On a recent SWA flight from Dallas, I was pleasantly surprised to have an Empty Middle Seat (EMS) next to me. These days, flights tend to be full, so I had the pleasure of experiencing a few hours of extra leg and elbow room! There's an entire WikiHow webpage on maximizing one's chances of acquiring an EMS on a SWA flight. The odds are higher of this happening on SWA since there are no seating assignments, just the general A, B, and C boarding sequence. Nothing to scoff at since flying today can be quite onerous, so thank goodness for small blessings. And which brings it all back to the inaugural post of this blog!

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Snake Plant Blooms

I've never before seen flowers on a Snake Plant (Sansevieria trifasciata) until mine bloomed recently for the first time in its existence (over ten years!). Never even knew what they looked like until my plant surprised me with a couple of stalks of buds which took several days to actually open. Naturally, looked it up on the web and found that many people have posted photos of their Snake Plant flowers, so it's not that uncommon. I guess mine is just literally a late bloomer! (Click images to enlarge.)

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Read to Your Dogs!

Siblings reading to their dogs
Siblings reading to their dogs - photo by theLibraryLander family
Libraries and other organizations are increasingly using therapy dogs (or just very calm, patient regular dogs) in programs to encourage children to read. Children are happy to read to dogs because of their non-judgmental and non-critical natures. Dogs often have a calm disposition which children find encouraging and allows them to readily open books and begin reading to them. A number of libraries have posted videos of children reading to dogs. Interestingly, there are even some read to cats programs, notably one sponsored by the Austin, TX ASPCA! A cat, while being calm, may not be as engaging as a dog, but still any creature willing to encourage children to read is doing a great service!

Monday, January 14, 2013

First Bookless Library to Open in San Antonio, TX

Artists conception of Bexar Countys digital only BiblioTech library Bexar County Commissioners Court
Artist's conception of Bexar County's digital-only BiblioTech library (Bexar County Commissioners Court)
We've all wondered when this day would come...

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Oren Lavie / Her Morning Elegance

Friend of mine just shared this video which neither of us had seen before - made me wonder how did we miss this really interesting stop motion film? The video was nominated for a Grammy in 2009 for "Best Short Form Music Video."  After watching it, it made me think the actress in it must have gotten a terrific workout!

Saturday, January 12, 2013

A Mega-Galaxy - Bigger Than Any Other Known So Far

NASA GALEX Reveals the Largest-Known Spiral Galaxy
NASA's GALEX Reveals the Largest-Known Spiral Galaxy - Press release states, "This composite of the giant barred spiral galaxy NGC 6872 combines visible light images from the European Southern Observatory's Very Large Telescope with far-ultraviolet (1,528 angstroms) data from NASA's GALEX and 3.6-micron infrared data acquired by NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope. A previously unsuspected tidal dwarf galaxy candidate (circled) appears only in the ultraviolet, indicating the presence of many hot young stars."

It's always been known to be a huge galaxy, but recently NASA determined that, "Measuring tip-to-tip across its two outsized spiral arms, NGC 6872 spans more than 522,000 light-years, making it more than five times the size of our Milky Way galaxy." That makes it the largest known spiral galaxy to date.

Life Would Be Easier if I Had the...

Best quote of the day.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Digital Globe

Very neat idea - a large spherical digital screen which can display all manner of geographical images and data, either projected internally or externally. In a recent article, the NYT described the technology as well as the uses of these digital globes. Right now, these are available only at an institutional level, but when prices drop eventually, they'll make appealing and educational coffee table artifacts!

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Kid Art

Kid Art 2 - simplicity

Kid Art 1 - extravaganza

The extravagance and simplicity of children's art - here are works by my young nieces which reflect their nature and current moods. There is nothing purer than children's art.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013


1. Dr. Weil - Earthing - what on earth?!
2. WP - Looking for Yarrow Mamout.
3. IBD - Edwin Hubble's place in the stars.
4. Yahoo - Srinivasa Ramanujan's math secrets uncovered.
5. NYT - Best books for young readers.
6. NYT - Diary of a creep (interesting self-analysis by a journalist).
7. NYT - Saying good-bye to the dying.
8. NYT - The whole nine yards (where did that come from?).
9. WP - LOC's stash of every public Tweet.
10. Slate - Billions of Earth-type planets abound in the galaxy (we'd better organize the United Federation of Planets quick!).

Monday, January 7, 2013

APOD River

Apollo 8 photo of Earthrise from the Moon
Apollo 8 photo of Earthrise from the Moon
NASA's Google+ page describes APOD River as a photo stream of "images that might not have made it to the front page of Astronomy Picture of the Day(APOD)." Nice way to view these images by just scrolling through them.

A Photo for Each Day of the Year 2012

And since 2012 was a leap year, there are 366 photos selected by Time Magazine to illustrate the eventful year. The final picture chosen for the year was Hubble's stunning view of barred spiral galaxy NGC 1097, shown below.

Barred spiral galaxy NGC 1097
Barred spiral galaxy NGC 1097 - ESA/Hubble & NASA

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Life of Pi

Life of Pi
Life of Pi - movie poster

Finally saw Life of Pi in 3D and enjoyed it immensely. Having read the book sometime ago, I was aware of the story and its astonishing conclusion, so the movie didn't quite blow me away in the same manner as the book. However, it was a rather faithful adaptation and I'd read that the author, Yann Martel, was fairly happy with Ang Lee's rendition. When I read the book, the ending left me with a profound sense of loss, as though the rug had been pulled out from under me. It made me ponder why I believe what I do and if maybe all of us need to create elaborate mental and emotional constructs to help us get through life. It may be religious, it may be spiritual, or simply what we think is rational. We have a choice, but we don't often realize it. Whatever helps us cope is what we rely on and that's often the best we can manage, for better or worse.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Unusual and Creative Photomontage

Photomontage by Mmxx
This photomontage was made by Mmxx, using photographs by other authors whose names mentioned on the Wikimedia image info page.