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  1. Fact of the Day - PRESIDENTS & FOOD Did you know... With great power comes great responsibility — and, in the case of the U.S. President, a slew of great perks, too. Among them? An executive chef at the White House whose job it is to cater to the President’s every craving and culinary whim. Richard Nixon, for one, was known to eat cottage cheese topped with ketchup, while Ronald and Nancy Reagan reportedly treated guests to persimmon pudding. Of course, presidential preferences are as much a reflection of an era as they are a product of the commander in chief’s individual appetite. Some foods, like chicken and ice cream, have been staples of the White House kitchen for two centuries, while others — such as turtle, squirrel, and opossum — have been mostly relegated to history. Here are some of the favorite foods of U.S. Presidents. 1. Hoecakes The very first U.S. President, George Washington, favored a staple of his home state, Virginia: hoecakes, a type of flat griddle cake made from cornmeal. The dish originated with Indigenous peoples in North America but quickly grew in popularity among both colonists and enslaved communities. In fact, some accounts claim hoecakes got their name because enslaved folks would cook them on the blade of a gardening hoe over an open fire. Historian Rod Cofield notes, however, that “hoe” also referred to a kind of cooking equipment at the time, which is the more likely source of the name. In any case, hoecakes were common throughout colonial America and were particularly beloved in Virginia; writer and diplomat Joel Barlow even described them as “fair Virginia’s pride” in his 18th-century poem “The Hasty-Pudding.” Washington, for his part, liked his hoecakes with butter and honey, and was known to eat them for breakfast with a cup of tea. His step-granddaughter Nelly Parke Custis provided a recipe in a letter: “Add as much lukewarm water as will make it like pancake batter, drop it a spoonful at a time on a hoe or griddle (as we say in the South). When done on one side, turn the other — the griddle must be rubbed … with a piece of beef suet.” Cornmeal was a key ingredient in other presidential favorite foods, too. James Monroe, another President from Virginia, enjoyed spoon bread, a cornmeal souffle made with milk, butter, and eggs. Abraham Lincoln, born in Kentucky, once said, “I can eat corn cakes as fast as two women can make them.” And Rutherford B. Hayes, who came from Ohio, liked corn in many forms; his wife’s recipes included corn fritters, corn bread, and corn soup. 2. Rice Pudding When Ulysses S. Grant became President after leading the Union to victory in the Civil War, his wife, Julia Grant, sought to increase the visibility and prestige of the role of the First Lady. She organized and hosted both informal receptions and formal events, including the first-ever state dinner for a foreign head of state, a lavish feast of more than 20 courses in honor of Hawaii’s King David Kalakaua on December 22, 1874. Julia became known for opulent dinners and gatherings such as that one, and even replaced the Army cook her husband had hired with an Italian chef. Grant himself liked simplicity, though. No fancy dessert pleased him so much as rice pudding. One contemporaneous source wrote that the rice pudding served in the Grant White House was “such a pudding as would make our grandmothers clap their hands with joy.” 3. Ice Cream Thomas Jefferson is often credited with helping to popularize ice cream in the United States. He likely encountered the frozen treat when he lived in France in the 1780s, and when he returned to the U.S., he brought with him a handwritten recipe and four ice molds. The dessert became a regular part of his menu and was served on at least six occasions to guests at the President’s House, often inside pastries. One visitor described the dish as “balls of the frozen material enclosed in covers of warm pastry, exhibiting a curious contrast, as if the ice had just been taken from the oven.” Jefferson’s cook, Honore Julien, later opened a catering and confectionery business that advertised ice cream, and recipes increasingly appeared in American cookbooks in the early 19th century. 4. Squirrel Soup You won’t find squirrel on many American menus today, but it was a popular option as recently as the mid-20th century, especially among people who grew up hunting. (Instructions for preparing the animal even appeared in Irma S. Rombauer’s Joy of Cooking until 1996.) James Garfield, for one, loved squirrel soup — a recipe for which appears in The Original White House Cook Book, published in 1887. (It begins: “Wash and quarter three or four good sized squirrels; put them on, with a small tablespoonful of salt, directly after breakfast, in a gallon of cold water…”) According to an old exhibit at the White House Visitor Center, Garfield’s doctors even suggested that the soup might “revive his appetite” after he was shot in 1881. 5. Opossum William Howard Taft, a great gourmand, loved many foods, but steak most of all, according to White House housekeeper Elizabeth Jaffray. He reportedly ate steak for breakfast — he hated eggs — but he also had a taste for opossum, which he may have served alongside turkey at Thanksgiving. On a visit to Atlanta soon after he was elected, he attended a large dinner in his honor, for which he requested a meal of “possum and ‘taters” — specifically, baked possum with baked sweet potatoes. Describing the feast, the Topeka State Journal wrote, “…there came a waiter who fairly staggered under the weight of the choicest ‘possum of the very choice one hundred, dressed whole and properly garnished with rich golden Georgia yams, and followed by another waiter with a flagon of persimmon beer.” 6. Turtle Soup More than one President considered turtle to be a special, celebratory meal. In fact, turtle soup inspired the founding of a dining group, the Hoboken Turtle Club, which counted John Adams and George Washington among its members and served turtle soup with boiled eggs and brandy. Legend has it that Adams even ate turtle soup for dinner on July 4, 1776, a date we still honor today as Independence Day. Abraham Lincoln similarly celebrated his second presidential inauguration in 1865 with turtle stew, and ate mock turtle soup — typically made with a calf’s head, a much cheaper protein — at his first inauguration in 1861. (Mock turtle soup inspired the Mock Turtle character in Alice in Wonderland, which had the shell and flippers of a turtle and the face of a calf.) The turtle-eating trend accelerated from there. Between the mid-1800s and 1920s, Americans turned a sea turtle called the diamondback terrapin into a delicacy akin to the best lobster today. Rich soups made with cream, butter, and sherry or Madeira wine showed up on the menus at expensive restaurants, and Heinz and Campbell’s jumped in with their own (considerably more affordable) canned versions. As a result, diamondback terrapins dwindled to near-extinction, until Prohibition and the Great Depression reduced the demand for such luxuries. Source: Foods Loved by U.S. Presidents
  2. What's the Word: CUPREOUS pronunciation: [KYOO-pree-əs] Part of speech: adjective Origin: Latin, 17th century Meaning: 1. Made of copper. Example: "The Moscow mule is a mixed drink traditionally served in a cupreous cup." "Our DIY cupreous kitchen counter is made of thousands of pennies held in place with resin." About Cupreous “Cupreous” comes from Latin, in which “cūpreus” means “copper.” Did you Know? Very few metals appear in what’s called their native form — they don’t come out of the earth as recognizable metals. This is not true of copper, however; native copper has been used by human civilizations for thousands of years, mostly to make tools. Elemental copper also appears in a wide variety of nutrient-rich foods, such as shellfish, whole grains, and organ meats. These cupreous foods help the body absorb iron and generate blood cells, and also help with energy production.
  3. Fact of the Day - CREATIVELY ALTERED TV SHOWS Did you know... On March 7, 1988, the longest strike in the history of the Writers Guild of America began, and lasted a full 155 days, affecting everything from MacGyver to Tim Burton's Batman. Writers strikes have a major impact on TV and film production, as the most recent strike—which began on May 2, 2023—has made clear. Depending on the strike’s length, dozens of film and TV projects can be suspended, delayed, or even canceled, and rebounding when a strike is over isn’t exactly easy, either. (Many people have cited the 1988 strike as part of the reason for the cancellations of both Moonlighting and Kate & Allie.) Numerous TV series have had to return from strike to a kind of creative reboot, from rewriting single episodes to devising entirely new finales. Here are eight of them. 1. Breaking Bad An enduring legend about Breaking Bad sprung up around the 2007–08 Writers Guild of America strike. According to that version of events, Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul) was originally set to be killed off by the show’s writers, but when the strike occurred and forced the show to cut its first season from nine to seven episodes, some hard thinking about the show’s structure led to the decision to keep Pinkman around. It turns out that’s only partially true, as creator Vince Gilligan has since noted that he had decided not to let Paul go by the second episode of the show. The strike did fundamentally alter the show’s overall plot progression, though. Those final two episodes in season 1 would have originally given us two fast-paced hours in which Walter White (Bryan Cranston) would have very quickly become the drug kingpin known as Heisenberg. With the strike standing in the way of that, Gilligan and company threw those episodes out and took a more careful approach to bringing out Heisenberg. That meant a slower pace, but an awesome three-episode arc to kick off the second season. 2. Star Trek: The Next Generation The 1988 Writers Guild of America strike was the longest in the organization’s history, and its long run cut into the production of a number of series, among them the second season of Star Trek: The Next Generation. As a result of the strike’s duration, the season order was shortened from 26 episodes to 22, and with a shorter production window, the show went looking for script sources beyond the standard writers room. As a result, the season premiere episode “The Child” was adapted from a script originally written for Star Trek: Phase II, a planned TV series that was aborted in the late 1970s. Producers also began mining the “slush pile” of submitted spec scripts from outside writers and found “The Measure of a Man,” by attorney-turned-writer Melinda M. Snodgrass. The script became the ninth episode of the season, and Snodgrass was hired as the show’s story editor. 3. Heroes After starting off red hot with huge ratings and critical acclaim, the second season of the comic book-inspired NBC series Heroes suffered a ratings decline and attacks from fans due to new characters that took time away from the old ones, a time travel storyline that seemed to drag on too long, and romances that pulled attention way from the show’s super-powered action. It got so bad that creator Tim Kring admitted mistakes in an interview. But the writers strike offered Kring and company a chance to rethink and restructure. The strike limited the show’s second season to just 11 episodes, and sensing that a change needed to come, Kring reshot the ending of that season’s eventual finale, ”Powerless,” in order to scrap a planned plague storyline that would have made up the second half of season 2. The planned fourth “volume” of the series, “Villains,” became the third, and the show carried on for two more seasons. 4. Battlestar Galactica The hit sci-fi series only had one episode of its final “Season 4.5” run completed when the 2007–08 strike hit, and the situation felt so dire at the time that the cast was convinced during filming that said episode—“Sometimes A Great Notion”—would be the show’s last. The series did return to produce 10 more hours to end its run, and, like Heroes, the strike actually gave creator Ronald D. Moore a chance to rethink the planned ending of the show. “There was a different ending that we had, it was all about Ellen aboard the Colony,” Moore told io9 in 2009. “She was sort of turned by Cavil, because she found out that Tigh had impregnated Caprica Six, and that deeply embittered her. And she sort of became dedicated to the idea of destroying Galactica and the fleet out of revenge. And [she and Cavil] got Hera, and then the final confrontation became very personalized between Tigh versus Ellen, and should they forgive.” “That was the story, generally speaking. We didn't have a lot more than just what I spun out to you, when the writers strike hit. Over the course of the writers strike, I rethought about it and thought, ‘That's not going to do it. It's not epic enough. It's not interesting enough.’ That's when we decided to start over, and reinvent the last arc of the show.” Moore and his writers ultimately devised a different series finale, featuring the daring rescue of Hera Agathon and the discovery of our prehistoric Earth. 5. Pushing Daisies When it premiered in the fall of 2007, Bryan Fuller’s inventive fantasy series was hailed as one of the most original new shows on TV, and developed a rabid fan base eager to learn more about the love story between the Pie Maker (Lee Pace) and the Dead Girl (Anna Friel). Initial enthusiasm for the series led to a full season order in October 2007, just weeks before a writers strike was declared. This meant that the series had to halt production with only nine of its 22 ordered episodes completed. Fuller rewrote episode nine to serve as a season finale, leaving lots of loose ends to entice viewers back. It worked. Pushing Daisies got a second season, but unfortunately didn’t get a third. 6. Scrubs The 2007–08 strike interrupted production of the NBC medical sitcom, leaving it hanging in the midst of what was, at the time, expected to be its final season. Creator Bill Lawrence was offered the chance to film an alternate final episode to serve as a series finale should the strike limit the seventh season, but Lawrence declined, hoping he would eventually get to do things his way. When the strike ended, the future of was still uncertain. Season seven ended at just 11 episodes, but the show continued to shoot episodes for season eight even as it no longer officially had a network. Ultimately, ABC picked up the series for an eighth season in the spring of 2008, and Scrubs finished its run on that network after a ninth season featuring new lead characters was also produced. 7. 30 Rock Tina Fey’s Emmy-winning comedy shut down production during the 2007–08 strike, but the biggest creative consequence of that break wasn’t felt until 2010. While the show was shut down in early 2008, the cast performed a live episode as a benefit at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre in New York City. When the strike ended and production resumed, Fey and co-showrunner Robert Carlock began having serious discussions with NBC about a live episode broadcast. Though it was originally planned for season 4, the episode was rescheduled for season five. Titled “Live Show,” it was finally performed (twice, once for the east coast and once for the west) on October 14, 2010. 8. Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog, the musical webseries from Joss Whedon, wasn’t so much altered by the 2007–08 strike as it was born out of it. Whedon conceived the series, which he has referred to as his “midlife crisis,” during the strike, and actually first mentioned it to co-star Felicia Day on the WGA picket line. “I asked if you’d seen The Guild. You didn’t have to say anything! But you said, ‘Oh yeah, I saw it and loved it,'” Day recalled in 2015. “You said ‘I’m actually working on a supervillain musical’ and I pooped myself. Later I got an email that was just, ‘Can you sing?’ Signed, ‘J.’ Then I pooped again.” Whedon financed the series himself, and it was produced in just five months. Today, it remains an early example of the reach and profitability of web-distributed programming. Source: TV Shows That Were Creatively Altered by a Writers Strike
  4. What's the Word: UROBOROS pronunciation: [oor-ə-BUR-əs] Part of speech: noun Origin: Greek, 1940s Meaning: 1. A circular symbol depicting a snake, or less commonly a dragon, swallowing its tail, as an emblem of wholeness or infinity. Example: "The way one event blends into another makes summer festival season feel like an entertainment uroboros." "My brother described the all-inclusive vacation he just got back from as “an uroboros of constant food and drink.”" About Uroboros “Uroboros” (and the alternate spelling “ouroboros”) is taken from the ancient Greek name “οὐροβόρος” (“ourobóros,” meaning “tail-devouring”). Did you Know? The uroboros, represented as a snake eating its own tail, has been a symbol of eternity, regeneration, and the cycle of life dating back to ancient Egyptian culture, but it has also appeared across Chinese, Indian, and Norse civilizations. In a figurative sense, the word “uroboros” is used to describe circumstances that are cyclical and regenerate themselves. Often both the the word and symbol are used to invoke vast philosophical questions about the rhythm of life and death; however, it has also been used as a metaphor for modern issues that seem to both consume and regenerate, such as news cycles, gossip, and fashion trends.
  5. Fact of the Day - VINCENT VAN GOGH Did you know.... Few artist names are as recognizable (and as difficult to pronounce) as Vincent van Gogh. The Dutch painter’s name is synonymous with the art movement known as post-impressionism, and van Gogh made an incredible impact on the art world despite an abbreviated life. For all of the beautiful color, expression, mood, and extravagant wonder that filled his canvas, van Gogh struggled with mental illness. Despite these trials, he was an engine of creativity, and the strokes of his brush bestowed upon the world such gifts as “The Starry Night,” “Vase With Fifteen Sunflowers,” “Wheatfield With Crows,” “Irises,” “Café Terrace at Night,” and dozens of mesmerizing self-portraits. These seven facts explore the fascinating life of this self-made artist. 1. Van Gogh Started Painting at 27 And Was Mostly Self-Taught Born March 30, 1853, in Groot-Zundert, Netherlands, Vincent van Gogh arrived at art through a more circuitous route than most of his contemporaries. Although exposed to the art world at a young age by his mother’s interest in watercolors and his work at his uncle’s art dealership in The Hague, van Gogh suffered a nervous breakdown after a failed marriage proposal and instead started studying to become a preacher. It wasn’t until 1880 — after facing another rejection, this time from the evangelical committee itself — that van Gogh took up the pencil and paintbrush and began experimenting with art at the age of 27. Many of van Gogh’s early works were actually drawings; he believed the art form to be “the root of everything.” However, these drawings, some of which were masterpieces in their own right, were largely eclipsed by the incredible oil paintings that he created over the next decade. This body of work, considered by some to be one of the greatest ever created, eventually earned van Gogh a spot among the pantheon of history’s greatest artists. 2. Van Gogh Created 900 Paintings in Less Than 10 Years Seemingly making up for lost time, van Gogh painted around 900 paintings from November 1881 until his death in July 1890 at the age of 37. Van Gogh often depicted subjects like peasants or farmers (one of the most famous examples being “The Potato Eaters”), or even himself, because he was too poor to pay any models. Flowers were also a frequent subject. Although museum-goers can glimpse some of van Gogh’s most famous paintings crafted during these incredible years of creativity, many of the artist’s works were destroyed either after his death or during World War II. In addition to these lost works, another 85 van Gogh pieces are considered “missing” to this day. 3. Van Gogh May Have Sold Only One Painting in his Lifetime Although a number of theories suggest van Gogh sold or bartered a few paintings, the only verified account of a painting being sold during his lifetime was when “The Red Vineyard” sold at a Brussels exhibition for 400 Belgian francs in March 1890, only a few months before the artist’s death. Although a small amount today, those francs amounted to essentially two months’ living expenses in 1890. Overall, van Gogh was famously underappreciated as an artist during his lifetime. The popular conception of him is as a solitary genius who was shunned by the art community at large, and his combative and antisocial personality didn’t ingratiate himself to others. However, evidence exists that van Gogh was beginning to gain wider recognition a couple of years before his untimely death. An article published in the January 1890 issue of Mercure de France acknowledged van Gogh’s detractors but noted that he was ultimately understood by “his brothers, the true artists.” 4. Van Gogh Had an Intense Friendship With Famous Painter Paul Gauguin Much like van Gogh, Paul Gauguin was also unappreciated during his lifetime, but gained fame after his death for his inventive use of color, among other things. Gauguin arrived in the French town of Arles in October 1888 at the behest of Theo van Gogh — Gauguin’s art dealer and Vincent’s younger brother and benefactor. Theo promised Gauguin a small sum to look after his brother, and the artist saw the opportunity as a way to raise money for his return trip to Martinique, an island in the Caribbean that served as Gauguin’s muse. Vincent, however, had other ideas, and hoped Gauguin would stay and be the leader of a new artistic community based in Arles. The two settled in a small house in the center of town, immortalized by van Gogh’s painting “The Yellow House,” and both artists painted similar subjects, developing a sort of rivalry. Gauguin even captured van Gogh in the creative process in his portrait titled “The Painter of Sunflowers.” However, van Gogh’s increasingly erratic behavior caused Gauguin to eventually flee Arles, but not before one of the most dramatic moments in art history unfolded. Speaking of which… 5. The Story About Van Gogh’s Ear Is Still a Mystery When people think of van Gogh, their minds usually meander among his masterworks, such as “The Starry Night” and “Sunflowers,” along with the infamous incident involving his severed ear. Today the story is filled with hyperbole and hearsay, and that’s largely because no one is exactly sure what took place on the evening of December 23, 1888. What we do know is that a fight erupted between Gauguin and van Gogh, and the latter suffered what some historians have called a “cataclysmic breakdown.” Gauguin’s first-hand account says van Gogh approached him with a razor before pausing and retreating back to their home. Understandably freaked out by the incident, Gauguin decided to check himself into a hotel and call it a night. It was at some point soon after this altercation that van Gogh took the razor to himself and mutilated his left ear. Some reports say the troubled artist only severed his ear lobe, but further analysis has uncovered that van Gogh in fact removed his entire ear, leaving only a piece of the lobe behind. The story goes that van Gogh then delivered the ear to a prostitute before collapsing at his home in a pool of blood. Although van Gogh did travel to Arles’ Red Light District that night, historians believe that he actually delivered the ear to a cleaner — not a prostitute. The details of the event will always remain hazy, but the dramatic moment is a powerful reminder of the mental illness van Gogh suffered from for his entire life. 6. Van Gogh painted “Starry Night” While in an Asylum That December night was a bloody tragedy for van Gogh, but it was only a chapter in the life of an artist who experienced dismal lows followed by unprecedented artistic highs. While staying at the Saint-Paul asylum in Saint-Rémy, France — recovering from the ear incident — van Gogh painted roughly 150 paintings at a pace of about one painting every other day. Sometime in mid-June of 1889, he painted his most well-known masterpiece: “The Starry Night.” The Dutch master was inspired by the view outside his second-story asylum window, which he had painted several times before. Because he couldn’t paint in the dark, he actually painted the view from memory during the day. The painting takes drastic departures from the actual view from his window, with the most obvious being that the dominant cypress trees in the foreground were actually much smaller in real life. Van Gogh also couldn’t glimpse a village from his window, and instead drew an idealized village (as it doesn’t resemble nearby Saint-Rémy). The night sky itself is also an amalgamation of nighttime and early dawn views, and while the swirls throughout the heavens might seem like a clear example of artistic license, some art historians argue that van Gogh — who was passionate about astronomy — would’ve likely known about the swirling depiction of spiral galaxies found in popular French astronomy books of the day. 7. Vincent’s Sister-in-Law Made Him Famous Theo van Gogh was Vincent’s constant companion and benefactor throughout his life. Theo supported his brother’s art and also sought care for Vincent’s mental illness. However, Theo himself wasn’t exactly a paragon of perfect health, and after Vincent’s suicide on July 29, 1890, Theo developed complications from syphilis and died only six months after his brother, at age 33. It’s very possible Vincent van Gogh would have remained a little-known Dutch post-impressionist if not for the tireless work of Theo’s wife and widow, Johanna “Jo” van Gogh-Bonger. After her husband’s death, Jo inherited Vincent’s paintings, and spent the rest of her life fulfilling her late husband’s wish to promote his brother’s art. Jo made strategic sales to collections that were visible to the public, and in 1905, she secured a Vincent van Gogh retrospective at Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam, which showcased more than 480 works. As Vincent’s popularity rose, she also published, in 1914, a collection of letters written between him and her husband, which only raised appreciation for the artist. After Jo’s death in 1925, her son carried on her work and became one of the founding members of the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam. Source: Amazing Facts About Vincent Van Gogh
  6. What's the Word: POTHER pronunciation: [PAH-thər] Part of speech: noun Origin: Unknown, late 16th century Meaning: 1. A commotion or fuss. Example: "Andrew does his grocery shopping when the stores open to avoid the pother of rush-hour shoppers." "Despite the different ages of the campers, it was a relaxing week with no pother to speak of." About Pother The etymological origin of “pother” is unclear. It may be related to the Dutch “peuteren” (meaning “to rummage” or “poke”), but it also bears resemblance to the English “potter” (meaning “to prod”) or “pudder” (meaning “to make a fuss”). Did you Know? While “pother” is a close synonym for “bother” (“worry, effort, or difficulty"), it actually entered English a few centuries earlier. It’s related to a couple of other early English words: “potter” (meaning “to prod”) and “pudder” (meaning “to fuss”), but like “pother,” these have mostly fallen out of use in modern English. What a pother, indeed.
  7. Fact of the Day - YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK Did you know.... As America's first national park and one of its most important biosphere reserves, Yellowstone holds a unique place in our national consciousness — more than four million people visit the park each year. However, with its rich history, there are likely many facts you've probably never heard of, even if you consider yourself a park aficionado. Here are eight fascinating Yellowstone National Park facts that will take your knowledge of America's favorite national park to the next level. 1. There's Another Grand Canyon at Yellowstone When most people think of the Grand Canyon, they think of Arizona. But what about the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River? This 20-mile long canyon is said to be an important example of river-type erosion, with a depth of more than 1,000 feet. On the ridge of the canyon lies Artist Point, which offers one of the most beautiful views in the park. From this spot on the trail, you can see a majestic, 300-foot waterfall flowing into the canyon. If you look down, you'll see steep canyon walls in gorgeous hues of pink, orange, yellow, and red. 2. Half of the World's Geysers Are in the Park Yellowstone is home to a whopping 10,000-plus hydrothermal features, including 500 geysers — which scientists estimate is about half of the world's geysers. The most famous is Old Faithful, which erupts around 17 times a day. Other breathtaking features, like the Beehive Geyser and Grotto Geyser, are somewhat less popular but still provide a thrilling show of geothermal action. So, if you're worried about Old Faithful being too crowded at peak times of the year, don't worry — you still have hundreds of other geysers to see. 3. Bison in Yellowstone Are the Oldest in America While many other grassland areas have been over-hunted and bison have been driven to extinction, Yellowstone's herd has remained intact. According to the History Channel, Yellowstone's bison population is the only herd that has existed since prehistoric times in the United States. In the 19th century, the herd was hunted down to its last 23 members by avid fur traders exploring the Wild West. Today, however, the park is home to 5,500 bison, making it the biggest bison population in the country. 4. Yellowstone County Has Its Own Judicial System For 30 years, the United States Army kept order at Yellowstone. Until 1916, soldiers patrolled the park to protect the wildlife from unscrupulous poachers. The park spans three states — Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming — all of which have differing laws pertaining to wildlife and preservation. To fix this decades-old issue of disputes in different parts of the park, Yellowstone officially created the Yellowstone County judicial system in 2006. That means if you break the law while you're visiting the park, you'll be put in the official Yellowstone jail. And, your mugshot may just be the only souvenir you get to take home. 5. The Park Is One of Only UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the U.S. Around the world, 878 extraordinary locations have been designated as United Nations Education, Science, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage Sites. The United States only has 20 sites across the entire country, and Yellowstone is one of the most important. UNESCO's website provides a list of reasons for Yellowstone's coveted honor, including its distinctive manifestation of geothermal forces and vast number of rare species. These ecological features are why Yellowstone stands alongside culturally significant sites like the Great Barrier Reef and Machu Picchu. 6. Yellowstone Is Actually a Giant Supervolcano Hot spots and geysers represent just a fraction of the action beneath the surface at Yellowstone. The whole park is actually a supervolcano, although it's not supposed to erupt anytime soon. But, how do we know this? Despite the warnings, Yellowstone is quite safe: Its supervolcano is made up of two magma chambers. The first chamber contains no more than 15% molten. Meanwhile, the second chamber contains only two percent molten. According to Forbes, it's practically impossible for a supervolcano to erupt unless its magma chambers contain at least 50% molten. So, rest easy — and don't forget to enjoy the view. 7. The Bears Aren't as Dangerous as You Think In the entire history of Yellowstone, only eight people have ever been killed by bears in the park. To put this in perspective, that means only one in 2.7 million visitors will have a fatal bear encounter. Getting injured by a bear is a bit more common, but still happens only about every 20 years. The National Park Service cautions people to look out for falling trees instead, which kill the same number of people (but get a lot less media attention). 8. Hundreds of Unique Flowers Thrive in Yellowstone An estimated 1,350 different types of flowering plants grow wild at Yellowstone, the vast majority native to the region. One remarkable plant that calls the park home is Yellowstone sand verbena, a flower which normally thrives in warm environments but has managed to grow at a 7,700 foot altitude inside the park. Another unique floral trademark of Yellowstone is Ross's Bentgrass, which grows exclusively in hot, vapor-heavy environments. This plant is a common sight at the park but rare everywhere else in the world. Source: Famous Voice Actors You May Not Recognize (But You’ve Definitely Heard)
  8. What's the Word: ENJAMBMENT pronunciation: [en-JAM-mənt] Part of speech: adjective Origin: French, 19th century Meaning: 1. (In verse) The continuation of a sentence without a pause beyond the end of a line, couplet, or stanza. Example: "The technique of enjambment can make reading poetry tricky, as it’s natural to want to pause at the end of the line instead of reading it through." "Poets toying with enjambment were responsible for some of the 20th century’s most interesting poems, such as T.S. Eliot’s “The Waste Land.”" About Enjambment “Enjambment” is a loanword from French, in which it means “the state or action of straddling.” Did you Know? In poetry, “enjambment” refers to the practice of breaking a continuing line in the middle of a sentence or phrase. A poet might want to visually emphasize certain words and ideas by breaking sentences off in surprising places. In poetry read aloud, enjambment might be hard to hear — its role is to bring together words that appear more broken on the page. As a result, there are many poems full of enjambment that read aloud like normal prose. It’s only when enjambed lines are viewed on the page that the reader can see their unexpected breaks and rhymes.
  9. Fact of the Day - MEMORIAL DAY Did you know... Although many people look forward to Memorial Day as the unofficial start of summer, with pools and beaches opening and shuttered offices offering the chance to get out of town, the promise of a fun-filled weekend can obscure the meaning of a day intended to honor the military servicemen and women who lost their lives in battle. Read on to learn more about Memorial Day’s origins and other facts related to this American-born day of remembrance. 1. The Holiday Was Originally Known as "Decoration Day" In the aftermath of the brutally bloody Civil War, communities in both Northern and Southern locales, especially widows, adopted the custom of visiting cemeteries in springtime to place flowers on the graves of fallen soldiers. One early proponent was Mary Ann Williams, a Georgia woman who entreated Southern women to decorate their fallen men’s graves, leading to a Confederate-focused holiday in Southern states that began in 1866. General John A. Logan of the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) veterans group then worked to popularize the holiday in the North. He declared May 30 as the date for such observances, and in 1868, the first major Decoration Day ceremony was held at Virginia’s Arlington National Cemetery. New York subsequently became the first state to make Decoration Day a legal holiday in 1873, and by 1890, every other former Union state had done the same. 2. The Town of Waterloo, New York, Is Recognized as the "Birthplace" of Memorial Day More than two dozen sites have been linked to the foundation of Memorial Day, including a former racetrack in Charleston, South Carolina, that hosted a celebration by freed African Americans less than a month after Robert E. Lee's surrender at Appomattox Court House. However, the formal winner of this designation is the town of Waterloo, New York, which was recognized by President Lyndon B. Johnson for its role as the "birthplace" of Memorial Day in 1966. On May 5, 1866, Waterloo held what has been called the "first, formal, complete, well-planned, village-wide observance of a day entirely dedicated to honoring the war dead." 3. Memorial Day Became a Federal Holiday in 1971 On June 28, 1968, President Johnson signed into law the Uniform Holiday Bill, which established Memorial Day as one of a series of federal holidays. Additionally, the bill decreed that Memorial Day (along with other holidays like George Washington’s Birthday and Veterans Day) would not take place on a fixed date, but would be observed on a Monday. LBJ was upfront about the economic reasons behind these extended holiday weekends, which he claimed would "stimulate greater industrial and commercial production." However, the associated commercialization continues to rankle plenty of veterans, some of whom want to see Memorial Day returned to its initial date of May 30. 4. There’s a Special Time of Day to Mark It In response to the sense that the holiday was devoid of some of its original meaning, Congress in 2000 passed a law designed to prompt more sober observations of Memorial Day. The National Moment of Remembrance Act legally established 3:00 p.m. local time on Memorial Day as a moment to be observed “to raise awareness of and respect for the national heritage, and to encourage citizens to dedicate themselves to the values and principles for which those heroes of the United States died.” Ever since, the federal government — and even entities such as Greyhound and NASCAR — have observed a moment of silence at that hour. But one company marks it in a much louder way: Amtrak’s train conductors sound a long whistle during the moment of remembrance each year. 5. Formal Observances Include Guidelines for Flying Flags Beyond the traditional parades held in many towns and the National Moment of Remembrance at 3 p.m. local time, there are a series of formalities tied to the commemoration of this holiday. Arlington National Cemetery remains the site of an annual ceremony marked by the laying of a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. There's even an established Memorial Day protocol for those responsible for manning a flagpole: The flag is to be flown at half-staff from sunrise until noon, then raised briskly to the top of the staff until sunset. 6. The Holiday’s Red Poppy Tribute Began After World War 1 The wearing of red poppies as a Memorial Day tradition grew from the World War I experiences of Canadian Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae. Noting the proliferation of the flowers on the scarred European battlefields, McCrae penned the short but moving poem "In Flanders Fields," which appeared in London's Punch magazine in late 1915. The poem inspired American professor Moina Michael to campaign for the poppy as a symbol of remembrance, with Frenchwoman Anna Guérin picking up the cause on the other side of the Atlantic. Both clearly found a receptive audience, although outside the United States the remembrance poppies are more commonly associated with Armistice Day (Veterans Day in the U.S.). 7. An American General Delivered a Memorial Day Speech for the Ages in 1945 Memorial Day has been the occasion of many notable speeches. President Reagan offered a tribute to the remains of an unknown Vietnam combatant in 1984. LBJ foreshadowed the arrival of civil rights legislation in 1963. But perhaps the most stirring oratory was one that was delivered at Italy's Sicily-Rome American Cemetery in 1945 by General Lucian Truscott Jr. According to famed World War II cartoonist Bill Maudlin, the general stunned the audience when he suddenly turned and began addressing the soldiers buried behind him. "It was the most moving gesture I ever saw," Maudlin later wrote in his memoir. "He promised that if in the future he ran into anybody, especially old men, who thought death in battle was glorious, he would straighten them out. He said he thought that was the least he could do." Source: Facts to Remember About Memorial Day
  10. What's the Word: ZENZIC pronunciation: [ZEN-zik] Part of speech: adjective Origin: Latin, 16th century Meaning: 1. Relating to the square of a number. Example: "We expected maybe 20 people at the party but were overwhelmed when it seemed like a zenzic number of guests showed up." "Since there are 12 reports to compile each month, the total number of reports in a year is the zenzic of 12." About Zenzic “Zenzic” is based on a mixture of the Latin “census” (meaning “a register”) and the German “zins” (meaning “interest”). Did you Know? In mathematics, a “square” is a number multiplied by itself (the square of 2 is 4, for example). But there’s a fancier word to describe the simple concept. “Zenzic” is an adjective that means “relating to the square of a number,” but this word can be expanded exponentially itself. “Zenzizenzic” means “to the fourth power,” “zenzizenzizenzic” brings it to the eighth power, and “zenzizenzizenzizenzike” takes a number to the 16th power. (The "-ike" ending is an alternate spelling — it comes from the 1557 book the term first appeared in, in which "square nombers are called Zenzikes.")
  11. Fact of the Day - SUGAR Did you know.... It’s hard to imagine life without a spoonful of sugar. It helps fuel our sweet tooth and our bursts of energy, and it just may be a future way to power high-flying jets. It’s also been with us for a while: Scientists believe the saccharine substance likely made its way into our guts by accident millennia ago, eventually becoming a standard human craving as it spread across the globe. Take a bite out of sugar’s backstory with these six sweet facts. 1. All Plants Produce Sugar Not all plants are made for eating, and chances are most aren’t palatable to human taste buds. However, nearly all plants make sugar, particularly those with green leaves. Sugar, aka sucrose, consists of two simple sugars, glucose and fructose; glucose is a naturally occurring byproduct of photosynthesis, the process plants undergo to convert sunlight to energy. Plants produce glucose in their leaves and then send it to their roots, storing the energy they need to grow. All plants store their sugar differently; some, like potatoes, transform it into starch, while others, like apple and orange trees, store sugar in their fruits. Plants with particularly high concentrations of glucose are the ones humans harvest for table sugar — specifically sugar cane and sugar beets. 2. Sugar Cane Originally Comes From New Guinea More than 60 million acres of land worldwide are used for sugar cane farming, often in regions that were once tropical forests. The crops thrive in warm climates with consistent year-round temperatures — generally in spots close to the equator. However, biologists believe sugar cane plants, aka Saccharum officinarum, originated in just one spot — New Guinea — where Indigenous peoples may have cultivated the crop starting 10,000 years ago. Some researchers believe sugar cane was originally grown for chewing, like gum, and early farmers selected the sweetest, softest stalks for consumption. Over time, humans helped spread Saccharum plants through Southeast Asia, India, and the Pacific islands, where they merged with other wild sugar canes to create the modern variety we know and grow. By the 15th century, sugar cane plants made their way to the Americas, where they became established crops; today, Brazil is the world’s leading exporter of sugar cane. 3. More Than One-Third of the World’s Sugar Comes From Beets Not all commercially produced sugar comes from sugar cane plants; about one-third of the world’s sugar supply comes from sugar beets, a root crop that thrives in cooler temperatures far from the equator. More than half of the U.S. sugar supply comes from sugar beets, which are grown in Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, and other northern and western states, and each year more than 4.5 million tons of sugar are produced from American-grown sugar beets. Each beet grows for about five months before reaching its maximum size: about a foot long, and weighing between 2 and 5 pounds. While sugar cane and sugar beets are grown and processed differently, the final sugar product is chemically identical. Nevertheless, some chefs believe the two sugars cook slightly differently and can have contrasting colors when caramelized or used to make syrups. 4. The 1904 World’s Fair Was a Sugar Showcase World’s fairs may feel like a relic of the past; the last one in North America was in Vancouver in 1986. Yet they were the launching point for some of today’s favorite sugary treats. At the 1904 world’s fair (aka the Louisiana Purchase Exposition) in St. Louis, attendees got their first sample of fairy floss, the fluffy spun-sugar that’s now more commonly called cotton candy. The confection was so popular that creators William J. Morrison and John C. Wharton sold more than 65,000 boxes at 25 cents each — about half the price of admission to the fair. “Cornucopias,” aka ice cream cones, also hit American taste buds on a wide scale for the first time at the fair, crafted from rolled waffles and stuffed with ice cream. And while Jell-O had already been around in its fruit-flavored form since 1897, the world’s fair helped launch the jiggly sweet’s advertising campaign, with demonstrations that showed how easy it was to make by just adding hot water. The fair’s influence was immediately noticeable: Jell-O sales quadrupled between 1902 and 1906, reaching $1 million in sales. 5. There’s Sugar in Space If you’re trying to curb your sweet tooth, it can feel like sugar is everywhere. And in some ways, you’re not wrong — sugar isn’t just on Earth; it can also be found in space. In 2000, space scientists discovered a simple sugar called glycolaldehyde while looking for other molecules that could potentially support life outside our atmosphere. Despite being labeled a “simple sugar,” glycolaldehyde plays a huge role in DNA creation; when combined with a chemical called propenal, it makes ribose, a major component of ribonucleic acid (aka RNA, a chemical chain found in all living things). However, this clue for potential space life has only been found in two spots: the center of the Milky Way, and near a star some 400 light-years from Earth. 6. Dogs Can Taste Sugar Man’s best friend shares our ability to taste different flavors, albeit at a diminished level. While humans have between 2,000 and 10,000 taste buds (a number that shrinks with age), dogs have a mere 1,700. Yet studies have shown that dogs can taste sweetness. This trait may have developed from ancient dogs who lived as omnivores, consuming fruits and vegetables along with meat. However, not all household pets have a sweet tooth. Cats are unable to taste sugars and sweets because they lack the necessary taste buds thanks to genetic mutations that occurred millions of years ago — meaning that while dog owners may have to give up a scoop of ice cream or order a “pup cup,” cat parents are free to indulge without sharing, guilt-free. Source: Sweet Facts About Sugar
  12. What's the Word: TOURBILLON pronunciation: [TOOR-bil-yən] Part of speech: noun Origin: French, 15th century Meaning: 1. Any part of a machine with a spiral movement. 2. A whirlwind. Example: "This antique watch has a tourbillon that prevents gravity from throwing off its timing." "Watches featuring tourbillon movements can easily cost more than $10,000." About Tourbillon “Tourbillon” is a French loanword meaning “whirlwind.” Did you Know? A “tourbillon” is a complicated piece of miniature machinery often present in the world’s most expensive watches. This spiral machinery was developed to counteract the various shifts in balance and gravitational angle that can affect the functionality of a watch. Tourbillons made watches accurate even on the wrists of the most vigorously arm-waving folks. The science of timekeeping has evolved to create mechanical watches that remain accurate without the need for a tourbillon, but the finicky engineering is still present in many luxury watches.
  13. Fact of the Day - POOLS Did you know... Feeling the heat? Head to the pool for a dip, a splash, or to swim some laps. Or just immerse yourself in these incredible facts about swimming pools. They might not cool you down, but they will give you something to ponder as you bask in all that beauty and chlorine. 1. Heated Swimming Pools Are Old — Really Old Think warm swimming pools are a modern invention? Think again: Gaius Maecenas beat modern pool-makers to it by about two millennia. The wealthy ancient Roman diplomat and patron of the arts championed luxurious baths heated underneath the floors all the way back in the first century BCE, leading to a boom in warm public baths that, as one historian writes, were "hugely prodigal of fuel and finance." They became a must-have feature in luxurious Roman villas, then a common feature in public baths around the reign of Augustus (31 BCE to 14 CE). 2. U.S. Pools Were Originally Designed to Keep the Masses Clean Boston's Cabot Street Bath was the nation's first indoor municipal pool. Founded in 1868, the pool was on the bleeding edge of what would become a boom in baths designed to help the working classes clean up. The short-lived facility (it was open for only eight years) was soon followed by municipal baths and pools all over the nation, especially in cities with growing immigrant populations whose tenement apartments didn't contain adequate bathing facilities. In New York, starting in 1870, river water filled floating, pool-like public baths that, according to one onlooker, were as filthy as "floating sewers." Eventually, by about the mid-20th century, the city's river baths morphed into the indoor pools we know today — though the city does still have some seasonal outdoor pools. 3. Arizona Is Pool Heaven With its dry, hot weather and its low building costs, Arizona is America's swimming pool hot spot. One recent survey found that a full 32.7% of homes in Phoenix have in-ground pools, beating out Miami and even Las Vegas for the most pools per capita. But there's a dark horse on the list of cities with the highest residential pool ownership: Buffalo, New York, where 8.3% of residences have pools. Portland, Oregon, came in last in the survey, ranking even lower than cold cities like Milwaukee and Chicago. 4. You Can Thank Rowers for the Modern Swimsuit Speaking of Portland, the city was home to the company that popularized today's modern swimsuit: Jantzen, formerly known as the Portland Knitting Company. In 1913, a rower approached the company in search of something he could comfortably wear on his bottom half while rowing. Soon, the company had popularized swimming trunks, and went on to popularize modern, slim-silhouette suits for women, too. The company became so big that it had its own Oregon amusement park designed to encourage swimming. The Jantzen Beach Amusement Park along the Columbia River opened in 1928 and was popular until it closed in 1970. 5. This Pool Gave New Meaning to “Religious About Swimming” In 1931, Joseph Stalin's Communist government blew up Moscow's landmark Christ the Savior Cathedral in order to build what eventually became the mother of all Soviet public works projects: the Palace of Soviets, intended to be a combination conference hall/administrative building. But the project never came to fruition, so the Soviets designed and built a massive pool on the site instead. For years, it was the largest in the USSR. The Moskva pool, as it was known, was the size of two soccer fields and hosted thousands of Muscovites in search of a swim. Alas, it didn't survive the USSR: It was drained after the collapse of the Soviet Union and is now the site of a rebuilt cathedral. 6. Swimming Pools Were the Original Skate Parks In the late 1970s, drought hit Southern California — and prompted many to drain their pools. Their loss was skateboarding's gain: As a result, skating kicked and pushed its way into the mainstream as kids with boards flew around the interiors of all those emptied pools (legally or not), an activity known as bowl skating or pool skating. Major skateboarding stars like Tony Hawk got their start pool skating. Modern skate parks still contain concrete pool-like structures designed for vert skateboarding, which involves skating up an incline. Source: Cool Facts About Swimming Pools
  14. What's the Word: ABDITIVE pronunciation: [AB-dih-tiv] Part of speech: adjective Origin: Latin, 18th century Meaning: 1. Capable of hiding or concealing. Example: "The babysitter found the toddler under the abditive tablecloth during the game of hide-and-seek." "The decorative screen serves an abditive function to block off the messy parts of our living room." About Abditive “Abditive” is based on the Latin “abditīvus,” meaning “separated from,” which is based on “abdō,” meaning “hide.” Did you Know? There’s a growing trend in home renovation — abditive spaces, or hidden nooks and concealed features. An example might be a dog “room” underneath a staircase, or a pantry hidden behind a secret wall panel. Other abditive spaces are less sneaky, and more subtle — a large blackboard, artwork, or mirror at the end of a hall might obscure a functional door into a room or closet.
  15. Fact of the Day - MEDICAL MARVELS Did you know.... Medicine has come a long way since the four humors and miasma theory. Today’s medical advances incorporate futuristic technology like human-robot interfaces, lab-grown cells, and interspecies transplantation to help patients live healthier and more rewarding lives. Here are a few recent breakthroughs. 1. A Bionic Nose to Smell the Roses More than 20% of the general population may experience the loss of their sense of smell, known as anosmia, at some point in their lives. Anosmia can be caused by an injury or disease, and it’s a common symptom of COVID-19. Now, a neuroprosthetic nose being developed by researchers at Virginia Commonwealth University’s Smell and Taste Disorders Center could help people with long-term anosmia by restoring their sense of smell. The device works by transforming odor into radio waves and transmitting the signal directly to the brain, bypassing the olfactory nerves. The concept is similar to a cochlear implant: Users wear a small sensor that picks up an aroma in the air and transmits it to a tiny processor, which turns it into a specific frequency and sends it to a receiver implanted in the user’s brain. The receiver then sends the signal to electrodes that stimulate the brain as if the user were smelling the odor. If the final product makes it to market, this bionic nose may one day help people smell again. 2. 3D-Printed Hearts to Help Doctors Test Treatments Everybody’s heart is different, and the tricky part of treating heart disease is figuring out which treatments are best for a specific patient. Over the past few years, researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have been developing 3D-printed hearts to help cardiologists save lives. First, specialists take images of a patient’s heart and then convert them into a digital model. They can 3D-print the model using a flexible ink, creating a malleable ticker that is anatomically and mechanically identical to the patient’s. Doctors can even 3D-print arteries and valves and manipulate the parts to test various treatments for the patient’s condition. Though they’re not meant for transplanting, the hearts have the potential to help doctors quickly tailor treatments (such as choosing the right kind of synthetic valve to implant) to individual people. 3. Lab-Grown Retinal Cells That Act Like the Real Thing Researchers supported by the National Eye Institute had a recent breakthrough in the fight against vision loss. They not only grew real human retinal cells in their lab; they were able to coax the cells into forming synapses, the connections that allow the retina to capture images and eventually send them to the brain. In their experiment, the scientists grew stem cells into the different cells that make up the eye’s retina, such as light-sensing rods and cones, which eventually formed rudimentary organoids (tiny tissue cultures derived from stem cells). Then they broke them up into individual cells, severing any synapses that had formed, and injected the cells with a molecule that would show whether new synapses grew. After just 20 days, the different types of cells had formed the circuits and were “talking” with one another. That is raising hopes for restoring people’s sight through transplantation. Retinal cells aren’t the only organoids that researchers have been able to create from human stem cells, though: Liver, bone, skin, muscle, and even brain organoids have been grown in labs. 4. Robotic Hands With the Sense of Touch Robotic prostheses for people who have lost their arms or hands have been around for over a decade; wearers can control the devices by using muscles in their shoulders or just by thinking about specific movements. But a common complaint among users is that the prostheses don’t feel natural. Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh’s Rehab Neural Engineering Labs recently succeeded in creating prosthetic hands with sensors that “touch.” When a person grasps an object with the sensor-enabled hand, it transmits the sensation of touch to the wearer’s nervous system via an implanted receiver near the spine. People who have participated in experimental studies report a tingling feeling similar to the natural sense of touch. Researchers believe that the sensors will help users with robotic hands perform actions more efficiently, and the bionic body parts may also reduce phantom pain associated with limb loss. 5. Curing Genetic Conditions With Gene Therapy Since the development in 2012 of CRISPR-Cas9, a molecular tool that can fix faulty DNA by activating or deactivating genes or removing them altogether, scientists have been trying to use the tool to cure genetic diseases. Through much trial and error, as well as controversy, a handful of treatments based on gene therapy have now been FDA-approved. One genome-editing therapy treats an inherited blood disorder called beta-thalassemia, in which the body doesn’t produce enough red blood cells and thus isn’t able to deliver enough oxygen to muscles and organs. The single-dose treatment genetically modifies some of the patient’s own blood cells so that they function correctly. Researchers are hopeful that a similar genome-editing approach will also cure sickle cell disease, an excruciating genetic blood disorder affecting mainly people of African descent. A clinical trial for a CRISPR-based sickle cell treatment has shown “prolonged benefit” for participants, according to a report in STAT. 6. A Brave New World of Animal-to-Human Transplants The chronic shortage of human organs for transplants led a team of surgeons to take what some might view as a dramatic step. In 2022, in a medical first, a patient with severe heart disease received a brand new heart from a pig. The 240-pound, genetically modified animal had been raised for the purpose. The surgery, which took place at the University of Maryland Medical Center, was successful: the patient survived the procedure and was breathing on his own a couple of days afterward, with the heart pumping appropriately. However, the patient died two months after the surgery, likely due to a porcine virus that was transferred along with the heart; the patient’s weakened immune system couldn’t fight it off. Despite the unhappy outcome, many consider the experimental operation useful toward making xenotransplantation an option for people needing new organs. Source: Modern Medical Marvels
  16. What's the Word: PALFREY pronunciation: [PAWL-free] Part of speech: noun Origin: Anglo-Norman, 13th century Meaning: 1. A docile horse used for ordinary riding. Example: "For my first riding experience, I steered clear of the jumpy-looking horses and chose a palfrey." "My grandfather kept a stable of palfreys, and my cousins offered guided trail rides to tourists." About Palfrey “Palfrey” is from the Anglo-Norman “palefrei,” meaning “steed.” This was based on the Latin “paraverēdus,” meaning “spare horse.” Did you Know? During the Middle Ages, palfreys were among the most expensive horses because they offered a smooth and comfortable ride that would be endurable over long-distance journeys. What set palfreys apart from other horses was that rather than trot, they traveled with a lighter and more balanced step called an “amble.” Many types of horses were palfreys — the term did not describe a breed of horse but rather the ease of their steps on the ground, particularly during voyages that could range from days to months. As European roads improved, and travelers shifted to carriages, palfreys became less desirable and their value declined. However, the term “palfrey” still refers to an even-tempered horse good for riding.
  17. Fact of the Day - NATIVE PLANT GARDEN Did you know... Maybe you’ve heard of No-Mow May or the anti-lawn movement: Both encourage homeowners to create more flora- and fauna-friendly habitats in their yards. Planting native flowers, shrubs, and trees instead of ornamentals or plain grass around your home has a number of long-term environmental benefits. Native plants provide food and shelter for wildlife; offer a habitat for pollinators like butterflies, bees, and birds; and increase biodiversity. These gardens often need less maintenance and use fewer resources than regular landscaping, and they may (indirectly) boost your mental health. Here a few tips to get you started. 1. Assess your property’s micro-environments. Your first step, even before ripping out your grass, is to take a close look at your yard’s environment. Plants require specific amounts of light, water, and soil nutrients to thrive, so you’ll want to create a profile of your yard’s characteristics. Note which areas get full sun (at least six hours per day), are partially shaded (receiving at least six hours of shade or dappled sun), or are in the shade for most of the day. Then figure out what type of soil you have. Most soil in the United States is either sandy, silty, clay, or a mix of these types. Forming a ball of soil in your hand and seeing if it sticks together is a quick way to assess your soil’s makeup [PDF]—the firmer the ball, the more clay-ey the soil. It will also help to do a pH test to discover whether your soil is particularly acidic or alkaline; you can find inexpensive test kits at hardware stores. Finally, check how water drains from your yard. Take note of low-lying spots that puddle or areas that seem to dry out quickly after a rain storm. As you put together your yard profile, review the USDA’s Plant Hardiness Zones map to find out which zone you live in. The zones indicate average temperatures and climates and give you a clue about which plants will do well in your area. You’ll find the hardiness zones for specific plants marked on their pots or seed packets. 2. Map out the areas for planting. This is an optional but helpful step if you plan to totally remake your yard into a Garden of Eden. On a piece of graph paper (if you’re old school) or by using an online garden-planning template, sketch a map of your entire yard, including your house’s footprint, patio, or any other features, along with the areas you intend to plant. Label the different areas according to your yard profile—chances are, some areas are fully sunny, while others are shaded at certain times of the day. Some templates and apps will allow you to input placeholder trees, shrubs, and perennials, so you can design your native garden according to plant size or type. You may want to cluster shrubs and flowers around a tree or outline your home with a bed of different bushes. Or you can skip this step by simply replanting existing flower beds with native species. 3. Make a “lasagna garden.” You’ll want to have your planting beds fully prepped before heading out to the local nursery. Impatient and labor-averse gardeners can create a “lasagna garden.” No, this doesn’t mean dumping pasta in the woods; it’s a toil-free method for getting rid of weeds and nourishing the soil at the same time. A lasagna garden will work best in full sunlight. Basically, you stack layers of organic materials—which might normally go in a compost bin—on top of the area you want to go native. The first layer should be made of damp newspaper or cardboard and completely cover the bed to smother existing grass and weeds. The next layer should be carbon-rich organic stuff (a.k.a. “browns”) like dead leaves, straw, mulch, or wood chips. On top of that, spread a layer of nitrogen-rich material (a.k.a. “greens”) such as grass clippings, coffee grounds, or vegetable scraps. The greens layer should be about one-fourth the thickness of the browns layer. Then, repeat the browns and greens layers as needed until your lasagna is about a foot and a half tall (it will “cook down” over time). When the layers are laid, you can sit back and let sunlight and microbes do their thing. You may want to water the lasagna during dry spells, and top up the layers as they break down into compost, but there’s no turning or sifting needed. After a few months, you’ll have weed-free, nutrient-rich soil ready for your herbaceous babies. 4. Choose plants that are native to your region of the country. Here’s where the fun starts! But the vast amounts of information online can be a little bewildering. A tried-and true source to help you choose and find native plants is your state’s university cooperative extension service. These government-supported, education-focused programs offer tons of useful, trustworthy tips for home gardeners, including information about plants native to your state and regionally specific hacks (like choosing deer-resistant species). Another great resource is the National Audubon Society’s Native Plants database. You can punch in your ZIP code to see a big list of species native to your area, then filter the results by plant type, plant resources (like nuts, berries, or nectar), and even by the kind of birds you want to attract to your yard. You can let your imagination run wild by browsing an analog wildflower or tree field guide, or by checking the website of the native plant society in your state. The societies often have active Facebook groups with members sharing tips and tricks. The USDA also suggests native alternatives to some common non-native landscape plants. 5. Find native plants online or at a specialty nursery. Your local Home Depot or Walmart probably doesn’t stock a lot of native plants. Your best bet for finding natives is a specialty nursery in your area, or by ordering plants from online retailers that specify they carry natives. Online retailers offer copious information about their plants’ growing requirements so you can quickly eliminate the ones that won’t be suited to your space. Plants will usually be shipped either in soil-filled containers or as a bare root with no soil. Each method has its advantages—containerized plants look more “established,” while bare roots weigh less and are thus cheaper to buy and ship. Online nurseries usually stock native flora in the spring so gardeners can plant them at the proper time of the year (and you might find the most popular types sell out quickly, so don’t wait to order once you know what you want). Natives can also be grown from seeds, though you’ll likely have to wait six months to a year after planting for full gratification. 6. Attract more pollinators with your native garden. Once you’ve planted your natives, you can add features to your gardenscape to attract pollinators and increase your area’s biodiversity. Providing a water source helps birds and insects stay hydrated. A simple birdbath is good start (though it’s important to freshen the water a few times a week—you don’t want mosquito larvae growing in there.) Bird feeders offering a variety of seeds, fruit, and nectar can complement the native plant offerings and lure colorful, active species; make sure you regularly clean the feeders to prevent the spread of avian diseases. In addition to the shelter provided by your native garden, you can mount bird houses, bat boxes, or bee hotels around your yard and encourage pollinators to return year after year. 7. Know your enemies—but be careful when killing them. No matter how diligently you layered your lasagna, you will likely end up with weeds or other volunteers in your garden. Do not reach for the Roundup! Using chemical herbicides and pesticides on weeds and insects will also harm your native flora—and one of the main reasons behind native gardening is to attract beneficial bugs. These chemicals can also prove lethal for birds. If you do have an infestation that is damaging plants, seek out non-chemical mitigation methods. The best way to permanently eliminate invasives like kudzu, English ivy, or Japanese honeysuckle—to name but a few—without harming other plants is to manually dig up their roots. A weeder is indispensable for this purpose. You can also apply a non-toxic weed killer like vinegar to individual weeds. It may take a season or two for your native garden to thrive, but its beauty and environmental benefits will last a long time. Source: Tips for Growing a Native Plant Garden
  18. What's the Word: GUERDON pronunciation: [GUR-dn] Part of speech: noun Origin: Old French, 15th century Meaning: 1. A reward or recompense. Example: "As a guerdon for his excellent grades, my brother got to go to Six Flags." "Doris Lessing received the 2007 Nobel Prize in literature as a guerdon for her body of novels exploring the human experience." About Guerdon “Guerdon” is a loanword from Old French, where it meant “recompense.” Did you Know? “Guerdon” comes directly from the French, but the French word “guerdon” bears close resemblance to “widarlōn” in Old High German and “wiþerlēan” in Old English — both meaning “reward.” Because the word “reward” also existed, “guerdon” became more frequently used in English as a literary or poetic synonym, including in the works of Chaucer, Shakespeare, and Tennyson, among others. As a result, “guerdon” is used almost exclusively as a poetic term that emphasizes the importance of the reward.
  19. Fact of the Day - STARBUCKS Did you know... Few brands are as recognizable as Starbucks, a company that began in 1971 as a single Seattle-based store before blossoming into one of the world’s most notable coffee suppliers. Starbucks’ legendary green-and-white logo can be found in most corners of the globe, providing that important morning boost to coffee lovers everywhere. With a legacy over five decades old, Starbucks’ history is as fascinating as its coffee is invigorating. Keep reading to start your day off right with six facts about Starbucks to perk you up. 1. The Company’s Name Was Inspired by the Novel “Moby-Dick” While the word “Starbucks” is known by coffee lovers worldwide, the singular version of that word holds a different meaning in the world of literature. The name of the brand was inspired by Herman Melville’s 1851 work Moby-Dick, though that almost wasn’t the case. When deciding on a name for their new company in 1971, the founders of Starbucks briefly considered “Cargo House.” The goal during those early brainstorming sessions was to come up with a name that captured an adventurous spirit and also reflected the storied fishing history of the Pacific Northwest. This in turn led to a suggestion by co-founder Gordon Bowker, who proposed the name “Pequod,” after the ship from Moby-Dick. However, the group decided that going for a “cup of Pequod” didn’t sound particularly appealing, forgot about Moby-Dick for the time being, and went back to the drawing board. As the brainstorming continued, Bowker claims that his business partner, designer Terry Heckler, mentioned that words beginning with “st” felt powerful. In searching for words beginning with “st,” the group came across an old mining town called “Starbo” on a map of the nearby Cascade Mountains. This reminded Bowker once again of Moby-Dick, and specifically the character Starbuck, who served as the first mate for Captain Ahab. Bowker’s suggestion was a hit with his co-founders, and they tacked on an “s” at the end and officially adopted the name “Starbucks” for their new brand. 2. Starbucks Won a Grammy Award in Collaboration With Ray Charles Starbucks hasn’t only achieved greatness in the world of coffee, but in the music industry, too. Starbucks helped co-produce the 2004 Ray Charles album Genius Loves Company, which proved to be the final studio album by the legendary singer and pianist. The album features 12 awe-inspiring duets with other musical greats, including Willie Nelson, Norah Jones, and B.B. King. It wouldn’t have been possible without the backing of Starbucks, who partnered with Concord Records to produce the album. The result was a smash hit — Genius Loves Company went on to win eight Grammy Awards, including both Record and Album of the year, and also sold enough copies to go triple-platinum. Starbucks later acquired the Hear Music record label in 2007, expanding its influence in the world of music. However, despite producing albums for esteemed artists including Kenny G, Paul McCartney, and Carly Simon, the label ultimately fell by the wayside as digital music displaced physical media. Even still, Starbucks began a partnership with streaming service Spotify in 2016, ensuring that the coffee company would remain involved in the music scene to some degree. 3. There’s a Special Starbucks for Members of the CIA With upwards of 30,000 publicly accessible franchises worldwide, there’s only one Starbucks that specially caters to members of the Central Intelligence Agency. Located inside CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia, this Starbucks is only available to those with the highest levels of security clearance. While the store is decorated to look like a normal Starbucks in order to help humanize an otherwise tense job, the experience at this Starbucks is anything but normal. In order to maintain secrecy, receipts merely depict “Store Number 1” as opposed to any specific location. Furthermore, baristas — who undergo extensive background checks — are forbidden from writing names on any of the cups, not even aliases; this is done to preserve the confidential identities of CIA agents. Don’t try using your Starbucks rewards card here either, as such perks are banned for fear that they could “fall into the wrong hands.” Despite all these irregularities compared to the normal experience, the store remains an immensely popular fixture among CIA employees and boasts long lines at all hours of the day. 4. Different Colored Starbucks Aprons Mean Different Things When Starbucks was first founded in 1971, its baristas were known for wearing simple brown grocers’ aprons. In 1987, the company adopted their now-iconic green aprons featuring a brand-new logo, which remains the norm for the majority of baristas. Though you’re likely to mostly see green aprons at Starbucks locations, other designs may pop up from time to time. Some Starbucks aprons boast practical applications — traditional green aprons that are embroidered with ASL fingerspelling signify that the barista is fluent in American Sign Language. Others are unique to certain regions, including orange aprons, which are worn in the Netherlands during King’s Day, an annual Dutch celebration on April 27. This seasonality extends to America as well, where red aprons are worn around the December holidays. The colors black and purple, however, are worn only by the best of the best. The coveted black apron is worn by Starbucks Coffee Masters, who complete the Starbucks Coffee Academy and earn their certification for being extraordinarily passionate and knowledgeable about the product. Even more prestigious is the purple apron, which signifies being a champion barista. These are given to winners of the company’s annual international Starbucks Barista Championship, making it the rarest color of the bunch. 5. The World’s Largest Starbucks Is Located in Chicago, Illinois In 2019, the 32,000-square-foot Tokyo Reserve Roastery ceded its “World’s Largest Starbucks” title to a brand-new location on the Magnificent Mile in Chicago, Illinois. Encompassing 35,000 square feet of area and spanning five stories, the new world’s largest Starbucks provides a different experience on every floor. The first and second stories offer customers the chance to sample Reserve brand Starbucks coffee, consume baked goods, and purchase Chicago-themed Starbucks merchandise. Moving up to the third floor, you can find an experiential coffee bar, featuring unique nitrogen-infused gelato drinks and special pistachio lattes, among other concoctions. Floor four offers a different kind of Starbucks experience, as it’s home to a bar brewing up decadent alcoholic cocktails. Last but not least, the fifth floor allows the opportunity for customers to enjoy their Starbucks beverages in a private rooftop setting. All in all, you’re not going to find a bigger Starbucks anywhere in the world. 6. Starbucks Invented the Pumpkin Spice Latte Love it or hate it, the pumpkin spice latte is a part of the American coffee identity. It’s hard to imagine that the drink didn’t exist as recently as the early 2000s, and we have Starbucks to thank for the seasonal treat — they introduced it in 2003. Pumpkin spice lattes were created by the “Liquid Lab” at Starbucks’ Seattle headquarters, and are considered to be the brainchild of Peter Dukes. Dukes had the idea for the latte back in 2001, at a time when Starbucks was trying to conceive of a fall-themed beverage that would become as popular as their seasonal holiday drinks. Short of an actual recipe, the testers brought pumpkin pies into a lab, poured espresso atop, and ate the pie in what proved to be a delicious treat. After matching the taste in drink form, the result blew up into a worldwide sensation. Pumpkin spice lattes were first tested in 100 Starbucks stores in 2003 before launching worldwide the following year. They went on to sell upwards of 500 million cups in the drink’s first 18 years on the market. The drink has expanded far beyond Starbucks ever since, becoming an autumnal staple of coffee shops everywhere. Source: Facts About Starbucks to Perk You Up
  20. What's the Word: NUGACITY pronunciation: [noo-GAS-ih-tee] Part of speech: noun Origin: Latin, 16th century Meaning: 1. Triviality or frivolity. 2. A trivial or frivolous thing or idea. Example: "It may be a nugacity, but I enjoy buying flowers for myself every week." "If you’re struggling with your budget, review your expenses to find any nugacities you can cut." About Nugacity “Nugacity” is based on the Latin “nugacitas,” meaning “trifling.” Did you Know? As a word, “nugacity” is easy to define as “frivolity,” but nugacities themselves are often in the eye of the beholder. For decades, video games were viewed as nugacities with no deeper value beyond the entertainment they offered. However, research has shown that video games can help teach players hand-eye coordination, problem solving, and pattern recognition. Many such hobbies that seem like nugacities on the surface end up having longer-term benefits.
  21. Fact of the Day - FUNGI Did you know.... We eat them. We drink them. We breathe them — fungi are truly everywhere. Not quite plants and not quite animals, fungi are masters of their own biological kingdom, and scientists estimate that there may be a staggering 3.8 million species. To put that number in perspective, scientists only know about 320,000 plant species total. Fungi can be good or bad for us; some contain compounds that can alter human brain chemistry, while others serve a vital role in making foods that have sustained countries and empires. It’s difficult to overstate the importance of the humble fungus, and these six amazing facts show why. 1. They’re More Like Humans Than Plants For centuries, fungi were misclassified as plants — and it’s an understandable mistake to make. After all, both appear to have a stalk-like structure and otherwise look visually similar. However, fungi have more in common with animals than they do with plants. Some 1.5 billion years ago, animals and fungi separated from plants, and it wasn’t for another 10 million years that fungi and humans went their separate evolutionary ways. Using computational phylogenetics, scientists discovered that humans and fungi are actually part of the same biological clade, called an “opisthokonta,” named after a part now found in both animal sperm and fungal spores. It’s estimated that humans and fungi share roughly 50% of their DNA. 2. They’re Used in Some of Humanity’s Most Important Medicines Fungi are often considered a fine delicacy, a poisonous hazard, or a hallucinogenic head trip, but they also play a vital role in medicine. The most famous fungi-based drug is penicillin, whose lifesaving properties were discovered completely by accident. In 1928, upon returning to his laboratory at St. Mary’s Hospital in London after a two-week vacation, Scottish physician Alexander Fleming found mold growing on a petri dish of Staphylococcus, a group of bacteria known to cause a variety of infections. Instead of tossing the petri dish in the trash, Fleming noticed that the mold, a fungi known as penicillium, appeared to stop the bacteria dead in its tracks. This happy accident kick-started a mission to create the world’s first antibiotic — one of the greatest medical breakthroughs of the 20th century and arguably one of the greatest in human history. 3. One Fungi Can Turn Ants Into Zombies While some fungi can save lives, others can take them. Take, for instance, Ophiocordyceps unilateralis. Found in tropical forests, this fungus possesses the incredibly creepy ability to essentially take control of an ant’s body (likely via its nervous system), effectively transforming it into a zombie. Compelled by the fungus to find a humid microclimate more advantageous for the fungus’ propagation, the ant moves to a suitable spot and eventually dies, and the fungus uses its desiccated corpse to produce fruiting bodies that’ll send spores off to infect more ants — and the cycle continues. This specific fungus inspired the hit video game and television series The Last of Us, which follows a society in collapse as humans become mindless zombies in service of this bizarre fungus. Thankfully, in reality, human bodies are far too warm and complex for Ophiocordyceps unilateralis to have any mind-altering effect. 4. A Fungus in Oregon Is the World’s Largest Organism Located in the Malheur National Forest in Oregon and known affectionately as “the Humongous Fungus,” Armillaria ostoyae is the largest known organism in the world by biomass. Stretching 2,385 acres (about the size of the Mall of America), this fungus (and its interconnected mycelia) is located mostly underground — in fact, hikers could walk on it and not even notice. Scientists discovered this massive fungus (also known as the honey mushroom, in reference to its honey-colored cap) in 1998, but estimates suggest that the fungus has been lurking in the forest for around 10,000 years. Its location underground likely aids its longevity; scientists theorize that being cut off from the sun’s rays limits genetic mutations over millennia. The fungus isn’t great news for trees in the vicinity, since it often kills them, but the forest’s constant regeneration keeps the hungry fungus alive. 5. There are 80 Types of Fungi on the Heel of Your Foot It’s easy to picture fungi as simple fruiting bodies popping out of dense, debris-littered forest floors, but microscopic fungi are literally everywhere — in the water you drink, the air you breathe, and yes, even on your body. Scientists in 2013 analyzed “hot spots” of the human body ripe for fungal growth (think palms, feet, etc.), and found that the heel is host to at least 80 different types of fungi. The rest of the foot doesn’t fare much better, with 60 types found in toenail clippings and 40 found between toes. Not all fungi are harmful to humans, but around half of them are, which is why feet are common victims of fungal infections such as athlete’s foot. But although some fungi can be a health risk, other microscopic fungi are what make life worth living — they serve as the biological engine behind such delicacies as bread, cheese, wine, and beer. 6. 90% of Fungi Is Unknown to Science As recently as the 1960s, scientists still considered fungi to be plants, so it’s probably not surprising that there are a few more mysteries to uncover within this expansive kingdom. But finding the answers to those mysteries can be daunting, because scientists only know about 10% of the estimated 3.8 million species of fungi in the world. And yet fungal existence underpins the natural world itself: Fungi serve as vital decomposers, especially in the world’s forests and jungles. Today, fungi are being used for making new biofuels and breaking down plastics —and in some cases, even replacing plastics entirely. Fungus is truly among us, and it’s a very good thing that it is. Source: Fantastic Facts About Fungi
  22. What's the Word: REDE pronunciation: [reed] Part of speech: verb Origin: Old English, 13th century Meaning: 1. Advise (someone). 2. Interpret (a riddle or dream). Example: "The commencement speaker closed his speech with the final piece of advice, "I rede you to use your knowledge to always inspire others."" "I try to write down my dreams as soon as I wake up so that I can rede them later." About Rede “Rede” is based on the Old English “rǣdan” (meaning “to advise”). Did you Know? With the meaning of “to advise (someone),” the verb “rede” is fairly archaic. Its usage is almost exclusively as an infinitive: “I rede you to read the instructions before you begin.” There’s a secondary verb definition meaning “to interpret a dream,” but that has almost disappeared from usage. The noun form of “rede” is perhaps more recognizable, but people may not realize they’re using it. When someone asks, “What’s your read/rede on the situation?” they may be intending to use “read,” asking for your take, but they could also be using “rede” and want your counsel.
  23. Fact of the Day - CHESS Did you know.... It’s sometimes said that soccer is the world’s game, but if there’s any activity that offers something close to universal appeal, it’s probably chess, with a reported 600 million-plus regular adult participants. Given the minimal space and physical exertion needed, it’s easy to see why, although chess can definitely count as a mental workout. While most of us would fail at executing an acrobatic scissor kick, it’s somewhat easier (at least physically) to learn to strategically move chess pieces to opportune spots while slowly reducing an opponent to a quivering mess. Read on to learn six fun facts about the ultimate battle board game, but be sure to keep a watchful eye on your king. 1. Chess Evolved From the Indian Board Game Chaturanga Although the exact rules of the sixth-century Indian board game chaturanga are lost to time, enough is known to label it a clear forerunner to chess. Like its more recent relative, chaturanga was a simulated war game that involved moving pieces of differing attacking capabilities, with the end goal of capturing the opponent's king-like piece. Chaturanga was eventually adapted into shatranj (or chatrang) by Persian players, and this was the version of the game that spread across Europe. With the introduction of a few key changes, including the transformation of a somewhat punchless king's minister into the mighty queen, the modern form of chess was born in the 15th century. 2. Benjamin Franklin Helped Popularize Chess in the U.S. A man of immense intellectual capacity, Benjamin Franklin was unsurprisingly drawn to the challenges that arose from the chessboard. He wrote of playing as far back as 1733, and later was often seen competing in public venues during his time as minister to France in the 1770s and '80s. His treatise "The Morals of Chess," which surfaced in 1779, is considered the first published work on the subject by an American author. Although he was perhaps admired more for his enthusiasm than pure talent, Franklin's endorsement of the game boosted its popularity in his home country, and eventually led to his induction into the U.S. Chess Hall of Fame in 1999. 3. Many Chess Champions Have Come From Russia After Austria's Wilhelm Steinitz won the first official World Chess Championship in 1886, the top ranks of international chess became increasingly dominated by Russian-born competitors. Along with delivering the game's first female champion in Vera Menchik, the talent pool from this area of the world produced a series of men's champions of almost exclusively Soviet/Russian nationality during the second half of the 20th century. The one player to break through the Eastern Bloc was American Bobby Fischer, who defeated Boris Spassky for the championship in 1972, although he was later stripped of the title in 1975 for refusing to follow federation rules. 4. There Are More Possible Chess Moves Than Atoms in the Observable Universe This is the sort of tidbit that pops up on internet searches without much of an explanation, but it’s valid if you follow the logic proposed by mathematician Claude Shannon, sometimes called the "father of information theory." According to his 1950 paper "Programming a Computer for Playing Chess," there are approximately 1,000 unique possibilities for each coupled pair of white-then-black moves, which adds up to 10 to the power of 120 possible moves — aka the "Shannon Number" — for a game lasting 40 turns. As there are an estimated 10 to the power of 80 atoms in the observable universe, that would be checkmate for the Shannon Number in this comparison of incomprehensibly enormous figures. 5. The 1997 Deep Blue-Kasparov Match Marked a Turning Point for Computer Chess While Shannon and fellow geniuses like Alan Turing were fixated on chess-playing computers as far back as the 1950s, the landmark moment in this field arrived in May 1997, when the IBM supercomputer Deep Blue defeated world champion Garry Kasparov in a six-game match. Although the humbled champ suspected that human intervention was involved because of an unusual sacrifice offered by his opponent — later explained as a bug in the software — the rapid development of computing power soon obliterated any hope of humans retaining the edge over machines. Writing of his experience playing computers in 2010, Kasparov casually mentioned that anyone could buy a "home PC program that will crush most grandmasters." In fact, it’s now been at least 15 years since a human beat a computer in a chess tournament. 6. The World’s Biggest Chess Set Can Be Found in Norway While some programmers are devoted to creating ever smarter and faster chess engines, other fans of the game remain fixated on size. As such, there are several claims to the title of world's largest chess board, although the winner, as of 2023, appears to be the 11.5-by-11.5-meter MegaChess set in Stavanger, Norway. A similar battle plays out for the distinction of largest chess piece: The World Chess Hall of Fame advertises ownership of the reigning champ, a 20-foot king, on its Missouri campus, while publicly ignoring the 20-foot, 6-inch king unveiled by a French chess club in 2022. Source: Crowning Facts About Chess
  24. What's the Word: ARGLE-BARGLE pronunciation: [ahr-gəl-BAHR-gəl] Part of speech: noun Origin: Scots, 19th century Meaning: 1. Copious but meaningless talk or writing; nonsense. Example: "The instructions for setting up my home-theater system are 48 pages of argle-bargle." "When I’m nervous, I talk constantly, but it’s all argle-bargle." About Argle-Bargle “Argle-bargle” is based on the Scots word “argle,” possibly a mispronunciation of “argue” and meaning the same. The Scots expression “argy-bargy” is a variation. Did you Know? Like “whoopsy-daisy” or “hurly-burly,” “argle-bargle” is an example of rhyming reduplication — when a new word is created by repeating a word or adding a second similar-sounding word. “Argle-bargle” was based on the Scots word “argle,” meaning “argue,” but it took on the meaning of a verbal argument. Over time, “argle-bargle” went from describing a multiparty argument to an expression of disdain for a copious volume of words that don’t say much of anything at all.
  25. Fact of the Day - SINGIN' IN THE RAIN Did you know.... Apotpourri of memorable dance scenes and endearing jokes, Singin' in the Rain is the type of film beloved by both cinema buffs and casual fans who become ensnared while channel-surfing on a Saturday night. Although perhaps underappreciated (more on that below) when it was released in the spring of 1952, the film has endured as one of the all-time greats thanks to the inspired work of star/choreographer/co-director Gene Kelly, and the efforts of supporting stars Donald O’Connor, Debbie Reynolds, and Jean Hagen. Read on to learn more about what went into the production of this classic Hollywood gem. 1. The Soundtrack Mostly Consisted of Well-Known Songs Co-written by Adolph Green and Betty Comden, Singin' in the Rain was essentially a vehicle for recycling a catalog of old songs created by the film's producer, Arthur Freed, and his longtime composing partner, Nacio Brown. Although it's now closely associated with Kelly's iconic dance number, the film's title track was written in the late 1920s and appeared in at least seven MGM films overall. Other tracks, like "All I Do Is Dream of You" and "You Were Meant for Me," were also featured in previous pictures and recorded by multiple artists. According to Singin' in the Rain: The Making of an American Masterpiece, the only new pieces written for the film were "Moses Supposes" — with the lyrics partly lifted from 19th-century English nonsense verse — and "Make 'Em Laugh" — which bore a strong resemblance to the Kelly-performed "Be a Clown" from 1948's The Pirate. 2. Debbie Reynolds Endured Harsh Training From Gene Kelly A 19-year-old with limited screen and dance experience when she was cast for the role of Kathy Selden, Debbie Reynolds learned the hard way what it was like to work with a top-notch pro like Kelly. The film's nimble-footed lead was relentless when it came to training his romantic co-star, who at one point was found sobbing beneath a rehearsal studio piano by Fred Astaire. The day-long shooting for the "Good Morning" dance scene reportedly left her with bloody feet, a grueling experience rendered unnecessary when Kelly wound up using the first take. Although she later gave Kelly credit for whipping her into shape, Reynolds also compared the making of the movie to childbirth, saying they were the "two hardest things" she'd ever done. 3. Gene Kelly Battled a Fever While Shooting the "Singin' in the Rain" Sequence Although he seems happy as a clam during his title-track song-and-dance scene, Kelly was feeling less than glorious while gritting through his moves in a wool suit with a 103-degree fever. Of course, he didn't have the luxury of taking much time off to recover, so, according to his wife, he relaxed in the sunlight between takes to "just kind of bake this fever out of him." Another problem affecting the scene was the amount of water needed to simulate a rainstorm. Although a network of pipes normally ensured that Kelly was sufficiently drenched, filming had to pause when local residents watered their lawns in the late afternoon and caused the set's flow to dim to a trickle. 4. Reynolds' Voice Was Dubbed for Two Songs and One Speaking Scene Naturally, in a movie that spotlights Hollywood's use of uncredited singers supplying voice work for its headlining talents, there's an uncredited singer supplying voice work for a headlining talent. As described in The Making of an American Masterpiece, Reynolds' solo performance for "Would You?" and her duet with Kelly on "You Are My Lucky Star" were both dubbed by actress Betty Noyes. Furthermore, in the scene where Reynolds' Kathy Selden is recording the spoken lines to be used by Hagen's screechy Lina Lamont, that's actually Hagen's real voice being used. 5. "Make 'Em Laugh" Was Strung Together From Donald O'Connor's Bag of Trick A standout number in a film bursting with standout numbers, "Make 'Em Laugh" differed from the other Kelly-choreographed sequences in that it was pieced together with bits from O'Connor’s days as a vaudeville star. Per An American Masterpiece, this included stunts such as the backflip off the wall — performed in two of his previous movies — and the running-in-circles-on-the-floor gag, borrowed from Jerry "Curly" Howard of the Three Stooges. Several sources, including O'Connor, have claimed that he was bedridden with exhaustion after shooting the scene, and then had to shoot it again because the original footage was ruined, although O'Connor contradicted himself when he told Roger Ebert in 2003 that those travails were fabricated. 6. The Film Was Initially Overshadowed by Another Kelly Featur Although it was generally well reviewed and turned a profit at the box office, Singin' in the Rain was hardly considered an instant classic. That's partly because it was overshadowed by Kelly's previous musical, An American in Paris (1951), which claimed a whopping eight Oscars at the March 1952 Academy Awards. (Singin' in the Rain won zero Oscars the following year.) Within a few decades, however, Singin' had surpassed An American in Paris as the defining musical of its time. Among the accolades that burnished its legacy, Singin' was among the 25 motion pictures selected for the brand-new National Film Registry in 1989, and it ranked No. 5 on the American Film Institute's 100 Years … 100 Movies (10th Anniversary Edition) list in 2008. Source: Sunny Facts About “Singin’ in the Rain”
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