Sunday, December 1, 2013

George Bernard Shaw and the Shavian Alphabet

You know those funny little slideshows MSN puts together to hook people into reading more on their site?  They ALWAYS get me.  Today's headline "Weirdest stuff stars left their heirs"  I got about four people in and found this interesting tidbit : George Bernard Shaw left money in his will to fund the creation of a new alphabet.  After perusing said alphabet, I can see why it didn't catch on.    You can read more about it here.

This image is also from that site.  I can't imagine writing with these symbols but maybe it would be the same as the standard alphabet if it were how I were taught.  It looks like hieroglyphics  to me!

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Renting Chickens?

MSN often has funny little nuggets like this (haha, nuggets....I'm mildly entertained by that un-intentional pun) is a company in Pennsylvania which MSN wrote a story about here

A link at the bottom of the story lead me to this story which I also found mildly entertaining.

Renting chickens seems like a good idea to me.  You can see if perhaps you enjoy keeping them, benefitting from their eggs etc., and if you find you don't enjoy it, you can simply return the chickens. 

Friday, August 23, 2013

The Telling Room

The reference librarian with whom I am interning at the Springville Public Library also orders adult non-fiction for the collection.  I got to help her work on an order today, and one of the books on the New York Times Bestseller hard cover nonfiction list this week is called The Telling Room (That link is to the NYT review) which is a book about the world's most expensive cheese.  The fact that there is a not only a BOOK about this subject, but that is on the best seller list, is one of the reason's I'm studying to be a librarian.  I LOVE that people write and read about so many interesting things!

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

The world's most expensive spice

Sometimes I think I should have a whole section on this blog called "Who decided this was edible?".  Although, that needs to be made more catchy somehow.....

Today at work, someone asked me about saffron threads.  I had heard of saffron, but never saffron threads.  Apparently, they are the individually hand harvest stamens of the crocus flower and is the most expensive spice in the world. 

The Deluxe Food Lovers Companion says this:

"It's no wonder that saffron—the yellow-orange stigmas from a small purple crocus (Crocus sativus)—is the world's most expensive spice. Each flower provides only three stigmas, which must be carefully hand-picked and then dried—an extremely labor-intensive process. It takes over 14,000 of these tiny stigmas for each ounce of saffron ... " (emphasis mine)

Interestingly, the Cambridge World History of Food posits the number of flowers as this:

"It has been estimated that, at three stigmas per plant, upwards of 250,000 of these crocus flowers are required to yield a pound of saffron. "

So I wonder, who figured out that the inside of a flower is so tasty?  Considering how long it takes to dry and how MANY flowers they have to harvest to make it usable, it just seems odd than anyone figured that out.   The Cambridge World History of Food has a whole section titled "Determining what our ancestors ate" which addresses how we know what people ate thousands of years ago; I think you could write an interesting book, or at least an essay about the stories of food 'discovery'. 

The history of Saffron:

Again, the Cambridge World History of Food:

"Native to the eastern Mediterranean, saffron was used in cooking for thousands of years before the Romans built their empire. Indeed, some credit Phoenician traders with introducing it in Spain - the country that today is the leading producer for the commercial market.

The word saffron comes from the Arabic word for “yellow,” and its distinctive color and taste grace Spanish, Cuban, French, and Indian cuisines, especially their rice dishes. It is a vital ingredient in an authentic bouillabaisse or paella as well as the saffron bread of a traditional Swedish feast. Saffron also goes well with poultry, in tomato-based sauces and stews, and in liqueurs such as Chartreuse. The spice is marketed as dried threads and in ground form. Unfortunately, much adulteration of ground saffron occurs, including its near-total replacement with turmeric - a crime that in fifteenth-century Germany drew a penalty of execution by burning or burying alive." (Cambridge World History of Food)

That last bit is one of my favorite items of interest.  Saffron was so special that you could be killed for replacing it with something else.

And a bit more info, from the Deluxe Food Lovers Companion:

"Thousands of years ago saffron was used not only to flavor food and beverages but to make medicines and to dye cloth and body oils a deep yellow. Today this pungent, aromatic spice is primarily used to flavor and tint food. Fortunately (because it's so pricey), a little saffron goes a long way. It's integral to hundreds of dishes like bouillabaisse, risotto Milanese and paella, and flavors many European baked goods."

Incidentally, from what I have found in other sources, the flavor of saffron is nearly impossible to replicate although some say safflower has some, minimal similarity.  The color of saffron can be replicated by several other additives including turmeric, safflower, annato seeds and marigold flowers


SAFFRON. (2000). In Cambridge World History of Food.  Accessed through University of North Texas Online Resources.Password required.

This resource is also available in hard copy and some preview elements are available on the official website.

SAFFRON :SPICE GLOSSARY. (2009). In The Deluxe Food Lover's Companion.   Accessed through University of North Texas Online Resources. Password required.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

The Dame of Dictionaries

So many interesting people in the world!  This article/profile was shared on the LM-Net listserv.  A woman in New York City collects dictionaries of all sorts.  This collection would be so fascinating to peruse as I love words and etymology.  Her name is Madeline Kripke, and you can read about her here.

The website is interesting as well; a site called It summarizes itself  in the 'footer' at the bottom of each page with this "Narratively is a community of talented storytellers who are devoted to uncovering and sharing in-depth local stories with a universal appeal."  Read their about page here.

The theme the website was focusing on this week was miniature museums (other featured collections included a woman's troll collection and a collection of things found left in books that had presumably been used as bookmarks.

Friday, August 16, 2013

"My 2 favorite things in life are libraries and bicycles.  They both move people forward, without wasting anything.  The perfect day: riding a bike to the library"  Peter Golkin.

As seen on

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Mark Twain

I always knew Mark Twain was an interesting character; today I was perusing a site I've mentioned before (Today I found out) and came across an interesting article about his habit of 'collecting' young girls.  That immediately brought up creepy serial killer images for me, probably because I'm reading a book by Terri Reid called Bumpy Roads and the serial killer in the book calls his victims a 'collection'. 

Anyway, for Twain, apparently these girls were more like surrogate granddaughters; he called them the "Aquarium Club" and his "Angelfish" and had a guest room in his home specifically set up for them to come and stay as well as a room decorated with their pictures on his wall.  

You can read the post on "Today I found out" here.  Letters he exchanged with these girls have been collected and published in Mark Twain's Aquarium: The Samuel Clemens-Angelfish Correspondence, 1905-1910

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

The Thai Elephant Orchestra

I can't remember where I initially came across this story. In an elephant sanctuary in Thailand, a neuroscientist and composer named David Sulzer (in his musical work he uses the name Dave Soldier) has taken the time to create musical instruments sized specifically for elephants, and teach them how to play them.  He claims to have been inspired by seeing elephants appreciate the singing of their mahouts as well as other music they came across.
You can listen to the NPR story about the elephants here

The official website of the sanctuary is here. (It's apparently a big tourist draw)

You can find recordings of the Thai Elephant Orchestra here (They are also available on Amazon and other music sellers)

Monday, August 5, 2013


Chicken Croquettes @ Tapas On Main
  Image from Lehigh Valley, PA
Creative Commons
A random misspelling led to my curiosity about this food; I knew the word and that it was a food item, but little else. 

According to the International Dictionary of Food, this spelling of the term "croquettes" refers to the English or French usage, and means "Any mixture of minced cooked meat, etc. combined with mashed potatoes and/or breadcrumbs, herbs, onions, seasonings and egg or stock to form a stiff paste which is shaped into cylinders, spheres, rounds, ovals etc., panéed and deep-fried"

The Wikipedia article on the term indicates there are several different ethnic and regional variations but the all share a basic similarity.

José (a tapas bar), Bermondsey Street, London
Creative Commons

I wasn't sure what paneed meant either, so I looked it up.  To "An anglicization of the French paner, meaning to coat foods with seasoned flour, beaten egg and breadcrumbs in that order, prior to frying them"

This website also offers some interesting insight into the croquette as well as a recipe for a lovely spinach artichoke version which is vegetarian friendly and egg free.

croquette. (2005). In Dictionary of Food: International Food and Cooking Terms from A to Z.
pané, to. (2005). In Dictionary of Food: International Food and Cooking Terms from A to Z.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

The Hutterites

I find religions fascinating.  A friend at work told me about this interesting group, which appears to be similar to the better known Amish in some ways.  Upon a little research it does appear that both groups are off-shoots of the larger Anabaptist belief system, although the Amish most direct religious 'ancestry' is the Mennonites.  Both groups also originated, like most American belief systems, in persecution of their group in Europe.  For the Hutterites, that area was Germany.  For the Amish, the original split lead to settlements in Switzerland as well the southern Rhine river region.

This page seems to be an official one by the Hutterite group and has some good overview information.  It's existence indicates (to me at least) that the Hutterites don't eschew technology to the level that I've heard most Amish do. Although there are multiple websites that offer Amish goods and services; it seems that most of these are third party groups which deal with the Amish through more traditional face to face means.  The Hutterite website even has blogs done by various community members and pictures make it appear that they use modern tractors.  Their clothing standards, while more conservative than most of the contemporary United States  (long dresses on the woman, dark slacks, long sleeved shirts on the men) the colors seem to be brighter and several photos have younger men wearing what look like baseball caps.

Certain elements of this faith really stand out to me.  One of them is the idea of adult baptism.  I find this a really sensible idea.  The site I mentioned above indicates that the community tends to request baptism between the ages of 20 and 30, after somewhere between five and ten years of Sunday School teaching.  Even then, the baptism is not instantaneous but requires several more months of specific teaching by community elders.

Other Information:

Hutterite Boys
Image by Kelly Hofer
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License

Hutterite men on horseback
Image by pverdonk
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License

American Colony by National Geographic 

Friday, August 2, 2013

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

July 31 is Harry Potter's birthday!!

Credit does have to be paid to my fellow book nerd Erin, who made lovely Harry Potter cupcakes and brought them to work today (and who incidentally has a fairly literary last name, Nottingham, as in the Forest of.....)

At any rate, in honor of Harry and J.K. Rowling his creator who, I'm sure not incidentally shares the boy wizards birthday, today's blog is about birthday celebrations in books.  The first one (after Harry's) that jumped to mind was the infamous birthday celebrated by Bilbo Baggins in Tolkiens' Fellowship of the Ring.  I didn't think the date was ever mentioned in the book, or the movie, but it was pointed out to me that IS mentioned by our lovely supervisor Jo.  Fortuitously, another employee happened to be READING the book, so we checked.  Not only was Jo right in that it is mentioned in the book, the date she remembered was correct.  Bilbo's birthday is September 22nd (and he shares that birthday with Frodo)

When I started digging, I discovered that Harry Potter has quite a few birthdays which are known, but few of them are actually mentioned in the books.  Severus Snape was born in January (January 9), Hermione Granger in September (September 19), and Lupin in March (March 10).  These have all been gleaned from interviews with Rowling and other sources. I found them on the HP Lexicon.

Check out the Harry Potter Lexicon here.  It has all kinds of HP info.

Also in the LOTR universe, the Return of the King appendices indicate that Aragorn was born March 1st.  Is it just me or does it seem like J.R.R. Tolkien and J.K. Rowling would have been friends?  They both talk(ed) and write (wrote) about their characters and the world they created pretty extensively. 

Sherlock Holmes birthday is January 6th, according to Homes expert Leslie Klinger, but again, it does not appear to have been mentioned in the writings of Conan Doyle.

Bill Compton, the vampire character in the Sookie Stackhouse books, by Charlaine Harris celebrated his human birth on April 9, 1840, and had what I would call his 'vampire birth' on November 20, 1868 (although I don't think Harris ever calls it that).  Sookie herself  celebrates her birthday several times in the course of the series, it is May 24th.

By process of deduction, it can be figured that Alice of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland fame was born on May 4th, which is also the birthdate of Alice Liddell, the real girl for whom the stories were written. Alice states in Through the Looking Glass that she is "seven and a half exactly" and the story is said to take place on November 4th.

For other fictional character birthdays, check out this infographic on Flavorwire.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

A cool website

Today I found out is a cool website full of random facts and information.  It's enjoyable to me, and it's also enjoyable that enough OTHER people enjoy random facts and information for someone to create a whole website!

Thursday, July 18, 2013


Intern time at the library ran long tonight as we were getting ready for tomorrow's big teen night (which I unfortunately am missing)  One of the things we had to do was get the prizes read for the teen book trailers which some of the kids have been working on.  Ellen claims that neither she nor Shelly have good handwriting, so I volunteered to be the scribe.  That lead to this wondering.  I do not claim to write well enough for it to be called calligraphy, but it was the only shorthand type word I could think of for "write pretty and sort of fancy".  And then I found myself wondering if there was a verb for writing in calligraphy or as I have learned, to write calligraphically.  To create a transcription is to transcribe something.  But to create calligraphy...well, as far as I can tell there isn't a word for that.  You don't 'calligraph' something. only offers noun, adjective and adverb forms of the word. 

Wednesday, July 17, 2013


I've always wondered why anyone would look at an artichoke and think it would be something good to eat.

Just looking at this plant, you have to wonder why someone would think to eat it.  At least I do.
 This website has some interesting history including the Greek legend as does this one.  Interestingly, it is not a vegetable, but rather a thistle, although according to the strictest definition, the edible part of the plant is a bud of the flower, so that the artichoke could be called a fruit.  There could be a whole discussion about what makes a fruit a fruit and a vegetable a vegetable.  Perhaps another day......

Monday, July 8, 2013

I hate mosquitos

I hate mosquitos, partly because they seem to love me, and any time I spend more than five or ten minutes outside, it seems I always end up with half a dozen itchy mosquito bites.  Tony recently bought an AWESOME bug zapper for our back yard, which does seem to cut down on the nasty critters trying to eat me alive.

So this morning, I was listening to the lovely folks on Radio from Hell discuss a local case of West Nile Virus, which of course is caused by being bitten by the aforementioned evil bugs, and I found myself wondering, what would happen if the little pests were completely eradicated from the planet?

I googled and came across this article Ecology: A world without mosquitoes which is subtitled "Eradicating any organism would have serious consequences for ecosystems — wouldn't it? Not when it comes to mosquitoes, finds Janet Fang"  That makes me happy.  So, the question is, why haven't we wiped them out yet?

One of the reasons appears to be that it's pretty hard to do safely.  One of the most effective weapons against mosquitos is the chemical DDT, famously excoriated in Rachel Carson's Silent Spring and which is now banned internationally under the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants.

Can mosquitos be eradicated? It's been done in targeted geographical areas in the past; for example, a focused effort of larvicide application in South America allowed workers to complete the Panama Canal without dying from the yellow fever and malaria which was previously rampant among the crew.

According to the Nature article mention above, there are areas of the world which would be more strongly impacted by destruction of the mosquitos and their larvae, but in many cases other insects would fill the gap rather quickly and be just as effective without the various diseases mosquitos spread.  The conclusion seems to be that eradicating mosquitos would only benefit people.  However, the article closes with one caveat. "'If we eradicated them tomorrow, the ecosystems where they are active will hiccup and then get on with life. Something better or worse would take over.'" (Fang, 2010; emphasis mine)

There's the real reason to leave the mosquitos alone in my mind.  They may be keeping away something even worse!


Saturday, July 6, 2013

The obligatory it was just the 4th of July so I have to do a post about fireworks post....

I didn't actually watch any fireworks this year.  Had a headache and actually tried to go to bed early, which was hard because my neighbors had some seriously loud fireworks.  But I digress.

Friend of mine asked on Facebook how a Chinese invention became the biggest symbol of American Independence.  So I did a little digging, as I often do. 

First of all, there is some dissent about whether fireworks actually ARE a Chinese invention.  Some credit India, others just a more general 'the Middle East'.  The era of their invention seems to be fairly consistent, they were present in China as early as 400 B.C.

The first fireworks were actually just bamboo, which, when thrown in the fire makes popping noises due to the air pockets inside it as well as it's water content.  Some say that it was believed to frighten off evil spirits. 

At some point, an un-identified individual, experimenting with ingredients which some say was an attempt to discover the infamous elixir of life (others say it was simply a cooking accident) mixed saltpeter with other ingredients and discovered that it burned with a brightly colored flame and which, when stuffed into the aforementioned stalks of bamboo, made a loud explosion as well.  Over time, the mixture and process were perfected and turned to uses such as warfare along with the more benign displays for celebrations and to ward off those aforementioned evil spirits.

The use soon spread, both for military and entertainment applications and by the time of the Renaissance in Europe, fireworks were so common a feature of celebrations among the nobility and royalty that Shakespeare mentioned them in his plays and (read the article here says that "Czar Peter the Great of Russia arranged a five-hour pyrotechnic extravaganza to mark the birth of his son." Famous pieces of music from the era also incorporate both fireworks and cannons. identifies 1608 as the date of the first fireworks display in the New World, stating that the legend gives credit to Captain John Smith for the import. Apparently, Rhode Island had so many problems with mischievous fireworks users that it had to outlaw them; the website states that they " banned the “mischievous use of pyrotechnics” in 1731."

Thursday, July 4, 2013

United States Territories

My friend Sue is still studying for her citizenship test, and today we were talking about 50 states and it came up why Puerto Rico is still a territory instead of a state.  And it got me wondering, how many territories does the US have anyway?

According to Wikipedia, there are five inhabited territories and nine 9 un-inhabited territories:

The five inhabited territories are:

Puerto Rico
American Samoa
United States Virgin Islands
Northern Mariana Islands

The territories have different governmental structures, which I thought was interesting.  Both the Northern Mariana Islands and Puerto Rico are Commonwealths while American Samoa, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Guam have a governor.  Commonwealths have voting privileges for all their citizens, while territories do not.  All five territories do have elected representatives to U.S. Congress but they are non-voting representatives.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Job interviews are hard!!

So yesterday, I interviewed for a position at the Orem Public library.  It's just a part-time, no guaranteed hours fill in position.  Even with that caveat, there were a TON of people who applied and were being interviewed. 

Anyway, there were two questions that I feel like I kind of flubbed and as SOON as I got home, I thought of at least THREE great answers.  So today's blog is those answers!

Question: I'm a patron.  I approach the desk and ask you for books for my two children, both boys, ages 5 1/2 and 2 1/2.

So in the interview, I mentioned Fly Guy by Tedd Arnold, which boys tend to love, but which is probably too old for the 2 and 1/2 year old. The interviewer did say that his boys love it though.  Unfortunately I got stuck there....and couldn't think of another title.  I did mention The secret science project that almost ate the school by Judy Sierra and also Tuesday by David Wiesner. 

Titles I thought of after the fact:
  • Melinda Long's How I became a pirate or Pirates don't change diapers (illustrated by David Shannon)
  • David Shannon also has a couple great one for boys like Too Many Toys and No David
  • David Gordon has a series where he's 'fractured' some fairy tales by making the main characters trucks The three little rigs, The ugly truckling, and Hansel and Diesel.  These do have the potential to be a little scary for younger kids 
  • Helen Lester's Tacky the Penguin is an older series which younger boys love.  Tacky is a little bit loud and very boisterous, like many young boys! 
  • I stink! is a fun one, both for boys who like trucks, and for the 'gross' factor
  • Grandma drove the garbage truck by Katie Clark is a little bit silly, and has some fun repetitive bits that kids sometimes like to repeat.

The other question was about books for his in-laws, mother-in-law who likes those mysteries that involve cooking and a father in law who likes history.  I don't read much in the way of adult ANYTHING, but I feel like I could have handled the 'reference interview' elements of the question better than I did.

How it SHOULD have gone would be something like

PATRON: I'm looking for a couple of books for my in-laws to have by their bedside while they are visiting, in case they want to read. 
ME: I'd be happy to help you with that.  Tell me a little more about your in-laws.  Let's start with your mother-in-law.  What kind of interests does she have? Do you know the kind of things she likes to read?
PATRON: Well she mentioned these cooking mysteries she likes.
ME: There are a couple of authors who write that style of mystery, let me show you how to search a subject like that in the catalog and we can probably find a couple. 
(We find a few)
PATRON: Okay, my father in law likes history
for some reason, in the interview this turned into WAR books for me, I don't know why.  What I SHOULD have said
ME: History is pretty broad, any particular era or area of the world that he seems to prefer?

and we could walk to the 900's as well, to see if anything that's face out might jump out at him also (which I did say in the interview)

I also should have said something about how I don't personally read a ton of adult historical fiction,  but would be happy to help him take a look at the catalog to find something.

Saturday, June 29, 2013


So, we went up to the Heber Valley Railroad to ride their new Dinosaur Train.  While the train ride itself is always fun for the kids, the event itself was underwhelming at best.  I did enjoy the "Dinosaur Hunting License" they gave the kids.

I already know a fair amount about dinosaurs because of my time as a volunteer junior docent at the College of Eastern Utah Prehistoric Museum in Price. 

For example, do you know how to differentiate an Allosaurus from a Tyrannosaurs Rex? Look at the claws.  "Al" has three, T-Rex only has two.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Hot, hot, hot!

Record heat out here in the West this weekend. So, for your entertainment, and my own edification, I have looked up the record hottest temperature ever recorded.

According to Wikipedia, it was Furnace Creek Ranch (formerly Greenland Ranch), in Death Valley, California, United States July 10th, 1913, and the record temp was 134 degrees.

This is actually a change from the previous world record, which was deemed likely inaccurate (due to several factors) by a World Meteorological Organization Commission (according to in 2012.  That record was 136 degrees in what is now modern-day Libya. 

This weekend, it is predicted that the temperature will reach 128 on Saturday and 129 on Sunday.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Dunkin Donuts

So a Dunkin' Donuts opened in Salt Lake this week and that inspired me to do a post about donuts.

What makes a doughnut a doughnut?

Essentially, a doughnut is sweet, deep fried dough. Some purists also insist that they be round, with a hole in the middle, but, in my opinion, that would exclude any kind of filled donut.  It can be topped, or filled with various things and most cultures around the world have some variety of pastry which could be called a donut. According to WiseGeek, "In the United States, a Captain Mason Gregory is credited with the invention of the classic round doughnut, which cooks quickly and evenly in a deep fryer." 

Dough for a doughnut is generally one of two type, yeast or cake.  Interestingly, although cake donuts are often referred to as old-fashioned, theories indicate it was probably the yeast donut that came first, using up left over dough scraps from other yeast containing pastries. 

Donuts or Doughnuts? 

The original spelling of the word is doughnuts and that is the prevalent spelling in most of the world. Like most things, however, the good old U.S. of A. has to go it's own way and spells it 'donuts'

For example, the Lihapiirakka is a dish found in Finland which is described as a 'meat donut' or meat pie. 

My Malaysian friend at work says they make a curry puff with pastry dough that's kind of donut like.

I also found this  recipe for a 'cronut' which is part croissant, part donut

Interestingly, these Cronuts are apparently a HUGE deal in New York City, as you can read here

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Wish locks

A friend of mine posted about this cool tradition a few months ago, and my sister-in-law Joanna posted about the one she saw in New York recently.  They are called 'love locks' or 'wish locks' and are padlocks placed on bridges all over the world.

The original bridge, at least according to ABC, is described here

Essentially, the story is that a couple used to visit the bridge to pledge their love, but when the man was sent off to war, he met another woman and ended up marrying her, leaving the first woman bereft..  For some reason, that inspired people to buy padlocks, paint or engrave the name of their love on it and then throw the key to the lock into the river. 

One of the most famous is the Pont des Arts in Paris, which you can read about here and here

The tradition seems to have spread all over the globe, with some police department regularly cutting the locks and removing them from the bridge, citing public safety concerns related to the weight of the locks putting strain on the bridges.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Paving substances

Okay, it's kind of random.  The other day on Radio from Hell, Bill asked me if I knew what macadam was, and I didn't.  So, I had to rectify that, and this post is the result!

Essentially, macadam is crushed up stone which is then cemented together.  It's called macadam after the inventor, John Loudon McAdam. (Paraphrased from Wikipedia)   It was a common road surfacing technique in the early 1800's

The Chambers Dictionary of Eponyms relates the following story about McAdams:  "It is said that as a small boy McAdam laid out model roads in his back garden - but it was years later, after spending some time in America, that he returned to Scotland, to discover that the roads in the estate that he had bought in Ayrshire were, like most roads, in a poor condition. McAdam set to work to improve the state of the roads, experimenting in Ayrshire and later in Falmouth." McAdams later became the "surveyor general of all British metropolitan roads."

A form of macadamization appears to still be used as a road base, but modern roads are finished with a top layer of asphalt as shown in the image below :

Elements of a modern asphalt road.
© Merriam-Webster Inc.

McAdam was a well known enough figure to inspire the cartoon below

Mock-Adam-izing: the Colossus of Roads, a lampoon of John MacAdam, 1827

The subject came up on RFH because aacadam was listed as one of the 101 Inventions that Changed the World exhibit at The Leonardo in Salt Lake.

Popular Mechanics also had a similar story about 101 gadgets that changed the world.


Mock-Adam-izing: the Colossus of Roads, a lampoon of John MacAdam, 1827. (2008). In The Bridgeman Art Library Archive

macadam. (2012). In Britannica Concise Encyclopedia.

macadam. (2004). In Chambers Dictionary of Eponyms.

road. (2012). In Britannica Concise Encyclopedia. 

Note: These sources were retrieved from the UNT Electronic Resources provided to students; they are not openly available on the internet, but your public library may have access to them through their online subscription databases.

Friday, June 14, 2013


I love pineapple, so todays post will include a recipe or two as well as some interesting info about the history and cultivation of pineapple.

The original domesticators of the pineapple are disputed, but most agree that it was first seen in South America; Columbus wrote that it resembled a pine cone and dubbed it the 'Pine of the Indies'

Interestingly, although they are widely associated with Hawaii, they were not introduced to the islands as a crop until the late 18th century. Many now consider it to be the state's most important food crop.

The pineapple plant is a perennial which grows low to the ground.  A new commercial pineapple plant generally takes a year (sometimes up to 20 months, which would be almost two years) before it is mature enough to bear fruit.  Once a fruit does form, it takes five to six months to become fully ripe for picking. Despite being increasingly available fresh due to transport technology innovations, much of the world's pineapple crop is still canned or turned into pineapple juice.

If you are ever on the island of Oahu, make sure to schedule a stop at the Dole Pineapple plantation, which has an excellent tour and a gift shop on site.  I'm told that it is one of only three locations where you can purchase Dole Whip (Disneyland and Disneyworld both offer the treat as well according to their websites.  I can only verify Disneyland, as I've never been to Disneyworld)Fortunately, there are several mimic recipes available on the web and are often shared on Facebook and Pinterest.

There are several varieties of pineapple.  As explained in the New Food Lover's Companion:

"The Cayenne pineapple, the longer and more cylindrical of the two, has a golden-yellow skin and long, swordlike leaves sprouting from a single tuft. The Red Spanish pineapple is squatter in shape, has a reddish golden-brown skin and leaves that radiate from several tufts. Mexico grows a third variety called the Sugar Loaf, a large, exquisitely flavored specimen whose skin is still green when ripe. Because it doesn’t ship well, the Sugar Loaf is rarely imported into the United States."

The Red Spanish is more commonly grown in South America, while the Cayenne is the variety most commonly grown in Hawaii.



PINEAPPLE. (2000). In Cambridge World History of Food
Pineapple. (2006). In McGraw-Hill Concise Encyclopedia of Science and Technology
pineapple. (2012). In Britannica Concise Encyclopedia.
pineapple. (2007). In The New Food Lover's Companion, Barron's.

Pineapple Recipes!


Dole Whip



  1. 2 20 ounce cans Dole crushed pineapple with juice
  2. 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  3. 2 tablespoons lime juice
  4. 1/3 cup sugar
  5. 1 and 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream, whipped


  1. Drain pineapple; reserve 2 tablespoons juice. Set aside.
  2. Place pineapple, lemon juice, lime juice, sugar and reserved pineapple juice in blender or food processor container; cover and blend until smooth.
  3. Pour into two 1-quart freezer zipped bags and store bags flat in freezer.
  4. Freeze 1-1/2 hours or until slushy.
  5. Stir pineapple slush gently into whipped cream until slightly blended, in large bowl.
  6. Return to freezer until completely frozen, about 1 hour.


Pineapple Chicken Tenders

recipe image
Rated: rating
Submitted By: HJR
Photo By: aussiemum
Prep Time: 30 Minutes
Cook Time: 10 Minutes
Ready In: 1 Hour 10 Minutes
Servings: 10
"Skewered chicken tenders are brushed with a tropical mixture of pineapple juice, brown sugar, and soy sauce, and grilled."
1 cup pineapple juice
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/3 cup light soy sauce
2 pounds chicken breast tenderloins or
1.In a small saucepan over medium heat, mix pineapple juice, brown sugar, and soy sauce. Remove from heat just before the mixture comes to a boil.
2.Place chicken tenders in a medium bowl. Cover with the pineapple marinade, and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
3.Preheat grill for medium heat. Thread chicken lengthwise onto wooden skewers.
4.Lightly oil the grill grate. Grill chicken tenders 5 minutes per side, or until juices run clear. They cook quickly, so watch them closely.

If you eat a lot of fresh pineapple, I highly recommend investing in a pineapple corer, there are lots of varieties available out there

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Antoinette Perry Awards

The Tony Awards have always been a big deal at my house, because I am a huge musical theatre nerd.  I've never been to New York; the Tony's are my way to vicariously experience the wonder of the Great White Way.   This year there was the extra interest because a woman I went to a year of college with was nominated for an award!  Keala Settle attended SUU for a year while I was there before going off to do some other things.

Some of those things led her to Broadway.  She did the tour of Hairspray(as Tracy Turnblad) and was in the ensemble of Priscilla, the Queen of the Desert, before being cast as Norma Valverde in Hands on a Hardbody. (Edited to add: Unfortunately, Keala did not win, but she looked gorgeous!!)

I happened to be at my parents house celebrating my daughter's birthday, so my mom and I watched the Tony's together.  My dad was watching with us for a few minutes, and he commented that no one seems to know who all these big awards are named after.  For example, who on earth is Oscar?  Is there a person named Grammy? (that one I doubt!)  and why are they the "Tony's?"   

The Tony's are so named for Antoinette Perry, an actress who worked in the early part of the 20th century and who was one of the founding members of the American Theatre Wing, which is the group which awards the Tony's.  While she worked fairly consistently in her day, she is not particularly well known, even in theatre circles, except for the award which bears her name, which was first granted to theatrical professional on Easter Sunday (April 6th that year) in 1947.  The physical award which most of us recognize today was designed as part of a contest sponsored by the United Scenic Artists and was first handed out in 1949 as a medallion.  It was mounted on a black base in 1967 so that today, it looks like this:

Want to learn more about Antoinette Perry? Read some of her life story here

Want to learn more about The American Theatre Wing? Read their history here

Monday, June 3, 2013


It's my mom's birthday today (Happy Birthday Mom!) and my daughter's a week from today, so I was wondering about the tradition of celebrating the day one was born. 

I wasn't able to find a whole lot of 'official' information about birthdays, but I did find this website

Part of the reason birthdays are a big deal is because sociologically, almost all cultures celebrate 'rites of passage', and the day of birth is the first 'rite'.  While Jehovah's witnesses are famous for NOT celebrating birthdays (as well as other holidays like Christmas, the 4th of July etc.,), most other religious groups and cultures consider them to be an important day.

From what I can find, most research agrees that birthdays were not celebrated until society began to use calendars to mark time, as before that time, it would have been difficult to pinpoint a 'day' of birth.  That seems only logical, but it's interesting to think that there was a time when cultures did not pay attention to specific days, and had no concept of days of the week or months and instead simply passed through life from season to season.

A diplomat is a man who always remembers a woman's birthday but never remembers her age
— Robert Frost.

Sunday, June 2, 2013


I saw this picture on Facebook the other day
(Not sure where it originated: sorry I can't give credit!)

In true nerdy girl fashion, I found myself wondering about the 'official' definition of salad, as I thought I remembered that it didn't necessarily have to include lettuce. (I know, I know, that sort of destroys the joke here, but just go with me ok?)  

In all things dictionary, I prefer to use the OED (Oxford English Dictionary) as I read the two books written about it by Simon Winchester (The Meaning of Everything and The Professor and the Madman), and, having learned about it's history, find the OED has a good pedigree and authority.

The main OED definition is this:

"A cold dish of herbs or vegetables (e.g. lettuce, endive), usually uncooked and chopped up or sliced, to which is often added sliced hard-boiled egg, cold meat, fish, etc., the whole being seasoned with salt, pepper, oil, and vinegar"

One of the perks of the OED, by the way, is that it includes a rather extensive list of the original uses of the term which is being defined from written literature.  In this case, the earliest use located was in approximately 1481. ("1481–90   Howard Househ. Bks. (1905) 398   Item, for erbes for a selad j. d.)

So, while this definition uses lettuce as an example of the vegetable included in a salad, it does necessarily preclude salads which do NOT include lettuce.  However, it does says herbs or vegetables, of which bacon is neither, unfortunately.

This explains to me how Sunomono can be considered salad, when it consists of only cucumber. (Although when I looked up the term to make sure I spelled it right, it appears that the vinegar/cucumber version I have had is not the only way it can be prepared.  Another blog for another day I guess!)  I suppose it also explains pasta salad being able to contain the word salad in the name although most of them don't have a large amount of lettuce in them either!

Saturday, June 1, 2013


I'm reading Peter and the Starcatchers by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson.  It covers the back story of J.M. Barrie's Peter Pan.   Tomorrow's project is to learn about all the various permutations of the Peter Pan story (if there are any others).

I'm at the end of the book, and one of the things it introduces is how fish became mermaids.  Interestingly, reading an article on SLATE today, I saw this headline "Why Animal Planet’s Fake Documentaries About Mermaids Are Dangerous"

Friday, May 31, 2013

Human Hair

This post was inspired by the fact that my daughter got ahold of the scissors last night.  I wondered about hair, and how it works, how fast it grows etc., because she cut her hair down to the scalp in some spots

Encyclopedia Brittanica explains it this way:
"The number of scalp hairs, which grow about 0.5 in. (13 mm) per month, averages 100,000–150,000. The hair shaft (above the skin) is dead tissue, composed of keratin. Only a few growing cells at the base of the root are alive."

SOOOO, my daughter basically has a shaved head right now, and a rate of 1/2 an inch a month, to get back to where her hair was, it's going to take about a year and a half.

hair. (2012). In Britannica Concise Encyclopedia.

Thursday, May 30, 2013


Had some adventures tonight which I will detail more later. One thing involved was a large container of catnip dumped all over the floor of our living room and a cat covered in shaving cream.

So I wondered how catnip works.  Because Tony always jokes that it's cat weed, and that it makes our cats stoned.  I'm not sure that's exactly a correct comparison, so I wanted to do a little research.

Catnip Facts:

  • Catnip contains 14 different chemical components which cause a reaction in cats
  • Some cats do not react to catnip
  • The catnip response only lasts about 15 minutes
  • Catnip is actually an effective mosquito repellant
  • Kittens younger than 8 weeks will not react to catnip even if they possess the gene which causes reactions in adult cats. (When they reach adulthood, they WILL react)

Catnip and the Catnip Response
Arthur O. Tucker and Sharon S. Tucker
Economic Botany , Vol. 42, No. 2 (Apr. - Jun., 1988), pp. 214-231
Published by: Springer on behalf of New York Botanical Garden Press
Article Stable URL:

Wednesday, May 29, 2013


Simba is one of our new cats. 

He has extra toes on his two front paws which is known as polydactyly.

I thought it was interesting that polydactylism is actually a dominant trait.  Basically, if either parent  has the gene on both arms of the autosome (non-sex chromosome) for it, a child will express the trait.  I remember learning about this in my biology classes in high school using Punnett squares and it was one of my favorite parts of the course, although I can't put my finger on why.  For those of you interested in the scientific definition, see below.

"Polydactylism (also known as 

a congenital anomaly characterized by the presence of more than the normal number of fingers or toes. The condition is usually inherited as an autosomal-dominant characteristic...."

a pattern of inheritance in which the transmission of a dominant allele on an autosome causes a trait to be expressed. Males and females are usually affected with equal frequency. If both parents are heterozygous (Aa), each of their children has a 50% chance of being heterozygous, a 25% chance of being homozygous for the dominant allele (AA), and a 25% chance of being homozygous for the recessive allele (aa); children with either of the first two genotypes will express the trait of the dominant allele. If one parent is homozygous for the dominant allele, all of the children will express the trait. Achondroplasia, osteogenesis imperfecta, polydactyly, Marfan's syndrome, and some neuromuscular disorders are transmitted through autosomal-dominant inheritance...."

polydactyly. (2012). In Mosby's Dictionary of Medicine, Nursing, & Health Professions.

hyperdactyly. (2012). In Mosby's Dictionary of Medicine, Nursing, & Health Professions.

autosomal-dominant inheritance. (2012). In Mosby's Dictionary of Medicine, Nursing, & Health Professions.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Fox and the Hound

With the recent kerfuffle about Netflix losing it's rights to Nickelodeon (described here) we noticed that we picked up some classic Disney cartoons.  So we watched a few!  My daughter has decided Dumbo is my favorite movie, I'm not sure why.  We watched it once....

We also watched an old favorite: The Fox and the Hound.  And I noticed something interesting in the credits.  It was apparently one of the first movies for Corey Feldman (as young Copper, who has my favorite line delivery "I'm a HOUND dog!") and Kurt Russell (as grown-up Copper), both of whom were child actors who worked fairly extensively in commercials and television before moving to the big screen. 

In honor of the movie, here are some other interesting tidbits.  Big Mama, the owl, is voiced by Pearl Bailey, a well known Vaudeville and Broadway performer who won a Tony for her performance in the all-black production of Hello Dolly in 1968.  By the time the Fox and the Hound came out in 1981 she was considerably less well known, although still busily writing novels, releasing records and working in television and on stage.  Interestingly, she went back to school late in life and earned a B.A. in Theology in 1985 at the age of 69.

The movie is based on a book of the same name, although the story was considerably 'lightened up' for the movie (In the book at least one character dies.).  You can read about the author here or in the Wikipedia article here.

The film was "the most expensive animated film produced at the time, at a cost of $12 million." (Wikipedia)

Interesting fox fact of the day: A fox has several chromosomal differences from others in the family Canidae and thus cannot cross breed with dogs or other canines. 

Some interesting links

Monday, May 27, 2013

Into the Woods as a movie?

I love Stephen Sondheim.  His work is biting, brilliantly conceived, complex, revelatory and generally amazing. 

I also love Joanna Gleason in her creation of the role of the Baker's Wife in Sondheim's Into the Woods (for which she won a Tony).  So, I was excited when I heard that there was a movie version of Woods in the works, but less so when I heard the role of the Baker's Wife was being played by an actress who is best known for her non-singing movie roles, Emily Blunt. 

From what I can find in various online sources, Blunt had a relationship with Michael Buble, a well known Canadian singer who has a lovely voice but nothing in her various online bios indicate that she herself sings. CORRECTION:  I found this video from a show she was in

While this is lovely, I don't know.  I need to hear some more.  Because the Baker's Wife sings.  A LOT.  She's really, with the Witch, the core that holds the show together.

Skip to 4:06 here, supposedly that's Miss Blunt doing background vocals.

So I'm still not sold on her....holding out hope that she can pull it off.

 The Witch is being played by Meryl Streep.  One of my favorite actors ever.  Stepping into a role best known for being played by one of my OTHER favorites, Bernadette Peters.

Unfortunately, as much as I love Meryl, she demonstrated rather clearly in Mamma Mia, that she really doesn't have the strongest singing voice.  Luckily for her, most of the Witch's songs are more about acting than singing, but the list builds, you can see why I'm slightly concerned that one of my favorite musicals is going to get BUTCHERED. 

Johnny Depp as the Wolf, that one I can see.  Really only there for a bit, just the one major song really.  He's being under-utilized in that role if you ask me.

The Prince's  Jake Gyllenhaal,  and Chris Pine.

Jake sang on SNL, and despite his obvious playing it for the laugh, his voice is not terrible.

According to sources, Chris really sings here

And it's not bad, but it's awfully low for someone who is going to be playing on of Sondheim's Prince's.  I want to know how his upper register sounds, because, if you compare that video, to THIS

As Rapunzel's Prince, which it appears he is?  Maybe.  I haven't looked at the sheet music in too much detail, but on the surface, it seems his range is more suited to Cinderella's Prince, at least they way the notes are divided in "Agony".  There, I could be wrong....

I'm not familiar with James Corden who is listed as playing the Baker.

No word on Cinderella or Little Red yet.  Cinderella is pretty important to the story, Little Red, not as much.  The only major male role left is Jack, who has a pretty challenging song in "Giants in the Sky"

Others agree with me apparently...we are nervous for this movie....

SOOO, not sure this is learning today.  More commentary.  Back to 'knowledge' tomorrow!

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Random learning of the day

We've recently become enamored of a place here in Springville called Yummies which sells frozen custard. The lady who waited on us when we first ordered it told us a little bit about it how it was different from 'regular' ice cream, but I couldn't remember, so I hit up Wikipedia to see what it said the difference was.

It seems that the major difference between the different types of ice cream like products available these days (and in different cultures even...I learned some quite interesting cultural types exist like the Japanes mochi ice cream and Turkish dondurma) is the amount of butter fat they have in them.

UPDATE: Yummies is no was demolished to make way for the new Springville library about a year ago.  They do still have a little 'outlet' in the Provo mall.

The old building was kind of neat looking.  A friend at Backstage took this picture
Yummies Photo by Jennifer

Saturday, May 25, 2013

New Goal

I'm going to try to post SOMETHING that I learned on this blog every day.

So here goes, day 1.

My friend Sue at work is studying to be a citizen, and she has a civics lesson manual for the naturalization test.  I have been quizzing her.  Today I learned that Pennsylvania actually shares a TEENY TINY border with Canada.  There are 13 U.S. States which border Canada.  A couple of them are obvious, but if you look at a map, it's interesting to see how 4 of the 5 Great Lakes are actually divided in half, and because of that Canada shares a border with Ohio, Pennsylvania, and New York.

Monday, April 15, 2013


Today I learned that pomology is the study of fruit and fruit-culture.  Not little fruit symphonies and art shows culture, but the process of culturing or growing fruit. definites it "the science that deals with fruits and fruit growing"

I have a backyard full of fruit trees.  I suppose I should study pomology to make them more productive :)

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Ukranian Commando Dolphins?

According to a couple of news articles and the Geekshow podcast, some dolphins trained to attack, plant explosives and be otherwise menacing in non-dolphin like ways, have escaped from their handlers and are in the open ocean! 

CBS local in Seattle

USA Today story

Why on earth someone thought dolphins needed to be trained for fighting I'm not sure....