From the archives…

The Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster

Faith with a side of Parmesan

Guest Article by Jillian Hardee

I admit that I’m rather obtuse when it comes to religion. I do know enough to recognize that meatballs, pirates, and midgets probably aren’t the cornerstones of a thriving religion, yet these three items are vital to The Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster. Participation in this church would involve worshipping an extraordinary being who reveals himself in the form of tangled noodles and russet-colored meatballs. You might think I am making this up. You’ll have to read on to find out.

Every Action Has a Reaction
At the heart of the ages-old struggle between science and religion is the theory of evolution, a concept that many devout religious worshippers don’t want to accept and that hard-core scientists fervently stand by. Ever since the Scopes Trial in 1925, school officials, teachers, parents, and students have been fighting over whether and how to teach evolution in public schools. This argument came to a head in 2005 when the Kansas State Board of Education decided to require the teaching of Intelligent Design (ID) alongside evolution in science classrooms. The basis of ID is the proposition that features found in nature did not appear as a result of random processes such as natural selection, but instead were brought about by an intelligent agent—although this agent is not specifically named. ID advocates state that it is a scientific theory that can hold its own next to the theory of evolution. Needless to say, the idea of Intelligent Design, as well as the decision by the Kansas State Board of Education, drew serious criticism from the scientific community. It also caught the attention of Bobby Henderson, a physics graduate who thought ID had it all wrong. [Article Continues…]

•••••

From the archives…

Portmeirion

The Folly of Sir Clough Williams-Ellis

Guest Article by Morgen Jahnke

World-famous architects like Frank Gehry, Renzo Piano, and Rem Koolhaas often make headlines for their daring and creative buildings, but the vast majority of architects spend their time on more down-to-earth projects, like schools and fire houses. Their work is dictated by the needs of their clients, and their creativity is in service to solving any problems these needs might entail. But what happens when architects are given free rein? What do architects do for fun?

It is easy to imagine that Julia Morgan, the architect who designed William Randolph Hearst’s estate at San Simeon, enjoyed creating that fantastical world to Hearst’s specifications, or that Eduard Riedel, the architect of King Ludwig II of Bavaria’s Neuschwanstein Castle, found some pleasure in recreating a medieval castle in the 19th century. But these architects were still limited by the wishes and whims of their employers, unable to express themselves fully. [Article Continues…]

•••••

From the archives…

Mondegreens and Eggcorns

Giving old words a new ring

One of the very first things I remember learning in school, around age five or six, was the patriotic song “My County Tis of Thee,” which all the children would sing every morning after reciting the Pledge of Allegiance. At that point, we hadn’t yet been taught how to read—priorities, you know—so we learned the words by listening and repeating. That was fine, except that I was confused about the very last word of the song. The way I heard the last line was, “from every mountainside, let free dumring.”

I didn’t know what a dumring was, and I wondered about that, fleetingly, every time I sang the song for years afterward. Clearly it was someone, or something, that had to be “let free,” which I assumed was the same thing as “set free.” Maybe a dumring was a slave or something. I had no idea. For whatever reason, it never occurred to me that I might be singing two separate words (“dumb ring”), although that would have been equally nonsensical. I must have been well into my teens before I saw the lyrics in print for the first time, and I was utterly shocked to discover what I’d actually been singing: “let freedom ring.” In my defense, my five-year-old self wouldn’t have identified freedom as something that could ring. But I certainly did feel stupid for having misunderstood those words. [Article Continues…]

•••••

From the archives…

Pitcairn Island

Haven for homeless mutineers

Guest Article by Morgen Jahnke

The story of the mutinous crew of the British navy vessel HMS Bounty has remained a popular theme in books and movies ever since it occurred in 1789. Four major films have been made with the mutiny as their inspiration, featuring such acting heavyweights as Errol Flynn, Clark Gable, Marlon Brando, and Anthony Hopkins; one version of the film earned a Best Picture Oscar. There is a good reason for the story’s popularity: the sequence of events ending with the setting adrift of the ship’s captain, William Bligh, along with eighteen of his men, in the middle of the Pacific, is inherently dramatic and fascinating.

The story of what happened to both the mutineers and those forced overboard may be paid less attention, but is equally fascinating. Captain Bligh, with the aid of only a sextant and pocket watch, successfully navigated the small boat to the Tongan island of Tofua, and then on to the island of Timor, a journey that took over 47 days and covered over 3,618 nautical miles (6710km) by Bligh’s reckoning. Only one of those set adrift with Bligh did not survive the voyage; a crewman was killed by the inhabitants of Tofua when the group landed there. [Article Continues…]

•••••

From the archives…

Mystery Park

The theme park that aliens built

Several years ago, a Swiss friend of mine told me excitedly about a new theme park that was under construction near the city of Interlaken. He sent me a magazine article about it, and even went so far as to buy me a 10-Franc stock certificate for the park, giving me some trivial sliver of ownership in this hot new property. Ever since then, Mystery Park has been on my list of things to write about, but for one reason or another it had never managed to percolate up to the top of the list until now. Which is a pity: the park closed permanently on November 19, 2006, due to a shortage of visitors (and, therefore, money). At least I no longer have to wonder how much that stock is worth today: that and a couple of euros, as they say, will buy me a cup of coffee.

I’d like to say, at least, that it was interesting while it lasted. That, I’m sure, is a matter of opinion—and, clearly, not enough people’s opinion to make the park profitable. Nevertheless, Mystery Park was nothing if not unique, and its story is worth telling. [Article Continues…]

•••••

From the archives…

Geysers

Fragile spectacles

Guest Article by Morgen Jahnke

A few years ago on a family trip to Europe, we had the chance to spend an afternoon in Geneva, Switzerland, and despite limited time, we hoped to see as many of the city’s iconic sights as possible. Alas, our timing was off: the European headquarters of the United Nations, the Palais des Nations, did not accept visitors over the lunch hour (right when we showed up at the gates), and more surprisingly, the famous Jet d’Eau (“water-jet”), a fountain rising 140 meters (459 feet) from Lake Geneva, was closed for repairs. All was not lost, however, as we consoled ourselves with wine, chocolates, and souvenir shopping.

In 2003, two years after our visit to Geneva, the hours of operation for the Jet d’Eau were expanded, and it is now possible to see it in action all year long (though only during the day). This daily consistency calls to mind the Jet d’Eau’s non-mechanical predecessor, the geyser, which similarly releases water (and steam) at regular intervals. However, while the Jet d’Eau is the result of human ingenuity, geysers are the product of extremely rare circumstances, and once damaged, cannot be repaired so easily. [Article Continues…]

•••••

From the archives…

Ethanol Batteries

High-energy cocktails

Guest Article by Morgen Jahnke

Many cell phone users, including myself, have had the frustrating experience of needing to make a call just as our phone battery loses it charge; unless you’ve brought your phone charger or a spare battery with you, you’re out of luck for the moment. Imagine the same situation happening while you are out at a bar or restaurant, but this time you are able to recharge your phone easily and quickly, needing no special equipment. Instead, you take a thimbleful of the cocktail or wine in front of you, pour it into a special fuel cartridge on your phone, and end up with enough of a charge to last you for the next month.

While this technology is not yet available, a team of researchers at Saint Louis University in St. Louis, Missouri, with the backing of the company they founded, is working to make it a reality. Once their invention, known as Stabilized Enzyme Biofuel Cells (or SEBC), is fully developed and tested, consumers will not only have a more convenient way to keep their cell phones and laptops charged, but will be protecting the environment at the same time. [Article Continues…]

•••••

From the archives…

Sears Modern Homes

Ordering houses by mail

In the lot immediately behind my home, a new house is under construction. My bedroom happens to be on the side of the house facing the construction site, so nearly every morning for several months, I’ve been awakened by the sounds of hammering, sawing, and yelling. From the look of things, this will probably continue for several more months. Day after day, I look out the window, trying to assess what that day’s racket has accomplished, and most of the time, the visible changes are quite small.

Although I know relatively little about construction, the thought has occurred to me more than once that there’s got to be a quicker and easier—not to mention quieter—way to get the job done. And perhaps a cheaper way, too. Small, unassuming two-bedroom houses in my San Francisco neighborhood routinely sell for upwards of $800,000 (which is why we rent—I can’t imagine ever being able to afford to buy a house here). Although the land itself is expensive, as are building materials, a great deal of the price of any new home goes to pay for labor; people aren’t going to hammer, saw, and yell for nothing. [Article Continues…]

•••••

From the archives…

Hay-on-Wye

The Town of Books

Guest Article by Morgen Jahnke

As anyone who knows me can attest, I am a sucker for books. I’ve had my nose perpetually stuck in a book for as long as I can remember, and I can go absolutely stir crazy if I have to endure a two-hour flight (or ten-minute bus ride) without sufficient reading material.

Although I don’t own a car, and my wardrobe may be threadbare in places, buying books (used or new) is, along with travel, one of the luxuries I will not willingly forgo. Thus it was with great joy that I discovered a place where my bibliomania would not seem out of place: the Welsh town of Hay-on-Wye, home to 1500 inhabitants and four million books. [Article Continues…]

•••••

From the archives…

Vulcan, Alberta

The town that’s out of this world

Guest Article by Morgen Jahnke

More than many other pop culture phenomena, Star Trek seems to inspire the most extreme displays of fan commitment. From Star Trek conventions, to the perennial popularity of Trek movies and TV series, on through the huge success of Star Trek: The Experience in Las Vegas (a town with no shortage of other entertainment options), Trek fans have an intense interest in replicating (so to speak) the world of Captain Kirk, Mr. Spock, and all the other distinguished members of Starfleet.

A sociologist might find it interesting to study this devotion; what is it about the Star Trek universe that compels ordinary people to live large parts of their non-virtual lives in its sway? Paradoxically more adult and yet less dangerous than the Star Wars universe, one answer may be that Star Trek predicts a future that seems to make sense, with science and reason in ascendancy. [Article Continues…]

•••••

From the archives…

National Novel Writing Month

Becoming a novelist in 30 days

Like many authors, I have a “vanity shelf” in my home, with copies of all the books I’ve written (or contributed to). Well, at least it contains copies of all the printed books I’ve written—a lot of what I’ve done in recent years has been in the form of ebooks and magazine articles. Among the 11 titles currently on that shelf are several recent books about Mac software, a bound copy of my Master’s thesis, and even—no kidding—a copy of Arnold and Sam, the Two Dragons, which I wrote in October 1974 at age 7. This 12-page book was my first work of fiction, and it was as bad as you might imagine, but I was understandably proud of it at the time. My mother typed it up, my dad photocopied it, and my elementary school library even kept a copy on its shelves, with cover art hand-drawn by the author. By the time I left that school a few years later, it had been checked out nine times, only a few of which were by me.

In November 2005, I made my second attempt at writing fiction. I participated in National Novel Writing Month, which has been held annually since 1999. Along with more than 59,000 other aspiring novelists, I attempted to write 50,000 words of fiction between November 1 and November 30. I was one of almost 10,000 participants who reached that goal. However, what I wrote during that month is not sitting on my vanity shelf. I’ve declined requests to read it even by close friends and family members, who will love me regardless of how bad my writing is. In fact, I haven’t even looked at it myself since then. It’s so bad that it makes Arnold and Sam look like literary genius. And I don’t merely mean that it needs a few rewrites and a thorough going-over by a good editor. It is profoundly, utterly, and irredeemably awful. Humanity will be better off if no one ever sets eyes on that manuscript again. [Article Continues…]

•••••

From the archives…

Fernet-Branca

Italy’s mystery liqueur

Guest Article by Morgen Jahnke

While some companies are moving toward greater transparency regarding the ingredients of their products (to allay fears about trans fats, for instance), in some cases the secret of a product’s makeup is not only closely guarded, but promoted as a key part of its allure. Mysteries can be a great advertising gimmick.

The proprietors of Antoine’s restaurant in New Orleans were clearly operating from this idea when they created their famous recipe for Oysters Rockefeller; although it has been widely speculated upon, this recipe has remained a secret since it was first developed in 1899. Having sampled Oysters Rockefeller at Antoine’s, I would say that I greatly enjoyed their taste, but I got more enjoyment out of trying to guess the elements of the recipe. [Article Continues…]

•••••

From the archives…

Kite Sails

A second wind for large ships

We’re well into the 21st century, and one of the big things on the minds of the world’s technologists is improving propulsion. Cars, trucks, and buses are moving from conventional gasoline-powered internal combustion engines to hybrid engines, diesel engines running on vegetable oil, and fuel cells. Airplane manufacturers are designing better and more powerful jet engines. Submarines are being built with engines that require no moving parts. And rocket scientists are trying to figure out the best means of propulsion to use for sending spacecraft to Mars and beyond. High-tech solutions to get from point A to point B with greater efficiency and lower cost are appearing constantly.

And yet, sometimes the best way forward is to go back. Steam power for cars is making a comeback, for example. What was thought to be a dead-end approach a century ago has turned out to have some redeeming qualities after all, now that technology, materials, and engineering methods have caught up with it. The latest blast from the past, though, really blows my mind. The brightest and best in the field of marine propulsion have come to the startling conclusion that if you want a reliable, inexpensive, and efficient way to move ships across the ocean, you might try…the wind. [Article Continues…]

•••••

From the archives…

Rarely Blooming Plants

The Titan Arum lily, the Kurinji plant, and the Talipot palm

Guest Article by Morgen Jahnke

Although many years have passed since then, there are certain things I can remember clearly about the year 1986. That was the year of the World’s Fair, Expo ‘86, in Vancouver, British Columbia, the year of the space shuttle Challenger disaster, and the year that Halley’s Comet (or Comet Halley) made its closest approach to the sun since 1910.

I remember being impressed at the time that I was going to witness an event that had last occurred so long in the past, before my grandparents were born, before the large-scale wars of the 20th century had taken place. In relation to the human lifespan, 76 years is a long time. When the comet finally did appear, it was not as spectacular as I’d hoped, but I didn’t want to miss it, knowing that it would not appear again until 2061, when I would most likely not be around to see it. [Article Continues…]

•••••

From the archives…

Teatro La Fenice

The phoenix of Venice

Guest Article by Morgen Jahnke

Throughout the night of January 29, 1996, a fire raged in the center of Venice, Italy, and by morning it had consumed its victim: the Teatro La Fenice, often called simply La Fenice. Luckily, the fire did not travel beyond the walls of La Fenice, but the destruction was profound. One of the great opera houses of Europe was gutted, and the city of Venice lost a treasured civic landmark.

Arriving by chance in Venice just days after the fire, celebrated author John Berendt set out to document the aftermath of the Fenice fire, interviewing local residents and city officials to find out what led up to the fire, and what long-term effect it might have on the city. As with his previous bestseller, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, which centered around a lurid murder in Savannah, Georgia, Berendt found many colorful characters and community intrigues in Venice to write about in addition to his main story. The result of Berendt’s research is the 2005 book The City of Falling Angels. [Article Continues…]

•••••

From the archives…

The Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster

Faith with a side of Parmesan

Guest Article by Jillian Hardee

I admit that I’m rather obtuse when it comes to religion. I do know enough to recognize that meatballs, pirates, and midgets probably aren’t the cornerstones of a thriving religion, yet these three items are vital to The Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster. Participation in this church would involve worshipping an extraordinary being who reveals himself in the form of tangled noodles and russet-colored meatballs. You might think I am making this up. You’ll have to read on to find out.

Every Action Has a Reaction
At the heart of the ages-old struggle between science and religion is the theory of evolution, a concept that many devout religious worshippers don’t want to accept and that hard-core scientists fervently stand by. Ever since the Scopes Trial in 1925, school officials, teachers, parents, and students have been fighting over whether and how to teach evolution in public schools. This argument came to a head in 2005 when the Kansas State Board of Education decided to require the teaching of Intelligent Design (ID) alongside evolution in science classrooms. The basis of ID is the proposition that features found in nature did not appear as a result of random processes such as natural selection, but instead were brought about by an intelligent agent—although this agent is not specifically named. ID advocates state that it is a scientific theory that can hold its own next to the theory of evolution. Needless to say, the idea of Intelligent Design, as well as the decision by the Kansas State Board of Education, drew serious criticism from the scientific community. It also caught the attention of Bobby Henderson, a physics graduate who thought ID had it all wrong. [Article Continues…]

•••••

From the archives…

Portmeirion

The Folly of Sir Clough Williams-Ellis

Guest Article by Morgen Jahnke

World-famous architects like Frank Gehry, Renzo Piano, and Rem Koolhaas often make headlines for their daring and creative buildings, but the vast majority of architects spend their time on more down-to-earth projects, like schools and fire houses. Their work is dictated by the needs of their clients, and their creativity is in service to solving any problems these needs might entail. But what happens when architects are given free rein? What do architects do for fun?

It is easy to imagine that Julia Morgan, the architect who designed William Randolph Hearst’s estate at San Simeon, enjoyed creating that fantastical world to Hearst’s specifications, or that Eduard Riedel, the architect of King Ludwig II of Bavaria’s Neuschwanstein Castle, found some pleasure in recreating a medieval castle in the 19th century. But these architects were still limited by the wishes and whims of their employers, unable to express themselves fully. [Article Continues…]

•••••

From the archives…

Mondegreens and Eggcorns

Giving old words a new ring

One of the very first things I remember learning in school, around age five or six, was the patriotic song “My County Tis of Thee,” which all the children would sing every morning after reciting the Pledge of Allegiance. At that point, we hadn’t yet been taught how to read—priorities, you know—so we learned the words by listening and repeating. That was fine, except that I was confused about the very last word of the song. The way I heard the last line was, “from every mountainside, let free dumring.”

I didn’t know what a dumring was, and I wondered about that, fleetingly, every time I sang the song for years afterward. Clearly it was someone, or something, that had to be “let free,” which I assumed was the same thing as “set free.” Maybe a dumring was a slave or something. I had no idea. For whatever reason, it never occurred to me that I might be singing two separate words (“dumb ring”), although that would have been equally nonsensical. I must have been well into my teens before I saw the lyrics in print for the first time, and I was utterly shocked to discover what I’d actually been singing: “let freedom ring.” In my defense, my five-year-old self wouldn’t have identified freedom as something that could ring. But I certainly did feel stupid for having misunderstood those words. [Article Continues…]

•••••

From the archives…

Mondegreens and Eggcorns

Giving old words a new ring

One of the very first things I remember learning in school, around age five or six, was the patriotic song “My County Tis of Thee,” which all the children would sing every morning after reciting the Pledge of Allegiance. At that point, we hadn’t yet been taught how to read—priorities, you know—so we learned the words by listening and repeating. That was fine, except that I was confused about the very last word of the song. The way I heard the last line was, “from every mountainside, let free dumring.”

I didn’t know what a dumring was, and I wondered about that, fleetingly, every time I sang the song for years afterward. Clearly it was someone, or something, that had to be “let free,” which I assumed was the same thing as “set free.” Maybe a dumring was a slave or something. I had no idea. For whatever reason, it never occurred to me that I might be singing two separate words (“dumb ring”), although that would have been equally nonsensical. I must have been well into my teens before I saw the lyrics in print for the first time, and I was utterly shocked to discover what I’d actually been singing: “let freedom ring.” In my defense, my five-year-old self wouldn’t have identified freedom as something that could ring. But I certainly did feel stupid for having misunderstood those words. [Article Continues…]

•••••

From the archives…

Pitcairn Island

Haven for homeless mutineers

Guest Article by Morgen Jahnke

The story of the mutinous crew of the British navy vessel HMS Bounty has remained a popular theme in books and movies ever since it occurred in 1789. Four major films have been made with the mutiny as their inspiration, featuring such acting heavyweights as Errol Flynn, Clark Gable, Marlon Brando, and Anthony Hopkins; one version of the film earned a Best Picture Oscar. There is a good reason for the story’s popularity: the sequence of events ending with the setting adrift of the ship’s captain, William Bligh, along with eighteen of his men, in the middle of the Pacific, is inherently dramatic and fascinating.

The story of what happened to both the mutineers and those forced overboard may be paid less attention, but is equally fascinating. Captain Bligh, with the aid of only a sextant and pocket watch, successfully navigated the small boat to the Tongan island of Tofua, and then on to the island of Timor, a journey that took over 47 days and covered over 3,618 nautical miles (6710km) by Bligh’s reckoning. Only one of those set adrift with Bligh did not survive the voyage; a crewman was killed by the inhabitants of Tofua when the group landed there. [Article Continues…]

•••••

From the archives…

Mystery Park

The theme park that aliens built

Several years ago, a Swiss friend of mine told me excitedly about a new theme park that was under construction near the city of Interlaken. He sent me a magazine article about it, and even went so far as to buy me a 10-Franc stock certificate for the park, giving me some trivial sliver of ownership in this hot new property. Ever since then, Mystery Park has been on my list of things to write about, but for one reason or another it had never managed to percolate up to the top of the list until now. Which is a pity: the park closed permanently on November 19, 2006, due to a shortage of visitors (and, therefore, money). At least I no longer have to wonder how much that stock is worth today: that and a couple of euros, as they say, will buy me a cup of coffee.

I’d like to say, at least, that it was interesting while it lasted. That, I’m sure, is a matter of opinion—and, clearly, not enough people’s opinion to make the park profitable. Nevertheless, Mystery Park was nothing if not unique, and its story is worth telling. [Article Continues…]

•••••

From the archives…

Geysers

Fragile spectacles

Guest Article by Morgen Jahnke

A few years ago on a family trip to Europe, we had the chance to spend an afternoon in Geneva, Switzerland, and despite limited time, we hoped to see as many of the city’s iconic sights as possible. Alas, our timing was off: the European headquarters of the United Nations, the Palais des Nations, did not accept visitors over the lunch hour (right when we showed up at the gates), and more surprisingly, the famous Jet d’Eau (“water-jet”), a fountain rising 140 meters (459 feet) from Lake Geneva, was closed for repairs. All was not lost, however, as we consoled ourselves with wine, chocolates, and souvenir shopping.

In 2003, two years after our visit to Geneva, the hours of operation for the Jet d’Eau were expanded, and it is now possible to see it in action all year long (though only during the day). This daily consistency calls to mind the Jet d’Eau’s non-mechanical predecessor, the geyser, which similarly releases water (and steam) at regular intervals. However, while the Jet d’Eau is the result of human ingenuity, geysers are the product of extremely rare circumstances, and once damaged, cannot be repaired so easily. [Article Continues…]

•••••

From the archives…

Ethanol Batteries

High-energy cocktails

Guest Article by Morgen Jahnke

Many cell phone users, including myself, have had the frustrating experience of needing to make a call just as our phone battery loses it charge; unless you’ve brought your phone charger or a spare battery with you, you’re out of luck for the moment. Imagine the same situation happening while you are out at a bar or restaurant, but this time you are able to recharge your phone easily and quickly, needing no special equipment. Instead, you take a thimbleful of the cocktail or wine in front of you, pour it into a special fuel cartridge on your phone, and end up with enough of a charge to last you for the next month.

While this technology is not yet available, a team of researchers at Saint Louis University in St. Louis, Missouri, with the backing of the company they founded, is working to make it a reality. Once their invention, known as Stabilized Enzyme Biofuel Cells (or SEBC), is fully developed and tested, consumers will not only have a more convenient way to keep their cell phones and laptops charged, but will be protecting the environment at the same time. [Article Continues…]

•••••

From the archives…

Sears Modern Homes

Ordering houses by mail

In the lot immediately behind my home, a new house is under construction. My bedroom happens to be on the side of the house facing the construction site, so nearly every morning for several months, I’ve been awakened by the sounds of hammering, sawing, and yelling. From the look of things, this will probably continue for several more months. Day after day, I look out the window, trying to assess what that day’s racket has accomplished, and most of the time, the visible changes are quite small.

Although I know relatively little about construction, the thought has occurred to me more than once that there’s got to be a quicker and easier—not to mention quieter—way to get the job done. And perhaps a cheaper way, too. Small, unassuming two-bedroom houses in my San Francisco neighborhood routinely sell for upwards of $800,000 (which is why we rent—I can’t imagine ever being able to afford to buy a house here). Although the land itself is expensive, as are building materials, a great deal of the price of any new home goes to pay for labor; people aren’t going to hammer, saw, and yell for nothing. [Article Continues…]

•••••

From the archives…

Sears Modern Homes

Ordering houses by mail

In the lot immediately behind my home, a new house is under construction. My bedroom happens to be on the side of the house facing the construction site, so nearly every morning for several months, I’ve been awakened by the sounds of hammering, sawing, and yelling. From the look of things, this will probably continue for several more months. Day after day, I look out the window, trying to assess what that day’s racket has accomplished, and most of the time, the visible changes are quite small.

Although I know relatively little about construction, the thought has occurred to me more than once that there’s got to be a quicker and easier—not to mention quieter—way to get the job done. And perhaps a cheaper way, too. Small, unassuming two-bedroom houses in my San Francisco neighborhood routinely sell for upwards of $800,000 (which is why we rent—I can’t imagine ever being able to afford to buy a house here). Although the land itself is expensive, as are building materials, a great deal of the price of any new home goes to pay for labor; people aren’t going to hammer, saw, and yell for nothing. [Article Continues…]

•••••

From the archives…

Hay-on-Wye

The Town of Books

Guest Article by Morgen Jahnke

As anyone who knows me can attest, I am a sucker for books. I’ve had my nose perpetually stuck in a book for as long as I can remember, and I can go absolutely stir crazy if I have to endure a two-hour flight (or ten-minute bus ride) without sufficient reading material.

Although I don’t own a car, and my wardrobe may be threadbare in places, buying books (used or new) is, along with travel, one of the luxuries I will not willingly forgo. Thus it was with great joy that I discovered a place where my bibliomania would not seem out of place: the Welsh town of Hay-on-Wye, home to 1500 inhabitants and four million books. [Article Continues…]

•••••

From the archives…

Vulcan, Alberta

The town that’s out of this world

Guest Article by Morgen Jahnke

More than many other pop culture phenomena, Star Trek seems to inspire the most extreme displays of fan commitment. From Star Trek conventions, to the perennial popularity of Trek movies and TV series, on through the huge success of Star Trek: The Experience in Las Vegas (a town with no shortage of other entertainment options), Trek fans have an intense interest in replicating (so to speak) the world of Captain Kirk, Mr. Spock, and all the other distinguished members of Starfleet.

A sociologist might find it interesting to study this devotion; what is it about the Star Trek universe that compels ordinary people to live large parts of their non-virtual lives in its sway? Paradoxically more adult and yet less dangerous than the Star Wars universe, one answer may be that Star Trek predicts a future that seems to make sense, with science and reason in ascendancy. [Article Continues…]

•••••

From the archives…

National Novel Writing Month

Becoming a novelist in 30 days

Like many authors, I have a “vanity shelf” in my home, with copies of all the books I’ve written (or contributed to). Well, at least it contains copies of all the printed books I’ve written—a lot of what I’ve done in recent years has been in the form of ebooks and magazine articles. Among the 11 titles currently on that shelf are several recent books about Mac software, a bound copy of my Master’s thesis, and even—no kidding—a copy of Arnold and Sam, the Two Dragons, which I wrote in October 1974 at age 7. This 12-page book was my first work of fiction, and it was as bad as you might imagine, but I was understandably proud of it at the time. My mother typed it up, my dad photocopied it, and my elementary school library even kept a copy on its shelves, with cover art hand-drawn by the author. By the time I left that school a few years later, it had been checked out nine times, only a few of which were by me.

In November 2005, I made my second attempt at writing fiction. I participated in National Novel Writing Month, which has been held annually since 1999. Along with more than 59,000 other aspiring novelists, I attempted to write 50,000 words of fiction between November 1 and November 30. I was one of almost 10,000 participants who reached that goal. However, what I wrote during that month is not sitting on my vanity shelf. I’ve declined requests to read it even by close friends and family members, who will love me regardless of how bad my writing is. In fact, I haven’t even looked at it myself since then. It’s so bad that it makes Arnold and Sam look like literary genius. And I don’t merely mean that it needs a few rewrites and a thorough going-over by a good editor. It is profoundly, utterly, and irredeemably awful. Humanity will be better off if no one ever sets eyes on that manuscript again. [Article Continues…]

•••••

From the archives…

Fernet-Branca

Italy’s mystery liqueur

Guest Article by Morgen Jahnke

While some companies are moving toward greater transparency regarding the ingredients of their products (to allay fears about trans fats, for instance), in some cases the secret of a product’s makeup is not only closely guarded, but promoted as a key part of its allure. Mysteries can be a great advertising gimmick.

The proprietors of Antoine’s restaurant in New Orleans were clearly operating from this idea when they created their famous recipe for Oysters Rockefeller; although it has been widely speculated upon, this recipe has remained a secret since it was first developed in 1899. Having sampled Oysters Rockefeller at Antoine’s, I would say that I greatly enjoyed their taste, but I got more enjoyment out of trying to guess the elements of the recipe. [Article Continues…]

•••••

From the archives…

Kite Sails

A second wind for large ships

We’re well into the 21st century, and one of the big things on the minds of the world’s technologists is improving propulsion. Cars, trucks, and buses are moving from conventional gasoline-powered internal combustion engines to hybrid engines, diesel engines running on vegetable oil, and fuel cells. Airplane manufacturers are designing better and more powerful jet engines. Submarines are being built with engines that require no moving parts. And rocket scientists are trying to figure out the best means of propulsion to use for sending spacecraft to Mars and beyond. High-tech solutions to get from point A to point B with greater efficiency and lower cost are appearing constantly.

And yet, sometimes the best way forward is to go back. Steam power for cars is making a comeback, for example. What was thought to be a dead-end approach a century ago has turned out to have some redeeming qualities after all, now that technology, materials, and engineering methods have caught up with it. The latest blast from the past, though, really blows my mind. The brightest and best in the field of marine propulsion have come to the startling conclusion that if you want a reliable, inexpensive, and efficient way to move ships across the ocean, you might try…the wind. [Article Continues…]

•••••

From the archives…

Rarely Blooming Plants

The Titan Arum lily, the Kurinji plant, and the Talipot palm

Guest Article by Morgen Jahnke

Although many years have passed since then, there are certain things I can remember clearly about the year 1986. That was the year of the World’s Fair, Expo ‘86, in Vancouver, British Columbia, the year of the space shuttle Challenger disaster, and the year that Halley’s Comet (or Comet Halley) made its closest approach to the sun since 1910.

I remember being impressed at the time that I was going to witness an event that had last occurred so long in the past, before my grandparents were born, before the large-scale wars of the 20th century had taken place. In relation to the human lifespan, 76 years is a long time. When the comet finally did appear, it was not as spectacular as I’d hoped, but I didn’t want to miss it, knowing that it would not appear again until 2061, when I would most likely not be around to see it. [Article Continues…]

•••••

From the archives…

Teatro La Fenice

The phoenix of Venice

Guest Article by Morgen Jahnke

Throughout the night of January 29, 1996, a fire raged in the center of Venice, Italy, and by morning it had consumed its victim: the Teatro La Fenice, often called simply La Fenice. Luckily, the fire did not travel beyond the walls of La Fenice, but the destruction was profound. One of the great opera houses of Europe was gutted, and the city of Venice lost a treasured civic landmark.

Arriving by chance in Venice just days after the fire, celebrated author John Berendt set out to document the aftermath of the Fenice fire, interviewing local residents and city officials to find out what led up to the fire, and what long-term effect it might have on the city. As with his previous bestseller, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, which centered around a lurid murder in Savannah, Georgia, Berendt found many colorful characters and community intrigues in Venice to write about in addition to his main story. The result of Berendt’s research is the 2005 book The City of Falling Angels. [Article Continues…]

•••••

From the archives…

The Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster

Faith with a side of Parmesan

Guest Article by Jillian Hardee

I admit that I’m rather obtuse when it comes to religion. I do know enough to recognize that meatballs, pirates, and midgets probably aren’t the cornerstones of a thriving religion, yet these three items are vital to The Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster. Participation in this church would involve worshipping an extraordinary being who reveals himself in the form of tangled noodles and russet-colored meatballs. You might think I am making this up. You’ll have to read on to find out.

Every Action Has a Reaction
At the heart of the ages-old struggle between science and religion is the theory of evolution, a concept that many devout religious worshippers don’t want to accept and that hard-core scientists fervently stand by. Ever since the Scopes Trial in 1925, school officials, teachers, parents, and students have been fighting over whether and how to teach evolution in public schools. This argument came to a head in 2005 when the Kansas State Board of Education decided to require the teaching of Intelligent Design (ID) alongside evolution in science classrooms. The basis of ID is the proposition that features found in nature did not appear as a result of random processes such as natural selection, but instead were brought about by an intelligent agent—although this agent is not specifically named. ID advocates state that it is a scientific theory that can hold its own next to the theory of evolution. Needless to say, the idea of Intelligent Design, as well as the decision by the Kansas State Board of Education, drew serious criticism from the scientific community. It also caught the attention of Bobby Henderson, a physics graduate who thought ID had it all wrong. [Article Continues…]

•••••

From the archives…

Portmeirion

The Folly of Sir Clough Williams-Ellis

Guest Article by Morgen Jahnke

World-famous architects like Frank Gehry, Renzo Piano, and Rem Koolhaas often make headlines for their daring and creative buildings, but the vast majority of architects spend their time on more down-to-earth projects, like schools and fire houses. Their work is dictated by the needs of their clients, and their creativity is in service to solving any problems these needs might entail. But what happens when architects are given free rein? What do architects do for fun?

It is easy to imagine that Julia Morgan, the architect who designed William Randolph Hearst’s estate at San Simeon, enjoyed creating that fantastical world to Hearst’s specifications, or that Eduard Riedel, the architect of King Ludwig II of Bavaria’s Neuschwanstein Castle, found some pleasure in recreating a medieval castle in the 19th century. But these architects were still limited by the wishes and whims of their employers, unable to express themselves fully. [Article Continues…]

•••••

From the archives…

Mondegreens and Eggcorns

Giving old words a new ring

One of the very first things I remember learning in school, around age five or six, was the patriotic song “My County Tis of Thee,” which all the children would sing every morning after reciting the Pledge of Allegiance. At that point, we hadn’t yet been taught how to read—priorities, you know—so we learned the words by listening and repeating. That was fine, except that I was confused about the very last word of the song. The way I heard the last line was, “from every mountainside, let free dumring.”

I didn’t know what a dumring was, and I wondered about that, fleetingly, every time I sang the song for years afterward. Clearly it was someone, or something, that had to be “let free,” which I assumed was the same thing as “set free.” Maybe a dumring was a slave or something. I had no idea. For whatever reason, it never occurred to me that I might be singing two separate words (“dumb ring”), although that would have been equally nonsensical. I must have been well into my teens before I saw the lyrics in print for the first time, and I was utterly shocked to discover what I’d actually been singing: “let freedom ring.” In my defense, my five-year-old self wouldn’t have identified freedom as something that could ring. But I certainly did feel stupid for having misunderstood those words. [Article Continues…]

•••••

From the archives…

Pitcairn Island

Haven for homeless mutineers

Guest Article by Morgen Jahnke

The story of the mutinous crew of the British navy vessel HMS Bounty has remained a popular theme in books and movies ever since it occurred in 1789. Four major films have been made with the mutiny as their inspiration, featuring such acting heavyweights as Errol Flynn, Clark Gable, Marlon Brando, and Anthony Hopkins; one version of the film earned a Best Picture Oscar. There is a good reason for the story’s popularity: the sequence of events ending with the setting adrift of the ship’s captain, William Bligh, along with eighteen of his men, in the middle of the Pacific, is inherently dramatic and fascinating.

The story of what happened to both the mutineers and those forced overboard may be paid less attention, but is equally fascinating. Captain Bligh, with the aid of only a sextant and pocket watch, successfully navigated the small boat to the Tongan island of Tofua, and then on to the island of Timor, a journey that took over 47 days and covered over 3,618 nautical miles (6710km) by Bligh’s reckoning. Only one of those set adrift with Bligh did not survive the voyage; a crewman was killed by the inhabitants of Tofua when the group landed there. [Article Continues…]

•••••

From the archives…

Mystery Park

The theme park that aliens built

Several years ago, a Swiss friend of mine told me excitedly about a new theme park that was under construction near the city of Interlaken. He sent me a magazine article about it, and even went so far as to buy me a 10-Franc stock certificate for the park, giving me some trivial sliver of ownership in this hot new property. Ever since then, Mystery Park has been on my list of things to write about, but for one reason or another it had never managed to percolate up to the top of the list until now. Which is a pity: the park closed permanently on November 19, 2006, due to a shortage of visitors (and, therefore, money). At least I no longer have to wonder how much that stock is worth today: that and a couple of euros, as they say, will buy me a cup of coffee.

I’d like to say, at least, that it was interesting while it lasted. That, I’m sure, is a matter of opinion—and, clearly, not enough people’s opinion to make the park profitable. Nevertheless, Mystery Park was nothing if not unique, and its story is worth telling. [Article Continues…]

•••••

From the archives…

Geysers

Fragile spectacles

Guest Article by Morgen Jahnke

A few years ago on a family trip to Europe, we had the chance to spend an afternoon in Geneva, Switzerland, and despite limited time, we hoped to see as many of the city’s iconic sights as possible. Alas, our timing was off: the European headquarters of the United Nations, the Palais des Nations, did not accept visitors over the lunch hour (right when we showed up at the gates), and more surprisingly, the famous Jet d’Eau (“water-jet”), a fountain rising 140 meters (459 feet) from Lake Geneva, was closed for repairs. All was not lost, however, as we consoled ourselves with wine, chocolates, and souvenir shopping.

In 2003, two years after our visit to Geneva, the hours of operation for the Jet d’Eau were expanded, and it is now possible to see it in action all year long (though only during the day). This daily consistency calls to mind the Jet d’Eau’s non-mechanical predecessor, the geyser, which similarly releases water (and steam) at regular intervals. However, while the Jet d’Eau is the result of human ingenuity, geysers are the product of extremely rare circumstances, and once damaged, cannot be repaired so easily. [Article Continues…]

•••••

From the archives…

Ethanol Batteries

High-energy cocktails

Guest Article by Morgen Jahnke

Many cell phone users, including myself, have had the frustrating experience of needing to make a call just as our phone battery loses it charge; unless you’ve brought your phone charger or a spare battery with you, you’re out of luck for the moment. Imagine the same situation happening while you are out at a bar or restaurant, but this time you are able to recharge your phone easily and quickly, needing no special equipment. Instead, you take a thimbleful of the cocktail or wine in front of you, pour it into a special fuel cartridge on your phone, and end up with enough of a charge to last you for the next month.

While this technology is not yet available, a team of researchers at Saint Louis University in St. Louis, Missouri, with the backing of the company they founded, is working to make it a reality. Once their invention, known as Stabilized Enzyme Biofuel Cells (or SEBC), is fully developed and tested, consumers will not only have a more convenient way to keep their cell phones and laptops charged, but will be protecting the environment at the same time. [Article Continues…]

•••••

From the archives…

Sears Modern Homes

Ordering houses by mail

In the lot immediately behind my home, a new house is under construction. My bedroom happens to be on the side of the house facing the construction site, so nearly every morning for several months, I’ve been awakened by the sounds of hammering, sawing, and yelling. From the look of things, this will probably continue for several more months. Day after day, I look out the window, trying to assess what that day’s racket has accomplished, and most of the time, the visible changes are quite small.

Although I know relatively little about construction, the thought has occurred to me more than once that there’s got to be a quicker and easier—not to mention quieter—way to get the job done. And perhaps a cheaper way, too. Small, unassuming two-bedroom houses in my San Francisco neighborhood routinely sell for upwards of $800,000 (which is why we rent—I can’t imagine ever being able to afford to buy a house here). Although the land itself is expensive, as are building materials, a great deal of the price of any new home goes to pay for labor; people aren’t going to hammer, saw, and yell for nothing. [Article Continues…]

•••••

From the archives…

Hay-on-Wye

The Town of Books

Guest Article by Morgen Jahnke

As anyone who knows me can attest, I am a sucker for books. I’ve had my nose perpetually stuck in a book for as long as I can remember, and I can go absolutely stir crazy if I have to endure a two-hour flight (or ten-minute bus ride) without sufficient reading material.

Although I don’t own a car, and my wardrobe may be threadbare in places, buying books (used or new) is, along with travel, one of the luxuries I will not willingly forgo. Thus it was with great joy that I discovered a place where my bibliomania would not seem out of place: the Welsh town of Hay-on-Wye, home to 1500 inhabitants and four million books. [Article Continues…]

•••••

From the archives…

Vulcan, Alberta

The town that’s out of this world

Guest Article by Morgen Jahnke

More than many other pop culture phenomena, Star Trek seems to inspire the most extreme displays of fan commitment. From Star Trek conventions, to the perennial popularity of Trek movies and TV series, on through the huge success of Star Trek: The Experience in Las Vegas (a town with no shortage of other entertainment options), Trek fans have an intense interest in replicating (so to speak) the world of Captain Kirk, Mr. Spock, and all the other distinguished members of Starfleet.

A sociologist might find it interesting to study this devotion; what is it about the Star Trek universe that compels ordinary people to live large parts of their non-virtual lives in its sway? Paradoxically more adult and yet less dangerous than the Star Wars universe, one answer may be that Star Trek predicts a future that seems to make sense, with science and reason in ascendancy. [Article Continues…]

•••••

From the archives…

National Novel Writing Month

Becoming a novelist in 30 days

Like many authors, I have a “vanity shelf” in my home, with copies of all the books I’ve written (or contributed to). Well, at least it contains copies of all the printed books I’ve written—a lot of what I’ve done in recent years has been in the form of ebooks and magazine articles. Among the 11 titles currently on that shelf are several recent books about Mac software, a bound copy of my Master’s thesis, and even—no kidding—a copy of Arnold and Sam, the Two Dragons, which I wrote in October 1974 at age 7. This 12-page book was my first work of fiction, and it was as bad as you might imagine, but I was understandably proud of it at the time. My mother typed it up, my dad photocopied it, and my elementary school library even kept a copy on its shelves, with cover art hand-drawn by the author. By the time I left that school a few years later, it had been checked out nine times, only a few of which were by me.

In November 2005, I made my second attempt at writing fiction. I participated in National Novel Writing Month, which has been held annually since 1999. Along with more than 59,000 other aspiring novelists, I attempted to write 50,000 words of fiction between November 1 and November 30. I was one of almost 10,000 participants who reached that goal. However, what I wrote during that month is not sitting on my vanity shelf. I’ve declined requests to read it even by close friends and family members, who will love me regardless of how bad my writing is. In fact, I haven’t even looked at it myself since then. It’s so bad that it makes Arnold and Sam look like literary genius. And I don’t merely mean that it needs a few rewrites and a thorough going-over by a good editor. It is profoundly, utterly, and irredeemably awful. Humanity will be better off if no one ever sets eyes on that manuscript again. [Article Continues…]

•••••

From the archives…

Fernet-Branca

Italy’s mystery liqueur

Guest Article by Morgen Jahnke

While some companies are moving toward greater transparency regarding the ingredients of their products (to allay fears about trans fats, for instance), in some cases the secret of a product’s makeup is not only closely guarded, but promoted as a key part of its allure. Mysteries can be a great advertising gimmick.

The proprietors of Antoine’s restaurant in New Orleans were clearly operating from this idea when they created their famous recipe for Oysters Rockefeller; although it has been widely speculated upon, this recipe has remained a secret since it was first developed in 1899. Having sampled Oysters Rockefeller at Antoine’s, I would say that I greatly enjoyed their taste, but I got more enjoyment out of trying to guess the elements of the recipe. [Article Continues…]

•••••

From the archives…

Kite Sails

A second wind for large ships

We’re well into the 21st century, and one of the big things on the minds of the world’s technologists is improving propulsion. Cars, trucks, and buses are moving from conventional gasoline-powered internal combustion engines to hybrid engines, diesel engines running on vegetable oil, and fuel cells. Airplane manufacturers are designing better and more powerful jet engines. Submarines are being built with engines that require no moving parts. And rocket scientists are trying to figure out the best means of propulsion to use for sending spacecraft to Mars and beyond. High-tech solutions to get from point A to point B with greater efficiency and lower cost are appearing constantly.

And yet, sometimes the best way forward is to go back. Steam power for cars is making a comeback, for example. What was thought to be a dead-end approach a century ago has turned out to have some redeeming qualities after all, now that technology, materials, and engineering methods have caught up with it. The latest blast from the past, though, really blows my mind. The brightest and best in the field of marine propulsion have come to the startling conclusion that if you want a reliable, inexpensive, and efficient way to move ships across the ocean, you might try…the wind. [Article Continues…]

•••••

From the archives…

Rarely Blooming Plants

The Titan Arum lily, the Kurinji plant, and the Talipot palm

Guest Article by Morgen Jahnke

Although many years have passed since then, there are certain things I can remember clearly about the year 1986. That was the year of the World’s Fair, Expo ‘86, in Vancouver, British Columbia, the year of the space shuttle Challenger disaster, and the year that Halley’s Comet (or Comet Halley) made its closest approach to the sun since 1910.

I remember being impressed at the time that I was going to witness an event that had last occurred so long in the past, before my grandparents were born, before the large-scale wars of the 20th century had taken place. In relation to the human lifespan, 76 years is a long time. When the comet finally did appear, it was not as spectacular as I’d hoped, but I didn’t want to miss it, knowing that it would not appear again until 2061, when I would most likely not be around to see it. [Article Continues…]

•••••

From the archives…

Teatro La Fenice

The phoenix of Venice

Guest Article by Morgen Jahnke

Throughout the night of January 29, 1996, a fire raged in the center of Venice, Italy, and by morning it had consumed its victim: the Teatro La Fenice, often called simply La Fenice. Luckily, the fire did not travel beyond the walls of La Fenice, but the destruction was profound. One of the great opera houses of Europe was gutted, and the city of Venice lost a treasured civic landmark.

Arriving by chance in Venice just days after the fire, celebrated author John Berendt set out to document the aftermath of the Fenice fire, interviewing local residents and city officials to find out what led up to the fire, and what long-term effect it might have on the city. As with his previous bestseller, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, which centered around a lurid murder in Savannah, Georgia, Berendt found many colorful characters and community intrigues in Venice to write about in addition to his main story. The result of Berendt’s research is the 2005 book The City of Falling Angels. [Article Continues…]

•••••

From the archives…

The Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster

Faith with a side of Parmesan

Guest Article by Jillian Hardee

I admit that I’m rather obtuse when it comes to religion. I do know enough to recognize that meatballs, pirates, and midgets probably aren’t the cornerstones of a thriving religion, yet these three items are vital to The Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster. Participation in this church would involve worshipping an extraordinary being who reveals himself in the form of tangled noodles and russet-colored meatballs. You might think I am making this up. You’ll have to read on to find out.

Every Action Has a Reaction
At the heart of the ages-old struggle between science and religion is the theory of evolution, a concept that many devout religious worshippers don’t want to accept and that hard-core scientists fervently stand by. Ever since the Scopes Trial in 1925, school officials, teachers, parents, and students have been fighting over whether and how to teach evolution in public schools. This argument came to a head in 2005 when the Kansas State Board of Education decided to require the teaching of Intelligent Design (ID) alongside evolution in science classrooms. The basis of ID is the proposition that features found in nature did not appear as a result of random processes such as natural selection, but instead were brought about by an intelligent agent—although this agent is not specifically named. ID advocates state that it is a scientific theory that can hold its own next to the theory of evolution. Needless to say, the idea of Intelligent Design, as well as the decision by the Kansas State Board of Education, drew serious criticism from the scientific community. It also caught the attention of Bobby Henderson, a physics graduate who thought ID had it all wrong. [Article Continues…]

•••••

From the archives…

Portmeirion

The Folly of Sir Clough Williams-Ellis

Guest Article by Morgen Jahnke

World-famous architects like Frank Gehry, Renzo Piano, and Rem Koolhaas often make headlines for their daring and creative buildings, but the vast majority of architects spend their time on more down-to-earth projects, like schools and fire houses. Their work is dictated by the needs of their clients, and their creativity is in service to solving any problems these needs might entail. But what happens when architects are given free rein? What do architects do for fun?

It is easy to imagine that Julia Morgan, the architect who designed William Randolph Hearst’s estate at San Simeon, enjoyed creating that fantastical world to Hearst’s specifications, or that Eduard Riedel, the architect of King Ludwig II of Bavaria’s Neuschwanstein Castle, found some pleasure in recreating a medieval castle in the 19th century. But these architects were still limited by the wishes and whims of their employers, unable to express themselves fully. [Article Continues…]

•••••

From the archives…

Mondegreens and Eggcorns

Giving old words a new ring

One of the very first things I remember learning in school, around age five or six, was the patriotic song “My County Tis of Thee,” which all the children would sing every morning after reciting the Pledge of Allegiance. At that point, we hadn’t yet been taught how to read—priorities, you know—so we learned the words by listening and repeating. That was fine, except that I was confused about the very last word of the song. The way I heard the last line was, “from every mountainside, let free dumring.”

I didn’t know what a dumring was, and I wondered about that, fleetingly, every time I sang the song for years afterward. Clearly it was someone, or something, that had to be “let free,” which I assumed was the same thing as “set free.” Maybe a dumring was a slave or something. I had no idea. For whatever reason, it never occurred to me that I might be singing two separate words (“dumb ring”), although that would have been equally nonsensical. I must have been well into my teens before I saw the lyrics in print for the first time, and I was utterly shocked to discover what I’d actually been singing: “let freedom ring.” In my defense, my five-year-old self wouldn’t have identified freedom as something that could ring. But I certainly did feel stupid for having misunderstood those words. [Article Continues…]

•••••

From the archives…

Pitcairn Island

Haven for homeless mutineers

Guest Article by Morgen Jahnke

The story of the mutinous crew of the British navy vessel HMS Bounty has remained a popular theme in books and movies ever since it occurred in 1789. Four major films have been made with the mutiny as their inspiration, featuring such acting heavyweights as Errol Flynn, Clark Gable, Marlon Brando, and Anthony Hopkins; one version of the film earned a Best Picture Oscar. There is a good reason for the story’s popularity: the sequence of events ending with the setting adrift of the ship’s captain, William Bligh, along with eighteen of his men, in the middle of the Pacific, is inherently dramatic and fascinating.

The story of what happened to both the mutineers and those forced overboard may be paid less attention, but is equally fascinating. Captain Bligh, with the aid of only a sextant and pocket watch, successfully navigated the small boat to the Tongan island of Tofua, and then on to the island of Timor, a journey that took over 47 days and covered over 3,618 nautical miles (6710km) by Bligh’s reckoning. Only one of those set adrift with Bligh did not survive the voyage; a crewman was killed by the inhabitants of Tofua when the group landed there. [Article Continues…]

•••••

From the archives…

Mystery Park

The theme park that aliens built

Several years ago, a Swiss friend of mine told me excitedly about a new theme park that was under construction near the city of Interlaken. He sent me a magazine article about it, and even went so far as to buy me a 10-Franc stock certificate for the park, giving me some trivial sliver of ownership in this hot new property. Ever since then, Mystery Park has been on my list of things to write about, but for one reason or another it had never managed to percolate up to the top of the list until now. Which is a pity: the park closed permanently on November 19, 2006, due to a shortage of visitors (and, therefore, money). At least I no longer have to wonder how much that stock is worth today: that and a couple of euros, as they say, will buy me a cup of coffee.

I’d like to say, at least, that it was interesting while it lasted. That, I’m sure, is a matter of opinion—and, clearly, not enough people’s opinion to make the park profitable. Nevertheless, Mystery Park was nothing if not unique, and its story is worth telling. [Article Continues…]

•••••

From the archives…

Geysers

Fragile spectacles

Guest Article by Morgen Jahnke

A few years ago on a family trip to Europe, we had the chance to spend an afternoon in Geneva, Switzerland, and despite limited time, we hoped to see as many of the city’s iconic sights as possible. Alas, our timing was off: the European headquarters of the United Nations, the Palais des Nations, did not accept visitors over the lunch hour (right when we showed up at the gates), and more surprisingly, the famous Jet d’Eau (“water-jet”), a fountain rising 140 meters (459 feet) from Lake Geneva, was closed for repairs. All was not lost, however, as we consoled ourselves with wine, chocolates, and souvenir shopping.

In 2003, two years after our visit to Geneva, the hours of operation for the Jet d’Eau were expanded, and it is now possible to see it in action all year long (though only during the day). This daily consistency calls to mind the Jet d’Eau’s non-mechanical predecessor, the geyser, which similarly releases water (and steam) at regular intervals. However, while the Jet d’Eau is the result of human ingenuity, geysers are the product of extremely rare circumstances, and once damaged, cannot be repaired so easily. [Article Continues…]

•••••

From the archives…

Ethanol Batteries

High-energy cocktails

Guest Article by Morgen Jahnke

Many cell phone users, including myself, have had the frustrating experience of needing to make a call just as our phone battery loses it charge; unless you’ve brought your phone charger or a spare battery with you, you’re out of luck for the moment. Imagine the same situation happening while you are out at a bar or restaurant, but this time you are able to recharge your phone easily and quickly, needing no special equipment. Instead, you take a thimbleful of the cocktail or wine in front of you, pour it into a special fuel cartridge on your phone, and end up with enough of a charge to last you for the next month.

While this technology is not yet available, a team of researchers at Saint Louis University in St. Louis, Missouri, with the backing of the company they founded, is working to make it a reality. Once their invention, known as Stabilized Enzyme Biofuel Cells (or SEBC), is fully developed and tested, consumers will not only have a more convenient way to keep their cell phones and laptops charged, but will be protecting the environment at the same time. [Article Continues…]

•••••

From the archives…

Sears Modern Homes

Ordering houses by mail

In the lot immediately behind my home, a new house is under construction. My bedroom happens to be on the side of the house facing the construction site, so nearly every morning for several months, I’ve been awakened by the sounds of hammering, sawing, and yelling. From the look of things, this will probably continue for several more months. Day after day, I look out the window, trying to assess what that day’s racket has accomplished, and most of the time, the visible changes are quite small.

Although I know relatively little about construction, the thought has occurred to me more than once that there’s got to be a quicker and easier—not to mention quieter—way to get the job done. And perhaps a cheaper way, too. Small, unassuming two-bedroom houses in my San Francisco neighborhood routinely sell for upwards of $800,000 (which is why we rent—I can’t imagine ever being able to afford to buy a house here). Although the land itself is expensive, as are building materials, a great deal of the price of any new home goes to pay for labor; people aren’t going to hammer, saw, and yell for nothing. [Article Continues…]

•••••

From the archives…

Hay-on-Wye

The Town of Books

Guest Article by Morgen Jahnke

As anyone who knows me can attest, I am a sucker for books. I’ve had my nose perpetually stuck in a book for as long as I can remember, and I can go absolutely stir crazy if I have to endure a two-hour flight (or ten-minute bus ride) without sufficient reading material.

Although I don’t own a car, and my wardrobe may be threadbare in places, buying books (used or new) is, along with travel, one of the luxuries I will not willingly forgo. Thus it was with great joy that I discovered a place where my bibliomania would not seem out of place: the Welsh town of Hay-on-Wye, home to 1500 inhabitants and four million books. [Article Continues…]

•••••

From the archives…

Vulcan, Alberta

The town that’s out of this world

Guest Article by Morgen Jahnke

More than many other pop culture phenomena, Star Trek seems to inspire the most extreme displays of fan commitment. From Star Trek conventions, to the perennial popularity of Trek movies and TV series, on through the huge success of Star Trek: The Experience in Las Vegas (a town with no shortage of other entertainment options), Trek fans have an intense interest in replicating (so to speak) the world of Captain Kirk, Mr. Spock, and all the other distinguished members of Starfleet.

A sociologist might find it interesting to study this devotion; what is it about the Star Trek universe that compels ordinary people to live large parts of their non-virtual lives in its sway? Paradoxically more adult and yet less dangerous than the Star Wars universe, one answer may be that Star Trek predicts a future that seems to make sense, with science and reason in ascendancy. [Article Continues…]

•••••

From the archives…

National Novel Writing Month

Becoming a novelist in 30 days

Like many authors, I have a “vanity shelf” in my home, with copies of all the books I’ve written (or contributed to). Well, at least it contains copies of all the printed books I’ve written—a lot of what I’ve done in recent years has been in the form of ebooks and magazine articles. Among the 11 titles currently on that shelf are several recent books about Mac software, a bound copy of my Master’s thesis, and even—no kidding—a copy of Arnold and Sam, the Two Dragons, which I wrote in October 1974 at age 7. This 12-page book was my first work of fiction, and it was as bad as you might imagine, but I was understandably proud of it at the time. My mother typed it up, my dad photocopied it, and my elementary school library even kept a copy on its shelves, with cover art hand-drawn by the author. By the time I left that school a few years later, it had been checked out nine times, only a few of which were by me.

In November 2005, I made my second attempt at writing fiction. I participated in National Novel Writing Month, which has been held annually since 1999. Along with more than 59,000 other aspiring novelists, I attempted to write 50,000 words of fiction between November 1 and November 30. I was one of almost 10,000 participants who reached that goal. However, what I wrote during that month is not sitting on my vanity shelf. I’ve declined requests to read it even by close friends and family members, who will love me regardless of how bad my writing is. In fact, I haven’t even looked at it myself since then. It’s so bad that it makes Arnold and Sam look like literary genius. And I don’t merely mean that it needs a few rewrites and a thorough going-over by a good editor. It is profoundly, utterly, and irredeemably awful. Humanity will be better off if no one ever sets eyes on that manuscript again. [Article Continues…]

•••••

From the archives…

Fernet-Branca

Italy’s mystery liqueur

Guest Article by Morgen Jahnke

While some companies are moving toward greater transparency regarding the ingredients of their products (to allay fears about trans fats, for instance), in some cases the secret of a product’s makeup is not only closely guarded, but promoted as a key part of its allure. Mysteries can be a great advertising gimmick.

The proprietors of Antoine’s restaurant in New Orleans were clearly operating from this idea when they created their famous recipe for Oysters Rockefeller; although it has been widely speculated upon, this recipe has remained a secret since it was first developed in 1899. Having sampled Oysters Rockefeller at Antoine’s, I would say that I greatly enjoyed their taste, but I got more enjoyment out of trying to guess the elements of the recipe. [Article Continues…]

•••••

From the archives…

Kite Sails

A second wind for large ships

We’re well into the 21st century, and one of the big things on the minds of the world’s technologists is improving propulsion. Cars, trucks, and buses are moving from conventional gasoline-powered internal combustion engines to hybrid engines, diesel engines running on vegetable oil, and fuel cells. Airplane manufacturers are designing better and more powerful jet engines. Submarines are being built with engines that require no moving parts. And rocket scientists are trying to figure out the best means of propulsion to use for sending spacecraft to Mars and beyond. High-tech solutions to get from point A to point B with greater efficiency and lower cost are appearing constantly.

And yet, sometimes the best way forward is to go back. Steam power for cars is making a comeback, for example. What was thought to be a dead-end approach a century ago has turned out to have some redeeming qualities after all, now that technology, materials, and engineering methods have caught up with it. The latest blast from the past, though, really blows my mind. The brightest and best in the field of marine propulsion have come to the startling conclusion that if you want a reliable, inexpensive, and efficient way to move ships across the ocean, you might try…the wind. [Article Continues…]

•••••

From the archives…

Rarely Blooming Plants

The Titan Arum lily, the Kurinji plant, and the Talipot palm

Guest Article by Morgen Jahnke

Although many years have passed since then, there are certain things I can remember clearly about the year 1986. That was the year of the World’s Fair, Expo ‘86, in Vancouver, British Columbia, the year of the space shuttle Challenger disaster, and the year that Halley’s Comet (or Comet Halley) made its closest approach to the sun since 1910.

I remember being impressed at the time that I was going to witness an event that had last occurred so long in the past, before my grandparents were born, before the large-scale wars of the 20th century had taken place. In relation to the human lifespan, 76 years is a long time. When the comet finally did appear, it was not as spectacular as I’d hoped, but I didn’t want to miss it, knowing that it would not appear again until 2061, when I would most likely not be around to see it. [Article Continues…]

•••••

From the archives…

Teatro La Fenice

The phoenix of Venice

Guest Article by Morgen Jahnke

Throughout the night of January 29, 1996, a fire raged in the center of Venice, Italy, and by morning it had consumed its victim: the Teatro La Fenice, often called simply La Fenice. Luckily, the fire did not travel beyond the walls of La Fenice, but the destruction was profound. One of the great opera houses of Europe was gutted, and the city of Venice lost a treasured civic landmark.

Arriving by chance in Venice just days after the fire, celebrated author John Berendt set out to document the aftermath of the Fenice fire, interviewing local residents and city officials to find out what led up to the fire, and what long-term effect it might have on the city. As with his previous bestseller, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, which centered around a lurid murder in Savannah, Georgia, Berendt found many colorful characters and community intrigues in Venice to write about in addition to his main story. The result of Berendt’s research is the 2005 book The City of Falling Angels. [Article Continues…]

•••••

From the archives…

The Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster

Faith with a side of Parmesan

Guest Article by Jillian Hardee

I admit that I’m rather obtuse when it comes to religion. I do know enough to recognize that meatballs, pirates, and midgets probably aren’t the cornerstones of a thriving religion, yet these three items are vital to The Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster. Participation in this church would involve worshipping an extraordinary being who reveals himself in the form of tangled noodles and russet-colored meatballs. You might think I am making this up. You’ll have to read on to find out.

Every Action Has a Reaction
At the heart of the ages-old struggle between science and religion is the theory of evolution, a concept that many devout religious worshippers don’t want to accept and that hard-core scientists fervently stand by. Ever since the Scopes Trial in 1925, school officials, teachers, parents, and students have been fighting over whether and how to teach evolution in public schools. This argument came to a head in 2005 when the Kansas State Board of Education decided to require the teaching of Intelligent Design (ID) alongside evolution in science classrooms. The basis of ID is the proposition that features found in nature did not appear as a result of random processes such as natural selection, but instead were brought about by an intelligent agent—although this agent is not specifically named. ID advocates state that it is a scientific theory that can hold its own next to the theory of evolution. Needless to say, the idea of Intelligent Design, as well as the decision by the Kansas State Board of Education, drew serious criticism from the scientific community. It also caught the attention of Bobby Henderson, a physics graduate who thought ID had it all wrong. [Article Continues…]

•••••

From the archives…

Portmeirion

The Folly of Sir Clough Williams-Ellis

Guest Article by Morgen Jahnke

World-famous architects like Frank Gehry, Renzo Piano, and Rem Koolhaas often make headlines for their daring and creative buildings, but the vast majority of architects spend their time on more down-to-earth projects, like schools and fire houses. Their work is dictated by the needs of their clients, and their creativity is in service to solving any problems these needs might entail. But what happens when architects are given free rein? What do architects do for fun?

It is easy to imagine that Julia Morgan, the architect who designed William Randolph Hearst’s estate at San Simeon, enjoyed creating that fantastical world to Hearst’s specifications, or that Eduard Riedel, the architect of King Ludwig II of Bavaria’s Neuschwanstein Castle, found some pleasure in recreating a medieval castle in the 19th century. But these architects were still limited by the wishes and whims of their employers, unable to express themselves fully. [Article Continues…]

•••••

From the archives…

Mondegreens and Eggcorns

Giving old words a new ring

One of the very first things I remember learning in school, around age five or six, was the patriotic song “My County Tis of Thee,” which all the children would sing every morning after reciting the Pledge of Allegiance. At that point, we hadn’t yet been taught how to read—priorities, you know—so we learned the words by listening and repeating. That was fine, except that I was confused about the very last word of the song. The way I heard the last line was, “from every mountainside, let free dumring.”

I didn’t know what a dumring was, and I wondered about that, fleetingly, every time I sang the song for years afterward. Clearly it was someone, or something, that had to be “let free,” which I assumed was the same thing as “set free.” Maybe a dumring was a slave or something. I had no idea. For whatever reason, it never occurred to me that I might be singing two separate words (“dumb ring”), although that would have been equally nonsensical. I must have been well into my teens before I saw the lyrics in print for the first time, and I was utterly shocked to discover what I’d actually been singing: “let freedom ring.” In my defense, my five-year-old self wouldn’t have identified freedom as something that could ring. But I certainly did feel stupid for having misunderstood those words. [Article Continues…]

•••••

From the archives…

Pitcairn Island

Haven for homeless mutineers

Guest Article by Morgen Jahnke

The story of the mutinous crew of the British navy vessel HMS Bounty has remained a popular theme in books and movies ever since it occurred in 1789. Four major films have been made with the mutiny as their inspiration, featuring such acting heavyweights as Errol Flynn, Clark Gable, Marlon Brando, and Anthony Hopkins; one version of the film earned a Best Picture Oscar. There is a good reason for the story’s popularity: the sequence of events ending with the setting adrift of the ship’s captain, William Bligh, along with eighteen of his men, in the middle of the Pacific, is inherently dramatic and fascinating.

The story of what happened to both the mutineers and those forced overboard may be paid less attention, but is equally fascinating. Captain Bligh, with the aid of only a sextant and pocket watch, successfully navigated the small boat to the Tongan island of Tofua, and then on to the island of Timor, a journey that took over 47 days and covered over 3,618 nautical miles (6710km) by Bligh’s reckoning. Only one of those set adrift with Bligh did not survive the voyage; a crewman was killed by the inhabitants of Tofua when the group landed there. [Article Continues…]

•••••

From the archives…

Mystery Park

The theme park that aliens built

Several years ago, a Swiss friend of mine told me excitedly about a new theme park that was under construction near the city of Interlaken. He sent me a magazine article about it, and even went so far as to buy me a 10-Franc stock certificate for the park, giving me some trivial sliver of ownership in this hot new property. Ever since then, Mystery Park has been on my list of things to write about, but for one reason or another it had never managed to percolate up to the top of the list until now. Which is a pity: the park closed permanently on November 19, 2006, due to a shortage of visitors (and, therefore, money). At least I no longer have to wonder how much that stock is worth today: that and a couple of euros, as they say, will buy me a cup of coffee.

I’d like to say, at least, that it was interesting while it lasted. That, I’m sure, is a matter of opinion—and, clearly, not enough people’s opinion to make the park profitable. Nevertheless, Mystery Park was nothing if not unique, and its story is worth telling. [Article Continues…]

•••••

From the archives…

Geysers

Fragile spectacles

Guest Article by Morgen Jahnke

A few years ago on a family trip to Europe, we had the chance to spend an afternoon in Geneva, Switzerland, and despite limited time, we hoped to see as many of the city’s iconic sights as possible. Alas, our timing was off: the European headquarters of the United Nations, the Palais des Nations, did not accept visitors over the lunch hour (right when we showed up at the gates), and more surprisingly, the famous Jet d’Eau (“water-jet”), a fountain rising 140 meters (459 feet) from Lake Geneva, was closed for repairs. All was not lost, however, as we consoled ourselves with wine, chocolates, and souvenir shopping.

In 2003, two years after our visit to Geneva, the hours of operation for the Jet d’Eau were expanded, and it is now possible to see it in action all year long (though only during the day). This daily consistency calls to mind the Jet d’Eau’s non-mechanical predecessor, the geyser, which similarly releases water (and steam) at regular intervals. However, while the Jet d’Eau is the result of human ingenuity, geysers are the product of extremely rare circumstances, and once damaged, cannot be repaired so easily. [Article Continues…]

•••••

From the archives…

Ethanol Batteries

High-energy cocktails

Guest Article by Morgen Jahnke

Many cell phone users, including myself, have had the frustrating experience of needing to make a call just as our phone battery loses it charge; unless you’ve brought your phone charger or a spare battery with you, you’re out of luck for the moment. Imagine the same situation happening while you are out at a bar or restaurant, but this time you are able to recharge your phone easily and quickly, needing no special equipment. Instead, you take a thimbleful of the cocktail or wine in front of you, pour it into a special fuel cartridge on your phone, and end up with enough of a charge to last you for the next month.

While this technology is not yet available, a team of researchers at Saint Louis University in St. Louis, Missouri, with the backing of the company they founded, is working to make it a reality. Once their invention, known as Stabilized Enzyme Biofuel Cells (or SEBC), is fully developed and tested, consumers will not only have a more convenient way to keep their cell phones and laptops charged, but will be protecting the environment at the same time. [Article Continues…]

•••••

From the archives…

Sears Modern Homes

Ordering houses by mail

In the lot immediately behind my home, a new house is under construction. My bedroom happens to be on the side of the house facing the construction site, so nearly every morning for several months, I’ve been awakened by the sounds of hammering, sawing, and yelling. From the look of things, this will probably continue for several more months. Day after day, I look out the window, trying to assess what that day’s racket has accomplished, and most of the time, the visible changes are quite small.

Although I know relatively little about construction, the thought has occurred to me more than once that there’s got to be a quicker and easier—not to mention quieter—way to get the job done. And perhaps a cheaper way, too. Small, unassuming two-bedroom houses in my San Francisco neighborhood routinely sell for upwards of $800,000 (which is why we rent—I can’t imagine ever being able to afford to buy a house here). Although the land itself is expensive, as are building materials, a great deal of the price of any new home goes to pay for labor; people aren’t going to hammer, saw, and yell for nothing. [Article Continues…]

•••••

From the archives…

Hay-on-Wye

The Town of Books

Guest Article by Morgen Jahnke

As anyone who knows me can attest, I am a sucker for books. I’ve had my nose perpetually stuck in a book for as long as I can remember, and I can go absolutely stir crazy if I have to endure a two-hour flight (or ten-minute bus ride) without sufficient reading material.

Although I don’t own a car, and my wardrobe may be threadbare in places, buying books (used or new) is, along with travel, one of the luxuries I will not willingly forgo. Thus it was with great joy that I discovered a place where my bibliomania would not seem out of place: the Welsh town of Hay-on-Wye, home to 1500 inhabitants and four million books. [Article Continues…]

•••••

From the archives…

Vulcan, Alberta

The town that’s out of this world

Guest Article by Morgen Jahnke

More than many other pop culture phenomena, Star Trek seems to inspire the most extreme displays of fan commitment. From Star Trek conventions, to the perennial popularity of Trek movies and TV series, on through the huge success of Star Trek: The Experience in Las Vegas (a town with no shortage of other entertainment options), Trek fans have an intense interest in replicating (so to speak) the world of Captain Kirk, Mr. Spock, and all the other distinguished members of Starfleet.

A sociologist might find it interesting to study this devotion; what is it about the Star Trek universe that compels ordinary people to live large parts of their non-virtual lives in its sway? Paradoxically more adult and yet less dangerous than the Star Wars universe, one answer may be that Star Trek predicts a future that seems to make sense, with science and reason in ascendancy. [Article Continues…]

•••••

From the archives…

National Novel Writing Month

Becoming a novelist in 30 days

Like many authors, I have a “vanity shelf” in my home, with copies of all the books I’ve written (or contributed to). Well, at least it contains copies of all the printed books I’ve written—a lot of what I’ve done in recent years has been in the form of ebooks and magazine articles. Among the 11 titles currently on that shelf are several recent books about Mac software, a bound copy of my Master’s thesis, and even—no kidding—a copy of Arnold and Sam, the Two Dragons, which I wrote in October 1974 at age 7. This 12-page book was my first work of fiction, and it was as bad as you might imagine, but I was understandably proud of it at the time. My mother typed it up, my dad photocopied it, and my elementary school library even kept a copy on its shelves, with cover art hand-drawn by the author. By the time I left that school a few years later, it had been checked out nine times, only a few of which were by me.

In November 2005, I made my second attempt at writing fiction. I participated in National Novel Writing Month, which has been held annually since 1999. Along with more than 59,000 other aspiring novelists, I attempted to write 50,000 words of fiction between November 1 and November 30. I was one of almost 10,000 participants who reached that goal. However, what I wrote during that month is not sitting on my vanity shelf. I’ve declined requests to read it even by close friends and family members, who will love me regardless of how bad my writing is. In fact, I haven’t even looked at it myself since then. It’s so bad that it makes Arnold and Sam look like literary genius. And I don’t merely mean that it needs a few rewrites and a thorough going-over by a good editor. It is profoundly, utterly, and irredeemably awful. Humanity will be better off if no one ever sets eyes on that manuscript again. [Article Continues…]

•••••

From the archives…

Fernet-Branca

Italy’s mystery liqueur

Guest Article by Morgen Jahnke

While some companies are moving toward greater transparency regarding the ingredients of their products (to allay fears about trans fats, for instance), in some cases the secret of a product’s makeup is not only closely guarded, but promoted as a key part of its allure. Mysteries can be a great advertising gimmick.

The proprietors of Antoine’s restaurant in New Orleans were clearly operating from this idea when they created their famous recipe for Oysters Rockefeller; although it has been widely speculated upon, this recipe has remained a secret since it was first developed in 1899. Having sampled Oysters Rockefeller at Antoine’s, I would say that I greatly enjoyed their taste, but I got more enjoyment out of trying to guess the elements of the recipe. [Article Continues…]

•••••

From the archives…

Kite Sails

A second wind for large ships

We’re well into the 21st century, and one of the big things on the minds of the world’s technologists is improving propulsion. Cars, trucks, and buses are moving from conventional gasoline-powered internal combustion engines to hybrid engines, diesel engines running on vegetable oil, and fuel cells. Airplane manufacturers are designing better and more powerful jet engines. Submarines are being built with engines that require no moving parts. And rocket scientists are trying to figure out the best means of propulsion to use for sending spacecraft to Mars and beyond. High-tech solutions to get from point A to point B with greater efficiency and lower cost are appearing constantly.

And yet, sometimes the best way forward is to go back. Steam power for cars is making a comeback, for example. What was thought to be a dead-end approach a century ago has turned out to have some redeeming qualities after all, now that technology, materials, and engineering methods have caught up with it. The latest blast from the past, though, really blows my mind. The brightest and best in the field of marine propulsion have come to the startling conclusion that if you want a reliable, inexpensive, and efficient way to move ships across the ocean, you might try…the wind. [Article Continues…]

•••••

From the archives…

Rarely Blooming Plants

The Titan Arum lily, the Kurinji plant, and the Talipot palm

Guest Article by Morgen Jahnke

Although many years have passed since then, there are certain things I can remember clearly about the year 1986. That was the year of the World’s Fair, Expo ‘86, in Vancouver, British Columbia, the year of the space shuttle Challenger disaster, and the year that Halley’s Comet (or Comet Halley) made its closest approach to the sun since 1910.

I remember being impressed at the time that I was going to witness an event that had last occurred so long in the past, before my grandparents were born, before the large-scale wars of the 20th century had taken place. In relation to the human lifespan, 76 years is a long time. When the comet finally did appear, it was not as spectacular as I’d hoped, but I didn’t want to miss it, knowing that it would not appear again until 2061, when I would most likely not be around to see it. [Article Continues…]

•••••

From the archives…

Teatro La Fenice

The phoenix of Venice

Guest Article by Morgen Jahnke

Throughout the night of January 29, 1996, a fire raged in the center of Venice, Italy, and by morning it had consumed its victim: the Teatro La Fenice, often called simply La Fenice. Luckily, the fire did not travel beyond the walls of La Fenice, but the destruction was profound. One of the great opera houses of Europe was gutted, and the city of Venice lost a treasured civic landmark.

Arriving by chance in Venice just days after the fire, celebrated author John Berendt set out to document the aftermath of the Fenice fire, interviewing local residents and city officials to find out what led up to the fire, and what long-term effect it might have on the city. As with his previous bestseller, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, which centered around a lurid murder in Savannah, Georgia, Berendt found many colorful characters and community intrigues in Venice to write about in addition to his main story. The result of Berendt’s research is the 2005 book The City of Falling Angels. [Article Continues…]

•••••

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