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    It's the birthday of founding father Benjamin Franklin. (books by this author) Though Philadelphia is regarded as his home, he was born in Boston on this day in 1706. Franklin had a natural curiosity about how things work. He spent much of his life searching for ways for people to live better. After he retired from the printing business in 1749, he turned his attention to science and inventions. He had already invented a safer, heat-efficient stove—called the Franklin stove—which he never patented because he created it for the good of society. He also established the first fire company and came up with the idea of fire insurance.
    When he grew tired of taking off and putting on his glasses, Franklin had two pairs of spectacles cut in half and put half of each lens in a single frame, now called bifocals. His brother was plagued with kidney stones, so Franklin created a flexible urinary catheter to help him feel better. Among Franklin's other inventions are swim fins, the glass armonica (a musical instrument), the odometer, and the lightning rod.
    Franklin eventually retired from public service to spend his time reading and studying. He found, however, that his age left him unable to reach the high shelves in his library. He invented a tool called a "long arm"—a long wooden pole with a grasping claw at the end—to reach the books he wanted to read.
    Benjamin Franklin said, "A life of leisure and a life of laziness are two things. There will be sleeping enough in the grave."
    ***********************
    We must be willing to get rid of the life we’ve planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us.
    ~Joseph Campbell

    There are three kinds of people : Those who can count and those that can't.




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    It's the birthday of the physician and lexicographer Peter Mark Roget, born in London, England (1779). He was a working doctor for most of his life, but he was also a Renaissance man, a member of various scientific, literary and philosophical societies. In his spare time, he invented a slide rule for performing difficult mathematical calculations, and a method of water filtration that is still in use today. He wrote papers on a variety of topics, including the kaleidoscope and Dante, and he was one of the contributors to the early Encylopaedia Britannica.
    He was 61 years old and had just retired from his medical practice, when he decided to devote his retirement to publishing a system of classifying words into groups based on their meanings. Other scholars had published books of synonyms before, but Roget wanted to assemble something more comprehensive. He said, "[The book will be] a collection of the words it contains and of the idiomatic combinations peculiar to it, arranged, not in alphabetical order as they are in a Dictionary, but according to the ideas which they express."
    He organized all the words into six categories: Abstract Relations, Space, Matter, Intellect, Volition, Sentient and Moral Powers, and within each category there were many subcategories. The project took him more than 10 years, but he finally published his Thesaurus of English Words and Phrases in 1852. He chose the word "thesaurus" because it means "treasury" in Greek.
    Roget's Thesaurus might have been considered an intellectual curiosity, except that at the last minute Roget decided to include an index. That index, which helped readers find synonyms, made the book into one of the most popular reference books of all time. It is considered one of the great lexicographical achievements in the history of the English language, and it has been helping English students pad their vocabularies for more than 150 years.
    ***********************
    We must be willing to get rid of the life we’ve planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us.
    ~Joseph Campbell

    There are three kinds of people : Those who can count and those that can't.




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    It's the birthday of the poet and short-story writer Edgar Allan Poe, (books by this author) born in Boston (1809). He was the son of two actors, but both his parents died of tuberculosis when he was just a boy. He was taken in by a wealthy Scotch merchant named John Allan, who gave Edgar Poe his middle name. His foster father sent him to the prestigious University of Virginia, where he was surrounded by the sons of wealthy slave-owning families. He developed a habit of drinking and gambling with the other students, but his foster father didn't approve. He and John Allen had a series of arguments about his behavior and his career choices and he was finally disowned and thrown out of the house.
    He spent the next several years living in poverty, depending on his aunt for a home, supporting himself by writing anything he could, including a how-to guide for seashell collecting. Eventually, he began to contribute poems and journalism to magazines. At the time, magazines were a new literary medium in the United States, and Poe was one of the first writers to make a living writing for magazines. He called himself a "magazinist."
    He first made his name writing some of the most brutal book reviews ever published at the time. He was called the "tomahawk man from the South." He described one poem as "an illimitable gilded swill trough," and he said, "[Most] of those who hold high places in our poetical literature are absolute nincompoops." He particularly disliked the work of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and John Greenleaf Whittier.
    Poe also began to publish fiction, and he specialized in humorous and satirical stories because that was the style of fiction most in demand. But soon after he married his 14-year-old cousin, Virginia, he learned that she had tuberculosis, just like his parents, and he began to write darker stories, about husbands preserving the teeth of their dead wives and people buried alive. One of his editors complained that his work was growing too grotesque, but Poe replied that the grotesque would sell magazines. And he was right. His work helped launch magazines as the major new venue for literary fiction.
    But even though his stories sold magazines, he still didn't make much money. He made about $4 per article and $15 per story, and the magazines were notoriously late with their paychecks. There was no international copyright law at the time, and so his stories were printed without his permission throughout Europe. There were periods when he and his wife lived on bread and molasses, and sold most of their belongings to the pawnshop.
    It was under these conditions, suffering from alcoholism, and watching his wife grow slowly worse in health, that he wrote some of the greatest Gothic horror stories in English literature. Poe's best-known short story is "The Tell-Tale Heart" (1843), about a man who kills his employer and then believes he can still hear the employer's heart beating. It begins, "TRUE! nervous, very, very dreadfully nervous I had been and am; but why WILL you say that I am mad? The disease had sharpened my senses, not destroyed, not dulled them. Above all was the sense of hearing acute. I heard all things in the heaven and in the earth. I heard many things in hell. How then am I mad? Hearken! and observe how healthily, how calmly, I can tell you the whole story."


    Near the end of his wife's illness, he published his most famous poem, "The Raven," about a young man visited by a raven in the middle of the night, and who comes to believe that the bird is possessed by the spirit of his dead lover, Lenore. It begins,
    "Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary,
    Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore —"
    For many years after his death, Poe was considered by critics in this country to be a mere sensationalist writer of Gothic tales. But much of his work was translated into French, where he inspired a generation of surrealist poets and fiction writers, including Charles Baudelaire, who said that he prayed every morning to God, to his father, and to Poe. Today Poe is credited with having invented the psychological horror story and the detective story.
    Edgar Allan Poe wrote, "All that we see or seem is but a dream within a dream."
    ***********************
    We must be willing to get rid of the life we’ve planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us.
    ~Joseph Campbell

    There are three kinds of people : Those who can count and those that can't.




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    It's the birthday of filmmaker Federico Fellini, born in Rimini, Italy (1920). Fellini was a perfectionist who oversaw all the details of a film's production. He wrote all of his scripts, with help from dialogue writers, and was even involved in the final editing of his films. He said he approached making movies the way Marco Polo sailed for the Orient — not really knowing what may happen along the journey or where the end may lie.
    Fellini spent his early childhood at a strict boarding school run by priests. One of the regular punishments was to make a student kneel for half an hour on grains of maize. As a treat on Sundays they marched to the beach, where they would say prayers while kneeling and looking at the sea. The only thing he seemed to be any good at while in school was drawing, and he and his friends would frequently miss their classes.
    When he was 12, he ran away and joined a traveling circus, but the police eventually found him and brought him back. At 17, he moved to Florence, and later to Rome, and he went on to support himself as an actor, a newspaper cartoonist, and a radio scriptwriter. He wrote for a serial program about Cico and Pallina, the Italian version of "Blondie and Dagwood."
    Fellini had to move frequently when he first left school because he would often have romantic affairs with his landladies, and he'd have to move when they ended. Fellini went on to have what he called "the most important year of his life" in 1939, when he traveled with his friend, the comedian Aldo Fabrizi, all across Italy with a vaudeville troupe.
    Fellini earned a reputation as a good sketch writer, scenery painter, bit player, and "company poet." It was during this trip that Fellini saw his country and experienced the variety of what he called its "human landscape." He said, "A different language is a different vision of life."

    When Fabrizi was offered the lead role in a film comedy, Fellini provided the film's storyline, beginning his film career. He went on to marry Giulietta Masina, an actress, after a four-month courtship that began when he became intrigued by her voice. She had taken over as the voice of Pallina. She went on to star in several of his films. She said of her husband, "The only time Federico blushes is when he tells the truth."
    One of his best-known films is La Dolce Vita (1960). In 1993, he was awarded the Academy Award for Lifetime Achievement. He had a massive heart attack later that year and he died soon afterward of heart and lung failure.
    He said, "All art is autobiographical. The pearl is the oyster's autobiography."
    ***********************
    We must be willing to get rid of the life we’ve planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us.
    ~Joseph Campbell

    There are three kinds of people : Those who can count and those that can't.




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    Sad, sad news.

    Heath Ledger found dead in NYC apartment.
    (according to online MSNBC news)

    j
    ***********************
    We must be willing to get rid of the life we’ve planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us.
    ~Joseph Campbell

    There are three kinds of people : Those who can count and those that can't.




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    Bobby (Robert) Fischer, chess grandmaster, died last week.
    http://online.wsj.com/article/SB120096385865905161.html
    ----------------------------------------
    He was one of my favorite players, even though he "retired" from chess in the later years of his life. Definitely one of the best, and arguably the world champion until his death.

    @Jean: That is very sad news indeed.
    Anderson

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    That is sad news also anderson. Thanks for letting us know.

    Jean
    ***********************
    We must be willing to get rid of the life we’ve planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us.
    ~Joseph Campbell

    There are three kinds of people : Those who can count and those that can't.




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    I guess Heath Ledger just finished filming the next Batman movie. Quite the cast this time.

    http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0468569/

    They're gonna HAVE to get rid of one of those promo images.
    ***********************
    We must be willing to get rid of the life we’ve planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us.
    ~Joseph Campbell

    There are three kinds of people : Those who can count and those that can't.




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    Default A little late. But still wanted to post this for Saturday 1/26.

    Today is Australia Day, the day on which Australians celebrate the establishment of the first British settlement in that country in 1788. Captain James Cook had been the first European to discover the island continent in 1770, and he informed the British government that it might make a good place for a settlement. By 1780, Great Britain's prisons were growing overcrowded because they had lost their colonies in America, which was where they had been sending prisoners. So they decided to start sending convicts to Australia, which was then called New South Wales.
    The first shipment consisted of about 730 convicts, among them highway robbers, jewel thieves, and a woman who had tried to steal 24 yards of black silk lace. The military guards carried no ammunition, so that their guns could not be used against them in a mutiny. Two attempted mutinies were put down during the voyage. Forty-eight people died before they reached their destination, which was considered a remarkably successful survival rate. They arrived on this day in 1788 and settled an area they called Sydney Cove, around which would grow the city of Sydney.
    ***********************
    We must be willing to get rid of the life we’ve planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us.
    ~Joseph Campbell

    There are three kinds of people : Those who can count and those that can't.




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    It was on this day in 1986 that the space shuttle Challenger exploded 73 seconds after takeoff, killing all seven astronauts aboard. That evening, President Ronald Reagan eulogized the lost astronauts in one of the finest addresses of his presidency. He said, "We will never forget them, nor the last time we saw them, this morning, as they prepared for their journey and waved goodbye and slipped 'the surly bonds of earth' to 'touch the face of God.'"

    Challenger was named after a British corvette which carried out a pioneering global marine research expedition in the 1870's (HMS Challenger).

    Challenger was destroyed when an O-ring seal on its right solid rocket booster failed. This failure allowed a plume of flame to leak out of the solid rocket booster and impinge on both the external fuel tank and solid rocket booster aft attachment strut. This caused both structural failure of the ET and the SRB pivoting into the orbiter and ET. The vehicle assembly then broke apart under aerodynamic loads.

    Many viewed the launch live because one of the crew was Christa McAuliffe, the first member of the Teacher In Space Project. Media coverage of the accident was extensive: one study reported that 85 percent of Americans surveyed had heard the news within an hour of the accident.

    (It's weird - I just remembered I watched this disaster as it happened on TV and the 911 disaster on TV when the second airplane hit the tower. Both times I was at work and watching with a group of co-workers)
    ***********************
    We must be willing to get rid of the life we’ve planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us.
    ~Joseph Campbell

    There are three kinds of people : Those who can count and those that can't.




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