1/25/2023 – Ever wonder why “international waters” begin three miles offshore? I found out today!
League is a curious word. I’m working my way through a book on speed-reading right now, in which the author provides numerous samples of classic books for timing, perhaps because many people either have not read these books or read them some time ago, so they’re fairly fresh samples for most. Today I read the first 1000 words of Moby Dick, which includes the word “league”.
Many years ago, I remember reading that a league is 3 miles, and in my youthful brain, that settled that. Today I encountered the word in its nautical context for the first time in decades, and suddenly my critical thinking brain reminded me that, since I’ve no idea where I learned that previous definition, I certainly couldn’t stand by its accuracy. So I finished my timed-reading exercise (288wpm; “above average” for some, but far below where I hope to be with more practice) and quickly looked up this word again, this time with the help of la red, or the Internet, as my Spanish-speaking friends often call it.
Britannica online suggests that a league is often simplified on land to mean three miles, but as you might expect, the history is much more complicated than that. You can read the rest yourself if you like numbers even more than I do, but what fascinated my brain today was one of the last tidbits on that page:
In the late 18th century the league also came to refer to the distance a cannon shot could be fired at menacing ships offshore. This resulted in the 3-mile offshore territorial limit that we observe today! Thus, anything within three miles of shore belongs to that country, because they can defend it (with cannonballs!), while anything further out is no one’s jurisdiction.
I love to see the social contract when it comes to courtesy on foot and on the road, but I have had virtually no context for such things asea. While history is filled with grand discoveries, minor successes, and absolutely horrifying catastrophes, I still think it’s crucial to learn what we can. And sometimes, the provenance of a modern custom can be a revealing journey all its own!
3/29/2022 – Prosody has two basic meanings: 1) the patterns of rhythm and sound used in poetry (you might think of how what we call prose easily shifts into true poetry with a little grace), and 2) the patterns of stress and intonation in a language. Pretty similar, right? I thought that was curious, but naturally, I HAD to know the etymology of that word at the same time as I learned the definition:
So that brightened my day, and I hope it can brighten yours, too, especially if you’re also a fan of words, poetry, and song. Or learning. Or reading. Or anything at all, really. Have a good one!
8/10/2021 – The Living Root Bridges of Meghalaya, India are a fascinating wonder to behold! Grown naturally and yet carefully cultivated by the trained Khasi and Jaintia tribes who live there, these bridges can withstand the monsoon season. Of course they also avoid rot! Most bridges built from traditional materials would deteriorate swiftly in such a wet locale.
The eleven Living Root Bridges in place today are nearly 180 years old, though the roots are known to last up to 500 years once fully established. As some roots in the bridge age and weaken, the trees are constantly growing others, which can take their place and keep the bridges strong enough to support around 50 people at one time.
Another daily screensaver image led me to this beautiful discovery. There is even a double-decker bridge over one stretch of water!
Update: there may be many more of these beautiful, growing structures in place. A three-year study from 2015-2017 apparently examined dozens of them (and their history), considering applications in modern cities around the world. More ecosystems than simple structures, these Living Root Bridges demonstrate harmony and care that could provide even more obvious benefits to urban areas than the greenery alone, if such a concept could thrive elsewhere.
5/23/2021 – As a lifetime glottophile, I have long been fascinated by the various families of languages that modern cultures use, and of course some of their historical roots and changes over the centuries and millennia.
Today I learned of a few new groupings:
- the Na-Dene family of Native American languages (Navajo is the most widely-spoken at present)
- the Yeniseian languages of the Siberian region (only Ket survives to this day)
- and the Dené–Yeniseian family, which is one of the the first demonstrated links between so-called “Old World” and “New World” languages (the Eskaleut family was already known).
In 2014, a new research paper suggested a common linguistic ancestor between the first two families above.
I do love finding more ways to show how connected we are on this Earth, and common languages, however far back they may reach, can help light the way to a greater understanding of each other in the present.
We really do have more in common with our neighbors at home and abroad than many of us realize. And if seeing that helps anyone empathize a little better today, it seems worth sharing, too.
5/22/2021 – Silvopasture means that trees are left standing on grazing lands, and the balance is carefully managed. This hands-on practice leads to greater health for the trees, the pastures, and the animals, and is a solid improvement over clear-cutting trees for grazing turf.
My screensaver changes daily, and this beautiful cover image led me to my discovery. The USDA’s Forestry Center and of course Wikipedia both had more to add, if you’re as intrigued as I am and want to read a few more tidbits.
4/19/2021 – Space Calendar – Sync your calendar with the solar system and Earth’s space programs! Keep in tune with every eclipse, meteor shower, rocket launch, and other astronomical event before it happens. I’m in already! How about you?
7/15/2020 – Idea of the Day: Code-Switching – Humans are not generally wired to appreciate change; in many, novelty often seems to activate the same parts of the brain that generate fear, a largely obsolete reaction to unexpected encounters in prehistory that might have meant a new predator or a dangerous development was at hand. This fact makes it even more important to expose young people (especially) to as many new ideas and situations as possible, preferably at the side of a guiding adult who understands both science and social nuances. With some exposure and a broad education, such children can grow up to be confident citizens of the world, open-minded enough to handle change with care and kindness, and wise enough to learn from their ongoing experiences and become even better at dealing with various people and groups they meet, and even with paradigm shifts that they will undoubtedly witness in their lifetimes. (These thoughts came after reading a short piece in the NYTimes morning briefing; follow the link and search the page for “Code-switching” if you’d like to read a little more on the subject.)
5/2/2020 – “Science Will Win” – I just watched this great commercial about science, working together, and doing everything we can to advance our understanding and even beat pandemics. Well done!
1/10/2020 – “Discover the unsearchable” – DiscoverTheForest.org What a beautiful TV spot and a marvelous website! Reconnecting families with each other, and helping people of every age bond with the natural world around us all. A lesson more timely than ever, and eternally valuable!
1/2/2020 – Today I discovered MUJI, short for Mujirushi Ryohin, a Japanese company that specializes in “no-brand quality goods” and environmental responsibility. Unexpectedly delightful, they have spread across the globe since 1980 and bring fascinating products and some real excellence to boot. See their pens, their octagonal chopsticks, and their household goods (and more) right here, at https://www.muji.com/us/ – if you prefer another language, just visit https://www.muji.com/ and select your nation of choice there. Check it out today!
12/1/2018 – I was out shopping today, when I saw a T-shirt that made me laugh out loud in appreciation. I have always loved great wordplay! This one said CARPE SKIEM (the image below is not my own photograph; clicking on that image will open a link to buy a similar shirt for yourself, if you want to – no affiliate anything, just sharing the fun!)
11/19/2018 – Today you can meet Shadan Kishi Price, a vegan/vegetarian chef in Denton, Texas with multiple degrees, boundless energy, and a passion for fabulous food and friendly service. Shadan won an award this year for the most unique menu in the Food Truck Championship of Texas. She runs a food truck, serves the community, caters for businesses, and hopes to start sharing her most popular menu items in area grocery stores soon as well. Learn more about her Middle Eastern fusion here, check out some wonderful photos, and find out where to taste some of Leila’s Foods today. Full of Flavor, Free of Meat, and always delicious!
11/4/2018 – Learning new languages can deepen your understanding of different cultures. Such bridges lead people to peace, sharing, and growth for all. Find a group, an app, or a course that interests you; start learning about other cultures through their language; then find a community where you can practice your skills and get to know a different people in their own words. Start anywhere you like, but start today!
7/28/2018 – One famous leader on screens large and small was inspired by a genuine family of innovators and adventurers. This is your primer on The Piccard Stratosphere Flight – joining Jean-Luc Picard of Star Trek fame and real-life Captain Bertrand Piccard of the Solar Impulse 2, the first plane to navigate the globe powered entirely by the sun.
7/7/2018 – This morning, a new TV ad came on showing a woman bursting into the (female) President’s meeting room, filled with advisers. She exclaimed, “It wasn’t an attack, just a failure in the mainframe; don’t worry – I fixed it!” She holds a microchip in her hand, and the scene fades to a student holding the same microchip, smiling as she envisions the future and where her knowledge might take her. The tagline of this commercial, of course, is “We believe that if you can see her, you can be her™.” #SeeHer
6/12/2018 – Most of the time, looking for vegan food options in the Southeastern USA means constant vigilance and a lot of questions. Tonight I found a site where someone has done that work already. Follow the link below for vegan options at a host of modern fast-food places.
6/4/2018 – It feels good to stretch your body out in the morning, but avoid anything too aggressive. Health and wellness coach Jeffrey Siegel says that the spinal discs naturally absorb fluid as your body restores its hydration balance during sleep. He cautions that while the discs expand, sometimes making you a bit taller in the morning, this natural process also limits movement of the vertebrae and causes the spine to stiffen. As a result, flexing and bending too deeply when you first wake up is not only harder, but potentially dangerous. Move gently right when you wake up to avoid any injuries.
5/4/2018 – Woodlands Cemetery in Philadelphia, PA, where grave gardeners cultivate beds of flowers in planters over the graves. True to the era in which the cemetery was created, this brings some extra peace and a lot of new life to a place of mourning and quiet reflection. Once a public park, people are returning to enjoy the grounds.
1/26/2018 – This week I discovered a new essay-publishing site called Aeon.co – a not-for-profit site supported by reader patrons, and perhaps syndication fees. Some of these essays are short, some very long, some video clips, and all thought-provoking with good titles and great subheadings. I look forward to exploring more about this site and sharing at least some of the articles and videos therein.