The Photographic Periodic Table of Elements

This is a gorgeous, fascinating, Fluorite from the William Wise mine in Westmoreland, N.H.and very fun site. It’s from the Element Collection, which includes Theodore Gray who is also the creator behind the lovely Wood Periodic Table. Sites like these remind us that science is fun, creative, and beautiful.

The Ruins of Pompeii, via Google Street View

Destroyed by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius on August 24, 79 C. E., this small town near Naples was covered by ash and lava until 1738.


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Season’s Greetings

We are capable of such beauty and grace. May we all learn to ever reach for our best inherent qualities.

NORAD Santa-Tracking

The NORAD Santa-sighting updates have become a holiday tradition, quietly and with a remarkable lack of the late twentieth-century cynicism that too often mars our experience of things simple and sweet and innocent.

In his article Behind the Scenes: NORAD’s Santa Tracker, reporter Daniel Terdiman fills in the history of this particularly post-modern Christmas Eve sweetness.

All joking aside, NORAD has been taking its Santa tracking project seriously for decades. But it actually began in 1955 with a wrong number.

One morning that December, U.S. Air Force Col. Harry Shoup, the director of operations at CONAD, the Continental Air Defense Command–NORAD’s predecessor–got a phone call at his Colorado Springs, Colorado, office. This was no laughing matter. The call had come in on one of the top secret lines inside CONAD that only rang in the case of a crisis.

Grabbing the phone, Shoup must have expected the worst. Instead, a tiny voice asked, “Is this Santa Claus?”

You can check The Official NORAD Santa Website for regular updates, assisted by Google Earth, as Santa meets his worldwide delivery schedule for yet another year. You can also follow @NORADSanta on Twitter.com.

Joyeux Noel, everyone!

Kevin Carey “That Old College Lie”

Carey notes that Senator Claiborne Pell died at age 90 on January 1, 2009. Senator Pell was the driving force, and the inspiration for the federal Pell Grants for under funded college students. In the context of noting that Pell Grants are no longer anything like sufficient in terms of funding percentages of college costs for low income students, Carey points out that:

It’s that too many of the students who do enroll aren’t learning very much and aren’t earning degrees. For the average student, college isn’t nearly as good a deal as colleges would have us believe. . . . A 2006 study from the American Institutes for Research found that only 31 percent of adults with bachelor’s degrees are proficient in “prose literacy”–being able to compare and contrast two newspaper editorials, for example. More than a quarter have math skills so feeble that they can’t calculate the cost of ordering supplies from a catalogue. more . . .

Winter Solstice, 2009

You lovers, for whose sake the lesser sun
At this time to the Goat is run
To fetch new lust, and give it you,
Enjoy your summer all,
Since she enjoys her long night’s festival.
Let me prepare towards her, and let me call
This hour her vigil, and her eve, since this
Both the year’s and the day’s deep midnight is.

John Donne “A Nocturnal Upon St. Lucy’s Day, Being the Shortest Day” more . . .