Weekly Meanderings, 30 June 2018

Weekly Meanderings, 30 June 2018 June 30, 2018

Ah, Italian pizza:

People have been eating pizza, in one form or another, for centuries. As far back as antiquity, pieces of flatbread, topped with savouries, served as a simple and tasty meal for those who could not afford plates, or who were on the go. These early pizzas appear in Virgil’s Aeneid. Shortly after arriving in Latium, Aeneas and his crew sat down beneath a tree and laid out ‘thin wheaten cakes as platters for their meal’. They then scattered them with mushrooms and herbs they had found in the woods and guzzled them down, crust and all, prompting Aeneas’ son Ascanius to exclaim: “Look! We’ve even eaten our plates!”

But it was in late 18th-century Naples that the pizza as we now know it came into being. Under the Bourbon kings, Naples had become one of the largest cities in Europe – and it was growing fast. Fuelled by overseas trade and a steady influx of peasants from the countryside, its population ballooned from 200,000 in 1700 to 399,000 in 1748. As the urban economy struggled to keep pace, an ever greater number of the city’s inhabitants fell into poverty. The most abject of these were known as lazzaroni, because their ragged appearance resembled that of Lazarus. Numbering around 50,000 they scraped by on the pittance they earned as porters, messengers or casual labourers. Always rushing about in search of work, they needed food that was cheap and easy to eat. Pizzas met this need. Sold not in shops, but by street vendors carrying huge boxes under their arms, they would be cut to meet the customer’s budget or appetite. As Alexandre Dumas noted in Le Corricolo (1843), a two liard slice would make a good breakfast, while two sous would buy a pizza large enough for a whole family. None of them were terribly complicated. Though similar in some respects to Virgil’s flatbreads, they were now defined by inexpensive, easy-to-find ingredients with plenty of flavour. The simplest were topped with nothing more than garlic, lard and salt. But others included caciocavallo (a cheese made from horse’s milk), cecenielli (whitebait) or basil. Some even had tomatoes on top. Only recently introduced from the Americas, these were still a curiosity, looked down upon by contemporary gourmets. But it was their unpopularity – and hence their low price – that made them attractive.

For a long time, pizzas were scorned by food writers. Associated with the crushing poverty of the lazzaroni, they were frequently denigrated as ‘disgusting’, especially by foreign visitors. In 1831, Samuel Morse – inventor of the telegraph – described pizza as a ‘species of the most nauseating cake … covered over with slices of pomodoro or tomatoes, and sprinkled with little fish and black pepper and I know not what other ingredients, it altogether looks like a piece of bread that has been taken reeking out of the sewer’.

When the first cookbooks appeared in the late 19th century, they pointedly ignored pizza. Even those dedicated to Neapolitan cuisine disdained to mention it – despite the fact that the gradual improvement in the lazzaroni’s status had prompted the appearance of the first pizza restaurants.

All that changed after Italian unification. While on a visit to Naples in 1889, King Umberto I and Queen Margherita grew tired of the complicated French dishes they were served for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Hastily summoned to prepare some local specialities for the queen, the pizzaiolo Raffaele Esposito cooked three sorts of pizza: one with lard, caciocavallo and basil; another with cecenielli; and a third with tomatoes, mozzarella and basil. The queen was delighted. Her favourite – the last of the three – was christened pizza margherita in her honour.

This signalled an important shift. Margherita’s seal of approval not only elevated the pizza from being a food fit only for lazzaroni to being something a royal family could enjoy, but also transformed pizza from a local into a truly national dish. It introduced the notion that pizza was a genuinely Italian food – akin to pasta and polenta. [HT: JS]

The Stroop:

It’s a sad day for Stroopwafel fans — at least those traveling in United economy on domestic flights departing before 9:45am.

The “Stroop,” as it’s been affectionately coined at TPG headquarters, first began making its way to United Airlines coach passengers in 2016. As of this weekend, the carrier’s replacing the beloved breakfast treat with maple wafers from the Byrd Cookie Company.

As described by the airline, the replacement treat “combines a crunchy texture with a sweet maple flavor.” United continues by explaining that “many [are] heralding [maple syrup] as the ‘next pumpkin spice.’”


I don’t want the “next pumpkin spice”… I want my Stroop!

Yes, Librarians!

As parents, we tend to get involved in our children’s education: Are they getting enrolled in the right classes? Did they make the team? We are concerned if they aren’t afforded access to technology, or if they are being bullied at school. If a school down the road is performing better, parents often lobby to get their child enrolled there, even if their addresses do not allow it.

These issues are all easy to get passionate about, even for the casual parent. Where we fall short, however, is when it comes to the fundamentals: the important things that actually have proven, direct effects on learning, such as ensuring that every one of our kids has access to school librarians—yes, librarians.

For those who don’t spend a lot of time in American schools, it’s easy to overlook how big of an issue we face as a nation. We are behind in STEM, with a recent PEW Research study showing the U.S. in the 50th percentile in both math and science. We also have a serious reading problem; more than 30 million adults cannot read at a third-grade level, according to ProLiteracy, a nonprofit that focuses on adult literacy. And children of illiterate adults have a 72% chance of being at a low level of literacy themselves, according to the National Bureau of Economic Research.

To have any chance for success in school, a child must be able to read at or above the reading level for his or her grade. It’s highly unlikely that a child who cannot read will succeed in any subject and even less likely that a child who cannot read will avoid behavioral and social problems, let alone matriculate to college or have a career.

On a near-daily basis, you can find news articles about school districts cutting librarians or even closing their libraries. Some reallocate the monies to other programs in the school, some just cut the budgets entirely, and others reinvest in facilities and football fields. Yet there is rarely uproar among parents, simply because they are not aware of the consequences of these actions. In many cases, even the district leaders have no clue what librarians can do.

In the past year, Follett has become actively involved in supporting a grassroots movement to fight back. Recently, a district leader and Follett customer threatened to take his business to a competing vendor after a campaign was waged to protest his district’s eliminating all six of its library media specialists at the elementary school level. We did not give in. Everyone needs to know the vital role librarians play.

Cleveland Clinic and Gaming Addiction:

Hours pass. Maybe it’s World of Warcraft or Diablo III. What was once a way to decompress or blow off steam has morphed into pattern of behavior that’s downright addictive. Conceivable or no?

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), it is. Gaming disorder was recently classified as a mental health disorder in the 11th revision of the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11).

So when is gaming a problem? According to the WHO, gaming disorder is rare. To be diagnosed, the behavior must be severe enough to cause “significant impairment in personal, family, social, educational, occupational or other important areas of functioning.”

The disorder isn’t sudden, but rather is considered as a diagnosis when the negative behavior lasts for 12+ months and dominates the player’s whole life — often to the detriment of a healthy diet and physical fitness.

“If players are avoiding other responsible behaviors, such as going to work, school or doing homework, then they’re starting to have a problem,” says Cleveland Clinic psychologist Scott Bea, PsyD. “And if relationships are suffering because of excessive gaming behaviors, this can be a sign of trouble.”


DOVER, Del. (AP) — Police in Delaware’s capital city would like to know who dropped a house onto a two-lane road.

The Dover Police Department says someone abandoned the prefabricated home, blocking traffic at least until Wednesday.

In a Facebook post that had been shared thousands of times, the department posted pictures of the home and said “this is not a joke.” The house was draped with a banner that said “oversize load.”

Police advised drivers to use an alternate route.

Thank you Clara Daly:

While waiting in Boston Logan Airport to board her flight, Lynette Scribner noticed another passenger on the same flight.

“I observed a woman signing into a man’s hand, so he could feel her words. After watching them for a few minutes, I realized the man was both deaf and blind,” she said.

The man, Tim Cook, was heading home to Portland where he’s a resident of Brookdale Senior Living, according to a blog post from Alaska Airlines. He had been in Boston to visit his sister, the woman in the boarding area with him.

After boarding the plane, Cook was seated in the middle of Scribner’s row.

A man in the aisle of their row gave up his seat and switched with Cook to make him feel more comfortable on the cross-country flight to Portland, which would continue on to Los Angeles.

The cabin crew and passengers around Cook tried to make him feel more welcome and comfortable on the flight by helping him with his coffee and creamer, and the man in the seat next to him helped him feel his way back to the restroom.

After talking about the situation in the back galley, the flight attendants decided to make an announcement to see if any of the guests onboard knew American Sign Language (ASL) in order to better communicate with Cook.

Fifteen-year-old Clara Daly rang her call button in response. Daly was traveling to LA with her mom. Their original nonstop flight to Los Angeles from Boston had been canceled and they were placed on this flight to get home last-minute.

Daly had been learning ASL for a year. She had chosen to learn ASL since she was dyslexic and it was easier for her to learn.

When she heard about the situation, Daly immediately jumped up to help. She signed with Cook to make sure all of his needs were met.

“He just wanted to talk,” Daly said. “I sat with Tim a few times on the flight and toward the end for about 30 minutes.”

Cook asked Daly questions and in response, she sign-spelled answers into his hand. Everyone nearby appeared to be very impressed by the teen.

“I don’t know when I’ve ever seen so many people rally to take care of another human being,” said Scribner. “All of us in the immediate rows were laughing and smiling and enjoying his obvious delight in having someone to talk to.”

Sand cats and sand kittens:

Sand cats are small, mysterious wild cats that live throughout Africa and Asia, from Morocco to Israel. They look like stuffed animals, with wide, childlike faces and oversized ears. Scientists don’t know much about them; research tends to go toward studying bigger cats, like lions and tigers. Sand cats are not considered endangered because, ironically, they’re too difficult to find. You need hard data to convince the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) that an animal is rare, and no one has enough information on sand cats to know just how rare they are.

“According to the IUCN, they’re not threatened. I personally think they are, but I can’t prove it,” Sliwa told me.

They’re also difficult to track; it’s near impossible to sneak up on a sand cat. Comparing their hearing to ours is like comparing an iPhone X to a telegraph machine. Sand cats can hear a mouse scurrying 200 yards away. Even a Toyota Land Cruiser couldn’t cruise quietly enough to catch one unawares.

How to find sand cats:

  1. Drive around the desert.
  2. Eventually the cats will get used to the sound of your car.
  3. If you’re lucky, they’ll let you hang out with them.

Adult sand cats can walk more than a dozen miles each day, so finding a cat once doesn’t mean you’ll find it again. Kittens hide in shrubbery, making them even harder to spot. Though kittens have been bred in zoos, no one has ever documented a sand kitten in the wild; Sliwa and Breton fantasized about finding one for years.

During the day, sand cats don’t move much and blend in perfectly with (you guessed it) sand, which is kind of the point of being sand-colored. So you have to look for them at night. Cat eyes are like mirrors: if you shine a light on them, they shine back at you.

Some dogs are ugly:

A 9-year-old English bulldog was named the winner of the 2018 World’s Ugliest Dog contest in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Zsa Zsa won the title Saturday night at the Sonoma-Marin Sonoma-Marin Fairgrounds in Petaluma.

The dog’s owner Megan Brainard of Anoka, Minnesota, will receive $1,500 for Zsa Zsa’s win. Brainard found Zsa Zsa on a pet-finding site, according to the contest bio.

Dogs in the annual competition flaunt their imperfections – some have hairless bodies, others have lolling tongues. The dogs and their handlers walk down a red carpet. The dogs are evaluated by a panel of judges.

The contestants included a blackhead-covered Chinese Crested-Dachshund mutt, a bulldog mix with excess wrinkly skin and a Pekingese named Wild Thang.

Last year’s winner was a 125-pound gentle giant named Martha — a Neopolitan Mastiff with gas and a droopy face.

The contest is in its 30th year.

Evangelicals, politics, fear and John Fea.

When “godless” Thomas Jefferson was elected president of the United States in 1800, frightened New England evangelicals thought the Virginian’s henchmen would soon be arriving in their towns and homes on a mission to take away their Bibles.

But other evangelical options were also available. While Federalists like Boudinot and Morse railed against Jefferson and his followers, frontier evangelicals—mostly Baptists and Methodists—flocked to Jefferson in droves. They understood that Jefferson’s defense of religious freedom would allow evangelical faith to flourish in America. They were right. When religion in America was separated from state sponsorship, it resulted in a massive religious revival which historians have described as the Second Great Awakening.

Hangry, exactly what it seems to mean:

Hangry is one of those words that absolutely sounds made up and is just a result of the millennial generation’s need to put a label on every feeling and experience and pose made in pictures.

However, there is actually real science behind this feeling of hunger to the point of anger, according to physicians. If you don’t eat your blood sugar drops which causes your cortisol and epinephrine levels to rise to try to balance it out. However, those hormones can lead to you feeling and acting very irritated with anything that crosses your path (good luck to your office mates on those days.)

On top of that, Neuropeptide Y, which is also released when your blood sugar plunges, gives you that hungry feeling which is associated with aggression. So you may have saved time skipping breakfast this morning but now you are moments away from luring small children to your gingerbread house to eat them.

New research published in the journal Emotion has found that it isn’t just physiology that is making you hangry, but it is actually the emotional tone of the environment you are in.

“You don’t just become hungry and start lashing out at the universe,” said the study’s co-author, assistant professor Dr. Kristen Lindquist. “We find that feeling hangry happens when you feel unpleasantness due to hunger but interpret those feelings as strong emotions about other people or the situation you’re in.”

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