Tuesday, September 29, 2015

191-Year-Old Hawaiian Treasure Pulled from the Deep

by Lauren Cepero
Summer 2015 Intern

After a five-year excavation effort by Smithsonian Institute scientists, treasures buried under 20 feet of water and sand are home. Belonging to King Kamehameha II (a.k.a. Liholiho), the second ruler of the Kingdom of Hawaii, the riches from the shipwrecked yacht had been scattered across the ocean floor by 191 years’ worth of stormy waters, hurricanes and erosion.

The vessel, which sank off the coast of Kauai in April 1824, had been built in Salem, Massachusetts, in 1816 and was originally called Cleopatra’s Barge. In 1822—two years after the king purchased it—it was discovered that the wood was rotting. The ship was rebuilt and relaunched in 1823; the lavish yacht was renamed Haʻaheo o Hawaiʻi, or “Pride of Hawaii.”

But it seems King Kamehameha II did not complete the proper rituals for renaming his prized vessel. Poseidon (or Neptune, depending on what mythology is followed) keeps a very close eye on the vessels traveling in his waters; so, the main objective when renaming a ship is to have her original name erased from the Ledger of the Deep (a.k.a. Poseidon’s memory).

A variety of incantations and ceremonies can be found to rename a ship, but there is a consensus on one thing: The main objective is to erase the original name—completely. If the old name is found anywhere—a life preserver, a keychain or even a tattoo—the vessel risks a fate like the Haʻaheo o Hawaiʻi (but probably with significantly less valuable cargo).

The artifacts, which have a total weight of around 1,200 pounds, include gold, silver, gemstones, utensils and mica. They were initially loaned to the Smithsonian for preservation and study, then to the Underwater Conservation Lab at Texas A&M University for cataloging, conservation and stabilization. After that, the artifacts were returned to Hawaii. The Kauai Museum, established in 1960, is the permanent home of King Kamehameha II’s treasure. On August 15, 2015, the museum opened its exhibit of the artifacts to the public.

Did You Know?

King Kamehameha II only reigned over Hawaii from 1819 to1824. The king outlived his prized yacht by only a few months; the ship sank in April 1824, and King Kamehameha II and Queen Kamamalu died in July 1824 from the measles while on a trip to London.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Instant Books

by Reena Karasin
Summer 2015 Intern

For those who remain staunch devotees of print books, there are few things as disappointing as being at your favorite bookstore and unable to find the book you’re searching for. However, it is difficult for publishers and bookstores to forecast, print and stock books that they are unsure will sell—and doing so can lead to monetary losses and ultimately needing to destroy unsold books. This dynamic can also make it difficult for new authors to break into the industry, as publishers may not be willing to take the risk of printing books that won’t sell.

The Espresso Book Machine (EBM), however, may be an answer to such problems. Described by its maker, On Demand Books, as a “bookstore in a box,” the EBM is a digital-to-print, print-on-demand (POD) device that can print a book in minutes. While the materials are not exactly the same, these books are similar to their traditionally printed counterparts in most other ways. There are even customization options that wouldn’t have been available during the first printing of most books, such as increasing point size of text for readability or inserting a bookstore’s name on the title page. Also worth noting is that the price of an EBM book is comparable to that of a conventionally printed book.

The EBM (and POD by extension) solves issues that publishers and printers face, such as small print runs, sold-out books and out-of-print books; POD manufacturing also reduces the financial risk or burden to publishers and booksellers. Additionally, the entire process is more profitable, as publishers don’t have to overprint, and bookstores don’t have to overstock.

Apart from increasing profits for everyone involved, POD is also beneficial for the environment. Excess stock is pulped annually by publishers, a fate that the EBM renders unnecessary—every book that is printed is sold. Because the books are printed at the point of sale, there is also no need for shipping and returns, which saves time and is eco-friendly.

The EBM is being utilized by big publishers and self-publishing writers alike. Several of the big five publishers—as well as a number of smaller publishers—have chosen to make their books available on the EBM. On Demand Books also offers SelfEspress, the “online self-publishing toolset for the EBM.” Many other POD providers offer services such as copyediting to writers. Such services and decreased financial risk make POD a great avenue for self-publishing.

The EBM is an excellent example of the publishing industry embracing technological advances, and—for those like myself who fear that the end of the print book is near—it shows that print books are able to coexist with digital technology.

Did You Know?

Numerous technological advances over the past several hundred years have led to us being able to print a full, polished book in minutes. Around 1600, Gutenberg’s hand-powered letterpresses could make around 240 impressions per hour; in 1818, the fastest steam-powered letterpresses could print 2,400 pages per hour; and today, web-fed offset presses can print a mind-boggling 50,000 pages per hour. Digital printers are slower, however, producing fewer than 10,000 pages per hour—but they are also much, much smaller.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

The Hidden World of Children’s Podcasts

by Ali Dokus
Summer 2015 Intern

When I was a kid, I had a lot of trouble going to sleep. And with two younger children, my mom didn’t have the time to read out loud to me until I drifted off. That’s why every night I listened to audio books. I drifted away to books like Holes and The Giver, and to authors like Ronald Dahl and Cornelia Funke. While I love reading, audiobooks have a special place in my childhood memories. Now that I’m older, I don’t listen to them as much, but my iPhone is full of podcasts like Radiolab and The Moth. I know that kid-me would have gone bonkers over podcasts, but in the ’90s, we were just getting a desktop computer. Today, there is an entire world of podcasts created for children that adult-me had no clue about.

For instance, I would have loved Bookwink, a podcast that discusses and reviews the latest young adult books. Aimed at kids in grades 3–8, Sonja Cole, who was once a middle school librarian, hosts the three-minute episodes. She reviews all sorts of different books, from Phillip Pullman’s His Dark Materials series to heists like Zoobreak to fantasy series like Pendragon. For younger kids who aren’t reading on their own yet, Barefoot Books, a children’s publishing house, has a podcast with an array of classic children’s stories, fairy tales, and poems that are read out loud. Stories include “The Little Humpbacked Horse” and the American Indian tale “Grandmother Spider.” It’s perfect for little kids who love being read to—since they like to listen to the same story over and over and over again—luckily a recording won’t tire out.

Additionally, there are podcasts that appeal to science and math enthusiasts. “Brain’s On!” is a science podcast that works to answer all the mysteries of the world. Episodes have cool titles that are sure to get kids hooked into listening—“Cuttlefish: Ultimate Shapeshifters!” and “Volcanoes in Space!” The quirky, eccentric humor of the narrator is both amusing and enlightening. Even I got excited listening about the water cycle and how dinosaurs might have had feathers.

Podcasts are a super tool for adult life, making mundane tasks like driving and washing dishes more bearable. But it is also a fantastic tool for kid life. They can be listened to anywhere—going to sleep, stuck in the car, rainy days—and they trigger the imagination, since kids have to visualize what they are hearing about.

Check out this list by Podbay to view a huge collection of podcasts for children and families. The catalog includes a Sesame Street podcast, storytelling podcasts, and Aesop fairy tales. Suddenly, everyone is looking forward to that two-hour car ride to Grandma’s.

Did You Know?

Children’s podcasts don’t stop at literature, math and science topics. BBC has a children’s podcast series called “Just Think . . ., which tackles different philosophical questions, such as “Is it ever ok to lie?”

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Turning Picasso and Pinot into a Winning Combo

by David Fox
Summer 2015 Intern

I’ve got a question for those of you not involved in the art world: When was the last time you painted something? Maybe when you took that last mandatory art class about halfway through high school? Even though it’s been a while for many adults, those creative juices are still there just waiting to be tapped into—and now there is a booming industry catering to that desire. It’s called social painting, or paint-and-sip, and can be found in just about every city in the United States—usually featuring a patient art instructor, one painting being imitated by a roomful of novices, and a few bottles of wine.
One of the first paint-and-sip businesses, Painting with a Twist, began in New Orleans in 2007 while the city was still recovering from the devastation of Hurricane Katrina. What had started as a meeting place for local women to socialize and a platform for artists to network has grown into a huge franchise with more than 200 locations; its motto is “It’s fun art, not fine art!” They are far from the only ones tapping into this desire for a casual art environment; other dedicated paint-and-sip outfits such as Wine and Design and Pinot’s Palette have locations around the country, while Paint Nite—specializing in one-night events in bars and restaurants—has gone international, hosting more than 1,100 events across four continents.

Recently, I visited The Clayroom in Brookline, Massachusetts, with a friend to see for myself what all the hype is about. The place was packed on a Wednesday night; for $30, they provide unlimited wine and cheese, plus—diverging from the canvases of a typical paint-and-sip operation—$20 worth of pottery.

Every seat was occupied, with happy patrons alternating between sipping Trader Joe’s pinot grigio out of plastic cups, snacking on an assortment of Wheat Thins, warm brie and pre-sliced cheddar, and adding splashes of color to their premade pieces.

They had your typical ceramic plates, bowls and cups, but also a nice selection of cute animals. I liked having an array of choices—one of the reasons I went with The Clayroom instead of a Paint Nite event or the local Painting with a Twist franchise was that I wasn’t sure how I felt about painting the same thing as everyone else in the room. I decided on a pensive-looking brontosaurus and a lion whose head comprised about 80 percent of his body. I then spent the next three hours decorating my animal friends in wild hues that wouldn’t be found in nature: Lester the Lion ended up with a dark purple body, while Bernie the Brontosaurus was a dark green and sported a few crude blue stars on his back. I loved every minute of it, and I can’t wait to pick up my creations from the kiln this week.

Did You Know?

Social painting isn’t just for the wine and beer crowd! Many places, such as The Paint Bar, offer special kids’ days, so the whole family can get in on the fun. They even throw kids’ parties!

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

An App a Day: Smartwatches and Your Health

by Tanya Seamans
Summer 2015 Intern

My first cell phone was my mom’s old Nokia brick. I wasn’t able to do a whole lot more than make phone calls and play Snake—but then again, what else was a phone supposed to do? When I got my first iPhone, it changed my life. For the first time, I understood that one device could do many, many things. A phone was no longer just a phone—it was a music player, a camera, a notepad, a browser, a gaming device and more. Now, watches are getting the same technological upgrade: Smartwatches can do so much more than just tell time. They can even help keep you healthy!

Anyone with a smartphone or a tablet knows there is a huge variety of fitness apps out there. Fitness trackers and bracelets, such as the Fitbit, are also becoming more and more popular. The most basic of these can track your daily activity, logging information such as steps taken, distance walked, and calories burned—the more advanced ones can do a great deal more. Not to be outdone, smartwatches are now becoming the latest gadgets to monitor health. Many even measure all the ways you move and offer exercise goals to complete each day.

Sensors in many different smartwatch models can track movement, take measurements, record information and collect data. This opens up entirely new opportunities for the medical fields. Apple, for instance, is beginning to explore the smartwatch and smartphone potential with ResearchKit, an app that allow researchers and developers to collect biometrics data. Users have control of the information; they can choose what studies to join and what information to provide. And any information is securely stored and shared. Several of the world’s leading medical institutions are already using ResearchKit to gain further insight into some of our most serious diseases, including asthma, Parkinson’s disease, diabetes, breast cancer and cardiovascular disease.

Soon, you may be able to share information collected on your smart devices directly with doctors, hospitals and other medical personnel. IBM is working on deals with Apple, Johnson & Johnson, and Medtronic to collect and use more information from personal medical devices to help with patients’ clinical care. A master database of patients’ medical records would allow any medical personnel with access to see a patient’s medical information and history. This would eliminate countless hours wasted by filling out the same information for each new medical facility; it would also keep medical information consistent wherever a patient goes.

It is always exciting to see technology evolving, but isn’t it wonderful to see advancements being made that can directly improve our health and the lives of those around us?

Did You Know?

Most smartphones have the ability for a user to create an emergency card with important health information that is available right on the device’s lock screen. Apple’s Health app is built into iOS 8; numerous third-party apps exist in the Google Play Store for Android; and the Microsoft Store has several apps that are compatible with Windows Phone devices. With many of these apps, you can include information such as allergies, medications, blood type, emergency contacts and more.