Thursday, May 26, 2016

History of Hockey: North of the Border or Across the Pond?

by Duncan McCay
Spring 2016 Intern

When I was a young hockey player in Pennsylvania, there was no doubt, hockey had been started in and belonged to Canada. I recall playing in tournaments across the Midwest with my youth hockey team, The Mt. Lebanon Hornets. At times there would be chatter about the opponents, “Yeah man, I hear the team we’re playing Saturday is Canadian.” After a statement like that, fear would enter the locker room, because we would be playing a team that was assumed to take a bit more pride in their game, a team that was more than likely going to light us up on the scoreboard. As it happened, we beat many of those Canadian teams, but a few definitely showed us that there should be no question that hockey belongs to Canada, by the way they dominated all 200 feet of the ice rink.

But is hockey actually Canada’s game? Recent research shows that the validity of Canada’s claim on the origins of ice hockey may not be so soundproof. In the book, On the Origin of Hockey, by Canadian author Jean-Patrice Martel and Swedish authors Carl Gidén and Patrick Houda, the claim is made that the first unorganized games of ice hockey were played in England, not Canada. An excerpt from the book states, “Montreal is where the first organized game took place, in 1875, so it is really the only date that matters. But then you look at England, and all of a sudden there are hundreds and hundreds of references to hockey being played all over the country—some dating back to the 1790s.” England is not the country I would have expected, but given their rich history and cultural influence, it should not come as too much of a surprise. To question things further, consider sports that inspired the current game of hockey. These include the game of shinty, which originated in Scotland, as well as the game of hurling, which originated in Ireland.

Regardless of who or what started ice hockey, I believe it’s safe to say that the sport truly belongs to Canada now, due to the population’s notable dominance and love of the game. Still, it’s interesting to learn how many countries and peoples influenced the great sport of ice hockey. Maybe knowledge of this information would have calmed my nerves in the days I was still sporting a black and gold jersey with a massive cartoon hornet patched on the abdomen. Just maybe.

Did you know?

Hockey played outside of North America utilizes an entirely different ice surface size for games. This rink size is referred to as an Olympic rink, and provides players with more open ice to skate with, typically decreasing the amount of physicality that can take place during play.

You Speak Wicked Different: Dialects around the United States

by Kate Carroll

When I was six years old, I moved from Massachusetts to Texas. I’ll never forget balking every time I heard some phrase foreign to my New Englander ears. The accent, I was prepared for—I knew my family dropped our r’s, while our new neighbors would likely emphasize them—but the idea of different geographic areas having their own sets of words was entirely new to me. Which is why I thought my classmates were swearing at me when they asked if I wanted a sucker, holding out what I knew to be a lollipop. Then again, any time I emphasized something as wicked cool, they probably thought I was referring to some sort of sorcery.

At some point, we’ve probably all had the same realization. Whether it happened when relocating somewhere or being introduced to someone new, realizing that even people who speak the same language can’t always agree on terminology is pretty entertaining. After all, who hasn’t had the hoagie/sub/grinder/hero debate?

Since moving back to Massachusetts, the discovery of a new synonym hasn’t lost its effect on me. I’m a language lover, so I’m constantly intrigued by the dialectal background of people I meet, and I collect their foreign terms eagerly and without question. Want to coin your own word for a witty insult (in my hometown, we called it being salted)? I’ll take it.

Lucky for me, a much more academic study exists that produced precisely 122 discoveries. The Harvard University Linguistics department performed a dialect survey in 2003. As Joshua Katz of the statistics department at North Carolina State University (NCSU) notes, “Dialect encompasses both phonological differences (pronunciation) and lexical differences (vocabulary). The study of how dialect varies geographically is an important component of linguistic research.”

Some of the differences are pretty amazing. I always knew that the ice cream drink I enjoyed in the summer (a frappe) was simply a milkshake to most of the country, but I never knew that firefly was just as common as lightning bug or that there were so many different options for the term meaning the end of a loaf of bread. Likewise, I’d heard Florida and aunt pronounced a variety of ways, but I had never paid attention to distinctions in pronouncing miracle or really.

We’ve had our own discoveries in the PSG office. The day we realized that nearly half the country refers to our comfortable sneakers as tennis shoes, we were abuzz for hours. And we’ve had a few international lessons as well, courtesy of a former intern who grew up in Trinidad. We learned that, while friends may hang out in the United States, they apparently lime in Trinidad.

Check out the current list (which, incidentally, includes worldwide results), fill out the ongoing survey or do your own unofficial one—I guarantee that, if you’re a language lover, the results will be entertaining. And, more often than not, they’re good for a laugh. Go ahead, have that sandwich debate with coworkers. I'll stick hard and true to my sub and keep the heroes for the comic books.

Did You Know?

Accents come and go just like popular phrases and terms do over time, but academics at the British Library have put together what they believe to be the closest to the English accent in Elizabethan England. So it’s now possible to hear Shakespeare’s works the way they would have originally been performed.

PSG Bookshelf: The Staff’s First Favorite Books

by Duncan McCay
Spring 2016 Intern

Books that deal with fantastic adventures are the overwhelming favorite amongst the PSG staff when polled on their childhood favorite stories, and mine are no different. I recall swinging plastic swords to defend myself against the imaginary monsters that seemed to always cause trouble in my backyard, because of my infatuation with The Hobbit and medieval-themed fantasy novels.

Because of my interest in such novels, it was enjoyable to see all the funny fantasy titles in the replies from my coworkers. Chelsea’s favorite was the Enchanted Forest series, which dealt with a lot of dragons. She enjoyed the series for its female protagonist’s can-do attitude. Eileen loved the epic nature of the adventures of the mouse in the Redwall series. Alyssa was enthralled with The Magic Locket so much that she had a matching necklace to that of the main character. Ken enjoyed the sci-fi themed adventures of the Danny Dunn series, which had colorful titles like Danny Dunn and the Homework Machine and Danny Dunn and the Anti-Gravity Paint.

Other staff members enjoyed the classics and a good adventure. Due to a Winnie the Pooh doll that she owned since birth, Nora’s favorite was, obviously, the eponymous series. Kate Domenichella constantly sparked her imagination with well-known reads like Oh, The Places You’ll Go and Where the Wild Things Are. Kate Carroll enjoyed the novel My Side of the Mountain so much that she was inspired to live in a hollowed tree and cook venison like the protagonist, which she eventually decided against due to her lack of skills in venison preparation. Arige got lost in the Bailey School Kids mysteries, because they were a blend of action, adventure, comedy and mystery.

While adventure and fantasy novels were the favorite in the office, there were a few staff members who enjoyed more realistic stories. Annette was so enamored with The Outsiders that she completed her first read of the novel in two nights. Tess’s favorite book was A Chair For My Mother, which deals with a family losing their possessions to a house fire and having to rebuild their lives. Don’t worry, it’s a children’s book, so the family ended up okay in the end (so much so that there’s even a sequel). She enjoyed the book for its intriguing illustrations.

While our interest in books has changed, the PSG staff agrees that it’s always interesting to look back and fondly remember the stories that made us the imaginative and book-obsessed types we are today. After writing this blog post, part of me still wants to crack open The Hobbit and see how Bilbo’s doing, even though I currently lack a plastic sword at my apartment in Fenway.

Did You Know?

The average page length of books intended for middle school aged readers increased from 115.5 pages in 2006 to 290 pages in 2016, most likely due to the success of the Harry Potter series.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Boston Latin School’s Hydroponic Farm in Its Backyard

by Kate Domenichella 
Spring 2016 Intern 

Recently, a friend and I traveled to the Maybarton Community Garden in Clinton, Massachusetts, for community service. Growing Places, a nonprofit community garden organization based in my hometown of Leominster, Massachusetts, helped assist the Maybarton staff with building 15 raised beds. Local farmers plant various fruits and vegetables for low-income individuals, families and communities in North Central Massachusetts. Not only does Growing Places help to build and maintain the beds, but the organization also gives people the knowledge and skills to help them continue to grow produce for generations to come.

While I am new to personal farming, some Boston students have a farm in their school's backyard and are working hard to produce quality food for their families and people in need.

Boston Latin School (BLS) has a recycled metal shipping container behind their school. This container, fondly called a “freight farm,” serves as a hydroponic farm that uses no soil and circulates water and nutrients to harvest produce.

BLS “produced” the funds for the freight farm through the efforts of its students, who formed a Youth Climate Action Network (YouthCAN) club in order to address problems of climate change and promote education for sustainability. The club won a “school makeover” competition in 2013 from Global Green USA, which included enough funds to purchase the $76,000 hydroponic farm.

The freight farm can produce an acre’s worth of food in one year. The food is given to students, teachers and faculty, as well as local food pantries, and YouthCAN’s goal is to introduce the produce into school meals.

BLS students aren’t the only ones working hard to create a more sustainable environment. The National FFA (Future Farmers of America) Organization is a formal education program sponsored by local school chapters to aid students studying agriculture. Established in 1928, with 33 students from 18 states, the organization has grown to over 500,000 members, with more than 7,000 chapters across the nation.

Did You Know?

Since 2010, India-based Bakeys Foods Private Limited has been producing edible cutlery in response to a dual problem: the 120 billion pieces of plastic cutlery found in landfills and the effects of the increase of rice farms in India. Founder Narayana Peesapaty developed the edible spoons from sorghum grain—the grain requires far less water and land to sustain its farms than rice crops. Compared to plastic, which can take 450 years to decompose, uneaten edible spoons decompose in just a few days—if animals and insects don’t eat them first!

Shall I Compare Thee to Madison Avenue?

by Ali Dokus
Summer 2015 Intern

When I think about Shakespeare, I imagine booming voices, wooden stages and yellow spotlights. When I think about Shakespeare’s sonnets, I picture tissue-thin paper from anthologies printed using florid, 8-point font. My concept of Shakespeare himself involves white stockings, feathery caps and rhyming, existential angst. I studied abroad my sophomore year of college and made sure to visit the re-created Globe Theatre. Standing in the pit, where the groundlings would have paid a penny to watch a performance, I looked up at the polished timber stage and the brown, thatched roof. At the time, I thought it was the closest to Shakespeare that I ever could be.

Little did I know that a small theater company in New York City would reimagine Shakespeare, bringing the Bard closer to the modern day. The Sonnet Project is an endeavor to film all of Shakespeare’s 154 sonnets using 154 different actors in 154 different New York City locations. Created by the New York Shakespeare Exchange and headed by Producing Artistic Director Ross Williams, its mission is to demystify Shakespeare’s work and create “fresh points of entry . . . so that modern audiences will be exposed to the intrinsic power of Shakespeare.”

Sonnet 16 was filmed in front of the Bowery Graffiti Wall in Manhattan. Behind the vibrant backdrop, musicians play the electric bass and beat drums as hip-hop artist Devon Glover recites, “But wherefore do not you a mightier way / Make war upon this bloody tyrant, Time?” Other examples include Sonnet 13 in Yankee Stadium, Sonnet 27 over the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, Sonnet 46 at the New York State Supreme Court Building and Sonnet 50 at the John F. Kennedy International Airport. Actors clutch coffee cups, umbrellas, steering wheels, baseballs, suitcases. Ross Williams says that sonnets were matched with locations based on their “imagery and rhetorical arguments.”

Essentially, Williams hopes that by re-creating the sonnets in contemporary situations and familiar places, viewers will see the plain and vibrant humanity in Shakespeare’s writing, rather than regard his work as something you’re tested on in school or pay a pretty penny to watch on stage. Shakespeare’s work isn’t some archaic art form meant only for ivory-tower scholars, battered high school textbooks and velvet-draped theaters. “[Shakespeare’s] no good to us on a pedestal,” reads the Sonnet Project’s website; Shakespeare can still be found in our modern-day relationships, transcoded through text messages and Facebook posts, in the spaces we fill as we buzz about our lives. That’s why, in a bid to reform and reconnect the Bard to anyone and everyone, the Sonnet Project—in addition to providing videos on its website—has a mobile app for iOS and Android. Viewers can watch the short films on their chosen devices and tap through to learn the history of that location. Additionally, there is a mapping tool that allows the user to find other sonnets filmed nearby.

Perhaps I didn’t have to major in literature, fly all the way to London, navigate the Tube and stand inside the Globe Theatre to reach Shakespeare. He wrote for the masses in 1602, and the masses of 2015 can still relate; and now his existential body of work is accessible with just the click of a button.

Did You Know?

Because Elizabethans didn’t have the same standard of spelling and recordkeeping that we do, the spelling of William Shakespeare’s name varied wildly. Even the Bard himself abbreviated his name differently from signature to signature. Examples include Shakp, Shaksper, Shakespe, Shakspere and Shakespere.

Learn with the Old and Laugh with the Young

by Nora Chan
Spring 2016 Intern

I never went to a preschool when I was little. Instead, I stayed home with my mother while my older brother and sister went to the elementary school down the street. My mother and I made friendship bracelets and decoupage treasure boxes, cooked fun snacks and played board games. So it never used to occur to me that preschool could be anything different. And yet intergenerational programs—ones that include both residents of a nursing home and preschool students—have sprouted and made headlines across the country.

To name one that has gotten a significant amount of press coverage, the Providence Mount St. Vincent Senior Care Center in West Seattle houses four programs in the Intergenerational Learning Center. Children from infants to preschoolers interact with elderly residents for varying times of structured or unstructured activities. Each program has its own professional staff to facilitate relationships between children and older residents. There are over 400 older adults in residence, and five days a week the preschoolers and elderly residents come together to play under a rainbow tarp, pack sandwiches into bags and help each other with everyday tasks like zipping up a coat.

Daphne Sashin, in a 2015 CNN article, states that the school believes the intergenerational programs “benefit both the children and the elderly,” because the elderly get a renewed sense of worth, while the children experience and accept people with disabilities and the aging process.

Professor at Seattle University Evan Briggs spent the 2012–2013 academic year filming the Learning Center for three days a week, eventually calling the project Present Perfect, which is funded with her own money and the help of a Kickstarter campaign. Briggs says that the older residents “came alive” and that the whole program is “about being in the present moment” and demonstrates “how generationally segregated we’ve become as a society.” Nothing is glossed over in this documentary either; there are an abundance of awkward interactions and two residents passed away during filming. But to Briggs it is more important to face aging, death and other difficult moments in life head on.

With approximately 500 long-term care facilities that include intergenerational programs, the overlap of young and older people’s lives is becoming greater, and personally, it sounds like my kind of preschool. Present Perfect is planned for release in early 2017.

Did You Know?

As of April 2016, the world’s oldest living person is a woman named Susannah Mushatt Jones, born on July 6, 1899, in Lowndes County, Alabama. She has lived through 20 US presidents, two world wars and witnessed the turn of the century—twice. She attributes her long life to surrounding herself with positive energy and to sleeping. She is 116 years old.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Published by 19: Authors Who Achieved

by Eileen Neary
Junior Project Manager

Most of us at PSG dreamed of writing a best-selling novel when we were young. While some of us went on to write novels as teenagers and young adults, none of us achieved early literary stardom quite like we had hoped.

One of the most well-known young authors is Christopher Paolini. Guinness World Records acknowledges him as the youngest author of a bestselling book series. His epic fantasy novel Eragon sold 33 million copies and went on to become a blockbuster film. Paolini was just 18 years old in 2002 when he and his parents self-published the book. Alfred A. Knopf republished the novel just a year later, launching further success for then 19-year-old Paolini.

A favorite young author in the PSG office is Amelia Atwater-Rhodes. As a teenager, I considered Atwater-Rhodes my hero; she wrote her debut work, In the Forests of the Night, a vampire novel, at age 13 and was published just two years later. Now, at age 32, she is approaching a total of 20 published novels.

Young authors have also made it big in other genres. At age 12, Jake Marcionette wrote Just Jake, which in 2014 debuted on the New York Times bestseller list in the middle grade category in seventh place. The book is a semi-autobiographical tale of a sixth grader learning to survive middle school.

Alec Greven found literary fame at an even younger age than Marcionette. His self-help book How to Talk to Girls was published in 2009, when Greven was only nine years old. The novel originated from a homework assignment, but through some fortuitous events, Greven soon found himself on the New York Times bestseller list. In 2010, he published more self-help books: How to Talk to Moms, How to Talk to Dads and How to Talk to Santa.

In May 2015, nine-year-old Anaya Lee Willabus published her first book. The Day Mohan Found His Confidence is about a boy who struggles at home and school but learns to persevere. Willabus is the youngest author in the history of the United States to write a chapter book.

A less recent accomplishment is that prolific young-adult writer Gordon Korman completed his first book, This Can't Be Happening at Macdonald Hall, at age 12, and had it published two years later, in 1978. Korman has since written over 80 books.

Some young authors emerged even less recently. Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein at the age of 19, and it was published in 1818, when she was 21 years old. Throughout history, young authors have made their mark on the literary world. I can’t wait to read what’s next!

Did You Know?

Dorothy Straight is the youngest girl in the world to write a commercially published book. At the age of four, she wrote How the World Began. It was published when she turned six, in 1964. Adauto Kovalski da Silva is the youngest boy to write a published book, Aprender é Fácil (It’s Easy to Learn), which was published in 2005, when he was just five years old.

Friday, May 20, 2016

What Should You Read Next? This Algorithm Will Tell You!

by Arige Shrouf
Spring 2016 Intern

I have always been a book lover, but choosing what to read next can be difficult, especially after I finish an entertaining book. My first experience with a book recommendation platform was a result of a friend’s attempt to solve my dilemma. She signed me up for the website What Should I Read Next. A few years later, I came across another platform, Goodreads, but by then I was looking for a way to keep track of the books I had already read and to manage my ever-expanding “to-read” list. While I still receive recommendations from these platforms, I find them more useful as a way to manage my reading lists. But somehow I still wind up with enough books to read that it will take decades to finish them all.

Recommendation engines are used for products ranging from websites to books and are rapidly gaining popularity, in part because they help simplify decision-making.

These platforms use algorithms that take information you provide such as which books you have read and how much you enjoyed them and automate a list of books you may be interested in reading. This type of directed marketing has worked in the media and retail in the past and is proving just as effective for books.

Authors and publishers use these platforms as a more effective advertising strategy, so readers are less likely to see ads for books that don’t interest them. It also increases the chance that you will read the books you are recommended since the suggestions are catered to your tastes. And the best part is that these websites are free to use!

But this kind of targeted recommendation also decreases your chances of finding something more unique. Like with the news, if you only get recommendations to specific content, you will likely only read that type of content. So while finding books is as easy as a few clicks, you can be easily bombarded with similar choices. Out of fifteen book suggestions, which ones do you read now and which do you save for later?

Unless you already have too many books on your “to-read” lists, these platforms can be great search tools. If you can’t stop adding books to your list, at least you know that you’ll likely enjoy reading them. These platforms try to automate your taste in books, so the more information you provide them, the more varied the recommendations will be.

Did You Know?

Book recommendation platforms can help make libraries and librarians more efficient than ever. Several libraries, including the New York Public Library, use Zola Book’s Bookish Recommends algorithm with more than 1.7 billion identifiers to provide suggestions with every library search. These platforms turn library book searches into database searches where keywords are as effective as titles.

Visit the Most Remote Town in America: The Supai Village

by Nora Chan
Spring 2016 Intern

My family has just begun planning a trip to Arizona, and the Grand Canyon is a must-see on the itinerary. A lesser-known feature of this geographical landmark is the town located inside the Canyon that people have inhabited for over 1,000 years. Accessibility may be limited, but visiting the most remote town in the United States seems to be well worth the eight-mile hike into the heart of the Grand Canyon.

The Supai Village is the only town located inside the Grand Canyon and, because it is not accessible by road, you have to get a little creative in order to get inside the 3,000-foot hole: by hiking, riding an animal, or taking a helicopter. It is the only location in the country that must receive mail by mule. The town’s population consisted of 208 people in 2010 and is a part of the Havasupai Indian Reservation. The Havasupai Tribe have lived inside the Grand Canyon for more than 1,000 years. Havasupai means “people of the blue-green waters” and water is especially sacred to the tribe: “It flows not only across the land, but also through each tribal member. When you enter their land, you enter their home, their place of origin,” and therefore should be respectful of their home. The Havasu Falls, and other waterfalls in the area, are some of the most popular sites of the reservation for visitors.

Tourism makes up a large portion of the village’s income, but parts of the reservation are off-limits to visitors due to repair work or unstable ground caused by flash floods, a major concern for the tribe. Tourists and visitors are cautioned upon arrival about the delicate nature of the village’s environment, and are even charged with an Environmental Care Fee.

So, if you’re planning on visiting the Grand Canyon, and the world is feeling too crowded for you, consider taking the hike to the most remote town in the country to see the beautiful natural scenery and waterfalls inside the Grand Canyon.

Did You Know?

Another area of the Grand Canyon, called the Tuweep or Toroweap is located at an elevation of 4,500 feet. This area contains an abundance of vegetation and wildlife, as well as the Toroweap Overlook, another uniquely remote site that is 3,000 feet above the Colorado River and can only be reached by driving along difficult roadways.