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December 1


Banksia marginata, the silver banksia, is a species of tree or woody shrub found throughout much of southeastern Australia. It ranges from the Eyre Peninsula in South Australia to north of Armidale, New South Wales, and across Tasmania and the islands of Bass Strait. It grows in various habitats, including Eucalyptus forest, scrub, heathland and moorland. B. marginata varies widely in habit, ranging from a small shrub, 20 cm (7.9 in) high, to a large tree, 12 m (40 ft) tall. Its narrow leaves are linear. Its yellow flower spikes appear in late summer, eventually fading to brown and then grey and developing woody follicles bearing the winged seeds. Many species of bird, in particular honeyeaters, forage at the flower spikes, as do native and European honeybees. Although the silver banksia has been used for timber, it is most commonly seen as a garden plant, with dwarf forms being commercially propagated and sold. (Full article...)

December 2

Painting by F. Muller

Chesapeake was a 38-gun wooden-hulled, three-masted heavy frigate of the United States Navy. She was one of the original six frigates authorized by the Naval Act of 1794 and designed by Joshua Humphreys as the young navy's capital ships. Launched at the Gosport Navy Yard on 2 December 1799, Chesapeake began her career during the Quasi-War with France and saw service in the First Barbary War. On 22 June 1807 she was fired upon by HMS Leopard of the Royal Navy for refusing to allow a search for deserters. Chesapeake's commanding officer, James Barron, was court-martialed, and the United States instituted the Embargo Act of 1807 against Great Britain. The ChesapeakeLeopard affair and the Embargo Act were two of the precipitating factors that led to the War of 1812. Chesapeake captured five British merchant ships early in the war before being taken by HMS Shannon. Her timbers, sold in 1819, are now part of the Chesapeake Mill in Wickham, England. (Full article...)

December 3

2005 ACC Championship Game

The 2005 ACC Championship Game was the inaugural contest of the game held to decide the winner of the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) championship in American college football. Held December 3 at Jacksonville Municipal Stadium in Jacksonville, Florida, between the Virginia Tech Hokies and the Florida State Seminoles, the game was the final contest of the regular season for the two teams. Florida State and Virginia Tech had previously played in the 2000 National Championship Game. In 2004 Virginia Tech had won the last ACC Championship to be awarded without playing a championship game at the end of the season. In the 2005 season Tech lost only one regular season conference game, to the fifth-ranked Miami Hurricanes, and won the Coastal Division title. Florida State earned a bid to the ACC Championship Game by fighting through an Atlantic Division schedule that included several nationally ranked teams. Florida State won the game 27–22. (Full article...)

December 4

The Sloan–Parker House
The Sloan–Parker House

The Sloan–Parker House is a late-18th-century stone residence near Junction, Hampshire County, in the U.S. state of West Virginia. It is located on the Northwestern Turnpike (US 50 and WV 28) in the rural Mill Creek valley. The original fieldstone section of the house was erected around 1790 for Richard Sloan and his wife Charlotte Van Horn Sloan. The Sloan family operated a successful weaving business from the house, and their Sloan counterpanes (quilts with block-designs) became well known in the region. In 1854 the family sold the house and 900 acres (360 ha) to the Parker family, who operated a stagecoach line on the Moorefield and North Branch Turnpike; the journey included a stop at the house, where the family served meals to travelers. During the Civil War, both Union and Confederate forces visited the house, and it was ransacked by Union troops for goods and supplies. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1975. (Full article...)

December 5

Ciliwung, Batavia, photographed by Meessen
Ciliwung, Batavia,
photographed by Meessen

Jacobus Anthonie Meessen (5 December 1836 – 14 November 1885) was a Dutch photographer who took more than 250 portraits and landscapes in the Dutch East Indies (now Indonesia) between 1864 and 1870. He worked as a carpenter in the Indies before returning to the Netherlands in the early 1860s. Moving back to the colony in 1864, he documented its land and people, working mainly in Java and Sumatra. He also photographed Bangka, Belitung, Borneo, and Nias. When Meessen returned to the Netherlands in 1870 he went into partnership with Abraham Vermeulen and began disseminating his photographs. In 1871 he gave King William III an elaborately decorated album with selected images, now kept at the Royal Library of the Netherlands. Other photographs were published by J. H. De Bussy in 1875 and exhibited in Paris and Amsterdam. Collections of his albumen prints, some of which were hand-tinted or annotated, are held in four institutions in the Netherlands. (Full article...)

December 6

Radar image of Hurricane Connie in the Northeastern United States
Radar image of Hurricane Connie

Hurricane Connie was the first of three hurricanes to strike North Carolina in 1955. It formed on August 3 in the eastern Atlantic Ocean, and killed three people in the United States Virgin Islands while passing nearby. Connie reached reported maximum sustained winds of 120 knots (140 mph, 220 km/h), making it a Category 4 hurricane, before it weakened and moved ashore on August 12. It tracked north through the Chesapeake Bay region, and was later absorbed by a cold front over Lake Huron on August 15. The hurricane caused around $86 million in damage, and at least 295,000 people nationwide lost power during the storm. In North Carolina, the storm killed 27 people. In the Chesapeake Bay, Connie capsized a boat, killing 14 people. There were also 4 deaths in Washington, D.C., 6 deaths each in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, 14 in New York, and 3 in Ontario. Connie was followed days later by Hurricane Diane, which caused $700 million in flood damage. (Full article...)

December 7

Jenna Sharpe, Alec Holowka and Derek Yu accepting the grand prize at the 2007 Independent Games Festival
Jenna Sharpe, Alec Holowka and Derek Yu
accepting the 2007 IGF grand prize

Aquaria is a sidescrolling action-adventure game designed by Alec Holowka and Derek Yu, who published it independently in 2007. The game features the voice of Jenna Sharpe as Naija, an aquatic humanoid woman, as she explores the underwater world of Aquaria. The gameplay focuses on swimming, combat, and special songs that can move items, affect plants and animals, and change Naija's physical appearance. After more than two years of development, the game was first released in late 2007 for Windows, followed by ports for Macintosh, Linux, iPad and Android users. In 2009, an Aquaria soundtrack album was released. Reviews of the game were generally positive. Critics praised the visuals, music and atmosphere. The controls and gameplay were also lauded, while negative critiques centered on the map system and limited variety of objectives. The game won the Seumas McNally Grand Prize at the Independent Games Festival (pictured) in March 2007. (Full article...)

December 8

Kiwi A Prime
Kiwi A Prime

Project Rover was a nuclear thermal rocket project that ran from 1955 to 1973. Beginning as a United States Air Force project to develop a nuclear-powered upper stage for an intercontinental ballistic missile, it was transferred to NASA in 1958 after the Sputnik crisis triggered the Space Race. Nuclear reactors for Project Rover were built and tested at the Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory at very low power and then shipped to Area 25 (known as Jackass Flats) at the Nevada Test Site. Project Rover produced two large reactors, Kiwi (pictured) and Phoebus, and a smaller reactor, Pewee, conforming to the smaller budget available after 1968. The reactors were fueled by highly enriched uranium, with liquid hydrogen used as both a rocket propellant and reactor coolant. Their efficiency was roughly double that of chemical rockets. Project Rover was canceled in 1973, and none of the reactors developed ever flew. (Full article...)

December 9


Emanuel Moravec (1893–1945) was a Czech army officer and writer who collaborated with Nazi Germany as the minister of education of the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia between 1942 and 1945. He was also chair of the Board of Trustees for the Education of Youth, a fascist youth organisation in the protectorate. In World War I, Moravec served in the Austro-Hungarian Army, but following capture by the Russians he changed sides, first joining Russian-backed Serbian forces and then the Czechoslovak Legion. During the interwar period he commanded an infantry battalion in the Czechoslovak Army. As a proponent of democracy during the 1930s, Moravec appealed for armed action against Germany and scorned German demands for the Sudetenland, but after their occupation of the rump Czechoslovakia, he became an enthusiastic collaborator, realigning his political worldview towards fascism. He killed himself in the final days of World War II. (Full article...)

December 10

Bathymetry map

Limalok is a guyot, an undersea volcanic mountain with a flat top, in the southeastern Marshall Islands in the Pacific Ocean. Located at a depth of 1,255 metres (4,117 ft) with a 636-square-kilometre (246 sq mi) summit platform, it is joined to Mili Atoll and Knox Atoll through a volcanic ridge. Limalok probably started as a shield volcano built up from basaltic rocks; the Macdonald, Rarotonga, Rurutu and Society hotspots may have been involved in its formation. A period of erosion and flattening began around 56 million years ago. During the Paleocene and Eocene, a carbonate platform (mostly red algae) supported an atoll, or an atoll-like structure with reefs. The platform sank below sea level roughly 46–50 million years ago during the Eocene, perhaps because the equatorial area it moved through was too hot or nutrient-rich to support the growth of a coral reef. Thermal subsidence lowered the drowned seamount to its present depth. (Full article...)

December 11

Albert Brooks in 2011
Albert Brooks

"You Only Move Twice" is the second episode of the eighth season of The Simpsons, an American animated sitcom. Directed by Mike B. Anderson and written by John Swartzwelder based on a story idea by Greg Daniels, it first aired on the Fox network on November 3, 1996. In the episode, the family moves to a new town, Cypress Creek, and Homer's friendly new boss turns out to be a supervillain. Bart, Lisa, and Marge each have secondary storylines. The episode title is a reference to the James Bond film You Only Live Twice, and many elements of the episode parody the Bond films, with a character modeled after Bond making a brief appearance. Albert Brooks (pictured), in his fourth appearance on The Simpsons, guest stars as the voice of Homer's new boss. The episode was very well received by critics. IGN named "You Only Move Twice" the best episode of the eighth season and Albert Brooks as one of the best guest stars in the history of the show. (Full article...)

December 12

Seattle Streetcar 301 leaving Pacific Place Station

The South Lake Union Streetcar is a streetcar route in Seattle, Washington, United States. Traveling 1.3 miles (2.1 km), it connects downtown to the South Lake Union neighborhood on Westlake Avenue, Terry Avenue, and Valley Street. It was the first modern Seattle Streetcar line, beginning service on December 12, 2007, two years after a separate heritage streetcar ceased operations. It was conceived as part of the redevelopment of South Lake Union into a technology hub, with lobbying and financial support from Paul Allen. The line is popularly known by its nickname, the South Lake Union Trolley (abbreviated as "SLUT"), which is used on unofficial merchandise. The streetcar was controversial in its first few years due to its slow speed, low ridership, and ties to real estate development. Improvements to its corridor since 2011 have increased service and improved schedule reliability, but ridership has declined since 2014. (Full article...)

December 13

The Kenora Thistles in 1907

The Kenora Thistles were an ice hockey team founded in 1894 in Kenora, Ontario, Canada. The team competed for Canada's Stanley Cup five times between 1903 and 1907, winning it in January 1907 and defending it once. They lost it in a challenge series two months later, the shortest length of time that any team has possessed the Cup. Nine Thistles players—four of them local to the area—have been inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame, and the Stanley Cup champion team was inducted into the Northwestern Ontario Sports Hall of Fame. The Thistles competed in Manitoba-based leagues throughout their existence, owing to the city's proximity to that province. They joined the Manitoba Hockey Association in 1902, winning the league championship in three of their six seasons. After an economic downturn in 1907, they were unable to sustain their success as professionalism came to ice hockey, and the team disbanded in 1908. (Full article...)

December 14

Site of Keldholme Priory in 2011
Site of Keldholme Priory in 2011

The Keldholme Priory election dispute occurred in Yorkshire, England, in 1308. The Archbishop of York, William Greenfield, appointed one of the nuns to lead the house after a series of resignations by its prioresses. His candidate, Emma de Ebor', was deemed unacceptable by many nuns, and she resigned three months later. The Archbishop next appointed Joan de Pykering from nearby Rosedale Priory, but the nuns resisted her as well. The Archbishop attempted to quash the nuns' rebelliousness, exiling some to surrounding priories and threatening others with excommunication. The convent was not deterred, and eventually Greenfield allowed the nuns to elect one of their number again. They first re-elected Emma de Stapleton, who had been prioress in 1301, but she also became unpopular, and resigned. They eventually re-elected Emma de Ebor'. The election dispute evaporated, and little more was heard of the priory until its dissolution in 1536. (Full article...)

December 15

Aerial view of the Detroit Zoo, I-696 and M-1 (Woodward Avenue)

Interstate 696 is an east–west auxiliary Interstate Highway in the US state of Michigan. Known as the Walter P. Reuther Freeway in honor of the former head of the United Automobile Workers, it is a bypass route through the northern suburbs of Detroit in Oakland and Macomb counties. Its western terminus connects with I-96 and I-275 in Farmington Hills. It runs east through suburbs including Southfield, Royal Oak and Warren before merging on its east end into I-94 at St. Clair Shores. Planning for the freeway started in the 1950s, and construction on the first segment started in 1961. The western third of the freeway opened in 1963, and the eastern third was completed in January 1979. The central segment was the subject of controversy over its routing and the effect on local communities and the environment, delaying its completion until December 15, 1989. (This article is part of a featured topic: Interstate 96.)

December 16

Frontispiece of Rundell's cookbook
Frontispiece of Rundell's cookbook

Maria Rundell (1745–1828) was an English writer. In 1805, when she was over 60, she sent an unedited collection of recipes and household advice to John Murray, of whose family—owners of the John Murray publishing house—she was a friend. Murray published the work, A New System of Domestic Cookery (frontispiece shown), in November 1805. It was a huge success and several editions followed; the book sold around half a million copies in Rundell's lifetime. It was aimed at middle class housewives. In addition to dealing with food preparation, it offers advice on medical remedies and how to set up a home brewery, and includes a section entitled "Directions to Servants". She also advises readers on being economical with their food and avoiding waste. Rundell wrote a second book, Letters Addressed to Two Absent Daughters (1814), with advice concerning death, friendship, how to behave in polite company and the types of books a well-mannered young woman should read. (Full article...)

December 17

A battle between French and English armies, as imagined by a contemporary chronicler

The Gascon campaign of 1345, part of the Hundred Years' War, was fought between August and November in English-controlled Gascony in south-west France. Henry, Earl of Derby, commanding an Anglo-Gascon force, met a large French force at Bergerac, east of Bordeaux, and decisively defeated it. He moved to besiege the provincial capital of Périgueux, but was threatened by a much larger force commanded by John, Duke of Normandy, the son and heir of the French king. Derby withdrew and left garrisons blockading Périgueux, including one at Auberoche, which the French besieged. He returned with a small force, launched a surprise attack against the greatly superior French, and won another decisive victory, killing or capturing all of the French leaders. This campaign was the first successful English land campaign of the war; morale and prestige swung their way in the border regions of Gascony, providing an influx of taxes and army recruits, and several important regional towns went over to them. (This article is part of a featured topic: Gascon campaign of 1345.)

December 18

Frederik Pohl in 2008
Frederik Pohl

Super Science Stories was an American pulp science fiction magazine published by Popular Publications. Frederik Pohl (pictured) did most of the editing from 1940 to 1943, and the title was revived from 1949 to 1951 with Ejler Jakobsson as editor. Popular gave Pohl a very low budget, and he wrote many of the stories himself. Most of the submitted manuscripts had already been rejected by other magazines, but he was able to acquire stories for the early issues from the Futurians, a group of young science fiction fans and aspiring writers. Super Science Stories was an initial success, and Pohl managed to obtain stories by writers who later became well known, such as Isaac Asimov and Robert Heinlein. When Jakobsson took over, he ran many reprinted stories. Although the magazine was never regarded as one of the leading titles of the genre, science fiction historian Raymond Thompson describes it as "one of the most interesting magazines to appear during the 1940s". (Full article...)

December 19

Promotional image

It Is the Law is a 1924 American silent mystery film directed by J. Gordon Edwards and starring Arthur Hohl, Herbert Heyes, and Mona Palma. It is a film adaptation of the 1922 Broadway play of the same name by Elmer Rice. The film depicts the story of Ruth Allen (Palma), who marries Justin Victor (Heyes) instead of competing suitor Albert Woodruff (Hohl). Seeking revenge, Woodruff fakes his death by killing a drifter who resembles him, and frames Victor for the murder. After Victor goes to prison, Woodruff renews his courtship of Allen using an assumed identity, but she sees through his disguise. When Victor gets out of prison, he kills Woodruff, and goes free because he cannot be convicted twice for the same crime. This was the final film for director Edwards and was one of the last motion pictures produced at Fox Film's New York studio. Like many of Fox's early works, it was probably lost in the 1937 Fox vault fire. (Full article...)

December 20

P. Sapph. Obbink: the fragment of papyrus on which the Brothers Poem was discovered

The Brothers Poem is a work by the archaic Greek poet Sappho (c. 630 – c. 530 BC) that had been lost since antiquity until it was rediscovered in 2014. Most of its text survives, apart from its opening lines. Known only from papyrus fragments (pictured), it mentions two of Sappho's brothers, Charaxos and Larichos. This is the only known mention of their names in Sappho's writings, though they are known from other sources. These references, and aspects of the language and style, have been used to establish her authorship. The poem is structured as an address – possibly by Sappho herself – to an unknown person. The speaker chastises the addressee for saying repeatedly that Charaxos will return (possibly from a trading voyage), maintaining that his safety is in the hands of the gods and offering to pray to Hera for his return. The narrative then switches focus from Charaxos to Larichos, who the speaker hopes will relieve the family from their troubles when he becomes a man. (Full article...)

December 21

Preity Zinta in 2018
Preity Zinta

Kal Ho Naa Ho (Tomorrow May Never Come) is a 2003 Indian romantic comedy-drama film directed by Nikkhil Advani, starring Jaya Bachchan, Shah Rukh Khan, Saif Ali Khan, and Preity Zinta (pictured). It tells the story of Naina Catherine Kapur (Zinta), a pessimistic and uptight business administration student. She falls in love with her neighbour Aman Mathur (Shah Rukh Khan), a terminally ill patient who fears she will grieve for him if he reciprocates her feelings. The film was written by Karan Johar, who co-produced it with his father Yash Johar under their Dharma Productions banner. The film received positive critical feedback, and was the highest-grossing Indian film of the year. Its themes include inter-caste marriage, terminal illness, and the depiction of non-resident Indians. It won two National Film Awards, eight Filmfare Awards, thirteen International Indian Film Academy Awards, six Producers Guild Film Awards, three Screen Awards, and two Zee Cine Awards. (Full article...)

December 22

Obverse of the coin

The Maryland Tercentenary half dollar was a commemorative fifty-cent piece issued by the United States Bureau of the Mint in 1934. It depicts Cecil Calvert, 2nd Baron Baltimore, on the obverse (pictured) and the coat of arms of Maryland on the reverse. The Maryland Tercentenary Commission sought a coin in honor of the 300th anniversary of the arrival of English settlers in Maryland. The state's senators introduced legislation, and it passed both houses of Congress with no opposition. A design had already been prepared by Professor Hans Schuler; it passed review by the Commission of Fine Arts, though there was controversy over whether Lord Baltimore, a Cavalier and Catholic, would have worn a collar typical of Puritans. The Commission sold about 15,000 of the full issue of 25,000 for $1 each, and thereafter discounted the price for large sales to dealers and speculators. The coins have increased in value over time, and are now valued in the low hundreds of dollars. (Full article...)

December 23

Arthur Gilligan 1928.jpg

Arthur Gilligan (23 December 1894 – 5 September 1976) was an English first-class cricketer who captained the England cricket team nine times in 1924 and 1925, winning four Test matches, losing four and drawing one. In first-class cricket, he played mainly for Cambridge University and Sussex, and captained the latter team between 1922 and 1929. A fast bowler and hard-hitting lower order batsman, Gilligan completed the double in 1923 and was one of Wisden's Cricketers of the Year for 1924. As a captain, Gilligan was well-liked by players and commentators, although many did not believe he was an effective tactician. During his playing days, Gilligan was a member of the British Fascists, and it is possible he helped to establish small fascist groups in Australia when he captained the England team there during the 1924–25 tour. As the Marylebone Cricket Club president during England's 1968–69 tour of South Africa, he played a part in the D'Oliveira affair. (Full article...)

December 24

Frank Borman in 1964

Frank Borman (born 1928) is a retired United States Air Force colonel, aeronautical engineer, test pilot, and businessman, and the oldest living former NASA astronaut. In 1968, he was the commander of Apollo 8, the first crewed mission to fly around the Moon, for which he was awarded the Congressional Space Medal of Honor. A graduate of West Point, he served as an air force fighter pilot and flight instructor, and an assistant professor at West Point. He was one of five students in the first class at the Aerospace Research Pilot School, and was selected with the second group of NASA astronauts in 1962. He set a fourteen-day spaceflight endurance record as commander of Gemini 7, and served on the review board for the Apollo 1 fire. He became a senior vice president at Eastern Air Lines in 1970, and later its chief executive officer and chairman of the board, leading the company through its four most profitable years before resigning in 1986. He currently owns a ranch in Montana. (Full article...)

December 25

Charles H. Stonestreet

Charles H. Stonestreet (1813–1885) was an American Catholic priest and Jesuit who led several institutions in Maryland and Washington, D.C. After becoming a professor at Georgetown University, he led St. John's Literary Institution and St. John the Evangelist Church in Frederick, Maryland. He was appointed president of Georgetown University in 1851, and oversaw the expansion of its library. The following year, he became provincial superior of the Jesuit Maryland Province, which faced growing anti-Catholicism from the Know Nothings; as a result, he forbade Jesuits from wearing their clerical attire in public. While president of Gonzaga College in Washington, D.C. (today a high school), he oversaw construction of St. Aloysius Church, becoming its first pastor. In the trial of the conspirators in the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, he was called to testify about a parishioner, Mary Surratt, and a former student, Samuel Mudd. (Full article...)

December 26

Drawing of a kinara and candles, similar to those depicted in the special
Drawing of a kinara and candles

"A Rugrats Kwanzaa" is a television special from the American animated series Rugrats, first broadcast on December 11, 2001. It was one of the first mainstream television shows to feature the holiday Kwanzaa. In the episode, the toddler Susie Carmichael and her friends – Tommy Pickles, Chuckie and Kimi Finster, and Phil and Lil DeVille – learn about the holiday during a visit from her great-aunt. Anthony Bell directed the episode from a script by Lisa D. Hall, Jill Gorey, and Barbara Herndon. "A Rugrats Kwanzaa" was praised by critics for its representation of the holiday and the voice acting; there was a mixed response to its commercialism. Cree Summer, who voices Susie, earned a nomination for an NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Performance by a Youth at the 34th NAACP Image Awards for her role in the episode. A picture book entitled The Rugrats' First Kwanzaa was adapted from the script. (Full article...)

December 27

Gold dinar named for Salih ibn Mirdas
Gold dinar named for
Salih ibn Mirdas

Salih ibn Mirdas (died 1029) was the founder of the Mirdasid dynasty and emir of Aleppo from 1025 until his death. His sons and grandsons ruled Aleppo for most of the next five decades. In 1008 he seized the Euphrates river fortress of al-Rahba. He was imprisoned and tortured in 1012 by the emir of Aleppo, Mansur ibn Lu'lu', before escaping two years later and capturing Mansur in battle. With his Bedouin warriors, Salih captured a string of fortresses along the Euphrates, including Manbij and Raqqa, by 1022. He later allied with the Banu Kalb and Banu Tayy tribes in their rebellion against the Fatimids of Egypt, who ruled Aleppo. He annexed the central Syrian towns of Homs, Baalbek and Sidon before conquering Aleppo in 1025 and establishing a well-organized administration. He paid formal allegiance to the Fatimids, but his alliance with the Banu Tayy drew him into conflict with the Fatimid general, Anushtakin al-Dizbari, whose forces killed Salih in battle near the Sea of Galilee. (Full article...)

December 28

The Beaune Altarpiece

The Beaune Altarpiece is a large polyptych altarpiece by the Early Netherlandish artist Rogier van der Weyden. It was commissioned in 1443 for the Hospices de Beaune by Nicolas Rolin, Chancellor of the Duchy of Burgundy, and his wife Guigone de Salins, who was buried in front of the altarpiece. The polyptych consists of fifteen paintings spread across nine panels, of which six are painted on both sides. The inner panels contain scenes from the Last Judgement, with a central image that shows Christ seated in judgement, and the Archangel Michael holding scales as he weighs souls. The panel on Christ's far right depicts the gates of Heaven, that to his far left the entrance to Hell; souls are shown moving towards each after being judged. The altarpiece is in poor condition, having suffered from extensive paint loss, darkening of its colours and accumulations of dirt. (Full article...)

December 29

Red-tailed tropicbird

The red-tailed tropicbird is a seabird native to the tropical Indian and Pacific Oceans. One of three closely related species of tropicbird, it has four subspecies. Superficially resembling a tern in appearance, it has almost all-white plumage with a black mask and a red bill. The sexes have similar plumage. Adults have red tail streamers that are about twice their body length, which gives rise to its common name. Nesting takes place in loose colonies on oceanic islands, the nest itself a scrape found on a cliff face, in a crevice, or a sandy beach. A single egg is laid, being incubated by both sexes for about six weeks. The red-tailed tropicbird eats fish, mainly flying fish, and squid, catching them by plunge-diving into the ocean. This bird is considered to be a least-concern species according to the IUCN, though it is adversely affected by human contact. Rats and feral cats prey on eggs and young at nesting sites. (Full article...)

December 30

Michelle Dockery in 2013
Michelle Dockery

The Turn of the Screw is a British television film based on Henry James's 1898 ghost story of the same name. Commissioned and produced by the BBC, it was first broadcast on 30 December 2009, on BBC One. The novella was adapted for the screen by Sandy Welch, and the film was directed by Tim Fywell. Although generally true to the tone and story of James's work, the film is set in the 1920s instead of the 1840s. The story is told in flashbacks during consultations between the institutionalised Ann, played by Michelle Dockery (pictured), and a psychiatrist, Dr Fisher (Dan Stevens). Ann tells how she was hired by an aristocrat (Mark Umbers) to care for the orphans Miles (Josef Lindsay) and Flora (Eva Sayer) at their home, Bly House. Ann soon begins to see unknown figures around the manor, and seeks an explanation. Though the film generally received a positive response, critics disagreed over whether it retained the novella's much-discussed ambiguity. (Full article...)

December 31

Gomphus floccosus 6051.JPG

Turbinellus floccosus, the shaggy chanterelle, is a cantharelloid mushroom of the fungus family Gomphaceae native to Asia and North America. It was known as Gomphus floccosus until 2011, when it was found to be only distantly related to the genus's type species, G. clavatus, and transferred to Turbinellus. The orange-capped vase- or trumpet-shaped mushrooms may reach 30 cm (12 in) high and 30 cm (12 in) wide. The lower and outer surfaces are covered in wrinkles and ridges rather than gills or pores, and are pale buff or yellowish to whitish. T. floccosus forms symbiotic relationships with the roots of various conifers in woodlands across Eastern Asia, from North Korea to Pakistan, and in North America, more frequently in the west. The mild-tasting mushrooms are consumed locally in northeastern India, Nepal and Mexico, but can cause gastrointestinal symptoms of nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. (Full article...)