Blind Woman’s Freedom, Click By Click


A Blind Woman’s New Freedom, Click By Click

National Public Radio  Morning Edition
Daniel Horowitz for NPR

Daniel Horowitz for NPR

For someone who is blind, a simple click can be the sound of sight.  It’s a technique called echolocation. Bats and other animals use it to see at night. And it’s being used by an increasing number of people who are blind. They listen to how the clicking sounds they make with their tongues bounce off the world around them. It tells them a surprising amount about the world.

The technique was popularized by a man in California named Daniel Kish.

Wanna know a great trick for figuring out how to click? Just do what Daniel Kish told Julee-anne Bell.

“Imagine licking peanut butter off the roof of my mouth,” says Bell. “As soon as I did that, I got my click.”

Julee-anne, who is in her early 40s and lives near Brisbane, Australia, has been blind since birth. She first heard about echolocation when she was 38 and the mother of two boys. Up until that point, she had spent her whole life getting around unfamiliar places on someone’s arm, because she felt too nervous to go out alone with a cane or guide dog.

Julee-anne Bell used to be afraid to venture out in the world without holding onto someone’s arm.  Courtesy of Julee-anne Bell

“Physically I would be like butterflies, like serious butterflies when you’re about to go on stage or do something really scary,” Julee-anne says.

But when she holds onto someone’s arm, she feels as if the world returns.

In fact, it was her husband’s arm that made her fall in love with him. His arm literally reached out and rescued her when a careless boyfriend left her alone and terrified one night in college.

And Thomas Bell loved having her there. “It was quite a nice feeling, actually, to have her on my arm. It sort of brought us closer together.”

But that loving arm would eventually become a problem if Julee-anne was going to learn echolocation.

Julee-anne had hired Kish, who lost his sight as a toddler due to cancer and who developed the echolocation technique, to give her lessons after she heard about him on TV.

Kish flew out to Australia and spent a few days with her, teaching her how to click with her tongue and how to interpret what the echoes of those clicks meant. As they walked down the street and she clicked, he would ask: What was she detecting? A fence? A car? A tree? A person?

Once Julee-anne had mastered her click, Kish turned to a much more difficult thing to conquer — the fear of letting go of someone’s arm.

Thomas understood that the goal was for Julee-anne to walk on her own, but it was hard for him to stand back.

“I would find myself walking very close,” Thomas says. “I would sort of hover.”

And it was hard for their sons Daniel and Joshua, too. “It was daunting and scary,” Julee-anne says. “I was tense, he was tense. Everybody was tense.”

But slowly she got better at the technique, which she uses while using a long white cane. (She now works as administrative manager for World Action for the Blind, the organization that Kish founded.)

Finally she decided to do something previously unthinkable: Travel alone to California to go hiking.

She met up with Daniel Kish and a few of his friends in Los Angeles, and went hiking along a steep ravine.

Suddenly, says Kish, “We heard a slidy, soily sound.”

Julee-anne had fallen off the side of a cliff. At a certain point she hit rock and started rolling — “log-rolling down,” says Julee-anne.

“I lost my cane, I lost my hiking stick,” she says. “And you have no idea how — how is this going to end?”

It ended with a friend of Kish’s jumping down to help her roll to a stop. Once she realized she was battered and bruised but OK, Julee-anne’s first thought was of her family. “The thought I had was: They’re gonna be really mad.”

And they were — especially Thomas.

“I was pretty shocked and concerned,” he says. “And I guess I got a bit angry.”

“And of course my husband’s first response was that, well, ‘Daniel should have taken better care of you,’ ” Julee-anne says. “And I said, ‘You know what, I’m a grown-up!’ ”

It took some time, but eventually Thomas got the message: The person he loved wanted to be let go. And he needed to let her go.

The boys spoke about this too, about how hard it was to give up being her guide. They said it made them feel proud.

And this became Julee-anne’s strange struggle. She realized in healing herself, she was also hurting the people around her, in a way.

“And I didn’t even realize at the time what I was doing by wrenching away,” Julee-anne says. “And that’s one of the reasons why I tend to hold his arm now.”

The other reason is that in the last year, Thomas has become ill. It looks as if it might be multiple sclerosis.

So every day now, Julee-anne takes his arm and they walk. He uses a walking stick and she uses a cane. They walk side by side. “And that is part of how we still connect,” she says.

“I’m not a terribly stable guide anymore,” Thomas says. “She is sort of taking the lead and sort of caring for me.”

To hear more about echolocation and how Daniel Kish uses it to ride a bike, listen to the third episode of Invisibilia, NPR’s newest program. It explores how invisible things shape our behavior and our lives. The program runs on many public radio stations, and the podcast is available for download and on iTunes.



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Gassed Kids Save Playground


Police Fire Tear Gas On Kenyan Kids Protecting A Soccer Field

Schoolchildren and activists scramble up a bridge Monday after police try to break up a protest with tear gas at the Langata Road Primary School in Nairobi, Kenya.

Schoolchildren and activists scramble up a bridge Monday after police try to break up a protest with tear gas at the Langata Road Primary School in Nairobi, Kenya.Tony Karumba/AFP/Getty Images

Hundreds of elementary schools were protesting the illegal seizure of their playground by a private developer in Nairobi, Kenya, when police fired tear gas into the crowd.

The incident sparked outrage across the city — and on social media, where Kenyans tweeted with the hashtag#OccupyPlayGround.

But the shocking images and videos of the ordeal provoked a surprisingly proactive response. In the end, these Kenyan kids did what ordinary Kenyans are rarely able to do: defend disappearing public space.

Children flee tear gas after police tried to disperse the crowd of demonstrators Monday at Langata Road Primary School in Nairobi.

Children flee tear gas after police tried to disperse the crowd of demonstrators Monday at Langata Road Primary School in Nairobi.  Tony Karumba/AFP/Getty Images

The process is known as “land-grabbing.” A fence suddenly appears overnight around a parcel of government property. Those who protest are warded off — sometimes violently — by police. In time, a new high-rise or hotel or parking lot appears, owned by a politically connected magnate.

But this time, the land in question was next to an elementary school, Langata Road Primary School. And the protesters were kids as young as 8, who used the land to play soccer.

School kids hold up a sign given to them by activists at a demonstration at Langata Primary Road School.

School kids hold up a sign given to them by activists at a demonstration at Langata Primary Road School.  Brian Inganga/AP

When developers set up a fence separating the school from the playground over the winter break, several hundred kids showed up on Monday to protest. They ended up breaking down the new fence. In response, heavily armed police fired tear gas on the kids.

“The tear gas was so bad!” Kevin Sande, 10, said Tuesday.

The gas made their eyes red and caused them to cough, other kids said.

In full disclosure, I can’t be sure that Sande and his classmates I interviewed at Langata Road Primary School were the ones that got tear-gassed. In the disturbing photos from that day, it’s hard to make out the faces on the green uniforms engulfed in white smoke.

“I didn’t understand whether we are in Kenya or the Gaza Strip,” says Rahab Mwikali, an activist, who came to the school to express sympathy. “I thought what could this be?”

But the deeper question for Kenyans — besides how could police do this — was who were they were doing it for? Who was trying to snatch the kids’ playground? No one, not even the government, would say.

Nairobi is one of the fastest growing real estate markets in the world. According to the annual Knight Frank Report, the growth rate of Nairobi’s housing cost is rated no. 31 in the world, ahead of Miami, Washington, D.C. and Istanbul.

The growth of Nairobi’s real estate market is driven by Kenya’s rising economy, which is an unbalanced one: All good jobs are in the capital. But the registration of titles and deeds is murky in Nairobi. They’re controlled by an elite group that ordinary Kenyans are usually powerless to stop.

Except this time.

A day after the incident, Kenya’s president, Uhuru Kenyatta, condemned the use of tear gas and suspended the senior officer involved. The acting interior minister, Joseph Nkaissery, came to the school personally to apologize.

And then the bulldozers came.

Standing in front of the bulldozers, in a shiny suit and white tie, was the chief surveyor from the Kenyan Land Ministry, Cesare Mbaria. He told reporters the government was delineating the school’s real boundary — which includes the playground.

“We need to put a proper wall for the school to ensure we secure the property,” Mbaria said.

But why the bulldozers, just to build a wall? Turned out the kids were also getting a brand new flattened soccer field.

“Yes! We are happy. Very happy happy,” a bunch of kids at the school cheer. “Because we now have the ground. We can play now.”

That’s not how these stories usually end. Land grabs are such a divisive issue in Kenya that the most controversial ones have sparked deadly ethnic riots and even acts of terrorism.

But when I drove away from the school in a different part of the city, I saw another victory for the public. I passed another prime piece of real estate with a private developer’s illegal fence around it. Government bulldozers were destroying the fence, reclaiming public land, to a surprised and swelling crowd.

It seemed that, at least for now, the school kids in Nairobi had won more than just their own playground.

Snow Monkeys’ New Home at Lincoln Park

Hey, hey, it’s the snow monkeys at Lincoln Park Zoo    source

With a walkie-talkie call from curator of primates Maureen Leahy Wednesday, an assistant in the holding areas beneath Lincoln Park Zoo’s new Regenstein Macaque Forest exhibit opened a door and the zoo’s troop of eight Japanese macaques spilled into their spiffy new habitat.

The medium-sized primates, commonly known as “snow monkeys” because they are often seen in the cold in their native Japan, checked out the new digs with the thoroughness of a prospective tenant sizing up an apartment.

The exhibit opening gave visitors their first glimpses of the animals and their elaborate hillside enclosure, complete with heated rocks and, come warmer weather, a stream, that now occupies an area where the zoo’s Penguin-Seabird House once stood.

Snow monkeysA Japanese macaque walks past a heated pool while exploring its naturalistic habitat at the Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago.

More story and photos and even more story and photos


Guns at the Gate


Air passengers packing guns in record numbers, TSA report says
By Michael Muskal Tribune Newspapers  1.24.15

   People who are leaving on a jet plane pack clothes, toiletries and often something to pass the time. Passengers also pack heat, according to a Transportation Security Administration report released Friday that showed 2014 hit the bull’s-eye with a record number of guns seized by agents.   The TSA said it discovered 2,212 firearms in carry-on bags at 224 airports — about six a day. About 83 percent of the confiscated guns were loaded, the department said.   Last year’s number represented a 22 percent increase from 2013, when 1,813 firearms were discovered. The number of guns discovered at TSA checkpoints has risen nearly every year since 2005.   The numbers paint a tapestry of Americans and their habits.   Of the top 10 airports for gun seizures, Dallas/Fort Worth led the pack with   120. Three of the top airports were in Texas, with two in Houston. Florida also had three in the top 10.   Nine of the top airports were in Southern rim states where there is a culture of guns and a tradition of forceful defense of gun rights. Denver also made the top 10 list — No. 5 with 70 seizures. As a Western state, Colorado shares the gun culture of the South and Southwest.   TSA agents discovered not just small firearms, but a grenade and a loaded assault rifle with three loaded magazines.   The agency also said more than 1,400 “firearm components, replica firearms, stun guns, and other similar dangerous objects were discovered” in carry-on luggage.   “In many cases, people simply forgot they had these items,” the TSA said in a review of the data.   One of the odder seizures came when a 94-year-old man tried to enter the checkpoint at New York’s LaGuardia Airport with a loaded .38-caliber revolver clipped to his belt.   Then there is the 8.5-inch knife discovered in an enchilada at the Charles M. Schulz–Sonoma County Airport in California.   The TSA noted that, “While this was a great catch, the passenger’s intent was delicious, not malicious, and she was cleared for travel.”





Chipotle and the Pigs

 Chipotle’s Pulled Pork Highlights Debate Over Sow Welfare

Workers prepare burritos at a Chipotle Mexican Grill in New York. The restaurant chain has stopped serving pork in about one-third of its U.S. locations.

Workers prepare burritos at a Chipotle Mexican Grill in New York. The restaurant chain has stopped serving pork in about one-third of its U.S. locations.                                     Richard Levine/Demotix/Corbis

About a third of all Chipotle restaurants are not serving carnitas at the moment, because the restaurant chain has suspended one of its major pork suppliers.

The restaurant chain has declined to identify the supplier and the exact reasons for the suspension. In its official statements, Chipotle said only that the supplier was not in compliance with the company’s animal welfare standards.

But when David Maren heard the news, he had a pretty good idea what the problem was.

Maren is the founder of Tendergrass Farms, near Roanoke, Va. It’s an online marketer of meat and organic lard from a network of farmers. The farmers raise their pigs Chipotle-style: The animals get no antibiotics or growth-promoting drugs. They aren’t confined inside buildings. In fact, most of them spend their whole life on pasture.

Maren says that it’s not hard to persuade pork producers to adopt part of that package. They don’t mind so much cutting out the drugs.

But there are two technologies that many farmers cannot imagine giving up, and these are things that Chipotle does not allow: farrowing crates and slatted-floor housing.

Farrowing crates are small pens, measuring about six feet by two feet, where mother pigs, or sows, are confined for a period that starts just before farrowing, or giving birth. The sows stay in the crates for about three weeks while their piglets are nursing. These pens are different from “gestation crates,” which confine a sow during most of her adult life.

“The purpose [of farrowing crates] is to protect the baby pigs,” says Maren. Metal walls keep sows from stepping on the piglets. This also means that the sows cannot move much or turn around.

A sow nurses her piglets in a farrowing crate in an Elite Pork Partnership hog confinement building in Carroll, Iowa, in 2009.

A sow nurses her piglets in a farrowing crate in an Elite Pork Partnership hog confinement building in Carroll, Iowa, in 2009.      Charlie Neibergall/AP

Slatted floors, meanwhile, are a basic feature of most standard hog houses. They allows farmers to raise lots of pigs indoors, out of the weather, and keep them clean. Manure drops down through the slats into collection pits. Critics say that it is unnatural and inhumane to keep pigs inside on a hard, bare surface.

An industry source has confirmed Maren’s guess. These two issues were the cause of Chipotle’s pork problems this past week. The company does not allow farrowing crates or slatted-floor housing, and it discovered that this supplier was using them.

But David Maren — who sells organic and pasture-raised pork — is surprisingly conflicted about these rules.

Even though his farmers’ methods meet — and actually exceed — Chipotle’s standards, he says, he’s not really sure that these rules make much sense for a large-scale buyer of pork.

Take farrowing crates, he says. Confining a sow looks inhumane, “but the alternative is, if you put a picture right beside that of a farmer walking out of his alternative farrowing house with a five-gallon bucket full of dead baby pigs, you have to ask yourself, which is more humane?”

Or consider slatted-floor housing. It’s true that this is not a natural environment for pigs, but it allows farmers to handle large numbers of pigs. What Chipotle wants — pigs living in “deeply bedded pens” that they can dig around in — takes a lot more work, space and bedding material, such as straw.

“It’s all about scalability,” Maren says. “They can find a few hundred farmers to do that, and they have. Can they find a few thousand, or tens of thousands, to feed America? I think that’s going to be challenging.”

Chipotle’s head of communication, Chris Arnold, says that this has not been a problem so far. The current shortfall in pork was a one-time problem with a single supplier, he says. In general, he says, Chipotle has had little difficulty finding pork suppliers who are willing and able to follow its rules.

Arnold would not identify the offending pork producer. He says that the supplier may simply not have fully understood Chipotle’s requirements.

“We believe that these are good people who are trying to do the right thing, and if they bring their protocols into [compliance] with our standards, we’d certainly consider having them back as part of our supply network,” Arnold says.

That won’t happen quickly, though. It would mean building another style of farrowing pens and new barns to house the pigs.

Colts Team Sneaks Out of Baltimore

I’m sorry that the Indianapolis Colts have embarrassed themselves and us in the National Football League playoffs, beaten 45-7.  But I have a nasty attitude toward the owners and management at the time for they way they sneaked out of Baltimore in 1984 to settle in Indianapolis.  rjn           BACKGROUND


When the Colts left town: the night that lives on in infamy
Raymond Berry  Baltimore Sun  SOURCE:

I was there that night. It was 28 years ago, in the snowy, pre-dawn darkness of March 29, that the Mayflower vans rumbled out of Owings Mills and the Baltimore Colts left for Indianapolis, ripping an entire city’s heart out in the process.

Just before midnight, we started getting calls on the sports desk at the old Evening Sun that there was unusual activity taking place at the Colts complex. At first we thought it was just a couple of crank calls. But more folks were calling in to report that the complex was lit up, with the sound of trucks echoing everywhere and security guards stopping anyone not authorized to enter.

I jumped in a car with two other Evening Sun reporters and a photographer and we went fish-tailing out of the Sun parking lot. We set a new land-speed record for the drive out there and arrived shortly after midnight.

The scene was absolutely surreal.
Our jaws dropped: it was true. The Colts were leaving town. Yes, it had been rumored for weeks that this might happen. But as one veteran TV sportscaster noted — this was the late, great Chris Thomas — it was like something out of a Fellini movie.

With the snow now blowing almost sideways, thick, white flakes were outlined against the dark green of the Mayflower moving vans as they roared out of the gates, one after the other in periodic intervals.

Some hired security goons prevented us from going inside. Even people who worked for the Colts that had been alerted to the move and were now trying to retrieve their stuff were refused entry.

So we stood outside the gates and interviewed everyone we could: stunned onlookers with tears in their eyes, disbelieving cops who had been called to the scene, the few Colts staffers who were allowed inside and were now leaving in their own cars.

The wind blew and the snow fell. We stayed out there for four hours as the moving vans rumbled out, until at last most of them were gone.

Then we thawed out with steaming cups of coffee in a diner on Reisterstown Road before racing back downtown to file our stories — the biggest story most of us had ever covered.

And all throughout that long, gloomy night, we turned to each other seemingly every few minutes to say in hushed tones: “Can you believe this is happening?”

Twenty-eight years later, it still feels like a dream.   A bad dream.

Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun

How Important is a Second


Time to Change Global Clock Management? It’s Under Debate

‘Leap Seconds’ Pit Proponents of Atomic Time vs. Keepers of Astronomical Time

Provided by George Lynch


Does anybody really know what time it is?

The cornucopia of connected electronic devices in our homes and offices sometimes display slightly different times, making us wonder why, in 2015, we can’t connect to some uber clock out there that can perfectly synchronize global timekeeping once and for all.

Standardized time, though, is a much more relative concept than many people realize. And behind the scenes today there is a robust debate about how to fine-tune the standard global clock, which exists in principle but is quite imperfect in practice.

Unbeknownst to much of the lay public, the standard time used across the world is adjusted by the tick of one second every few years—including this one—to ensure that clocks remain aligned to the solar time, based on the sun’s position in the sky, to which we’re all accustomed. Some critics, including the U.S. government, think adding a “leap second” is too disruptive on modern technology and should stop.

A quick history lesson: For decades, the global timekeeping standard most of the world followed was Greenwich Mean Time, which was derived from measuring the sun’s position in the sky at the Royal Observatory in Greenwich, London. British mariners, along with visiting ships, and railroads synchronized their clocks to the measure, and it spread around the globe. International time zones reflected the number of hours they were ahead of or behind GMT.

However, scientists recognized that Earth’s orbit is wobbly and irregular, and measures of time based on the planet’s rotation and sun’s position weren’t precise enough for their needs. So in 1972, the new gold standard for earthly timekeeping became Coordinated Universal Time, or UTC for short.

UTC isn’t based on any single timepiece, but on something called International Atomic Time, a weighted average of the times of more than 400 atomic clocks—devices that measure the passage of time with extreme accuracy through the vibrations of atoms.

But—and this is where time gets tricky—the atomic clocks are almost too accurate for ordinary earthlings to handle.

If left unadjusted over a few centuries, the disparity between atomic clocks and time based on the rotation of the Earth would gradually increase. The time of sunrise and sunset would be roughly a half-hour different than it is today. And in a few more centuries, it would expand to a full hour.

So, as a compromise of sorts to stay close to astronomical time, and avoid freaking people out, leap seconds are added to UTC when the atomic clock average edges toward 0.9 second different than time based on the rotation of the planet. That compromise allows elapsed time to be measured with atomic precision, while still linking time of day to the rotation of the Earth.

The next numerical adjustment is set to take place this summer, when the world’s official timekeepers will extend June 30 by one “leap second,” causing the final minute of the day to last an aberrant 61 seconds and momentarily delay the start of July. The International Earth Rotation and Reference Systems Service, which monitors the position and movement of the planet, recommends leap seconds as needed.

Tinkering with time, even for a second, has consequences, however, and these adjustments can create real-world problems. And because leap seconds are introduced sporadically—there was a seven-year gap from 1998 to 2005 with none—adjustments to modern technologies can’t be systematized. On the fly, mistakes get made, and some systems fail.

Standardized time is a much more relative concept than many people realize. Above, people walk through London's Canary Wharf in 2008.
Standardized time is a much more relative concept than many people realize. Above, people walk through London’s Canary Wharf in 2008. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE/GETTY IMAGES

“The last time we had a leap second, a whole bunch of websites went down,” said John P. Lowe of theNational Institute of Standards and Technology, which distributes standard time and frequency signals in the U.S. “It was like a mini Y2K.”

That year, 2012, the electronic reservation system for Qantas airline failed, delaying hundreds of flights and forcing the airline to check in passengers manually. Websites such as LinkedIn, Reddit and Yelp crashed. And Japan, concerned about potential errors, suspended the time-stamp system it uses to authenticate electronic documents for several hours while it adjusted its clocks.

The past disruptions have led the U.S. to lobby to eliminate the leap second. The International Telecommunication Union, which, among other things, develops standards that ensure networks seamlessly connect, is scheduled to vote on it at the World Radiocommunication Conference in November.

“It’s annoying,” said Edward D. Powers, GPS and Time Transfer Division Chief for the United States Naval Observatory. “You have to stop all the clocks and reset them by one second.”

Some systems—such as the Global Positioning System—don’t even bother to acknowledge leap seconds. As a result, internal GPS time doesn’t match civil time. GPS transmits a correction instead so receivers such as cellphones can convert the time to UTC for display.

But dropping the leap seconds would affect groups such as astronomers who depend on UTC and would have to rewrite or replace computer programs should the convention disappear.

Ultimately, the U.K. believes the problems have been minor and notes that eliminating the leap second would have ramifications also. Most notably, it would divorce time from the Earth.

“People have always taken the sun as a reference for timekeeping,” said Peter Whibberley, a research scientist at the National Physical Laboratory in Teddington. “The U.K. is concerned we shouldn’t break the link without carefully weighing the consequences.”


Naked Swimmers !

BY ON     Source

How sexist is the US Senate? So far, only 44 women have ever served as Senators, meaning, according to this Politico article examining the gender imbalance in the upper house, the male Senators think they have the entire place to themselves — including the Senate pool, where they apparently swim with each other while naked.

This mind-searing anecdote comes courtesy of Sen. Kay Hagan (R-NC), who discovered this fact as a freshman Senator in 2008. According to the story, she was told that the Senate swimming pool was males-only, “because some of the male senators liked to swim naked.”


A spokeswoman for the Senate gym told a North Carolina paper at the time that the pool was open to everyone, but according to Politico, it seemed to be an informal rule that only exposed penises were allowed to bathe in the cool Senate waters:

It took an intervention by Senator Chuck Schumer, head of the Rules Committee, to put a stop to the practice, but even then “it was a fight,” remembers pollster Celinda Lake, who heard about the incident when the pool revolt was the talk among Washington women.




Until Fairly Recently, The YMCA Actually Required Swimmers To Be Nude

. . . Beam confirms my friend’s dad’s story, but notes that nude swimming classes weren’t just a YMCA thing. In fact, they were a national thing. The American Public Health Association mandated them from 1926 until 1962, and thousands of high schools around the country enforced the tradition . . .       Story

Small Town’s Private Language

Do You Harp A Slib Of The Ling? One Small Town’s Opaque Language

 LISTEN TO STORY  3 min. 18 sec.
Fal Allen (right) shares a brew with W. Dan Houck. Both men work at Anderson Valley Brewing Company, where Allen's the brewmaster. He's also something of a Boontling scholar.

Fal Allen (right) shares a brew with W. Dan Houck. Both men work at Anderson Valley Brewing Company, where Allen’s the brewmaster. He’s also something of a Boontling scholar.   Stina Sieg For NPR

Tiny Boonville, in Northern California, is known for a few things: its wineries, its tight-knit community — and its very own language, Boontling.

Bahl means good. Nonch means bad. And horn of zeese? That’s Boontling for a cup of coffee.

The language was created long ago as a way to gossip covertly in this community of about 1,000 people, nestled in a valley a few hours north of San Francisco. Now, it’s still alive, but barely.

You can hear the sounds of Boontling in the community’s senior center, where on a recent day, Wes Smoot and David Knight had this conversation:

Smoot: “You’ve been boshin’?”

Knight: “Just a slib.”

Smoot: “You get a granny hatchet?”

Knight: “Nope. … Mostly just gormin’ and horse shoes.”

Translation: Have you been deer hunting? Yes, but only a little. Bagged one yet? Nope, Knight says: instead, he’s been eating barbecue and playing horse shoes.

Boontling dates back to the late 1800s, but it was still spoken widely on Boonville’s streets and even taught in its schools much more recently.

The language was so ingrained in local culture that when Smoot’s great-uncle joined the military, he had a hard time understanding English.

“All he knew was Boontling,” Smoot says.

Smoot, on the other hand, enjoys being bilingual.

“Strangers come in on the weekends, you know, metropolitan people, and they’d sit down,” he says. “And we’d sit there and talk about them, things that would normally get your face slapped pretty bad. And they were just grinning at you, and they had no idea what we was talking about, you know. And that, to me, is a lot of fun.”

The community has some newer Boontling speakers as well, like Fal Allen. He’s not fluent — “Ya, I by harp a wee slib of the ling,” he says, translating it as “Yes, I speak a little bit of Boontling.”

But he’s still one of the unofficial keepers of the lingo’s history. He says Boonville’s always been kind of removed from the outside world — by treacherous roads and by choice.

Wes Smoot is fluent in Boontling, but didn’t learn the lingo until he was in his 30s. He says that he had to pick it up for “self-defense,” so he could decipher the gossip all around him.Stina Sieg For NPR

“It was very hard to get in and out of this valley, and so they were very isolated, and they were not excited about having outsiders come in,” he says. “And so the secret language for the people of the valley seemed to … you know, make perfect sense.”

And it makes no sense at all to outsiders, which was the point of this combination of nicknames, jargon and the odd foreign term. Allen says Boontling eventually reached a vocabulary of 1,600 words.

Now the language dances on the edge of extinction. It’s estimated that less than 100 people still speak it — and far fewer are fluent.

But it’s still evolving, too. Back at the senior center, Smoot describes his contribution to Boontling, a word that means “oldtimer.” It’s “downstreamer,” in honor of local dog salmon.

“He’s going back downstream trying to get back to the ocean, but he dies before he gets to the ocean,” Smoot says. “So, when you get up in our age, we’re almost downstreamers. We’re headed for the ocean, but I doubt if we’re going to make it.”

Boontling, for its part, just might make it, if enough of its younger enthusiasts keep it up. They’ve created a Boontling study group that meets once a month.

The appeal is built-in, says Fal Allen.

“Who doesn’t love a secret language?” he says. “I mean, come on.”

2014 Hottest Ever


2014 Officially Hottest Year on Record

The Japanese declare 2014 one for the record books thanks to global warming


The upward march of the world’s average temperature since 1891 is a trademark of human-influenced global warming with 2014 being the latest stop on the climb.    Credit: Kevin Dinkel/Flickr 

It’s official: 2014 has taken the title of hottest year on record. That ranking comes courtesy of data released Monday by the Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA), the first of four major global temperature recordkeepers to release their data for last year.The upward march of the world’s average temperature since 1891 is a trademark of human-influenced global warming with 2014 being the latest stop on the climb. All 10 of the hottest years have come since 1998.The average temperature was 1.1°F above the 20th century average according to JMA’s data. That edges 1998, the previous warmest year, by about 0.1°F.One big difference between 2014 and 1998 is that the latter was on the tail end of a super El Niño, which has the tendency to spike temperatures. In comparison, 2014 was the year of the almost El Niño.

Instead, record warmth in other parts of the Pacific as well as the hottest year on record in Europe were some of the main drivers in fueling the heat. Joe Romm of Climate Progress also notes that heat in Australia early in the year and California’s hottest year further contributed to the heat.

Seasonal temperatures also paint a picture of a planet that didn’t get a break. Spring, summer and fall were all record-setting hot. Last winter was the only season not to set a record, and even that was still the sixth-warmest winter.

JMA is one of the four major groups that use both ground measurements and satellites to compute the planet’s average temperature. The other three include NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in the U.S. and the Hadley Center in the U.K. There are subtle differences in how they analyze temperature data, but there’s generally broad agreement, particularly the upward trend in temperatures over the past century.

The other groups are expected to release their data in the coming weeks and confirm that 2014 was indeed the hottest year on record. And some scientists think it could get even hotter sooner. Strong trade winds in the Pacific have likely had a dampening effect on the global average temperature by essentially allowing the ocean to store more heat, but those winds are expected to weaken in the near future as part of a natural fluctuation.

This article is reproduced with permission from Climate Central. The article was first published on January 5, 2015.