Las Vegas, NV
May 20, 2020
Garrison Keillor hits Las Vegas with a new solo show!
April 18, 2020
Garrison Keillor comes to the Rochester Civic Theatre for a night of stories, songs, poetry, and humor. Tickets $50 and up
February 19, 2020
Garrison Keillor with Heather Masse at the Dakota. Night 2 of 2. Tickets $30+
February 18, 2020
Garrison Keillor with Heather Masse at the Dakota. Night 1 of 2. Tickets $30+
To Virgins, to Make Much of Time
by Robert Herrick
Gather ye rosebuds while ye may,
Old time is still a-flying;
And this same flower that smiles today
Tomorrow will be dying.
The glorious lamp of heaven, the sun,
The higher he’s a-getting,
The sooner will his race be run,
And nearer he’s to setting.
That age is best which is the first,
When youth and blood are warmer;
But being spent, the worse, and worst
Times still succeed the former.
Then be not coy, but use your time,
And while ye may, go marry;
For, having lost but once your prime,
You may forever tarry.
“To Virgins, to Make Much of Time” by Robert Herrick. Public domain. (buy now)
It was on this day in 2000 that rival scientific teams completed the first rough map of the human genome. Scientists had discovered the structure of DNA back in 1953, but it took the Human Genome Project to begin to pin down exactly how human DNA makes us who we are. Every cell in the human body contains 23 pairs of chromosomes, and each chromosome is a bundle of DNA. If all of the DNA, bundled up inside every single cell in our bodies, were unfurled and strung out in a single strand, it would be about six feet long. Those six feet of DNA contain the instructions for the creation of all the physical aspects of our human bodies: everything from our blood to organs, our brain, our eye color, our fingers and toes, and so forth.
The question scientists wanted to answer was how those instructions give rise to people and why the instructions sometimes make mistakes. The Human Genome Project began in October of 1990, and it was estimated that it would take 15 years and about $3 billion. But because a private company got involved, the map was finished five years ahead of schedule.
Something we learned from the Human Genome Project is that the entire 7.5 billion-member human species goes back 7,000 generations to an original population of about 60,000 people. Our species has only a modest amount of genetic variation — the DNA of any two humans is 99.9 percent identical.
On this day in 1974, the first Universal Product Code was scanned at a supermarket cash register. The UPC bar code system was originally invented specifically for grocery stores, to speed check-out and help them keep better track of their inventory, but it proved so successful that it spread quickly to other retailers. The first patent for a bar code went to N. Joseph Woodland and Bernard Silver in 1952. They didn’t do anything with it for 20 years, because the scanning technology didn’t exist yet. By 1972, Woodland was working for IBM, and it was there that the bar code design was perfected and the prototype scanner was built in 1973. The IBM 3660 included a digital cash register and checkout scanner, and the grocery industry, which had been collaborating with IBM on the invention, began requiring its suppliers to start putting bar codes on their packaging.
The first scan was made at a Marsh’s Supermarket in Troy, Ohio, which had agreed to serve as a test facility for the new technology, and the first item scanned was a pack of Wrigley’s Juicy Fruit Gum. There’s no significance to gum being the first item scanned; it just happened to be the first thing pulled from the cart. That pack of gum is on display at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C.
It’s the birthday of Pearl S. Buck (books by this author), born Pearl Comfort Sydenstricker in Hillsboro, West Virginia (1892). Her parents were Presbyterian missionaries to China. The family was visiting the United States for a few months’ furlough, and when Pearl was three months old, they returned to Zhenjiang in eastern China, where Pearl grew up. She learned to speak Chinese even before she spoke English, and didn’t really comprehend that she was a foreigner until she was about eight and the family fled to Shanghai because of the Boxer Uprising. She went to a boarding school in Shanghai when she was 15, and then to Randolph-Macon Woman’s College in Virginia, where she studied psychology. She returned to China after graduation, to teach and to care for her ailing mother.
She married John Lossing Buck, an agricultural economist and missionary, in 1917. In 1920, they had a daughter, Carol, who was profoundly developmentally disabled, and in 1925 they adopted another little girl, Janice. In March 1927, the family was caught up in the “Nanking Incident” [different from the Nanking Massacre] when Communist forces captured the city where they were living. They hid in a shack in a neighbor’s yard while their home was ransacked and most of their belongings, including her novel-in-progress, were destroyed. Buck wrote about it in her memoir, My Several Worlds (1954): “There is something to be said for losing one’s possessions, after nothing can be done about it. I had loved my Nanking home and the little treasures it had contained, the lovely garden I had made, my life with friends and students. Well, that was over. I had nothing at all now except the old clothes I stood in. I should have felt sad, and I was quite shocked to realize that I did not feel sad at all. On the contrary, I had a lively sense of adventure merely at being alive and free, even of possessions.” The Bucks remained in China until 1934; in 1935, they divorced after 18 mostly unhappy years of marriage. Pearl bought a farmhouse in Pennsylvania and married her publisher, Richard Walsh, later that year; the couple adopted six more children.
Buck began publishing her stories in magazines like The Nation and Atlantic Monthly in the 1920s. Her first novel, East Wind, West Wind, was published in 1930, and her second, The Good Earth, followed in 1931. The Good Earth was the best-selling book of 1931 and 1932; it won the Pulitzer and the Howell Medal, and was made into a movie by MGM in 1937. She wrote two sequels to this, her best-known work: Sons (1933) and A House Divided (1935). The trilogy was published as a single volume, The House of Earth, in 1935. She was at work on a fourth book in the series when she died in 1973.
She was active in so many social causes, including civil rights and women’s rights, that the FBI kept a file on her for years. James Michener said of her: “She was a spokesman on all sorts of issues: freedom of the press, freedom of religion, the adoptability of disadvantaged children, the future of China, especially the battle for women’s rights, for education. If you followed in her trail, as I did, you were put in touch with almost every major movement in the United States — intellectual, social, and political.”
She was featured on the radio program This I Believe in 1951, and she said: “Like Confucius of old, I am absorbed in the wonder of earth, and the life upon it, and I cannot think of heaven and the angels. I have enough for this life. If there is no other life, than this one has been enough to make it worth being born, myself a human being. With so profound a faith in the human heart and its power to grow toward the light, I find here reason and cause enough for hope and confidence in the future of mankind.”
Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®