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Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day - 22 hours 13 min ago

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for August 29, 2016 is:

rarefied • \RAIR-uh-fyde\  • adjective

1 : being less dense

2 : of, relating to, or interesting to a select group : esoteric

3 : very high


Cartography is one of those rarefied fields at which only a select few can actually earn a living.

"He was known for photographing the most rarefied parties and galas but never partaking of even an hors d'oeuvre or sip of champagne." — Robin Givhan, The Washington Post, 27 June 2016

Did you know?

Rarefied was formed from the verb rarefy, which derives from a combination of the Latin rarus ("thin" or "rare") with facere ("to make") and has meant "to make thin" since the 14th century. In its original uses back in the 1500s, the adjective rarefied was on the lean side too; it meant "made less dense" (as in "the fog lifted and we could breathe more easily in the rarefied air"). By the 17th century, rarefy had gained the sense "to refine or purify," and over time rarefied followed suit.

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August 29, 2005: Hurricane Katrina slams into Gulf Coast

This Day in History - Sun, 08/28/2016 - 11:00pm

Hurricane Katrina makes landfall near New Orleans, Louisiana, as a Category 4 hurricane on this day in 2005. Despite being only the third most powerful storm of the 2005 hurricane season, Katrina was the worst natural disaster in the history of the United States. After briefly coming ashore in southern Florida on August 25 as a Category 1 hurricane, Katrina gained strength before slamming into the Gulf Coast on August 29. In addition to bringing devastation to the New Orleans area, the hurricane caused damage along the coasts of Mississippi and Alabama, as well as other parts of Louisiana.

New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin ordered a mandatory evacuation of the city on August 28, when Katrina briefly achieved Category 5 status and the National Weather Service predicted “devastating” damage to the area. But an estimated 150,000 people, who either did not want to or did not have the resources to leave, ignored the order and stayed behind. The storm brought sustained winds of 145 miles per hour, which cut power lines and destroyed homes, even turning cars into projectile missiles. Katrina caused record storm surges all along the Mississippi Gulf Coast. The surges overwhelmed the levees that protected New Orleans, located at six feet below sea level, from Lake Pontchartrain and the Mississippi River. Soon, 80 percent of the city was flooded up to the rooftops of many homes and small buildings.

Tens of thousands of people sought shelter in the New Orleans Convention Center and the Louisiana Superdome. The situation in both places quickly deteriorated, as food and water ran low and conditions became unsanitary. Frustration mounted as it took up to two days for a full-scale relief effort to begin. In the meantime, the stranded residents suffered from heat, hunger, and a lack of medical care. Reports of looting, rape, and even murder began to surface. As news networks broadcast scenes from the devastated city to the world, it became obvious that a vast majority of the victims were African-American and poor, leading to difficult questions among the public about the state of racial equality in the United States. The federal government and President George W. Bush were roundly criticized for what was perceived as their slow response to the disaster. The head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), Michael Brown, resigned amid the ensuing controversy.

Finally, on September 1, the tens of thousands of people staying in the damaged Superdome and Convention Center begin to be moved to the Astrodome in Houston, Texas, and another mandatory evacuation order was issued for the city. The next day, military convoys arrived with supplies and the National Guard was brought in to bring a halt to lawlessness. Efforts began to collect and identify corpses. On September 6, eight days after the hurricane, the Army Corps of Engineers finally completed temporary repairs to the three major holes in New Orleans’ levee system and were able to begin pumping water out of the city.

In all, it is believed that the hurricane caused more than 1,300 deaths and up to $150 billion in damages to both private property and public infrastructure. It is estimated that only about $40 billion of that number will be covered by insurance. One million people were displaced by the disaster, a phenomenon unseen in the United States since the Great Depression. Four hundred thousand people lost their jobs as a result of the disaster. Offers of international aid poured in from around the world, even from poor countries like Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. Private donations from U.S. citizens alone approached $600 million.

The storm also set off 36 tornadoes in Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Pennsylvania, and Virginia, resulting in one death.

President Bush declared September 16 a national day of remembrance for the victims of Hurricane Katrina.

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Frank Zappa

Quotes of the Day - Sun, 08/28/2016 - 7:00pm
"I think it is good that books still exist, but they do make me sleepy."
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Edmund Burke

Quotes of the Day - Sun, 08/28/2016 - 7:00pm
"Never despair; but if you do, work on in despair."
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Eleanor Roosevelt

Quotes of the Day - Sun, 08/28/2016 - 7:00pm
"I think that somehow, we learn who we really are and then live with that decision."
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Will Rogers

Quotes of the Day - Sun, 08/28/2016 - 7:00pm
"An ignorant person is one who doesn't know what you have just found out."
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Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day - Sun, 08/28/2016 - 12:00am

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for August 28, 2016 is:

embellish • \im-BELL-ish\  • verb

1 : to make beautiful with ornamentation : decorate

2 : to heighten the attractiveness of by adding decorative or fanciful details : enhance


Kevin later admitted that he may have embellished the truth about the size of the dog that chased him out of the yard.

"On Snapchat, where users embellish their selfies with emoji, crayon scribbles, and elaborate 'lenses' that cover their faces with virtual masks, marketers like McDonalds are seizing the opportunity to write their messages across people’s faces." — Amanda Hess, The New York Times, 20 June 2016

Did you know?

Like its synonyms adorn, ornament, and garnish, embellish means to make something beautiful by the addition of a decorative or fanciful feature. Traditionally, the word is used specifically to stress the addition of superfluous or adventitious ornament, as in "The printer embellished the page with a floral border." Embellish differs from its synonyms, however, in that it is sometimes used in a euphemistic way to refer to the inclusion of details that are not necessarily true to make a story sound more appealing. The word derives via Middle English from the Anglo-French verb embelir, from en- and bel ("beautiful").

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August 28, 1996: Charles and Diana divorce

This Day in History - Sat, 08/27/2016 - 11:00pm

After four years of separation, Charles, Prince of Wales and heir to the British throne, and his wife, Princess Diana, formally divorce.

On July 29, 1981, nearly one billion television viewers in 74 countries tuned in to witness the marriage of Prince Charles, heir to the British throne, to Lady Diana Spencer, a young English schoolteacher. Married in a grand ceremony at St. Paul’s Cathedral in the presence of 2,650 guests, the couple’s romance was, for the moment, the envy of the world. Their first child, Prince William, was born in 1982, and their second, Prince Harry, in 1984.

Before long, however, the fairy tale couple grew apart, an experience that was particularly painful under the ubiquitous eyes of the world’s tabloid media. Diana and Charles announced a separation in 1992, though they continued to carry out their royal duties. In August 1996, two months after Queen Elizabeth II urged the couple to divorce, the prince and princess reached a final agreement. In exchange for a generous settlement, and the right to retain her apartments at Kensington Palace and her title of “Princess of Wales,” Diana agreed to relinquish the title of “Her Royal Highness” and any future claims to the British throne.

In the year following the divorce, the popular princess seemed well on her way to achieving her dream of becoming “a queen in people’s hearts,” but on August 31, 1997, she was killed with her companion Dodi Fayed in a car accident in Paris. An investigation conducted by the French police concluded that the driver, who also died in the crash, was heavily intoxicated and caused the accident while trying to escape the paparazzi photographers who consistently tailed Diana during any public outing.

Prince Charles married his longtime mistress, Camilla Parker Bowles, on April 9, 2005.

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Randy K. Milholland

Quotes of the Day - Sat, 08/27/2016 - 7:00pm
"Lies are like children. If you don't nurture them, they'll never be useful later."
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Mario Andretti

Quotes of the Day - Sat, 08/27/2016 - 7:00pm
"If everything seems under control, you're not going fast enough"
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Samuel Goldwyn

Quotes of the Day - Sat, 08/27/2016 - 7:00pm
"You've got to take the bitter with the sour."
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Ted Morgan

Quotes of the Day - Sat, 08/27/2016 - 7:00pm
"Howard Hughes was able to afford the luxury of madness, like a man who not only thinks he is Napoleon but hires an army to prove it."
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Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day - Sat, 08/27/2016 - 12:00am

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for August 27, 2016 is:

plinth • \PLINTH\  • noun

1 : the lowest part of the base of an architectural column

2 : a usually square block serving as a base; broadly : any of various bases or lower parts

3 : a course of stones forming a continuous foundation or base course


An empty plinth remains where the statue of the toppled dictator once commanded.

"Fabio Mauri (1926-2009) grew up in Mussolini-era Italy and his art consistently examines the ways in which the traumas of war and fascism are assimilated by history. For the most part it's the simpler works that resonate—such as a lone artillery shell on a plinth." — Time Out, 26 Jan. 2016

Did you know?

"These ivy-clad arcades — / These mouldering plinths ... are they all — / All of the famed, and the colossal left…?" In these lines from "The Coliseum," Edgar Allan Poe alludes to a practical feature of classical architecture. The plinth serves the important purpose of raising the base of the column it supports above the ground, thus protecting it from dampness and mold. The humble plinth is usually a mere thick block. It's humbly named, too, for the Greek word plinthos means simply "tile" or "brick." English writers have used plinth, a shortened version of the Latin form plinthus, since the mid-16th century. The word's meaning was later extended to bases for statues, vases, or busts.

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August 27, 1883: Krakatau explodes

This Day in History - Fri, 08/26/2016 - 11:00pm

The most powerful volcanic eruption in recorded history occurs on Krakatau (also called Krakatoa), a small, uninhabited volcanic island located west of Sumatra in Indonesia, on this day in 1883. Heard 3,000 miles away, the explosions threw five cubic miles of earth 50 miles into the air, created 120-foot tsunamis and killed 36,000 people.

Krakatau exhibited its first stirrings in more than 200 years on May 20, 1883. A German warship passing by reported a seven-mile high cloud of ash and dust over Krakatau. For the next two months, similar explosions would be witnessed by commercial liners and natives on nearby Java and Sumatra. With little to no idea of the impending catastrophe, the local inhabitants greeted the volcanic activity with festive excitement.

On August 26 and August 27, excitement turned to horror as Krakatau literally blew itself apart, setting off a chain of natural disasters that would be felt around the world for years to come. An enormous blast on the afternoon of August 26 destroyed the northern two-thirds of the island; as it plunged into the Sunda Strait, between the Java Sea and Indian Ocean, the gushing mountain generated a series of pyroclastic flows (fast-moving fluid bodies of molten gas, ash and rock) and monstrous tsunamis that swept over nearby coastlines. Four more eruptions beginning at 5:30 a.m. the following day proved cataclysmic. The explosions could be heard as far as 3,000 miles away, and ash was propelled to a height of 50 miles. Fine dust from the explosion drifted around the earth, causing spectacular sunsets and forming an atmospheric veil that lowered temperatures worldwide by several degrees.

Of the estimated 36,000 deaths resulting from the eruption, at least 31,000 were caused by the tsunamis created when much of the island fell into the water. The greatest of these waves measured 120 feet high, and washed over nearby islands, stripping away vegetation and carrying people out to sea. Another 4,500 people were scorched to death from the pyroclastic flows that rolled over the sea, stretching as far as 40 miles, according to some sources.

In addition to Krakatau, which is still active, Indonesia has another 130 active volcanoes, the most of any country in the world.

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Friedrich Nietzsche

Quotes of the Day - Fri, 08/26/2016 - 7:00pm
"The most perfidious way of harming a cause consists of defending it deliberately with faulty arguments."
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Sydney Smith

Quotes of the Day - Fri, 08/26/2016 - 7:00pm
"You must not think me necessarily foolish because I am facetious, nor will I consider you necessarily wise because you are grave."
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George Bernard Shaw

Quotes of the Day - Fri, 08/26/2016 - 7:00pm
"When a stupid man is doing something he is ashamed of, he always declares that it is his duty."
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Quotes of the Day - Fri, 08/26/2016 - 7:00pm
"I have not lost my mind - it's backed up on disk somewhere."
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Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day - Fri, 08/26/2016 - 12:00am

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for August 26, 2016 is:

guttural • \GUTT-uh-rul\  • adjective

1 : articulated in the throat

2 : velar

3 : being or marked by utterance that is strange, unpleasant, or disagreeable


The only response we could get from him was an inarticulate guttural grunt.

"The guttural yells echoing off New Jersey's Lake Mercer conveyed the gravity of college rowing's biggest day Sunday: the Intercollegiate Rowing Championship." — Brian Towey, The Seattle Times, 6 June 2016

Did you know?

Though it is now used to describe many sounds or utterances which strike the listener as harsh or disagreeable, the adjective guttural was originally applied only to sounds and utterances produced in the throat. This is reflected in the word's Latin root—guttur, meaning "throat." Despite the similarity in sound, guttural is not related to the English word gutter, which comes (by way of Anglo-French) from Latin gutta, meaning "drop."

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August 26, 1939: First televised Major League baseball game

This Day in History - Thu, 08/25/2016 - 11:00pm

On this day in 1939, the first televised Major League baseball game is broadcast on station W2XBS, the station that was to become WNBC-TV. Announcer Red Barber called the game between the Cincinnati Reds and the Brooklyn Dodgers at Ebbets Field in Brooklyn, New York.

At the time, television was still in its infancy. Regular programming did not yet exist, and very few people owned television sets–there were only about 400 in the New York area. Not until 1946 did regular network broadcasting catch on in the United States, and only in the mid-1950s did television sets become more common in the American household.

In 1939, the World’s Fair–which was being held in New York–became the catalyst for the historic broadcast. The television was one of fair’s prize exhibits, and organizers believed that the Dodgers-Reds doubleheader on August 26 was the perfect event to showcase America’s grasp on the new technology.

By today’s standards, the video coverage was somewhat crude. There were only two stationary camera angles: The first was placed down the third base line to pick up infield throws to first, and the second was placed high above home plate to get an extensive view of the field. It was also difficult to capture fast-moving plays: Swinging bats looked like paper fans, and the ball was all but invisible during pitches and hits.

Nevertheless, the experiment was a success, driving interest in the development of television technology, particularly for sporting events. Though baseball owners were initially concerned that televising baseball would sap actual attendance, they soon warmed to the idea, and the possibilities for revenue generation that came with increased exposure of the game, including the sale of rights to air certain teams or games and television advertising.

Today, televised sports is a multi-billion dollar industry, with technology that gives viewers an astounding amount of visual and audio detail. Cameras are now so precise that they can capture the way a ball changes shape when struck by a bat, and athletes are wired to pick up field-level and sideline conversation.

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