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Saturday, April 30, 2022


By David Patrikarakos, war corresponded for UnHerd, an online magazine based in the UK. 

The following are Twitter excerpts between David Patrikarakos and DIMA, a Ukrainian military commander. 

“All violence is, in the end, a failure of words. Russia has run out of words and so it can only attack Ukraine.” 


 “Our greatest ally in this war is #Russia corruption & the nature of its army. The soldier in the field briefs his officer: ‘it’s not good but we’re holding’; next guy reports up: ‘we’re holding’; the next guy: ‘it’s going well! This is why Putin doesn’t know how bad things are.” 


 “It’s like WWII but with modern technology. 2014 (when the Russians took Crimea] was a playground compared to this.” 


DP arrived in Dnipro to begin covering the battle for in eastern #Ukraine. Dima has been fighting since early March

 “I didn’t believe the war would happen bc an invasion needs at least 2-1 numerical superiority. I looked on the borders at the army there & it was clear they didn’t have it. This is crazy. Sometimes you play poker with a bad hand. #Russia is playing without any cards at all.” 


“What has shocked me is the callousness of #Russia soldiers to their own men.” [He shows DP a photo taken from a drone of soldiers eating lunch in a ruined house near several bodies lying in the dirt.]  “They’re eating 20 meters from the decomposing bodies of their comrades.” 

 "They just drop the bodies of their friends into trenches. Sometimes they don’t even bother to cover them We found a grave of 15 bodies a while back. They’d thrown bit of dirt on them but that was it. They don't even respect to the lives of their own comrades. Incredible." 


“Their tactics are insane. Chernobaivka has a small military airport. 17 times they've tried to take it. 17 times we've smashed them. Still they come. Our soldiers ask: "Are they dumb?" No, just incapable of independent thought. They just follow orders – no matter how crazy." 


"Chechen soldiers? Ha! We call them TikTok soldiers. They're always filming. We found one who was wounded and trying not to fight but instead take a selfie." 

"Their job is not to fight but to shoot Russian boy conscripts who don't want to fight. It's Soviet tactics. 


"I want to say one thing: @elonmusk's Starlink is what changed the war in #Ukraine's favour. #Russia went out of its way to blow up all our comms. Now they can't. Starlink works under Katyusha fire, under artillery fire. It even works in Mariupol." 


 NLAW anti-tank weapon

"The NLAWs are the best: easy to use, lock, load and move; without them we wouldn’t be taking out so many Russian tanks. On the subject of tanks: We’ve captured more than 100 enemy tanks. We have a joke in the #ukraine army: our biggest weapons supplier is Russia." 


“They use Soviet military tactics, which were out of date 30 years ago. But we study Afghanistan, & Israel. Things have changed! #Russia tries to press with Mass. Our strategy is simple: to destroy as much as possible.” 


"I know you British have a complicated relationship with your prime minister but here @BorisJohnson has become something of a national hero. We knew from the beginning that Britain was a very ancient and important nation – and it is a country that stands by its word." 


David Patrikarakos is a Contributing Editor at UnHerd. His latest book is "War in 140 characters: how social media is reshaping conflict in the 21st century."(Hachette) @dpatrikarakos 


Friday, April 29, 2022


Nala and Dean Nicholson cycle through Hungary

This sloe-eyed cutie is one of the most famous cats on the internet. Currently the Guinness World Record Holder for the most followers for a cat on Instagram, the Siamese/tabby mix has over 4 million fans and her own range of merchandise to boot. It wasn’t always plain sailing for Nala though – before she was one of the best loved cats in the world, she was a sickly shelter cat. With the right medicine and a little care by owner Scotsman Dean Nicholson, Nala grew up to be a healthy and lovable cat and is now cherished by millions. 

 If you wish to keep tabby of the pair’s globetrotting escapades, follow @1bike1world on Facebook and Instagram.

Thursday, April 28, 2022


Here’s a sample of Culinary Backstreets fare: “…At Yek Boçik, a cozy, four-table restaurant in southeast Turkey's Diyarbakir, owner Serdil Demir is creating one of the world's most improbable tacos, a mashup of Mexican and Kurdish flavors starring slow-cooked oxtail…” 


Here’s its story. 


We got our start in 2009, reporting from a borderless urban zone we like to think of as the “Culinary Backstreets” because we believed that there were countless stories of a city’s foodways that needed to be told. We wanted to focus on a more traditional side of urban culinary life – the workings of simple family-run restaurants, the masters passing their craft on to an apprentice, the banter of regulars gathered around an open table, the rhythm of a life committed to meatballs and nothing else. We were enthralled by all of the tiny epics we encountered while eating our way through the city and set out to share as many of them as we could. 

From the start, we vowed to go slow and collect these stories one by one, giving equal measure to the culinary side as the human element of the story. This way, we expected a deeper understanding of the city and its daily life to emerge with every bite. For us, it’s never just about the best meatball in town; it’s always about all of the meatballs. We tell the stories of our subjects – unsung heroes who are sometimes forgotten or taken for granted at home – through weekly restaurant reviews published on CB, culinary walking tours, books, web design and smartphone applications. When we see the need, CB also acts as a fundraiser for causes connected to protecting and promoting traditional culinary culture. 


By publishing the stories of our local heroes, visiting them on culinary tours, or directly fundraising for them when they are in need, we attempt to honor their work and their essential role in maintaining the fabric of the city. Our purpose is twofold. Yes, we want to get travelers to some good places to eat. But we also want to make sure that some of these spots and the artisans making food there find a new audience and get the recognition and support they deserve. 

They are holding back the tide of globalized sameness, which is not easy work – even if it’s done unknowingly. But we believe that every meal counts and, with the help of our audience, they will add up. We are committed to their perseverance and hope that our modest efforts encourage them to keep at it. Our work is also guided by a belief in Honest Tourism: The places where we eat and craftsmen that we feature on our culinary tours are all selected with this purpose in mind. We’d never accept a free lunch or consider a discount for our tour groups, because that would contradict our central goal, to support them. 

Nor do our guides receive any commissions from shopkeepers. Honest Journalism: The same principle is applied to the publishing of stories. There are no sponsored posts or even advertising on CB. The writers and photographers are paid fairly for their work on stories that we all believe in. 


The cities we are drawn to all have a culinary tradition of untold richness as well as a certain tension, be it political instability, the tug between East and West, the clash between modern and ancient identities, migration, rapid gentrification, bankruptcy, or a post-colonial hangover. 

Our decision to get started in a city is always the result of a trip filled with many meals where we are given an intimate view of that tension, right there on the table. By getting lost in this warren of independent food purveyors struggling to preserve or adapt tradition in fast-paced urban life, we start to discover the deep complexity and true flavor of the city. At present, you’ll find our regular dispatches from Athens, Barcelona, Istanbul, Lisbon, Los Angeles, Marseille, Mexico City, Naples, Porto, Queens (NY), Shanghai, Tbilisi and Tokyo. 


Helping those unsung culinary heroes persevere requires first and foremost the telling of their stories. All of us working with Culinary Backstreets are storytellers in our own medium – writers, tour guides, photographers, coders and web developers. All of us work independently or as freelancers. That is the CB culture and we strive to create a refuge of independence in media and tourism, even if it’s a small one. Co-founders: Yigal Schleifer and Ansel Mullins. 


CB’s work was started in 2009 by Ansel Mullins and Yigal Schleifer as a humble food blog called Istanbul Eats. The following year we published a book of our reviews, now in its fifth edition. 

That year we also launched our first culinary walk in Istanbul, a route we are still using today. In 2012, we realized that what we built in Istanbul was needed in other cities we knew and loved. We started CB that year with Athens, Barcelona, Mexico City and Shanghai as pioneering members of our network. In 2013, we added Rio and also launched our iPhone application in Istanbul. In 2015, Tokyo and Tbilisi came into the fold. That year we published mini-guides to Barcelona and Athens and also launched an iPhone application in those cities. 

 Our Eatinerary service, which provides travelers with tailor-made culinary travel itineraries, was also launched in 2015. In 2016, Lisbon – the latest city to kindle our curiosity – joined the CB network. In 2017 we added Naples and Queens, NY – two places with very compelling stories to tell – to our roster and also published full-size eating guides to Athens and Barcelona. In 2018, Porto joined the list of cities we cover. 

Wednesday, April 27, 2022


Because skyscrapers are banned in the District of Columbia, and the Amazon buildings will be among the tallest in nearby Virginia’s Arlington County, from some vantage points the helix will dominate the region’s skyline like no building other than the Washington Monument.

GUEST BLOG /By Matthew Barakat, The Associated Press
—This artist rendering (above) provided by Amazon shows the next phase of the company's headquarters redevelopment to be built in Arlington, Va. 

The Arlington county Board gave approval Saturday to Amazon's plans to build a unique, helix-shaped tower as the centerpiece of its emerging second headquarters in northern Virginia. The helix is one of several office towers granted approval, but the helix stands out. 

The spiral design (by Seattle-based architectural firm NBBJ) features a walkable ramp wrapping around the building with trees and greenery planted to resemble a mountain hike. Amazon has said the building is designed to help people connect to nature, and the outdoor mountain climb will be open to the public on weekends. 

Since then, the plans have gone through the famously thorough review process of Arlington County, including numerous public hearings. Earlier this month, the county planning commission voted 9-0 to support the project. On Saturday, the County Board voted 5-0 to approve the plans. 

They also include park space and will accommodate a community high school, along with ground-level retail. Amazon has said it hopes to complete the project in 2025. 

Tuesday, April 26, 2022


After the SLS rocket upper stage engine fires to put Orion on course for the Moon, Orion will use a combination of propulsion from the service module and a flyby of the Moon for a gravity assist to push toward distant retrograde orbit (DRO). To exit DRO, Orion will again rely on a combination of propulsive burns and a return flyby to bring Orion back to Earth. 

GUEST BLOG / By Laura Rochon, Johnson Space Center--Paving the way for missions with astronauts, NASA’s Orion spacecraft will journey thousands of miles beyond the Moon during Artemis I to evaluate the spacecraft’s capabilities in what is called a Distant Retrograde Orbit (DRO). 

DRO provides a highly stable orbit where little fuel is required to stay for an extended trip in deep space to put Orion’s systems to the test in an environment far from Earth. 

“Artemis I is a true stress test of the Orion spacecraft in the deep space environment,” said Mike Sarafin, Artemis Mission Manager. “Without crew aboard the first mission, DRO allows Orion to spend more time in deep space for a rigorous mission to ensure spacecraft systems, like guidance, navigation, communication, power, thermal control and others are ready to keep astronauts safe on future crewed missions.” 

The orbit is "distant" in the sense that it’s at a high altitude from the surface of the Moon, and it’s “retrograde” because Orion will travel around the Moon opposite the direction the Moon travels around Earth. Orion will travel about 240,000 miles from Earth to the Moon, then about 40,000 miles beyond the Moon at its farthest point while flying in DRO. 

DRO is highly stable because of its interactions with two points of the planet-moon system where objects tend to stay put, balanced between the gravitational pull of two large masses – in this case the Earth and Moon – which allows a spacecraft to reduce fuel consumption and remain in position while traveling around the Moon. 

After the spacecraft gets its big push toward the Moon from the SLS rocket’s upper stage engine, Orion’s service module, built by ESA (European Space Agency), will provide the propulsion to get to DRO. Using the DRO for Artemis I requires the use of four major targeting navigational burns – two close and two far away from the Moon – to enter and exit the orbit. 

Orion will fly to its closest lunar approach about 60 miles above the surface of the Moon, then rely on the Moon’s gravitational force together with a propulsive burn – known as the outbound powered flyby – to direct the spacecraft toward DRO where Orion performs a second propulsive burn to enter DRO and stabilize in the orbit.

“Orion will spend about 6 to 19 days in DRO to collect data and allow mission controllers to assess the performance of the spacecraft,” said Nujoud Merancy, chief of the Exploration Mission Planning Office at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston. “The exact duration of Orion’s stay in DRO is determined by when it launches due to orbital mechanics.” 

For its return trip to Earth, Orion will perform a departure burn from DRO to direct itself to another close flyby within about 60 miles of the Moon’s surface. Another engine burn by the service module, known as the return powered flyby burn, and gravity assist from the Moon itself will slingshot Orion on a trajectory back home where the Earth will accelerate Orion to a speed of about 25,000 mph. 

This incredible speed will produce temperatures of approximately 5,000 degrees Fahrenheit – or about half the surface of the Sun – on the crew module during atmospheric entry, providing an opportunity to demonstrate Orion’s heat shield and parachute-assisted splashdown in the Pacific Ocean. 

NASA first studied the DRO to support the proposed Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM) which paralleled early SLS and Orion development. The plan for ARM was to capture a near Earth asteroid and redirect it to a lunar DRO. Because of the stability of the orbit, the asteroid could stay there for hundreds of years for research purposes without the need to use propulsion to maintain its orbit. 

“NASA’s knowledge of DRO evolved out of many prior human spaceflight architecture studies,” said Merancy. “As a result of studies for ARM, NASA’s mission planners developed a strong knowledge base of the orbit and determined DRO could meet the objectives for Artemis I, so mission planners opted to capitalize on the studies and knowledge of it as a mission destination.” 

With Artemis, NASA will land the first woman and the first person of color on the Moon and establish long-term exploration in preparation for missions to Mars. SLS and Orion, along with the commercial human landing system and the Gateway that will orbit the Moon, are NASA’s backbone for deep space exploration. 


The Artemis program is a human spaceflight program that is being led by NASA with multiple international and US domestic partners. The primary goal of Artemis is to return humans to the Moon, specifically the lunar south pole, by 2025.If successful, it will include the first crewed lunar landing mission since Apollo 17 in 1972, which was the final lunar flight of the Apollo program. The Artemis program began in December 2017 as part of successive efforts to revitalize the U.S. space program. NASA's stated short-term goal for the program is landing the first woman and first person of color on the Moon; mid-term objectives include establishing an international expedition team, and a sustainable human presence on the Moon. Long-term objectives for Artemis are laying the foundations for the extraction of lunar resources, and eventually making crewed missions to Mars and beyond feasible. 



NASA's Orion spacecraft is built to take humans farther than they've ever gone before. Orion will serve as the exploration vehicle that will carry the crew to space, provide emergency abort capability, sustain the crew during the space travel, and provide safe re-entry from deep space return velocities.

Monday, April 25, 2022


Photo: Megan Wood, inewsource,com 

GUEST BLOG / By Camille von Kaenel, Investigative Reporter, 


Sunday, April 24, 2022


This powerful, instantly recognizable picture is smaller, yet nearly identical to the 21-foot-wide work of art of the same name and by the same artist at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.
We’ve all seen the iconic painting “Washington Crossing the Deleware” by Emanuel Leutze, but many of us didn’t know the German-American artist painted more than one version of General George Washington's attack on the Hessians at Trenton on December 25, 1776. 

Recently, a smaller [privately held] version is set to be auctioned off by Christie’s in New York for an estimated $15 million (plus) next month. 

For a detailed article on at least three versions of the painting by the same artist CLICK HERE

Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York version.

Emanuel Leutze

Saturday, April 23, 2022


A vertical living wall of plants, along with tufted-leather sofas and a skylight ceiling, introduces vintage (yet timeless) charm into Devocion’s café in Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn, New York. 

ack in 2018 Architectural Digest magazine published a compendium of coffee houses, one from each state, which according to coffee scribes came off as creative, informative and a great resource for wannabe coffee house impresarios. Here’s a couple of examples of creative coffee house design worthy of reposting whether or not they still exist (post pandemic). 

GUEST BLOG / By Kristine Hansen, via Architectural Digest--A coffee shop's design often reflects its neighborhood, whether it’s the quaint Paris-like charm in Savannah, Georgia, or the artsy grit of Miami’s Wynwood or the champion of cozy in Philadelphia or the repurposed design of urban neighborhoods like Williamsburg, Brooklyn, NY.

For the entire roster CLICK HERE. 

The interior at Philadelphia’s 1 Shot Coffee, behind a red-brick exterior and pine-striped awning, looks old—in a good way, kind of like you’re hanging out in a friend’s living room—with book-lined shelves, Edison-bulb chandeliers, emerald-green chair backs, and walls of salvaged wood. 

Friday, April 22, 2022


Larry, the cat lives at Number 10 Downing Street in London with UK Prime minister Boris Johnson.
Photo Reuters by Henry Nicholls

Thursday, April 21, 2022


To get to Aracely Café diners have to get to Treasure Island in the middle of San Francisco Bay either by driving, taking a bus or by boarding a new ferry. 

Aracely is a wonderment. It’s located in the most unlikely of places in the heart of what used to be the land fill for the 1939 Golden Gate International Expo. 

Located on Treasure Island, off the Bay Bridge that runs from San Francisco to Oakland, Aracely Cafe offers a relaxed, welcoming modern space which includes a large patio + garden complete with an outdoor fireplace, lounge seating, string lights, and heatlamps. 

As you enter the small interior, there are options for bar seating, table or fireplace dining. With a focus on local, seasonal, healthy, and delicious options, our menu offers a selection of brunch items five days a week. 

Open eight am to eight pm with dinner served Wednesday-Saturday to take advantage of the romantic atmosphere and views at night. All pastries and bread are made in-house. The bar offers SF and LA’s Sightglass coffee + espresso options, a full bar with a selection of seasonal cocktails, wine, + beer which are available for brunch and dinner. 

Aracely Café hosts a variety of all-inclusive private events including weddings + corporate events, and rent out the conference center next door for tech and conferences utilizing a space that offers a full AV package, 380 person auditorium, lighting, and breakout rooms. 

Treasure Island (an artificial island and former US Navy base) is connected to the natural geological island of Yerba Buena by a landfill causeway. A tunnel bored through the island was created in the late 1930s when the Oakland Bay Bridge was built. On and off ramps allow traffic to segue onto the twin islands. 

The restaurant is worth the adventure of getting there.  Suggest: Wednesdays.


Wednesday, April 20, 2022


Fresh air circulation is vital in new buildings, especially schools and hospitals, if we are to curb future pandemic outbreaks

This invisible Covid-19 mitigation measure is finally getting the attention it deserves. AND IT’S FREE. 

GUEST BLOG / By Amanda Sealy, Reporter, CNN Health--Two-plus years into the Covid-19 pandemic, you probably know the basics of protection: vaccines, boosters, proper handwashing and masks. But one of the most powerful tools against the coronavirus is one that experts believe is just starting to get the attention it deserves: ventilation. 

"The challenge for organizations that improve air quality is that it's invisible," said Joseph Allen, director of the Healthy Buildings Program at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. 

It's true: Other Covid tools are more tangible. But visualizing how the virus might behave in poorly ventilated spaces can help people better understand this mitigation measure. 

Allen likens it to cigarette smoke. "If I'm smoking in the corner of a classroom and you have low ventilation/filtration, that room is going to fill up with smoke, and everyone is breathing that same air." 

He continued: "I could be smoking a cigarette, you could be a couple of feet from me, depending which way the wind was blowing, you may not even know I'm smoking." If you're indoors, you could be breathing in less fresh air than you think. 

"Everybody in a room together is constantly breathing air that just came out of the lungs of other people in that room. And depending on the ventilation rate, it could be as much as 3% or 4% of the air you're breathing just came out of the lungs of other people in that room," Allen said. 

Allen describes this as respiratory backwash. "Normally, that's not a problem, right? We do this all the time. We're always exchanging our respiratory microbiomes with each other. But if someone's sick and infectious all those aerosols can carry the virus. That's a problem." 

 It's airborne. 

"We've known for decades how to keep people safe in buildings from infection, from airborne infectious diseases like this one," Allen said. 

 From the beginning of the pandemic, Allen and other experts have waved red flags, saying that the way we were thinking about transmission of Covid-19 - surfaces, large respiratory droplets - was missing the point. 

"Hand washing and social distancing are appropriate but, in our view, insufficient to provide protection from virus-carrying respiratory microdroplets released into the air by infected people. This problem is especially acute in indoor or enclosed environments, particularly those that are crowded and have inadequate ventilation," hundreds of scientists stated in an open letter in July 2020. 

Eventually, the World Health Organization and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention acknowledged what the experts had been saying all along: that Covid-19 could also spread by small aerosolized particles that can travel more than 6 feet. 

The coronavirus itself is very small - about 0.1 microns - but that doesn't affect how far it can travel. 

"The size of the virus itself doesn't matter because, as we say, the virus is never naked in air. In other words, the virus is always traveling in respiratory particles that develop in our lungs. And those are all different sizes," Allen said. 

Singing or coughing can emit particles as large as 100 microns (almost the width of a human hair), he said, but the virus tends to travel in smaller particles - between 1 and 5 microns. 

The size of these particles affects not only how far it can travel but how deeply we can breathe it into our lungs, and how we should approach protecting ourselves from this virus. 

"When you're talking about an airborne disease, there's the what's right around you, you know, the sort of the people who you know can cough in your face, the 6 feet thing, and then there's the broader indoor air, because indoor air is recirculated," said Max Sherman, a leader on the Epidemic Task Force for the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers. 

Dilute and clean. 

"Outdoors is safer than indoors" has become an accepted mantra with Covid-19. Allen points out that protecting ourselves indoors is where our focus should always be, even beyond the pandemic. 

"We're [an] indoors species. We spend 90% of our time indoors. The air we breathe indoors has a massive impact on our health, whether you think about infectious disease or anything else, but it just has escaped the public consciousness for a long time," he said. Making sure our indoor air is healthy is not that complicated, Sherman said. "You just want to reduce the number of particles that might be carrying Covid or any other nasty [virus]." 

Ventilation and filtration. 

Filtration - just like it sounds - is filtering or cleaning the air, removing the infected particles. But think of ventilation as diluting the air. You're bringing more fresh air in to reduce the concentration of those particles. 

Dilution is exactly why we haven't seen superspreader events outdoors, Allen says. "We have hardly any transmission outdoors. Why is that? Unlimited dilution, because you have unlimited ventilation. And so, even in crowded protests or outdoor sporting events like the Super Bowl, we just don't see superspreading happening. But if we did, we'd have the signal be loud and clear. We just don't see it. It's all indoors in these underperforming, unhealthy spaces." 

Healthy spaces.

Even before the advent of HVAC systems, ventilation was integrated into many building designs. 

The 1901 Tenement Housing Act of New York required every tenement building - a building with multifamily households - to have ventilation, running water and gas light. Builders added ventilation to many of these buildings with a shaft in the middle that runs from the roof to the ground, allowing more airflow. 

"In the late 19th century, people are finally starting to understand how disease spreads. So airshafts and the accompanying ventilation were seen as a solution to the public health crises that were happening in tenement buildings," said Katheryn Lloyd, director of programming at the Tenement Museum. "There were high cases of tuberculosis, diphtheria and other diseases that spread. Now we know that spread sort of through the air." 

Today, we're facing the same challenge. 

"Getting basic ventilation in your home is important, full stop," Sherman said. One of the easiest, cheapest ways to do that is to open your windows. 

Open doors or windows at opposite ends of your home to create cross-ventilation, the Environmental Protection Agency advises. Opening the highest and lowest windows - especially if on different floors - of a home can also increase ventilation. Adding an indoor fan can take it even further. 

"If a single fan is used, it should be facing (and blowing air) in the same direction the air is naturally moving. You can determine the direction the air is naturally moving by observing the movement of drapes or by holding a light fabric or dropping paper clippings and noting which direction they move," the EPA says. 

Just cracking a window can help a lot, Allen says: "Even propping a window open a couple inches to really facilitate higher air changes, especially if you do it in multiple places in the house, so you can create some pressure differentials." 

It's important to note that if you have an HVAC system, it must be running to actually circulate or filter the air. The EPA says that these systems run less than 25% of the time during heating and cooling seasons. 

"Most of the controls these days have a setting where you can run the fan on low all the time. And that's usually the best thing to do because that makes sure you're getting you're pushing air through the filter all the time and mixing the air up in your in your home," Sherman advised. 

This could be something to keep in mind if you're going to have visitors or if someone in the household is at higher risk for severe illness. 

Choose the most efficient filter your HVAC system can handle, and make sure you routinely change the filters. 

Filters have a minimum efficiency reporting value, or MERV, rating that indicates how well they capture small particles. The American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers recommends using at least a MERV-13 filter, which it says is at least 85% efficient at capturing particles from 1 to 3 microns. 

If that's not an option, portable air filters can also work well, but the EPA says to use one that is made for the intended room size and meets at least one of these criteria: Designed as high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) CADR rated. Manufacturer says the device will remove most particles below 1 micron.

Finding a safe space. 

When you walk into a space, there's no good rule of thumb to look around and gauge how well-ventilated it might be, and that can be a challenge when people have been tasked with assessing their own risk. 

Allen suggests starting with the basics: Make sure you're up to date with vaccinations and aware of where Covid-19 numbers stand in your community. But then it gets harder. Even the number of people in a space isn't a giveaway of a higher-risk situation. 

"The more people in there could be higher-risk because you're more likely to have someone who's infectious, but if the ventilation is good, it really doesn't matter." Ventilation standards are based on "an amount of fresh air per person, plus the amount of fresh air per square foot," Allen explained. "So if you have a good system, the more people that enter the room, the more ventilation is brought in to the room."

One tool that can help you assess ventilation in a room is a CO2 monitor, something Allen wishes he saw more in public spaces. He likes to carry a portable one, which you can order online for between $100 and $200. 

"If you see under 1,000 parts per million, generally, you're hitting the ventilation targets that are the design standard. But remember, these are not health-based standards. So we want to see higher ventilation rates." 

Allen prefers to see CO2 at or under 800 parts per million. He also notes that just because a space has low CO2 levels, it might not be unsafe if filtration is high, like on an airplane. 

A gamechanger for schools.

 Atlanta Public Schools Superintendent Lisa Herring says the installation of 5,000 air filtration units - enough for every classroom - in her school district is "a gamechanger." 

The district had begun upgrading HVAC systems in several schools even before the pandemic, but federal funding allowed it to add filtration units during a crucial time when masks have become optional. 

"It gives a greater level of confidence for us as a system to know that our air filtration systems are in place," Herring said. 

School districts all over the country have been jumping at the opportunity for ventilation upgrades made possible by an influx of federal funding. 

An analysis in February by FutureEd, a think tank at Georgetown University's McCourt School of Public Policy, found that public schools had earmarked $4.4 billion for HVAC projects, which could grow to almost $10 billion if trends continued. 

As masks become optional, kids take their health into their own hands.

 New Hampshire's Manchester School District is pouring almost $35 million into upgrading HVAC systems, and interim Superintendent Jennifer Gillis says federal funding is "absolutely key." 

Gillis says, "You think about a district of our size with all the competing demands and the need to be fiscally responsible, a $35 million project, that's a large project to introduce to our budget. Having those funds available to us lets us do 19 projects - and 19 projects in a very short span of time." 

For Gillis, ventilation has been an important mitigation strategy and an unobtrusive way to keep people safe."It's something that most in the building don't think about, but it's a very passive way for us to create safety within the schools. Since the beginning, the goal was always 'let's get our kids in, let's get our staff in, but let's do it in a way that's safe for all of them.' " 

Good ventilation isn't only about keeping students safe from Covid-19, Sherman says. It can also improve their performance in school. 

"They're going to learn better; they're going to be awake more; they're going to be more receptive. They're going to be healthier if they've got good indoor air quality," he said. 

Finally front and center.  

Helping solidify ventilation's role in the Covid-19 battle, the Biden administration announced a Clean Air in Buildings Challenge last month. 

The challenge calls on building operators and owners to improve ventilation by following guidelines laid out by the EPA. 

The main actions include creating a clean indoor air action plan, optimizing fresh air ventilation, enhancing air filtration and cleaning, and engaging the building community by communicating with occupants to increase awareness, commitment and participation. 

The message may seem overdue, but it's one that Allen enthusiastically welcomed. "The White House used its pulpit to say unequivocally that clean air and buildings matter. That's massive. Regardless of what you think about what will happen next with implementation or what happens with the funding. That is a crystal-clear message that is already being heard by businesses, nonprofits, universities and state leaders. I see these changes happening already," Allen concludes.

Tuesday, April 19, 2022

Monday, April 18, 2022



Taxpayers footed the bill for SANDAG staff to enjoy filet mignon, and other upscale dining. 

GUEST BLOG / By Jennifer Bowman, reporter, inewsource--Staff at the San Diego Association of Governments [SANDAG] pulled out their employee credit cards hundreds of times to pay for meals, often at upscale dining spots and with bills topping out at more than $100 per visit, an inewsource review of the regional planning agency’s records reveals. 

A recent internal audit at SANDAG already flagged questionable purchases on the credit cards, including “unallowable” charges at local restaurants. But receipts and transaction logs now show that taxpayer-funded restaurant visits were a regular practice for some of the agency’s highest-paid employees. 


Why this matters. With a $1.13 billion annual budget, the San Diego Association of Governments is a taxpayer-funded planning agency that helps make long-term decisions that impact the entire region. 


Staff dined at places such as Rei Do Gado, Donovan’s steakhouse and the U.S. Grant Hotel restaurant, reporting the meals as business meetings in agency records. While employees ate with fellow staff, they also were joined at times by elected leaders, other government officials, board members, consultants and lobbyists. 

One expert called the transactions a “clear abuse” of public money. “Perception is everything, and image,” said Sean McMorris, transparency, ethics and accountability program manager at government watchdog group California Common Cause. “If you’re viewed as a corrupt agency or an agency that abuses taxpayer funds, then it takes awhile to rebuild your reputation and rebuild trust within the community. “That’s why these situations are so bad.” 

Auditors last month found staff charged nearly $70,000 at local restaurants over a four-year period, and almost $250,000 on non-working days. 

The “vast majority” of expensed meals occurred in San Diego County, meaning they weren’t associated with travel, according to the report. inewsource requested receipts and supporting documents that were reviewed under the audit. Officials were unable to provide a total of charges that were considered improper because documentation to explain purchases was missing. 

SANDAG CEO Hasan Ikhrata

One example that inewsource found: CEO Hasan Ikhrata charged nearly $100 in May 2019 at Little Italy’s Craft and Commerce but failed to submit an itemized receipt. A transaction log reported that he and a staffer attended a dinner meeting with a San Diego Gas & Electric Co. executive. Ikhrata, one of the agency’s most frequent spenders at restaurants, charged $17,000 in meals over roughly two years and mostly at businesses in the county. In some months, Ikhrata had visited restaurants with an agency credit card more than a dozen times.

His out-of-town visits brought some of the most expensive restaurant charges. With four other SANDAG officials, Ikhrata charged more than $700 in September 2019 at the high-profile Occidental Grill in Washington, D.C., including branzino for everyone at the table, appetizers and entrees such as a $52 “feature meat” dish and a nearly $50 filet mignon, among other items. 

The meeting was listed as a business dinner. Ikhrata, whose salary and benefits total more than $580,000, has headed the agency since late 2018. Auditors warned that paying for employee meals creates additional problems, because the IRS considers them to be taxable fringe benefits. 

Among their recommendations is immediately halting the use of credit cards at local restaurants. In a statement to inewsource, SANDAG said it takes “our financial responsibilities seriously.” Staff are reviewing past transactions and will determine whether “any remedial or corrective action” is necessary, the agency said. 

It did not say whether SANDAG has stopped employee use of credit cards at restaurants. “It is extremely important that we are good stewards of public funding,” SANDAG’s statement said. “In partnership with the Independent Performance Auditor, we have taken immediate corrective actions to strengthen our processes and provide the clarity and transparency needed to carry out the agency’s business in service to the people of the San Diego region.” 

Common Cause’s McMorris said taxpayer-funded meals are appropriate when public employees are conducting legitimate business, but that strong policies are needed. “I don’t think it’s a bad thing that they have expense accounts,” he said, “but if there’s no guardrails in place, then yes, abuse can and likely will happen.” 

Eduardo Luna, a retired auditor who worked for the city of San Diego for more than a decade, told inewsource that agencies need comprehensive policies and regular evaluation. SANDAG should consider a policy that gives clarity to when publicly funded meals are appropriate for its employees, he said. “You have to provide training to employees, you have to be highlighting abuses when things are not proper and things are falling through the cracks,” Luna said. 

SANDAG said Wednesday that officials are drafting business meals and hospitality policies. Several board members have called for the agency to explore action against employees who misused cards, including possible discipline. Carlsbad Mayor Matt Hall and county Supervisor Joel Anderson each sent letters to the agency’s management following the audit, saying the agency should seek reimbursement for any improper charges. 

Hall said SANDAG wants to increase taxes to fund future transportation projects, yet its “credibility is hurt when it cannot demonstrate it has the ability to manage taxpayer funds.” 

The agency has since reduced its number of cardholders, and SANDAG Chief Economist and Deputy CEO Ray Major told the board it plans to implement all of the audit’s recommendations. “I sit here before you to commit to you that we will implement these new processes to overcome the deficiencies that we have in our current systems,” he said. Officials are expected to present the board with an updated policy on the credit cards later this month. 

Sunday, April 17, 2022


NOTE: The mystery writer Jacques Futrelle isn’t too well-known nowadays; if he’s remembered, it’s probably for a tragic bit of trivia: Futrelle had a first-class ticket on the Titanic and went down with the ship. He was thirty-seven. During the sinking, he had been offered a spot onboard a lifeboat but insisted his wife Lily May Peele take it, instead. As the lifeboats floated away, he and John Jacob Astor could be seen standing on the deck together, smoking cigars. Neither were ever seen again. 

    –By literary historian Olivia Rutigliano, Crime Reads Editor at Literary Hub and other well-known national publications and magazines. 

Below is from the public domain via Project Gutenberg. 

The Leak 

By Jacques Futrelle, 1911. 

"Really great criminals are never found out, for the simple reason that the greatest crimes—their crimes—are never discovered," remarked Professor Augustus S. F. X. Van Dusen positively. "There is genius in the perpetration of crime, Mr. Grayson, just as there must be in its detection, unless it is the shallow work of a bungler. In this latter case there have been instances where even the police have uncovered the truth. But the expert criminal, the man of genius—the professional, I may say—regards as perfect only that crime which does not and cannot be made to appear a crime at all; therefore one that can never under any circumstances involve him, or anyone else." 

The financier, J. Morgan Grayson, regarded this wizened little man of science—The Thinking Machine—thoughtfully, through the smoke of his cigar. 

"It is a strange psychological fact that the casual criminal glories in his crime beforehand, and from one to ten minutes afterward," The Thinking Machine continued. "For instance, the man who kills for revenge wants the world to know it is his work; but at the end of ten minutes comes fear, and then paradoxically enough, he will seek to hide his crime and protect himself. With fear comes panic, with panic irresponsibility, and then he makes the mistake—hews a pathway which the trained mind follows from motive to a prison cell." 

"These are the men who are found out. But there are men of genius, Mr. Grayson, professionally engaged in crime. We never hear of them because they are never caught, and we never even suspect them because they make no mistake. Imagine the great brains of history turned to crime. Well, there are today brains as great as any of those of history; there is murder and theft and robbery under our noses that we never dream of. If I, for instance, should become an active criminal——" He paused. 

Grayson, with a queer expression on his face, puffed steadily at his cigar. 

"I could kill you now, here in this room," The Thinking Machine went on calmly, "and no one would ever know, never even suspect. Why? Because I would make no mistake." 

It was not a boast as he said it; it was merely a statement of fact. Grayson appeared to be a little startled. Where there had been only impatient interest in his manner, there was now fascination. 

"How would you kill me, for instance?" he inquired curiously. 

"With any one of a dozen poisons, with virulent germs, or even with a knife or revolver," replied the scientist placidly. "You see, I know how to use poisons; I know how to inoculate with germs; I know how to produce a suicidal appearance perfectly with either a revolver or knife. And I never make mistakes, Mr. Grayson. In the sciences we must be exact—not approximately so, but absolutely so. We must know. It isn't like carpentry. A carpenter may make a trivial mistake in a joint, and it will not weaken his house; but if the scientist makes one mistake, the whole structure tumbles down. We must know. Knowledge is progress. We gain knowledge through observation and logic—inevitable logic. And logic tells us that two and two make four—not sometimes but all the time." 

Grayson flicked the ashes off his cigar thoughtfully, and little wrinkles appeared about his eyes as he stared into the drawn, inscrutable face of the scientist. The enormous, straw-yellow head was cushioned against the chair, the squinting, watery blue eyes turned upward, and the slender white fingers at rest, tip to tip. The financier drew a long breath. "I have been informed that you were a remarkable man," he said at last slowly. "I believe it. Quinton Frazer, the banker who gave me the letter of introduction to you, told me how you once solved a remarkable mystery in which——" 

"Yes, yes," interrupted the scientist shortly, "the Ralston Bank burglary—I remember." 

The Author

"So I came to you to enlist your aid in something which is more inexplicable than that," Grayson went on hesitatingly. "I know that no fee I might offer would influence you; yet it is a case which——" 

"State it," interrupted The Thinking Machine again. 

"It isn't a crime—that is, a crime that can be reached by law," Grayson hurried on, "but it has cost me millions, and——" 

For one instant The Thinking Machine lowered his squint eyes to those of his visitor, then raised them again. "Millions!" he repeated. "How many?" 

"Six, eight, perhaps ten," was the reply. "Briefly, there is a leak in my office. My plans become known to others almost by the time I have perfected them. My plans are large; I have millions at stake; and the greatest secrecy is absolutely essential. For years I have been able to preserve this secrecy; but half a dozen times in the last eight weeks my plans have become known, and I have been caught. Unless you know the Street, you can't imagine what a tremendous disadvantage it is to have someone know your next move to the minutest detail and, knowing it, defeat you at every turn." 

"No, I don't know your world of finance, Mr. Grayson," remarked The Thinking Machine. "Give me an instance." 

"Well, take this last case," said the financier earnestly. "Briefly, without technicalities, I had planned to unload the securities of the P., Q. & X. Railway, protecting myself through brokers, and force the outstanding stock down to a price where other brokers, acting for me, could buy far below the actual value. In this way I intended to get complete control of the stock. But my plans became known, and when I began to unload everything was snapped up by the opposition, with the result that instead of gaining control of the road I lost heavily. This same thing has happened, with variations, half a dozen times." 

"I presume that is strictly honest?" inquired the scientist mildly. 

"Honest?" repeated Grayson. "Certainly—of course." 

"I shall not pretend to understand all that," said The Thinking Machine curtly. "It doesn't seem to matter, anyway. You want to know where the leak is. Is that right?"


"Well, who is in your confidence?" 

"No one, except my stenographer." 

"Who is he, please?" 

"It's a woman—Miss Evelyn Winthrop. She has been in my employ for six years in the same capacity—more than five years before this leak appeared. I trust her absolutely." 

"No man knows your business?" 

"No," replied the financier grimly. "I learned years ago that no one could keep my secrets as well as I do—there are too many temptations. Therefore, I never mention my plans to anyone—never—to anyone!" 

"Except your stenographer," corrected the scientist. 

"I work for days, weeks, sometimes months, perfecting plans, and it's all in my head, not on paper—not a scratch of it," explained Grayson. "When I say that she is in my confidence, I mean that she knows my plans only half an hour or less before the machinery is put into motion. For instance, I planned this P., Q. & X. deal. My brokers didn't know of it; Miss Winthrop never heard of it until twenty minutes before the Stock Exchange opened for business. Then I dictated to her, as I always do, some short letters of instructions to my agents. That is all she knew of it." 

"You outlined the plan in those letters?" 

"No; they merely told my brokers what to do." 

"But a shrewd person, knowing the contents of all those letters, could have learned what you intended to do?" 

"Yes; but no one person knew the contents of all the letters. No one broker knew what was in the other letters. Miss Winthrop and I were the only two human beings who knew all that was in them." 

The Thinking Machine sat silent for so long that Grayson began to fidget in his chair. "Who was in the room besides you and Miss Winthrop before the letters were sent?" he asked at last. 

"No one," responded Grayson emphatically. 

"For an hour before I dictated those letters, until at least an hour afterward, after my plans had gone to smash, no one entered that room. Only she and I work there." 

"But when she finished the letters, she went out?" insisted The Thinking Machine. 

"No," declared the financier, "she didn't even leave her desk." 

"Or perhaps sent something out—carbon copies of the letters?" 


"Or called up a friend on the telephone?" continued The Thinking Machine quietly. "Nor that," retorted Grayson. 

"Or signaled to someone through the window?" 

"No," said the financier again. "She finished the letters, then remained quietly at her desk, reading a book. She hardly moved for two hours." 

The Thinking Machine lowered his eyes and glared straight into those of the financier. "Someone listened at the window?" he went on after a moment. 

"No. It is sixteen stories up, fronting the street, and there is no fire escape." 

"Or the door?" 

"If you knew the arrangement of my offices, you would see how utterly impossible that would be, because—" 

"Nothing is impossible, Mr. Grayson," snapped the scientist abruptly. "It might be improbable, but not impossible. Don't say that—it annoys me exceedingly." He was silent for a moment. Grayson stared at him blankly. "Did either you or she answer a call on the 'phone?" 

"No one called; we called no one." 

"Any apertures—holes or cracks—in your flooring or walls or ceilings?" demanded the scientist. 

"Private detectives whom I had employed looked for such an opening, and there was none," replied Grayson. 

Again, The Thinking Machine was silent for a long time. Grayson lighted a fresh cigar and settled back in his chair patiently. Faint cobwebby lines began to appear on the dome-like brow of the scientist, and slowly the squint eyes were narrowing. 

"The letters you wrote were intercepted?" he suggested at last. 

"No," exclaimed Grayson flatly. "Those letters were sent direct to the brokers by a dozen different methods, and every one of them had been delivered by five minutes of ten o'clock, when 'Change begins business. The last one left me at ten minutes of ten." 

"Dear me! Dear me!" The Thinking Machine rose and paced the length of the room.

"You don't give me credit for the extraordinary precautions I have taken, particularly in this last P., Q. & X. deal," Grayson continued. "I left positively nothing undone to insure absolute secrecy. And Miss Winthrop, I know, is innocent of any connection with the affair. The private detectives suspected her at first, as you do, and she was watched in and out of my office for weeks. When she was not under my eyes, she was under the eyes of men to whom I had promised an extravagant sum of money if they found the leak. She didn't know it then, and doesn't know it now. I am heartily ashamed of it all, because the investigation proved her absolute loyalty to me. On this last day she was directly under my eyes for two hours; and she didn't make one movement that I didn't note, because the thing meant millions to me. That proved beyond all question that it was no fault of hers. What could I do?" 

The Thinking Machine didn't say. He paused at a window, and for minute after minute stood motionless there, with eyes narrowed to mere slits. 

"I was on the point of discharging Miss Winthrop," the financier went on, "but her innocence was so thoroughly proved to me by this last affair that it would have been unjust, and so——" 

Suddenly the scientist turned upon his visitor. "Do you talk in your sleep?" he demanded. 

"No," was the prompt reply. "I had thought of that too. It is beyond all ordinary things, Professor. Yet there is a leak that is costing me millions." 

"It comes down to this, Mr. Grayson," The Thinking Machine informed him crabbedly. "If only you and Miss Winthrop knew those plans, and no one else, and they did leak, and were not deduced from other things, then either you or she permitted them to leak, intentionally or unintentionally. That is as pure logic as two and two make four; there is no need to argue it." 

"Well, of course, I didn't," said Grayson. 

"Then Miss Winthrop did," declared The Thinking Machine finally, positively; "unless we credit the opposition, as you call it, with telepathic gifts hitherto unheard of. By the way, you have referred to the other side only as the opposition. Do the same men, the same clique, appear against you all the time, or is it only one man?" 

"It's a clique," explained the financier, "with millions back of it, headed by Ralph Matthews, a young man to whom I give credit for being the prime factor against me." His lips were set sternly. 

"Why?" demanded the scientist. 

"Because every time he sees me he grins," was the reply. Grayson seemed suddenly discomfited. 

The Thinking Machine went to a desk, addressed an envelope, folded a sheet of paper, placed it inside, then sealed it. At length he turned back to his visitor. "Is Miss Winthrop at your office now?" 


"Let us go there, then." 

A few minutes later the eminent financier ushered the eminent scientist into his private office on the Street. The only person there was a young woman—a woman of twenty-six or-seven, perhaps—who turned, saw Grayson, and resumed reading. The financier motioned to a seat. Instead of sitting, however, The Thinking Machine went straight to Miss Winthrop and extended a sealed envelop to her. 

"Mr. Ralph Matthews asked me to hand you this," he said. The young woman glanced up into his face frankly, yet with a certain timidity, took the envelope, and turned it curiously in her hand. 

"Mr. Ralph Matthews," she repeated, as if the name was a strange one. "I don't think I know him." 

The Thinking Machine stood staring at her aggressively, as she opened the envelope and drew out the sheet of paper. There was no expression save surprise—bewilderment, rather—to be read on her face. 

"Why, it's a blank sheet!" she remarked, puzzled. 

The scientist turned suddenly toward Grayson, who had witnessed the incident with frank astonishment in his eyes. "Your telephone a moment, please," he requested.

"Certainly; here," replied Grayson. 

"This will do," remarked the scientist. 

He leaned forward over the desk where Miss Winthrop sat, still gazing at him in a sort of bewilderment, picked up the receiver, and held it to his ear. A few moments later he was talking to Hutchinson Hatch, reporter. 

"I merely wanted to ask you to meet me at my apartment in an hour," said the scientist. "It is very important." 

That was all. He hung up the receiver, paused for a moment to admire an exquisitely wrought silver box—a "vanity" box—on Miss Winthrop's desk, beside the telephone, then took a seat beside Grayson and began to discourse almost pleasantly upon the prevailing meteorological conditions. Grayson merely stared; Miss Winthrop continued her reading. 


Professor Augustus S. F. X. Van Dusen, distinguished scientist, and Hutchinson Hatch, newspaper reporter, were poking round among the chimney pots and other obstructions on the roof of a skyscraper. Far below them the slumber-enshrouded city was spread out like a panorama, streets dotted brilliantly with lights, and roofs hazily visible through mists of night. Above, the infinite blackness hung like a veil, with starpoints breaking through here and there. 

"Here are the wires," Hatch said at last, and he stooped. The Thinking Machine knelt on the roof beside him, and for several minutes they remained thus in the darkness, with only the glow of a flashlight to indicate their presence. Finally, The Thinking Machine rose. 

"That's the wire you want, Mr. Hatch," he said. "I'll leave the rest of it to you." 

"Are you sure?" asked the reporter. 

"I am always sure," was the tart response. 

Hatch opened a small handsatchel and removed several queerly wrought tools. These he spread on the roof beside him; then, kneeling again, began his work. For half an hour he labored in the gloom, with only the flashlight to aid him, and then he rose. 

"It's all right," he said. 

The Thinking Machine examined the work that had been done, grunted his satisfaction, and together they went to the skylight, leaving a thin, insulated wire behind them, stringing along to mark their path. They passed down through the roof and into the darkness of the hall of the upper story. Here the light was extinguished. From far below came the faint echo of a man's footsteps as the watchman passed through the silent, deserted building. 

"Be careful!" warned The Thinking Machine. 

They went along the hall to a room in the rear, and still the wire trailed behind. At the last door they stopped. The Thinking Machine fumbled with some keys, then opened the way. Here an electric light was on. The room was bare of furniture, the only sign of recent occupancy being a telephone instrument on the wall. 

Here The Thinking Machine stopped and stared at the spool of wire which he had permitted to wind off as he walked, and his thin face expressed doubt. 

"It wouldn't be safe," he said at last, "to leave the wire exposed as we have left it. True, this floor is not occupied; but someone might pass this way and disturb it. You take the spool, go back to the roof, winding the wire as you go, then swing the spool down to me over the side of the building, so that I can bring it in through the window. That will be best. I will catch it here, and thus there will be nothing to indicate any connection." Hatch went out quietly and closed the door. 


Twice the following day The Thinking Machine spoke to the financier over the telephone. Grayson was in his private office, Miss Winthrop at her desk, when the first call came. "Be careful in answering my questions," warned The Thinking Machine when Grayson answered. "Do you know how long Miss Winthrop has owned the little silver box which is now on her desk, near the telephone?" 

Grayson glanced round involuntarily to where the girl sat idly turning over the leaves of her book. "Yes," he answered, "for seven months. I gave it to her last Christmas." 

"Ah!" exclaimed the scientist. "That simplifies matters. Where did you buy it?" 

Grayson mentioned the name of a well-known jeweler. 

Considerably later in the day The Thinking Machine called Grayson to the telephone again. 

"What make of typewriter does she use?" came the querulous voice over the wire. 

Grayson named it. 

While Grayson sat with deeply perplexed lines in his face, the diminutive scientist called upon Hutchinson Hatch at his office. 

"Do you use a typewriter?" demanded The Thinking Machine. 


"What kind?" 

"Oh, four or five kinds—we have half a dozen different makes in the office." 

They passed along through the city room, at that moment practically deserted, until finally the watery blue eyes settled upon a typewriter with the name emblazoned on the front. 

"That's it!" exclaimed The Thinking Machine. "Write something on it," he directed Hatch. 

Hatch drew up a chair and rolled off several lines of the immortal practice sentence, beginning, "Now is the time for all good men—" 

The Thinking Machine sat beside him, squinting across the room in deep abstraction, and listening intently. His head was turned away from the reporter, but his ear was within a few inches of the machine. For half a minute he sat there listening, then shook his head. 

"Strike your vowels," he commanded; "first slowly, then rapidly." 

Again Hatch obeyed, while the scientist listened. And again he shook his head. Then in turn every make of machine in the office was tested the same way. At the end The Thinking Machine rose and went his way. There was an expression nearly approaching complete bewilderment on his face. 


For hour after hour that night The Thinking Machine half lay in a huge chair in his laboratory, with eyes turned uncompromisingly upward, and an expression of complete concentration on his face. There was no change either in his position or his gaze as minute succeeded minute; the brow was deeply wrinkled now, and the thin line of the lips was drawn taut. The tiny clock in the reception room struck ten, eleven, twelve, and finally one. At just half-past one The Thinking Machine rose suddenly. 

"Positively I am getting stupid!" he grumbled half aloud. "Of course! Of course! Why couldn't I have thought of that in the first place?..." 

So it came about that Grayson did not go to his office on the following morning at the usual time. Instead, he called again upon The Thinking Machine in eager, expectant response to a note which had reached him at his home just before he started to his office. 

"Nothing yet," said The Thinking Machine as the financier entered. "But here is something you must do today. At one o'clock," the scientist went on, "you must issue orders for a gigantic deal of some sort; and you must issue them precisely as you have issued them in the past; there must be no variation. Dictate the letters as you have always done to Miss Winthrop—but don't send them! When they come to you, keep them until you see me." 

"You mean that the deal must be purely imaginative?" inquired the financier. 

"Precisely," was the reply. "But make your instructions circumstantial; give them enough detail to make them absolutely logical and convincing." 

Grayson asked a dozen questions, answers to which were curtly denied, then went to his office. The Thinking Machine again called Hatch on the telephone. 

"I've got it," he announced briefly. "I want the best telegraph operator you know. Bring him along and meet me in the room on the top floor where the telephone is at precisely fifteen minutes before one o'clock today." 

"Telegraph operator?" Hatch repeated. "That's what I said—telegraph operator!" replied the scientist irritably. "Goodbye." 

Hatch smiled whimsically at the other end as he heard the receiver banged on the hook—smiled because he knew the eccentric ways of this singular man, whose mind so accurately illuminated every problem to which it was directed. Then he went out to the telegraph room and borrowed the principal operator. They were in the little room on the top floor at precisely fifteen minutes of one. 

The operator glanced about in astonishment. The room was still unfurnished, save for the telephone box on the wall. 

"What do I do?" he asked The Thinking Machine. 

"I'll tell you when the time comes," responded the scientist, as he glanced at his watch. 

At three minutes of one o'clock he handed a sheet of blank paper to the operator, and gave him final instructions. 

There was ludicrous mystification on the operator's face; but he obeyed orders, grinning cheerfully at Hatch as he tilted his cigar up to keep the smoke out of his eyes. The Thinking Machine stood impatiently looking on, watch in hand. Hatch didn't know what was happening, but he was interested. 

At last the operator heard something. His face became suddenly alert. He continued to listen for a moment, and then came a smile of recognition. 


Less than ten minutes after Miss Winthrop had handed over the typewritten letters of instruction to Grayson for signature, and while he still sat turning them over in his hands, the door opened and The Thinking Machine entered. He tossed a folded sheet of paper on the desk before Grayson, and went straight to Miss Winthrop. 

"So you did know Mr. Ralph Matthews after all?" he inquired. 

The girl rose from her desk, and a flash of some subtle emotion passed over her face. 

"What do you mean, sir?" she demanded. 

"You might as well remove the silver box," The Thinking Machine went on mercilessly. "There is no further need of the connection." 

Miss Winthrop glanced down at the telephone extension on her desk, and her hand darted toward it. The silver "vanity" box was directly under the receiver, supporting it, so that all weight was removed from the hook, and the line was open. She snatched the box and the receiver dropped back on the hook. The Thinking Machine turned to Grayson. 

"It was Miss Winthrop," he said. 

"Miss Winthrop!" exclaimed Grayson, "I can't believe it!" 

"Read the paper I gave you, Mr. Grayson," directed The Thinking Machine coldly. "Perhaps that will enlighten her." 

The financier opened the sheet, which had remained folded in his hand, and glanced at what was written there. Slowly he read it aloud: "PEABODY—Sell ten thousand shares L. & W. at 97. MCCRACKEN Co.—Sell ten thousand shares L. & W. at 97." He read on down the list, bewildered. Then gradually, as he realized the import of what he read, there came a hardening of the lines about his mouth. 

"I understand, Miss Winthrop," he said at last. "This is the substance of the orders I dictated, and in some way you made them known to persons for whom they were not intended. I don't know how you did it, of course; but I understand that you did do it, so——" He stepped to the door and opened it with grave courtesy. "You may go now." 

Miss Winthrop made no plea—merely bowed and went out. Grayson stood staring after her for a moment, then turned to The Thinking Machine and motioned him to a chair. "What happened?" he asked briskly. 

"Miss Winthrop is a tremendously clever woman," replied The Thinking Machine. "She neglected to tell you, however, that besides being a stenographer and typist she is also a telegraph operator. She is so expert in each of her lines that she combined the two, if I may say it that way. In other words, in writing on the typewriter, she was clever enough to be able to give the click of the machine the patterns in the Morse telegraphic code—so that another telegraph operator at the other end of the 'phone could hear her machine and translate the clicks into words." 

Grayson sat staring at him incredulously. "I still don't understand," he said finally. The Thinking Machine rose and went to Miss Winthrop's desk. 

"Here is an extension telephone with the receiver on the hook. It happens that the little silver box which you gave Miss Winthrop is just tall enough to lift this receiver clear of the hook, and the minute the receiver is off the hook the line is open. When you were at your desk and she was here, you couldn't see this telephone; therefore it was a simple matter for her to lift the receiver, and place the silver box underneath, thus holding the line open permanently. That being true, the sound of the typewriter—the striking of the keys—would go over the open wire to whoever was listening at the other end. Then, if the striking of the keys typed out your letters and, by their frequency and pauses, simultaneously tapped out telegraphic code, an outside operator could read your letters at the same moment they were being written. That is all. It required extreme concentration on Miss Winthrop's part to type accurately in Morse rhythms." 

"Oh, I see!" exclaimed Grayson. "When I knew that the leak in your office was not in the usual way," continued The Thinking Machine, "I looked for the unusual. There is nothing very mysterious about it now—it was merely clever." 

"Clever!" repeated Grayson, and his jaws snapped. "It is more than that. Why, it's criminal! She should be prosecuted." 

"I shouldn't advise that, Mr. Grayson," returned the scientist coldly. "If it is honest—merely business—to juggle stocks as you told me you did, this is no more dishonest. And besides, remember that Miss Winthrop is backed by the people who have made millions out of you, and—well, I wouldn't prosecute. It is betrayal of trust, certainly; but—" He rose as if that were all, and started toward the door. "I would advise you, however, to discharge the person who operates your switchboard." 

"Was she in the scheme, too?" demanded Grayson. He rushed out of the private office into the main office. At the door he met a clerk coming in. 

"Where is Miss Mitchell?" demanded the financier hotly. 

"I was just coming to tell you that she went out with Miss Winthrop just now without giving any explanation," replied the clerk. 

"Good day, Mr. Grayson," said The Thinking Machine. 

The financier nodded his thanks, then stalked back into his room. 


In the course of time The Thinking Machine received a check for ten thousand dollars, signed, "J. Morgan Grayson." He glared at it for a little while, then indorsed it in a crabbed hand, Pay to the Trustees' Home for Crippled Children, and sent Martha, his housekeeper, out to mail it. 

The End.