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SAT Changes Include Fewer Answer Choices, Shorter Mandatory Test Time

Tue, 2014-04-15 23:01
The College Board on Wednesday released blueprints for a redesigned SAT test, giving an early first look at what's in store for many students with college aspirations. Among the changes: Multiple choice questions will have four possible answer choices, instead of five, and reading passages will contain significantly more nonfiction than fiction.

The roughly 250 pages of test blueprints -- which the College Board stressed are a draft and "not a full reflection of what will be tested" -- offered new details about the redesigned test, slated for 2016, which the not-for-profit company announced in March.

In a letter to parents and students, College Board President David Coleman and Chief of Assessment Cynthia Schmeiser assert that the new SAT "will be the first admission exam that requires students to cite evidence in support of their understanding of texts in both reading and writing." The blueprint is being announced with much fanfare, in the form of a new website that features endorsements from people such as Harvard admissions dean William Fitzsimmons, who called the changes "one of the most significant developments that I have seen in the 40-plus years that I've been working in admissions to higher education."

According to the Wednesday release, the new SAT is expected to take 3 hours (without optional essay; one is allowed an additional 50 minutes for the essay) instead of the current 3 hours and 45 minutes. Test results provided to students will break down beyond the notorious composite scores: they'll also receive "cross-test scores" that show how they performed in different subjects, such as history, social science and science scores, based on questions from various sections.

"It is our goal that the redesigned SAT reflects students' best work, not something that is separate and distinct from their work in high school," Schmeiser said, "but a distillation of what they've learned in high school ... so that when they come to the test, it won't be something different; it will be, 'Oh yes, this is something I recognize.'" 

The new test will have two sections: math and evidence-based reading. The reading section will be based on previously published passages, and will include a "writing and language" portion that requires students to analyze and revise essays. A full 80 percent of the reading passages will be nonfiction, with one passage in literature, two passages on history/social studies, and two passages in science. The reading section will include graphics.

The writing section of the reading test will "place students in the role of someone revising and editing the work of an unspecified writer." It will include four passages from three categories -- explanatory, argument and narrative nonfiction -- and 44 multiple choice questions. One sample passage about Chinese art asks students to replace the word "vacated" in the phrase "Kingsman vacated from that tradition." The correct answer is departed, the College Board says, because it "is the most contextually appropriate way to indicated that Kingman had deviated from the tradition of Chinese landscape."

The math section will have two parts: a 55-minute section with 37 questions that allow calculator use, and a 25-minute section with 20 questions for which calculators are prohibited. Forty-five of the questions are multiple choice; the others allow for students to enter responses into a grid. The math test will be structured in multi-part problem sets, as in the Program for International Student Assessment, meaning that students will be asked more than one question on the same scenario. One example presents a woman traveling to India, and asks students to calculate exchange rates. Another question has students analyze the rate of growth of two types of bacteria.

The College Board said the aim of the math test was to be "a good reflection of college- and career-ready standards," using language similar to that used by proponents of the Common Core.

Such similarities are not surprising, as the Common Core State Standards -- a set of focused learning standards that are supposed to ensure students graduate from high school ready for college-level work -- were authored, in part, by Coleman himself.

The idea behind the Common Core, Coleman and other supporters have said, is that it draws on reams of evidence to support its prescriptions for what students should know when. The new SAT blueprint cites much of the research behind the new test, which shares this evidence-backed bent. "The redesigned SAT will more clearly and transparently focus on a set of knowledge, skills, and understandings that research evidence has shown to be essential for college and career readiness and success," the College Board wrote.

Speaking in Austin, Texas, in March, Coleman announced that the new SAT will replace the current essay with an optional source-based essay, and will return to a 1,600-point scale (as opposed to the current 2,400-point scale). Coleman also announced that students will no longer lose points for wrong answers, that the test will be available digitally, and that the reading section will focus less on obscure vocabulary and more on the mastery of words whose meanings vary in different contexts.

More broadly, Coleman said, the point was to make the test clearer, transparent and relevant to students' daily work in the classroom. "We plan to make an exam that is clearer and more open than any in our history," Coleman said. "We need to get rid of the sense of mystery and dismantle the advantages that people perceive in using costly test preparation."

Others are skeptical that the revised exam will affect the traditional criticisms of the test as a reflection of economic advantage and disadvantage. "The score distribution reflects stratifications by race, class, economics," said Anthony Carnevale, a Georgetown University professor who leads the school's Center on Education and the Workforce, and who previously led Educational Testing Services. "It's hard for College Board, ACT and ETS to get around that, because they are essentially a yardstick and they show what we've produced in the great sorting of young Americans."

White Sox Wear 'Boston Strong' Gear On Anniversary Of Marathon Bombing (PHOTOS)

Tue, 2014-04-15 21:58
CHICAGO (AP) — The Chicago White Sox have paid tribute to victims of the Boston Marathon bombing before their game against the Red Sox.

The White Sox played a video montage and held a moment of silence as both teams lined up outside their dugouts Tuesday night to mark the one-year anniversary of the tragedy. White Sox players and coaches wore T-shirts with the Boston Strong logo that the Red Sox often donned last year. Red Sox manager John Farrell says hopefully this is "another day of healing for everyone involved, particularly the family of the victims."

"I think it's critical that we never forget the victims that have fallen," Farrell said before the game. "I think we're all proud to be part of the healing process, how small it might have been, and (it) makes us further proud to be part of an incredible city, a very strong community that I think became even stronger when we unified in response to it."

One Door Closes and Another One Opens

Tue, 2014-04-15 19:31
I have found myself thinking to myself, "Am I where I am supposed to be?" Once I get out of my head and let a little time pass, I realize, "Yes! I am exactly where I am supposed to be."

Earlier this year I went to Washington, D.C., to meet with LGBT activists from Russia. We had a press conference, and I was able to share my journey and offer my support for what these brave individuals are doing in a country that seems to hate LGBT people. This was prior to the Olympic Games in Sochi.

I knew I was on the short list to be named to the official U.S. delegation to represent our country at the Olympics, which is a very prestigious honor.

The following week the announcement was made. I was not on the list to go over to Sochi. Door closed. I was a little disheartened.

The plan was that I was to go over for the Olympics and then to the LGBT-affirming Russian Open Games.

We struggled, but those LGBT activists from Russia did get me to Moscow for the Russian Open Games. The person who rushed my visa through commented that it was a good thing that I was going to a country where people can be bribed.

It turned out that Moscow was exactly where I needed to be! The contrast between my experiences there and the experiences that friends of mine had in Sochi was extreme, to say the least. (I've written about those experiences in earlier blog posts here on HuffPost.) I was supposed to be there to bear witness to the treatment of LGBT persons in an intolerant country -- and that treatment wasn't kind.

Next I was invited to Chicago share my journey with HIV/AIDS at Open Door.

We got there on Friday, and my husband was feeling under the weather, so we had a low-key weekend.

We walked around the town of Geneva and met up with some wonderful people, a straight, humble, country-club couple from the area, and we shared our lives with each other. I had a sense of suspended time, as though I were right where I should be.

The next morning we went to the hospital to make a visit to the coordinator of the event; he'd had heart bypass surgery and was not going to be able to attend the event. Again, I was right where I was supposed to be. I was slowing down and listening.

That evening was the event. It was amazing to learn a few things. For one, it was reported that early detection and treatment of the HIV virus can greatly lessen the opportunity for transmission, especially if one's viral load can be reduced to undetectable levels. This is the reason for regular testing.

The second thing about the trip was when the director revealed that the original contractor, who is well known in the area for doing work with many charity groups to realize people's dreams, had retracted his bid to do the work because it would have serviced the LGBT community. Really? With marriage equality -- indeed, equality in general -- taking hold, this is still happening? Unfortunately, yes, it is happening.

A door closed, but another door will open for Open Door. I know it!

The organization will be even more wonderful and will continue its outreach, treatment, education and support of the LGBT and HIV/AIDS community in the suburbs of Chicago.

The 5 Best And Worst States For Getting A Divorce

Tue, 2014-04-15 16:34
Think the lion's share of divorces are long, drawn-out and super costly?

Not exactly. As the charts below illustrate, for most Americans, the cost and time it takes to end your marriage depends on where you file.

5 Easiest States to Get a Divorce (Most Lenient Laws) | FindTheBest

5 Most Difficult States to Get a Divorce (Strictest Laws) | FindTheBest

Find the Data's "ease of filing score" is calculated based on the waiting period before the divorce is finalized and the filing fee. They collected the data from individual state government websites (most recently checked July 2013) and the American Bar Association.

Keep in touch! Check out HuffPost Divorce on Facebook and Twitter. Sign up for our newsletter here.

You Probably Don't Want To Know What's Actually In Public School Chicken Nuggets

Tue, 2014-04-15 16:22
Turns out the chicken nuggets being served in one of the nation's largest public school districts don't contain much actual chicken at all.

Earlier this month, Chicago-based WBEZ food reporter Monica Eng reported that her attempt -- made via a Freedom of Information Act request -- to retrieve an ingredient list for the chicken nuggets served in Chicago Public Schools cafeterias was met with a curt response after weeks of delays: The lone ingredient of a chicken nugget was a chicken nugget, the district wrote.

After the Illinois Attorney General's office intervened, CPS -- which reportedly did not "know the ingredients" of the nuggets its caterer Aramark serves to district students -- released the list of 28 ingredients making up the processed nuggets, minus their breading.

Among the ingredients, according to NPR: "textured soy protein concentrate, isolated soy protein ... brown sugar, salt, onion powder, maltodextrin, silicon dioxide, citric acid, potassium chloride, sodium phosphates and, oh, yes, a little chicken."

Considering about 84 percent of CPS students qualify for either free or reduced-price lunch and 87 percent of the district's approximately 400,000 students come from low-income families, it's likely that far too many CPS students get all their meals for any given weekday at school.

And those meals, Eng reports in a followup published Monday, remain dominated by high-sugar processed food with little to no nutritional value while some caterers say low funding is to blame for the limited options available to students.

For more examples of what's being served to students in cafeterias today, gathered submissions from students throughout the nation:

Want to read more from HuffPost Taste? Follow us on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and Tumblr.

'Rock Of Ages' Creator Aims To Bring 'Soul Train' To Broadway

Tue, 2014-04-15 15:53
NEW YORK (AP) — The groundbreaking song-and-dance show "Soul Train" is chugging toward Broadway.

Stage and film producer Matthew Weaver, who helped create "Rock of Ages," has acquired the theatrical stage rights to the TV show and said Tuesday he's hoping to repeat his success by turning "Soul Train" into a show that attracts both die-hard Broadway fans and those who usually avoid Times Square. "I'm nervous and I'm humbled and I'm excited," said Weaver, who heads the production company MediaWeaver Entertainment. "I do think we're the right people to do it because I think it's got to have that spirit of 'Rock of Ages,' which is part old-fashioned musical but also part party."

"Soul Train," with its trademark animated train opening, provided a national, weekly showcase for R&B artists, black culture and fashion, and gave advertisers an entree to the black consumer market. It later had to compete with video shows on BET that broadcast black artists, and eventually MTV and VH-1.

The TV show, a sort of black version of "American Bandstand," featured such acts as James Brown, Al Green, Ike and Tina Turner, Hall & Oates, Donna Summer, Marvin Gaye, The Jackson 5, Aretha Franklin, Stevie Wonder, Elton John, Whitney Houston, David Bowie, Prince, Run D.M.C. and Destiny's Child during its 35-year run. Moves that "Soul Train" dancers developed spread nationwide.

Don Cornelius started the music and dance show in 1970 in Chicago and served as its host until 1993. It aired in syndication from 1971 until 2006 and spun off an awards show that is still aired. Cornelius killed himself in 2012.

Weaver recalled growing up in New York and making sure to watch "Soul Train" every Saturday morning, mesmerized by the dance, fashion and music. He plans to next hire a writer and get music rights. His only timeframe for the stage is "when the story's right."

"'Rock of Ages' is an awesome show, but it's not just because we have 'Sister Christian' and 'Don't Stop Believin" and serve liquor in the aisles that that show is still running five years later. It's still running because we have a great story and great characters," said Weaver.

"To me, that's the heart of 'Soul Train' — a great story and great characters. The music will be great, the fashion will be great, the ambiance, the vibe. But if you don't have a good story, none of that means anything."

Weaver, who produced such films as "We're the Millers" and "The Heartbreak Kid," has grown "Rock of Ages" into an international brand, with a film version, three national tours and productions of the show in Las Vegas, London, Australia, Toronto, Japan and South Korea.

With 35 years of music on "Soul Train," Weaver has plenty of song possibilities, depending on what the final story is. But he's hopeful he can build a powerful score. "We had a lot of luck on 'Rock,' so hopefully we have the same karma here," he said.


Follow Mark Kennedy on Twitter at

What's the Matter with Illinois?

Tue, 2014-04-15 15:18

What really is wrong with Illinois? The Wall Street Journal took a look at the Land of Lincoln compared with our neighbors in the Great Lakes region -- specifically Indiana, Michigan, Ohio and Wisconsin -- to see the economic progress, or lack thereof, Illinois has made in the past five years.

It's not a pretty picture The Wall Street Journal paints. While Illinois' unemployment rate has dropped marginally over the past five years, the unemployment rates in Indiana, Michigan, Ohio and Wisconsin have dropped more substantially.

There are other areas where Illinois is lagging behind her Great Lakes brethren, but you don't know us to tell you about that when you can read about it yourself.


There are some cities in Illinois, however, that can avoid the question of what is the matter with them. That's because they have the lowest unemployment rates in Illinois. We've got the top ten of them.


Another Bipartisan Call to Reform the Infrastructure Approval Process

Tue, 2014-04-15 14:36

The chorus grows for basic overhaul of infrastructure approvals. A recent essay by former Sen. Pete Domenici and Jason Grumet, head of the Bipartisan Policy Center, explains that "[o]ur permitting policies are antiquated and poorly matched to our rapidly evolving needs," leading to "train wreck[s]" of endless indecision like the Keystone XL debacle. To have any hope of modernizing our energy production and distribution, we urgently need to rethink the way that we approve infrastructure projects in America.

For more Howard's Daily posts, visit

The 'I Touch Myself' Project Is A Breast Cancer PSA Like No Other

Tue, 2014-04-15 13:10
When The Divinyls frontwoman Chrissy Amphlett realized that her breast cancer was terminal, she had one last order of business: to repurpose her 1990 anthem "I Touch Myself" to encourage women to check their bodies for cancer.

Amphlett discovered her own breast cancer through self-examination, after mammograms and ultrasounds initially failed to identify it. She died in April 2013, but not before communicating her new vision for the hit song -- originally a groundbreaking celebration of female sexuality.

Australian advocacy group Cancer Council New South Wales collaborated with a group of Australian singers, including breast cancer survivor Olivia Newton-John, to produce a powerful a cappella version of the song that serves as a PSA for self-examination.

"She would have wanted us to be more in touch with ourselves," Amphlett's widower Charley Drayton told The Sunday Telegraph on the one-year anniversary of her death. "To listen to what's going on inside physically, and to be more in charge of our destiny and not wait for doctors or advisers to be in charge of us."

Watch the powerful video above (the final shot may be NSFW) and learn more about the campaign here.

If You Didn't Catch The 'Blood Moon,' These Unbelievable Photos Show Exactly What You Missed

Tue, 2014-04-15 12:59
On Tuesday, April 15, skywatchers around the world were treated to 2014's first total lunar eclipse -- and the resulting "blood moon" was quite a thriller. Why "blood?" During the eclipse, the moon's hue ranges from bright orange to blood red, thanks to sunlight that seeps through the Earth's atmosphere onto the moon's face.

The eclipse, which peaked at 3 a.m. EDT, was visible from most of North and South America. It was the first of four consecutive total lunar eclipses, called a 'tetrad,' between April 2014 and September 2015.

If you missed the sky's show, find a stunning recap below:

Here's a time-lapse of the whole event.

This is the view of the blood moon from University of Arizona's Mt. Lemmon SkyCenter.

A shot of the moon through trees, via Joe Sheller on Flickr.

The moon coming out of eclipse, via Leonardo Ezequiel Marques on Flickr.

Three stages of the eclipse, via Shane422 on Flickr.

Halfway through the eclipse, a view from Coffs Harbour, Australia via Frank on Flickr.

A close-up of the lunar eclipse, shot at an informal "star party" near the Arvin Gottlieb Planetarium at Science City, in Kansas City, Missouri by John Sleezer/Kansas City Star/MCT via Getty Images.

A striking portrait by photographer Enrique Tubio.

Questlove posted a #TotalEclipseOfTheHeart photo from Las Vegas.

Usher and some of his buddies landed a shot good enough for the mantel.

Chris Colfer threw a Kelvin filter on his Instagram #bloodmoon.

Lucy Hale posted her cityscape spotting.

Los Angeles' Griffith Observatory stayed open late -- and it paid off:

The eclipse caught in Oviedo, Florida.

Moon-sighting in Singapore.

In Wichita Falls, Texas, the eclipse was captured from a distance.

The moon reflected on the harbor in Mumbai.

And here, some other out-of-this world sightings:

Yes, NASA Has A Good Reason Sending Germs From Beloved Dinosaur Into Space (VIDEO)

Tue, 2014-04-15 11:22
NASA is known for sending astronauts into space. Now it's sending germs.

The strange-but-true space mission is intended to give scientists a better sense of how bacteria behave in microgravity -- important knowledge as the space agency gears up for long-duration manned missions into deep space. Just check out the YouTube video above from University of California, Davis researchers, who are leading the effort.

Plans call for the germs to get a lift to the ISS on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, whose launch has been repeatedly delayed and is now scheduled for no sooner than Friday, April 18.

The space-bound bacteria were collected from the surfaces of iconic objects across the U.S., including the Liberty Bell, the 50-yard line of San Francisco's Candlestick Park, Al Roker's "Today Show" weather wall, and America's beloved "Sue the T. rex," a 67-million-year-old Tyrannosaurus rex fossil housed at the Field Museum in Chicago. Sue is considered the largest, most extensive, and best-preserved T. rex specimen ever found.

"One of our goals is to understand what microbes are living on the International Space Station and how this compares to other 'built environments' like offices, homes and cars," Dr. David Coil, a microbiologist at the university, said in a written statement. "We also want to see how the lack of gravity affects microbes of all kinds. But more importantly, we hope to let people know that not all microbes are bad. The majority are beneficial or harmless, and we need them!"

This study is part of Project MERCCURI, which stands for "Microbial Ecology Research Combining Citizen and University Researchers on the International Space Station." The project has been encouraging student scientists to participate in the collection of samples of germs from their environments.

The students and scientists aren't the only ones excited about the mission. "Sue the T. rex" tweeted:

Just got a text from my microbes. They are like, "WHAT IS THIS? WHAT IS HAPPENING?!?!?"

— Specimen FMNH PR2081 (@SUEtheTrex) April 14, 2014

The launch will be shown live at

The Top 12 Cities For Millennials

Tue, 2014-04-15 10:55
Once you've settled firmly into adulthood, finding the ideal neighborhood to live means taking into consideration a hodgepodge of factors: rent, crime, nightlife, culture, transportation and more.

The folks over at Niche, a data analysis firm for young adults, have ranked America's top 25 cities (and neighborhoods) for millennials to reside. Niche's experts compiled the rankings by sifting through data from the U.S. Census, FBI crime rates and nearly 500,000 surveys from college students and recent grads. The list is broken down into five categories for each city: percentage of millennials living there (aged 25-34), median rent, median income, crime rate and representative college.

We'll give you a clue to the number-one city for millennials to live: "Girls" is filmed there.

Scroll through the list (below) to see if your city made the top 12, and check out the full list at Niche.

*Crime data from the FBI is incomplete for Chicago and Minneapolis-St. Paul, so each were assigned median crime values.

Procrastinating on Tax Filing? This List Might Inspire You

Tue, 2014-04-15 10:22
There are only a few days left before your federal and Illinois state tax returns are due. They must be e-filed or postmarked before midnight Tuesday, April 15. The IRS is partnered with several commercial e-filing services, such as TurboTax and TaxACT, but the IRS does not officially endorse a particular software.

USA Today has compiled a list of tips to get you started down the right path for filing your taxes in 2014.

NEXT ARTICLE: Watch Chicago's middle class disappear over 42 years in this amazing animated map>>>
Chicago pension reform bill passed: victory for Emanuel

What are the most important parts of the Chicago pension reform bill?

Property tax provision stricken from pension bill

Want to tell your elected officials how you feel about pension reform? Use our Sound Off tool. 


Don't forget to like Reboot Illinois on Facebook!

Should Chicago Have a City Income Tax?

Tue, 2014-04-15 10:18

No one really enjoys taxes, but they're necessary to help pay for the government services we receive. That's why Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel has pitched a potential property tax increase to help the city make up the pension deficit it currently is facing.

But Chicago Tribune columnist Eric Zorn believes he has a better proposal. Zorn thinks Chicago could be better off with a city income tax.

Why? Says Zorn, "[Revenue-boosting alternatives] all have their downsides. They all risk unintended consequences. They all stick in my craw, and probably your craw, too.

"But if the alternative is a significant decrease in city services leading to a deteriorating quality of civic life, a city income tax is among the least objectionable options for balancing the books."

Zorn has four reasons to support his idea, something he just wants a discussion on instead of outright rejection.


If Chicago were to have a city income tax, the middle class wouldn't be affected too much. That's because there isn't much of a middle class left in the city. We have a map that shows the disappearance of the middle class in Chicago over the past 40 years.


These Are the 16 Best Burritos in America

Tue, 2014-04-15 10:03

Beloved for being the most American of all Mexican-American dishes (which all happen to be comprised of the exact same ingredients), the burrito is an apt metaphor for today's United States: We're less a melting pot of cultures than a delicious mound of assimilated ingredients wrapped tightly together and covered in hot sauce.

To celebrate this great dish, we've compiled a list of the 16 best burritos from sea to shining tin foil wrapper. Get hungry:

El Farolito (San Francisco, CA)
The scene: One of the OGs of SF's legendary burrito haven that is the Mission, EF is known for A) having some of the most delicious and consistent burritos in the Bay, with each bite doling out the proper portion of beans, meat, cheese, etc. and B) being a legendary late night stop for drunken revelers, Latin gangstas, and everyone in-between.
What you're eating: Carne asada burrito (be sure and add peppers at their salsa bar)

CREDIT: Anna's Taqueria

Anna's Taqueria (Boston, MA)
The scene: If you grew up, or went to college, or did any time in the land of Sox caps, you know that an "Anna's" is synonymous with burrito in this town. As in "Did you just get an Anna's?" or "I need an Anna's because I went to Clerys last night, and, well, I shouldn't have to explain myself further." So do yourself a favor next time you're in town and get "an Anna's".
What you're eating: Super carnitas with extra guac, extra salsa

More: These are the 21 best nachos in America

CREDIT: Dos Toros

Dos Toros (New York, NY)
The scene: Bringing a bite of the Bay to the five boroughs, the SF transplants at Dos Toros serve a short-and-savory menu spotlighting meticulously crafted burritos. Their secret weapon? Cheese steamed directly into the tortilla, which allows it to stretch to an unparalleled girth.
What you're eating: Carnitas burrito

La Taqueria (San Francisco, CA)
The scene: Their neon sign proclaims the best tacos and burritos in the whole world, and while most of the whole world might reply with, "What the hell's a burrito?," it's hard to knock their swag, especially once you taste that legendary carnitas.
What you're eating: Super carnitas burrito (make sure to add the extra green/red salsas they have on the table)

CREDIT: Carbon

Carbon (Chicago, IL)
The scene: This Chi-town burrito shop's two locations use natural black beans and olive oil instead of lard, and feature super-tender steak cooked over open flames, proving that the Windy City knows how to roll. The Mother Clucker stars tequila-lime marinated chicken breast that's really clucking good.
What you're eating: The Mother Clucker

There's still plenty more burritos to come. See all of the 16 best burritos in the country -- on!

More from Thrillist:

The 33 best BBQ joints in America

The 33 Best College Sandwich Shops in America

Follow Thrillist on Twitter:

Gefilte Fish Shortage Causing Passover Problems

Tue, 2014-04-15 09:52
TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. (AP) — A shortage of whitefish in the Great Lakes region resulting partly from the winter deep freeze is coming at an inconvenient time for Jewish families: the Passover holiday, when demand is high because it's a key ingredient in a traditional recipe.

Markets in Chicago and Detroit were among those struggling to fill whitefish orders before the beginning of the eight-day celebration Monday evening, and a representative of a commercial fishing agency said the shortfall extended as far as New York. "Everybody's pulling their hair out," said Kevin Dean, co-owner of Superior Fish Co., a wholesaler near Detroit whose latest shipment provided just 75 pounds of whitefish although he requested 500 pounds. "I've never seen it this bad this time of year."

The dish that inspires such angst is gefilte fish, which somewhat resembles meat loaf or meatballs. Recipes handed down for generations vary but typically call for ground-up fish and other components such as onions, carrots, eggs and bread crumbs. Other fish such as cod, pike and trout are sometimes a part of the mix, but whitefish is especially popular.

"Just smelling that gefilte fish aroma tells my senses that it's a Jewish holiday," said Jason Miller, a rabbi and director of a kosher food certification agency in West Bloomfield, Mich.

In the Chicago suburb of Skokie, Ill., Ira Kirsche of Hungarian Kosher Foods said his market ordinarily would get 200 to 300 pounds of whitefish daily this time of year but has had to settle for 10 to 20 pounds.

Justin Hiller's family market in suburban Detroit eventually received the 4,000 pounds it needed to meet demand but it was a close call.

"There was a short period a couple of days before Passover where we had to create a waiting list," he said.

Gefilte fish ("gefilte" is a Yiddish word for "stuffed") originated in eastern Europe, where it was an inexpensive and tasty choice for Sabbath and holiday meals, Miller said. Because it could be prepared ahead of time, it provided a way to avoid violating the Jewish law against deboning fish on the Sabbath.

It's also available frozen or in cans or jars. But for many, only homemade will do.

Elyse Fine of Rochester, N.Y., who travels to the Chicago area yearly to prepare Seder meals for extended family, said her family used jar varieties until about 10 years ago when her husband suggested she try producing it from scratch.

"Everybody loved it," Fine said. "Now they don't want me to go back to the jar stuff."

She finally located some whitefish an hour's drive away after coming up short at stores closer to home.

The whitefish shortfall is yet another ripple effect of the bitterly cold winter, which caused more than 90 percent of the Great Lakes surface area to freeze over. In some places, the ice cover was many feet thick, leaving commercial crews stuck in port.

"You have a lot of boats that can't get out to fish, even now," said Chuck Bronte, senior fishery biologist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Green Bay, Wis.

Native American crews in northern Lake Michigan and Lake Huron, as well as Lake Superior, were able to drop their nets through holes drilled in the ice, said Mark Ebener, fishery assessment biologist with the Chippewa Ottawa Resource Authority, which regulates tribal fishing in the area.

They had some success but the whitefish population has dropped in recent years, making the Passover shortage worse, he said.

The reason is unclear, although some scientists blame invasive mussels, which create food scarcity in aquatic food chains by gobbling vast amounts of plankton.


Follow John Flesher on Twitter at .

We Hope This Is A 366-Year-Old Emoticon And Not A Typo

Tue, 2014-04-15 09:35
Emoticons might not be an invention of the computer age. They might be stowaways from a clever 17th century poet.

It all depends on your interpretation of this poem published in 1648 by Robert Herrick.

Levi Stahl, writer and promotions director at the University of Chicago Press, stumbled upon a :) while reading a volume of Herrick's work. Stahl went on to blog about his incidental discovery.

"In reading some of Robert Herrick's poetry last night, I discovered what looks to be the first emoticon!" Stahl wrote.

The last two characters on the second line do appear to be our modern smiley-face emoticon. And they appear right after the phrase "smiling yet."

This isn't the first time such an emoticon/typo has been found. A few years ago, a similar punctuation within a parenthetical was discovered in the transcript of an 1862 speech delivered by Abraham Lincoln, of all people. That winking emoticon, the ;), too was preceded by a suggestive phrase, "applause and laughter."

Stahl acknowledges that the poet's alleged emoticon could well be a typographical error. So in the interest of covering his bases, he dug a little further.

"Lest it be an aberration in the edition I own, I checked it against the new, authoritative two-volume edition of Herrick's work edited by Tom Cain and Ruth Connolly and published by Oxford University Press last year," he wrote. "The emoticon is there."

But the jury is still out. Alan Jacobs of The New Atlantis believes that Stahl's conclusion is "ahistorical."

So it’s possible, I’d say likely, that the parenthesis in the poem was inserted by a modern editor. Not that parentheses weren’t used in verse in Herrick’s time — they were — but not as widely as we use them today and not in the same situations. Punctuation in general was unsettled in the seventeenth century.

If it turns out that Herrick's smiley face is just a typo, we'll have one reaction: :(

'Blood Moon' Lunar Eclipse Wows Skywatchers (PHOTOS)

Tue, 2014-04-15 08:33

The moon took on an eerie blood-red hue early Tuesday during the first total lunar eclipse of 2014, a celestial sight that wowed potentially millions of stargazers across North and South America.

The total lunar eclipse of April 15 lasted about 3.5 hours between late Monday and early Tuesday, with the Earth's shadow slowing darkening the face of the so-called "Blood Moon" in a jaw-dropping sight for stargazers willing to stay up extra late or rise super-early for the event.

"Definitely worth the early wake-up call," skywatcher Brett Bonine of Arkansas told in an email. [Blood Moon Photos: Amazing Total Lunar Eclipse Views for April 15]

Skywatcher Brett Bonine of Arkansas captured this view of the first total lunar eclipse of 2014 in the early morning hours of April 15, 2014.

The lunar eclipse peaked at 3 a.m. EDT (0700 GMT), with the moon taking 78 minutes to pass through the darkest point of Earth's shadow. It was visible from most of North and South America, Hawaii and parts of Alaska. The eclipse was the first of four consecutive total lunar eclipses, known as a "tetrad," between April 2014 and September 2015.

The moon turns blood red in this 3:30 a.m. ET view of the total lunar eclipse on April 15, 2014 as seen by a telescope at the University of Arizona's Mt. Lemmon SkyCenter at Steward Observatory atop Mt. Lemmon, Arizona.

Astronomer Bob Berman, who hosted a live lunar eclipse webcast for the Slooh community telescope using views from Arizona's Prescott Observatory, said event was also one for the record books because of another bright object in the predawn sky.

"It was the most special one, I would say, of our lives," Berman said during the Slooh webcast. "What made it particularly extraordinary was that it happened on the same night as the closest approach of Mars to Earth in years."

Mars made its closest approach to Earth since 2008 on Monday night (April 14), coming within 57.4 million miles (92.4 million km) of our planet.

So the Red Planet and the "Blood Moon" shined together in the predawn sky in a rare event, Berman said, adding that the bright blue star Spica completed the show.

"We'll never again for the rest of our lives see a total eclipse of the moon on the same night as the closest approach of a bright planet like Mars," Berman said. was flooded with lunar eclipse photos taken by excited observers from across the United States, with images coming in from Hawaii, Puerto Rico and even a Disney Fantasy cruise ship in the Gulf of Mexico.

Photographer Fernando Rodriguez of the South Florida Amateur Astronomers Association captured this amazing view of the total lunar eclipse of April 15, 2014 during the totality phase at about 3:24 a.m. ET.

While heavy cloud cover and rain threatened to spoil the total lunar eclipse for observers in the eastern United States, stargazers in the central and western United States got a good lunar show. In addition to the Slooh webcast, several other groups streamed live views of the eclipse.

The University of Arizona's Mt. Lemmon SkyCenter at the Steward Observatory atop Mt. Lemmon in Arizona streamed spectacular telescope views of the eclipse from its start to finish. NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Alabama teamed up with the iconic Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles, Calif., to offer another view.

NASA is also keeping close watch on two solar-powered spacecraft currently orbiting the moon. The lack of sunlight on the moon during the eclipse was expected to starve NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter and LADEE moon dust probe, both of which are solar powered.

Meanwhile, the Virtual Telescope Project in Ceccano, Italy (where the eclipse was not visible) streamed live views of spectacular eclipse photos by astrophotgraphers across the United States. In South America, the Gloria Project held a live webcast at the Incan ruins of Cusco, Peru to mark the event.

Photographer Tyler Leavitt of Las Vegas, Nevada, captured a stunning series of images showing the moon slowly waltz into Earth's shadow, then take on its iconic blood-red hue. Leavitt took the photos from his front driveway between 11:30 p.m. and 1:20 a.m. PDT, and he was not alone.

Photographer Tyler Leavitt of Las Vegas, Nevada, took this series of photos of the total lunar eclipse on April 15, 2014 as the moon appeared from his front driveway.

"It was nice to see several of the neighbors coming out to take a look also," Leavitt told in an email.

Lunar eclipses occur when the moon is full and passes through part or all of the Earth's shadow. Total lunar eclipses happen when the moon is totally enveloped by Earth's shadow, darkening the face of the moon. Because the moon's orbit is tilted, it does not perfectly align with Earth and the sun every month so lunar

Later this month, from April 28 to April 29, the sun will turn into a "ring of fire" during an annular eclipse. It's possible, however, that the celestial sight will only be visible for penguins. The solar eclipse's totality will only be visible over an uninhabited part of Antarctica. This year's total lunar eclipses and solar eclipses are among the most promising stargazing events of 2014.

The next total lunar eclipse of 2014 will occur on Oct. 8, followed by another on April 8, 2015 and the last total lunar eclipse of the current tetrad on Sept. 28, 2015.

Editor's Note: If you snapped an amazing picture of the April 15 total lunar eclipse, you can send photos, comments and your name and location to managing editor Tariq Malik at

Miriam Kramer @mirikramer contributed to this report from New York City. Email Tariq Malik at or follow him @tariqjmalik and Google+. Follow us @Spacedotcom, Facebook and Google+. Original article on

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10 Design Ideas To Steal From Hotels

Tue, 2014-04-15 08:30
No matter where we go on vacation, the hotel is admittedly the destination we look forward to most. But all of that four-star luxuriating might be the reason why we often feel less than enthusiastic about returning to the daily grind. (Especially on a Monday. Ugh.) What is life really about, after all, without a Heavenly Bed to cozy up into every night?

It's a question we've pondered spring break after spring break, and one we might finally be able to stop asking, thanks to a couple of designers who recently outfitted two swanky New York City hotels. Their answer? To bring the hotel experience home. Here are 10 ways to do it.

Start At The Door

If the 1920s-inspired lobby at the WestHouse hotel in New York City isn't enough to have you packing your bags for a permanent stay, the entry to each guest room will. That's where designers from Jeffery Beers International (JBI) installed a small shelf to place keys and small items, and a small crystal chandelier similar to the grand chandeliers found downstairs. But while this hotel might have two shots at making a first impression, your home probably doesn't, so you're going to want to make that entryway count.

Make The Bed

No single item makes the hotel experience more than the bed. (Okay, room service is up there, but...) To achieve those ethereal layers of pillowy goodness (without going broke), JBI suggests skipping the pillow-top mattress and buying a featherbed instead. "A featherbed is much more economical and serves just as well for making you feel like you’re sleeping on a cloud," JBI designers say. The same goes for super-high thread count sheets. "The maximum you need is 300 to 400 [thread count]," though going higher is totally up to you. Layer two flat sheets over the mattress, sealing them with hospital corners the way most hotels do, add a few down pillows, which JBI says are best for adjusting to heat and body temperature and conform well to body curves, and finish it off with a soft and fluffy duvet.

...And Keep It Neat
"Keeping organized and maximizing storage is important for maintaining a clean look in small spaces," JBI adds. Hotels have housekeeping to take care of that. For you, we have two words: Cleaning service.

Save Space, Bedside And Beyond

The design team at The William hotel -- a colorful extended-stay residence in New York City -- used space-saving floating drawers in lieu of bulkier bedside tables; JBI recommends finding furniture pieces that can serve multiple purposes, such as a desk that doubles as a dining room table.

...And Use Mirrors To Open Up The Space Even More

There's actually a reason for that mirror many designers like to hang right above the writing desk: "Strategically placed mirrors can make a small space look more expansive," JBI says.

Put The Desk To Use
It's the easiest spot to drop your room key or laptop, but that writing desk was actually used for, well, writing years ago. Why not pick up some stationery and tell your friends and family what a wonderful trip you had. (Aside from what they've already seen on Instagram, of course.)

Splurge On Details

...Like the fogless mirrors JBI installed at WestHouse, so "guests can shave and do their morning routine without leaving the shower." Another simple splurge: A small cutout in the shower door that lets guests turn on the water without getting wet.

Cozy Things Up Underfoot
Room carpeting not only creates a clear delineation between the hardwood entrance foyer of the bedroom area at WestHouse, it also "sends a relaxing signal to the guest," JBI explains. Copy the design trick at home underneath a cluster of seating in the living room or under your bed. White floors at The William feel equally cozy and clean.

Keep It Fresh With Flowers

Right up there with a bellman to help you transport your bags, you'll almost always find a bouquet of fresh flowers in the lobby of a decent hotel. If you aren't lucky enough to live in this super-fancy Miami residence where management ensures that each unit is always filled with the owner’s favorite flowers, check out one of our new favorite sources for fresh blooms: Flower Muse.

...Or Bring In Other Yummy Scents
Home fragrance guru DayNa Decker is responsible for the woody, verdant aroma that greets you when you walk through WestHouse's doors; these seven scents would stand in just as well at home this spring.

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If You Only Have a Weekend in Chicago, Do This, Eat Here and Don't Go to Bed Early

Tue, 2014-04-15 08:10
When you only have one weekend to explore a new city, it's important to make every moment count -- but at the same time, you don't want to run yourself ragged. So when you have just 48 hours in Chicago, let this be your guide to a fun-filled (and delicious!) weekend.

Friday: Assuming you arrive in Chicago after work on a Friday, fuel for a jam-packed weekend with the city's most iconic food: deep-dish pizza. Chicagoans will never stop debating which eatery has the best deep dish but two solid contenders are Lou Malnati's, which bills itself as "the oldest family name in Chicago pizza," and Giordano's, which says its stuffed pizza recipe has evolved over 200 years. Which is the best? You be the judge... but don't deny yourself a slice (or three).

After dinner, head over to The Second City for a show. The comedy company spawned some of the funniest people on TV and in movies today -- Tina Fey, Steve Carell, Mike Myers, Stephen Colbert and more -- so you never know whether the people you see onstage in Chicago will grace a screen near you sometime soon.

Saturday: Start the day with a cup of strong Intelligentsia Coffee; the Chicago-based company has seven locations in the city. From there, head over to Millennium Park early to get your typical tourist shots before the hordes descend. After all, you can't leave Chicago without taking a cheesy photo at the Cloud Gate (better known as "The Bean").

From the park, walk over to The Art Institute of Chicago. Go ahead and recreate your favorite scenes from Ferris Bueller's Day Off -- including a staring contest with Georges-Pierre Seurat's Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte -- then enjoy work by iconic artists including Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Georgia O'Keeffe, Paul Cézanne, Vincent van Gogh, Claude Monet, Pablo Picasso, Wassily Kandinsky and many, many more.

Grab a quick bite at one of the Art Institute's three dining establishments before heading over to The Field Museum for an afternoon of science and natural history exploration. Visit Sue, the most complete T.rex skeleton ever found, see some extraordinarily well-preserved mummies, take a virtual trip to the South Pacific and walk through 4 billion years of life on Earth in "Evolving Planet."

If you have time, Shedd Aquarium and Adler Planetarium are just next door to The Field Museum and absolutely worth visiting.

You'll be hungry for dinner at this point. For Saturday night dinner, plan ahead and make reservations at Girl and the Goat, helmed by Top Chef winner Stephanie Izard. The menu is divided into three sections -- Vegetable, Fish and Meat -- with additional listings for bread, oysters and, of course, goat. If you have eating pants, wear them... and don't leave without trying at least one of the kitchen's creative desserts.

It's not time to turn in yet. Make your way uptown to the Green Mill Jazz Club to hear the sounds of 1930s and '40s Chicago brought back to life. A little dancing should close the night off nicely.

Sunday: Start your last day in Chicago with a hearty breakfast. Perennial Virant in Lincoln Park does an upscale breakfast menu that includes irresistible homemade doughnuts; for a more casual experience, check out Eleven City Diner in the South Loop.

After breakfast, take a trip to Wrigley Field; tours are available. Next door, Wrigleyville Dogs serves authentic Chicago-style hot dogs: an all-beef frankfurter on a poppy seed bun and topped with yellow mustard, chopped onions, relish, a dill pickle spear, sliced tomato, sport peppers and a sprinkle of celery salt.

After all this eating, you'll want to stretch your legs. Chicago is an incredibly walkable city and one of the best stretches for a stroll is along Lake Michigan, where the water reaches out as far as the eye can see. On hot days, look for sunbathers and swimmers along the shore.

Alternately, check out the shops and eateries in Wicker Park northwest of the Loop. There's everything from secondhand clothing stores to name-brand designers; refuel at The Wormhole Coffee, which has a DeLorean parked inside for added atmosphere.

Before heading to the airport, take the time to step out onto the Willis Tower Skydeck for an incomparable view of the city. Once the tallest building in the world, it's now second only to One World Trade Center as the tallest building in the United States.

Before you know it, a weekend in Chicago is gone -- and you've barely scratched the surface of America's Second City. Oh well, you'll just have to return...

Did I miss your favorite spot? Fill us in!