Our Sun

What two major elements make up our sun?


How long do elephant pregnancies last?

Gioacchino Rossini

The William Tell Overture, overture to the opera William Tell, was composed by Gioachino Rossini. The opera premiered in 1829 and was the last of Rossini’s 39 operas.

William Tell

Which composer composed the “William Tell, Overture”?

Memorial Day

Memorial Day is celebrated on the last Monday of each May in the United States and began as “Decoration Day” after four years of Civil War in the United States, in which more than 600,000 men died. Although it eventually become known as “Memorial Day,” it was not until 1968, with the passage of the Uniform Monday Holiday Act that it become an official Federal holiday.

It seems that in May of 1868, John Logan, a veteran of the Civil War and head of the Union veterans organization the Grand Army of the Republic, established May 30th as “Decoration Day.” A day when people would be encouraged to put flowers on graves of family, friends and comrades who perished in the war. On May 30, 1868, General Ulysses S. Grant presided over the first official National Decoration Day ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery. After World War I, Decoration Day evolved into a day or remembrance for all soldiers who died during the country’s wars.

Memorial Day also has its own tradition with respect to flying the US flag.  The protocol is to raise the flag to full-staff at sunrise and then slowly lower the flag to half-staff.  At noon, the flag should again be raised to full-staff to honor all those who have served.  At 3:00 p.m. local time every Memorial Day, Americans are asked to stop what they are doing for 1 minute of silence to pay tribute to those American soldiers who have fallen in service to their country.  This tradition was memorialized in 2000 with the passage of The National Moment of Remembrance Act.

You can learn more about the history of Memorial Day here.


Volleyball has numerous terms and slang phrases of which dump, floater, joust and wipe are only a handful. Volleyball is played with six team members in two rows, three in front and three in back.

Dump: A surprise attack usually executed by a front row setter to catch the defense off guard and aimed at the donut (area 4) on the volleyball court. (Note: the setter is the player who sends the ball into the opponent’s portion of the volleyball court by doing a ‘dump’ on the second touch of the ball – only three are allowed per side.)

Floater:  A serve in which the ball follows an erratic path since it has no spin.

Joust: The situation where the ball is landing right on top of the net and one player one from each side jumps up and pushes against it, trying to push it on to the opponent’s side.

Wipe (also known as a tool): When a player deliberately spikes the ball off an opponent, sending it out of bounds.

I found a few sites that had lists of the different terms and phrases used in Volleyball (Wikipedia: Volleyball Jargon; Gold Medal Squared; Facts.net) and I’m guessing those knowledgeable in the sport are likely to know even more of them!



Rope, released in 1948, is widely recognized as one of Alfred Hitchcock’s greatest technical achievements. The plot of Rope was inspired by the real life case involving  Leopold and Loeb, two affluent students who murdered a child to validate their intellect. But the real significance of the film is Hitchcock’s technical innovative cinematic achievements.

Rope was shot in real time – a cinematic first.  While most early films were composed of hundreds of shots, each lasting only 5 to 15 seconds (Hitchcock’s The Birds was edited from 1,360 shots), but Rope required only 10!  Each scene was shot continuously for 10 minutes, without any interruption – the full length of a film reel at the time. Whenever the film reel needed changing, the camera operator would focus on a blank surface. They would then start the next reel with the same shot, making it appear continuous.

Rope was also Hitchcock’s first color film and aside from the street scene under the opening credits, the film was shot on a single set with almost no editing. The set had walls on rollers so the walls could be moved out of the way for camera shots and then replaced when the walls were to come back into the scene. The large technicolor cameras were placed on dollies so the fully mobile set, all using lubricated surfaces, would keep noise to a minimum. Again, Hitchcock recorded the soundtrack directly – at the time recording live dialogue for a motion picture was previously unthinkable.

Like a military operation, actors had carefully choreographed cues and a team of sound technicians and camera operators kept everything in constant motion. Even the cyclorama used for the background shots was groundbreaking – the largest backing ever used on a sound stage. A cyclorama is a panoramic image inside a cylindrical platform, intended to make viewers feel as if they are in the midst of the scene. The cyclorama used for Rope had models of the Empire State and Chrysler buildings, chimneys with smoke, lights going on and off in buildings, neon signs blinking. Clouds made of glass changed position and shape 8 times and the sun slowly dips below the horizon as the movie unfolds.

Bottom line: By experimenting with innovative cinematic and recording techniques Hitchcock challenged many of the basic principles of editing and film-making and encouraged others to begin challenging how films were being made!

For you Hitchcock fans, another bit of trivia.  As you know, one of trademarks of a Hitchcock film is the fact that he makes a cameo appearance in most of his films – and this one is no different.  At 55 minutes and 19 seconds into the movie, Hitchcock’s trademark profile can be seen when a red neon sign in the background starts blinking. In the scene, as some guests are escorted to the door, the actors stop momentarily and the neon sign flashes in the background.