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Mount Vesuvius in 2016. (Photo by R. Halfpaap)

In 79 A.D., Mount Vesuvius erupted, destroying the nearby cities of Pompeii, Herculaneum, Oplontis, and Stabiae. Though Vesuvius had erupted before, this was the first time that a large number of humans had been around to notice, and most found it a very rude and over-the-top way for the volcano to announce itself. The destruction of Pompeii and Herculaneum, as well as the cities’ almost perfect preservation in volcanic ash, have allowed this eruption to live on throughout history. Children growing up in far-off places like Illinois learn about Pompeii and, hence, to fear volcanoes (also known as murder mountains), at least until they realize that there are none around. Then, once a few years have passed, they learn about the Yellowstone supervolcano and realize that they do, in fact, have to worry about volcanoes. …


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Baubo cheers up Demeter after the kidnapping of her daughter. (Photo by ELEVATE)

We all go through trials in life, and when we do, we all have certain things that we turn to for comfort. Alcohol. Pizza. Watching the same television series over and over again on repeat. Googling ways to assume a new identity and move abroad. And, of course, good friends. Putting aside for a moment my assumed jadedness, I can honestly say that there have been many times in my life that I may not have gotten through if it hadn’t been for my friends. A good friend can offer invaluable support and solace. …


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Photo by Kaique Rocha

Being a small business owner in the United States has never been easy, but there are certain characteristics that make it even harder: being a member of a minority group, happening to exist in the 21st century (an era dominated by massive retail chains and businesses like Amazon), and happening to exist during a global pandemic, just to name a few. Countless pieces have sought to investigate the plight of American small businesses and their owners, but there is one group that remains woefully underrepresented: felines. Cats have been the backbone of American business since the beginning, and their influence continues to be felt today in bodegas and bookstores. But how are feline small business owners surviving these unique and trying times? More specifically, what’s it like to be an American cat starting up a small business right now? …


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A promotional still first featured in National Board of Review Magazine (Library of Congress).

Now that Thanksgiving is over and all of the weird Thanksgiving obsessives have had their time to worship turkey and awkward family chatter, I am finally free to listen to Christmas music and talk about Christmas incessantly without a Thanksgiving obsessive responding, “Heavens to Betsy, not before Thanksgiving!” I, like the rest of the Christmas-celebrating world, recognize the Christmas season as beginning on November 1st, and it seems that Thanksgiving obsessives live solely to harsh my mellow. …


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Shine bright like a diamond. (Courtesy NASA/JPL-Caltech)

The news from Europa just keeps getting better and better. Sure, the discovery that Europa’s water vapor plumes may be coming from water trapped in the crust rather than a Super Stupendous Secret Ocean is a bit of a setback. While it doesn’t negate the presence of the Secret Ocean, it does mean that we can’t necessarily rely on the plumes to give us an idea of how habitable Europa’s Secret Ocean is. But still — water! We all like water. After all, you can’t cook a package of Maruchan Ramen without it.

The more exciting (some may even say illuminating) news from Europa is that it might glow in the dark. Beautiful, sexy Europa, not satisfied with having water, possibly supporting life, and having an awesome view of Jupiter, decided it also needs to glow in the dark. Is the glowing caused by the massive amounts of radiation found on Europa’s surface that make living there impossible? Yes. More importantly, is it going to make the inside of my eventual house on Europa look really cool? …


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The lady of the hour. (Courtesy NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center/Arizona State University)

It is safe to say that the world is a hot mess. There’s that pesky global pandemic. Climate change continues to chug its way along. The United States is swiftly on its way to reverting civil rights back to the 1940s. There’s the skirmish between Armenia and Azerbaijan, and the protests in Nigeria, and the fact that I’ve had a DVD on hold at the library for over a week that still isn’t ready for pickup. A Colorado woman’s pet deer gored her neighbor and threatened authorities with its bloody antlers. What is the world coming to?

There is only one source of good news in these difficult times, and that is NASA. Good old NASA, always there to remind us that none of this matters, as one day the sun will go nova and fry the earth up to bits. It sounds very awesome, but sadly I will not be here for it (probably). Lately, NASA has been in overdrive to provide the world with some good news. While I agree that the United States arguably has better things to spend money on than a trip to the moon, I can’t pretend that I’m not excited about the Artemis mission. And then there was all that business about there possibly being life in the clouds of Venus [Author’s Note: Keep reading]. And of course, just yesterday, the news about water on the moon. It’s nice to read something in the news that doesn’t bring automatic dread, that gives you a few seconds to dream. …


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Photo by Anna Shvets

Recently, cancel culture has been a hot topic of discussion. Let’s be clear: cancel culture is not real. Chris Brown almost killed Rihanna in 2009, and six of the seven albums that he has released since then have gone platinum (the one that didn’t was still certified gold). J.K. Rowling continues to proudly spew transphobic rhetoric, and still has an estimated net worth of at least $670 million. Do people need to be given more room for genuine reflection and change, especially if we’re talking about people’s beliefs naturally evolving over decades of time? Of course. …


My mom’s dead (both of my parents are, in fact) and I’m a medical librarian, but thanks for playing!


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Who got her very first passport less than three months before a global pandemic hit? The author, that’s who! (Photo by cytis)

For many years, an American passport was a ticket to anywhere. There were very few places that had travel restrictions for Americans, and Americans could visit many of the most popular international destinations without a tourist visa.

Then came COVID-19.

In classic filthy American fashion, we have not managed to contain COVID-19 at all. This has, very obviously, resulted in us getting banned from pretty much every other country in the world. Sure, some countries are still letting us in if we quarantine for two weeks or take a COVID-19 test upon arrival, and even fewer countries are letting us in with no restrictions at all (I would urge all of these countries to reconsider), but, as many articles and editorials have pointed out, the American passport has basically become as valuable as a coaster in a matter of a few months. …


There are many sports mascots out there in the world. Some are cute, some are funny, some should probably be in jail. Not all of them are good, however. In fact, very few of them are any good at all.

You may say that I am not qualified to pronounce mascots good or bad. Not only am I too short to play a mascot, but I only really understand how to play approximately four or five sports. Besides, aren’t I likely to be unfairly biased towards the sports mascots of my city, Chicago? The answer to that question is a resounding no. In fact, I dislike many Chicago mascots. The mascot of my favorite sports team, the Chicago Cubs, is a bear named Clark who can best be described as having serial killer eyes. I do not trust him at all. I won’t even get started on Swiper, the mascot of our professional softball team, the Chicago Bandits. Southpaw I dislike on principle. I think the Bears mascot (I could not tell you his name if you paid me) is cool-looking, but he is not good. …

About

Patricia Chavez

Cat mom, librarian, and writer in Chicago.

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