Buddy Building

Sticks and stones can be used to make homes.  Stones and sticks can be used to shape words in dirt or sand.  Sticks and stones can be used to channel water.  Stones and sticks can be used to bring imagined miniature worlds into reality in fields, woodlands or even backyards.  With skill they can supply warmth through fire.  They hold, hide, mark, filter, and form.  They are indispensable.

Together they are better.  Stick and Stone (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, April 7, 2015) written by Beth Ferry with illustrations by Tom Lichtenheld introduces us to a stick and a stone who discover the benefits of not being alone.  They fashion a friendship, firm and true.


Two separate beings wander and watch in singular silence, day and night.  One is roly-poly like a zero.  The other is tall and thin like the number one.  There is no pleasure in their play.

One fine day Pinecone comes strolling along.  He laughs, and then laughs some more, at a struggling Stone.  Stick steps up being brave; sending Pinecone on his way.

Stone is pleasantly surprised.  Friends do this is Stick's reply.  The two, Stick and Stone, are inseparable until the weather intervenes.  It's a hurricane!

Stick gets caught in the wind, whirling out of sight. (Pinecone does too.)  Stone seeks Stick but he is nowhere to be found.  What's that?  What's that sound?

Stone rolls and rockets to the rescue.  Friends do this for their branchy best buds. The score soars.

The more you read the words of Beth Ferry the more you understand the sheer genius of her selection.  Single words rhyme but convey much emotion; sadness, happiness, fear and humor.   Younger readers (and all who remember being younger) can readily identify with the story line.  Most of the sentences are three to five words long; succinct but highly successful in telling the tale.  The friendship between Stick and Stone feels real and is therefore powerful.  Here is a sample passage.

"Vanish!" says Stick.
His word does the trick.

As soon as I looked at the matching dust jacket and book case for this title I knew I was going to like Stick and Stone.  Their facial expressions exude happiness and a close camaraderie.  The color palette used on the front and back, blues, greens, golden browns, a touch of red and a smidgen of purplish pink (on the jacket flap) is maintained within the body of the book.  Tom Lichtenheld adds extra finishing touches repeatedly elevating the charm.  Notice Stick balancing on the N in the title.

The opening and closing endpapers are done in a muted rustic orange with shaded black drawings.  Each in turn explains the birth of Stick and Stone.  On the title page the elusive but present butterfly weaves through the text near two clouds and over a single flower in the grass.

The word placement on the pages, providing the pacing, is perfection.  The first six pages are single page images with Stick and Stone as the main element.  Their position in the pictures depicts the characters' feelings superbly.  Shifting from single page illustrations to double page pictures, Lichtenheld's expertise shines in the way his visuals complement and enhance the text.

One of my favorite illustrations is for the text which reads

Stick, Stone. (left)
A friendship has grown. (right)

This image spans both pages.  On the left Stick is holding a bottle of liquid bubbles and the wand.  Stone with eyes closed is blowing.  The bubbles arc up and loop over to the right page.  They support the words which climb to the upper right-hand corner.  To me this also signifies the rising affection between Stick and Stone.

Stick and Stone with words by Beth Ferry and illustrations rendered in pencil, watercolor and colored pencil by Tom Lichtenheld is a gentle, rhythmic ode to the strength of shared experiences; to having someone who cares about you as much as you care about them.  The text and pictures mirror the relationship of the characters, friends to the end.  This is a wonderful read aloud generating laughter, sighs and discussion.  It would be fun to think of all the uses for sticks and stones.  I wonder how many phrases with sticks and stones can be listed;

Between a rock and a hard place
Out on a limb
Branching out
Stick in the mud...

To learn more about Beth Ferry and Tom Lichtenheld please visit their respective websites by following the links attached to their names.  Enjoy this Activity Kit provided by the publisher.  Beth Ferry was a guest at teacher librarian extraordinaire John Schumacher's blog, Watch. Connect. Read.   Be sure to visit Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast hosted by author, reviewer and blogger, Julie Danielson to read about Tom Lichtenheld's process for creating the art for this title.  Both of these interviews make the reading of this title richer.  Enjoy the book trailer.

The Clangers: Vote for Froglet

The second general election of 1974 took place on 10 October. That day a special episode of The Clangers, which saw them trying an election of their own and not much liking it, was broadcast that evening.

I do not know if it was shown after the polls closed, but in an interview Oliver Postgate said it was not shown at the usual time for children's programmes.

Vote for Froglet has long been thought lost, but the good news is you can watch  the whole thing on the British Film Institute website.

Sense About Science: Making Sense of Crime

From the Sense About Science website:
Making Sense of Crime brings together experts in the causes of crime and measures to reduce it, who share insights from reliable research evidence. This evidence reveals how misleading the political debate on crime is. 
The guide reviews how the media influences what politicians and the public think about crime, discusses the most reliable ways to judge how much crime is happening, and looks at how some of the common claims about crime and ways to reduces it stack up against research evidence. 
Making Sense of Crime also analyses some measures to tackle crime that are supported by evidence. 
Insights from the evidence in the guide include:
  • Most types of crime are falling across developed countries and have been for around 25 years 
  • ‘Criminals’ aren’t a separate group from the rest of society
  • Police statistics are not the best way to judge crime rates 
  • Crime isn’t caused by a single factor such as poverty, bad parenting, inequality, government cuts or influences such as video games 
  • The most effective ways to cut crime might lie outside the criminal justice system
You can download Making Sense of Crime from the Sense About Science website,

FBI Issues Hacktivist Threat Alert

A recent FBI public service announcement alert warns that law enforcement personnel and public officials may be at an increased risk of cyber-attacks. These attacks can be precipitated by someone scanning networks or opening infected emails containing malicious attachments or links. Hacking collectives are effective at leveraging open source, publicly available information identifying officers, their employers and their families. Officers and public officials should be aware of their online presence and exposure. For example, posting images wearing uniforms displaying name tags or listing their police department on social media sites can increase an officer's risk of being targeted or attacked.

Many legitimate online posts are linked directly to personal social media accounts. Law enforcement personnel and public officials need to maintain an enhanced awareness of the content they post and how it may reflect on themselves, their family, their employer or how it could be used against them in court or during online attacks. To read the full alert announcement and how to defend against hacktivism, go to http://www.ic3.gov/media/2015/150421.aspx.

Report Identifies Criminal Justice Needs Related to Digital Evidence

A new report describes the results of a National Institute of Justice-sponsored research effort to identify and prioritize criminal justice needs related to digital evidence collection, management, analysis and use. Digital Evidence and the U.S. Criminal Justice System: Identifying Technology and Other Needs to More Effectively Acquire and Utilize Digital Evidence, presents specific needs to improve utilization of digital evidence in criminal justice. Several top-tier needs emerged from the analysis, including education of prosecutors and judges regarding digital evidence opportunities and challenges; training for patrol officers and investigators to promote better collection and preservation of digital evidence; tools for detectives to triage analysis of digital evidence in the field; development of regional models to make digital evidence analysis capability available to small departments; and training to address concerns about maintaining the currency of training and technology available to digital forensic examiners. To read the report, go to http://www.rand.org/pubs/research_reports/RR890.html. A companion document, Interactive Tool for Ranking Digital Evidence Needs, presents the prioritized needs and allows users to see how their priorities would change when the importance of different digital evidence objectives are changed (http://www.rand.org/pubs/tools/TL175.html).

Italy 2 euro 2015 - EXPO Milan 2015

New bimetallic circulating commemorative:

'EXPO Milan 2015'

External ring: CuNi
Center disc: 3 layers, Ni-Brass, Ni, Ni-brass
Diameter: 25.75 mm
Width: 2.20 mm
Weight: 8.50 g

(news and image from www.numismatica-visual.es)

Italy 10 euro 2015 - 70 Years of Peace in Europe

New silver commemorative:

'70 Years of Peace in Europe'

(information and image from eurocoinland.wordpress.com)

LINK: Italian Mint

Teignmouth in 1960

I was born into a Britain of patronising narrators and nondescript film scores. Where have they all gone?

AF will defend, boost space assets

By Jim Garamone, DoD News, Defense Media Activity / Published April 29, 2015

WASHINGTON (AFNS) -- Space is absolutely vital to the American way of life and it is also vital to the protection of the nation, the commander of Air Force Space Command told the Defense Writers’ Group here April 28.

“The job of the United States military is to prepare for the threats you see, and the threats that may be coming,” said Gen. John E. Hyten. “We’re aggressively looking at our current capabilities and our future capabilities to figure out what we have to do to prepare for those threats.”

The threats are real. In 2011, China demonstrated an anti-satellite capability by destroying a satellite more than 500 miles in space. Russia and China have looked at laser weapons and at microsatellites. The weapons are still in development, Hyten said, “but they are very close to fruition, and we need to be prepared for that.”

Moving forward, the Air Force is looking at the next generation of satellites and ensuring they will be more resilient and have more defensive capabilities built into them, he said.

“As we look at our response options we are going to ensure we have real-time command and control capabilities in our command and control centers,” the general said. He also promised to build up the command and control centers, and noted that the fiscal year 2016 budget request asks for funding for this.

Change is coming

Hyten said he aims to shake things up in the space world.

“We’ve become very comfortable in the status quo,” he said. “(Air Force) Space Command was created in 1982. So it’s the oldest stateside major command in the Air Force.

“When we started, none of the stuff we operate existed. We had weather satellites, radars, early warning systems -- that was it. The people in my command have basically developed the capabilities that fundamentally changed warfare forever, and we won’t go back,” Hyten continued.

“Now the hard part is convincing my Airmen and the culture at large that we have to change,” he said. “The biggest concern I have is not pushing down new ideas, but pulling up new ones out of some very innovative people who are just growing comfortable with the status quo. We have to get back to that sense of innovation, back to the ways of creating something new.”

Hyten said he wants people to try new methods and exploit new technologies. He wants people to look at older technologies in new ways and perhaps with new purposes. He mentioned chip scale atomic clocks -– small accurate timepieces that can be used for a number of military applications from preventing improvised explosive device detonation to ensuring uninterrupted communications.

As the commander of AFSPC, Hyten also has responsibility for the service’s cyber mission. Cyber protection is part of every decision on space systems, he said.

“There are millions of probes every year into our networks, from every corner of the world,” he said. “One of the reasons we have a very robust network and a very robust cyber protection capability is because of those continuous probes.”

Hyten said the probes originate with nations all the way through criminal networks to just curious individuals. “If you think you’re safe in cyber, then when you wake up tomorrow everything is different,” he said. “Cyber changes that fast, you can never feel too comfortable in cyber.”

Improved efficiency

The command is well situated to move forward, the general said. “Seven or eight years ago, think about space programs … all the programs were fundamentally broken,” he said. “Disaster.”

The space programs all had overruns, Hyten said.

“We weren’t launching anything. We weren’t delivering anything,” he said.

But over the past four years, the space investment budget has gone from $8 billion a year to $6 billion, “and we didn’t cut a thing out. We actually took money out of the budget and kept delivering all the capabilities,” he said.

These included such programs as the space-based infrared system and the global positioning system block two satellites, Hyten said. “We actually added the space fence into that portfolio,” he said, adding that the once “out of control” evolved expendable launch vehicle is now under control.

“Now as we look at the threats we have to pursue, all -- up to the president of the United States -- have recognized we have to put money into that capability,” the general said. “The administration has announced an additional $5 billion coming at our response to the threats we see out there.”