Category Archives: Coffee Break Escape

Kaleidoscopes: Tubes of many colors, where did they come from?


Sir David Brewster invented the Kaleidoscope in 1816. A combination of the words, kalos, or beautiful, and eidos or form, and scope or watcher, Kaleidoscope means “beautiful form watcher.”

Brewster’s first ‘scope was constructed of pieces of colored glass and other found objects reflected by mirrors or glass lenses set at angles, creating patterns when spun around.

In the 1870’s, American Charles Bush improved on the design, and began manufacturing them for mass marketing.

The kaleidoscope creates reflections of the objects inside the tube. If the mirror angle is evenly divisible by 360 degrees, the pattern will be symmetrical. For instance, a mirror set at 60 degrees will generate a pattern of six regular sectors. A mirror angle at 45 degrees will make eight equal sectors, and an angle of 30 degrees will make twelve.

From handcrafted or homemade, to mass manufactured, kaleidoscopes are enjoyed by all ages, collected, traded and treasured for their beauty and simplicity.

Sources: – this site has a picture and interesting article about Brewster’s invention.

I’m having fun writing, The Kaleidoscope, A Novel of Unusual Circumstances, where the main character, Harold, finds himself the custodian of a magical scope that reveals much more than just colorful shapes! Here’s a Pinterest board where I’m gathering images of the characters and setting for Kaleidoscope.




What’s up with the Segway?



Are they easy to learn how to ride? Will I fall off? What makes them go?DSC_0021

The Segway PT, “an electric, self-balancing human transporter with a sophisticated, computer-controlled gyroscopic stabilization and control system,” (Wikipedia) was invented by Dean Kamen, an American inventor. Segway is a homophone of the word segue, and PT is for Personal Transporter.

Easy to ride: Computers and motors in the base keep the Segway upright when powered on. Gyroscopic sensors and fluid-based leveling sensors detect the weight shift, and riders move by shifting their weight on the platform. (Unless you’re a lousy driver and jump off a curb, the only danger in falling is if the power ever shuts off, but each Segway has a warning alarm, and gives you time to step off.)

What makes them go? Segways are electric, and can go up to 12.5 miles per hour (20.1 km/h).

Because they’re quick to learn how to ride, Segways are ideal for persons with arthritis or other conditions that make walking long distances difficult. Although Segways cannot be marketed in the US as medical devices because they have not been approved by the Food and Drug Administration as a medical device, Segs4Vets, a nonprofit organization, provides Segways to the men and women of the United States military whose service in Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom resulted in permanent disability and difficulty walking.


Besides assisting warriors with mobility, Segways can be seen in countries around the world used by police, on guided tours, and for personal use where municipalities permit.

Segways have inspired the formation of enthusiasts groups, Segway polo, group glides, and a growing community of riders worldwide.

From sports to security, tourism and mobility, so hop on and find out for yourself how easy and fun they can be.


This has been a Coffee Break Escape – 7 Minute Adventures Exploring the World Together

coffee break wide

Nailing Success-How an American actress Tipped off the Vietnamese-American Salon Industry

Photo courtesy of Enuk Nails.

Prior to the introduction of new technology in the 1970’s that made manicures, specifically acrylic extensions, prohibitively expensive, only celebrities and the uber-wealthy could afford frequent visits to the salon. Except for the temporary stick-ons that provided more fodder for comedians than real fashion advantages, the perfection of a new technology, with the end of the Vietnam war, combined the possibility of nice looking nails with a successful business for enterprising Vietnamese expatriots.

Photo courtesy of Miss Minx.

When the actress Tipi Hedren (most famous for Hitchcock’s “The Birds”) visited a tent city of Vietnamese women—some of them former professionals—in Sacramento, called “Hope Village,”  she saw an immediate need to help.  She shared manicure techniques, and with their diligence and business savvy, a “niche” industry was off and filing.

A dentist had begun using tooth repair technology to repair fingernails, and with the evolution of that technology, the availability of clean, quick, attractive artificial nails provided an added value to the previous cleaning, trimming and polishing choices.

By the early 2000’s, surveys by the industry reflect that 80% of nail salons in the Unites States are owned by first or second generation Vietnamese.

Sources for article:


Scary Movies – love ’em or hate ’em?

(Photo credit Lynn Kelley, WanaCommons)

 Like them or leave them, horror movies are enjoyed by countless people across the world.  Some people actually enjoy getting scared out of their wits. A good horror movie allows us to experience the fear we wrestle with deep inside without actually being put in danger.

But where did it all start?  Who can we thank for first horror movie?

 The First Horror Movie

 As far as we can tell, the first horror movie was entitled Le Manoir Du Diable aka The Devil’s Castle or The Haunted Castle and is credited to filmmaker Georges Méliés.  It was only two minutes long. Being made in 1896, there was no sound, but that didn’t stop audiences from enjoying it. The story features a bat, a cauldron, ghosts, skeletons, an old creaky house, and (thankfully) a crucifix to destroy all that evil.


But, as we know, the horror didn’t stop there.  It went on to include some, by now, well known monsters.

The First Monster Movie

Much of classic horror features the monster.  From Frankenstein’s monster, to Dracula to the wolfman, a good monster can scare your pants off. If monster movies are your thing, you can look to The Golem as the first. This movie, directed by Paul Wegener in 1915/1920, was based on the same Jewish legend that inspired Mary Shelly to create Frankenstein’s monster. The movie is set in Prague and features a clay man who is brought to life by an amulet-wielding rabbi.  The monster’s job is to protect the Jewish ghetto, but it turns on its creators when the job is done.

 First Feature Length Vampire Movie

 Even though, thanks to Bram Stoker, Dracula is probably the most well known vampire, the first feature length vampire movie was Nosferatu. It was made in 1922 thanks to director F.W. Murnau. The story features a hideous vampire named Count Orlock, a balding vampire that was followed by rats everywhere.

Interestingly enough, copies of the movie were destroyed because Bram Stoker’s widow sued over copyright infringement.  It turns out that Nosferatu is a flagrant copy of Stoker’s work, though the name of the vampire and setting of the story were changed.

The First Talking Horror Movie

Of course, no list could be complete without a visit from the first talking horror picture.  In 1928, director Roy Del Ruth brought us the Terror, a movie based on Edgar Wallace’s play about a killer in an old house turned inn. Thanks to Vitaphone, audiences could hear the sound effects and the characters speaking for themselves.

The horror film genre has gone through many changes throughout the years. From thrillers to monster movies, the genre has morphed from a two minute silent, black and white film to the full color, full surround sound scare-fests we know today.

So the next time you turn on a horror flick, think about where the genre came from. Then enjoy scaring yourself silly. Just be sure to sleep with the light on.


When she’s not scaring up stories about horror movies, M. R. Anglin writes YA fiction with a fantasy twist. In “Lucas, Guardian of Truth,” an eleven year old boy with a vivid imagination must trust a mysterious creature that transports him to Kalaria, a place where nothing is as it seems. There, Lucas learns that he is the Guardian of Truth, destined to save Kalaria from the Mind Master, a creature bent on destroying the planet, and his imagination as well.  Visit MR at

This has been a Coffee Break Escape – 7 Minute Adventures Exploring the World Together. Please visit our authors’ books, businesses or blogs, we’d love to hear from you! If you’d like to be a part of our Coffee Break team, we’re always looking for new adventuristas!


Ellis Island, gateway to a new life

Karen Malena is today’s Adventurista 

What was it like for newcomers passing through Ellis Island?

I wondered this, and more, about the brave souls who left the old world to pass through ports of entry like Ellis to begin a new life for themselves.

Did you know you can find the names of the actual ship that carried your loved ones to Ellis Island? I found my great-grandfather’s ship, the Verona, and a sketch of what it had looked like back in the day, along with the names of other passengers who travelled with him.

Ellis Island, circa 1918 (photo courtesy of the Library of Congress)

In the early 1900’s, European immigrants travelled to America seeking new and better opportunities for their families. They would board a huge ship, and those who couldn’t afford to pay the fare for the upper decks were relegated to an area just below the main deck called “steerage,” an area originally designed to be a cargo hold.The conditions were crowded, with hundreds of people crammed into cramped quarters.  Nighttime was especially uncomfortable with tiny, closely-packed palettes for beds.

When they arrived at Ellis Island, New York, the poor immigrants were ushered into a processing center which daily herded thousands through for screening. Inspectors questioned them first, and then they were poked and prodded by doctors and nurses looking for diseases or handicaps.  This process took about four hours, and then they were free to leave.  If they didn’t receive approval, they were sent back to their place of origin.

In the thirty five years of operation, 1892-1954, Ellis processed eight million immigrants. In 1897, a fire destroyed many of the records. 1907 saw the most, when 1,004,756 people passed through the portal. Estimates are that over a hundred million Americans can trace their ancestry through Ellis.

Italian immigrants settled in the Pittsburgh and Philadelphia areas. They worked as  carpenters, brick-layers, shoe makers and clothiers.  Many found jobs in the newly fabricated steel mills.  As soon as they saved enough money for passage, and could arrange for accommodations, their families left behind in the old country joined them, processing through the same ports of entry.

Besides searching the records from Ellis Island, you can type a loved one’s name into the Google search engine. I recently searched for my grandfather’s history and found lots of details our family had forgotten. often has free trials so you can get a taste of how easy it is to search.  The more information you have, such as spouse’s and children’s names, and where they were born, the more information you’ll turn up.

My great-grandfather Pietro Biancuci, who emigrated from Italy through Ellis Island

While I searched, I noticed that someone had corrected some misspelling of our family’s last name, and had left their email address.  I wrote her, and a new friendship was forged. We laughed and cried together over dear loved ones, long gone.

My long lost, now found, relative gave me the name of another site.  Family Search lets you search for free.

One of the search engines, Find a Grave, revealed the  final resting place of my great-grandfather, Pietro. I found it, and as I stood there, tears coursing down my face over the end of my quest, I gave thanks for being born into a family who had such a strong patriarch, brave enough to leave the old world, pass through Ellis Island, and begin a new life in America.

My grandmother’s wedding party, with her father, my great grandfather, Pietro, standing directly behind her. (photograph property of the author)

With the power of the internet, and because of the meticulous records, your search for your ancestors might turn up even more than mine did, and I promise you’ll enjoy the adventure. I’d love to hear about what you turn up.

Find a Grave

Norway-Heritage Across the Sea

Family Search

Karen Malena

Karen Malena has several compelling stories about the search for her ancestors available on Amazon and Goodreads. A devoted mother, daughter, and wife, she hopes to convey the ups and downs of true-to-life situations in her writing. Coming from an Italian family has given her passion, and a love of reading has given her the desire for creativity. Karen is a member of Ligonier Valley Writers, and Pittsburgh East Scribes.When she’s not tracking down distant relatives, she works in the dental field, where she developed a compassion  for people of all walks and ages.

Contact her at Visit Karen’s Facebook page, and learn more about her books.

 This post is a Coffee Break Escape – 7 Minute Adventures Exploring the World Together To contribute and link to your book, blog or business, email, or comment below, and find out how to be a part of our team of Adventur-istas.

Clocks – not just another pretty face

Why do clocks run that direction? Why are they called hands?

Inventors living in the northern hemisphere were trying to mimic the movement of the sun over a sundial, and the shadows moving across a sundial move that direction in the northern hemisphere.

Noon, or 12 o’clock (of the clock) is at the top because of the sundial tradition. The word noon comes from the Latin word ‘nona’ or ninth, because in Roman times, midday was the ninth hour of the day or la hora nona.

The first timepieces were actually bells set up in the town square to call the public to prayer. Like cloche in French, clock literally means bell.

Soon, dials and indicators were added for a visual display in addition to the audible, but the peasants were illiterate and couldn’t read or do math. They could perform calculations by counting on their fingers. Four slash marks were much easier for them to contend with than “IV” when taking one away from five. That’s why when Roman numerals are used, the IV is traditionally IIII to this day.

O’clock is an abbreviation for “of the clock” or “of the bells.”

Early clocks in the 14th century, had a carving shaped like a hand, and the dial moved around it. Soon, the creators realized the hand could be made to move instead, and in 1690 a minute hand was introduced when the pendulum and anchor escapement were perfected, making precision time keeping possible.

Time hasn’t always been divided the same, at least not in France. During the French Revolution, in 1793, France attempted to introduce a decimal time system with 10 hours in the day, 100 decimal minutes and 100 decimal seconds per minute.

The decimal hour was almost twice as long as the present hour, or 144 minutes. The decimal minute was slightly longer than the present minute at 86 seconds, and the decimal second was slightly shorter…0.86 sec. Clocks were manufactured with both markings, but obviously decimal time didn’t catch on, and France discontinued its mandatory use on April 7, 1795.

A case can be made for daylight saving time being made before Benjamin Franklin. Albert Edward, The Prince of Wales, liked to be outdoors as much as possible, so the clocks all over Sandringham Estate were advanced by half an hour to give him more time for hunting and shooting. King George V maintained this custom during his lifetime, but King Edward VIII abolished it on his accession in 1936.

Photo courtesy of Jessie Harrel, WANACOMMONS 

Big Ben is actually the name of the bell, not the clock, inside the tower in London. It was recently named Elizabeth Tower, for the Queen in her Diamond Jubilee year, 2012.


Skip Kerr’s Clock Collection

The Official Website of the British Royal Family

Daylight Savings Time



This post is a Coffee Break Escape – 7 Minute Adventures Exploring the World Together

To contribute and link to your book, blog or business, email or comment below, and find out how to be a part of our team of Adventur-istas.



Wondering about Wedding Traditions? – a Coffee Break Escape with MR Anglin

Weddings are a blessed time joining a man and a woman together for life.  But while marriages have been with us since the beginning of human history, wedding traditions have morphed and changed. Some of the ancient traditions we still practice today have interesting beginnings.


Groomsmen and Bridesmaids

Today, it is customary for a bride to have her closest friends or family as her bridesmaids, and the groom his groomsmen.  In fact, the choice of maid of honor or best man can be a source of contention for some families.  However, this tradition has changed a bit since ancient times.

The woman’s consent hasn’t always been a requirement for marriage.  If a man couldn’t find a woman in his area to marry, he went to the next village to kidnap one.  So, the man took one or a group of his friends to help him with the caper.  Only the “best man” would be chosen for such an important and dangerous endeavor.  Likewise, the groomsmen would protect the groom if the bride’s family came to take her back during the ceremony.

Roman law required a witness, which is how bridesmaids originated. The maid of honor would make sure a wreath was prepared, the precursor to the bouquet, and helped the bride get dressed on the big day.  The other bridesmaids would help decorate for the wedding feast, similar to what happens today.

Something Borrowed . . .

“Something old; something new; something borrowed; something blue, and a silver sixpence in her shoe.”  This ancient rhyme is repeated as a woman’s wedding day approaches.  Each of the objects has a specific meaning that hearkens back to the Victorian Age.

Something old represents a tie to the family, and is traditionally something from the bride’s mother or grandmother.  Something new represents a bride’s future happiness. The bride also borrows something—preferably from an older woman who has had a happy marriage—to represent the bride borrowing a little bit of marital happiness for her own union. Blue represents love and fidelity. In ancient Israel, women wore blue ribbons on the border of their dresses for that reason.

As for the sixpence . . . brides put them in their shoe to represent wealth.

Why the Wedding Party Dresses Alike

Groomsmen and bridesmaids often dress alike for the ceremony. That tradition dates back to a time when the groomsmen dressed similarly to the groom, and the bridesmaids to the bride.  Why?  It was hoped that if evil spirits decided to harm the bride and groom, they would be confused as to who the bride was and who the groom was.  It also worked for any human who sought to harm the bride and groom.

It’s fun to know the source of these Western wedding traditions, and watch as new ones are added to the sacred ceremony observed in every culture around the world.

M. R. Anglin writes YA fiction with a fantasy twist. In “Lucas, Guardian of Truth,” an eleven year old boy with a vivid imagination must trust a mysterious creature that transports him to Kalaria, a place where nothing is as it seems. There, Lucas learns that he is the Guardian of Truth, destined to save Kalaria from the Mind Master, a creature bent on destroying the planet, and his imagination as well.  Visit MR at

This has been a Coffee Break Escape – 7 Minute Adventures Exploring the World Together. Please visit our authors’ books, businesses or blogs, we’d love to hear from you! If you’d like to be a part of our Coffee Break team, we’re always looking for new adventuristas!

Sources for the wedding traditions:


Sudoku: Puzzling Numbers, Logic, and an odd name

Where did the international phenomenon, Sudoku—pronounced soo-DOH-koo, really come from, and how did it become such a popular hit? (Don’t make the mistake of calling it sodoku, which is a disease carried by rats!)

Puzzling can help stimulate brain cells according to
(photo credit: Sharp Brains)

Each number is a single digit, and when completed, they make up a Latin square, where no two numbers are repeated twice.

The 18th century Swiss mathematician Leonhard Euler developed the concept of “Latin Squares,” where numbers in a grid appear only once, across and up and down. In the late 1970’s, US based Dell Magazines, with the help of independent puzzle maker, Howard Garnes, adapted Euler’s concept with a 9 X 9 square grid. They called it “Number Place.”

Sudoku is actually a logic puzzle, since the squares can be filled in with letters, numbers or shapes.

In the mid-1980s, Maki Kaji, the president of the Japanese puzzle giant, Nikoli, Inc., urged the company to publish a version of the puzzle that became a huge hit in that country. According to the London Observer, Nikoli gave the puzzle its current name.

Sudoku translates to “the digits (su) must be single (doku).”

Nikoli helped refine the puzzle by restricting the number of revealed or given numbers to 30 and having them appear symmetrically. The game became increasingly popular in Japan and started becoming a fixture in daily newspapers and magazines. Almost two decades passed before the game was taken up by “The Times” newspaper in London as a daily puzzle.

The game has spawned books, wooden sets, electronic puzzles, computer games, at least one television show, (a British game show), a card game using 81 card decks, a tribute song that received so many hits and downloads the hosting site had to be taken down, computer apps, competitions, and if you Google Sudoku, you’ll get more than 97 million hits.

Sudoku Trivia: there are about five billion possible Sudoku puzzles. The permutations for correct answers are over six sextillion.

For more information, here are just a few sites:

Wikipedia: Sudoku

Sharp Brains

A Coffee Break Escape 7 Minute Adventure

Beverly Nault avoids anything to do with numbers whenever possible in Southern California, but puzzles over Facebook and Twitter, defying logic in every status update.

Coffee Break is always looking for new “adventuristas” to contribute short, interesting, and fun pieces, so click through to find out how (its free!) to become a team member. Did I mention it’s free?



Single-handed Sailing – going solo without GPS

On April 24, 1895, Joshua Slocum set sail from Boston, alone, in a tiny sloop he had rescued from disrepair and abandonment, to become the first solo sailor to circumnavigate the globe.

The trip covered 46,000 miles and took three years to circle back to Newport, Rhode Island on June 27, 1898. No GPS. No bottled water. No Facebook or twitter.

Born for the sea, when Josh was 16, he ran away from home (he had already left once at age 14 to work on a deep sea fishing boat) and became a seaman, crewing many deep-water sailing ships, working his way up from “rail meat” to ordinary seaman on merchant vessels bound for Europe and beyond.

Working his way up the ladder, Joshua obtained his first command on the California coast in 1869, and sailed for 13 years out of San Francisco to China, Australia, the Spice Islands, and Japan. From his logs, Josh wrote about his experiences, and self-published “Voyage of the Liberdade” in 1890, and “Voyage of the Destroyer,” both at his own expense. His most popular book was yet to be written.

Josh had yearned to own a vessel since his youthful days tossing on the cold waters of the north Pacific. In 1892, a friend, Captain Eben Pierce, offered Slocum a ship that “wants some repairs,” and Slocum eagerly traveled to check out the fixer in Fairhaven, Massachusetts. The “ship” was a rotting oyster sloop propped up in a field. It was called the “Spray.”

Three years later, the re-built and restored sloop was again seaworthy, and Josh set out for his around the world journey, never before accomplished, as a singlehanded voyage. Slocum navigated by the lunar method and dead reckoning, using a cheap tin clock for approximate time, and noon sun sightings for latitude.

A ‘singlehanded’ voyage can include stops, but no additional crew or assistance is permitted while advancing the boat’s position as it transits toward the next destination. This historic achievement made Captain Joshua Slocum the patron saint of small-boat voyagers, navigators and adventurers all over the world.

A modern “Spray” design –

Photo courtesy of Bruce Roberts.

To this day, sailors design and build new sailing ships based on the original lines of Joshua Slocum’s “Spray.” Several have been built in timber based on the original lines provided in his epic classic Sailing Alone Around the World, still considered one of the best adventure books of all time, recounting his remarkable achievement.

On November 14th, 1909, at the age of 65, Captain Slocum set out on another lone voyage to South America from Martha’s Vineyard, but was never heard from again.

Links for more information:

Joshua Slocum Society 

Bruce Roberts Sailing

If you have a story to tell, I’m always looking for 7 Minute “adventuristas” to contribute short, interesting, and fun pieces, so click through to find out how to become involved in  Coffee Break Escape.

Beverly Nault writes safely from her armchair in Southern California, navigating the globe by the Internet, and communicating via social media on Facebook and Twitter. Visit her at 

Coffee Break Escape…7 Minute Adventures exploring the world together

I don’t know about you, but I get a little restless once in a while. It’s a big world, erm…galaxy, right? With interesting lifestyles, people, new sights, and under-reported events that beg for discussion and discovery.

So I ask you:

How many words per minute do you read?

How long does it take to sip your coffee, or tea, etc.? (We include beverage drinkers of all varieties here.)

Here’s the desk in the office suites where I work answering phones. My gracious boss lets me drink coffee all day long, AND work on my fiction and blog. Thanks, Kevin!

While I pondered how to take a quick “armchair” trip to explore, without expensive airplane tickets and embarrassing airport yoga…

I percolated up (sorry) the idea of Coffee Break Escape, for a quick getaway. Short enough to digest while we ingest.

Subscribe, follow, or check back here weekly to see what we’ve brewed up. And you may be a winner…details to follow!

We’ll take a quick look at something we all wonder about, or someone whose story needs to be shared.

Like…Where did Sodoku come from? or who trained the first service dog for the blind?

The world is our sandbox.

We’ll explore the lesser known, or time travel to unique and compelling moments in history, all nutshelled down for a quick read.

You can play, too!

I’m looking for guest “adventure-istas.” 

Maybe you’re an expert on how the knitting needle evolved to its current length and pointy-ness, or you’ve taken some snapshots in a corner of the world most of us may never be able to visit. Let me know!

Whenever you hear something intriguing, visit that backroads museum of antique washing machine parts, or see something unusual you want to share, bring it!

Write up your idea, and I might feature your discovery or insight right here! See contest information below.*


maybe there’s something you’ve always wondered about, and you want me to do your “exploring.” Leave me a note and I’ll add it to the “to be brewed” menu.

And I want your bio, links, urls, twitter handles, or FB professional page links on each one so readers who discover you can quickly click through to find you where yo live.

To answer the questions I posed above, according to a quick internet survey, and some home testing (it’s the least I could do), I found the average adult reads about 300 wpm, and drinks a cup of coffee in around 7 minutes (give or take the average between guzzling and savoring.)

To fit into our break time, we’ll keep the posts to 1000 words or less. (This one is 531 to give you an idea.)

Photos you’ve taken or have rights to, or artwork you’ve created, are definitely encouraged!

This is going to be fun!

This caracal demonstrating mid-air hunting leaps for excitement (and toy balls). (San Diego Zoo Safari Park)

When I’ve gathered a couple dozen or so, I’ll be compiling them into an anthology and publishing them to Kindle (nook versions planned for the future), to meet the digital audience yearning for interesting material. The links you provide to your blog, book or business will draw these readers and potential new followers.

Occasionally, we’ll have contests* and people’s choice awards for the most unusual, outrageous, funny, or poignant stories. Start gathering your ideas now, and start submitting today!

Email me using the contact box in the sidebar with questions or your submission.

*Overseas contestants may receive accolades of applause, while North American winners can expect fun and exciting gifts along with their high-fives. Bev reserves the right to edit submissions for clarity.