Mountain Views News     Logo: MVNews     Saturday, August 24, 2013

MVNews this week:  Page 8



Mountain Views News Saturday, August 24, 2013 


In his landmark collection Leaves of Grass, famed poet Walt Whitman wrote of a “strange huge meteor-
procession dazzling and clear shooting over our heads…” For decades, scholars have debated what 
astronomical event he was referring to.

Now, a team of astronomers from Texas State University has applied its unique brand of forensic 
astronomy to the question, rediscovering one of the most famous celestial events of Whitman’s day—
one that inspired both Whitman and famed 
landscape painter Frederic Church—yet became 
inexplicably forgotten in recent times.

Texas State physics faculty members Donald 
Olson and Russell Doescher, English professor 
Marilynn S. Olson, and Honors Program student Ava G. Pope published their findings in the July 
2010 edition of Sky & Telescope magazine, available on newsstands now.

Donald Olson noted that July 20 of this year is the 150th anniversary of the event that inspired both 
Whitman and Church. “It was an Earth-grazing meteor procession,” he said.

Whitman, known as a keen observer of the sky, included the reference to this event in his poem “Year 
of Meteors (1859-60),” published in Leaves of Grass.

“Meteor processions are so rare most people have never heard of them,” Olson said. “There was one 
in 1783 and a Canadian fireball 
procession in 1913. Those were 
all the meteor processions we 
knew of.”

An Earth-grazing meteor is 
one where the trajectory takes 
the meteor through the Earth’s 
atmosphere and back out into 
interplanetary space without 
its ever striking the ground. 

A meteor procession occurs 
when a meteor breaks up upon 
entering the atmosphere, creating 
multiple meteors traveling 
in nearly identical paths.

A chance clue from the 19th 
century artist Frederic Church 
proved key to unraveling the mystery. A decade ago, Olson saw a painting on the back cover of an 
exhibition catalog which showed the scene Whitman had described. Church’s painting, titled “The 
Meteor of 1860,” clearly depicted a meteor procession. Not only that, but the catalog gave the date of 
Church’s observance: July 20, 1860, well within the timeframe of Whitman’s poem. An accomplished 
landscape painter, Church was a member of the Hudson River School, living beneath the same skies 
as Whitman.

Armed with this intriguing new date, the Texas State researchers began searching through newspapers 
of the time for verification. What they found surprised even them. A large Earth-grazing meteor 
broke apart on the evening of July 20, 1860, creating a spectacular procession of multiple fireballs 
visible from the Great Lakes to New York State as it burned through the atmosphere and continued 
out over the Atlantic Ocean.

“From all the observations in towns up and down the Hudson River Valley, we’re able to determine 
the meteor’s appearance down to the hour and minute,” Olson said. “Church observed it at 9:49 p.m. 
when the meteor passed overhead, and Walt Whitman would’ve seen it at the same time, give or take 
one minute.”

Some of the most influential publications in the United States—including the New York Times, Smithsonian 
and Harper’s Weekly—devoted major coverage to the event, and countless letters about it were 
published. Scientific American went so far as to declare it “the largest meteor that has ever been seen.”

“Its appearance, right before the Civil War, at a time of growth and anxiety for America, made it a 
metaphor and portent in the public imagination,” Marilynn Olson said.

For Frederic Church’s painting of the event, see:

You can contact Bob Eklund at:

Though spectacular, the Leonid meteor storm of 1833 was definitely NOT the inspiration for Whitman’s 
“Year of Meteors. (1859-60.)”. (Collection of Don Olson)

Picture yourself in a given restaurant here in the San Gabriel Valley. Let’s characterize it as a favorite 
family owned restaurant. The time is 5 PM and the restaurant is beginning to experience the familiar 
bustle of hungry customers. Your server/waiter comes by with a couple glasses of ice water and gives 
you the day’s specials. You survey the selections and ask for a brief moment to discuss the options 
with your companion.

After a lengthy consultation you make your selections, but no server is to be found. You wait and wait, 
and finally flag down the manager, and are assured someone will be right over. New server, Cindy 
comes by and starts with today’s specials... again. You interrupt, “We are ready to order, what happened 
to our original server?” Cindy advises that the other server is on their mandatory break. And 
so it goes in the State of California and I guess in other states as well. Very recently I was at my favorite 
Starbucks, located in a Vons, and noticed that there was only one person working the entire Kiosk. 
I knew exactly what was going on because I saw the other Barista outside in the parking lot taking a 
smoke break. He came back in, saw the line of people and replied, “Sorry guys, they make me take a 
ten minute break no matter what at this time each day.”

California’s law calling for rest and meal breaks is perhaps the most worker-protective in the nation. 
While the requirements are nothing new—they’ve been around for decades—the consequences for 
flouting them have become too costly to ignore. Under legislation signed by then governor Gray Davis 
in 2000, employers who fail to comply owe their employees one additional hour of pay for each 
violation. What’s more, they’re on the hook for offenses going back three or even four years, according 
to a ruling last year by a surprisingly unanimous state Supreme Court.

It’s not difficult to defend such a law, especially when you factor in an industry that employs such a 
large number of workers that earn minimum wage. An exhausted food server doesn’t pose the same 
potential risk, as say, a tired truck driver. But many people can’t even imagine working 8 to10 hour 
shifts without being given breaks.

The restaurant association has offered guidelines, “….warning that a violation can occur if an unpaid 
meal break for employees working five hours or more is less than 30 minutes…..When an employee 
sues or files a claim, employers also bear the burden of proving meal breaks were taken. (The state is 
less strict about documentation for 10 minute rest periods, required for roughly every four hours of 

The truth is that there’s no particular way to tell when and at what hour a restaurant will be busy and 
stay busy, especially now with the economy. Many owners are cutting back on staffing. What happens 
if you get a rush of kids that get out of school early, or the local play that let out at 9 PM and the a large 
group of hungry, late night diners stroll into a restaurant that is down a server?

I have spoken to many a server about the break policy. Many servers would rather forgo their break 
than lose out on tips, while others need that hour to go on errands, talk on the phone or just get 
something to eat.

How do you, the public, feel about all this? While some customers are supportive, others have been 
surprised by the notion that servers need to stop and eat. “One waiter told me he felt like saying, “It’s 
the law. Do you work all day without a break at your job?”

Other restaurant owners have looked for alternatives, such as requiring workers to take breaks near 
the beginning or end of their shifts.

Rest periods are different, but if you tried to enforce dinner breaks and make a server working for 
tips leave their tables for half an hour, you’d probably have everybody quitting. However individual 
restaurants resolve the issue, it’s clear that this increased attention to workers’ rights is changing the 
restaurant industry in fundamental ways. The days when employers could rely on the, “You take care 
of me and I’ll take care of you,” approach to labor issues, and ignoring the letter of the law, while perhaps 
embracing its spirit, are coming to an end.

Flexibility is a great advantage in an ideal world, but it can invite exploitation in an imperfect one. 
For the time being, operators who fail to strike the right balance between the rights of workers and 
the peculiar demands of their industry run the risk of getting served themselves. Increasingly, their 
workers seem ready to dish it out.

Your thoughts?

Chicken and Mushrooms 
with Brown Rice

TABLE FOR TWO by Peter Dills


2 tablespoon(s) olive oil 

 1 1/4 pound(s) skinless, boneless chicken thighs 


 1 package(s) (10-ounce) sliced cremini mushrooms 

 2 medium stalks celery, thinly sliced 

 1 teaspoon(s) chopped fresh thyme leaves 

 1 can(s) (14- to 14 1/2-ounce) chicken broth 

 1 cup(s) instant brown rice 

 1/2 cup(s) dry white wine 

 1/4 teaspoon(s) salt 

 1/4 teaspoon(s) coarsely ground black pepper 

 8 baby summer squash, halved and steamed 


1.In 12-inch skillet, heat oil on medium-high until hot. Add chicken and cook, covered, 
5 minutes. Reduce heat to medium; turn chicken and cook, covered, 5 more minutes. 
Transfer to plate.

2.To same skillet, add mushrooms, celery, and thyme; cook 5 minutes or until vegetables 
are softened, stirring occasionally. Add broth, rice, wine, salt, and black pepper; heat to 

3.Return chicken to skillet. Reduce heat to low; cover and simmer about 12 minutes or until 
juices run clear when thickest part of chicken is pierced with knife, and rice is cooked. 
Serve with squash.


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: August 23, 2013 – The Arcadia Chamber of Commerce invites you to 

attend the Grand Opening / Ribbon Cutting celebration of Saute’ Culinary Academy, on Wednesday,

August 28, at 5pm located at 14 E. Duarte Road, Arcadia. 

Chef Alex invites you to attend the celebration with Arcadia City officials, Legislative representatives, 

Chamber Board Members & Ambassadors and enjoy a sample of some of his signature hors d’oeuvres. 

As a graduate of the world famous Le Cordon Bleu, College of Culinary Arts, Chef Alex has over 23 

of experience in the restaurant business. He has worked at some of the best restaurants & spent seven

years as a full time Lead Chef Instructor at Le Cordon Bleu. He shares his love of food from around 

world with his students while teaching and challenging them to take Culinary Arts to its highest level.


Chef Alex and his staff at the Saute’ Culinary Academy offer Private Parties, Children’s Birthday Parties 
& Classes, Catering, Cake Decorating & Design, Kitchen Rentals, Team Building Events, Professional 
Cooking Programs and more.