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Cat in the Stax: Thanksgiving Travel and Population Growth

By Ethan Shea


Thanksgiving Eve. Every traveler’s worst nightmare.

Thankfully, more people can visit their loved ones this year, but returning to pre-pandemic travel means more traffic and delays. It feels like roads just keep getting busier, and that’s because they are. With a seemingly ever-increasing population, things are bound to become more crowded.

Which brings me to my tangentially related point. Increasingly busy holiday travel always reminds me of the potential challenges posed by global population growth. Fittingly, the human population made headlines recently, so it’s the perfect time to reconsider my concerns.

In fact, the global population reached a massive milestone this month. According to the United Nations (UN), on Nov. 15, 2022, the global population surpassed 8,000,000,000.

Our population took only 12 years to increase from seven to eight billion, but the UN predicts it will take another 15 years to reach nine billion people. This means global population growth may finally be slowing.

It’s easy to fear the unknowns of rapid population growth. When the time comes (perhaps it already has), will we be prepared to make the adjustments needed to accommodate for a billion more people?

Everyone has their own opinions of what will occur over the next 15, 50 or 500 years, but considering the future of humanity in light of a holiday based on thankfulness encourages us to look on the bright side.

Because of modern medicine and new technology, the average life span of humans has increased over the past century, leading to the population growth recognized earlier this month. Things are far from perfect, but perhaps reaching a population of 8,000,000,000 shows us that things are getting better. That’s for you to decide though.

If you’d like to check out some resources concerning the global population, look no further than Falvey! Here are a few worth noting:

Global Population: History, Geopolitics, and Life on Earth – Alison Bashford

Global Population Health: A Primer – Richard Skolnik

Global Population Policy: From Population Control to Reproductive Rights – Paige Whaley Eager

Global Population at a Glance: 2002 and Beyond – U.S. Census Bureau

Thanks for indulging me with this non-traditional holiday blog, and Happy Thanksgiving from myself and everyone here at Falvey!

Headshot of Ethan SheaEthan Shea is a graduate student in the English Department at Villanova University and Graduate Assistant at Falvey Library.

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Cat in the Stax: The Fast-Food Graveyard

By Ethan Shea


If you’re reading this blog on the day of its publication, you’re in luck because today (Nov. 16) is National Fast Food Day! Partaking in this seldom celebrated holiday is simple. All you need to do is stop by your local fast-food chain and enjoy a meal.

In honor of this momentous occasion, this week’s Cat in the Stax blog will take a close look at fast food in the United States.

"Spicy McNuggets"

Image Courtesy of BuzzFeed

One fact that caught me off guard concerns the number of locations each fast-food chain owns. Guess which restaurant has the most locations in the United States. McDonald’s? Maybe Starbucks? If these were your guesses, you’re close but still incorrect.

According to Business Insider, as of 2019, Starbucks and McDonald’s respectively owned the second and third most fast food franchises in the U.S., but the most common fast food restaurant in America (by a long shot) is Subway!  Maybe it’s just me, but I was surprised to learn that Subway has 24,798 locations compared to Starbucks’ 14,608 and the 13,914 held by McDonald’s.

This number has almost certainly changed over the past few years, but it’s nonetheless a surprising statistic.

Another one of my favorite topics is what I like to call the fast-food graveyard, a.k.a discontinued menu items.


Image Courtesy of BuzzFeed

Almost everyone has a beloved meal that disappeared without warning. McDonald’s has a particularly iconic list of retired menu items, from the Cinnamelt to Spicy McNuggets.

However, one discontinued menu item has recently been resurrected. That’s right, for the umpteenth time, the McRib has returned to say its last goodbyes. McDonald’s describes the ongoing McRib revival as the sandwich’s “Farewell Tour,” but we all know this isn’t the end of the infamous pork sandwich.

On a personal note, I have to eat a McRib at least once a year. I don’t even know if I enjoy the annual meal, but there’s just something about consuming a carefully measured dose of restructured pork…

Anyways, another fun fact I learned about McDonald’s concerns the Big Mac. Did you know the iconic burger was invented in Pennsylvania? Jim Delligatti created the Big Mac in 1967 and sold it for the first time in Uniontown, PA. You never know where you’ll find a pivotal piece of Pennsylvania history!

Fast food is a topic that you can learn even more about at Falvey. If you’d like to become an expert on the phenomenon of fast food in the United States, check out these resources:

Fast Foods: Consumption Patterns, Role of Globalization and Health Effects – Marlin Sanford

Fast Food: Roadside Restaurants in the Automobile Age – John Jakle

Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side of the All-American Meal – Eric Schlosser

Headshot of Ethan SheaEthan Shea is a graduate student in the English Department at Villanova University and Graduate Assistant at Falvey Library.


Cat in the Stax: “thirsty while drowning”

By Ethan Shea

"thirsty while drowning at Vasey Hall"

“thirsty while drowning” at Vasey Hall

Until Jan. 18, 2023, there will be an exhibit in the Villanova University Art Gallery titled thirsty while drowning. In addition to this installment on the second floor of the Connelly Center, there will also be exhibitions in Vasey Hall, Bartley Hall, and the Jake Nevin Field House.

"this majestic ancient ice-flood came from the eastward"

“this majestic ancient ice-flood came from the eastward”

The installation conceptualizes the consequences of climate change and advocates for sustainable solutions in the face of the seemingly insurmountable challenges posed by ongoing environmental devastation.

The artist behind this exhibit, Cole Sternberg, is a Villanova graduate, having received a Bachelor’s in Business in 2001. Today, Sternberg lives and works in Los Angeles. His work is displayed in several prominent museums including the Pérez Art Museum of Miami, the American University Museum in Washington D.C., and Deutsche Telekom in Germany.


"if you turn your head to the side, the horizon moves upwards"

“if you turn your head to the side, the horizon moves upwards”

Villanova University presents this exhibit in conjunction with the ongoing strategic plan, “Rooted. Restless.”, which includes a ten-year sustainability initiative.

Falvey Library is proud to host a sustainability database on JSTOR, which includes countless resources to keep you informed on the latest research regarding sustainability. Learn about the database here.

To read more on Cole Sternberg and his inspiration for the current exhibit, check out this article.



Headshot of Ethan SheaEthan Shea is a graduate student in the English Department at Villanova University and Graduate Assistant at Falvey Library.

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Cat in the Stax: What about Duolingo?

By Ethan Shea

"Spanish Study Book"

As you may have seen in a blog published earlier this week, the Booker Prize was recently awarded to Shehan Karunatilaka. This prestigious award is given annually to an outstanding work of fiction written in the English language. The Nobel Prize in Literature, however, can be given to an author who works writes in any language. This year, Annie Ernaux, who writes in French, won the highly coveted Nobel Prize in Literature.

The announcements of both these award recipients who work in different languages led me to look into Falvey Library’s resources that can help you learn new languages.

On Falvey’s website, you can find a Subject Guide for the Spanish language. This guide also includes resources on other Romance languages. A particularly helpful resource you can find here is Mango Languages, an online language-learning website that all Villanova students, faculty and staff have access to. You can access the Mango language database here!

"500 Day Duolingo Streak"

Ethan’s Duolingo streak

But what about Duolingo? In addition to Mango, you can also make use of the free version of Duolingo, something I have been doing for a while to keep my French skills in tact. If you do not already know, Duolingo is a language-learning app known for its uniquely threatening yet comedic social media presence. You can even compete with friends and other online learners on leaderboards in the app.

Not to brag, but last week I reached a 500 day streak on Duolingo. Am I fluent in French? Absolutely not, but I am certainly more capable than I would have been if I never started this streak.

In addition to these resources, you can check out this recently published blog to learn about Ugegbe: Jọnalụ Ụwandịigbo, a new academic journal that publishes work in Igbo.

Lastly, here are some books you can find at Falvey, either in the stacks or online, that can help you learn various non-English languages:

Conversation Guide: Spanish – Eduardo Rosset

Irish Nouns: A Reference Guide – Andrew Carnie

Beginner’s Mandarin Chinese Dictionary: The Ideal Dictionary for Beginning Students – Li Dong

An Independent Study Guide to Reading Latin – Peter V. Jones

Headshot of Ethan SheaEthan Shea is a graduate student in the English Department at Villanova University and Graduate Assistant at Falvey Library.

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Cat in the Stax: The Season of Pizza?

By Ethan Shea


You know October is the month of ghosts and ghouls, but did you know it’s also National Pizza Month? Neither did I, but it’s fitting, as I’ve been fortunate enough to enjoy some quality pies as of late.

Back home in Connecticut, there’s heated debate over who makes the best pizza. In fact, pizza restaurants from New Haven, Conn., are almost always included in lists concerning the best pizza in the country. Some of the most popular pizza producers in New Haven are Sally’s, Modern, and Frank Pepe’s.

"Modern Apizza"

Pizza from Ethan’s visit to Modern Apizza

All these restaurants serve “New Haven-style” pizza (or apizza), which is a thin-crust, coal-fired Neapolitan pie. A signature dish in New Haven is white clam pizza, a pie that is topped with fresh clams, garlic, oregano, olive oil, and grated cheese. You can order this pizza with mozzarella cheese if you’d like, but it’s discouraged because adding too much cheese makes this dish heavy.

Frank Pepe’s is the origin of this sort of pizza, and they are so adamant about using fresh clams that if there are none available, they simply do not serve white clam pizza. Canned clams just won’t do.

I recently visited Modern Apizza and thoroughly enjoyed my experience. I tried the white clam, pepperoni, and Margherita pizzas, all of which were delicious. However, I have to say the white clam pizza is undoubtedly my favorite.

"Altoona Style Pizza"

Altoona Style Pizza (Image by Matt Alvarez of WTAJ)

It seems like there’s an endless variety of pizzas. New Haven-style, New York-style, Detroit-style, Chicago-style deep-dish, Sicilian, and Hawaiian pizzas are just a few types of pizza available. There’s even Altoona-style pizza, which originated in the Altoona Hotel of Altoona, Pa. This pizza is known for using Sicilian style bread and being topped with salami, peppers, and (shockingly) American cheese.

Let us know what your favorite pizza place is in the comments below! Are you a fan of classic New York-style pizzas, or would you rather support Villanova’s home state by digging into a slice of Altoona pizza?

If you’d like to learn more about pizza, from cooking it for yourself to the history of the dish, check out some of these resources at the Library:

Headshot of Ethan SheaEthan Shea is a graduate student in the English Department at Villanova University and Graduate Assistant at Falvey Memorial Library.


Cat in the Stax: A Note from a Cat about Dogs

By Ethan Shea

"Lake Pocotopaug in Ethan's hometown of East Hampton, CT"

Lake Pocotopaug in Ethan’s hometown of East Hampton, CT

Dear Falvey Patrons,

After midterms week, this Cat in the Stax is dog-tired. I’m sure plenty of you are too, so I hope you’re having a restful Fall Break.

I’m writing this blog from my parent’s home in Connecticut, where I’ll be spending the week. It feels great to return home and see your family for the first time in a while, but if we’re being honest, it feels even better to be greeted by your dogs.

"Ethan's Dogs"

Ethan’s Dogs, Lola and Ted

While I’m away, there are a million and one ways to keep in touch with my human family members.  I can text them, call them, DM them on Instagram, FaceTime them, send them a letter, an email, or even a package in the mail. On the other hand, my dogs are unable to communicate with me when I’m away, as a lack of dexterous digits prevents my pets from responding to my instant messages.

I’m happy to enjoy some repose and sleep like a dog if you will, but as you know, even during break there’s work to be done. Luckily, even when you’re away from the stacks, Falvey Library is just a click away.

I know I’ll be doing some research during break, and having access to a plethora of online material is a life-saver. There are hundreds of well-known databases, such as JSTOR and Project Muse, in addition to way more online books than anyone could read in a week. Not to mention the ability to live chat with librarians at a moment’s notice.

It’s odd that I’m just now noticing the irony in me being a thoroughgoing dog person while also being the Cat in the Stax. What strange double lives we lead…

Anyways, I hope that maybe, for just this week, cats and dogs can get along while I visit my canine companions.


Falvey’s Cat in the Stax

Headshot of Ethan SheaEthan Shea is a graduate student in the English Department at Villanova University and Graduate Assistant at Falvey Memorial Library.


Cat in the Stax: The Perfect Time to Decorate

By Ethan Shea

As someone who is a bit weary of the supernatural, I tend to keep the season’s ghouls and goblins at arm’s length. If you feel the same, you can check out my blog from last year with some fall films that are far from frightening.

However, this doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate some high-quality Halloween decor! The big question is, when should the autumn adornments make their appearance?

"Halloween Decor Unsplash"Most people (emphasis on most) can agree that mid-July is too early to assemble the plastic skeletons, but is mid-September premature as well? I feel like everyone has a relative who’s known for either decorating far too early or keeping their artificial cobwebs up for far too long, so this topic carries weight for many.

Now that it’s officially October, it’s safe to say that any and all spooky decor is welcome. In fact, according to Martha Stewart, the first half of October is the most popular time to break out the frightful fall decorations.

However, this all depends on your community. Whether it’s your neighboring dorms or the cul-de-sac you live on, if everyone is up for coordinating some early ornamentation, why not go for it? I personally love when communities coordinate their decoration plans. This applies to all holidays but especially Halloween and end-of-the-year festivities.

Decoration timing also depends on the potency of your Halloween decor. You can probably get away with leaving a mushy pumpkin on the doorstep, but a faux undead corpse propped up in the front yard may begin to turn heads (in a bad way) not too long after Halloween.

Lately it’s been too damp to spend time decorating outdoors, but regardless of the weather, let us know what your thoughts on Halloween decorating are? Is it ever too early for eerie embellishments, and when, if at all, will you be decorating this year?

Headshot of Ethan SheaEthan Shea is a graduate student in the English Department and Graduate Assistant at Falvey Memorial Library.


Cat in the Stax: A Game of Chess

By Ethan Shea

"World Chess Hall of Fame"

The world’s largest chess piece and the World Chess Hall of Fame in St. Louis, Missouri

Last week I traveled to St. Louis, Missouri to attend the Annual Meeting of the International T.S. Eliot Society. St. Louis is arguably the chess capital of the world, and Eliot, who was born in the city, was an avid chess player himself. In fact, The Waste Land, Eliot’s most famous poem, has a section titled “A Game of Chess.” This timeless piece, which was published 100 years ago, is available for pick up here at Falvey.

"Chess Exhibit"

World Chess Hall of Fame Exhibit

During my visit, I made sure to visit the World Chess Hall of Fame. The museum’s current exhibit focuses on the famous 1972 World Championship match between Bobby Fischer and Boris Spassky. Fischer’s underdog win made him the first ever American World Chess Champion and ended 24 years of uninterrupted Soviet chess dominance.

I believe it’s safe to say that almost everything people know about chess these days was learned from the hit Netflix series The Queen’s Gambit. This isn’t a bad thing, so if you’re interested in the show, check out this “Dig Deeper” blog that provides lots of resources on chess strategy that are available in the Library.

My visit was timely, as an ongoing controversy in the world of chess has been making headlines lately. Reigning World Chess Champion Magnus Carlsen recently resigned from a game against 19-year-old American Hans Niemann in the Julius Baer Generation Cup after playing only one move. This came as a shock, as having the world’s top player quit a legitimate tournament without even trying could be a bad look for the sport.

But the situation is deeper than that. It all started in St. Louis during the Sinquefield Cup. Niemann was entered in the tournament as the lowest seed and somehow managed to win against Carlsen, who even had the advantage by playing with white. The next day, Carlsen unexpectedly resigned from the tournament and posted a strange tweet claiming he can’t talk or he’ll be in “big trouble.”

"Grad Lounge Chess Board"

Graduate Lounge Chess Board

This led fans to assume Carlsen suspected Niemann of cheating. Although Carlsen has not directly said this, fans speculate his resignation against Neimann at Julius Baer essentially confirms Carlsen’s stance. Niemann does have a history of cheating and has even been banned from, the world’s largest online chess forum, so the accusations are not entirely out of the blue.

The St. Louis Chess Club has said they do not suspect there was any cheating during Carlsen and Niemann’s game, but the resolution to the situation remains a mystery.

I’d certainly describe myself as a fan of chess. I’ve even read a couple books on chess strategy in futile attempts to improve my skills at the game. Although I might not be the best chess player, I love the endless variations and strategies the game offers. They’re always entertaining and often beautiful.

If you’re a graduate student, there’s a lovely chess board in the Graduate Student Lounge on the third floor of Old Falvey. If you’re looking to play, check it out!

Headshot of Ethan SheaEthan Shea is a graduate student in the English Department at Villanova University and Graduate Assistant at Falvey Memorial Library.

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Cat in the Stax: A Summer to Remember

By Ethan Shea


Tomorrow, on September 22, summer will officially be over. This may be hard to stomach, but don’t fret. There’s plenty to look forward to in the fall!

If we’re being honest, summer really ends when the school year begins, but I understand the world does not revolve around our academic calendar. If you’re a meteorologist, summer ends when August does. Tomorrow’s autumnal equinox only signifies the end of Astronomical summer.

During the autumnal equinox, which signifies the beginning of fall, the sun is directly above the equator. This means the amount of daylight the Northern and Southern hemispheres receive is nearly equal. Because our Gregorian calendar is not precisely in tune with the Earth’s revolution around the sun, hence our use of leap years, the dates of equinoxes vary within a few days.

Essentially, the vernal (spring) and autumnal equinoxes are opposites of the summer and winter equinoxes. During summer and winter equinoxes the Earth’s tilt, either toward or away from the sun, is at its peak. During vernal and autumnal equinoxes, the Earth has essentially no tilt relative to the sun’s rays.

"Heat Maps Summer 2022"

Data: NOAA; Chart: Erin Davis/Axios Visuals

Personally, I’m happy to welcome autumn and the cooler weather it brings. The hot summers are tough for this born and bred New Englander. But I wasn’t the only one feeling the heat this year, as the summer of 2022 was one of the hottest ever recorded. In fact, this summer tied summer 2020 as the hottest summer globally on record. Read this Washington Post article at Falvey Library’s website to find more stats about how this summer’s heat stacks up against previous years.


In addition to more temperate weather, we have fall’s vibrant foliage to look forward to. Check out  this TBT post which includes a picturesque autumn photo from the 1965 edition of Belle Air.

Let us know in the comments what your favorite season is! Are you someone who likes it hot, or are you eagerly waiting for a cool autumn breeze?

Headshot of Ethan SheaEthan Shea is a graduate student in the English Department and Graduate Assistant at Falvey Memorial Library.


Cat in the Stax: Queen Elizabeth II

By Ethan Shea

"Queen Elizabeth II Platinum Jubilee"

Image courtesy of (Steve Parsons/Getty Images)

On September 8, 2022, the world learned Queen Elizabeth II had passed away at the age of 96. The death of the Queen marks the end of a 70-year reign that stretched from the era of Winston Churchill to Liz Truss, two British Prime Ministers who were born over 100 years apart.

Here at Falvey Library, there are countless resources that contain an abundance of information on the life of Queen Elizabeth II, and there are a lot more than just dates and statistics.

For example, here are a few interesting facts about the Queen that I was able to find through a quick online search…

  • Did you know that Queen Elizabeth II was actually never expected to become the Queen of England? When Elizabeth was ten years old, her grandfather King George V passed away, leaving the throne to her uncle, Edward VIII. While he was King, Edward fell in love with an American woman named Wallis Simpson, who had already been married twice. As the King of England, Edward was also the head of the Church of England, which did not approve of remarriage. Edward chose Simpson over the crown and abdicated as King of England, handing the title to King George VI, Elizabeth’s father. Suddenly, Elizabeth was next in line to become Queen, and sixteen years later, she ascended to the throne.

  • Queen Elizabeth II was the only head of state to serve during the Second World War. At the age of eighteen she worked as a mechanic for the Women’s Auxiliary Territorial Service.

  • Elizabeth received an honorary award from the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) for her role in a short film created for the 2012 Summer Olympic opening ceremonies in London. In the film, Elizabeth plays herself alongside Daniel Craig, who takes on the role of James Bond. Elizabeth (definitely not a stunt double…) even skydives out of a helicopter in this action packed scene!

  • It is a well-known fact that Queen Elizabeth was fond of corgis. In fact, she had over 30 of them during her reign. This New York Times article reports that the royal pups will remain in the family.

Here are a few of the resources on Queen Elizabeth II you can find at Falvey!

Headshot of Ethan SheaEthan Shea is a graduate student in the English Department at Villanova University and Graduate Assistant at Falvey Memorial Library.

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Last Modified: September 14, 2022