Saturday, June 23, 2018

The answer, my friends, is blowing in the tapetum lucidum

Here's an old verse you probably remember from childhood days:

Roses are red,
Violets are blue,
Sugar is sweet,
And so are you.

As valley girls everywhere used to say, gag me with a spoon.

Well, roses may be red and violets may indeed be blue (actually, I thought they were purple), but it is also true that humans are red and doggies are green.

Don't be confused, folks, I just changed horses in midstream. I'm referring to eyes in photographs:

Son of a gun.

I brought up the question a couple of posts back and a comment by our Scottish friend Adrian Ward to the effect that the eyes of some animals have a reflective layer behind the iris inspired me to do some research.

I found this:

"In dogs (and many other animals, but not people), the retina has a reflective layer behind it called the tapetum lucidum, which acts like a mirror, reflecting light at the back of the eyes. The reflective layer is what helps dogs see better at night. Light is reflected outward, giving the dog's retina a second chance to absorb the rays."

...and this:

"Short answer: In humans it is basically the red choroid plexus in the back of the eye you are seeing on a flashed photo, while it is the green-reflecting tapetum lucidum in dogs."

The red-eye effect in humans was explained nicely by Yale Scientific Magazine:

"The human eye can effectively adjust to different light conditions, but this adaptation is also what leads to the red-eye effect. The eye regulates the amount of entering light by contracting or expanding the pupil. At night, your pupils will accordingly enlarge to extract more light from their surroundings. However, this dilation also leaves your eyes unprepared for the sudden burst of light from a camera flash.

"When light from the flash enters your eyes under these conditions, your pupils are unable to contract fast enough (full constriction takes a few seconds) to prevent the light from reflecting back, off of the red blood vessels of the choroid. The choroid plexus nourishes the retina, and therefore contains ample blood supply. As a result, the camera will pick up the red reflection, resulting in the red-eye effect. Interestingly, due to their increased “dark adaptation,” children more commonly have red eyes in photographs.

"The amount of melanin, a light-absorbing pigment in the eye, also has a role in the red-eye effect. Individuals with lower levels of melanin will absorb less and thus reflect more light, explaining the high incidence of the red-eye effect in albinos.

"Though the cause of this effect is wired in the biology of the eye, some cameras can reduce red-eye by sending a few preliminary flashes before the final flash to give the pupils enough time to contract and adapt to the increased-light conditions. Another way to reduce the effect is to avoid looking directly into the camera lens, which will reduce the reflection of light. Finally, if all else fails, modern image editing software, such as Photoshop, can remove the red discoloration.

"With regard to why dogs and other animals may not have red-eyes but other colors, some animal species have a tapetum lucidum, which is situated in front of the choroid and reflects light back onto the retina thereby increasing light sensitivity. In dogs it is green. The following figure from Pets.SE shows the anatomy and the position of the tapetum in front of the choroid.

"Hence, the reason why animals with a tapetum lucidum have another eye color is that light does not reach the choroid in these species, giving rise to green-eye effects in dogs and cats."

...and finally, deep in wikipedia's article on the tapetum lucidum, in a subsection entitled "Eyeshine", I found this:

"Eyeshine is a visible effect of the tapetum lucidum. When light shines into the eye of an animal having a tapetum lucidum, the pupil appears to glow. Eyeshine can be seen in many animals, in nature and in flash photographs. In low light, a hand-held flashlight is sufficient to produce eyeshine that is highly visible to humans (despite our inferior night vision). Eyeshine occurs in a wide variety of colors including white, blue, green, yellow, pink and red (emphasis mine). However, since eyeshine is a type of iridescence, the color varies with the angle at which it is seen and the minerals which make up the reflective tapetum-lucidum crystals.

"White eyeshine occurs in many fish, especially walleye; blue eyeshine occurs in many mammals such as horses; green eyeshine occurs in mammals such as cats, dogs, and raccoons; and red eyeshine occurs in coyote, rodents, opossums and birds (emphasis mine).

"Although human eyes lack a tapetum lucidum, they still exhibit a weak reflection from the fundus, as can be seen in photography with the red-eye effect and with near-infrared eyeshine. Another effect in humans and other animals that may resemble eyeshine is leukocoria, which is a white shine indicative of abnormalities such as cataracts and cancers."

Folks, if you want any more information on this subject, I encourage you to look it up for yourself.

Friday, June 22, 2018

Progress is relative, or Civilization may not be the answer

I thought I-75 in Atlanta was bad but the Katy Freeway in Houston, Texas, is mind-boggling. The photograph was taken in 2015. At Thanksgiving we often sing "We gather together to ask the Lord's blessing" but this is a bit too much togetherness, in my opinion.

Yorkshire Pudding's peak district is looking better all the time.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Everything you ever wanted to know about the summer solstice but were afraid to ask

Here it is again, good old June 20th.

To spare myself time and effort, I hereby request that you go over to the sidebar on the right side of this blog, scroll down to all the way to the letter S section, and click on the words:

summer solstice

which will bring up for your viewing pleasure four infinitely fascinating posts about, you guessed it, the summer solstice, which is an unfortunate way of referring to it if you happen to live in the southern hemisphere where today is the first day of winter (kylie and sue, I'm looking at you, and also carol in Cairns in Far North Queensland, if you're still around, and maybe even Helsie in Brisbane).

If you are tempted not to go to all the bother, I would remind my longtime readers that by so doing you may get to see Paul Newman without his shirt on.

Read all the comments too as they're always fun.

I have to rest now. It's too hot to do anything else.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

View from the bottom of the barrel by one who has been there

Hard on the heels of a powerful poem from Elizabeth, this morning I want to share with you "Twenty Years Ago", a powerful post from another cyberfriend in England, a man named Gary Pennick who blogs under the name klahanie. I'm sure it required courage both to write and to publish.

After you have looked at that, I have an off-the-subject question that I hope someone can answer. Why is it, when looking into a camera, that human eyes show red but doggie eyes show green?

This is neither a joke nor a trick question. I would really like to know the answer.

Monday, June 18, 2018

Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven

My English cyberfriend and Methodist clergywoman Elizabeth Stanforth-Sharpe posted a moving poem online today. It deserves re-posting without further comment from me.

The Day The War Came
by Nicola Davies

The day war came there were flowers on the window sill
and my father sang my baby brother back to sleep.
My mother made my breakfast, kissed my nose
and walked with me to school.

That morning I learned about volcanoes, I sang a song about how tadpoles turn at last to frogs.
I made a picture of myself with wings.
Then, just after lunch, while I watched a cloud shaped like a dolphin, war came.
At first, just like a spattering of hail
a voice of thunder…
then all smoke and fire and noise, that I didn’t understand.

It came across the playground.
It came into my teacher’s face.
It brought the roof down.
and turned my town to rubble.

I can’t say the words that tell you
about the blackened hole that had been my home.

All I can say is this:

war took everything

war took everyone

I was ragged, bloody, all alone.

I ran. Rode on the back of trucks, in buses;
walked over fields and roads and mountains,
in the cold and mud and rain;
on a boat that leaked and almost sank
and up a beach where babies lay face down in the sand.

I ran until I couldn’t run
until I reached a row of huts
and found a corner with a dirty blanket
and a door that rattled in the wind

But war had followed me.
It was underneath my skin,
behind my eyes,
and in my dreams.
It had taken possession of my heart.

I walked and walked to try and drive war out of myself,
to try and find a place it hadn’t reached.
But war was in the way that doors shut when I came down the street
It was in the way the people didn’t smile, and turned away.

I came to a school.
I looked in through the window.
They were learning all about volcanoes
And drawing birds and singing.

I went inside.
My footsteps echoed in the hall
I pushed the door and faces turned towards me
but the teacher didn’t smile.
She said, there is no room for you,
you see, there is no chair for you to sit on,
you have to go away.

And then I understood that war had got here too.

I turned around and went back to the hut, the corner and the blanket
and crawled inside.
It seemed that war had taken all the world and all the people in it.

The door banged.
I thought it was the wind.
But a child’s voice spoke
“I brought you this,” she said “so you can come to school.”
It was a chair. A chair for me to sit on and learn about volcanoes, frogs and singing
And drive the war out of my heart.

She smiled and said “My friends have brought theirs too, so all the children here can come to school”

Out of every hut a child came and we walked together,
on a road all lined with chairs.
Pushing back the war with every step.

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Clever tie-in to yesterday's post about Catherine of Aragon

Get it?

The first was created by Walt Disney, the second by Swedish actress Ingrid Bergman and Italian film director Roberto Rossellini. The second's full name is Isabella Fiorella Elettra Giovanna Rossellini Scorsese Wiedemann. The first's, oddly enough, is Ferdinand Fiorella Elettra Giovanna Rossellini Scorsese Wiedemann the Bull, or Ferdinand the Bull for short.

Okay, that last sentence may not be true.

More to be pitied than censured, I admit that this post may be not so much clever as irritating.

In the olden days I might have repented in sackcloth and ashes, but fortunately for me, the olden days are...

Irritating, yeah, that's the ticket.

Friday, June 15, 2018

Fun fact of the day

I'm sure many of you out there already know this, especially those of you from the British Commonwealth of Nations (kylie and Sue, I'm talking to you, and made a little rhyme besides), and most especially those of you ensconced in the United Kingdom itself, but I didn't know until today that Catherine of Aragon (pictured above), first wife of Henry VIII whom he divorced in order to marry Anne Boleyn, whom he eventually beheaded (Anne, not Catherine), was the daughter of none other than Ferdinand and Isabella, yes, that Ferdinand and Isabella, benefactors of one Cristoforo Columbo, Isabella I of Castile and Ferdinand II of Aragon, to be exact.

Catherine was betrothed at age 3 to the Prince of Wales, Henry's older brother Arthur, whom she eventually married but it was a short-lived marriage as Arthur died five months later. A few years later Catherine married Henry and became Queen Consort, the exact position in which Camilla Parker-Bowles Windsor-Mountbatten, Duchess of Cornwall, may find herself one day in the not-too-distant future, unless her husband Charles Philip Arthur George, Prince of Wales, should pre-decease his mother, the current reigning monarch, Elizabeth II, in which case she (Camilla, not Elizabeth) will not become Queen Consort but merely the Queen Stepmother, if they let her be Queen at all, which is doubtful.

The preceding paragraphs contain two of my longest sentences ever, but it simply cannot be helped. Well, it can, but what I have written, I have written. I am not in a mood to revise this morning.

It occurs to me that Camilla is more like Wallis Warfield Simpson, Duchess of Windsor, than Catherine of Aragon, being a divorcee and not a widow.

I love all things English except Yorkshire Pudding, whom I merely tolerate, and Mick Jagger. (I’m just pulling Yorkshire Pudding’s leg here; actually I rather like him. Why else would I have included a poem by him over there in the sidebar?)

A fun fact each day keeps the undertaker away.

Thursday, June 7, 2018

One of my favorites (British, favourites)

If you click on this link and then click again within the link, you will hear the hauntingly beautiful “Cry No More”, a song with lyrics by Johanna Anderson that are set to the beautiful music of Dan Forrest. As the printed introduction in the link indicates, ‘it is a contemplative hymn of reassurance scored for SATB* choir and piano. The words “Christ within us, Christ among us, Christ the first and Christ the last” resonate with quiet strength throughout.‘ I especially like the lines, “Love Incarnate, hold Your children till the storm of life is past.”

Even if you are not a religious person, please listen to this song for its sheer beauty. If you are absolutely certain that you do not have a soul, it may be especially needful.

*SATB means the four voices soprano, alto, tenor, and bass. —-RWP

Cry No More
by Johanna Anderson

In the shadow where we linger,
in this darkness we call home,
Where the sighs are deep and doubtful
And our aspirations groan,
All is not in vain, Beloved,
Our travail is not unknown.

Christ within us, Christ among us,
Christ the first and Christ the last;
Love Incarnate, hold Your children
Till the storm of life is past.

Though we have not faith to seek Him,
Christ Himself will draw us near,
Deep, abiding rays of mercy
Cast their light on only fear.
Cry no more, ye poor and weary,
Our redeeming Lord is here.

Christ within us, Christ among us,
Christ the first and Christ the last;
Love Incarnate, hold Your children
Till the storm of life is past.

Sure defender, never failing,
Radiant Savior, Holy Friend,
Gift of glory, Hope of heaven,
Call us now to faith again!
Alleluia! Blest compassion,
Grace is shining without end!

Christ within us, Christ among us,
Christ the first and Christ the last;
Love Incarnate, hold Your children
Till the storm of life is past.

Cry no more.

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

The times they are a-changin'

Most Many Some A few of you will recognize the title of this post as a song Bob Dylan wrote way back in 1963 and recorded in 1964. I will not be so cruel as to make you listen to Bob's unusual unique voice, but I will show you his lyrics:

The Times They Are A-Changin'
by Bob Dylan

Come gather 'round people
Wherever you roam
And admit that the waters
Around you have grown
And accept it that soon
You'll be drenched to the bone.
If your time to you
Is worth savin'
Then you better start swimmin'
Or you'll sink like a stone
For the times they are a-changin'.

Come writers and critics
Who prophesize with your pen
And keep your eyes wide
The chance won't come again
And don't speak too soon
For the wheel's still in spin
And there's no tellin' who
That it's namin'.
For the loser now
Will be later to win
For the times they are a-changin'.

Come senators, congressmen
Please heed the call
Don't stand in the doorway
Don't block up the hall
For he that gets hurt
Will be he who has stalled
There's a battle outside
And it is ragin'.
It'll soon shake your windows
And rattle your walls
For the times they are a-changin'.

Come mothers and fathers
Throughout the land
And don't criticize
What you can't understand
Your sons and your daughters
Are beyond your command
Your old road is
Rapidly agin'.
Please get out of the new one
If you can't lend your hand
For the times they are a-changin'.

The line it is drawn
The curse it is cast
The slow one now
Will later be fast
As the present now
Will later be past
The order is
Rapidly fadin'.
And the first one now
Will later be last
For the times they are a-changin'.

(end of lyrics)

As people used to say in places like Illinois and Texas, "Boy, howdy!" (It is a statement of agreement. The Southern equivalent is "You ain't just whistlin' Dixie!” and in the U.K. one might say "Indubitably!" or even "Quite!")

In spite of the fact that Bob Dylan included a word that does not even exist ('prophesize' -- what he meant was 'prophesy'), these are powerful thoughts.

I have a real-life, personal example of how times have changed. Mrs. RWP and I were married in May 1963, so we reached our 25th wedding anniversary (that's the silver one) in May 1988. To commemorate the event, Mrs. RWP cross-stitched the sampler below; it has a silver frame and hangs on the wall over our piano:

Almost 30 years exactly after we were married, our daughter and son-in-law were married in May 1993. They reached their 25th anniversary last month and some close friends of theirs (her college roommate married his college roommate) threw them an informal surprise party. One of the gifts presented to the honorees was this informative plaque:

In spite of the fact that there are only a little over 13 million minutes in 25 years, not 100 million as the plaque states (someone didn’t do enough fact-checking), these are powerful thoughts as well. But it never occurred to Mrs. RWP and me to include 'zero stabbings' as one of our accomplishments.

I know it was meant to be funny, but the times truly are a-changin'.

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Mushroom report: The proliferation continues unabated

This morning I counted 41 of my little Psilocybe semilanceata visitors (I do not say friends) growing in the green, green grass behind my home. Shortly afterward, Mrs. RWP and I packed our bags, gathered up our little dog Abby, and left the premises to spend a few days with our daughter’s family in Alabamistan.

I hasten to add that there is no cause-and-effect relationship between these two events. None whatsoever.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Adrian Ward! Calling Adrian Ward!

...or anyone else who might be able to identify these fungi/mushrooms/toadstools/whatever-they-are that suddenly appeared in my yard this week after some rather heavy rains.

The first morning there were four, all of which shriveled in the sun and were gone by mid-afternoon. The next day nine more appeared, then 16 on the third day. I try to ignore them, but they aren't going away. In fact, they're multiplying. By the fourth day, as shown in the photograph below, there were 35.

I fear I am being invaded by alien creatures who are planning my demise, so a reply is requested at your earliest convenience.

Thank you for your prompt consideration, and may the Force be with you.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Not only has spring sprung, sumer is icumen in

As proof, here are two views of my neighbors' rhododendrons, or maybe they are mountain laurel (the flowers, not the neighbors). I can never remember. I'm pretty sure they are rhododendrons.

In case you are wondering, I didn't go into my neighbors' yard. I stood next to the wooden fence that separates our properties.

Mrs. RWP and I are treated daily to this wonderful display outside our bedroom window. Our neighbors, whom we’ve known for 15 years, are no longer able to enjoy their lovely terraced garden. Peggy, 85, is slowly sliding into dementia. Rube, who will be 90 in September, built the entire hillside himself over a period of several years. Two months ago they moved into an assisted-living facility about four miles away. Their daughter, who is in her mid-sixties and lives in another town, took Pepper, their five-year-old miniature schnauzer, into her own home to look after.

We went to visit our friends a few days ago and it broke my heart to see Peggy holding a plush stuffed toy dog in her lap, a grey miniature schnauzer that was a farewell gift from another neighbor, and talking to it softly. Before we left, I presented Peggy and Rube with 8x10 copies of both photographs so that they can enjoy their garden this year as well.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

This just in: Yahoo News (or maybe AFP) prefers dangling participles over passive voice

I was startled today by the following link to a Yahoo News article on the Drudge Report website:

Fleeing conflict, elephants help Myanmar villagers to safety

You do see the problem, don't you? The headline has the elephants doing the fleeing instead of the Myanmar villagers.

I'm not making this up. In fact, here's the complete article, along with an AFP (Agence France-Presse) photo of one of the elephants, from which one of the villagers appears to be, well, dangling.

I thought immediately of an amusing old collection of grammar rules in which each rule violated itself. Specifically, I thought of my favorite, "When dangling, watch your participles."

What should the headline writer (I do not call him or her a journalist) have written instead?

There are a couple of possibilities. One is to write in passive voice:

Fleeing conflict, Myanmar villagers are helped to safety by elephants

However, if you are unalterably opposed to using passive voice (and I feel it in my bones that many of you are), you could simply move the misplaced modifier to its proper position in the headline:

Elephants help Myanmar villagers fleeing conflict to safety

I now close this fascinating post with a famous "droodle" by Roger Price called Four Elephants Examining an Orange:

The jury is still out on whether the orange is fleeing anything.

Monday, May 14, 2018

Emails, we get emails, we get stacks and stacks of emails, or If you want cash, go to Helen

Back in the dear, dead days beyond recall 1950s, singer Perry Como would put us all to sleep with his laid-back singing style always end his weekly television programs with a medley of songs introduced by a catchy little ditty that went "Letters, we get letters, we get stacks and stacks of letters" and here is a clip from his December 10, 1955, show to prove it. It includes "Love and Marriage", "Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer", and "Embraceable You" (6:13). If you're not asleep by the end of it, it isn't Perry's fault.

Now that that's out of the way, I just want to say that I get emails, I get emails, I get stacks and stacks of emails, most of which are trying to sell me something. Just this morning I received one that shouted, "BIBLE BASED BELLYFAT BREAKTHROUGH". Leaving aside for a moment the question of whether BELLYFAT is one word or two words, I am wondering whether it is the BELLYFAT or the BREAKTHROUGH that is BIBLE BASED. Any help you can provide in solving my dilemma will be greatly appreciated.

And, wouldn't you just know it, I continue to be the target of obvious scammers. Here's one from a "Mrs.Helen Sheppard" who I'm fairly certain is either an unscrupulous man in Nigeria or a robot in Russia:

Greetings,Respond Immediately

My name is Helen Sheppard a widow from United States Married to late Victor Sheppard; I am in a hospital at the moment undergoing treatment for Esophagi Cancer in Switzerland. I write to you in good faith and hoping that you will understand the importance of my email.My decision to contact you is because I have been recently diagnosed with Cancer and the doctor said that I have less than 7 weeks to live.

My late husband worked with SOLHAM OIL COMPANY Benin before his death. I have been reflecting over my life in the past. It is painful that after over 21 years of peaceful marriage with my late husband, we had no child of our own that will inherit our numerous wealth. Based on this my present health condition I have decided to donate US$4.5 Million Dollars for the Less Privileged orphanage/motherless babies before I die due to advise according to my late Husband in my last dream.

Beloved i wish to see this project completed and 40% will be set-aside for your humble Assistance and 60% will be for the project. I sincerely believe you are a GOD-fearing person who can help me out and maintain my last wishes without betray.

I want you to contact me back through (email address) so i can give you the information to contact the bank where the money is deposited.

My regards,
Mrs.Helen Sheppard.

Even though I (a) appreciate that Mrs.Sheppard wrote in good faith, (b) certainly do understand the importance of her email, and (c) am definitely a GOD-fearing person, I will not be helping her out or maintaining her last wishes without betray.

The moral of this story is simple: If you want cash, go to Helen, at least for the next 7 weeks.

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

I (heart) Peggy Noonan

Back in 2009 I wrote two posts called "I (heart) Peggy Noonan" and "I (heart) Peggy Noonan, part deux". Today I'm writing about Peggy Noonan again, so this post should probably have been called "I (heart) Peggy Noonan, part trois". I don't care. What I have written, I have written. A year's free subscription to my blog (folks, it's free already) if, without looking it up, you can identify the person who most famously uttered the previous sentence, and why. (Hint: It wasn't necessarily in English.)

[Editor's note. Since I didn't want to send you off on wild goose chases, please notice that I did not include links to those two 2009 posts about Peggy Noonan because the links in those posts to columns written by the aforementioned Peggy Noonan for the Wall Street Journal no longer connect to those columns. They are now forever lost in the annals of time or at least in the archives of the Wall Street Journal. --RWP]

To be clear, I don't (heart) the actual living, breathing Peggy Noonan who looked like this in a 2016 photograph by American photographer Gage Strickland:

No, friends, I (heart) Peggy Noonan's way with words. She is a wordsmith of the first order.

Wikipedia says of her, "In 1984, Noonan, as a speechwriter for President Reagan, authored his "Boys of Pointe du Hoc" speech on the 40th anniversary of D-Day. She also wrote Reagan's address to the nation after the Challenger explosion, drawing upon the poet John Magee's words about aviators who "slipped the surly bonds of earth... and touched the face of God." The latter is ranked as the eighth best American political speech of the 20th century, according to a list compiled by professors at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Texas A&M University. The "Pointe du Hoc" speech ranks as the 58th best speech of the century....Later, while working for then Vice President George H. W. Bush, Noonan coined the phrase "a kinder, gentler nation" and also popularized "a thousand points of light," two memorable catchphrases used by Bush. Noonan also wrote the speech in which Bush pledged: "Read my lips: no new taxes" during his 1988 presidential nomination acceptance speech in New Orleans (Bush's subsequent reversal of this pledge is often cited as a reason for his defeat in his 1992 re-election campaign)."

At long last, we finally come to the reason for this particular post, Peggy Noonan's column of April 26, 2018, entitled "What Does This Moment Demand of Us?"

Happy reading. I hope you will (heart) Peggy Noonan too.

Thursday, May 3, 2018

As Little Orphan Annie used to say, "Leapin' Lizards!"

On November 28, 2014, in a post entitled "Up, up, and away...", I showed you this photo of our grandson, who was 18 at the time:

...and followed it with this text:

"He floats through the air with the greatest of ease, this daring young man sans a flying trapeze.

"Peter Pan, eat your heart out."

Turns out it runs in the family. Our grandson has a younger sister who began dancing at an early age. Here she is at the age of two:

She is almost 18 now herself. The following photo was made last month during a rehearsal of the Dream Ballet sequence at the end of the first act of Oklahoma!, in which she had the starring role of Laurey. Oh, yes, she sings and acts too.

I have included a plot summary of Oklahoma! from wikipedia at the end of this post for readers who may not be familiar with the play. I spare no expense and try to think of everything where my readers are concerned.

Here she is again a few weeks later during a dance recital program.

To top everything off, she was chosen by her classmates to be Queen of the Prom last week.

I suppose instead of quoting Little Orphan Annie in the title of this post I could just as well have quoted what Samuel F. B. Morse said upon the invention of the telegraph machine, "What hath God wrought?"

Here's the summary of Oklahoma! I promised. It's really more of a blow by blow description:

Act I
In Oklahoma territory in 1906, cowboy Curly McLain looks forward to the beautiful day ahead as he wanders into farm girl Laurey Williams's yard ("Oh, What a Beautiful Mornin'"). He and Laurey tease each other, while her Aunt Eller looks on. There will be a box social dance that night, which includes an auction of lunch baskets prepared by the local women to raise funds for a schoolhouse. The man who wins each basket will eat the lunch with the lady who prepared it. Curly asks Laurey to go with him, but she refuses, feeling that he has waited too long. He attempts to persuade her by telling her that he will take her in the finest carriage money can buy ("The Surrey with the Fringe on Top"), but she teases him about it until he says he made it up to get back at her. She flounces off, not realizing that he really has rented such a rig.

The lonely, disturbed farm hand Jud Fry has become obsessed with Laurey and asks her to the dance. She accepts to spite Curly, although she is afraid of Jud. Meanwhile, cowboy Will Parker returns bedazzled and souvenir-laden from a trip to modern Kansas City ("Kansas City"). He won $50 at the fair, which, according to his girlfriend Ado Annie's father, Andrew Carnes, is the money he needs to marry Ado Annie. Unfortunately, he spent all the money on gifts for her. Will also purchased a "Little Wonder" (a metal tube used for looking at pictures, but with a hidden blade inside) for Ado Annie's father, unaware of its deadly secret. Later, Ado Annie confesses to Laurey that while Will has been away, she has been spending a lot of time with Ali Hakim, a Persian peddler. Laurey tells her she'll have to choose between them, but Ado Annie insists she loves them both ("I Cain't Say No"). Laurey and her friends prepare for the social, while Gertie Cummings flirts with Curly (her obnoxious laugh floating in to taunt Laurey). Laurey tells her friends that she doesn't really care about Curly ("Many a New Day").

Andrew Carnes discovers Annie with Ali Hakim. After questioning Ado Annie about their relationship, he forces Hakim at gunpoint to agree to marry her. Hakim and the other men lament the unfairness of the situation ("It's a Scandal! It's a Outrage!"). Curly discovers that Laurey is going to the box social with Jud and tries to convince her to go with him instead. Afraid to tell Jud she won't go with him, Laurey tries to convince Curly (and herself) that she does not love him ("People Will Say We're in Love"). Hurt by her refusal, Curly goes to the smokehouse where Jud lives to talk with him. Curly suggests that since Jud does not feel appreciated, he could hang himself, and everyone would realize how much they care about him ("Pore Jud Is Daid"). Their talk turns into an ominous confrontation about Laurey. After Curly leaves, Jud's resolve to win Laurey becomes even stronger, and he vows to make her his bride ("Lonely Room").

Confused by her feelings for Curly and her fear of Jud, Laurey purchases a "magic potion" (referred to as smelling salts, but actually laudanum) from Ali Hakim, which the unscrupulous peddler guarantees will reveal her true love. She muses on leaving her dreams of love behind and joining the man she loves ("Out of My Dreams"), then falls asleep under the influence of the opiate ("Dream Sequence"). In an extended dream ballet sequence, Laurey first dreams of what marriage to Curly would be like. Her dream takes a nightmarish turn when Jud appears and kills Curly. She cannot escape him, confused by her desires. The dream makes her realize that Curly is the right man for her, but it is too late to change her mind about going to the dance with Jud; he has come for her, and they leave for the box social.

Act II
At the social, during an upbeat square dance ("The Farmer and the Cowman"), the rivalry between the local farmers and cowboys over fences and water rights has led to fighting, which Aunt Eller ends by firing a gun to silence everyone. Laurey is upset when she sees Curly at the dance with Gertie. In an effort to rid himself of Ado Annie, Ali Hakim buys Will's souvenirs from Kansas City for $50. Jud also contributes to this by purchasing Will's Little Wonder, knowing of the blade concealed within it. The auction starts and Will bids $50 on Ado Annie's basket, not realizing that without the $50, he would no longer have the money her father insisted he needs to "purchase" marriage with her. Desperate to be rid of Ado Annie, the peddler bids $51 to get the basket so that Will can approach Andrew Carnes with the $50 and claim Ado Annie as his bride. The auction becomes much more serious when Laurey's basket comes up for auction. Jud has saved all his money so he can win Laurey's basket. Various men bid, trying to protect Laurey, but Jud outbids them all. Curly and Jud engage in a ferocious bidding war, and Curly sells his saddle, his horse, and even his gun to raise money. Curly outbids Jud and wins the basket. Jud discreetly tries to kill Curly with the Little Wonder, but his plan is foiled when Aunt Eller (knowing what is happening) loudly asks Curly for a dance. Later that night, Will and Annie work out their differences, as she reluctantly agrees not to flirt with other men ("All Er Nuthin'").

Jud confronts Laurey about his feelings for her. When she admits that she does not return them, he threatens her. She then fires him as her farm hand, screaming at him to get off her property. Jud furiously threatens Laurey before he departs; Laurey bursts into tears and calls for Curly. She tells him that she has fired Jud and is frightened by what Jud might do now. Curly, seeing that she has turned to him for guidance and safety, reassures her and proposes to her, and she accepts ("People Will Say We're In Love (Reprise)"). He then realizes that he must now become a farmer. Afterwards, Ali Hakim decides to leave the territory and bids Ado Annie goodbye after telling her Will is the man she should marry.

Three weeks later, Laurey and Curly are married and everyone rejoices in celebration of the territory's impending statehood ("Oklahoma"). During the celebration, Ali Hakim returns with his new wife, Gertie, whom he unwillingly married after being threatened by her father with a shotgun. A drunken Jud reappears, harasses Laurey by kissing her and punches Curly, and they begin to fist fight. Jud attacks Curly with a knife and Curly dodges, causing Jud to fall on his own knife. Jud soon dies. The wedding guests hold a makeshift trial for Curly, at Aunt Eller's urging, as the couple is due to leave for their honeymoon. The judge, Andrew Carnes, declares the verdict: "not guilty!" Curly and Laurey depart on their honeymoon in the surrey with the fringe on top ("Finale Ultimo").

(end of plot summary)

Monday, April 23, 2018

They say that Spanish is one of the easiest languages to learn

...but be careful or you might call the pope a potato (12:12).

Señor Wences's little friend used to say, "For you easy, for me difficult."

In the fifth grade I learned a sentence in Spanish, "Este es el gato" (This is the cat). It was the only thing I knew in Spanish for many years. One day when I was in my fifties a gang of us at work decided to go out to lunch at a Mexican restaurant. As we were being shown to our table, Paul (a temporary employee who was never offered a permanent position) called out loud enough for everyone in the place to hear,"Donde es las mujeres?" and every waiter turned to look at us. It was pretty embarrassing, and even more so when I learned that Paul was saying, "Where are the women?"

I had learned my second sentence in Spanish.

Paul was, how you say, a little loco in the cabeza.

But then, aren't we all?

I can also say "Good morning" in Albanian (Mirë mengjes), "Goodbye" in Japanese (Sayonara), "Thank you" in Portuguese (Obrigado), and "Where is the men's toilet?" in Swedish (Var finns der herrtoaletten?).

My passport expired in 1979. It's probably a good thing.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Real Texans never tire of certain subjects

Today being April 21st, please, pretty please with sugar on top, do the following:

First, if you are reading this on a smart phone, return to the previous screen, scroll to the bottom of the list of posts, and click on "View web version" because you can't do what I'm going to ask you to do on the smart phone layout.

Okay, then. Is everybody ready? Let us proceed.

Scroll down until you see the word LABELS over there on the right side of your screen and continue scrolling, and scrolling, and scrolling. Eventually you will reach an entry called "San Jacinto". Click on it. You will be shown four previous posts of mine about -- wait for it -- San Jacinto.

Your assignment, should you choose to accept it, is to read every last word of the first, second, and fourth post, including every last comment. The third post contains many links that have nothing to do with San Jacinto, but if you would like to receive extra credit for the course, you must read the third post also.

A word to the wise: The final examination may contain questions from all four posts, including what kind of underwear General Santa Anna wore, why bluebonnets are important, and who Jerry Ragsdale is.

Thank you ever so much. A happy, restful, and peaceful April 21st to each and every one of you.

This post will self-destruct in five seconds.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

The Outer Hebrides are fascinating at this time of year

...especially if you have a blogger friend named Graham Edwards who lives there and posts the following mathematical limerick:

12 + 144 + 20 + (3 x √4) + (5 x 11) = 92 + 0

Yes, it's a limerick. And if you can't figure it out, another blogger, a Scotsman named Adrian Ward who not only repairs big machinery but also takes microphotographs of fungus and insects, can:

A dozen, a gross and a score,
Plus three times the square root of four,
Divided by seven,
Plus five times eleven,
Is nine squared and not a bit more.

The world is a wonderful place.

That's all for today.

P.S. - Something or other involving the colonies and Paul Revere happened on this day in 1775.

Monday, April 16, 2018

77 is just a number

...but if you are a Biblical numerologist (I am not) numbers have meanings. For example, 6 is the number of man because man was created on the sixth day; 3 is the number of God because although God is one, Christians believe He is triune (three in one) as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; 7 is the number of perfection because God rested from His creating on the seventh day, 8 is the number of new beginnings because everything starts over again after 7; and so forth.

If you believe any of this stuff (the jury is still out) then 666 as the number of the Anti-Christ makes sense because, well, 6 is the number of man and 3 is the number of God, so three sixes would be man trying to be God, but not succeeding because God's perfection is represented by the number 777 and it is clear that 666 will never be 777, no way, José.

I sound more like Billy Ray Barnwell every day (samples of his writing here and here).

None of this matters in the slightest except that last month on my birthday I turned 77, so I am now, by a certain kind of reckoning, not merely perfect but perfectly perfect. The only way I could be any more perfect is if I live to be 777, which won't happen any time soon, if ever.

I do want to thank all you wonderful people out there in the dark Elizabeth S. of Sheffield, Yorkshire, England in the U.K. for telling me more about the number 77:

  • It is the sum of the first eight prime numbers:
    2 + 3 + 5 + 7 + 11 + 13 + 17 + 19

  • It is the sum of three consecutive squares:
    42 + 52 + 62; that is, 16 + 25 + 36

  • It is the atomic number of iridium.

    Wikipedia says of this element, "A very hard, brittle, silvery-white transition metal of the platinum group, iridium is the second densest element (after osmium). It is also the most corrosion-resistant metal, even at temperatures as high as 2000 °C. Although only certain molten salts and halogens are corrosive to solid iridium, finely divided iridium dust is much more reactive and can be flammable." Any similarities you may think you detect between the characteristics of iridium and moi are purely coincidental.

  • It is the boiling point of nitrogen on the Kelvin scale (°K). For your information, 77°K equals minus 195 degrees Celsius (°C) and minus 320 degrees Fahrenheit (°F).

  • In the United Methodist Hymnal (1989 edition), hymn 77 is "How Great Thou Art"

  • Psalm 77 in the King James Version of the Bible (KJV) is headed as being "To the Chief Musician" and in the New International Version (NIV) as being "For the Director of Music".

Elizabeth also mentioned how cool it was that God, who knew how important I was going to be, had the Psalmist write a psalm especially for me all those years ago!

I close this post by inviting all of you to the next meeting of Narcissists Anonymous, time and place to be announced later.

Friday, April 13, 2018

I'm walkin' up the highway

Hilltophomesteader (Pam D. in southwest Washington state) sent me a "belated happy birthday" email and wondered if all was well because I have not posted anything in several weeks.

The short answer is yes indeedy, All Is well! (3:52), although I do admit to being a little out of sync seasonally.

That song may be appropriate for Christmas Eve, but He is not in the manger now. Easter has come, and as a friend of mine said in an unintentionally humorous post on Facebook during Holy Week, "Let us be reminded Jesus died on that cross but He arose on the third day and now sets on the right hand of the Father, making intersections for us (pleading our case)." [emphasis mine]

Somewhere Mrs. Malaprop is nodding in agreement. For the Biblically-challenged, the word my friend meant was intercession. Also, only someone like me who grew up around chickens seems to know the difference between sets and sits these days. But I digress.

Because of the way my mind works, I immediately thought of the third verse of the old Fanny Crosby hymn, "To God Be the Glory":

Great things He hath taught us, great things He hHath done,
And great our rejoicing through Jesus the Son,
But purer and higher and greater will be
Our wonder, our transport, when Jesus we see.
[once again, emphasis mine]

Get it? Intersections? Transport?

Well, I thought it was funny.

But then I started thinking (always a dangerous practice) and decided maybe my friend had a point. After all, the book of Isaiah tells of “the voice of one crying in the wilderness, prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God.”

Highways, even the limited-access kind, have to have points of access or they are useless. So maybe Christ really is making intersections for us.

Here are some happy travelers on the highway (8:18).

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Start spreadin' the news -- I'm a millionaire!

Or so says someone who calls himself Eric Howard. Apparently I ignored a previous reach-out so he/she/it has tried again. If I were a betting man (I'm not), I would bet almost anything that "Eric" lives in Nigeria.

Here is what I received in my e-mail yesterday:


From: "Eric Howard"
Reply to:

This is for your information,

Sequel to your non response we wish to notify you again that you were listed as beneficiary to the total sum of US$9 Million only in the intent of the deceased. On my first email I mentioned about my late client whose relatives I cannot get in touch with. But both of you have the same last name so it will be very easy to front you as his official next of kin. I am compelled to do this because I would not want the finance house to push my clients funds into their treasury as unclaimed inheritance.

We contacted you because you bear the Last name with our Late Client and therefore can present you as the Beneficiary to the inheritance since there is no written w i l l. Our legal services aim to provide our private clients with a complete service. We are happy to set-up all modalities and administer Trusts,carry out the administration of estates. All the papers will be processed in your acceptance of this Transaction.

Note that you are to furnishing me with the requested information's bellow immediately;

Full names.
Contact address.
Telephone and fax numbers.

If you are interested you do let me know so that I can give you Comprehensive details on what we are to do. Waiting for your response.

Yours faithfully,

Eric Howard.

So much about this email is obviously phony. English is not Eric's first language and the punctuation is atrocious.

I think I'll pass. I will not be to furnishing Eric with "the requested information's bellow" immediately or otherwise.

I could give him Comprehensive details on what he is to do, especially with his modalities, but I will restrain myself.

It just struck me that "Eric Howard" is inventively close to the name Eric Holder, who was President Barack Obama's first Attorney General. How dumb does this scammer think I am?

Don't answer that.

Monday, March 19, 2018

Eating humble pie, or When what one is sure is absolutely right turns out to be absolutely wrong

Mrs. RWP and I spend a great deal of time doing two things.

It's probably not what you're thinking.

The two things we spend a lot of time doing, besides eating and sleeping, is playing Words With Friends (a Scrabble-like game) on our smart phones and watching the BUZZR channel on television.

We used to get television via cable, but when the cable company raised its rate by five dollars a month every January for several years in a row, we finally said "Enough!" and switched to satellite. In the U.S., two of the major satellite providers are DirectTV and Dish Network. We have Dish Network. It has a channel called BUZZR that is rather like GSN (the Game Show Network) in that most of the programs shown are game shows from decades ago.

It may be yesterday's junk food, but it is better than today's junk food. We have never watched, and refuse to watch, many of the programs being offered nowadays, programs other people seem to enjoy, like The Walking Dead, Game Of Thrones, and House Of Cards. Thanks, but no thanks. And many so-called comedies today are just plain offensive. As Violet Crawley, Dowager Countess of Grantham, once said, "Vulgarity is no substitute for wit."

So we watch BUZZR.

Sometimes we watch shows from the 1970s and 1980s such as Match Game (with host Gene Rayburn and celebrity panelists Brett Somers, Charles Nelson Reilly, Richard Dawson, Fannie Flagg, Betty White, and others), Tattletales (with host Bert Convy), Trivia Trap (with host Bob Eubanks, before he hosted The Newlywed Game), Beat the Clock (the later iteration with host Monty Hall), Now You See It (with host Jack Narz), and Family Feud (with several different hosts, most prominently Richard Dawson who kissed all the women).

I have never cared for Family Feud because it does not deal with right answers and wrong answers but with the most popular answers. For example, when contestants were asked to name something one might see at the North Pole, the most popular answer was "penguin" and we all know, or should, that penguins are not found in the Arctic.

But I digress.

We also watch even older, black-and-white shows from the 1960s and even the 1950s such as What's My Line? (with host John Daly and celebrity panelists Dorothy Kilgallen, Bennett Cerf, and Arlene Francis), I've Got A Secret (with host Garry Moore and celebrity panelists Bill Cullen, Betsy Palmer, Henry Morgan, and Bess Myerson), To Tell The Truth (with host Bud Collier and celebrity panelists Tom Poston, Faye Emerson, Peggy Cass, Kitty Carlisle, a very young Merv Griffin, and a very young Johnny Carson), the original version of Beat the Clock (with host Bud Collier), and even obscure ones like The Name's The Same (with host Robert Q. Lewis and celebrity panelists like Abe Burrows and Meredith Wilson).

I can hear some of you saying, "Who?"

Be that as it may, I forge ahead with my fascinating post.

I'll be getting to the reason for this post shortly. Any time now. Hang in there.

It occurred to me this week while I was watching an episode of Beat the Clock from 1953 that that program was 65 years old. I probably watched it live on a 12-inch screen in my parents' house when I was 12 years old. It further occurred to me that if modern technology had been around in 1953, I could have watched people and game shows from 65 years earlier, from 1888. That thought blew me away, as the young folks say, even though I'm pretty sure there were no game shows in 1888.

Anyway, on What’s My Line? recently one of the contestants was a young man with dark hair who signed in as Tom Eagleton and the occupation or “line” the panel was supposed to determine was district attorney of St. Louis, Missouri. I said, "Oh, look! There's a very young Tom Eagleton!" and explained to Mrs. RWP that Tom Eagleton later became Senator from Missouri and a few years after that he was selected by Hubert Humphrey to be his Vice-Presidential running mate on the Democratic Party's ticket in 1968 but was removed from the ticket a short time later and replaced by Senator Edmund Muskie of Maine when it became known that Senator Eagleton had suffered from bouts of depression throughout his life, resulting in several hospitalizations that had been kept secret from the public. The Humphrey-Muskie ticket went on to lose to Richard Nixon in November.

Go to the top of this post right now and read the title of this post again. Don't forget to come back and continue reading.

People sometimes tell me what a phenomenal memory I have and how many facts I have at my disposal, but this time my memory failed me and the facts were a bit skewed. One day later, when I went to my trusty computer to learn more about Senator Eagleton, I discovered that in this particular instance I was wrong, wrong, wrong.

Senator Tom Eagleton of Missouri was indeed picked to be the Vice-Presidential candidate on the Democratic Party ticket but it wasn't by Hubert Humphrey, he wasn't replaced by Senator Edmund Muskie of Maine, and it didn't happen in 1968.

It turns out that Senator Tom Eagleton of Missouri was selected by George McGovern to be his Vice-Presidential running mate in 1972, and he was replaced by Sargent Shriver, John F. Kennedy's brother-in-law. Interestingly, the McGovern-Shriver ticket also went on to lose to Richard Nixon in November.

Lo, how the mighty are fallen. Not Eagleton or Humphrey or Muskie or McGovern or Shriver. Not any of them.


Oh, the shame! Oh, the humiliation!

And although some of you may even be thinking "It's about time he had his comeuppance," humble pie can be quite tasty, actually, when it is swallowed whole and accompanied by a nice cup of hot coffee.

Here are some American politicians of yesteryear. I'll let you decide who is most depressed. My answer appears after the photos.

My vote for most depressed goes to the American public.

On a happier note, yesterday was my 77th birthday!

Saturday, March 10, 2018

My head hurts, or I dare you to read the link in this post all the way through, or a little light reading as the equinox approaches

Did you ever wonder how Kepler differed from Copernicus?

Me neither.

Nicolaus Copernicus (1473-1543) had a certain view of things having to do with the sun, the moon, the earth, and the planets. Then along came Johannes Keppler (1571-1630) with a slightly different view of things. It's all made clear (or not) in the following article from Wikipedia:

Kepler's laws of planetary motion

Basically, Kepler's three laws are:

1. The orbit of every planet is an ellipse with the Sun at one of the two foci.
2. A line joining a planet and the Sun sweeps out equal areas during equal intervals of time.
3. The square of the orbital period of a planet is directly proportional to the cube of the semi-major axis of its orbit.

So, basically, it's as simple as 1, 2, 3.

Yeah, right.

Here is an illustration that makes things ever so much clearer:

As I was saying, yeah, right.

But perhaps the most disturbing statement in that article is this:

the semi-latus rectum p is the harmonic mean between rmin and rmax

I fervently hope someone invented a laxative for that.

To me, the most interesting thing I learned from reading the article is that the eccentricity of the orbit of the Earth [that is, it is elliptical, not circular as Copernicus had thought] makes the time from the March equinox to the September equinox, around 186 days, unequal to the time from the September equinox to the March equinox, around 179 days.

If you read the entire article and your head has stopped spinning, now that you have had your horizons expanded (as it were), please join me in singing Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush (4:44), not once, but twice, complete with instructions on personal hygiene and planning your day.

Finally, which came first, the chicken or the egg?



Thursday, March 8, 2018

Speaking of poetry (and shouldn't we always be?)

I was poking around on the internet the other day, and I ran across this article from the October 2014 issue of The Atlantic magazine:

The Joy of the Memorized Poem

It's a bit long, and I don't know who among you will take the time to read it, but I am hoping that Yorkshire Pudding will, and All Consuming, and Elizabeth Stanforth-Sharpe too, read it all the way to the end.

Anyone who loves "The Lake Isle of Innisfree" by William Butler Yeats will enjoy it.

And even if you never heard of him or his poem, I hope you will still read the article.

It's that good.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

One of these things is not like the others

There's an old joke about an English teacher who knocked on a door and a little boy opened it. "Is your mother home?" the teacher asked, and the little boy replied, "She ain't here, she has went to the store." The teacher then asked, "Well, is your father home?" and the little boy replied, "He ain't here neither, he ain't never here no more, mister, my parents got a divorce." Astonished at what he was hearing, the English teacher said, "Son, where's your grammar?" "Oh, that's easy," replied the boy. "She's upstairs taking a bath."

I'm here to reveal at last that the little boy's grammar was not upstairs taking a bath. It was out and about and trying to drown its sorrows. I found the following list on Facebook, proving that once in a while Facebook can be funny, instructive, and actually good for something:

A dangling participle walks into a bar. Enjoying a cocktail and chatting with the bartender, the evening passes pleasantly.

A bar was walked into by the passive voice.

An oxymoron walked into a bar, and the silence was deafening.

Two quotation marks walk into a "bar."

A malapropism walks into a bar, looking for all intensive purposes like a wolf in cheap clothing, muttering epitaphs and casting dispersions on his magnificent other, who takes him for granite.

Hyperbole totally rips into this insane bar and absolutely destroys everything.

A question mark walks into a bar?

A non sequitur walks into a bar. In a strong wind, even turkeys can fly.

A mixed metaphor walks into a bar, seeing the handwriting on the wall but hoping to nip it in the bud.

A comma splice walks into a bar, it has a drink and then leaves.

Three intransitive verbs walk into a bar. They sit. They converse. They depart.

A synonym strolls into a tavern.

At the end of the day, a cliché walks into a bar -- fresh as a daisy, cute as a button, and sharp as a tack.

A run-on sentence walks into a bar it starts flirting. With a cute little sentence fragment.

A figure of speech walks into a bar and ends up getting literally hammered.

An allusion walks into a bar, despite the fact that alcohol is its Achilles heel.

The subjunctive would have walked into a bar, had it only known.

A misplaced modifier walks into a bar owned by a man with a glass eye named Ralph.

The past, present, and future walked into a bar. It was tense.

A dyslexic walks into a bra.

A verb walks into a bar, sees a beautiful noun, and suggests they conjugate. The noun declines.

An Oxford comma walks into a bar, where it spends the evening watching the television getting drunk and smoking cigars.

A simile walks into a bar, as parched as a desert.

A gerund and an infinitive walk into a bar, drinking to forget.

Alliteration ambles into a bar, alone as always, aiming at alcohol.

An ellipsis walks into a bar...

An exclamation mark storms into a bar!

I hope you enjoyed those as much as I did. Did you spot the one that was not like the others?

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

We grow too soon old and too late smart and it's all downhill from there

I am four days older than the man who wrote the following poem. In about three weeks (Lord willing and the creeks/Creeks don't rise) we both will be observing our 77th birthdays. He became poet laureate of these United States; I have achieved little of consequence. I don't know how old he was when he looked back in time and wrote this particular poem, but it is a good one:

On Turning Ten
by Billy Collins

The whole idea of it makes me feel
like I'm coming down with something,
something worse than any stomach ache
or the headaches I get from reading in bad light--
a kind of measles of the spirit,
a mumps of the psyche,
a disfiguring chicken pox of the soul.

You tell me it is too early to be looking back,
but that is because you have forgotten
the perfect simplicity of being one
and the beautiful complexity introduced by two.
But I can lie on my bed and remember every digit.
At four I was an Arabian wizard.
I could make myself invisible
by drinking a glass of milk a certain way.
At seven I was a soldier, at nine a prince.

But now I am mostly at the window
watching the late afternoon light.
Back then it never fell so solemnly
against the side of my tree house,
and my bicycle never leaned against the garage
as it does today,
all the dark blue speed drained out of it.

This is the beginning of sadness, I say to myself,
as I walk through the universe in my sneakers.
It is time to say good-bye to my imaginary friends,
time to turn the first big number.

It seems only yesterday I used to believe
there was nothing under my skin but light.
If you cut me I could shine.
But now when I fall upon the sidewalks of life,
I skin my knees. I bleed.

P.S. -- This blog turned ten last September 28th. If I had known about the poem then I would have included it in my blogaversary post.

Friday, February 16, 2018

Ob-la-di, Ob-la-da, life goes on

2018 headlines I never expected to see back in 1968:

Cryptocurrency Mining Is Impacting The Search For Alien Life

Trans Woman Breast-Feeds After Hospital Induces Lactation

I have others, but I will spare you.

If you ask me, and I know you didn't but that doesn't deter me one bit, much of what passes for journalism today has morphed into The National Enquirer. For readers outside the U.S., The National Enquirer is a tabloid one finds displayed near cash registers in supermarkets. It bombards people waiting in the check-out lines with such attention-grabbing headlines as "Woman in Alaska Gives Birth To Moose" and "Three-Headed Girl Wins Pole-Vaulting Competition" and "Lady Gaga Tells All: My Nightmare Date With Tom Cruise” in fonts of the size usually reserved for presidential assassinations. I am not even kidding. There is no way one can avoid seeing The National Enquirer and other publications of its ilk unless one shops with one's eyes tightly shut.

Be that as it may, and I'm changing subjects now, I used to think I was a fairly well-read person, someone who kept current with important happenings in the world, not one to let grass grow under his feet, and so forth. I was wrong. The little bit of which I am aware is so overwhelmed by the vast amount of information out there it makes one's my head swim. Not to belabor (British: belabour) the point, but what brought this realization (British: realisation) to the forefront of my beleaguered befuddled bewitched, bothered, and bewildered mind was learning recently that two semi-profound statements made by two different acquaintances of mine, statements that have resonated with me through the years and raised my acquaintances several notches in my estimation, have turned out not to have originated with them at all but were first said by others, namely:

1. During a discussion back in the early nineties about the quality or lack of quality in the work being produced by our department, a colleague of mine, Larry A., said, "Anything worth doing is worth doing poorly." It caught me off-guard and I thought it was brilliant. Only recently have I discovered that it was a quotation from G. K. Chesterton (1874-1936).

2. A pastor of ours, Don M., said in a sermon 30 or so years ago, "Some people will never know that Jesus is all they need until they get to the place where He's all they have." Again, bingo! It resonated. It stuck with me. It turns out that Don was paraphrasing something said decades earlier by Corrie Ten Boom (1892-1983), a Dutch woman whose family protected Jews from the Nazis during World War II. Her story of her ultimate capture and the years she and her sister spent in a German concentration camp were described in a book (and eventually a motion picture) called The Hiding Place.

The point I'm trying to make is not what a numbskull I am -- I may well be a numbskull but it's not the point I'm trying to make -- but that unless one is saying something so well known that most people recognize the source (Shakespeare, the Bible), one should probably attribute one's words to their originator whenever possible. I don't mean that you need to go around saying, "As Richard Nixon once said, 'I am not a crook' " or “As John F. Kennedy said, ‘Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country’.” Nor am I advocating that you take an encyclopedic approach either, as in "Tall oaks from little acorns grow, which was alluded to as early as 1374 by Geoffrey Chaucer in Troilus and Criseyde (“as an ook cometh from a litel spyr”), more recently by Thomas Fuller in 1732 in Gnomologia (“The greatest Oaks have been little Acorns”), and even poetically by D. Everett in The Columbian Orator, 1797 (“Large streams from little fountains flow, Tall oaks from little acorns grow.”)” — that would not be just silly but downright infuriating as well.

No, friends, I’m simply saying don’t let others think something is your own creation when you know it originated with someone else. For example, whenever I say, “Money is like manure. It doesn’t do any good unless you spread it around” I always mention that it is a line from Hello, Dolly!

Because honesty is the best policy.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Separated at birth?



rhymeswithplague and friend

Czarina Alexandra Romanov, Trilby (a fictional character), and Her Royal Canine Highness Abigail of Canton all have their suspicions.

In a parallel universe, this post having been published on February 14th, it might have been titled My Funny Valentine. Here's Linda Ronstadt singing that very song, complete with its rarely heard verse (3:17). I'd like to think she's singing it to me.

Monday, February 12, 2018

I am not an astrophysicist

Richard Nixon famously said, "I am not a crook." Disregarding gender, which everyone is being urged to do nowadays, a quote from Act III, Scene ii of William Shakespeare's Hamlet springs to mind: "The lady doth protest too much, methinks." In other words, many people believe Richard Nixon really was a crook.

Well, I am not an astrophysicist, my last post notwithstanding. I do admit to having an amateur interest in astronomy, but it is pretty much limited to the location and movement of celestial objects. As they always said at the beginning of every Star Trek episode, Space, The Final Frontier! I am not interested at all in any of the other stuff that true astrophysicists dream about obsess over pursue.

There. I said it and I'm glad.

To blog or not to blog, that is the question. More accurately, what to blog about remains an ongoing concern. Some people are able to blog every single day (Yorkshire Pudding, I'm thinking of you) and others only occasionally (like Hilltophomesteader). I am of the latter type, and wonder constantly what to blog about next.

This is one of those days when nothing comes to mind.

Therefore, and speaking of amateur, please entertain yourselves for a couple of minutes by listening to the Royal Ukelele Band of Hollywood performing 'Down Among the Sheltering Palms' (2:01).

As the stock market gurus are always telling us, diversification is the way to have a successful portfolio.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Fasten your Kuiper belt, it's going to be a bumpy night

...may not be exactly what Bette Davis said in her role as Margo Channing in All About Eve back in 1950, but it's probably what she meant.

For those of you who never click on links, here are the first three paragraphs from Wikipedia's article about the Kuiper belt:

"The Kuiper belt (/ˈkaɪpər/ or Dutch pronunciation: ['kœy̯pǝr]), occasionally called the Edgeworth–Kuiper belt, is a circumstellar disc in the outer Solar System, extending from the orbit of Neptune (at 30 AU) to approximately 50 AU from the Sun. It is similar to the asteroid belt, but is far larger—20 times as wide and 20 to 200 times as massive. Like the asteroid belt, it consists mainly of small bodies or remnants from when the Solar System formed. While many asteroids are composed primarily of rock and metal, most Kuiper belt objects are composed largely of frozen volatiles (termed "ices"), such as methane, ammonia and water. The Kuiper belt is home to three officially recognized dwarf planets: Pluto, Haumea and Makemake. Some of the Solar System's moons, such as Neptune's Triton and Saturn's Phoebe, may have originated in the region.

"The Kuiper belt was named after Dutch-American astronomer Gerard Kuiper, though he did not predict its existence. In 1992, Albion was discovered, the first Kuiper belt object (KBO) since Pluto and Charon. Since its discovery, the number of known KBOs has increased to over a thousand, and more than 100,000 KBOs over 100 km (62 mi) in diameter are thought to exist. The Kuiper belt was initially thought to be the main repository for periodic comets, those with orbits lasting less than 200 years. Studies since the mid-1990s have shown that the belt is dynamically stable and that comets' true place of origin is the scattered disc, a dynamically active zone created by the outward motion of Neptune 4.5 billion years ago; scattered disc objects such as Eris have extremely eccentric orbits that take them as far as 100 AU from the Sun.

"The Kuiper belt is distinct from the theoretical Oort cloud, which is a thousand times more distant and is mostly spherical. The objects within the Kuiper belt, together with the members of the scattered disc and any potential Hills cloud or Oort cloud objects, are collectively referred to as trans-Neptunian objects (TNOs). Pluto is the largest and most massive member of the Kuiper belt, and the largest and the second-most-massive known TNO, surpassed only by Eris in the scattered disc. Originally considered a planet, Pluto's status as part of the Kuiper belt caused it to be reclassified as a dwarf planet in 2006. It is compositionally similar to many other objects of the Kuiper belt and its orbital period is characteristic of a class of KBOs, known as "plutinos", that share the same 2:3 resonance with Neptune."

(end of excerpt from Wikipedia)

I bet your little heads are spinning faster than Pluto, Haumea, and Makemake, which (as we all know and should not be fooled by articles in Wikipedia) are a part of the Bismarck Archipelago, a group of islands off the northeastern coast of New Guinea in the western Pacific.

I'm joking.

An interesting aside, Makemake (also written as Make-make or MakeMake; pronounced [ˈmakeˈmake] -- which I, rhymeswithplague, am pretty sure has four syllables, not two -- in Rapa Nui) in the Rapa Nui mythology of Easter Island, is the creator of humanity, the god of fertility and the chief god of the "Tangata manu" or bird-man cult (this cult succeeded the island's more famous Moai era). He is a frequent subject of the Rapa Nui petroglyphs. In astronomy, the trans-Neptunian dwarf planet Makemake was so named because both the planet and the island are connected to Easter; the planet was discovered shortly after Easter 2005, and the first European contact with Easter Island was on Easter Sunday 1722. The dwarf planet's code name was "Easterbunny".

Interesting asides aside, and I'm sure Yorkshire Pudding will say that everybody knows that Makemake is both a trans-Neptunian object in the Kuiper belt and the god of fertility on Easter Island just as everybody knows that the capital of Burkina Faso is Ouagadougou, the real question before us is this:

What in the name of all that's holy is an AU?

People here in Georgia would say with confidence that AU is Auburn University over in Alabamistan, but they would be wrong. An AU is an Astronomical Unit.

Ever inquisitive, you are probably now saying, "Okay, but what is an Astronomical Unit?"

I'm glad you asked.

An Astronomical Unit is the mean distance between the Earth and the Sun, or approximately 93,000,000 miles (150,000,000 km). I say "mean distance" because -- as you all know -- the Earth's orbit around the Sun is elliptical in the same way that the moon's orbit around the Earth is elliptical. Sometimes we are closer to the sun, and sometimes we are farther away, but the mean distance is -- all together, class -- 93,000,000 miles (150,000,000 km).

Here's another aside. Just as the moon's closest approach to earth is called its perigee and its farthest distance from Earth is called its apogee, the Earth's nearest and farthest distances from the Sun are called its perihelion and apohelion, respectively.

I think that's quite enough new material for one post.

I hope you have been taking notes, because there may be testing later. Any pop quizzes will also include questions about the theoretical Oort cloud and Saturn's Phoebe, which you are expected to learn about in your outside reading.

I told you it was going to be a bumpy ride.

This has been the Rhymeswithplague Occasional Foray Into Science (ROFIS), because a lot of what we thought we knew about the Solar System has changed since most of us were in school.

(Based on the public domain Nasa images)

To help you grasp the size of the trans-Neptunian objects above, Earth is shown at the bottom center of the composite photograph, and in the lower lefthand corner is Earth’s moon.

Sunday, February 4, 2018

I wonder if the Navajo code talkers started this way

I have a secret message to send you, but I’m fresh out of decoder rings. I will forge ahead anyway.


In the absence of secret decoder rings, here’s the key to decoding the message:

JIMMY = The Philadelphia Eagles
CORN = the Super Bowl
ETAOIN SHRDLU = and I don’t care

And you thought ETAOIN SHRDLU was the capital of Burkina Faso.

Saturday, February 3, 2018

From Natchez to Mobile, from Memphis to Saint Joe, wherever the four winds blow

Groundhog Day came and went on February 2nd, but I ignored all the folderol festivities surrounding this year’s event. Instead, I went about my business as though, in the overall scheme of things, it made absolutely no difference whether various and sundry large rodents do or do not indicate that we would have six more weeks of winter.

Because it didn’t (make any difference).

Moving right along....

In the previous post I mentioned that Orange Beach, Alabama, is located west of Pensacola, Florida, and east of Mobile Bay, on the other side of which is the city of Mobile, Alabama. In a comment, our friend Snowbrush who lives nowadays in Eugene, Oregon, but was originally from Mississippi, said that his half-sister’s house is in Pensacola and he drove through Mobile many a time to get to her house in Pensacola but had never heard of Orange Beach.

This challenge to my veracity cannot go unanswered. The proof, as they say, is in the pudding, and for our purposes the pudding happens to be the following map of the area:

There it is, ladies and gentlemen, stretching from Pascagoula, Mississippi, on the left to just past Pensacola, Florida, on the right. You see Mobile. You see Pensacola. And if you look very closely and squint and hold your tongue just right, you will also see Orange Beach down along the coast. I rest my case. I never said you went through Orange Beach on the way from Mobile to Pensacola, either on I-10 today or on U.S. 90 back in the days before I-10 was built, when Snowbrush was visiting his half-sister.

I do find it rather bizarre, however, that a notice that Alabama Law Requires All Motorcycle Operators and Riders Wear A Helmet appears in the middle of the Gulf Of Mexico.

Monday, January 29, 2018

If I only had a brain, part #17,643

I could while away the hours conferrin’ with the flowers, consultin’ with the rain, to quote Harold Arlen, but instead I’m sittin’, er, sitting in my daughter’s living room in north central Alabama. Mrs. RWP and I are house sitting while our daughter and her husband of nearly 25 years are away for a few days in Orange Beach, which is down on the Gulf Of Mexico between Pensacola, Florida, on the east and Mobile Bay on the west, on the other side of which lies (surprise, surprise!) Mobile, Alabama.

Some people have all the luck.

Especially in January.

Speaking of January, today is the birthday of my Aunt Marion, who was born in 1899. If she were still with us she would be turning 119 today. Unfortunately, she isn’t. Her son, my cousin Philip, isn’t either. He died a couple of years ago at the age of 81. Time marches on.

I’m no longer young. I am at the stage in life when everyone else seems young. For example, Donny Osmond seems young. Ellen Degeneres seems young. Actually, young Mr. Osmond and young Ms. Degeneres are both 60 years old. Time, as I might have mentioned before, marches on.

Are you feeling old yet?

Let’s change the subject.

I have some young friends (sorry), Tim and Jennifer, who are around 50. They have three sons. Grayson is in his second year at university. The twins, Hamilton and Bryce, are still in high school. Hamilton’s nickname within the family is Hammy, and Bryce’s nickname is Brycey. Not only is this odd, it is also patently unfair. Both boys deserve colorful nicknames. For equity’s sake I considered calling Bryce “Cheesy” but that seemed rather, well, cheesy. Fortunately, however, I found the perfect solution to the dilemma. It is easy to remember and gives Bryce parity with Hamilton,

Henceforth, I shall call the twins Hammy and Eggy.

What could possibly go wrong?

Whiling away the hours is such a pleasant pastime.