Sunday, August 12, 2018

What if...

...my Bonnie didn’t lie over the ocean?

...everywhere that Mary went the lamb did not want to go?

...you could check out anytime and leave whenever you liked?

...auld acquaintance were never forgot and always brought to mind?

...Nellie doesn’t wait till the sun shines?

...that doggie in the window isn’t for sale?

...it’s not a small world after all?

...you take the high road and I take the low road and I’m not in Scotland afore ye?

...I won’t take you home again, Kathleen?

...mares and does didn’t eat oats and little lambs didn’t eat ivy?

...Jimmy cracked corn and I cared quite a bit?

...not all of us go out to meet her when she comes?

...I loved thee but I didn’t try to count the ways?

Monday, August 6, 2018

Time may march on but some things remain constant

Mrs. RWP celebrated another birthday near the end of July. We welcomed one grandchild home from a two-week trip to Mumbai (formerly known as Bombay). We prepared to bid adieu to another grandchild who leaves this week for her first year of university in another exotic locale, Athens, Georgia.

Still another grandchild started his second year at university by moving to a new dorm:


His seventh-floor room has a stunning view of the hills and clouds of northern Alabama:


Two of Mrs. RWP's three North Carolina cousins also celebrated birthdays in July:


Half a world away, in a school in a village in Kenya, our friend Linda B. and her teaching staff stay busy with 82 kids, almost double last year's enrollment...


Mrs. RWP and I are sponsoring two of them, and by "sponsoring" I mean paying for their tuition:


Somewhere, Air Force One is landing so that Donald Trump can hold another rally.

Probably not in this city, though:

(Photo of Rijo Street in downtown Hiroshima, Japan, 2013. Used in accordance with CC BY-SA 3.0)

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

Except, of course, when it doesn’t.

Monday, July 23, 2018

Sunset in north Alabama, with HTML codes


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Thursday, July 19, 2018

A dedication to end all dedications, or Meet the king of the comma splice

[Editor's note. I haven't mentioned Billy Ray Barnwell in a long time, and since there may be new readers among you (one can only hope) I thought I would show you/them the dedication to his now-decade-old book. Billy Ray is not exactly my alter ego, but he was ensconced in my brain for quite a while before I managed to get him out of there and down on paper. If you would like to read the whole book (again, one can only hope), it can be reached online by clicking on the link under the heading MY OTHER BLOG IS A ROLLS-ROYCE in the sidebar to your right. I want to warn you that Billy's writing style is rather unorthodox and you may find yourself gasping for breath, but please don't let that deter you. --RWP]


DEDICATION

Billy Ray Barnwell here, I let Udella Mabry who lives two apartments down read what I wrote for a Preface when she got back from her regular weekly hair appointment at Opal’s Beauty Palace and she said well, you have some pretty long sentences in there and you spell right good too, I was quite pleased to get both of those compliments because I consider Udella as fair and impartial a judge as they come plus you can’t hear nice things too often if you ask me, which you didn’t, but it reminded me of the only time I ever wound up anything but first in one of Mrs. Mary Lillard’s Friday afternoon eighth grade spelling bees, we would choose up into two sides and stand along opposite walls and if you missed your word you took your seat, I was always the last one standing and whichever side chose first always chose me before anybody else, it was kind of a guarantee of winning, but one time when several people were still standing, Mrs. Lillard gave me the word “material” to spell, only being a good Texan she said it like it had three syllables instead of four, I think that’s what threw me, because I stood right up there in front of God and everybody and spelled it M-A-T-E-I-R-A-L, and the whole room whooped and hollered for about three minutes, it was a day I would rather forget, prolly the low point of my entire life up to that time. Anyways, getting back to dedicating this book, if you managed to read the preface all the way through you prolly think I’m going to dedicate it to Mr. D. P. Morris, my old English teacher back in Grapevine Texas, well you would be wrong because I am not, I am going to dedicate it to Mrs. Janet Baines Brockett instead. Mrs. Brockett lived on the same gravel road we did about two miles out of town, we were the first house and she was the fourth, so we were neighbors even though it was about a mile to her house, Jimmy Wayne Oxley and Howard Griffin lived in between, Jimmy Wayne was two years behind me in school and his mother raised Poland China hogs, and Howard was the guy who later wrote the book Black Like Me even though he was white, Lord, that’s a whole story in itself, he went blind for ten or twelve years because of a plane crash he was in during World War II but one day when he was walking in his parents’ fields with his collie dog a blood clot behind his eyes suddenly dissolved, Howard’s eyes I mean, not the collie dog’s, and he could see again, and after that he said his blindness had taught him that the color of a person’s skin meant nothing, now this was a revolutionary idea in the South at the time, it was so shocking that after Howard’s book came out some local racists made a dummy and hanged Howard in effigy from one of the town’s two stop lights during the middle of the night, its right side was white and its left side was black and a big yellow stripe was painted down its back, the dummy I mean, not the stop light, and there it was the next morning, just hanging there, when everybody made the turn to go to school, personally I thought it said a whole lot more about the local racists than it did about Howard, and nobody took it down until after a news photographer from The Fort Worth Star-Telegram came out and took a picture to put in the paper. All Howard had done was he went down to New Orleans and paid to have a doctor chemically darken his skin, Howard’s skin I mean, not the doctor’s, and after wandering around the South for a while as a black man he came home, eventually his skin went back to being white and later he wrote about his experiences in a book, and his parents kept hogs just like the Oxleys, wait, I don’t mean the hogs were just like the Oxleys, I mean the Griffins kept hogs just like the Oxleys did, but they were Ohio Improved Chester Whites, the hogs I mean, not Howard’s parents. While he was blind, Howard had married Pie Holland, well her name was really Elizabeth but everybody in town called her Pie, and they had two children which he had never seen either her or them until that day he went walking in the field with his collie dog, you talk about a story. Anyways, not counting summers I rode to school with Mrs. Brockett every day of my life between second grade and eleventh grade, well Mondays through Fridays anyways, mainly because she was going there anyhow, she taught mathematics in the high school and all twelve grades were in the same building, and I would have gone with her in twelfth grade too if she hadn’t retired from teaching after my Junior year and the school hired old Mrs. Vickers, Flavill George’s mother, as math teacher when it hired Flavill as the new football coach, let me tell you she couldn’t hold a candle to Mrs. Brockett when it came to teaching, for one thing during trigonometry tests Mrs. Vickers let us use a sheet of paper with all the formulas on it, sines and cosines and secants and tangents, stuff like that, she didn’t make us memorize them like Mrs. Brockett did and as a result I can tell you very little today about trigonometry but I can still quote you the quadratic equation thanks to Mrs. Brockett, X equals minus B plus or minus the square root of B square minus four A C over two A, and to think some people actually say what good is algebra. Mrs. Brockett would tell me things on the way to school, for instance she told me about her grandfather who was a Southern Baptist preacher back in the early days of Texas before there was even such a thing as Southern Baptists, he supposedly baptized Sam Houston, stuff like that, and she got all upset at the thought that her daughter Genevieve had gone and married a Presbyterian but after visiting her daughter and son-in-law she seemed so relieved, she went to church with them and saw that Presbyterians preached the Scriptures too so she decided that they were just Baptists who have a little money, Presbyterians I mean, not Genevieve and John, although John was an architect so I suppose he had money, and also Mrs. Brockett’s son Delwyn became chairman of the board of Gulf Oil and whenever it was that Queen Elizabeth came over to Canada and dedicated the St. Lawrence Seaway Mrs. Brockett got to sit on the same platform with The Queen thanks to Delwyn. He was really Ernest D. Junior but I guess they called him Delwyn so they wouldn’t get confused at home and he went to Texas A&M and got a geology degree and eventually he married Francis Sammons from over in Keller and they had a son named Belmont who went to Duke University and years later after Delwyn retired from Gulf Oil they moved to the Royal Palm Yacht and Country Club in Boca Raton Florida and eventually it was bought out by British Petroleum, Gulf Oil I mean, not the Royal Palm Yacht and Country Club or Boca Raton Florida. But back to Mrs. Brockett, she drove her old two-tone green 1949 Pontiac with both hands on the wheel and both eyes on the road and she wouldn’t look anywhere else for all the tea in China, I know because I tried to get her to many times, but the thing I love most about Mrs. Brockett was after she retired from teaching I visited her in Arlington Texas when L.B.J. was in the White House, and I said, “Mrs. Brockett, you were a Baines weren’t you, are you any kin to Lyndon Baines Johnson?” and she said, “Oh, yes, Billy, I thought you knew that,” and I said, “Well, have any of the White House historians contacted you?” and she said, “Yes they have, but I told them they didn’t want to talk to me, they should go talk to the other side of the family,” and she wasn’t real happy that Lynda Bird or Lucy Baines one, I can’t remember which, had brown eyes instead of blue eyes like the Baineses and she told me how she and President Johnson’s mother, Rebekah Baines, were first cousins and how they used to go shopping together when they were young ladies before either one of them was married, we’re talking 1906 or 1907 here, and how Rebekah Baines was so stately and so dignified and that it was like being in the presence of royalty to walk down the street with Rebekah Baines and then Mrs. Brockett got a faraway look in her eyes like she was remembering something she hadn’t thought of in a long time, something she would rather forget if she could, only she couldn’t, and what came out of her mouth was “And then she had to go and marry that trashy Sam Johnson” and need I remind you she was talking about the father of the man who was then president of the United States and who if he had had a son in addition to his two daughters Linda Bird and Lucy Baines would prolly have named him Bird Baines, L.B.J. was so self-centered even his wife and dog had the initials L.B.J., Lady Bird Johnson and Little Beagle Johnson respectively, but L.B.J. the dog’s pups were called Him and Her and the president later got his picture in the newspapers when he picked up either Him or Her by the ears, I forget which one, dog I mean, not ear, and one time he even showed photographers the scars from his gall bladder operation, Lyndon’s operation I mean, not Him’s or Her’s, you talk about a trashy guy, I guess it’s true that the apple never falls far from the tree. Anyways, that one statement of Mrs. Brockett’s, plus the fact that A she may have been the first woman to graduate with a degree in mathematics from Baylor University in Waco Texas and B she lived to be 92 years old and C one day in the car on the way to school this woman whose whole career involved numbers shocked me by reciting from memory the first twelve lines of Thomas Gray’s “Elegy Written In A Country Churchyard” complete with the beetle’s droning flight and the moping owl complaining1 and D when I came back from my hitch in the military and told her I had accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior she said, “You know, don’t you, Billy, that only a Southern Baptist minister has the right to baptize you,” is why I have decided to dedicate this book to the memory of the one and only Janet Baines Brockett, because they don’t make people like that any more, or if they do I haven’t met any, and this is Billy Ray Barnwell signing off.

-------------------------------------------

1Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard
(first twelve lines only)
by Thomas Gray (1716 - 1771)


The curfew tolls the knell of parting day,
The lowing herd wind slowly o'er the lea,
The plowman homeward plods his weary way,
And leaves the world to darkness and to me.

Now fades the glimm'ring landscape on the sight,
And all the air a solemn stillness holds,
Save where the beetle wheels his droning flight,
And drowsy tinklings lull the distant folds;

Save that from yonder ivy-mantled tow'r
The moping owl does to the moon complain
Of such, as wand'ring near her secret bow'r,
Molest her ancient solitary reign.

Monday, July 16, 2018

An enigmatic reference explained

In a recent post I happened to mention Archimedes (c.287 BCE - c.212 BCE), after which Yorkshire Pudding commented, 'I was puzzled by your enigmatic reference to a "water screw". Please explain.'

Here is what I was referring to:

(Illustration from Chambers's Encyclopedia (Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott Company, 1875)

Its purpose is to lift water from a lower level to a higher level, usually for irrigation of land, and it operates on the following principle:


(Animated diagram created by Silberwolf, published 6 May 2007, and used in accordance with CC-BY-SA-2.5)

Why Silberwolf would use a red sphere to represent water, now that's what I find enigmatic. Nearly eight decades ago the motion picture How Green Was My Valley won many awards.

Perhaps Mr. or Ms. Silberwolf's motion picture should be called How Red Was My Canal.

Saturday, July 14, 2018

C'est juillet quatorze! or maybe C'est quatorze juillet!


Bastille Day - July 14, 1789 - Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité - the French Revolution

I have mentioned it five times before.

Anything I say five or six times is worth investigating.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Yes, Virginia, there is life outside of blogging

I don't tell you much about my life, which sets me apart from a lot of bloggers. Today, however, I have decided to give you a look at a few recent things and events in my real life, by which I mean what happens when I am not sitting in front of this computer.

It will not be One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich because I am not Aleksandr Solzhenitzyn. Here he is in 1974:

(Photo by Verhoeff, Bert / Anefo, February 1974, in Dutch National Archives, The Hague, Fotocollectie Algemeen Nederlands Persbureau (ANEFO), 1945-1989, Nummer toegang 2.24.01.05 Bestanddeelnummer 927-0019)

He died in 2008 and I didn't, so I couldn't possibly be him he Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn.

Maybe I will just show you some pictures, although I do realize that I run the risk of producing in your minds the effect one reviewer felt after watching the film Last Year At Marienbad: "The film is famous for its enigmatic narrative structure, in which time and space are fluid, with no certainty over what is happening to the characters, what they are remembering, and what they are imagining. Its dreamlike nature has both fascinated and baffled viewers; many have hailed the work as a masterpiece, although others have found it incomprehensible."

I will just have to run that risk. No, I will be helpful and include explanations to alleviate any confusion amongst my readership. I say "amongst" instead of "betweenst" because I am confident there are more than two of you out there.

Let us begin. This will not be a chronological presentation. Here, in no particular order, is my recent life:

-- We went to a place called Ollie's (motto: Good Stuff Cheap) and bought new seat cushions and a new umbrella for our patio.

View 1:

View 2:

View 3:


-- Here are our identical triplets out on a lark. Actually, they are my daughter and two of her teacher colleagues at the Birmingham airport this week on their way to Orlando for the SREB (Southern Regional Education Board) Conference. My daughter will be making one of the many presentations.


-- I got into an altercation with a trash receptacle at our local Burger King and wound up with a boo-boo. Please notice the vintage Benrus watch on my wrist. It belonged to my father-in-law, who died in 1983. It passed into the custody of my brother-in-law, who kept it in a box for 32 years and never wore it. When he died in 2015, his widow gave it to me. I wear it every day.

-- Mrs. RWP and I compare boo-boos. Her thumb is partially out of its socket and she also has some arthritis, so the doctor gave her a shot of cortisone and put her in a wrist brace. My boo-boo was minor, just a little cut, but it bled a lot because I am on a blood thinner and it hurt like the dickens.

-- As a belated Father's Day gift, my two sons took me to the Ferst (not First) Center for the Arts on the campus of Georgia Tech to see a play, Martin Luther On Trial. Satan was the prosecutor, Luther's wife (an ex-nun) defended, and Saint Peter presided over the trial. Witnesses included Adolf Hitler, Saint Paul, Martin Luther King Jr., Sigmund Freud, and Pope Francis. It was excellent. Even Snowbrush would have enjoyed it.

-- On the way to the Ferst Center, we stopped for lunch at It's Greek To Me, a restaurant in Marietta.

-- The 20-year-old son of my son on the right in the photo above is currently in Mumbai, India, for 15 days. I did not feel the need to show you a picture of Mumbai, India, but if you want to see one you can Google it for yourself.

-- A group of us Senior Adults from church made a two-van caravan trip to the Blue Willow Inn in Social Circle, Georgia, for lunch.

-- the Blue Willow Inn in Social Circle, Georgia

-- Lunch (table #1):

-- Lunch (table #2):

-- After lunch at the Blue Willow Inn in Social Circle, Georgia:

Are you bored yet?

Just a few more, and we will be done.

-- Sometimes Mrs. RWP and Abby The Dog watch horse racing on TV:


...and sometimes they watch the National Dog Show:

...even though there are so many other things they could be doing.


-- Three days a week I go to cardiac rehab:

-- I had to get a new pair of glasses.

The lenses get thicker every year.
-- One of my teeth broke in half, so the dentist had to modify my partial to include a second tooth.


Perhaps that is too much information.

Perhaps I have gone a bridge too far (groan).

In spite of the many other activities, sometimes my life seems to consist of this:

Etaoin shrdlu to one and all.

I have to go now. The men in white coats have arrived.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

From deep within the archives: A programming aptitude test

[Editor's note: This post first appeared on this blog back in November 2007, nearly 11 years ago, proving that dinosaurs such as your correspondent can indeed survive. Whether they have relevance is, of course, another matter entirely. --RWP]

Here's a passage from Lewis Carroll's Through the Looking Glass that may help you decide, if you were wondering, whether to pursue a career as a computer programmer:

`You are sad,' the Knight said in an anxious tone: `let me sing you a song to comfort you.'

`Is it very long?' Alice asked, for she had heard a good deal of poetry that day.

`It's long,' said the Knight, `but it's very, very beautiful. Everybody that hears me sing it -- either it brings the tears into their eyes, or else --'

`Or else what?' said Alice, for the Knight had made a sudden pause.

`Or else it doesn't, you know. The name of the song is called "Haddocks' Eyes".'

`Oh, that's the name of the song, is it?' Alice said, trying to feel interested.

`No, you don't understand,' the Knight said, looking a little vexed. `That's what the name is called. The name really is "The Aged Aged Man".'

`Then I ought to have said "That's what the song is called"?' Alice corrected herself.

`No, you oughtn't: that's quite another thing! The song is called "Ways and Means": but that's only what it's called, you know!'

`Well, what is the song, then?' said Alice, who was by this time completely bewildered.

`I was coming to that,' the Knight said. `The song really is "A-sitting On a Gate": and the tune's my own invention.'


If reading that had your head spinning like Linda Blair's in The Exorcist, perhaps you should not consider computer programming for your life's work. But if you understood the passage perfectly, if you were drawn to the "else" discussion as a moth to the flame, if you had no trouble separating the song, the name of the song, what the song is called, and what the name of the song is called, not to mention the tune, from one another, and if the last few minutes brought a twinkle to your eyes and a chuckle to your throat, then you obviously have a grasp of symbolic representation that just may be your key to fame, fortune, and success in the programming world! Or, as COBOL and FORTRAN programmers used to say, else.

Sunday, July 8, 2018

Or maybe Ralphie could just use his Little Orphan Annie secret decoder ring

The other day on its main page, Google published this image:


...and I thought "How unusual! How clever! What a fascinating concept!” An old object (a quill pen) was being used to produce a thoroughly modern object (binary code used by computers).

But can you read it?

I can.

Finding out what it says is a two-step process. First, we express the binary (base 2) data in hexadecimal (base 16) notation, a kind of shorthand that is simpler to read:

Row 1: 47 67
Row 2: 6F 6C
Row 3: 6F 65

Next, we look up the meanings of these values in an ASCII (American Standard Code for Information Interchange) conversion chart, and we get the following:

47 67 = G g
6F 6C = o l
6F 65 = o e

Eureka! (or I have found it!), as Archimedes (c.287 BCE - c.212 BCE) may or may not have said while sitting in his bathtub one day or after inventing the water screw (two completely unrelated events, and the latter is not what you may be thinking).

What I have found, friends, is that the quill was not writing rows at all, but columns, for when read as rows the message is “Ggoloe” (gibberish) but when read as columns it turns out to say “Google”!

Really, people, the torture I put myself through lengths to which I go to keep you informed know no bounds.

Thursday, July 5, 2018

A rose by any other name

Having just observed this week the 242nd anniversary of the signing of America's Declaration of Independence from Great Britain in 1776, it becomes clearer with every passing day that in just eight more years, before we know it, the United States of America will be reaching its 250th birthday. I was always good at math.

Did you know that John Adams and Thomas Jefferson both died on July 4, 1826, the fiftieth anniversary of the signing?

Well, they did.

Everybody does, eventually. The mortality rate is 100%.

Be that as it may, there are words that apply to certain anniversaries. Centennial applies to the 100th, sesquicentennial applies to the 150th, bicentennial applies to the 200th, and so forth, and so on.

Do you know, without looking it up, what word applies to the 250th anniversary, which, as mentioned above, will be occurring in just eight short years? We do want to be ready, don't we?

Of course we do.

Actually, there are several possible answers, all of which have been put forth in recent years:

1. Semiquincentennial (literally ½ × 500)
2. Sestercentennial (literally 2½ × 100)
3. Bicenquinquagenary (literally 2 × 100 × 50, or 10,000 (which is wrong). Princeton University coined this word for its 250th anniversary in 1996. If it could somehow indicate 2 × 100 plus 50 it would be correct.)
4. Quarter-millennial (literally ¼ × 1000)

Please vote in the comments for the word you will be using in the privacy of your own home.

Sunday, July 1, 2018

The days of our lives are numbered

In the Gregorian calendar, today (or yesterday, if you are in certain parts of the world) is (or was) the first day of July in the Year Of Our Lord 2018, also called AD 2018 (Anno Domini, Latin for Year Of Our Lord) or 2018 CE (Common Era or Christian Era, take your pick) as opposed to BCE (Before the Common or Christian Era, ditto).

Note to self: Try to stop using so many parentheses.

There are other calendars, almost too many to mention, which has never stopped me before, but like Edith Bunker of old, I will stifle myself, except to mention in passing that AD 2018 is also the year AH 1439 (Anno Hijri) in the Islamic calendar and AM 5778 (Anno Mundi) in the Hebrew calendar. AH 1 coincided with AD 622, but do note, won't you, that although only 1396 years (2018 minus 622) have passed in the Christian calendar, 1439 years have passed in the Islamic calendar, because the Islamic year, being lunar, is consistently shorter by about 11 days than the solar year used by the Gregorian calendar. The Islamic years are slowly gaining on the Gregorian years, but it will be many years before the two coincide. According to what I read, the first day of the 5th month of CE 20874 in the Gregorian calendar will also be (approximately) the first day of the 5th month of AH 20874 of the Islamic calendar. I kid you not.

But I don't want to talk about calendars today. I want to talk about numeral systems.

There are many of those, too. Here are some of the most common ones:


A couple of those look familiar, but only a couple. From top to bottom, they are Arabic numerals, Eastern Arabic numerals, Roman numerals, Bengali-Assamese numerals, Malayalam numerals, Thai numerals, and Chinese numerals.

Here are the Babylonian numerals (written, of course, in cuneiform):


On this day in AD 1646, Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz was born.

(Portrait of Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, c.1695 by Bernhard Christoph Francke. Hangs in the Herzog Anton Ulrich Museum, Braunschweig)

I'm sure your head, if it is anything like my head, is spinning. We'll stop now and talk more later.


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'.