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.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Tinky Winky dead at 52

Simon Shelton Barnes, the British actor who played Tinky Winky, the purple Teletubby in the children's television series "Teletubbies," has died, apparently of hypothermia. His body was found on a Liverpool street on January 17th. He was 52.

He is survived by Dipsy, Laa-Laa, and Po.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Time marches on and on and on and on....

...and as the days go by, people mark them in various ways.

Day before yesterday (January 18th) was Orthodox Epiphany, and Vladimir Putin and lots of other people plunged themselves into icy waters to observe it.

Yesterday (January 19th) was the birthday of General Robert E. Lee (the person, not the car on The Dukes of Hazzard). He would have been 201 years old. He has become persona non grata in the politically correct circles, but I still remember him.

Today (January 20th) is the birthday of Lynne, our oldest son's wife.

I'm sure tomorrow is something. Pat, an Arkansas stamper, would say it is another day. On January 21st in 1793, Louis XVI of France was executed by guillotine.

The day after tomorrow (January 22nd) is our daughter's birthday.

On and on it goes, day after day, the world spinning on its axis, moving through space in its orbit around our sun, the whole galaxy spiraling its way through the vast universe.

Can't we all just get along?

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

War is peace. Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is strength.

So wrote George Orwell in 1948 in his dystopian novel of the future, Nineteen Eighty-Four (which you may have thought was 1984, but it isn't).

Last week I heard another statement of the same sort. This time it spilled from the lips of none other than former U.S. Vice-President Al Gore:

"The freezing is part of the warming."

It's my new favorite saying. From mid-December until now, the water in our patio birdbath has been frozen solid most of the time. This may be normal in Kennebunkport, Maine, or in Stornoway on the Isle of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides of Scotland, but it is not at all normal in Canton, Georgia.

The freezing is part of the warming.

Here are two more quotations from 1984 Nineteen Eighty-Four:

“The best books... are those that tell you what you know already.”

“If you want to keep a secret, you must also hide it from yourself.”

Did you know that George Orwell wasn't his real name? (I'm speaking of George Orwell now, not Al Gore. Al Gore's name, as far as I know, has never been George Orwell.) Well, it wasn't. That is a nom de plume (a pen name, for those of you in the Central Time Zone).

His real name was Eric Arthur Blair, and that's okay. If Benny Kubelsky could call himself Jack Benny, and Archibald Alexander Leach could call himself Cary Grant, and Bernie Schwartz could call himself Tony Curtis, and Leonard Slye and Frances Octavia Smith could call themselves Roy Rogers and Dale Evans, I have no problem with Eric Arthur Blair calling himself George Orwell. At least he didn't change genders like Mary Anne Evans who called herself George Eliot, not that there's anything wrong with that.

This has been another rambling, meaningless post from your friend freezing friend in Canton, Georgia, Rhymeswithplague (nom de plume of Robert Henry Brague, Esq.)

And that is a good thing.

Or Double Plus Ungood, as the case may be.

Friday, January 12, 2018

Enter and sign in, please, and welcome to "What's My Line?"

The year 2018 is tootling along unimpeded and nothing of cataclysmic import has happened so far.

That is probably untrue, as lots of things of personally cataclysmic import may have happened to individuals, some of them even to you.

I was speaking on a more general, higher level.

Here's something. Leaker extraordinaire Julian Assange may soon be leaving the Ecuadorian embassy in London for Switzerland if certain news articles are to be believed.

In looking up the proper adjective (Ecuadoran, Ecuadorian, and Ecuadorean are all acceptable), I learned something about Ecuador that I did not know before. The currency of Ecuador is the U.S. dollar. Imagine that. It happened several years ago, but I obviously was not paying attention. The sucre is out; the U.S. dollar is in.

In Spanish, Ecuador means equator. The country is certainly equatorial as said equator passes through it from west to east. Quito, Ecuador’s capital, is situated at latitude 0º14' South / longitude 78º30' West. It would be big news today if the equator suddenly decided to pass through Ecuador from north to south, but I digress.

Look at the map below and tell me if you find something else very interesting that you may not have realized before.

Did you see it? Nearly all of South America lies completely east of nearly all of North America. This, friends, is the reason Brazilians speak Portuguese rather than Spanish. Let me explain.

In 1493, after Cristoforo Colombo had returned to Spain from his first voyage to the New World, Pope Alexander VI, apparently his century’s equivalent of the Secretary-General of the United Nations, settled a dispute between Spain and Portugal by drawing an imaginary “Line of Demarcation” 100 leagues west of the Azores and Cape Verde Islands to separate future exploration and colonization. Spain would control lands discovered west of the line, and Portugal would control lands discovered east of the line. In 1494 the Treaty of Tordesillas moved the line 270 leagues further westward, or 370 leagues from the Cape Verde Islands. (Nobody bothered to check with England, France, Sweden, or the Netherlands, all of which proceeded to explore and colonize parts of North America without so much as a “by your leave” from Pope anybody.) The 1494 treaty gave Portugal a foothold in the eastern part of South America that later would become Brazil. Here's proof:

...and this is the reason Brazilians speak Portuguese today and everybody else in North and South America (except the U.S. and Canada) speak Spanish.

President Barack Obama once drew a red line in Syria. It meant absolutely nothing.

The moral of today's post is simply this: Whether you are Pope Alexander VI in the fifteenth century or Julian Assange in the twenty-first century, or even President Barack Obama, things can often turn out in a very different way from what you may have expected.

Monday, January 1, 2018

2017 is now history.

“The Moving Finger writes; and, having writ,
Moves on: nor all thy Piety nor Wit
Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line,
Nor all thy Tears wash out a Word of it.”
― Omar Khayyám

Or, as we say in America, "you are lost and gone forever, dreadful sorry, Clementine."

Well, we don't say it, but I do.


It's part of my charm.

As Petula Clark used to sing, "When you're alone, and life is making you lonely you can always go d'antan".

Except you can't.

Now go out there and win one for the Gipper.