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 Cruz" 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.