Monday, March 31, 2014

Whan that Aprille with his shoures soote

Today is March 31st, the last day of the month. After today we won’t have March 2014 to kick around any more (and vice versa).

Tomorrow will be the first day of what many think is one of the loveliest months of the year, April.

But as Carolina in Nederland might say, hold your horses.

T.S. Eliot once said, “April is the cruellest month” (and a bunch of other stuff as well). He could have been talking about tornadoes. (Actually he wasn’t, but he could have been.)

April is the month when the most rare and gigantic F5 tornadoes happen in the United States. April also has the highest average number of deaths from tornadoes.

According to one study, May is the most dangerous month for tornadoes in the United States, with an average of 329, while February’s average is the safest with only three. In another study the months December and January were usually the safest, and the months having the greatest number of tornadoes were April, May, and June. In February, tornado frequency begins to increase. February tornadoes tend to occur in the central Gulf states; in March the center of activity moves eastward to the southeastern Atlantic states, where tornado activity peaks in April [emphasis mine --RWP]. In May the center of activity is in the southern Plains states; in June this moves to the northern Plains and Great Lakes area (into western New York). The most costly outbreak of tornadoes occurred in May 1999, when at least 74 tornadoes touched down in less than 48 hours in Oklahoma and Kansas, including an F5 on the outskirts of Oklahoma City that caused $$1.1 billion in damage.

According to Wikipedia, the United States has the most tornadoes of any country, as well as the strongest and most violent tornadoes. The United States averaged 1,274 tornadoes per year in the last decade.

On a website called I learned that May is the month with the most tornadoes and that the peak months are April, May, and June. May is the most common month for tornadoes, but the most powerful tornadoes seem to occur earlier in the year, in April [emphasis mine --RWP].

(Seymour, Texas, tornado, April 10, 1979) [emphasis mine --RWP]

Although tornadoes can happen any time of the year if conditions are right, I am now officially depressed that April begins tomorrow.

However, a certain young lady named Dorothy was caught up in a tornado (and her little dog, Toto, too) and deposited in a land called Oz (4:12) with no ill effect. In fact, if Hollywood is to be believed, she had a wonderful time.

I’ve heard that Oz has that effect on people.

Perhaps one day I will go on a pilgrimage there. Maybe even in April.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Spring has sprung, the grass has riz, whilst wondering where the birdies is I also think of Wordsworth.

(Photograph by David Hopkins, Stanly County, North Carolina)

I Wandered Lonely As A Cloud
by William Wordsworth

I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o’er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the milky way,
They stretched in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

The waves beside them danced; but they
Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:
A poet could not but be gay,
In such a jocund company:
I gazed -- and gazed -- but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought:

For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Not that it's all about me, me, me

...but all in all my birthday week has turned out to be a busy one.

The weather has been pleasant for a change after some very blustery, cold, wet days of late. The daffodils and forsythia have burst into bloom hereabouts and the robin families are hopping on the lawn.

My birthday began with an appointment at my primary care physician’s office for the drawing of blood to be sent to the lab for analysis. After that Mrs. RWP and I went out for breakfast and also stopped by the craft shop so that Mrs. RWP could get a pair of bamboo knitting needles, size 10.

I received comments on my birthday blogpost from 9 people (including one very long poem by Robert W. Service courtesy of All Consuming), 12 greetings on my Facebook page, 4 birthday cards via snail mail, 4 birthday telephone calls, 4 birthday text messages on my iPhone, and an animated, musical email card that included a black dog named Chudleigh, a white dog named Molly, a nameless cat, and an equally nameless mouse (courtesy of Snowbrush).

In the evening, Mrs. RWP and I enjoyed a lovely dinner at a local seafood restaurant. We ordered the same entree (shrimp and scallop linguini in a butter and white wine sauce) and salad (garden salad with raspberry vinaigrette dressing) but different soups (she, chicken tortilla soup; I, New England clam chowder) and desserts (she, caramel cheesecake; I, Key lime pie). A good time was had by all. The waiter received a generous tip.

Wednesday afternoon we drove over to Cumming to let Norma administer our monthly sprucing up of the coiffures. In my case, there is less and less coiffure to spruce up. Then we went to our church’s regular Wednesday night supper, where I was required to blow out a candle on a surprise piece of birthday cake while the assembled personages sang Happy Birthday to me.

Last evening we drove down to Roswell and picked up an old friend and his daughter and all of us continued on to Kennesaw to see our 17-year-old grandson perform on the opening night of his school’s production of Fiddler On The Roof. He played the role of Perchik, the radical from Kiev who pursues Tevye’s second daughter, Hodel. Our daughter-in-law choreographed the entire production and our 14-year-old granddaughter assisted in the making of costumes.

This morning the doctor telephoned with the results from the lab. My hemoglobin and hematacrit have finally reached acceptable levels, so I am officially no longer anemic. However, my ferritin (iron) readings are still a bit low, so I will continue taking iron for six more months, at which time more blood work will be needed.

This evening, weather permitting, we will drive to Woodstock to see our 18-year-old grandson play baseball for his school. This is a busy season for him as his high-school career winds down and he looks forward to graduation and playing baseball in college. His brother, the 16-year-old basketball player, finished his season recently and has obtained his driver’s license.

From over in Alabamistan has come word that our 15-year-old grandson placed fourth in the state in a mathematics competition in which he represented his school in the Geometry category, our 13-year-old grandson learned that he was accepted onto his school’s golf team, and our daughter (age withheld on request) completed requirements for her Master’s Degree and survived her Graduate School Exit Interview.

A very busy time for our entire family, it seems. Even for my long-dead grandfather who died in 1970. He would have celebrated his 139th birthday today.

Life, except for my grandfather, goes on.

(American Robin -- Humber Bay Park (East) (Toronto, Canada) -- 2005, by en:User:Mdf. Used under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.)

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Like sands through the hourglass, so are the days of our lives

So far, I've had 26,663 of them.

Today is a special one.

It’s my 73rd birthday.

Yorkshire Pudding called me a blogging phenomenon and presented me with the virtual birthday gift of four daffodils on his blog. I have also received four actual birthday cards in the mail to help me celebrate. I have a wonderful wife and three amazing children and six even more amazing grandchildren.

I am blessed, but still...

Sunday, March 16, 2014

I cannot vouch for the veracity of this map

...but it purports to be the options you would have if you happened to be flying a Boeing 777 with four hours of fuel remaining in its tanks and you happened to have just crossed the Malay peninsula and you wanted to land somewhere other than in water. It was stated on the website where I found the map that the red dots represent the runways that could handle that Boeing 777.

I'm not saying this map is phony baloney, but I find parts of it very hard to believe.

Look at Australia alone, for example.

Our old friend Wikipedia says that the state of Western Australia has 2,472,700 people spread across 2,529,875 square kilometers (nearly 1.0 million square miles). This is a population density of less than one person per square kilometer (0.98 persons, to be exact). Northern Territory, to the east, has just 236,900 people living on 1,349,129 square kilometers, a population density of just 0.18 persons per square kilometer. Yet our polka-dotted map would have us believe that in those two areas alone there are more than seventy (70) places where a Boeing 777 could land.

Talk to me, friends in Oz. Could that map possibly be accurate as pertains to your fair land?

Or should we give it a wide Perth?

Saturday, March 15, 2014

I think that I shall ne’er enjoy a piem as lovely as a Troi

If you clicked on the first link in the preceding post for Pi Day, you may have encountered a new word in your reading. I did (clicked), and I did (encounter a new word in my reading).

The new word was piem.

Never heard of it before.

A piem is a poem but not all poems are piems.

Let me explain.

A piem is a special kind of poem that represents pi (you know, our old friend 3.14159 and so on ad infinitum). Each word in a piem consists of n letters where n represents the digits in pi. That is, the first word contains 3 letters, the second word contains 1 letter, the third word contains 4 letters, and so on. Piems were originally introduced by the English physicist, astronomer and mathematician, Sir James Hopwood Jeans (1877-1946).

Here, from that link, is an example of a piem:

“How I want a drink, alcoholic of course, after the heavy lectures involving quantum mechanics.”

Perhaps it could have been arranged more poetically on the page:


Or perhaps more like -- but not exactly -- a haiku:

How I want
a drink,
alcoholic of course,
after the heavy lectures involving
quantum mechanics.

The possibilities, especially in longer piems, are -- like pi -- endless.

Convert the number of letters in each word of that 15-word piem to a numeral and, voila!, the result is 3.14159265358979 (pi to 14 decimal places).

Here is pi to the first 100 decimal places:


Knock yourselves out coming up with piems of your own in the comments.

Chances are, however, that they won’t be nearly as lovely as actress Marina Sirtis in her role on Star Trek: The Next Generation as the half-human, half-Betazoid empath, Commander Deanna Troi, whom you may see here.

My sincere apologies to Joyce Kilmer for the title of this post.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Happy Pi Day!

It’s 3.14 !

Well, not exactly.

More accurately, it’s:

3.1415926535897932384626433832795028841971693993751058209749445923078164062862089986280348253421170679....... and on and on, and on and on, forever.

Read about it here and even more about it here.

And then let’s all go out and run around in circles.

Monday, March 10, 2014

If a band concert lasts longer than four hours, call your doctor.

Here is the Mansfield (Texas) Band on April 5, 1925:

Here is the Mansfield High School Band in 1955. Your correspondent is second from the right in the back row.

If you look closely you will notice that both bands are standing in front of the same building, the town school. In those days, everyone went there, from first grade through high school.

Here are the deathless words of Mansfield High School’s alma mater:

We’re putting you first, Mansfield High
We’re showing you off, Mansfield High
We know you’re the best
In most every test
That’s why we love you so, Mansfield High (rah) (rah)
It isn’t all work or all play
It isn’t the same any day
We love you with all our might
We’ll stick to you day and night
Yes, sir, it’s dear old Mansfield High!

Well, things have changed and Mansfield has grown a little. Okay, a lot. Now there are:

* Eight high schools (Frontier, Lake Ridge, Legacy, Mansfield, Summit, Timberview, Alternative Education Center, and Ben Barber Career Tech Academy);

* Six middle schools (James Coble, T.A. Howard, Linda Jobe, Danny Jones, Brooks Wester, and Rogene Worley);

* Six intermediate schools (Della Icenhower, Mary Lillard, Asa Low, Mary Orr, Donna Shepard, and Cross Timbers); and

* Twenty-two (22) elementary schools (Charlotte Anderson, J. L. Boren, Janet Brockett, Willie Brown, Louise Cabaniss, Anna May Daulton, Kenneth Davis, Imogene Gideon, Glenn Harmon, Carol Holt, Thelma Jones, D.P. Morris, Erma Nash, Nancy Neal, Annette Perry, Alice Ponder, Martha Reid, Mary Jo Sheppard, Elizabeth Smith, Cora Spencer, Tarver-Rendon, and Roberta Tipps) with a 23rd elementary school (Judy Miller) under construction.

The names in bold type are teachers I knew personally and in whose classes I sat and who helped form me into the sterling individual I am today.

In 1930, Mansfield’s population stood at 635. By 1950, it had grown to 964. When I lived there, the town had a grand total of two, count ’em, two traffic signals. Since then, however, a population explosion took place. According to the 2010 census the population of Mansfield was 56,368 and is projected to reach 70,019 by 2017. Hence, class, the eight high schools, six middle schools, six intermediate schools, and 23 elementary schools.

Maybe there’s something in the water.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Some exclusive clubs are less exclusive than others

There have been 7 Secretaries General of the United Nations:

1. Trygve Lie (1946-53)
2. Dag Hammarskjöld (1953-61)
3. U Thant (1962-71)
4. Kurt Waldheim (1972-81)
5. Javier Pérez de Cuéllar (1982-91)
6. Boutros Boutros-Ghali (1992-96)
7. Kofi Annan (1997-2006)
8. Ban Ki-Moon (2007-present)

There have been 11 Directors of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) :

1. Stanley Finch (1908-1912)
2. A. Bruce Bielaski (1912-1919)
3. William J. Flynn (1919-1921)
4. William J. Burns (1921-1924)
5. J. Edgar Hoover (1924-1972)
6. Clarence M. Kelley (1973-1978)
7. William H. Webster (1978-1987)
8. William S. Sessions (1987-1993)
9. Louis Freeh (1993-2001)
10. Robert Mueller (2001-2013)
11. James Comey (2013-present)

There have been 14 Dalai Lamas:

1. Gendrum Drup (1391-1474, considered posthumously)
2. Gendun Gyatso (1492–1542)
3. Sonam Gyatso (1578-1588)
4. Yonten Gyatso (1601-1617)
5. Ngawang Lobsang Gyatso (1642-1682)
6. Tsangyang Gyatso (1697-1706)
7. Kelzang Gyatso (1720-1757)
8. Jamphel Gyatso (1762-1804)
9. Lungtok Gyatso (1810-1815)
10. Tsultrim Gyatso (1826-1837)
11. Khedrup Gyatso (1842-1856)
12. Trinley Gyatso (1860-1875)
13. Thubten Gyatso (1879-1933)
14. Tenzin Gyatso (1950-present)

There have been 17 Chief Justices of the U.S. Supreme Court:

1. John Jay (1789-1795)
2. John Rutledge (1795-1795)
3. Oliver Ellsworth (1796-1800)
4. John Marshall (1801-1835)
5. Roger B. Taney (1836-1864)
6. Salmon P. Chase (1864-1873)
7. Morrison Waite (1874-1888)
8. Melville Fuller (1888-1910)
9. Edward Douglass White (1910-1921)
10. William Howard Taft (1921-1930)
11. Charles Evans Hughes (1930-1941)
12. Harlan F. Stone (1941-1946)
13. Fred M. Vinson (1946-1953)
14. Earl Warren (1953-1969)
15. Warren E. Burger (1969-1986)
16. William Rehnquist (1986-2005)
17. John G. Roberts, Jr. (2005-present)

There have been 45 presidents of the United States. I am not going to list them here because their names and dates can be found in a purple list in my previous post of March 2, 2014.

There have been at least 71 rulers of England/Britain/U.K./whatever; 266 popes of the Roman Catholic Church; and 600+ rulers of China, the first four of which, if Wikipedia is to be believed, were Sovereign Empress Nüwa (who reigned 180,000 years), Sovereign Emperor Youchao (who reigned 110,000 years), Sovereign Emperor Suiren (who reigned 456,000 years), and Sovereign Emperor Fu Xi (who reigned 115 years, from 2852 BC until 2737 BC).

Grains of salt available on request in the lobby.

To its credit, Wikipedia does state that the first generally accepted date in Chinese history is 841 BC. All dates prior to this are the subject of often vigorous dispute. The dates provided in Wikipedia are those put forward by The Xia–Shang–Zhou Chronology Project, the work of scholars sponsored by the Chinese government which reported in 2000. They are given only as a guide.

All righty, then.

But I know what you are really interested in.

Idols winners.

Specifically, 244 artists (their term, not mine) have won the television series Idols, a reality singing competition that has been adapted in 46 regions. I know. It’s almost too much to take in. You can read all about them, including Lusine Aghabekyan (2007, Armenia), Toma Zdravkov (2008, Bulgaria), Mong Uching Marma (2013, Bangladesh), Ott Lepland (2009, Estonia), Panagiotis Tsakalakos (2011, Greece), Hildur Vala Einarsdóttir (2005, Iceland), Khaya Mthethwa (2012, South Africa), and many others, right here. The list goes on and on. And on.

My mind is now officially boggled.

I briefly considered giving up frivolous posts for Lent, but then I thought, “Nah.”

However, I did restrain myself from publishing a photo of Dolly Parton and one of a llama.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Yogi Berra was right. It’s déjà vu all over again.

I don’t pretend to know what goes on in the mind of Vladimir Putin, president of Russia and a former Lieutenant Colonel in the KGB, which Time magazine once called, in a bit of an understatement, “the world’s most effective information-gathering organization” (John Kohan, “Eyes of the Kremlin,” February 14, 1983).

Effective. Indeed.

Nor do I pretend to know much about the Crimea, except that there was a war there from 1853 until 1856 which (a) brought Florence Nightingale to the attention of the world and (b) Russia famously lost.

Speaking of the Crimean War, here is detail from Franz Roubaud’s panoramic painting The Siege of Sevastopol (1904) :

To my Texan eyes it looks rather like the Mexican Army at the Alamo.

Today I read in an online Associated Press article that the Crimea only became part of Ukraine in 1954, when Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev gave the peninsula to the republic where he began his political career, a transfer that hardly mattered until the Soviet Union broke up in 1991 and Crimea ended up in an independent Ukraine. Furthermore, I read that Crimea’s port city of Sevastopol is also home to the Russian Black Sea Fleet and its thousands of naval personnel. The ousted Ukrainian president Yanukovych extended the fleet’s lease until 2042, but Russia fears that Ukraine’s temporary pro-Western government [emphasis mine] could evict it. The U.S. is not calling for a full Russian withdrawal from Crimea, an Obama administration official said, but does want Moscow’s forces to return to their normal operating position at their base, where they have an agreement with Ukraine to keep up to 11,000 troops.

A man named Barry Pavel, who worked on the White House National Security Council under both Obama and President George W. Bush, says that reasserting control of Crimea may be even more important to Russia than the Georgian territories. “Russian nationalists consider this to be practically Russian territory,” [emphasis mine] said Pavel, who now serves as vice president of the Atlantic Council, a Washington-based think tank. “The chances of Russian forces ever leaving where they are are very low.”

So the international ballet continues.

What could possibly go wrong?

It all seems very familiar, though.

Oh, yes, now I remember. In 1990, Saddam Hussein called Kuwait the 19th province of Iraq.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Et tu, LBJ?

In earlier times the inauguration of U.S. presidents took place on March 4th. George Washington’s first inauguration took place on April 30, 1789, but never mind.

After the Twentieth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was approved in 1933, presidential inaugurations were moved to January 20th.

The only inaugurations that have not taken place on March 4th or January 20th (besides George Washington's on April 30th) happened because (a) those dates occurred on a Sunday or (b) a president died or resigned.

The presidents who died in office were William Henry Harrison (1841), Zachary Taylor (1850), Abraham Lincoln (1865), James A Garfield (1881), William McKinley (1901), Warren G. Harding (1923), Franklin Delano Roosevelt (1945), and John F. Kennedy (1963). One president, Richard Nixon, resigned from office (1974).

You read it here first. Or maybe not.

I knew you couldn’t possibly get through today without knowing these things. To learn which presidents were not inaugurated on March 4th or January 20th (that is, who the successors to the ones who died or resigned were), click here.

The list is in purple, but I have no idea why.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

I really must try to post more often.

I managed to create only six posts in February. I haven’t had so few posts in a single month since...never.

Well, almost never, almost never being defined as the first month I began blogging back in September 2007.

I wrote three posts that month.

But, he hastened to add, I didn’t begin blogging until the 28th of September in 2007, so three posts by the end of the month comes out to, let’s see, carry the 4, divide by 7, one per day unless I am sadly mistaken.

As one grows older, one discovers that one is sadly mistaken more and more of the time. Perhaps that has contributed to my general feeling of melancholy.

But six posts in the entire month of February? When there were 28 golden opportunities?

It’s downright sad.

The more observant among you may note that I still have nothing to say.

But today that didn’t keep me from posting.

Today is the birthday of my youngest grandson, the last of the six wee bairns, who is now officially a teenager.

Never fear. The press has been alerted and the authorities have been put on notice.

He sits first-chair trumpet in his school band and also just learned that he has been accepted on the school’s golf team.

His whole life stretches out in front of him.

Mine is mostly behind me.

Perhaps March, especially when it comes in like a lamb, makes one melancholy.

Tomorrow I hope to be in a better humor (Brit., humour).

Below is a a work of art by Tom Lemmens portraying the four humors (Brit., humours). Created on June 3, 2013, it is included here under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

It reminds me of nothing so much as a stop sign.

According to Wikipedia, the four humors of Hippocratic medicine are black bile (Gk. melan chole), yellow bile (Gk. chole), phlegm (Gk. phlegma), and blood (Gk. haima), and each corresponds to one of the traditional four temperaments.

The four temperaments is a psychological theory that suggests that there are four fundamental personality types:

* Sanguine (pleasure-seeking and sociable)
* Choleric (ambitious and leader-like)
* Melancholic (analytical and literal)
* Phlegmatic (relaxed and thoughtful)

Here are the four temperaments - (L-R) choleric, melancholic, sanguine and phlegmatic - on the wall of a house at the corner of Am Dornbusch and Eschersheimer Landstraße in Dornbusch, Frankfurt am Main, Germany. The artist is unknown. The picture is a composite of four close-up photographs made by Peng on July 6, 2005, and is used here under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2 or any later version.

I hope I don’t resemble any of those faces.

I am certain of one thing, though. None of them ever sat first-chair trumpet or was accepted on the golf team.

I will be laboring (<i>British,</i> labouring) under a handicap for the next couple of weeks (<i>British,</i> fortnight)

More about that below. First, though, I want to add an addendum (what else would you do with an addendum?) to my previous post about phone...