Monday, December 31, 2018

I made Emma say "ACK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"

...with my last post and it is unclear to me whether she was expressing surprise, disgust, or the sound one makes when one is strangling oneself.

On the other hand, Elephant's Child in Australia, otherwise known as Sue (Elephant's Child is, not Australia) wished a very Happy New Year to me and Mrs. RWP.

Graham Edwards who lives on the Isle of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides of Scotland posed the following question: "What happens (in relation to your calculations) if you live on top of Mount Chimborazo?"

Yorkshire Pudding was his usual snarky self, Kylie in Australia said she probably managed the ideal 10,000 steps a day, and Adrian from the little village of Auchtermuchy, Scotland said little wonder he is tired.

As Arte Johnson on Laugh-in used to say, “Ver-r-ry inter-r-resting!”

Here's what I have learned about Mount Chimborazo, about which I knew nothing. With a peak elevation of 6,263 m (20,548 ft), Mount Chimborazo is the highest mountain in Ecuador. It is the highest peak near the equator. Chimborazo is not the world's highest mountain by elevation above sea level -- that would be Mount Everest -- but its location along the equatorial bulge (we're an oblate spheroid, remember?) makes its summit the farthest point on the Earth's surface from the Earth's center. Thank you, Wikipedia.

The answer to Graham's question, "What happens...if you live on top of Mount Chimborazo?" is simple: You become higher than a kite.

We said yesterday that if you were on the equator you would travel about 25,000 miles each day (actually 24,910 miles or 24,898 miles or something -- it varies according to whom you read) because of the rotation of the earth on its axis even if you were standing still. But what if you live in Canton, Georgia, USA (34°13′38″N 84°29′41″W) or Paris, France (48°51′24″N 2°21′03″E) or Sydney, Australia (33°51′54″S 151°12′34″E)? How fast are you spinning?

Fasten your seat belts; it's going to be a bumpy night. (Bette Davis said that in All About Eve.)

Groucho Marx sang that you can learn a lot from Lydia. I find that I can learn a lot from Google, except that since I use Firefox I learn a lot from DuckDuckGo instead. Feast your eyes and mind on this:

"Earth's spin is constant, but the speed depends on the latitude at which you are located. Here's an example. The circumference (distance around the largest part of the Earth) is roughly 24,898 miles (40,070 kilometers), according to NASA. (This area is also called the equator.) If you estimate that a day is 24 hours long, you divide the circumference by the length of the day. This produces a speed at the equator of about 1,037 mph (1,670 km/h).

"You won't be moving quite as fast at other latitudes, however. If we move halfway up the globe to 45 degrees in latitude (either north or south), you calculate the speed by using the cosine (a trigonometric function) of the latitude. A good scientific calculator should have a cosine function available if you don't know how to calculate it. The cosine of 45 is 0.707, so the spin speed at 45 degrees is roughly 0.707 x 1037 = 733 mph (1,180 km/h). That speed decreases more as you go farther north or south. By the time you get to the North or South poles, your spin is very slow indeed — it takes an entire day to spin in place."

Finally, friends, let us all join in singing, wherever we are, that old French ditty, "Piroutte, gentille Pirouette, Pirouette, je te plumerai" and a rousing chorus of Auld Lang Syne.

And a very happy, healthy, prosperous, and peaceful 2019 to you all.

Here's a bit of advice from moi to toi for the coming year:

Always estimate that a day is 24 hours long and you won't go wrong.

Saturday, December 29, 2018

How far we have come!

Because we are nearing the end of another trip around the sun, I thought it might be interesting to determine just how far we earthlings travel in a year.

Everything I say after this is approximately true but not necessarily specifically accurate because I will be dealing in generalities.

What are we, 93,000,000 miles from the sun? We will use that as the radius of the great more-or-less circle of Earth's orbit around Old Sol. Then, using either the formula 2(pi)r or (pi)d where (pi) = 3.14159 and r = 93,000,000 and d = 186,000,000 (because diameter, as we all should know, equals 2 times radius), we come up with the answer that the circumference of the great more-or-less circle that is Earth's orbit around the sun is 584,335,740 miles.

The kids in the back seat are asking, "Are we there yet?"

No, we are not.

So far we have determined our forward motion around the sun in one year. But even though our planet is moving forward through space in its orbit 1,599,824 miles every single day (which figure I obtained by dividing 584,335,740 by 365.25 —- the number of days in a year), that is not our only movement. Our home planet also spins on its axis once every day. A person standing at the equator would travel 25,000 miles a day even if he or she is standing still. Let's add that distance into our calculations. When we multiply 25,000 miles a day times 365.25 days we discover that the person standing still at the equator has travelled an additional 9,131,250 miles during a year.

The final step is to add the forward motion and the spinning motion together. Let's do that.

584,335,740 miles moving forward in our orbit plus 9,131,250 miles spinning every single day on our axis gives us -- drum roll, please —- TAH-DAH!

593,466,990 miles !!!

Here's a caveat. A person standing at the North Pole or South Pole will not travel 25,000 miles every day, just perform a piroutte, as it were. So subtract the 9,131.250 miles for him or her. People at various latitudes travel somewhere between a pirouette and 25,000 miles each day. For each degree of latitude, for each minute of each degree of latitude, the distance varies. I'll let you figure out your personal distance on your own.

Good luck.

Nobody said it was going to be easy.

Here's another caveat. In the olden days, we were all taught that the earth's diameter is about 8,000 miles and the earth's circumference is about 25,000 miles, and those are the figures I used in this post. But they are not correct. According to the website, NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center says that the radius of Earth at the equator is 3,963 miles (6,378 kilometers). However, Earth is not quite a sphere. The planet's rotation causes it to bulge at the equator. Earth's polar radius is 3,950 miles (6,356 km) — a difference of 13 miles (22 km). Using those measurements, the equatorial circumference of Earth is about 24,901 miles (40,075 km). However, from pole-to-pole — the meridianal circumference — Earth is only 24,860 miles (40,008 km) around. This shape, caused by the flattening at the poles, is called an oblate spheroid.

You may wish to re-calculae the numbers on your own to get a more accurate answer.

Here is the Earth as seen from Apollo 17 in 1972:

We've come a long way, baby.

Saturday, December 22, 2018

Things of passing interest, or not

As the year winds down and a new one gets ready to make its entrance, just remember this:

The more things change, the more they don't remain the same.

Exhibit 1: Here is the full text of James "Mad Dog" Mattis's letter of resignation as Secretary of Defense. President Trump is losing a very good man who may be hard to replace. Read this too; it is Exhibit 1B.

Exhibit 2: Here is something that proves that the old gray mare, she ain't what she used to be. The old saying that you can put lipstick on a pig, but it's still a pig, applies, if only obliquely.

Moral: Whether it's the latest change in the political landscape or the latest improvement in selfie technology, smoke and mirrors are an important part of the process.

The articles linked to in this post are from The Atlantic monthly magazine.

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Late December thoughts and loose ends

If you're a Druid or a Druid wannabe, tomorrow (December 21st) is the big day.

In an online article this morning about the shortest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere, I read the following sentence: "This year the winter solstice comes right before Christmas" — as if in other years it does not.

We didn't send out any Christmas cards this year but so far have received seven or eight.

We didn't put up a tree either, just the Nativity set on the credenza in the fwah-yay.

Here's last year's tree just to put you in a Christmas-y mood.

No snow is expected around here, just a lot of rain. It has already started

Our shopping is done. Our gift-wrapping is almost done.

There will be two extra people at our family gathering at our second son's house this year. Our fourth-oldest grandson's girl friend of lo, these past two years, is coming from Alabama, and an exchange student, a 16-year-old young man from Seoul, South Korea who lives at our oldest son's house here in the Atlanta area, will join our happy throng. Apparently with their son away at Duke and their daughter away at the University of Georgia, our son-and-daughter-in-law's house felt empty. That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

Abby will be getting her pre-Christmas bath tomorrow at the local pet emporium and grooming salon. It can't come too soon.

Mrs. RWP received two cortisone shots in her right thumb and wrist yesterday. The effect of a previous shot lasted six months. We are keeping our fingers crossed on this one.

I read in another article that there are enough golf courses in the U.S. (14,000) to give two to every person who arrived at the U.S.-Mexican border in a caravan from Honduras (6,000). You read it here first, but only because I read it someplace else. It speaks so well of capitalist priorities, does it not?

I read in yet another article that Prince Harry will not go pheasant hunting on Boxing Day, apparently a tradition amongst English royals, this year because his new, pregnant, American wife Meghan Markle, Duchess of Sussex, is an animal lover and a vegan besides and has asked him not to. A saying applies here: Happy wife, happy life. Or as we say here in the colonies, if Mama ain't happy, ain't nobody happy.

This is my 82nd post of the year, eleven more than in 2017.

I may not be blogging much for the remainder of the year. One never knows, but one can hope (either for or against). This is fair warning to my vast reading public.

P.S. -- The merriest of Christmases to you who celebrate Christmas, and the merriest of whatever the rest of you celebrate, if anything, to the rest of you.

And to all the people at the border, Feliz Navidad, Prospero Año y Felicidad. No snark intended. I really mean it.

Friday, December 14, 2018

News flash: Kennedy's secretary may have been named Lincoln, but Lincoln's secretary was not named Kennedy

In the previous post, I showed you a photograph of Evelyn Lincoln, John F. Kennedy's secretary, chiefly because of something Judy Garland as Dorothy said to Ray Bolger as The Scarecrow in The Wizard Of Oz way back in 1939:

With the thoughts you'd be thinkin'
You could be another Lincoln
If you only had a brain.

Then Graham Edwards who lives on the Isle of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides of Scotland and no longer spends half the year in New Zealand like he used to said in the comments that there was not a Mrs. Beethoven. I assured him that there was indeed a Mrs. Beethoven, Ludwig's mother, but that the family name, being Dutch, was not Beethoven. It was Van Beethoven.

It does not follow as the night the day (as Polonius said to Laertes), but it's how my mind works.

Therefore, I am now including a link from the Snopes website that debunks or at least explains in detail that a lot of the things a popular list claims are similarities between John F. Kennedy and Abraham Lincoln are simply not true or not amazing coincidences.

FACT CHECK: Lincoln and Kennedy Coincidences -

If you read it in full, you will discover at last who Lincoln's secretaries (there were two) really were.

I think I shall not mention Ludwig van Beethoven again in 2018, although his birthday is two days hence and in other years I devoted posts to him. That I am telling you this in a post about Abraham Lincoln's secretaries merely adds to the mystique surrounding moi -- if not in the salons of Paris, at least in places like the Willamette Valley in Oregon and the Isle of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides of Scotland and beauiful downtown Sheffield, Yorkshire, England and the northwest corner of Iowa and several locations in Australia.

Recently I read an article about what will happen when Queen Elizabeth dies and Prince William becomes king. It made no mention of Prince Charles whatsoever. You talk about strange, now that is strange. I think it must have been written by a millenial.

Saturday, December 8, 2018

I could be another Lincoln

Being by nature a procrastinator, I failed to blog about St. Nicholas on December 6th (although I have done so in other years) and Pearl Harbor on the 7th (although I think I have done so in other years), and if I don't get on a stick, I will miss Beethoven's birthday as well (note to U.K. readers: "get on a stick" is an American colloquialism meaning "busy").

Some things cannot be helped.

Although others certainly can, but I will not list them at this time.

Thanks be to God.

This is another rambling post from moi, stream-of-consciousness, wide-ranging, free-wheeling, whatever you want to call it.

Some sort of post is needed, but I do not feel up to the task.

Harold Arlen's famous lyrics from The Wizard of Oz come to mind:

I could while away the hours
Conferrin' with the flowers
Consultin' with the rain
And my head I'd be scratchin'
While my thoughts were busy hatchin'
If I only had a brain

I'd unravel every riddle
For any individ'le
In trouble or in pain

With the thoughts you'd be thinkin'
You could be another Lincoln
If you only had a brain

Oh, I would tell you why
The ocean's near the shore
I could think of things I never thunk before
And then I'd sit and think some more

I would not be just a nuffin'
My head all full of stuffin'
My heart all full of pain
I would dance and be merry
Life would be a ding-a-derry
If I only had a brain

Gosh, it would be awful pleasin'
To reason out the reason
For things I can't explain

Then perhaps I'll deserve ya
And be even worthy of ya
If I only had a brain

Riddle of the day: Who is this woman and how is she connected to this post?

Monday, December 3, 2018

As usual, Michael Spencer says it best

Some of you know that I read and like a Christian blog called that was begun in 2000 by a man named Michael Spencer. He was its chief architect until he died of cancer in April 2010. Michael was a Baptist, but probably different from most Baptists you may have known. He taught English and Bible at a Christian high school in Kentucky. He liked beer and minor league baseball. His wife Denise converted to Roman Catholicism. He often preached in a Presbyterian church and attended an Anglican church. He had a way with words. He always got to the heart of the matter with clarity and the ring of truth. His blog continues today under the auspices of a Lutheran from Indiana, Mike Mercer, who spent many years as a hospice and hospital chaplain. Mike Mercer has kept Internetmonk going, but I do miss Michael Spencer.

Yesterday having been the first Sunday in the liturgical season called Advent (and also, incidentally, the first day of Hanukkah, the Jewish Festival of Lights), Internetmonk reprinted today a post Michael Spencer wrote in December 2007.

The Mood Of Advent

Read it; it might change your mind about those Bible-thumping Baptists.

Saturday, December 1, 2018

From the archives: First night of Hanukkah, er, Chanukah, er, the Festival of Lights

At sundown tomorrow night -- or, for some of you in places like Australia and New Zealand where it is already tomorrow, at sundown tonight -- the eight-day Jewish holiday known as Hanukkah begins. Hanukkah (or Chanukah, or however you choose to spell it) marks the re-dedication of the Temple in Jerusalem after its desecration by the forces of Antiochus IV (around 165 B.C.).

It commemorates the "miracle of the container of oil" that held enough oil to last one day but burned for eight. According to the Talmud, at the re-dedication following the victory of the Maccabees over the Seleucid Empire, there was only enough consecrated olive oil to fuel the eternal flame in the Temple for one day. Miraculously, the oil burned for eight days, which was the length of time it took to press, prepare and consecrate fresh olive oil. Each evening during Hanukkah, another candle is lit on the menorah until, on the final day, the entire menorah is lit.

The re-dedication of the temple is described in the book of First Maccabees in the Apocrypha, which writings are accepted as canon by Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches, but not by Protestant churches. (Your trivia fact for the day: Protestant Bibles contain 66 books; Catholic and Orthodox Bibles contain 73 books.) The "miracle" itself is not mentioned in First Maccabees, but the eight days are.

The dreidel, a four-sided top, is used for a game played during Hanukkah. Each side of the dreidel bears a letter of the Hebrew alphabet: נ (Nun), ג (Gimel), ה (Hei), and ש (Shin), which together form the acronym for the Hebrew phrase "נס גדול היה שם" (Nes Gadol Haya Sham, reading from right to left, of course) which means "a great miracle happened there."

I am indebted to Wikipedia for much of the information in the preceding paragraphs.

(Photo by Roland Scheicher, 1 August 2006)

No matter what anyone might have told you, Hanukkah is not "the Jewish Christmas."

In the interest of full disclosure, I want to tell you that my mother was Jewish (non-practicing) and my father was Christian (lapsed Methodist). I was raised Christian and have never attended a synagogue, but for years I struggled with my own identity. I wondered whether I was Christian or Jewish or half-Jewish, whatever that meant, and whether there could even be such a thing as "half-Jewish." In 1962, Mrs. Lydia Buksbazen of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, whose husband Victor headed the Friends of Israel missionary organization, told me, "Hitler would have considered you Jewish."

So basically, if my great-grandfather Max Silberman and my great-grandmother Sarah Nusbaum had not emigrated to America from Germany in the mid-nineteenth century, we might not be having this conversation, because Adolf Hitler loaded all the Jews (like my mother), half-Jews (like me), quarter-Jews (like my children), and even eighth-Jews (like my grandchildren) into boxcars and shipped them to extermination camps. (To give credit where credit is due, my other set of great-grandparents, Solomon Aarons and Rachel DeWolf, were also Jewish. They emigrated to America from England and either Holland or Belgium, respectively. In the 1890s Max and Sarah's son Nathan married Solomon and Rachel's daughter Rosetta and became my grandparents.)

This year, the eight days of Hanukkah run from sundown Sunday, December 2nd through Monday, December 10th. Therefore, please do not wish your Jewish friends a “Happy Hanukkah” around December 25th, long after it has ended. They will certainly appreciate the thought but they may look at you strangely.

[Editor's note. This post has been edited and expanded from posts published in previous years. --RWP]

Friday, November 30, 2018

Day by day by day by day by day in an eclectic and unpredictable fashion

I read recently that a blog is a kind of online diary. Maybe some blogs are, perhaps even most are, but mine isn't. Mine is a conglomeration, a hodgepodge of things that interest me or have caught my attention, things that bubble up to the surface from my unbelievably deep and fertile mind (it is to laugh), and yes, I suppose it does even serve as an online diary occasionally.

In the Wikipedia article entitled 'Diary' there is this amazing sentence:

The word "journal" may be sometimes used for "diary," but generally a diary has (or intends to have) daily entries, whereas journal-writing can be less frequent.

That is just preposterous. The "di" in diary is the Latin word for day, as in dies irae (day of wrath), and the "jour" in journal is the French word for day, as in Bon jour. A little poking around and we discover that our English word journal originated around 1325-75 as Middle English and was derived from the Old French journal (daily) which came from Late Latin diurnalis (diurnal). And we know that diurnal means during the day and nocturnal means during the night. So to say that a journal differs from a diary in that a diary has (or intends to have) daily entries, whereas journal-writing can be less frequent, is simply not true.

(It is interesting to note that the Puccini opera Madame Butterfly, which is written in Italian, includes the soprano aria 'Un bel di' which is usually translated as 'One fine day' so 'di' seems to be the Italian word for day as well, except that when I put the phrase 'one fine day' into Google Translate and asked that it be translated into Italian the result was 'un bel giorno', not 'un bel di', which fact reminds us that the Italian Buon giorno and the French Bon jour are related. But I digress.)

But what about The Ladies' Home Journal?, you may be asking. LHJ is a periodical that was launched in 1883 and published monthly for a very long time, even twice a month for a while, though now it is published quarterly. It's a journal, isn't it? It says so right there in the title.

I simply disregard your Ladies' Home Journal example by citing the ever-popular The Wall Street Journal, a daily newspaper. Also, do not try to confuse me with the facts as my mind is made up.

Is there no end to this bickering? Can't we all just get along?

For those of you who think I just quoted something Rodney King of 1991 police brutality fame said in 1992, I did not.

Rodney said, "Can we all get along? Can we get along?" and I said, "Can't we all just get along?"

They are not the same thing. Not at all. They are differnt.

You may have gathered that I have nothing of import to say today, but here's an interesting little treatise to read while you're figuring out what to do with your day. You really should read it; you might read something Frederick Douglass or even Ghandi said.

Getting back to our original topic, a blog is neither a diary nor a journal. It is a log. The word blog is short for Weblog. If more people used apostrophes (note that I did not say apostrophe's) correctly I would call it a 'blog, much in the same way my English friend Doug B. always wrote 'bus instead of bus because it is short for omnibus. You read it here first.

Before you go, listen to soprano Anna Netrebko sing 'Un bel di' from Puccini’s Madame Butterfly (4:57) to a whole stadium full of music lovers. I like to watch Anna Netrebko. She is, how you say, zoftig, which is neither French nor Italian.

Now run along and play, and don't be negative.

Tuesday, November 27, 2018


Find-A-Grave is not reliable.

There, I said it and I'm glad.

I am the amateur genealogist in our family. My Family Tree Maker file has nearly 3,500 names in it what with all the aunts and uncles and in-laws and offspring and second cousins three times removed and all. I admit it. I do enjoy learning about relatives and even relatives of relatives. It's like a sickness, an itch that can't be scratched.

So I dig through online census pages and as many free things as I can find. I'm often tempted to break down and spend actual money to be able to look at old newspaper obituaries and ship passenger manifests and other stuff of which I am not even aware, but so far I have resisted the urge. I am nothing if not thrifty. Frugal. Okay, cheap.

In the meantime, it's an engaging hobby, but I have found that the site Find-A-Grave has bad information mixed in with the good and it's impossible to tell which is which unless you already know the truth.

Case in point: There's some accurate information about my stepmother, Mildred Louise Williams Houston Brague Fuller, such as her date and place of birth, date of death, and place of burial, and even a photograph of her headstone, but then it goes off the rails with erroneous information about her parents. Find-A-Grave says Mildred's parents were Charles Erasmus Williams and Maud Lee Gamewell, and that is just plain wrong, Wrong, WRONG. I knew her father, Russell Sterling Williams, Sr., personally and his second wife, Virginia, whom he married after his first wife, Pearl Cannon, died. I happen to know for a fact that the mother of Russ's 11 children was Pearl Cannon. Russ and Pearl's offspring were Cleo and Mildred and John and Margaret and Kenneth (who died in infancy) and Russ, Jr., and Marvin and Billy and Faye and Freddie and Sue. I knew all of them except Kenneth. How can Find-A-Grave be so right at times and then so wrong at other times? And what is even more important, how can researchers trust what they find if they also find information they know is not true?

Furthermore, while it is apparently very easy to enter erroneous information into Find-A-Grave, it is very difficult to get it corrected. I stay exasperated.

Another case in point: I found information about my biological father, who is buried at a certain cemetery in New Jersey. Find-A-Grave's page has his written information correct, but the photograph of his supposed grave is not his at all; it is actually another person with the same first and last name but a different middle initial, with different birth and death dates, and who -- if you do a little digging (no pun intended) -- is buried in a different cemetery in a different town.

My stepmother Mildred is probably unique in that all three of her three husbands are buried around her. Find-A-Grave, however, lists a fourth husband out of the blue that none of us have ever heard of, an obvious mistake.

I wish people who think they are helping would do a little more research and verify their information before they publish it for the world to see.

And I hesitate to pay money to access information when the free information cannot be trusted to be accurate.

Would you?

Thursday, November 22, 2018

A different sort of Thanksgiving post, or "Not baaaad," Tom said sheepishly

The photograph above was taken by Neil Theasby of Sheffield, Yorkshire, England, who granted me permission to use it.

When I saw all those sheep, I thought of a verse in the middle of Psalm 100:

1 Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all ye lands.
2 Serve the Lord with gladness: come before his presence with singing.
3 Know ye that the Lord he is God: it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.
4 Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name.
5 For the Lord is good; his mercy is everlasting; and his truth endureth to all generations.

That is one crowded pasture. Actually those sheep are not in a pasture at all but more of a fenced corral on a public footpath where Neil happened to be taking one of his daily three-hour walks through the countryside, taking photographs all the while.

Neil is somewhat weird. You and I, of course, are not.

I also noticed that there were black sheep and white sheep in the photograph. Historically the phrase 'black sheep' came to mean bad, disapproved, rogue, cantankerous, and so forth. says a black sheep is 'a person who causes shame or embarrassment because of deviation from the accepted standards of his or her group' and refers readers to the words pariah, outcast, prodigal, reject, and reprobate.

I think this is very unfair to categorize sheep in this way. Different should not have derogatory connotations. Differences are just that -- differences.

If we are the sheep of His pasture, then He must be our shepherd. Psalm 23 declares that He is:

'The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures; He leadeth me beside the still waters; He restoreth my soul'.

According to one of his disciples named John, Jesus had quite a lot to say about sheep. Here is Jesus speaking in John's tenth chapter:

"Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that entereth not by the door into the sheepfold, but climbeth up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber. But he that entereth in by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the porter openeth; and the sheep hear his voice: and he calleth his own sheep by name, and leadeth them out. And when he putteth forth his own sheep, he goeth before them, and the sheep follow him: for they know his voice. And a stranger will they not follow, but will flee from him: for they know not the voice of strangers.

Later in the same chapter Jesus says, "I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep" (John 10:11). Other writers of the New Testament refer to Jesus Christ as the great shepherd (Hebrews 13:20), and the chief shepherd (1 Peter 5:4). A few years ago I was inspired by these and other verses to write the following poem and even set it to music:

1. Jesus, the Good Shepherd, cares for His sheep
He gave His life for them freely when He came.
His sheep hear His voice and they follow Him
And He calls each one by name.

... He calls His sheep by name
....He calls His sheep by name.
....The Lord is my shepherd,
....He bore my sin and shame,
....And He calls His sheep by name.

2. Jesus, the Great Shepherd guides us each day
Making us eager to do His blessed will,
And though we may falter along life's way
He is calling us, calling us still.

....He calls His sheep by name
....He calls His sheep by name.
....The Lord is my shepherd,
....He bore my sin and shame,
....And He calls His sheep by name.

3. Jesus, the Chief Shepherd, soon will appear,
He'll bring crowns of glory that cannot fade away.
With the archangel's voice and the trumpet of God
He will shout on that glorious day.

....And he will call His sheep by name
....He will call His sheep by name.
....Today and forever, eternally the same,
....He calls His sheep by name,
....He calls His sheep by name.

I bring this post to a close with an interesting observation I heard recently: The devil knows our name but calls us by our sin. The Lord knows our sin but calls us by our name.

Thanks be to God.

At least I took your mind off turkey.

Be a lamb now and run along.

Monday, November 19, 2018

American History ain't what it used to be (a tragedy in three acts)

As they say in England, I was gobsmacked. Or as they say in the U.S., I was flabbergasted. Or as they said in earlier times, I was astounded.

'About what?' you might be asking (and if you're not, move along, please, and make room for the others).

I will tell you about what.

American History. More specifically, the apparent lack of teaching about American history in the schools of today.

What got me all worked up was an episode of Jeopardy! on the telly a couple of nights ago.

It was Teen Tournamemt week on Jeopardy! during which some very bright 16-to-18-year-year-old contestants work their way through a series of quarter-final games, semi-final games, and two days of final games until a winner emerges. It is important to be the winner, because the winner gets to take home $100,000 USD. As it says up there in the title of the post, this is a tragedy in three acts, so I'll give you three examples of what should be commonly known facts about which these bright teenagers didn't have a clue.

Act I. During a semi-final game, the contestants were Maya (a senior from Peachtree City, Georgia), Caleb (a sophomore from someplace I don't recall), and Joe, I think his name was (a senior from San Diego, California). All three of them were displaying their knowledge on a variety of subjects, handily offering up their answers, always in the form of a question, such as names of sitcoms (What is The Big Bang Theory? What is Friends?), hip-hop and rap artists (we won't even go there), and tidbits of science and other subjects (What is thermodynamics? What is synecdoche?). Their abject ignorance of American history didn't surface until someone chose that category.

One question had to do with the dispute between Britain and the United States over the boundary of the Oregon Territory in the nineteenth century. It was finally resolved peacefully by setting the border between the U.S. and Canada at the 49th parallel, but not before candidate for U.S. President James Knox Polk campaigned on his willingness to go to war with Britain over the boundary if necessary. I don't remember the exact wording of the question but it was something like "This or fight became a political slogan in a dispute during the 1840s over the northern border of the Oregon Territory". Silence. No one buzzed in. Finally, just before the time expired, the young man from San Diego buzzed in and said, almost asked, "Forty-four?" and Alex Trebek said, 'No'. As every red-blooded student of nineteenth-century goings on should know, the correct answer is "Fifty-four Forty" meaning 54 degrees, 40 minutes North latitude. The disputed area (the area between 49 degrees North latitude and 54° 40' North latitude) is now known, friends, as the Canadian province of British Columbia. All's well that ends well, as someone once said (William Shakespeare, 1604).

Okay, that one was fairly esoteric unless you are an American History nut like me. So I relegated it to minor status and continued watching the show. One of the contestants then correctly identified the person who said 'Give me liberty or give me death' with the answer 'Who is Patrick Henry?' and I felt that hope was not lost.

I was wrong.

Act II. A few minutes later, someone chose the last remaining question in the category of American History, and Alex Trebek read the revealed fact: This man hoped that America would always have a government of the people, by the people, and for the people.

Easy peasy. The last line of the most famous speech in America's history, Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Address.

Silence. After a few seconds, Caleb buzzed in and said, 'Who is Thomas Jefferson?' When Alex said 'No', Joe from San Diego buzzed in and said, 'Who is Benjamin Franklin?'

Alex said 'No' again. Maya just stood there and never buzzed in at all.

Gobsmacked is too mild a term for how I felt. I found it very difficult to believe what I had just witnessed. These were not poor students, drop-out material. These were among the best and brightest our country has to offer. I was in shock. I was disillusioned. I was heartbroken. Not only was I gobsmacked, I felt like a resident of Pompeii on that day in 79AD when Mt. Vesuvius erupted.

Let us move on to Act III.

Act III. As luck would have it, the category of the Final Jeopardy question was the American Revolutionary Era, and the fact turned out to be this:

The Quakers turned her out in 1773 when she married an upholsterer and took over management of his business.

I solved it by examining the clue. The word Quakers fairly screams Pennsylvania (William Penn and all that). Upholsterers deal with the sewing of heavy cloth. The answer had to be Betsy Ross of Philadelphia (the largest city in Pennsylvania, the place where the Quakers lived), the woman who supposedly made the first American flag for General George Washington. I say supposedly because that seems to be a myth that has been debunked. Besides, what other prominent women of the American Revolutionary Era were there? Martha Washington's husband was not an upholsterer, nor was Abigail Adams's, nor was Dolly Madison's. Paul Revere was a silversmith, so his wife was off the list as well.

The familiar music played as the seconds ticked by, and soon it was time to reveal the answers. Caleb and Joe wrote nothing. When Alex Trebek said that Maya wrote the right answer, Betsy Ross, Maya exclaimed in disbelief, "I did??" and walked away as champion of the day, $25,000 richer.

Earlier in the week, in the same category, other teen contestants had not been able to identify American presidents from pictures of them, including Dwight Eisenhower, Harry Truman, Andrew Jackson, and Lyndon Johnson, although someone did correctly identify Franklin D. Roosevelt.

To put this post in perspective for readers in the British Isles and the British Commonwealth of Nations, it's unthinkable, rather like not knowing who Queen Victoria was.

What shall we say to these students?

The fault, dear Brutus, is not in themselves; it is in the American education system. Apparently the exposure of young minds to what went before has been deemed unimportant and unnecessary.

We may all live to regret that decision.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

The number of God is 137

Douglas Adams famously told us in his Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy that the answer to Life, the Universe, and Everything is 42, but another opinion has emerged.

I have just learned that the number of God is 137.

Stay with me. I have not gone bonkers.


A number of years ago I stumbled upon a website called InternetMonk (IM for short) and have been reading it off and on ever since. In spite of the name, it is not a Roman Catholic place. In fact, it was begun by a Southern Baptist man named Michael Spencer, who was a high school teacher in Kentucky, as a place for people wandering in what he called "the post-evangelical wilderness". After his death, IM continued with Mike Mercer, who is both a hospice chaplain and the pastor of an ELCA church in Indiana, at the helm. (For those who don't read alphabet soup, ELCA stands for Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.) All sorts of people read and comment on IM. Unlike other religious blogs, the conversation in the comment section remains civil but can get a bit snarky at times. A lot of the readers wandered in the post-evangelical wilderness for a long time; some have found a home in Eastern Orthodoxy; a few fundamentalists (ex- and otherwise) show up now and then; it is an eclectic group. It is a real community where not everyone agrees but everyone can have a place at the table.

On Thursdays, a Canadian man who calls himself Mike the Geologist presents a variety of interesting scientific stuff that is usually above my pay grade, including a nine-week series earlier this year that was an extended review of the book Quantum Physics and Theology: An Unexpected Kinship by John Polkinghorne. Mike writes in an engaging style, but (as I mentioned) his subjects are usually above my pay grade.

This week's offering, The Number of God, is worth a read. It is not filled with religious mumbo-jumbo and hocus-pocus, it is filled with scientific mumbo-jumbo and hocus-pocus (I'm kidding) like Planck's constant and Grand Unified Theory (GUT) and fine structure constant and even -- yes, friends -- the beloved Fibonacci sequence.

It's well worth a look. Mike the Geologist calls 137 "another one of those 'lucky coincidences' that seem to propel science forward". I hope you will click on the link.

Saturday, November 10, 2018

A "heads up" to Hondurans in caravans somewhere in southern Mexico

Back in February 2010 I wrote a post about my father-in-law that included a photo of him in 1917, the year he emigrated to the United States from Albania. You can read the post and see the photo here.

I mentioned in that post that he became a naturalized citizen of his adopted country just seven years after arriving. This past summer his granddaughter, our niece who lived in North Carolina, sent us a package of things that included his naturalization certificate. I am so glad that she took the time to do that, because she died suddenly during the last week of September a few days before her 54th birthday.

Here is my father-in-law's Certificate of Naturalization as a United States citizen. Issued in 1924, it is a work of art and a pleasure to behold. So that you won't have to strain your eyes, I have transcribed it below the photograph.

No. 2013628 ....................................To be given to the person Naturalized.


Petition, Volume 12 , Number 2407
Description of holder. Age, 29 years, height, 5 feet, 6 inches, color, White , complexion, Dark , color of eyes, Brown , color of hair, Black ; visible distinguishing marks, None.
xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx *
.(Strike through words referring to wife if husband was naturalized AFTER September 22, 1922.)
Names, ages and places of residence of minor children None.
.(Strike through words referring to children if holder of this certificate is a married woman.)

State of New Jersey )
County of Atlanic )........S.S. ...........[Signature of James Cudse]
....................................................................(Signature of holder.)
.......... Be it remembered that James Cudse , then residing at number 2144 Atlantic Ave. Street, [City] of Atlantic City , [State] of New Jersey , who previous to [his] naturalization was a [subject] of The present Government of Turkey, having applied to be admitted a citizen of the United States of America pursuant to law, and, at a May term of the Common Pleas Court of Atlantic County , held at Mays Landing , on the 28th day of May , in the year of our Lord nineteen hundred and twenty-four the court having found that the petitioner had resided continuously within the United States for at least five years and in this [State] for at least one year immediately preceding the date of the filing of [his] petition, and that said petitioner intends to reside permanently in the United States, had in all respects complied with the law in relation thereto, and that [he] was entitled to be so admitted, it was thereupon ordered by the said court that [he] be admitted as a citizen of the United States of America.

In testimony whereof the seal of said court is hereunto affixed on the 28th day of May in the year of our Lord nineteen hundred and twenty-four and of our Independence the one hundred and forty-eighth.

...................................................................... [signature of Wm A. Blair]
...................................................................... County Clerk.
........................................................................(Official character of attestor.)

.*NOTE. Under act of September 22, 1922, husband's naturalization does not make wife a citizen.

Several things interested me about the certificate. To make the preprinted form an all-purpose one, there were several choices to be made which I indicated above with brackets:


Note that James Cudse (who was born Dhimitri Kuçi in Vlonë, Albania) was termed "a subject of The present Government of Turkey" and not "a citizen of Albania". It is true that there was a large Albanian population in Turkey at the time, but my father-in-law was not one of them, and Albania had declared its independence from the Ottoman Empire in 1912. Here is an interesting paragraph about those times from Wikipedia's article about Albania:

"The modern nation state of Albania emerged in 1912 following the defeat of the Ottomans in the Balkan Wars. The modern Kingdom of Albania was invaded by Italy in 1939, which formed Greater Albania, before becoming a Nazi German protectorate in 1943. After the defeat of Nazi Germany, a Communist state titled the People's Socialist Republic of Albania was founded under the leadership of Enver Hoxha and the Party of Labour. The country experienced widespread social and political transformations in the communist era, as well as isolation from much of the international community. In the aftermath of the Revolutions of 1991, the Socialist Republic was dissolved and the fourth Republic of Albania was established."

No mention is made of Turkey in that paragraph. I learned that there were around 5,0000,000 Albanians living in Turkey at the time. In another interesting article called "Albania - Turkey Relations" one reads of the 1923 Friendship Treaty between the two nations and of the 1923 Citizenship Agreement and the Lausanne Treaty, which Turkey applied differently to Muslim Albanians and Christian Albanians. Turkey considered all Orthodox Albanians to be Greeks. If you are a glutton for punishment or need something to help you sleep, read the section entitled "Balkan Wars, WWI, Interwar period, WWII (1912–1944)" in the Wikipedia article, "Albania-Turkey relations".

The reverse side of the certificate is blank except for a small stamp.

Looking at it closer, we see that James Cudse was issued a United States passport by the Department of State on October 28, 1926.

One month later, he married Ksanthipi Rista in the Orthodox Church of Fier, Albania, and brought his new wife back to America, along with her widowed grandmother. The grandmother, who was 75, lived for one more year before her death in Atlantic City.

Ksanthipi changed her name to Carrie and also became a naturalized citizen of the United States in 1943. We have never found her certificate.

Monday, November 5, 2018

Hoodwinked or merely gullible?

I received the following email from my step-sister-in-law in Texas (my step-brother's wife), who just had a birthday:

We are all 2018 today –
Today the whole world is the same age! Today is a very special day. It happens only once every 1,000 years.
Your age + your year of birth = 2018. This is true for everyone.
It is strange and inexplicable! Try it and see! It will not happen again for another 1,000 years!

and thought immediately, 'That's ridiculous!'

It is not a very special day. Well, maybe it is, but it is not strange and inexplicable. It doesn't happen only once every 1,000 years.

I said in my reply that this was true all the time for everyone. It doesn't just happen in 2018. It happens every year. That's what one's age is, subtracting the year you were born from the current year. So it follows that adding your age to the year you were born, you will ALWAYS come up with the current year, provided that your actual birthdate has passed.

She wrote back that her son Sam and I were the only two to have figured this out and that we were real smarties!

My step-sister-in-law is not dumb, she just didn't think things through, or perhaps is easily swayed.

Her hair color is immaterial.

I take my compliments wherever I can find them, always remembering that Mama said to consider the source.

Saturday, November 3, 2018

What? November already?

I must be slipping. Here's the most beautiful song about October ever written. It's not really about October but it captures perfectly the mood I often find myself in around this time of year. The lyrics are by Johnny Mercer, whose widow gave them to Barry Manilow. Barry composed the music and performs the haunting result:

When October Goes (3:58)

If Putz were still around (and I'm not sure he isn't, although he hasn’t posted anything since January 2014), he would be clapping (and he may very well be).

Autumn is always nostalgia time for me. This year autumn has been late arriving. In just the last couple of days have the the familiar reds and golds and oranges and yellows returned to north Georgia. It's my favorite time of year.

Here's a poem of mine the leaves inspired a few years back. The Carolyn mentioned in the first line was Carolyn H., a longtime friend from our church. On June 29th of this year she died at the age of 86 in Pensacola, Florida. She may be clapping too.

October 25, 2004

Our friend Carolyn came over for lunch
And as we finished at the table
Someone said, “Let’s go for a ride!”
So into the car we piled,
Like children giddy with anticipation,
Not knowing where we were headed
But eager to be having an adventure;
And someone said, “Where shall we go?”
And we said, “We don’t know!”
And someone else said, “Name a direction!”
And because the fall thus far at home
Had been drab and disappointing,
We headed north toward the mountains, laughing.

Five hours later we returned,
Tired but invigorated,
Having been to Helen and Unicoi Gap
And Hiawassee and Lake Chatuge,
Making all of the hairpin turns
And ascending, always ascending, until
We crested and began to descend
Through another set of hairpin turns,
And all the while we oohed and ahhed
And said how glad we were that we had come,
Drinking in the brilliant reds, the dazzling yellows,
The shocking oranges of autumn, the mountains ablaze
Against a clear blue sky.

Here's to old times, old friends, new times, and new friends.

I hope I didn't leave anyone out.

My mother died on October 4, 1957. I hope she is clapping too.

Saturday, October 27, 2018

Could the cessationists be wrong?

The forties gave us ”Mairzy Doats and Dozy Doats” (2:44) and Bing Crosby singing "Too-ra Loo-ra Loo-ral, Too-ra Loo-ra Li" (3:20) and the Andrews Sisters (Patty, Maxine, and Laverne) singing ”Chickery Chick Cha La Cha La” (2:40). and even Cinderella's fairy godmother singing "Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo".

The fifties gave us the very sweet "Hi-Lili, Hi-Lili, Hi-Lo" but also “Ooh Ee Ooh Ah Ah Ting Tang Walla Walla Bing Bang” (3:09) sung UP CLOSE AND PERSONAL.

Ths sixties gave us "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious" and "Chim Chim Cher-ee" and "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang" from the Sherman brothers and "Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da" from Paul McCartney.

The 1890s gave us "Ta-ra-ra Boom-de-ay" and the jazz age gave us "Ja-Da, Ja-Da, Ja-Da, Ja-Da, Jing, Jing, Jing!" and Little Richard gave us "Tutti Frutti":

Wop bop a loo bop a lop bam boom!
Tutti Frutti, aw rutti
Tutti Frutti, aw rutti
Tutti Frutti, aw rutti
Tutti Frutti, aw rutti
Tutti Frutti, aw rutti
Wop bop a loo bop a lop bam boom!

We mustn't forget "Sh Boom, Sh Boom" in which one can find these immortal words: "Bom ba, Hey nonny ding dong, alang alang alanga Oh oh oh oh dip, a dibby dobby dip".

And some people say that speaking in tongues ceased with the apostles.

Monday, October 22, 2018

I am not Elvis Presley either

...(he was called the King) or Ruth Bader Ginsburg or George H. W. Bush or Maxine Waters or Prince Harry (he may never be King) or even Vladimir Putin.

In fact, of the approximately 8,000,000,000 (called eight billion in the U.S. and eight thousand million in the U.K. unless Yorkshire Pudding tells me they don't say that either) people living on this planet, I am not 7,999,999,999 of them.

Actually, I am three people, but not these three people:

They are my daughter Angela, her husband Blake on the right, and their son Sam in the middle. Sam is wearing his marching band uniform. The photo was taken on 'Senior Night' at Sam's high school's football game in Alabama last Friday. Some people in Alabama say, "Ah had a rot noss tom last Froddy not" but these three, being relatives of mine, don't, even if they did.

As I was going to say before I so rudely interrupted myself, the three people I am are me, myself, and I. Note use of the Oxford comma to help avoid confusion.

Not quite as impressive as, say, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, but it's what I am left with after all contraptions and appurtenances are stripped away. Let us examine us a little more closely.

Me is the objective case, and I can be quite objectionable at times.

My is the possessive case and I can be quite possessive at times also. (Myself is not the possessive case, but I don't have time to go into that now.)

Lastly, I is the nominative case, and I nominate myself for today's Completely Self-Centered Award.

At last the truth can be revealed. I am Mr. Wonderful. Send $10 USD (no stamps, please) for my book, Humility and How I Attained It.

Except for the three truly wonderful people in that picture up there, this has been another work of complete fiction from moi. I guess that makes me four people.

How many people are you, and who are they?

Friday, October 19, 2018

I am not F. Scott Fitzgerald

I am on track, or so it appears, for 2018 to be a more productive year blogpost-wise than 2017. In all of 2017 I created 71 posts and with two-and-a-half months to go in 2018 I have already created 66 of them. Of course, in 2008, a whole decade ago now, I created 228 blogposts, but we won't go there. Changing horses in midstream, I could die tomorrow, and then where would that leave you?

High and dry, friends, high and dry.

I trust that will not happen, but one never knows, especially as one grows older.

Which all of us are doing, n'est-ce pas?

But of course.

There is no other way. No going back. Only forward.

Unless you are F. Scott Fitzgerald, whose novel The Great Gatsby ends with Nick, the narrator, contemplating Long Island, thusly:

Most of the big shore places were closed now and there were hardly any lights except the shadowy, moving glow of a ferryboat across the Sound. And as the moon rose higher the inessential houses began to melt away until gradually I became aware of the old island here that flowered once for Dutch sailors' eyes—a fresh, green breast of the new world. Its vanished trees, the trees that had made way for Gatsby's house, had once pandered in whispers to the last and greatest of all human dreams; for a transitory enchanted moment man must have held his breath in the presence of this continent, compelled into an aesthetic contemplation he neither understood nor desired, face to face for the last time in history with something commensurate to his capacity for wonder.

And as I sat there brooding on the old, unknown world, I thought of Gatsby's wonder when he first picked out the green light at the end of Daisy's dock. He had come a long way to this blue lawn and his dream must have seemed so close that he could hardly fail to grasp it. He did not know that it was already behind him, somewhere back in that vast obscurity beyond the city, where the dark fields of the republic rolled on under the night.

Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that's no matter—tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther. . . . And one fine morning——

So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.

Tell me in the comments who you are not.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

One little, two little, three little Indians....

Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA, which means Democrat from Massachusetts), whose picture I am not going to show -- you can look it up for yourself -- finally underwent DNA testing to prove once and for all that she is of Native American heritage. She said she was Native American on an application to be a professor at the Harvard Law School a couple of decades ago, and Harvard, eager to comply with the desire of the U.S. Federal Government that there be minorities on their faculty, hired her. It may not have happened in just that way or for just those reasons, but that is how it looked from 50,000 feet to the casual observer in the general populace.

This week the Boston Globe reported the results of Senator Warren's DNA testing, then issued a correction, then issued another correction. It first said that Senator Elizabeth Warren was between 1/32nd and 1/64th Native American, then said she was between 1/32nd and 1/1024th Native American, then said she was between 1/64th and 1/1024th Native American.

As the parole board told Nicholas Cage in Raising Arizona, "Well, okay then."

This is very confusing to the casual observer, and even to the observer who is not so casual.

Senator Warren now feels exonerated and is demanding that President Trump pay up on his offer to donate a million dollars to a charity of her choice if she is Native American. He denies making such an offer, but even if he did, wouldn't it be fairer if he donated 1/1024th of a million dollars ($974.56) instead?

Here's an interesting footnote. An expert (some people say an expert is anyone more than 50 miles from home carrying a briefcase; others break the word down into its component parts, saying "ex" is a has-been and "spurt" is a drip under pressure) has determined that Senator Warren is 0.09% Native American, slightly less than one-tenth of one percent. He also says that the average European-American is 0.18% Native American, or slightly less than two-tenths of one percent. Here's another interesting footnote. Leaders of the Cherokee Nation, whose politics I am not aware of, said yesterday that the amount of Native American blood Senator Warren has does not qualify her for membership in their tribe.

That is all backdrop and prelude to the real subject of this post, which is:

Genealogy is fascinating, but it also can be very confusing.

For example, what does all that stuff mean, 1/32nd, 1/64th, 1/1024th, and how do they know, and where do they come up with those strange numbers?

I will tell you.

It's really simple.

It all has to do with the fact that everyone has two parents, a father and a mother. You would not be here if you didn't have two parents. I could go into more detail and speak at length of XX and XY chromosomes, but I will not. The very astute among you may also note that you have (or had) four grandparents because your father had two parents and your mother had two parents.

It has to do with powers of 2. Yes, math. Sorry.

If you think of your parents as being one generation back from you (because they are), and your grandparents as being two generations back from you (because they are), and your great-grandparents as being three generations back from you (because they are) -- you can carry this on as far back as you can find names and data -- you can determine the number of direct ancestors you have in each generation by thinking of the powers of 2. That is:

21 = 2, 22 = 4, 23 = 8, 24 = 16, and so on. If math makes your eyes cross and your head hurt, I'll put it into words. Two squared (2 x 2) is four, two cubed (2 x 2 x 2) is eight, two to the fourth power (2 x 2 x 2 x 2) is 16, and so on. Let's fill out that table a little more fully:

21 = 2
22 = 4
23 = 8
24 = 16
25 = 32
26 = 64
27 = 128
28 = 256
29 = 512
210 = 1024

and so on and so forth. If your eyes are glazing over, hang in there just a little longer. It will be over soon.

Simply substitute the phrase "In the xth generation before me, I have y direct ancestors" where x is the ordinal number instead of the cardinal number of the power of 2 and y is the number after the equal sign. That is:

In the first generation before me, I have 2 direct ancestors (my parents).
In the second generation before me, I have 4 direct ancestors (my grandparents).
In the third generation before me, I have 8 direct ancestors (my great-grandparents).
In the fourth generation before me, I have 16 direct ancestors (my great-great-grandparents).
In the fifth generation before me, I have 32 direct ancestors.
In the sixth generation before me, I have 64 direct ancestors.
In the seventh generation before me, I have 128 direct ancestors.
In the eighth generation before me, I have 256 direct ancestors.
In the ninth generation before me, I have 512 direct ancestors.
In the tenth generation before me, I have 1,024 direct ancestors.

I have used American-style nomenclature here. It is my understanding that in the U.K. what we call great-grandparents are called grand grandparents, and the greats are one off after that. Continental differences cannot be helped in this post.

So if one, count 'em, one of Elizabeth Warren's 1,024 ancestors in the tenth generation before her was a Native American, she is claiming to be Native American for purposes of Harvard Law School being able to report to the U.S. Federal Government that their faculty included a minority.

I think the Boston Globe waffled in order for Senator Warren to save face, for she had always said that either her 3rd or 4th great-grandmother was Native American. If that were so, she would be 1/32nd or 1/64th Native American, the numbers used in the Boston Globe's original story. To be 1/1024th Native American, the ancestor would be her 8th great-grandmother, several generations earlier.

The total number of direct ancestors you have to the tenth generation before you is cumulative: 2+4+8+16+32+64+128+256+512+1024 and that's a lot of direct ancestors.

Maybe next time we'll explore Fibonacci numbers and the "golden spiral". Then again, maybe we won't.

Friday, October 12, 2018

Two great talents, three if you count conductor Seiji Ozawa

In my continuing effort to bring culture to the masses, here for your musical edification and listening enjoyment are two versions of the same song.

1. Here's Kathleen Battle singing the aria 'O mio bambino cara' from the opera Gianni Schicchi by Puccini (2:09).

2, Here's a chicken playing the aria 'O mio bambino cara' from the opera Gianni Schicchi by Puccini on the piano (2:02).

Which did you enjoy more?

Please note that Miss Battle sang completely from memory and did not require visual promptings of any kind.

Kudos to her. Also to the chicken.

To prove that time definitely marches on, which someone said recently, here are the artists when they were younger:

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

A public apology, and a look at small-town America [redacted version]

[Editor’s note. In the original version of this post, I revealed too much personal data about one of our readers. After receiving multiple slaps with a wet noodle, some of them self-inflicted, I have decided to do what the Federal Bureau Of Investigation does when asked to provide sensitive material to the Senate Intelligence or Judiciary Committee, and that is to redact the document. The post below is the redacted version of today’s original post. Only persons who have passed a Top Secret Background Investigation (as I have) and who spent the entire month of February 1969 in Stockholm, Sweden on IBM's dime (as I did) and whose location in the military was just off the Staff Balcony in the Underground Command Post at Strategic Air Command Headquarters where all the General officers sat during the Cuban Missile Crisis of October 1962 (as mine was) will be permitted to see the original, unredacted version. —-RWP]

[Redacted], a reader who lives somewhere near the little town of [redacted] in [redacted], was unhappy with the title of my last post, so I want to apologize (British, apologise) publicly to her and anybody else who was offended, because if [redacted] ain't happy, ain't nobody happy. I'm just saying.

I never said any bad words, I just mentioned an acronym, and the offending acronym involved the letters W, and T, and F. [Redacted], another reader who lives in [redacted], also mentioned in his comment that the word SNAFU in the body of the post was no better.

SNAFU can be cleaned up by substituting the word 'fouled'... and WTF could have meant a number of things:

Where's The Fudge?
Who Told Francine?
When Turkeys Fly
While Tempers Flare
Wilbur Teased Fiona

I could go on, but I hope you get my drift (as the iceberg said to the Titanic) that I am truly sorry.

I'm not really feeling sassy today, only semi-sassy, but I'm hoping it will clear up by noon.

The town of [redacted], current estimated population 634, was officially incorporated on [redacted]. [Redacted] says there have long been several versions of how [redacted] was named, none of which can be authenticated.

● [Redacted].

● [Redacted].

● [Redacted].

The rich agricultural and timber resources of the region attracted farmers, millworkers, and loggers. By [redacted], the town had a bank, three dry goods stores, two general stores, three grocery stores, two barber shops, five saloons, four hotels, a newspaper, a blacksmith, and even an opera house.

[Redacted] doesn't actually live in [redacted], she lives on an [redacted]-acre farm in the boonies out from [redacted], but her family is contemplating moving to be nearer their brand-new, first grandchild.

[Redacted] reminds me a lot of Mansfield, Texas, where I grew up, except I don't think Mansfield ever had an opera house. When we moved there in August 1947 the city limit sign said 'Population 774'. It is not like [redacted] any more. Mansfield has grown over the years, and the estimated population of my old home town in 2018 is 69,340. Surely it has more than two traffic lights now.

Here's a picture of the Farr-Best Theater that is still going strong as an events venue in the old one-block-long 'historic' downtown portion of Mansfield:

In the building with the green awning, right next-door to the theater, Mr. Farr, Mary Ann's father, also ran the Farr-Best Cafe where I downed many a hamburger, fried peach pie, and cherry coke in my yute.

Tell me a little about the town of your yute.

Thursday, October 4, 2018

As the young folks say, WTF??

For some strange reason unknown to me, for the last few days I have not been able to enter comments on my own blog or anyone else's from my iPhone. I can still enter them from my trusty desktop computer, but I can't carry that thing around with me everywhere I go. Not even some places. No way, José.

So there may be a slight delay in my responses to you until the Apple gremlins get themselves sorted out.

I can still compose posts on my iPhone, I just can't make comments.

Another one of Mama's sayings comes to mind: It'll all come out in the wash.

Unless it doesn't, of course.

I hope in this case that Mama was right.

My dad had a word for it -- an acronym, really -- that he learned in the Navy. Without translation, I now share it with you.


Tuesday, October 2, 2018

If it's not karma, it must be something else

The only karma I know about is Putz's wife, Karmalee Barlow of Tooele, Utah.

I have had a terrible perplexing challenging few days.

Last Thursday our niece Rhonda in North Carolina was found unresponsive and without a pulse on the floor of her bedroom at 1:30 in the morning by her 83-year-old mother. The paramedics came and worked on her for 45 minutes, then transported her to the local hospital, where she died. She was 53. Yesterday would have been her 54th birthday. She was ten days younger than our oldest son. It has been a shock.

It was determined on Friday that our 12-year-old family car has a broken motor mount. I now have to decide between spending several hundred dollars to have it repaired or begin looking for another vehicle to replace it, not that I can afford one just now, but them's the breaks, I suppose. This news prevented us from being able to attend Rhonda's funeral.

Our little dog Abby lay down in the grass in our back yard yesterday afternoon and was promptly bitten by about 25 little black ants. I know the number because that's how many pinkish-red bites we counted on her abdomen. The vet, when called, said to give her half a Benadryl tablet every eight to 12 hours until she gets to feeling better.

They say good things come in threes. Maybe bad things do too. Or maybe it's just called "life".

Nevertheless, thanks to all of you for the happy blogaversary wishes on my last post.

I'll try to be cheerier henceforth.

Friday, September 28, 2018

Happy anniversary to me, or What happened to the Aral Sea shouldn't happen to a blog

At one time the Aral Sea in Central Asia was the fourth-largest freshwater lake in the world. Almost as big as Ireland, it covered 26,300 square miles (68,000 km2) and appeared on maps of Asia just east of the Caspian Sea in what was then the USSR (or, if you prefer Cyrillic, the CCCP). If the Aral Sea were still there, today it would straddle the border between Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan. Unfortunately, it isn't there any more.

It began shrinking around 1960, and its slow disappearance over the last half-century is illustrated in the following map:

Not much remains but the rusting hulls of ships atop the dry desert sands, many miles from towns that once bustled with activities related to the fishing industry .

Although I like to think I keep up with current events, I had no idea that this long decline had occurred. It was off my radar completely.

Did you know that the Aral Sea has a middle name?

Well, it does. It’s Stockra. I made it up just now so that I could mention a book written in 1990 by David Cannadine, The Decline and Fall of the British Aral Stockra Sea, you know, those people portrayed on Downton Abbey and their friends.

Well, I thought it was funny.

What happened to the Aral Sea is not due to global warming. But it was caused by humans when the government decided to divert the water from the rivers that fed the huge lake to irrigate the land for the growing of cotton. In the process, the Aral Sea has just about disappeared.

Today, on the eleventh anniversary of this blog (yes, friends, it began on September 28, 2007), it is my fervent hope that it will continue for a long time and not dry up like the Aral Sea. I have learned far more from you, dear readers, than you have learned from me during these eleven years, so I will bring this post to a close with a little something from Rodgers and Hammerstein's The King and I, the opening of a song that Deborah Kerr sang to the children of the king of Siam:

It's a very ancient saying
But a true and honest thought
That if you become a teacher (or blogger),
By your pupils (or readers) you'll be taught.

As a teacher/blogger I've been learning,
You'll forgive me if I boast,
But I've now become an expert
On the subject I like most:

Getting to know you.

At this point, all the children of the King of Siam say, 'Ahhhhhh'.

In this metaphor, sometimes I am Deborah Kerr (no snickering in the back) and you are the children of the king of Siam, and sometimes you are Deborah Kerr and I am the children of the king of Siam.

Now that I think about it, eleven years is a long time not to know from one day to the next whether you are Deborah Kerr or the children of the king of Siam.

But at least we haven't dried up and disappeared like the Aral Sea.

Not yet.

For extra credit, read "When I Have Fears That I May Cease To Be" by John Keats and write a 500-word essay using personificaation to compare the poem to the Aral Sea.

Sunday, September 23, 2018


We humans are such strange creatures. For example, I read this headline today:

Author of 'How to Murder Your Husband' arrested for allegedly murdering husband

and immediately I thought, 'That's impossible'.

Now before you start quibbling with me or scratching your head in confusion, let me explain what I mean.

It is impossible to allegedly murder someone. Either you murder someone or you don't murder someone, but you cannot allegedly murder someone. Someone can allege that you have murdered someone, true, but I repeat: You cannot allegedly murder someone.

It is certainly possible, as I just said, to allege that someone has murdered someone, but under our system it must wait for a jury of one's peers to decide, based on evidence presented in a court of law, the guilt or innocence of such a person. Keep in mind that in our society one is presumed innocent until proven guilty, and it is only after having been proven guilty that it might be said that what was alleged -- that someone had murdered someone -- was, in fact, true.

Therefore, in an attempt to head off lawsuits for unequivocally declaring that a person has murdered someone (although that may well be the case) before the judicial process has run its course, our print journalists and radio/TV newsbroadcasters daily make such ridiculous statements as 'Author of 'How to Murder Your Husband' arrested for allegedly murdering husband'.

How might we say that better? Certainly not by saying

Author of 'How to Murder Your Husband' allegedly arrested for murdering husband

because an arrest definitely took place. The arrest is not alleged. The murder is.

Perhaps this is better:

Author of 'How to Murder Your Husband' arrested for murdering husband, allegedly

Part of the problem is that editors and publishers want headlines to be short, so words are omitted. It would be much nearer the truth to write a complete sentence:

Because the author of the book 'How to Murder Your Husband' is alleged to have murdered her husband, she has been arrested.

but if headlines were that accurate there would be no need for an article to follow it except to provide details such as the woman's name and address and the date the event occurred. Alleged event. The method she used might prove interesting as well, such as by clobbering him over the head with a frozen leg of lamb or plunging him through with shish-ka-bob skewers or putting belladonna in his tapioca.

Having talked that subject to death (literally), let us now turn our attention to...

Panel One

In the following passage from Through the Looking Glass by Mr. Charles L. Dodgson, whose pen name was Lewis Carroll, Alice, who has unexpectedly found herself in Wonderland, is speaking with Humpty Dumpty, who is sitting on a wall. You may discover that the passage explains some thimgs you never knew before:

'You seem very clever at explaining words, Sir,' said Alice. 'Would you kindly tell me the meaning of the poem called "Jabberwocky"?'

'Let's hear it,' said Humpty Dumpty. 'I can explain all the poems that ever were invented — and a good many that haven't been invented just yet.'

This sounded very hopeful, so Alice repeated the first verse:

''Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.'

'That's enough to begin with,' Humpty Dumpty interrupted: 'there are plenty of hard words there. "Brillig" means four o'clock in the afternoon — the time when you begin broiling things for dinner.'

'That'll do very well,' said Alice: 'and "slithy"?'

'Well, "slithy" means "lithe and slimy". "Lithe" is the same as "active". You see it's like a portmanteau — there are two meanings packed up into one word.'

'I see it now,' Alice remarked thoughtfully: 'and what are "toves"?'

'Well, "toves" are something like badgers — they're something like lizards — and they're something like corkscrews.'

'They must be very curious-looking creatures.'

'They are that,' said Humpty Dumpty; 'also they make their nests under sun-dials — also they live on cheese.'

'And what's to "gyre" and to "gimble"?'

'To "gyre" is to go round and round like a gyroscope. To "gimble" is to make holes like a gimlet.'

'And "the wabe" is the grass-plot round a sun-dial, I suppose?' said Alice, surprised at her own ingenuity.

'Of course it is. It's called "wabe" you know, because it goes a long way before it, and a long way behind it —'

'And a long way beyond it on each side,' Alice added.

'Exactly so. Well then, "mimsy" is "flimsy and miserable" (there's another portmanteau for you). And a "borogove" is a thin shabby-looking bird with its feathers sticking out all round — something like a live mop.'

'And then "mome raths"?' said Alice. 'I'm afraid I'm giving you a great deal of trouble.'

'Well, a "rath" is a sort of green pig: but "mome" I'm not certain about. I think it's short for "from home" — meaning that they'd lost their way, you know.'

'And what does "outgrabe" mean?'

'Well, "outgribing" is something between bellowing and whistling, with a kind of sneeze in the middle: however, you'll hear it done, maybe — down in the wood yonder — and, when you've once heard it, you'll be quite content. Who's been repeating all that hard stuff to you?'

'I read it in a book,' said Alice.

(end of passage)

Here is Jabberwocky in its entirety.

I do wish Humpty Dumpty (that is, Lewis Carroll, that is, Charles L. Dodgson) had explained the rest of the poem. I can guess at whiffling and burbled and galumphing, but I don't have a clue about manxsome, frumious, or frabjous.

Moving right along, here’s...

Panel Two

This passage is from Chapter 6:

“There’s glory for you!” [said Humpty Dumpty].

“I don’t know what you mean by ‘glory,’” Alice said.

Humpty Dumpty smiled contemptuously. “Of course you don’t -- till I tell you. I meant ‘there’s a nice knock-down argument for you!’”

“But ‘glory’ doesn’t mean ‘a nice knock-down argument,’” Alice objected.

“When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean -- neither more nor less.”

“The question is,” said Alice, “whether you can make words mean different things.”

“The question is,” said Humpty Dumpty, “which is to be master -- that’s all.”

(End of quotation)

Humpty Dumpty has a point. Take the word 'john’. It can be a man's name, a toilet, or a prostitute’s paying customer.

Panel Three

Here from Chapter 7 is part of a conversation between Alice and the March Hare at the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party:

`Come, we shall have some fun now!’ thought Alice. `I’m glad they’ve begun asking riddles.–I believe I can guess that,’ she added aloud.

`Do you mean that you think you can find out the answer to it?’ said the March Hare.

`Exactly so,’ said Alice.

`Then you should say what you mean,’ the March Hare went on.

`I do,’ Alice hastily replied; `at least -– at least I mean what I say–that’s the same thing, you know.’

`Not the same thing a bit!’ said the Hatter. `You might just as well say that “I see what I eat” is the same thing as “I eat what I see”!’

`You might just as well say,’ added the March Hare, `that “I like what I get” is the same thing as “I get what I like”!’

`You might just as well say,’ added the Dormouse, who seemed to be talking in his sleep, `that “I breathe when I sleep” is the same thing as “I sleep when I breathe”!’

(end of passage)

So what do I want you to take away from this post?

Saying what you mean and meaning what you say ought to be the goals of everyone, from Alice in Wonderland to the alleged writer of the alleged headline about the alleged woman author of the alleged book ‘How To Murder Your Husband’ who allegedly murdered her alleged husband.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

A few poems, or Trees have leaves and roots and branches, not all Texans live on ranches

In my old hometown of Mansfield, Texas, 60 years ago, there was an electrician and repairer of television sets named Beverly Bratton. Let me back up and start over. As far as I know, there were no television sets named Beverly Bratton in my old hometown 60 years ago. What I meant to say was that our local electrician and television repairer was named Beverly Bratton, and the point I'm trying to get to is Beverly was a man.

Not a transgendered man, mind you, but a born-male baby whose parents gave a name that sounded decidedly female.

It has happened before. George Beverly Shea, whom everyone called Bev, sang at just about every Billy Graham crusade. Joyce Kilmer, a man, wrote a poem called "Trees". Johnny Cash famously sang about a boy named Sue (3:46) in his San Quentin Prison concert.

If you know of other examples of boys with girls' names, tell me in the comments.

Here, from 1913, is "Trees":

by Joyce Kilmer (1886 - 1918)

I think that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree.

A tree whose hungry mouth is prest
Against the earth’s sweet flowing breast;

A tree that looks at God all day,
And lifts her leafy arms to pray;

A tree that may in Summer wear
A nest of robins in her hair;

Upon whose bosom snow has lain;
Who intimately lives with rain.

Poems are made by fools like me,
But only God can make a tree.

Joyce Kilmer looked like this in 1908, when he was attending Columbia University:

Many years later, poet Ogden Nash wrote:

I think that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree;
Indeed, unless the billboards fall,
I'll never see a tree at all.

Here is Ogden Nash in his youth:

Here he is later in life weariing a spiffy houndstooth jacket, the money for which might have been better spent on dental work:

And many years after that -- today, in fact -- yours truly wrote the following:

Blogposts are made by fools like me, but only God can make a tree.

Here I am at age 37:

I end this post with these trees, whose age I do not know:

<b> Mundane is also a word</b>

My blogger friend Rachel Phillips is currently in the midst of a series of posts (three so far) about a trip she took with her friends Liz...