Monday, July 23, 2018

Sunset in north Alabama, with HTML codes


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а б в г д е ё ж з и й к л м н о п р с т у ф х ц ч ш щ ъ ы ь э ю я
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Thursday, July 19, 2018

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

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


DEDICATION

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

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

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


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

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

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

Monday, July 16, 2018

An enigmatic reference explained

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

Here is what I was referring to:

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

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


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

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

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

Saturday, July 14, 2018

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


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

I have mentioned it five times before.

Anything I say five or six times is worth investigating.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Yes, Virginia, there is life outside of blogging

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

View 1:

View 2:

View 3:


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

-- the Blue Willow Inn in Social Circle, Georgia

-- Lunch (table #1):

-- Lunch (table #2):

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

Are you bored yet?

Just a few more, and we will be done.

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


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

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


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

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

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


Perhaps that is too much information.

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

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

Etaoin shrdlu to one and all.

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

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

From deep within the archives: A programming aptitude test

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Sunday, July 8, 2018

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

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


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

But can you read it?

I can.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, July 5, 2018

A rose by any other name

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

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

Well, they did.

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

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

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

Of course we do.

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

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

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

Sunday, July 1, 2018

The days of our lives are numbered

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

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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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

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