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 space.com, 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 - snopes.com

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:

[Scarecrow]
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

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

[Scarecrow]
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 Internetmonk.com 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]