Thursday, 31 January 2008

The Last Post of January 2008

Well, this has been some month!

In some ways it was great, but for the most part, greatness came in the tail-end of it and not for the rest. My birthday was okay, the New Year was okay, work has been a rollercoaster, and home has been okay. I can say that the squad life was better than okay and kept me going for all the rest. We had a call tonight, but no patient - it was a CO alarm. But, credit is credit and I think for this month, I put in about ten or eleven calls. And there are still two hours left of this shift and anyone who does this knows that a LOT can happen in two hours!

I was surprised to discover that despite the dearth of riding and calls last year, I still logged 75 calls. While that is a low number, the first year I logged 69 calls, the second 89 calls and then over 200 in 2005. I don't remember what I logged for 2006, but I believe it was in the 80s. Hey, that is my average when working. The over 200 calls were made because I worked only seven months in 2005, which left me covering a lot of day time calls. This year I would like to log in over 100 calls - it is nice to do so and I would feel a bit more useful as well. I will say that the last two Thursdays I was able to ride full shifts and that allowed me to log in two more calls that I would not have made riding only 1800 to midnight.

Oddly enough, the one Thursday I got coverage, there was nothing. I did not miss a single call!

This morning I saw Venus and Jupiter coming into conjunction and it was my beacon to work and to feeling better. I have had a rough time of things lately but to see that... there is so much joy to be found in seeing that! Venus is a show-stopper this year, bright enough to shine and flicker brightly through the morning light and Jupiter, while a good magnitude, is not close to the brilliance of our sister planet. But they are lining up quite nicely.

Tomorrow morning is when they are in conjunction, but the weather forecast makes me think I will not see it.

So, here it is the end of the first month in 2008. Here's to February being more successful all around!

The Dangers of Overthinking

STOP! Before you read this, read the previous post, Easy Does It. It will give you a basis for this post.

"Overthinking can wreck our emotional health, says Susan Nolen-Hoeksema, Ph.D., on the basis of her studies over the past decade. A professor of psychology at the University of Michigan, she provides answers to some common questions:

Do men ruminate too?

Women do it more than men, but that doesn't mean that men don't do it at all. And it takes on a different character. Our research suggests that men are more likely to ruminate about anger and angry situations, and it comes out as angry, grudge-bearing self-righteousness.

Women tend to focus much more on depressive and anxious themes: "What's wrong with me that this person doesn't like me? What did I do wrong?" And they focus on whether they can control something in the future, particularly with regard to relationships. "How can I keep my husband interested in me? How can I make sure that everybody likes me?"

How do you explain those differences?

We know that from a very early age girls are much more relationship-oriented than boys are. It's socialized into us; it may even be programmed into us evolutionarily. Relationships are great fuel for rumination because interactions with others are always ambiguous; you never know exactly what the other person means or whether they're being sincere. Investing too much of your self-worth in the approval of others provides an unstable source of self-esteem. That's one major contributor to women's tendency to ruminate more.

How does one develop into a ruminator? Do we learn it?

It can be socialized into people or we can be inclined to it by biological temperament. If you are encouraged to pay attention to your emotions and also given the message that there's not much you can do about them, that contributes to being a ruminator. Boys are encouraged to do something about the situations that make them upset, girls are encouraged more to just think about the situations that make them upset. If biological temperament inclines you to be easily upset, that quite naturally leads to questions about "what's wrong with me?" If on top of that you are not socialized to handle distressed feelings actively, then the two can strongly contribute to rumination.

How does that get set into the brain?

Research suggests that there are connections between nodes of the brain. Different memories and thoughts are connected by virtue of sharing an emotion, so that negative thoughts are connected with each other even when they have little to do with each other. Your boss yells at you-and you think about how fat you are. What connects them is unhappiness.

When you ruminate, you rehearse the connections between such thoughts and strengthen them, creating a spreading network whereby a whole complex of distressing thoughts becomes more easily aroused by just a little bit of negative mood. So the next time you're upset not only do you think about your boss yelling at you and being fat but about how your mother treated your brother better than she treated you.

What effect does rumination have on relationships?

It undermines them in a couple of ways. Ruminators seek out other people for reassurance but they confront others constantly: "You don't love me, you don't care about me, what did you mean when you said that the other night?" Men particularly find this hard to deal with. It may lead to arguments or to the partner stalking off.

The other thing it can do is make a person excessively dependent and anxious about everything a partner or friend says or does, which again can drive them away. Our research shows that ruminators seek out social support from other people more than non-ruminators, but they actually get lower-quality social support because people get frustrated.

There's such as thing as excessive reassurance seeking: "Do you love me? Do you really love me? I don't know if you love me, do you really love me?" Eventually their partners get frustrated; they may try to hide it and be reassuring, but the ruminator notices the frustration and confronts them: "You say you love me, but you seem so irritable all the time and you're getting more irritable. What's the matter? What's the matter with our relationship?" Eventually, there's often a huge blowup.

Is rumination more toxic for women because of its effect on relationships?

Rumination is toxic in both men and women; it leads to depression and anxiety in both. It's just that women are more prone to do it.

What has most surprised you in the research you've done on rumination?

We keep looking for what's good about rumination. Over and over we find that it is immobilizing and impairs the quality of thinking.

Have we become too self-analytical?

Our data indicate that older adults are less prone to rumination than younger ones, suggesting that a cultural shift toward awareness of emotions may contribute. There's been a huge shift in the last couple of decades from being very stoic and unaware of our feelings to being obsessed with them. The main theme of a huge amount of pop culture has been about getting in touch with your feelings and analyzing your past. That's good to some extent, but a lot of us have taken it too far and we've become a bellybutton culture, hyperfocused on every twist and turn of our emotions, trying to analyze everything everybody says for its deeper meaning.

One thing that keeps people in the cycle of rumination is a sense that they're incredibly profound and gaining tremendous insight. We actually find that by every measure, they're doing a lousy job of problem solving. People need to recognize that it's not a healthy process.

When does thinking get dangerous?

Self-analysis is a good thing-to a point. Just as the cell-splitting processes that contribute to cancer are not inherently bad-it's dangerous when it gets out of control and becomes self-perpetuating-so with thinking about yourself and your emotions. Some of it is crucial to our understanding of who we are and how to behave. But when it takes up all the space in your brain, it's malignant. We need to spot when self-analysis turns into rumination and gain skills for controlling it.

It's in the danger zone when you start feeling increasingly hopeless and immobilized, when you're getting feedback from others that you seem stuck and unable to deal with a situation and certainly when you are feeling chronically depressed and anxious. By then, however, you may need professional help."Justify Full

Ruminating is a fancy word for "thinking". Honestly, while I love my knowledge of words, this is a little overkill. For one, ruminate makes me think of cows... you know, ruminants... animals who digest by regurgitating their food. Cows and cattle have four stomachs and the food takes its merry old time going from one to the next and back again. You see the similarities in the word. Which makes sense - ruminating is going over something again and again.

I do that, in a terrible way. I hate it and I know I do it, but when I am upset about something it just is there, intruding into every part of my life. Lately I have had some issues at work and I cannot tell you how much this has tortured me (even worse, I did it to myself, which makes it just that much harder to process and sort out in my mind). It intrudes into my social life, my sex life, my sleeping (in the forms of bad dreams, although the fact that I had the bed heater set a bit too high did NOT help), etcetera. You get the idea.

I am, fortunately, not one who ruminates over whether or not Luis loves me. That is not something that I have worried about in a really, long time - yes, years. I understand the dynamics of our relationship enough to know - unequivocably - that he loves me. And while I did at one time torture him with the hideous answer of "nothing" whenever he would ask me what was wrong when obviously something was wrong, I read about women doing that (men seem not to do this), and ceased. I learned to tell him what was wrong, instead of holding him over for torture. Now, if I really don't want to talk about it, I will tell him that.

It works. Without torturing him.

Anyway, this is a good article as food - ha, ha - for thought!

Easy Does It

Check this out!

"The word epidemic gets tossed around promiscuously these days. I recently heard somebody refer to an "epidemic" of bad reality television shows, and someone else complain about an "epidemic" of people willing to be seen in public wearing Crocs. But the word does have a medical meaning—it's a condition or disease that affects an unusually large number of people. I guess that could apply to bad footwear. It certainly applies to stress. Last fall, the American Psychological Association released a major study that told us what we already knew—21st-century America is the most stressed-out place on Earth. A third of American adults are living with "extreme stress," and nearly half believe that their stress levels have increased in the past five years.

That's just the beginning of the bad news. The rest is what we tend to do about stress, which in most cases is nothing, self-denial being another great American tradition. When we do react, it's almost always in ways that are destined to make things worse: We drink too much, eat way too much, and rarely exercise enough. Consequently, we are a nation of jittery insomniacs. I consider myself a (somewhat) normal middle-aged urban adult with all the usual reasons to melt down and, perhaps, an extra dollop of impatience. Like a few million others, I have a teenager, aging parents, and a demanding job. I try to exercise regularly and eat properly, but the evidence seemed to call for a more fundamental solution. "Dad," my daughter pleaded not long ago, in a ticket line at JFK, where I had just begun to light into a representative of the airline that had accidentally deleted our reservations. "Please don't have an airport fit," she begged.

Needless to say, I had the fit, and then spent the flight absorbing the shame of knowing that, thanks to me, my daughter actually has a category in her brain labeled "Airport Fits." The episode stressed me out so badly that I went to a yoga class. No luck: All it managed to induce was an odd combination of humiliation, boredom, and pain.

But I've always had faith in gadgets, so, seeking relief in technology, I bought a gizmo called the StressEraser. Yes, it sounds like something a man with a bad toupee would hawk on cable television at four in the morning.

Guess what, though? It erased my stress. The little biofeedback machine, which is about the size of a BlackBerry, has an infrared fingertip sensor that monitors the way you breathe by translating pulse beats into waves that you can watch roll across the StressEraser's LCD. (Just typing those words makes me calmer.) The machine essentially decodes various nerve signals—it's complicated, but there are stimulating nerves that increase your heart rate and lead to faster breathing patterns, and pacifying nerves that do the opposite. We want the opposite. To get there, you simply slip your finger into the slot and monitor your breathing patterns on the LCD, counting softly as you shed your stress. The waves are supposed to come in gentle arcs; at first mine looked more like a series of daggers. By sounding a little beep when it's time to exhale, the StressEraser teaches you how to calm yourself.

After just a few days I was breathing like a Zen monk, at least while my finger was on the meter. You cannot fool the StressEraser—believe me, I've tried. If you worry about your mortgage, job, or weight, the machine will display a claustrophobic series of triangles packed tightly on top of one another. Now relax. Breathe. Concentrate on nothing. As soon as you ditch the bad vibes the triangles begin to space out—and so do you. Once you are breathing properly, the machine awards you a point. I try to rack up 100 points a day, which takes about 15 minutes, although one needn't do it all at once. At night, the StressEraser works better as a sleep aid than Ambien.

Perhaps the simple act of watching your own breath forces you to ease up—and even lower your blood pressure. Or maybe the machine simply plays the role of an elaborate (and, at $299, costly) placebo. Anything's possible. But placebos often work, and who cares so long as it makes you mellow?

It's not as if I've suddenly attained a state of infinite peace and enlightenment. Far from it. But I have been to a lot of airports lately. And so far I haven't made a single ticket agent weep."

I have to laugh. This is a cheap price for the same thing we used on the ambulance - an pulse oxicimeter. It measures two things: oxygen molecules in the blood stream and (less accurately, depending on the patient) the pulse. Your heart rate can easily be found in many parts of the body. We don't rely on the pulse-ox for the heart rate, though; we always corroborate that finding with taking the physical pulse, usually in the wrist. (And you never take a pulse with your thumb - it, too, is a pulse point.)

I'm amused because this is a commonly found device in the medical community. And while the price of $299 is a little expensive to do deep, mindless breathing (otherwise known as meditation) just think of what we pay - around $4,000! So at that price you are getting a placebo, but look at it this way: if it works, run with it!

Stress is not just a little bad for people; it contributes just as smoking, overeating and everything else to killing people a whole lot faster. Run with the placebo. Although, going to the gym is cheaper and far more satisfying to me. So is yoga, but that clearly did not work for the writer.

There are other links: how to reduce stress and the dangers of overthinking. I think I will check those out!

Tuesday, 29 January 2008

Another Survey - These Never Get Old!

Four jobs I have had in my life:
Purchasing Assistant (Miller Harness)
Graphic Artist (Miller Harness)
HR Representative (PNY Technologies, USII)
HR Manager (Current Job)

Four places I have lived in my life:
Trucksville, PA
Wallngton, NJ
Fairfield, NJ
Parsippany, NJ

Four places I have been on vacation:
Ireland/Scotland/Wales/England
Keene, NH
Palm Springs, CA
Las Vegas, NV

Four of my favorite foods:
Hummus
Hawai'ian Pizza
Foccacia bread (I make it with my father, funny, huh?)
Anything either of my fathers make!

Four places I would rather be right now:
Right here (barring that...)
Antartica (only in their summer)
Any place haunted
Any volcano

Four friends or relatives I think will respond:
Molly
Daniela
Ray
We shall see!

Sunday, 27 January 2008

Another Birthday

I normally love my birthday and I still do... but this was a big one and I thought it would be... bigger.

It was a good party, with about 15 guests total. The food was incredible. The room was good. The company was great. There were 25 more people that had been invited but some were unable to make it and many just did not say anything. A small few said they'd come and did not.

The best surprise in the world was that Renee and Alex came to the event from Maryland. I was delighted beyond words. And they brought my uncle, who was very sweet and hugged me and said some really wonderful things. I loved having Renee and Alex there the most and we cheered when our really great DJ, Bob Albrecht, played Code Monkey, Chiron Beta Prime, The Presidents and I Feel Fantastic. He also played Barenaked Ladies, Rammstein, Coldplay and tons of other good songs. He played 40s, 50s, 60, minimal 70s, 80s, 90s and current music. (I asked for minimal 70s music. I think that disco was a huge unerasable mistake!

It was a great time and I had fun, even though the room was echoingly empty and there was no one there. Just the 16 of us total. I may have small casual parties at the house from time to time.

No more big parties for me. The disappointment of all those who did not come was entirely too much.

I got a lot of nice things from my friends and family and attendees. I got eight books (yay!), two DVDs, two necklaces, two pairs of earrings, body lotion and two small candles. I suspect a couple more things may arrive, but I'm not unhappy with what I got. Luis is going to take an image or two that I took and have them blown up and framed for the walls. And a watch that is incredible but too big for my tiny little wrist!

I love the watch. It is amazing. But I love everything I got. The books are all going to be such fun to read!

I guess the biggest disappointment was that absolutely nothing happened at work, something I have never had happen before. I wasn't expecting anything unbelievable - but something small and a card? Wow. I hate to think that I am so unpopular that no one wanted to do anything... I was hoping that when I came in Thursday morning, my door would be decorated.

I just found the whole thing to be a giant letdown.

Saturday, 26 January 2008

It's My Birthday...

...right...

NOW!
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Guess what... it feels no different than 30, 35 or 39.
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Not at all.

Friday, 25 January 2008

A.W.A.D. - Words with Colour as Metaphor

Red: Stop. Green: Go.

These two colors have universally accepted meanings, but only when it comes to traffic. Meanings of colors change across cultures, and even within a culture. If your business is in the black, that's a good thing, but if you are blackballed, well, that's a problem. Red ink is bad news but a red-letter day is a happy occasion. A blue moon is a very long period of time but a blue law has nothing to do with length.

This week we'll meet five terms related to colors -- blue, red, white, purple, and blue again -- and how they affect words' shades of meaning.

cordon bleu
(kawr don BLOO) adjective
Of the highest class.
noun
A person of great distinction in a field, especially applied to a chef.

[From French, literally, blue ribbon. Under the Bourbon kings in France, a blue ribbon was worn by knights of the highest order.]

redbrick
(RED-brik) adjective
Lacking prestige.

[The term usually describes universities. A redbrick university is one built in the UK after WWII, as opposed to the older prestigious institutions such as Oxford and Cambridge. The term is mostly used in the UK. A contrasting term in the US is Ivy League. An Ivy League university is one of several in the northeastern US that have high prestige and a reputation for scholastic achievement. The term alludes to the age of the universities reflected in the ivy that festoons the outside walls of the buildings on campus.]

purple prose
(PUR-puhl proz) noun
An overly ornate piece of writing.

[Two synonyms of the term are 'purple passage' and 'purple patch'. The idea comes from Latin pannus purpureus (purple patch), a phrase used by the poet Horace in his Ars Poetica (The Art of Poetry) to suggest a patch of royal fabric on an ordinary cloth, a brilliant piece of writing in an overall dull work. Purple was the color of choice by the royalty as the purple dye was the most rare and hence most expensive.]

white-shoe
(hwyt, wyt shoo) noun
Pertaining to a business or those who run it, typically conservative, rich, and elite, in fields such as law, finance, etc.

[Apparently from the earlier popularity of white shoes among such men.]

blue streak
(bloo streek) noun
1. Something moving very fast
2. A rapid and seemingly endless stream of words

[Or unknown origin, perhaps an allusion to a bolt of lightning.]

Thursday, 24 January 2008

Article: Tips to Feel Satisfied with Less Food

OK! Sign me up for that!

"Did you know that simply changing the way you eat could help you to feel more satisfied after eating? Notice I used the word satisfied, not full. There's a big difference. Full means, "I'm really stuffed." Satisfied is simply, "I'm no longer hungry."

Satisfaction is actually a learned feeling. Many of us in fact feel satisfied after eating only half of a meal, but we don't recognize that feeling because, instead of pausing, we go on and eat to fullness. I am still part of the clean-plate generation — that's just how we were brought up. But now we need to change our thinking and learn to recognize what it feels like to be satisfied during a meal. If you stop when you are satisfied, you will eat less food.

Try some of these tips to help you feel more satisfied at meals:

Use smaller plates and bowls. This trick actually fools your mind into thinking that you're getting more food. When you see a plate (no matter what size) brimming with food, you're already thinking, I am going to be satisfied after this meal! Smaller plates mean that your portion sizes will be smaller and you'll eat less food.

Eat your meal slowly. It takes about 20 minutes for your brain to get the message that you have eaten enough and to then communicate that feeling of satisfaction (or fullness!) to your stomach. Put your fork or spoon down between bites of food, talk with others at the table, chew your food thoroughly, and drink liquids during meals to slow your rate of eating.

Drink plenty of non-calorie beverages each day. Interestingly, the feeling of thirst can sometimes impersonate that of hunger, so make sure you are drinking enough fluids every day.

Change your eating schedule, or create one that works. Skipping or delaying meals can result in overeating. If you skip meals often, try to eat on more of a schedule. You will then feel more satisfied with what you do eat.

Enjoy your food. Take the time at meals to simply enjoy what you are eating. Taking pleasure in what you eat will help you feel more satisfied."

Sunday, 20 January 2008

I Knew It - The Moon & Easter!

Gregorian Calendar:
History

Gregorian reform
The motivation of the Catholic Church in adjusting the calendar was to celebrate Easter at the time it thought the First Council of Nicaea had agreed upon in 325. Although a canon of the council implies that all churches used the same Easter, they did not. The Church of Alexandria celebrated Easter on the Sunday after the 14th day of the moon (computed using the Metonic cycle) that falls on or after the vernal equinox, which they placed on 21 March. However, the Church of Rome still regarded 25 March as the equinox (until 342) and used a different cycle to compute the day of the moon.[4] In the Alexandrian system, since the 14th day of the Easter moon could fall at earliest on 21 March its first day could fall no earlier than 8 March and no later than 5 April. This meant that Easter varied between 22 March and 25 April. At Rome, Easter was not allowed to fall later than 21 April, this being the day of the Parilia or birthday of Rome and a pagan festival. The first day of the Easter moon could fall no earlier than 5 March and no later than 2 April. Easter was the Sunday after the 15th day of this moon, whose 14th day was allowed to precede the equinox. Where the two systems produced different dates there was generally a compromise so that both churches were able to celebrate on the same day. By the tenth century all churches (except for some on the eastern border of the Byzantine Empire) had adopted the Alexandrian Easter, which still placed the vernal equinox on 21 March, although Bede had already noted its drift in 725—it had drifted even further by the sixteenth century.

Worse, the reckoned Moon that was used to compute Easter was fixed to the Julian year by a 19 year cycle. However, that approximation built up an error of one day every 310 years, so by the sixteenth century the lunar calendar was out of phase with the real Moon by four days.

The Council of Trent approved a plan in 1563 for correcting the calendrical errors, requiring that the date of the vernal equinox be restored to that which it held at the time of the First Council of Nicaea in 325 and that an alteration to the calendar be designed to prevent future drift. This would allow for a more consistent and accurate scheduling of the feast of Easter.

The fix was to come in two stages. First, it was necessary to approximate the correct length of a solar year. The value chosen was 365.2425 days in decimal notation. This is 365;14,33 days in sexagesimal notation—the length of the tropical year, rounded to two sexagesimal positions; this was the value used in the major astronomical tables of the day. Although close to the mean tropical year of 365.24219 days, it is even closer to the vernal equinox year of 365.2424 days; this fact made the choice of approximation particularly appropriate as the purpose of creating the calendar was to ensure that the vernal equinox would be near a specific date (21 March).

The second stage was to devise a model based on the approximation which would provide an accurate yet simple, rule-based calendar. The formula designed by Aloysius Lilius was ultimately successful. It proposed a 10-day correction to revert the drift since Nicaea, and the imposition of a leap day in only 97 years in 400 rather than in 1 year in 4. To implement the model, it was provided that years divisible by 100 would be leap years only if they were divisible by 400 as well. So, in the last millennium, 1600 and 2000 were leap years, but 1700, 1800 and 1900 were not. In this millennium, 2100, 2200, 2300 and 2500 will not be leap years, but 2400 will be. This theory was expanded upon by Christopher Clavius in a closely argued, 800 page volume. He would later defend his and Lilius's work against detractors.

The 19-year cycle used for the lunar calendar was also to be corrected by one day every 300 or 400 years (8 times in 2500 years) along with corrections for the years (1700, 1800, 1900, 2100 et cetera) that are no longer leap years. In fact, a new method for computing the date of Easter was introduced.

Lilius originally proposed that the 10-day correction should be implemented by deleting the Julian leap day on each of its ten occurrences during a period of 40 years, thereby providing for a gradual return of the equinox to 21 March. However, Clavius's opinion was that the correction should take place in one move and it was this advice which prevailed with Gregory. Accordingly, when the new calendar was put in use, the error accumulated in the 13 centuries since the Council of Nicaea was corrected by a deletion of ten days. The last day of the Julian calendar was Thursday October 4, 1582 and this was followed by the first day of the Gregorian calendar, Friday October 15, 1582 (the cycle of weekdays was not affected).

Origins of English week day names used by the Gregorian Calendar:
Monday - moon day (celestial), a modernization of "Monnendaeg"
Tuesday - Tyr's day (Old Norse god - Tiw in Old English, Teiw in Proto-Germanic)
Wednesday - Woden's day (Old English god - Norse Odin, German Wotan)
Thursday - Thor's day (Old Norse god)
Friday - Frigg's day (Old Norse goddess) (Friday is often erroneously associated with Freyja)
Saturday - Saturn's day (Roman god)
Sunday - sun day (celestial), a modernization of "Sunnendaeg"

The Beauty of MESSENGER

MESSENGER performed a successful Earth swingby a year after launch, on 2 August 2005, with the closest approach at 19:13 UTC at an altitude of 2,347 kilometers (1,458 statute miles) over central Mongolia. On December 12, 2005, a 524 second long burn ('Deep-Space Maneuver' or 'DSM-1') of the large thruster adjusted the trajectory for the upcoming Venus swing-by.

MESSENGER made its first flyby of Venus at 08:34 UTC on October 24, 2006 at an altitude of 2,992 kilometers (1,859 mi). A second flyby of Venus was made at 23:08 UTC on June 5, 2007 at an altitude of 338 kilometers (210 mi). On October 17, 2007, 'Deep-Space Maneuver-2' or 'DSM-2' was executed successfully, putting MESSENGER on target for its first flyby of Mercury.

MESSENGER made a flyby of Mercury on 14 January 2008 (closest approach 200 km above surface of Mercury at 19:04:39 UTC), and will make two more flybys of Mercury on October 6, 2008 and September 29, 2009, successively slowing down the spacecraft. Mercury orbit insertion will be on March 18, 2011, beginning a year-long orbital mission.

During the Earth flyby, MESSENGER imaged the Earth and Moon and used its atmospheric and surface composition spectrometer to look at the Moon. The particle and magnetic field instruments investigated the Earth's magnetosphere.

The spacecraft was originally scheduled to launch during a 12-day window that opened May 11, 2004, but on March 26, 2004, NASA announced that a later launch window starting at July 30, 2004 with a length of 15 days would be used. This significantly changed the trajectory of the mission and will delay the arrival at Mercury by two years. The original plan called for three swingby maneuvers past Venus, with Mercury orbit insertion scheduled for 2009. The new trajectory features one Earth flyby, two Venus flybys, and three Mercury flybys before orbit insertion on March 18, 2011.

20 January 2008 - An Image A Day


Two choices today. A picture I took (it's awful but there is a reason for that); or a picture from Wikipedia... You be the judge. And read my posting Five Calls in Three Days. Then you can see why I'm looking a little peaked.





The right image is Iapetus, one of Saturn's satellites. An amazing landscape - but my focus is more on Mercury and what wonders MESSENGER will send us. MESSENGER will be making passes at Mercury - three, or more. It will also take a look at Venus and maybe the Sun, too. Personally, I think looking at the heavens and its inhabitants beats looking at my tired face any time!

19 January 2008 - An Image A Day


This was too weird to pass up.

My mother made a snide comment about my eyebrows (yes, I shave them to give them a shape other than a caterpillar). When I went this morning to have my hair cut & colour, I had Lucy tint my eyebrows as well. This is not what they look like now - this is what they looked like when I had them sitting with dye on them... Unbelievable! I look like Ugly Betty. In this case, Ugly Ash...

Five Calls in Three Days

It's the Thursday-Saturday fun combo! I took off from work on Friday, and so rode the full 12-hour shift. I will be doing so again this week (I'm off the 25th, the day before my birthday). I do enjoy riding more and may go from riding just the half-shift to maybe 3/4 of the shift - until 0300. I'm thinking about it, anyway.

Thursday night was not so bad. We had our first call right at the start of the evening, so that was easy and done while wakeful. That is nice when calls are first thing in the evening. It is much harder when they occur at 0300...

The first call was... was... so memorable I cannot remember it! I know we went to St. Clares as usual... but for the life of me I can't recall what the call was about.

At 2245 we were blown out for "smoke conditions in the boiler room of one of the local schools. We did the standby for the fire district for all of three minutes and were released. OK. That is easy!

That was it for the whole night, but you know I did not sleep for a long time or well. I finally crashed at 0600 and slept until 1300 (!).

Last night was an entirely different animal. We had nothing until my pager triggered at 1945. I listened for a few moments, but there was no message attached. No message... well, I don't know what that means, so I went to the squad house and asked one of the riding members if we were toned out. He said no, he hadn't heard anything. I called dispatch and the adorable-sounding cop said he hadn't toned us out, in fact there had been nothing until he hit 65s tones while I was walking to the squadhouse. OK. I shrugged and went home, and watched Bones until I fell asleep.

I awoke, sore and achey and a little discombobulated around 2207. My right half (arm and foot) were asleep and it had been inserting itself into my dreams... very strange. I sat up and drank some water. Just as I was getting ready to replay the episode I'd fell asleep during, the pager chirped, "Stand by, Car 66"... groan...

I stumbled out of the house and walked across the street. My lieutenant was just pulling in and said, "You're hubby's home." Sure enough, Tom was dropping Luis off. We waited for one of the others but he was outside of the normal response range, so it was just the two of us. We headed to the scene and got to our patient.
We dispersed around 2330 and that was it. I watched a little telly - the one episode - out in the sun room, then went to bed.

At 0253 I was awakened by "Stand by, Car 66" again and was sitting on the edge of the bed trying to pull my socks on with eyes cracked open while the dispatcher (what's his name, not the new guy) said, "Car 66, your services are requested at [Address] for a [patient], difficulty breathing. Time out, 0246." I squinted at the clock. 0246? No. It's later than that. Crazy dispatch office with four different wall clocks with four different times!

One of the others was there pulling the rig out and my lieutenant was just getting into the front. I crawled into the Captain's chair and drowsed while putting on gloves.

We got to the complex and as usual, the patient is on the second floor. Unreal how that never fails to happen...
We had three more calls that night; it was 0500 when I dragged my ass into bed.

Friday, 18 January 2008

YEAR'S BEST (ACTUAL) HEADLINES OF 2007

Some of this is funny; some, not so much. Enjoy reading it anyway!

Crack Found on Governor's Daughter [Imagine that!]

Something Went Wrong in Jet Crash, Expert Says [No, really?]

Police Begin Campaign to Run Down Jaywalkers [Now that's taking things a bit far!]

Is There a Ring of Debris around Uranus? [Not if I wipe thoroughly!]

Panda Mating Fails; Veterinarian Takes Over [What a guy!]

Miners Refuse to Work after Death [No-good-for-nothing' lazy so-and-so!]

Juvenile Court to Try Shooting Defendant [See if that works any better than a fair trial!]

! War Dims Hope for Peace [I can see where it might have that effect!]

If Strike Isn't Settled Quickly, It May Last Awhile [You think?]

Cold Wave Linked to Temperatures [Who would have thought!]

Enfield (London) Couple Slain; Police Suspect Homicide [They may be on to something!]

Red Tape Holds Up New Bridges [You mean there's something stronger than duct tape?]

Man Struck By Lightning: Faces Battery Charge [he probably IS the battery charge!]

New Study of Obesity Looks for Larger Test Group [Weren't they fat enough?!]

Astronaut Takes Blame for Gas in Spacecraft [That's what he gets for eating those beans!]

Kids Make Nutritious Snacks [Taste like chicken?]

Local High School Dropouts Cut in Half [Chainsaw Massacre all over again!]

Hospitals are Sued by 7 Foot Doctors [Boy, are they tall!]

And the winner is....
Typhoon Rips Through Cemetery; Hundreds Dead

Now that you've smiled at lea! st once, it's your turn to spread the stupidity and send this to someone to whom you want to bring a smile (Maybe even a chuckle). We all need a good laugh, keep laughing it will keep you young....

18 January 2008 - An Image A Day


I try to go more for images that I take. Since I had a couple of odd days this past weekend, I did get to take some pictures... This is the not-quite full moon rising - no, I'm sorry, setting through the trees on early Friday (this) morning (I'm talking somewhere around midnight). It is hard to take good images of the moon when sitting behind glass. I should have gotten my jacket on and gone outside.

A Word A Day - Miscellaneous Words

It's that time of the year again when we feature odds and ends. One-of-a-kind words. Words that are unusual, picturesque, whimsical, esoteric, or intriguing. And like all the creatures in this world, this week's words serve a purpose (as shown by their accompanying citations). They make our verbal universe richer and more diverse.

So here they are. We've coaxed them out of the dictionary -- it's not often that one finds them in the open -- and we hope you'll welcome them in your vocabulary.

dingle
(DING-guhl) noun
A deep narrow wooded valley; dell

[Of uncertain origin.]

supererogatory
(soo-puhr-uh-ROG-uh-tor-ee) adjective
1. Going beyond the call of duty
2. Superfluous

[From Latin supererogare (to pay over and above), from super- (above) + erogare (to spend), from rogare (to ask). Ultimately from the Indo-European reg- (to move in a straight line, to lead or rule) that is also the source of regime, direct, rectangle, erect, rectum, alert, source, and surge.]

scorbutic
(skor-BYOO-tik) adjective
Pertaining to or afflicted with scurvy

[From Latin scorbutus (scurvy) which also shows up in ascorbic acid (scientific name of vitamin C), the deficiency of which causes scurvy.]

jobbernowl
(JOB-uh-nowl) noun
A blockhead

[From French jobard (stupid, gullible), from Old French jobe (stupid) + noll (top or crown of the head).]

kerfuffle
(kuhr-FUHF-uhl) noun
A commotion

[Of uncertain origin, perhaps from Scots curfuffle, from fuffle (to disorder).]

Thursday, 17 January 2008

17 January 2008 - An Image A Day


Here it is: DaVinci's Man, one of my favourite works of art. It is wonderful. Somewhere in the house is the morph drawing that I did transforming the eagle side of a quarter into DaVinci's Man. I liked it... my art teacher did not. Then again, that art teacher didn't like me or anything that I did. My other art teacher, whom I loved, liked some pieces, loved others, didn't like some of them. He was biased toward me but kept an open mind about my artwork. I love that man. He was wonderful, and especially when I needed someone to see the value in me.

Wednesday, 16 January 2008

16 January 2008 - An Image A Day


I have been waiting a LONG time for this! MESSENGER was launched in August of 2004 and had its 3.5 year journey to Mercury, the most mysterious of our inner planets! And here, the first unveiling of the unseen side of our first planet! I love it.
Mercury was suspected in the third millenium BC and then studied by Galileo (my hero) in the 17th century. Scientists since then have tried to study it but its proximity to the sun has always made this problematic. In the 1800s they came up with another planet, Vulcan, to explain the erratic behaviour of Mercury's orbit. Vulcan was later found to not exist.
The most fascinating thing about Mercury is its orbit. It circles the sun every 88 days and its solar day is 176 of our days... Wow. Its sidereal day is 58.7 of our days. And yet, Saturn, a huge planet compared to tiny fleet-footed Mercury, has a sidereal day of 10.5 Earth hours. Go figure!


Ten Thoughts to Ponder Before You Die

Yes, this is humour. It was e-mailed to me from Romania...

Token Thoughts to Ponder for 2008

Number 10
Life is sexually transmitted.

Number 9
Good health is merely the slowest possible rate at which one can die...

Number 8
Men have two emotions: Hungry and Horny. If you see him without an erection, make him a sandwich.

Number 7
Give a person a fish and you feed them for a day, teach a person to use the internet and they won't bother you for weeks.
Number 6
Some people are like a Slinky ..Not really good for anything, but you still can't help but smile when you shove them down the stairs.

Number 5
Health nuts are going to feel stupid someday, lying in hospitals dying of nothing.
Number 4
All of us could take a lesson from the weather. It pays no attention to Criticism.

Number 3
Why does a slight tax increase cost you $200.00 and a substantial tax cut saves you $30.00?
Number 2
In the 60's, people took acid to make the world weird. Now the world is Weird and people take Prozac to make it normal.
And The Number 1 Thought For 2008:
We know exactly where one cow with Mad-cow-disease is located among millions and millions of cows in America but we haven't got a clue as to where millions of illegal immigrants and terrorists are located. Maybe we should put the Department of Agriculture in charge of Immigration?

'Life is like a jar of Jalapeno peppers. What you do today, might Burn Your Ass Tomorrow'

Something to Lighten the Day

Well, I had a day, so something to lighten it sounds good. Besides, I like these things... I think insight comes from doing these.

Have a good time... This is a little different than the ones that usually come around. Place an X by all the things you've done, or remove the X from the ones you have not, and send it to your friends (including me). This is in your entire life!

( ) Smoked a cigarette
( ) Drank so much you threw up
(X) Had feelings for someone who didn't have them back
( ) Gone on a blind date
(X) Skipped school
(X) Watched someone die
(X) Been to Canada
(X) Been to Florida
( ) Been to Mexico
(X) Been on a plane
(X) Been lost
(X) Been on the opposite side of the country
(X) Swam in the ocean
( ) Felt like dying
(X) Cried yourself to sleep
(X) Played cops and robbers
( ) Recently colored with crayon
( ) Sang karaoke
( ) Paid for a meal with only coins
(X) Done something you told yourself you wouldn't
(X) Made prank phone calls (a million years ago)
(X) Laughed until some kind of beverage came out of your nose
(X) Caught a snowflake on your tongue
(X) Danced in the rain
(X) Written a letter to Santa Claus
(X) Been kissed under the mistletoe
(X) Watched the sun rise with someone you care about
(X) Blown bubbles
( ) Made a bonfire on the beach
( ) Crashed a party
(X) Gone roller-skating
(X) Gone Ice-skating
( ) Gone scuba diving
( ) Eaten crocodile
( ) Caught a fish

PAR T II.
1. Any nicknames: AshCan & AshTray
2. Your sorry for not catching up with who? Molly and Daniela
3. Favorite Drink? Hot tea (Lady Grey)
4. Tattoos? No
5. Body piercing? No
6. Love your job? In ways that I cannot describe
7. Birthday: 26 January 1968
8. Favorite Vacation Spot? Palm Springs, CA
9. Ever been to Africa? No
10. Ever eaten cookies for dinner? Yes
11. Ever been on TV/or in a movie? Yes, but not a show. I had a ten secnd bit on the Baltimore news in 2001
12. Ever steal any traffic signs? No, but I had a boyfriend who did for me
13. Ever been in a car accident? Yes
14. 2 Door or 4 Door? 2 door

This came without a number 15

16. Favorite season? Autumn
17. Favorite number? 4 and 9
18. Favorite movie? Ratatouille
19. Favorite Holiday? Palm Springs, CA
20. Favorite dessert? Fresh berries in cream
21. Favorite food? Hawai'ian pizza
22. Favorite day of the week? Saturday
23. Favorite month? October
24. Favorite toothpaste? Yuck. No favourite toothpaste
25. Favorite smell? Candles - so many fragrances
26. What do you do to relax? Burn candles and read/blog/listen to music
27. Do you have a message to your friends reading this? Every one of you has your own magic
28. How do you see yourself in 10 years? Happier yet!
29. The Farthest you will send this email? Czech Republic
30. Who will be the fastest to respond? I don't know
31. Who will be least likely to respond? There're a few...!

MESSENGER Meets the Other Side of Mercury!

Today, NASA's spacecraft MESSENGER, or the MErcury Surface, Space ENvironment, GEochemistry, and Ranging spacecraft, is expected to begin its two day mission at about noon (eastern time), of data collecting and photographing of the planet Mercury. It is the first spacecraft to visit the planet in 34 years, since Mariner 10's visit to the planet in 1974.

"This is raw scientific exploration and the suspense is building by the day. What will MESSENGER see? Monday will tell the tale," said Alan Stern, associate administrator for NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington, D.C..

This encounter will provide a critical gravity assist needed to keep the spacecraft on track for its March 2011 orbit insertion, beginning an unprecedented yearlong study of Mercury. The flyby also will gather essential data for mission planning. It will flyby an impact crater called the Caloris basin which is almost 800 miles (1,287 kilometers) in diameter. The basin is one of the largest impact craters in our solar system.

"Caloris is huge, about a quarter of the diameter of Mercury, with rings of mountains within it that are up to two miles high. Mariner 10 saw a little less than half of the basin. During this first flyby, we will image the other side," said Louise Prockter, the instrument scientist for the Mercury Dual Imaging System at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland.

It also will study the global magnetic field and improve our knowledge of the gravity field from the Mariner 10 flyby. The long-wavelength components of the gravity field provide key information about the planet's internal structure, particularly the size of Mercury's core. The flyby also will map Mercury's tenuous atmosphere with ultraviolet observations and document the energetic particle and plasma of Mercury's magnetosphere. In addition, the flyby trajectory will enable unique particle and plasma measurements of the magnetic tail that sweeps behind Mercury.

MESSENGER was launched on August 3, 2004 and will travel just under five billion miles in total. It already has flown past Earth once and Venus twice. The spacecraft will use the pull of Mercury's gravity during this month's pass and others in October 2008 and September 2009 to guide it progressively closer to the planet's orbit. Insertion will be accomplished with a fourth Mercury encounter in 2011.

Tuesday, 15 January 2008

13 January 2008 - An Image A Day


Here's Sunday! This is Tom and Alayna's son, Matthew, who is 2 and a half years old. He's still under the normal weight for his age, but he's tall(ish) and the right weight for that height. He's a good kid, but he loves technology and while Alayna loved the rocking horse, Matthew tolerated it and definitely would not ride it. He wanted nothing to do with this and really wanted to play with the stereo or the clock (it's a weird clock).

15 January 2008 - An Image A Day


I took a bunch of images today, so selecting the best of the lot was no easy task...


I lied - this was the winner hands down. I made a note in mid-April and late July to do this again with those week's current payrolls to show the difference... this stack is the whole stack for the second week in January and it is maybe half the size of the sixth department inseason! I just really was amused by this...

It took me a half an hour to run this. It was the easiest one to date! But that is the beauty of January.

I love the normal feel of work - people coming and going, all enjoying themselves, the busy kitchen, the frenetic pace of the various departments on special days... but I also appreciate the shut down period, when there is just a skeleton staff and no members or guests. The building is dark and quiet and lovely, as though taking a well-earned nap. The floors have been spit-shined and polished, things repainted, furniture refinished and renewed. When we opened this morning, it was all perfect and shiny and new as though the depredations of the past busy season were all wiped away, ready for the 2008 season.

Others said that the building was eerie, but I never thought that. And I am sure that the ghosts all agreed with me - the respite is nice!

Monday, 14 January 2008

14 January 2008 - An Image A Day


And here we are for today:


These guys are putting up a fence on the roof of the building I work in, on what overlooks... more roof. Ever find yourself wondering what people are thinking when work like this is commissioned? I do... all the time! This is truly mystifying!



Facebook - So What?

After the initial fun of seeing a lot of people I know suddenly pop up on this site, the fun fizzled. Other than putting one's face out there and showing your statistics, so what? What does one do with this site? I can't find any real activities.


But everyone I know has me listed as a friend.


Not for nothing, but most of the people on it are not really friends - they are acquaitances, former coworkers, current coworkers, squad members... two of them I would call friends but the rest are not truly my real, close friends. Once you call them friends, though, then what?


I don't know. Luis is adamantly against it. He feels that it is selling my specific information all over the place. I'm keeping an eye on it.

So far, I just don't see the value...

What Friggin' Snow?!

I went to bed around 2230, late for me. Very late, really. But when I went, I looked outside and it was changing from rain to snow. Clearly that was short-lived if it ever happened. And the worst part is that all during the day it showed snow falling.

Again, not a flake.

What a mystery. I wonder why they can't look out the window and see that there is nothing happening?!

Sunday, 13 January 2008

60 Minutes and Facebook

Well... I was logging off as they talked about the unbelievable amount of rape occuring in Congo... but then that ended and this thing about Facebook came on. At first I thought that this was another meat market, like MySpace, but now it sounds really interesting. So... I am going to go on Facebook and see if any old friends find me. To a point, they may - but I've changed my name and never publish to original one (no, I'm not running from the law or staying low from defrauding someone).

I never liked my original name and having had this one for eight years, I won't put it out there.

So let me see what Facebook looks like...

Interesting...

Is Weather.com Confused?

The same Web site that has a heavy snow warning has a winter storm watch for us. I think someone is confused. Seriously confused.

If you are confused, that is different - you may not know the difference between a watch and a warning. But I live meteorology and I still have my NOAA radio and carefully watch the NOAA.gov and Weather.com sites. We might not know the difference, but I guarantee you, the folks working for these sites and channels and in meteorology offices do know the difference.

A watch is along the lines of "be warned that some adverse weather may come your way", while a warning is definitely a stronger message: "we almost guarantee that you will get some poor weather conditions".

Hmmmm.

It's Definitely Coming...

A snowstorm is brewing for parts of the northeastern U.S. A low pressure center will crank up off the Carolina coast this afternoon, strengthen, and move northeastward overnight.

Significant snow will develop this evening in and around New York City, then spread into Boston after midnight. In general, the storm will dump 4 or more inches from northeastern Pennsylvania and northern New Jersey through southeastern New York state into central and southern New England and eventually along coastal Maine. In many locations, totals may reach 8 or 10 inches.

From southern New England through coastal Maine, blowing and drifting snow will add to travel problems. The morning commute should be particularly difficult around Boston. In the New York City metro area, the snow will be over or ending by sunrise.

Snowfall (or rain changing to snow) will continue around the Great Lakes through tonight. Several additional inches are expected across northern Michigan.

Far, far to the west--Hawaii--high surf warnings are posted. Surf is expected to reach 25 to 35 feet along the north-facing shores of all islands except the Big Island. Large swells from a storm churning well to the north of Hawaii are the culprits.

Saturday, 12 January 2008

Something Stormy This Way Comes...

Looks like there is some interesting weather on the way...

TWC:
O.NEW.KPHI.WS.A.0001.080114T0200Z- 080114T1700Z/
SUSSEX-MORRIS- INCLUDING THE CITIES OF...NEWTON...MORRISTOWN 402 PM EST SAT JAN 12 2008

...WINTER STORM WATCH IN EFFECT FROM SUNDAY EVENING THROUGH MONDAY MORNING...

THE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE IN MOUNT HOLLY HAS ISSUED A WINTER STORM WATCH, WHICH IS IN EFFECT FROM SUNDAY EVENING THROUGH MONDAY MORNING.

SNOW IS ANTICIPATED TO OVERSPREAD THE AREA LATE SUNDAY EVENING, THEN CONTINUE THROUGH MONDAY MORNING. THE SNOW HOWEVER COULD MIX WITH OR BEGIN IN SOME AREAS AS LIGHT RAIN. AS THE STORM INTENSIFIES OFF THE COAST, AND THE PRECIPITATION INTENSITY INCREASES, THE SNOW COULD BECOME HEAVY AT TIMES OVERNIGHT SUNDAY AND EARLY MONDAY MORNING.

THERE IS SOME UNCERTAINTY IN THE EXACT TRACK AND STRENGTH OF THIS STORM. ANY EAST OR WEST SHIFT IN THE STORM TRACK WILL AFFECT THE SNOWFALL AMOUNTS. IN ADDITION, THE SURFACE TEMPERATURES COULD REMAIN RIGHT AROUND FREEZING FOR AWHILE WHICH MAY TEND TO LIMIT THE SNOWFALL ACCUMULATIONS INITIALLY. THERE IS THE POTENTIAL FOR SOME ENHANCED BANDING TO OCCUR, WHICH MEANS HEAVIER SNOWFALL RATES ARE POSSIBLE, HOWEVER THE EXACT PLACEMENT OF THESE FEATURES ARE DIFFICULT TO PINPOINT THIS FAR OUT IN TIME. AT THIS TIME, A TOTAL OF 4 TO 7 INCHES OF SNOW IS POSSIBLE IN THE WATCH AREA. THE BULK OF THE SNOW IS ANTICIPATED TO BE OVER WITH AROUND MIDDAY ON MONDAY, AS THIS STORM SHOULD BE A QUICK MOVER.

A WINTER STORM WATCH MEANS THERE IS A POTENTIAL FOR SIGNIFICANT SNOW, SLEET, OR ICE ACCUMULATIONS THAT MAY IMPACT TRAVEL.

Somehow all these storms seem to delight in arriving on Sunday afternoons or evenings, thus preventing an early arrival at work on Monday. This Monday I don't much care - the payroll process will be nearly painless given the shutdown. A handful of staff that should have been off worked but they all know that they need to clock in to get paid. I doubt that the payroll will take more than an hour to run and so if I get in (worst case scenerio) at noon, it won't matter.

Well, nothing to do but wait anyway!

12 January 2008 - An Image A Day


Every day, just like I promised!
I took this image and I love it. But it was not taken today, it was taken in June. But some things have to be posted.

Reading Signs: Shedding Light on Ancient Science

Near Eastern Studies’ newest faculty member brings an understanding of ancient science and its direct connections to the present

By Kate Rix

The planets and stars were all aligned when Francesca Rochberg received an offer to come teach at Berkeley. She joined Berkeley’s Near Eastern Studies Department this year as the Catherine and William L. Magistretti Distinguished Professor, bringing expertise in the study of ancient Mesopotamia and, among other things, the Babylonians’ methods of reading the natural world for signs of impending good or catastrophe.

Her passion for the subject developed early in her career. As a research assistant with the University of Chicago’s Oriental Institute, she worked with a professor who was studying Babylonian planetary omens. The ancients read the movements of planets and stars, as well as the behavior of animals and insects, for signs of impending good or ill. Harvests could be predicted, battles planned, and even the king’s health and safety protected by the readings of scribes and scholars employed by the court.

If, for example, Venus has a reddish hue on the fourteenth day, then there will be universal flood. If, however, the Pleiades constellation enters the moon’s orbit and then moves toward the north, then the outlook is good.

“It’s a really rich area,” Rochberg says, surrounded by books in her Barrows office. “The mere idea that everything in the world can be read as a message from the divine says something about the ancients’ response to their physical environment, that the divine is imminent in everything that crossed one’s path. This raises questions about their notion of causality, fate, and determinism.”

Rochberg moved from U.C. Riverside and turned down an offer from Brown University to join the faculty at Berkeley, where her research into the history of science will form rich connections with ongoing work in several areas. “I’ve never been in a place where I have had such significant interlocutors,” she says. “My field is rather unusual — not too many people are studying Babylonian astronomy and astrology or doing it in the way I do. But there are so many programs I can plug into at Berkeley.”

Among them are her home department of Near Eastern Studies, the History and Classics departments, and the graduate group in Ancient History and Mediterranean Archeology. “I have been doing this by myself for decades,” she says. “This is the first time I’ve been in situ in a place where all this is going on.”

Rochberg’s work has evolved out of her graduate studies in Chicago, where she painstakingly cataloged texts about planetary omens. The texts, written in cuneiform, were made by ancient scholars who used a reed stylus to press wedge-shaped letters into soft clay tablets. The clay was abundant and, once baked, lasted a long, long time if stored and handled carefully. Four thousand years later, many still exist for scholars like Rochberg to decipher and interpret.

As a graduate student she was assigned the work of translating cuneiform texts about lunar eclipse omens. Ancient Assyrians, she says, didn’t know much technical detail about planetary phenomena, but eclipses were a different matter. Visible to the naked eye, eclipses were terrifying events portending wholesale social upheaval, utter destruction of states, and even, in the case of solar eclipses, cannibalism.

She made a file for every word that appeared in a large corpus of cuneiform texts. “This was before computers,” she says. “Had I been able to do it using a computer, it would have been purely mechanical. I would have learned nothing. As it was, I read each of those texts. I was saturated in them.”

Drawing on this cuneiform evidence, Rochberg’s work overturns the standard scholarly assumption that Babylonian thought was non-scientific. Instead, she argues, the historical roots of astronomical science go all the way back to ancient Mesopotamia.

“All their work on astronomy has direct line to the modern era,” she says. “There is an unbroken line of continuity from Babylonian astronomy to Ptolemy, Kepler, the medieval Arab astronomers, then to Newton and on up to the present.”

As an historian, Rochberg sees her work as helping us to understand the most basic questions we ask when we explore the world scientifically. “Science does not rest only on epistemology, but also practice,” she says. “It is at bottom humanistic exercise.”

Friday, 11 January 2008

11 January 2008 - An Image A Day


Two honeybees collect nectar from Cirsium arvense (commonly known as Creeping Thistle) flowers. Although this plant is considered as a weed and invasive species, it provides food for the Goldfinch and Linnet, as well as over 20 species of Lepidoptera, including the Painted Lady butterfly, and the Engrailed, a species of moth, and several species of aphids. It is also edible by humans, but rarely used due to its propensity to induce flatulence in some people.

Photo credit: Richard Bartz (many thanks! Go to Wikipedia to see more great images)

They can't all be mine, you know...!

A.W.A.D. - Whose what? (animal edition)

A few weeks ago we featured terms in the "x's y" pattern -- descriptive phrases that can be called Whose whats. Going by your comments, it was one of the most popular weeks in AWAD's history. This week we'll reprise the theme with five more such terms, this time from the animal kingdom.

The English language is filled with everyday terms based on animals, from the lion's share (largest part) to the dog's chance (slim chance) and the snail's pace (very slow) but there are many unusual terms too. For this week's parade we have selected five mammals: mare, dog, sheep, donkey, and cat.

mare's nest
(mairz nest) noun
1. A confused mess
2. A hoax or an illusory discovery

[The original sense of the term was a false discovery since clearly a mare doesn't have a nest. Nowadays the term implies a confused situation. A term with a similar origin is the Greek calends meaning a time that doesn't exist: http://wordsmith.org/words/greek_calends.html]
dog's letter
(dogz LET-uhr) noun
The letter R

[From Latin littera canina, literally dog's letter. In Latin the sound of the letter R was trilled. Think Grrr! of a snarling dog. A good example of a trilling R is none other that the Spanish word for a dog: perro.]

sheep's eyes
(sheepz eyez) noun
Shy amorous glances.

[The origin of the term is uncertain. Various theories attribute the term to Gaelic or any of the various Germanic languages. It has also been suggested that the term refers to the docile appearance of a sheep's eyes.]

donkey's years
(DONG-keez yeerz) noun
A very long time

[Probably from the punning reference to a donkey's long ears.]

cat's paw
(cats paw) noun
1. Someone used as a tool by another.
2. A kind of knot used to connect a rope to an object
3. A breeze that ruffles the surface of the water over a small area.

[The first sense of the term comes from the fable in which a monkey uses a cat to pull roasting chestnuts from a fire. The monkey gobbles up all the nuts while the cat is left with a burnt paw. See Edwin Landseer's 1824 painting Cat's Paw: http://museumsyndicate.com/item.php?item=2992

The second sense refers to the supposed resemblance of such a knot to a cat's paw: http://images.google.com/images?q=cat

The origin of the third sense is unknown.]

Thursday, 10 January 2008

10 January 2008 - An Image A Day


Well, they may not always be mine, but sometimes they are mine, but not from that day.

Christmas is an interesting time of the year. The decorations vary from thrown up haphazardly to amazing rigidity, to fun but cluttered. And sometimes, rarely but sometimes, there is breathtaking.

This is breathtaking.
It is simple but so elegant, and it is in a lovely, sunwashed room (when there is sun) with happy furniture, gorgeous views and a big beautiful fireplace. There are some things in life that you would not think to ask for... and I have them. I have them where I work!

Wednesday, 9 January 2008

9 January 2008 - An Image a Day


Another sunrise - I love sunrises. It is a life-affirming thing to see the large fiery disc of the sun come up over the horizon. The dark red slowly changing to bright yellow light is amazing. The sun gives us life - something that no one really thinks about. I'm not sure how that happens, that the most basic scientific knowledge is not thought about. People really don't often live in the world, you know.


The airplane just above and slightly to the right makes an interesting addition... I did not see that when I took the image.
How can you not love this?

Tuesday, 8 January 2008

8 January 2008 - An Image A Day


There are some things in life you are meant to see. This is one of those things. The sun rising through the trees at work. This also had the strange effective of making it look like there was another sun. In the trees!

Monday, 7 January 2008

Bigger, Stronger

I wanna be bigger, stronger, drive a faster car,
To take me anywhere in seconds,
To take me anywhere I wanna go,
And drive around a faster car,
I will settle for nothing less,
I will settle for nothing less.

I wanna be big and strong and drive a faster car
At the touch of a button,
I can go anywhere I wanna go,
And drive around my faster car,
I will settle nothing less,
I will settle nothing less.

I think I want to change my altitude
I think I want to change my altitude
I think I want to change my atmosphere

I wanna be bigger, stronger, drive a faster car,
To take me anywhere in seconds,
To take me anywhere I wanna go,
And drive around my faster car,
I will settle nothing less,
I will settle nothing less.

I think I want to change my altitude
I think I want to change my position
I think I want to change my atmosphere

Bigger and better
Bigger and better
Bigger and better
Bigger and better

Bigger, stronger, drive a faster car
At the touch of a button
I'll go anywhere I want to go...

The Scientist

Come up to meet you,
Tell you I'm sorry,
You don't know how lovely you are

I had to find you,
Tell you I need you,
Tell you I set you apart

Tell me your secrets,
And ask me your questions,
Oh let's go back to the start

Runnin' in circles,
Comin' up tails,
Heads on the science apart

Nobody said it was easy,
It's such a shame for us to part
Nobody said it was easy,
No one ever said it would be so hard

Oh take me back to the start
I was just guessin',
At numbers and figures,

Pullin' the puzzles apart
Questions of science,
Science and progress,
Do not speak as loud as my heart

Tell me you love me,
Come back and haunt me,
Oh on I rush to the start

Runnin' in circles,
Chasin' our tails,
Comin' back as we are

Nobody said it was easy,
Oh it's such a shame for us to part
Nobody said it was easy,
No one ever said it would be so hard

I'm goin' back to the start
Ahhooooooooooooooooo
Ahhooooooooooooooooo
Ahhooooooooooooooooo
Ahhooooooooooooooooo

Things I Don't Understand

How tides control the sea, and what becomes of me
How little things can slip out of your hands
How often people change, no two remain the same
Why things don't always turn out as you plan

These are things that I don't understand
Yeah, these are things that I don't understand

I can't, and I cant decide
Wrong, all my wrong from right
Day, all my day from night
Dark, all my dark from light
I live, but I love this life

How infinite is space, and who decides your fate
Why everything will dissolve into sand
How to avoid defeat, when truth and fiction meet
Why nothing ever turns out as you plan

These are things that I don't understand
Yeah, these are things that I don't understand

I can't, and I cant decide
Wrong, all my wrong from right
Day, all my day from night
Or dark, all my dark from light
I live, but I love this life

7 January 2008 - An Image A Day


I drove into work as usual, and look - another total horse's ass was on there with me. Musical lanes, tailgating, speeding by in the wrong lane. Unreal. So here you go. Avoid this moron! Driving a Mercedes is never an excuse or a right to drive poorly. I find it staggering that this happens. How does spending too much money on a car make it okay to kill oneself or others. And all this to get to work. Not for nothing, but if you managed your time better you would not need to cut people off and drive like a total moron.

Murder (These are Lyrics!)

Murder, they're coming to get us,
Coming to get us and the way we hide
Murder, see it all around ya,
See it all around us, and the way we hide

Murder, they're coming to get us,
They're coming to get us and the way we hide
Way we hide

Tie me to a tree
Tie my hands above my head
Sing a song to me
Sing a song like what you said

'Cause they're gonna murder me
They're gonna track me down
And even before I sleep
I crumble down

Come spit at us
Come and throw your weight around
Come and fight with us
Try and knock us to the ground

(Sing it) Oh they're gonna murder me
And they're gonna take me down
And even before I sleep
I scream murder

Oh now what could it possibly gain?
Oh what could it possibly gain?
Oh now what could it possibly gain?
Oh yeah what could it possibly gain?

Murder, they're coming to get us,
Coming to get us and the way we hide
Murder, see it all around ya,
See it all around us, and the way we hide

Murder, they're coming to get us,
Coming to get us and the way we hide
Murder, see it all around ya,
See it all around ya and the way we hide

Sleeping Sun

Climb up your mountain
Nineteen and countin'
You have got seven,
I have got one

Blinded and hurtin'
This I'm deserving
I've got my secrets
You've only got the sleeping sun

When you've got a secret
Then you've got to keep it
When you have a question
Answers will come

Running and hiding
Take and dividing
You've got your secrets
I've only got a sleeping sun

Sleeping Sun
Singing
Oooh um
Ohhhh oh...
Ahhh ahh
Oh oh Oh oh Oh ohh

And you, as I, saw
A piece in a jigsaw
Run up and around it
Jump up real tall

Run round the houses,
North and the souths'
You've got your answers
We have both got a sleeping sun

Sleeping Sun
Singing
Oooh um
Ohhhh oh...
Ahhh ahh
Oh ohOh oh
Oh ohh


Just when I think I have them all, I find new (for me) Coldplay songs. What would the world be with out Coldplay? And you can't just say Chris Martin; he's wonderful, but you need the whole thing. What would a symphony be with the horn section? You see what I mean, right? Chris Martin is an intregal part of the whole, but still a part. I love the whole very much.

These songs are delightful. More will follow.

Sunday, 6 January 2008

A Picture A Day - 6 January


Sunday... I spent a lot of it at work, but sometimes you just have to do what you have to do. I like it there a LOT this time of the year, even though I love it there all the time. But this is a respite from the normal insanity. It is quiet and I am trying to get everything done. I'm setting myself for failure.

Even so...
Is there anything better than coming home to kitties? There are, but not many. My kitties are wonderful, and they never want more than love, food and a clean litter box, and a lot more love. They don't ask for the car keys or why I spend time at work. Not that Luis does, he has had years of working a million hours and really late, and now it is my turn.

6 January 2008 - An Image A Day


Well, this is a wierd image. But never let it be said I don't do weird things...

I took this while going through the car wash... I cannot explain the colours - maybe the soap or the wax (I have never heard of coloured wax but who knows. Or maybe it is just in there for the entertainment value. Who knows. I like it, though.

A.W.A.D. - Newly Coined Words

The new year in A.Word.A.Day begins with new words, relatively speaking.

This week we'll feature words coined in the last decade or so. Of course, new year is an artificial date, the wheel of time keeps revolving, and just like that, new words are coined all the time. Some stay and enter the dictionaries while others are thrown off by the moving wheel.

When I say new words, I don't mean words coined in the last year. Lexicographers watch words for their stamina, to see if a word is going to stick around in the language, and only then add it to their dictionaries. May you always find a word when you need it, in the new year!

wiki
(wiki) noun
A collaborative Web site that can be edited by anyone.

[From Hawaiian wiki (quick). First citation of the word in English is from 1995, when programmer Ward Cunningham used it in naming his new software WikiWikiWeb.]

adultescent
(uh-duhl-TES-uhnt) noun
An adult whose activities and interests are typically associated with youth culture.

[Blend of adult and adolescent. The term was first noticed in 1996 in a trade publication called Precision Marketing. Marketers love to come up with new ways to slice their demographics. Another such term is tween: http://wordsmith.org/words/tween.html]

commentariat
(kom-uhn-TAR-ee-uht) noun
The group of people who provide opinion and analysis of events in the news.

[Blend of commentator and proletariat. The term was first noticed in a 1993 article in the Washington Post.]

chav
(chav) noun
A youth whose behavior is marked by ignorance, aggression, and a fondness for jewelry and clothing.

[Of uncertain origin. Perhaps from Romany chav (child) or from shortening of Chatham, the name of a town in Kent, UK. The first print citation of the term in the OED is from a 2002 article in The Observer (London).]

carbon-neutral
(KAHR-buhn NOO-truhl, NYOO-) adjective
Adding no net carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

[A greenhouse gas such as carbon dioxide is a contributor to global warming. Carbon-neutral means contributing zero total emission of the gas into the atmosphere. The earliest citation of the term is found in a 1992 article in The Independent (London, UK).]