Saturday, 29 March 2008

Smurfs on Ebay!

There truly is nothing you can't find on ebay!

It began so innocently - well, as innocently as anything with me and shopping can be. I began with looking for Old Farmers Almanacs. I bid on the first one - from 1968 - and thus began a couple of months of bidding on many, many Farmers Almanacs. I have almost all of them from 1850 - 1900, then from 1954 to current. I have some from the early 1800s - 1814, 1816... but then it is spotty. Same with the period between 1903 and 1955 - I have some of the 40s, but only one from the 20s and maybe none from the 30s.

I just loved getting them, coming home and finding a new thing waiting for me that is not a bill or junk. (I'll be honest, I get far more junk mail than bills, which is good.) For a short time, maybe a month or so, I did very little to no shopping. I was holding on to money. Then around Thanksgiving I had the idea to look up bank notes. Wow!

There are a gazillion bank notes! I keep wanting to get a US bank note from prior to 1921, when they came up with the currently used plates - bills prior to that were quite a bit larger. However, no matter how reasonable the cost at the outset, by the time the bidding was halfway through, one ten dollar bill would be up to $90. Yikes. I spend too much, but I usually do it in small increments... I think the most I spent on any one item was $70. Most purchases are in the $10 - $20 range.

I bought bank notes like crazy from end of November through just around the New Year.

Then I did some purchasing here and there but nothing of much consequence... a jigsaw puzzle and a couple of small things. But then when I was sick I had the bright idea of looking up Yankee Candles. BIG mistake. I have just gotten through a very ambitious spell of candle shopping - not flavours that I could find by shopping at Yankee Candle, Illuminations or White Barn, but flavours that haven't been produced in ages. What a great find! Garden Cucumber was the first Yankee Candle flavour that I ever bought, about 8 or 9 years ago. And I have two now! I had the last remnants of one that I'd gotten but wouldn't burn because once it was done, that was it.

Not any more.

Jungle Orchid, Macintosh, Fireside, Garden Cucumber, Black Currant, Country Pear... oh, life is so good! The house smells like magic! I also found Green Grass and Rosewood Tea and Basil & Thyme. Yummy!

The candle buying has suddenly slowed, as is typical with me, but I made the huge mistake of looking up Smurfs. Oh, come now, you know what Smurfs are, right? When I was ten I discovered Smurfs at the Pickwick Village store. I think it was kind of like a card store. I would go in there every week with at least come of my allowance and any unspent luch money to buy Smurfs when they got them. I even had a couple of different mushroom houses and accessories for them.

I currently have six bids that all end around 2030 on Monday evening. Good thing - I'm actually still semi-conscious at that hour. We shall see what happens with them. There are a couple of other bidders that are interested in the same Smurfs. Sometimes, these bidding things can get very intense.

Now they still make them - they've been making them for fifty years now! And each year they make 8 new Smurfs, that's it. Of course, I'm 28 years behind on the ones just from the era I bought them originally. Then there are all the ones made prior to that, back to - yikes! - 1958. And the ones from around 1985 forward... man. I could have my own Smurf army!
Many of these Smurfs are ones I had as a kid - but there are some here I had never seen! The astronaut Smurf (a particularly good find) and the snorkeling Smurf are certainly ones I don't remember. And as I mentioned, there are now 50 years worth of these things. Even if they only made 8 new ones a year for fifty years, the math is still astronical - 400 different Smurfs! And I know that there were years when they made far more than that in one year.

I think I need a bigger house...

An Interesting Wife Swap

Usually it is so easy to immediately judge these people, but I must admit that these families really beat the normal horrors that show up on this. It was a really refreshing and pleasant surprise.

The producers are obviously finding more and more diametricly opposite to create more tension. Often by the end of the show a couple of lessons are learned, but during the show a lot of the value is destroyed by the fighting that occurs between these husbands who suddenly have "wives" that are totally alien to their normal lives. Mostly it is good, and it brings a new point of view to overly and under-structured families. On the other hand, pairing the party-animal, pampered, useless wife with a army sargent (I know that is spelled wrong...), straight-and-narrow, rod-up-his-ass man who primarily works and doesn't have much household involvement. That is a recipe for disaster.

This time, there was the Blankenships, from [I forgot].

The other family was the [whomevers], from [I forgot]. Mom is a free-wheeling, over-made up woman with very platinum (another chemistry experiment gone wrong) lank hair, who parties by night, and cleans the house and waits on this useless, short, dumpy biker dude while dressed like a hooker. Seriously, who does housework in high heels?! Their one child, a twelve year old boy Justin, was a total video game junkie who ruled the roost after his father. Oh, useless! The father was adamant that he is the king. Oh, wrong attitude! And to think he found a woman - any woman - who would put up with this shit! Luis loves to joke around - "Get me chips, woman!" - just to see me give him a completely withering look and say, "Get it yourself, subgenius." He laughs at that. This guy thinks he's in possession of the right to be that way!

We really thought this would just be another fighting match between completely opposite couples but I must admit, we were very happy with the Blankenship father, a stolid, steady 56-year-old man who has a very pleasant demeanor and really rolled with the changes.

The premise is that each wife creates a "manual" for the other to go by for the first week. (Clearly the producers coach if not outright write the manuals; at least for one family - some of these people are far lower on the intelligence food chain than one should wish to admit. Of course, Americans as a whole have a lowest common denominator that is beyond embarrassing. Also, I'm sure that the couples are observed by people who can verbalise the dynamics of the family because the manuals tend to be written with a perspiscatiousness that these families would not have about themselves.) The wives have to abide by the normal household rules for the initial week. Some do well, others not so much. They all make a huge effort to abide by the rules, but the truly successful do it without complaint - their true feelings come out in the interview process. The less successful ones comply but bitch and moan the whole way through.

The moment - and I do mean the moment - that first week ends, they institute their own rules onto a usually unwilling and unwitting household - the wife who involves her kids too much in chores and not give them enough time to themselves immediately gives marching orders to kids who never do anything. You can imagine what a lead balloon that was...

Another post that fell by the wayside, this one from 21 February - oops...

A Night of Drinking

Oh, now, wait! You don't think I was out drinking, do you?!

Whew! Anyone who knows me knows I'm not ever going to engage in a night of drinking - especially alcohol! No, that is not what I meant. And it was not like going to my family's Christmas soiree and watching my uncle get hammered. Nor was it like going to the dinner in early January in a wine cellar (OK, I felt a little uncomfortable with the others' drinking, but hey, I wasn't keeping me up nights...

...figuratively or literally.

Last night I did not get to bed until 0400. It was hideous. We had two contractors come to the house. One is someone I know and he is a great person (and very good-looking!) and he and his partner are extremely knowledgeable. They took a million measurements and did all kinds of scoping and then spent two more hours talking to us about different options. And this partner! Holy cow! A Norse god - that's what I told Luis. Kevin is medium height, good shape and a face that invites harassment (he's really cute but in an adult sexy sort of way). When Erik got out of the truck, I am sure my face gave me a way! I had to have been staring. He was getting out of the monster truck... and just kept getting! He is very likely taller than Ray - who is 6'4" - and muscular and good-looking (sort of cute, but more hunky). A Nordic god.

I wonder if I was drooling.

Well, back to the night of drinking.

The contractor kids were here until just before 2200. And at 2200 we were blown out for a call - an MVC - on New Road. It was terribly windy and cold out, and now we have to stand outside extricating a complaining patient from his vehicle. We got there and I could see the truck, but not the damage. It was frigid with the wind howling through and my hands were hurting from the chill.

This is from the 21st of March... I guess I started it and never finished. So here it is! There is a posting from 27 March that covers the whole night and one more drunk on Tuesday!

The End - Celebrity Apprentice

Sometimes one gets lucky and the reality show is not total drek. I really did not have a high opinion of The Apprentice. At first I thought this is a publicity stunt to just show what an ass Donald Trump is. I was right, but it still turned out to be a pretty good show.

So this season it was the celebrity version of The Apprentice; ten "celebrities" (and here I use the term rather loosely) are brought in to make money for their choice of charity. They each had their different charities. Some made money for their charity and some did not.

The contestants: (in order)

Tiffany Fallon (2005 Playboy Playmate of the Year) - A totally unmemorable woman who may be hot but so what? And I hate to say this, but Playmates are 1. a dime a dozen, 2. being Playmate of the Year 2005 doesn't make you business savvy, 3. being a playmate doesn't confer intelligence or interest in anything. And I do know one or two playmates - this is not one of them.

Nadia Comaneci (Olympic gold-medal gymnast) - OK, anyone in my age group or older has heard of Nadia and may even remember her from the Olympics - I do. Again, this does not make her qualified. Not to mention that there are much more recent athletes who are more of celebrities than Nadia. Short-lived and unsurprisingly so.

Gene Simmons (KISS frontman) - Well, we all know Gene Simmons, right? Big mouth, the tongue, the days of dressing up crazy and having big hair and bigger shoes. Forget that aging has not been his friend; it hasn't done anything for his personality, either. I could never tell if he was being funny or was a harassment case looking for a place to happen. In any event, describing him as a abrasive, arrogant and untreachable works. Arrogant is the biggest descriptor. He was quite annoying and I was happy to see him go.

Jennie Finch (Olympic gold-medal softball player) - Another totally unmemorable person and again, not really qualified to be called a celebrity. If she qualifies, so do I... and I know no one has heard of me. Once again, he could have shopped out this spot a lot better.

Vincent Pastore (The Sopranos) - Now, I really like him and he was interesting to see. However, in this last episode he really presented as though he did not know the difference between reality and the character played in The Sopranos. He spoke and acted as if he was Pussy in the show that made him famous.

Nely Galan (producer, Telemundo) - And yet another unknown. She's butt-ugly and I did not have any caring for her from the getgo. And she is another unknown. I'm not sure how they come to the conclusion that she is a celebrity. Maybe she is in a Spainsh-speaking country, but here, she is just another person walking down the street.

Marilu Henner (Taxi) - She was fun and bouncy and very ADD. I wasn't too surprised to see her go. In her case, maybe she would be an excellent poster child for Ritalin. Still, she was a good worker and I had no issues with her being listed as a celebrity.
Tito Ortiz (UFC champion) - I have heard of him, once or twice. I imagine he is well known. Nice guy, but not project manager material. He tended to be invisible. So much so that I often forgot he had any involvement at all in the show.
Omarosa (Apprentice Season 1 contestant) - The spawn of Satan and not - by any means - a celebrity. Not even close. She was reviled in the first season of Apprentice and she certainly made a poorer, pushier presentation in this show. She also wore inappropriate clothing; she was less competent in this show but she was usually not as bad as the others fired earlier and then she dodged a couple of bullets by being on the winning team. While I may not be a Piers fan, she was completely out-of-line and so horribly unprofessional with him that she should have been fired in that episode.

Stephen Baldwin (The Usual Suspects) - Here is a conundrum. He reminded me of Mitch in looks (in a strange way - but none-the-less...), was a former drug addict and loose cannon who turned his life around but in the process became a Born-Again Christian (as so many do... shiver), then became a deacon or minister or whatever the religious heirarchy is called. Ugh. He could get a little overbearing with the religious references and being holier-than-thou; however, he was overall a good guy. He certainly had an interesting dynamic with Piers Morgan.
Lennox Lewis (former heavyweight champion) - Very sweet; wholly unqulified to manage a team or run anything. He was not invisible like Tito but he was usually used as the face to launch the product. He did not mind the role and he was likable, but not a good match for being the project manager.
Carol Alt (model/actress) - Stunning and somewhat smart, but she made a couple of huge - and I do mean huge - gaffs for which she should have been fired. The first time she made the astronomical mistake, she was on the winning team. So she was protected from being fired. The second time, Marilou Henner clearly threw herself and another teammate (was it Omarosa?) under the bus wheels to save Carol. I forget who she brought in (I'm sure it was Omarosa and someone else) but she should have brought in Carol. So the striking Carol got to make it to the next to last episode.

Trace Adkins (country music singer) - The winner by far. I can ony say good things about Trace, although at the outset, I felt he was too sweet and quiet to pull this off. But he turned out to be the quiet driving force behind many great ideas and his personality is such that he is lovable but strong - in a totally understated way that garners total, unwaivering support from his adherents - which everyone is.
Piers Morgan (America's Got Talent) - A completely ruthless, all-about-winning kind of guy. He is not a totally evil person but he is not a nice person. The one time I was on his side was the episode where Omarosa was terribly abusive to him. There he was the victim - not that he could not stand up to her, but that she said such disgusting, vile things to him. He's an ass, but credit where it's due - he'd have been well within his rights to slap her, and he did not. A physical assault might have made up the verbal one she gave him.

Well, Piers Morgan made a lot of money, there is no arguing with that. He whipped out the phone, contacted many very impressive people and I won't argue that he worked hard to put the magic rolodex together. No one is born with that (unless he was royalty but honestly, he's another overseas wonder that happens to be on this show. At least, I never heard of him until this. Then again, don't go by me for someone's popularity - I'm usually the last to know.

I have to give Trace credit anyway for dealing with the Backstreet Boys (who are more like the Backstreet Middle Aged Guys) with their list of demands (so to speak). The scene in the final episode was the best! They called Trace (or he checked in on them) and one of them forgot his black (wait for it) nail polish! Trace had to go out and get it for the crazy guy who'd forgotten in. He made the funniest faces and was totally incensed that he had to go out and buy this.

But my vote, money maker or not, was likely where everyone else's was - Trace Adkins. Tall, good-looking, sweet, loving father of two with an adorable wife and that quiet authority that seems like commeraderie, the quintessential leader. He might take longer to make the same amount of money, but he won't steam roll everyone in the process. Piers looks out strictly for Piers.

Friday, 28 March 2008

The Gods Save Me From the Stupid!

Please let me live and educate someone - anyone!

I seem to be surrounded by the unbelievably stupid. They are everywhere. On the telly especially, I suppose - the television attracts really abysmally stupid people. Without writers, this was underscored by the incredible amount of the incredulous - all serving themselves up for the lowest common denominator!

I sound like Charles Emerson Winchester III (brilliantly played by David Ogden Stiers, one of my personal favourites - see Doc Hollywood) from M*A*S*H, but honestly it is staggering how dumb John Q. Public is. I am always saying that television panders to the lowest common denominator, which is really low. And reality shows are the living proof.

Tonight we watched Wednesday night's episode of Wife Swap - talk about the lowest common denominator! This is it. They find one family that is intelligent, has an overdeveloped sense of micromanagement of their kids and a big house - usually immaculate.

The other family is usually uneducated, in a hovel or a (this time) a trailer home, and so unregimented that they might benefit more from Supernanny than this. However, no matter how negative the mix, both families come away learning something. This episode had a woman who had her two daughters overtaxed in activities - house cleaning, sports and learning (if you can believe it) Latin; she had thin lips and they disappeared entirely when she was angry or frustrated. She and her husband have a huge house that was immaculate - she farmed out the cleaning to her workaholic office husband and the daughters as she only liked to do ironing (for the life of me, I cannot imagine why).

The other family had a woman who was rather corpulent but with a good sense of humour, let her kids do anything they wanted, eat all the crap in the world and was slovenly - in their tiny trailer home that was going everywhere with their (sitting down?) carnival! Can you say gypsies? I have nothing against gypsies and I know they call themselves travelers, but we know that thievery goes well with cheesy carnies and bad rides that only by a miracle pass the "physical". They homeschool their three bratty kids.

The woman with the overdeveloped "keep the kids" busy attitude went to become mother and wife to the carny owner. The overwieght woman went to live in what had to look like a palatial estate with the boring office guy. She walked in and almost fell over from how clean it was. The other woman would not sleep in the trailer. She said it was too close, but the fact is had it been clean she might - maybe - have tried it. However, it was a pigsty.

The carny woman introduced fun and not living by a rigid schedule and threw out the dancing, golf and latin lessons. She had the husband take all of the classes the duaghters took after he completed his day of work. She tried to get them to live in a trailer but while it looked clean, they showed flies on the window and I know I was turning green. They wouldn't do it. I can't hold it against them. I wouldn't either.

The kids with the carny had no structure. They'd hang out at the carny the whole time, they were corpulent as well - the oldest child at ten was considerably overwieght. They ate nothing but the food served at the carny - disgusting. I've tried to eat at carnivals. Other than the soft ice cream, I wouldn't touch the food. It is not digestable.

The kids in the palatial estate had too much structure and no relationship with their parents. They did nothing but school and sports and weren't being kids. They had no idea what to talk about at the dinner table. It was amazing.

The carny kids could not speak English. It was their only language. Luis commented that if they are just growing up to carny people, so what if their English was appalling. So what? It does not matter what you do in life. You should be able to speak your own language flawlessly.


And there it is, folks... the lowest common denominator!

Ebay 100 Turquoise Star!

Check this out:

Isn't that neat!

I was waiting for this, since I'd bid on and and won a lot of candles and other items and had for the last two weeks, been hovering in the mid-90s. Of course, now I won't see a new star until I have done 500 transactions... and since I am only a buyer, there is no reaching that point for quite some time.

So from 27 September, when I first logged into ebay until 27 March (I reached 100 yesterday or maybe the day before), I have purchased items from over 100 people. When you buy ten items from a seller, you received ten different feedback blurbs, but only one credit. That means I've probably purchased around 150 items.

First it was Old Farmer's Almanacs... then in October I discovered bank notes. Through the holidays I was a huge purchaser of bank notes. Then in February I became an inordinate shopper of candles - the fragrances that are no longer made! I also found a few jigsaw puzzles that I had to have. And now, Smurfs (don't ask - that is a whole 'nother posting!). Who knows what the next category will be!

And now, time to go to work!

A.W.A.D. - Yiddish Words

A language is the soul of its people. This is nowhere illustrated more profoundly than in the Yiddish language, the language of Jews of eastern and central Europe and their descendants. A tongue full of wit and charm, Yiddish embodies deep appreciation of human behavior in all its colorful manifestations. The word Yiddish comes from German Judisch meaning Jewish. But it is not the same as Hebrew, even though it is written in Hebrew script.

Here's what Yiddish writer Isaac Bashevis Singer had to say about the language in his 1978 Nobel Prize acceptance speech:

"Yiddish language - a language of exile, without a land, without frontiers, not supported by any government, a language which possesses no words for weapons, ammunition, military exercises, war tactics... There is a quiet humor in Yiddish and a gratitude for every day of life, every crumb of success, each encounter of love. The Yiddish mentality is not haughty. It does not take victory for granted. It does not demand and command but it muddles through, sneaks by, smuggles itself amidst the powers of destruction, knowing somewhere that God's plan for Creation is still at the very beginning... In a figurative way, Yiddish is the wise and humble language of us all, the idiom of frightened and hopeful Humanity."

Many of the everyday English language words such as bagel, klutz, and kibitz are terms from Yiddish. This week we'll look at a few other Yiddishisms that have enriched the English language.

(SHNOR-uhr) noun
One who habitually takes advantage of others' generosity, often through an air of entitlement.

[From Yiddish, from German schnurren (to purr, hum, or whir), from the sound of a beggar's musical instrument.]

(meh-GIL-uh) noun
A long, tedious account.

[From Yiddish megile (scroll), from Hebrew megillah, from galal (to roll). The term alludes to the length of the text in the Book of Esther which is read in its entirety, twice, during Purim, a Jewish festival.]

(shnook) noun
A stupid, easily deceived person.

[From Yiddish shnuk (snout) or from German schnucke (a small sheep).]

meshuga or meshugga
(muh-SHOOG-uh) adjective
Crazy; stupid.

[From Yiddish meshuge, from Hebrew meshugga.]

(shlump) noun
A dull or slovenly person.

[From Yiddish shlumperdik (unkempt, sloppy).]

Wednesday, 26 March 2008


At some point I should be able to log in for an extended period. Four drunks in five days is notable!

Maybe tomorrow night when I'm on shift. Nothing like waiting for the next call and blogging! At least I know my four dedicated readers will enjoy it (as will I for the pleasure of publishing the sheer, screaming ludicrous nature of people!

I miss writing as it is. Six days without a word is WAAAAAY too long!

Friday, 21 March 2008

A.W.A.D. - Vegertarianism/Animal Treatment

Guest wordsmith Matt Ball (veganpa at writes: Growing up, I was a big fan of Carl Sagan, and I dreamed of exploring the universe, expanding the frontier of human knowledge and vision. I started my college to become a rocket scientist, with the plan of working for NASA.

But fate intervened on the first day of college when I met my roommate, a big, strong guy, who was not shy about explaining his vegetarianism or what hidden realities my eating meat supported. After a false start, I went vegetarian - I simply found the cruelties of meat production too severe to continue to rationalize away.

Shortly thereafter, I met Jack Norris and started learning more about animal exploitation in this world. I decided I needed to do more than be a vegetarian. With ten other activists, Jack and I held a three-day Fast for Farm Animals in front of a Cincinnati slaughterhouse (three days being the amount of time farmed animals often go without food before slaughter).

(This week's guest wordsmith Matt Ball is co-founder and executive director of the non-profit organization Vegan Outreach.)

(VEE-guhn) noun
One who does not consume animal products.

Made with no animal ingredients.

[Coined in 1944 by Donald Watson (1910-2005) to describe a "non-dairy vegetarian"; formed from the first three and last two letters of the word vegetarian.]

(SPEE-shee-ziz-uhm, -see-ziz-uhm) noun
The assumption of superiority of humans over other animal species, especially to justify their exploitation.

[Coined by psychologist Richard D. Ryder (born 1940) in 1973. From Latin species (appearance, kind, form), from specere (to look). Ultimately from the Indo-European root spek- (to observe) which is also the ancestor of such words as suspect, spectrum, bishop (literally, overseer), espionage, despise, telescope, spectator, and spectacles.]

factory farming
(FAK-tuh-ree FAHR-ming) noun
An industrialized system of producing meat, eggs, and milk in large-scale facilities where the animal is treated as a machine.

[From the idea of operating a large-scale farm as an efficient factory.]

(kar-TEE-zhuhn) adjective
Of or relating to Descartes, his theories, methods, or philosophy, especially its emphasis on mechanistic interpretation.

[From Cartesius, Latin form of Descartes, after philosopher René Descartes (1596-1650).]

(KUH-roo-na) noun
Loving compassion.

[From Sanskrit karuna (compassion).]

Tuesday, 18 March 2008

The Vanishing Rings of Saturn

March 18, 2008: Saturn: jewel of the solar system, taker of breaths, ringed beauty. Even veteran astronomers can't help but gasp when they see her through a small telescope.

Red Alert: Saturn's rings are vanishing.

Around the world, amateur astronomers have noticed the change; Saturn's wide open rings are rapidly narrowing into a thin line. Efrain Morales Rivera sends these pictures taken through a backyard telescope in Aguadilla, Puerto Rico:

"The rings have narrowed considerably in the last year," he reports. "The Cassini division (a dark gap in the rings) is getting hard to see."

Four hundred years ago, the same phenomenon puzzled Galileo. Peering through a primitive spy glass, he discovered Saturn's rings in 1610 and immediately wrote to his Medici patrons: "I found another very strange wonder, which I should like to make known to their Highnesses…." He was dumbfounded, however, when the rings winked out little more than a year later.

What happened?

The same thing that's happening now: we're experiencing a "ring plane crossing." As Saturn goes around the sun, it periodically turns its rings edge-on to Earth—once every 14-to-15 years. Because the rings are so thin, they can actually disappear when viewed through a small telescope.

In the months ahead, Saturn's rings will become thinner and thinner until, on Sept. 4, 2009, they vanish. When this happened to Galileo in 1612, he briefly abandoned his study of the planet. Big mistake: ring plane crossings are good times to discover new Saturnian moons and faint outer rings.

It's also a good time to behold Saturn's curiously blue north pole. In 2005 the Cassini spacecraft flew over Saturn's northern hemisphere and found the skies there as azure as Earth itself. Saturn is a planet of golden clouds, but for some reason clouds at high northern latitudes have cleared, revealing a dome of surprising blue.

Right: Cassini's view of Saturn's blue north: full story.

For years, only Cassini has enjoyed this view because from Earth, the blue top of Saturn was hidden behind the rings. No more: "Now that Saturn's rings are only open 8 degrees, we can finally view its northern hemisphere's beautiful teal blue colored belts and zones, which really did look blue through my 10-inch telescope," reports Dan Petersen of Racine, Wisconsin, who took this picture on Feb. 24, 2008.

Galileo never understood the true nature of Saturn's rings. He didn't know that they were a disk-shaped swarm of orbiting moonlets ranging in size from microscopic dust to tumbling houses. (Scientists still aren't sure, but they may be debris from a shattered moon.) He didn't even know the rings were rings. Through his 17th-century telescope, they looked more like ears or planetary lobes of some kind.

Yet, somehow, his intuition guided him to make a correct prediction: "they'll be back," or Italian words to that effect. And he was right. Saturn's rings opened up again and scientists resumed their study. In 1659, Christaan Huygens correctly explained the periodic disappearances as ring plane crossings. In 1660, Jean Chapelain argued that Saturn's rings were not solid, but made instead of many small particles independently orbiting Saturn. His correct suggestion was not widely accepted for nearly two hundred years.

Above: Saturn's rings are wide but very thin. Astronomers using the Hubble Space Telescope captured this image of the rings edge-on in 1995. Star-like objects in the ring plane are icy satellites. [more]

Almost 27 ring plane crossings later, we still marvel at Saturn. Even with rings diminished, she is still a breathtaking sight through the meanest of telescopes. Indeed, this is a good week to look.

On Tuesday, March 18th (sky map), and Wednesday, March 19th (sky map), the nearly-full Moon and Saturn will be lined up in the same part of the evening sky. That makes Saturn unusually easy to find: Go outside after sunset and look around for the Moon; Saturn is the bright golden "star" nearby.

Point your telescope and, well, just try not to gasp.

Looking Ahead: If you miss the March 18-19 encounter, try again on April 14-15. The Moon and Saturn will be close together and the rings even narrower. Mark your calendar!

A St. Patrick's Day Sun!

This is a really cool image:

This is a real image of the sun, but it's been run through a program to change the colour. Pretty cool, huh? This is not something you would see in space. Stars come in a multitude of colours, but not green.

They come in white, yellow, orange, red, blue and black [holes], but I don't think there are any other colours. Our sun is yellow but it began as white and has been slowly cooling over the last... I don't know... 600 million years? It will be many, many more years before this sun uses up its seemingly endless store of helium.

I found this great Web site - It has a lot of great astronomy information, such as:

"Scientists track solar cycles by counting sunspots -- cool planet-sized areas on the Sun where intense magnetic loops poke through the star's visible surface.

Counting sunspots is not as straightforward as it sounds. Suppose you looked at the Sun through a pair of (properly filtered) low power binoculars -- you might be able to see two or three large spots. An observer peering through a high-powered telescope might see 10 or 20. A powerful space-based observatory could see even more -- say, 50 to 100. Which is the correct sunspot number?

There are two official sunspot numbers in common use. The first, the daily "Boulder Sunspot Number," is computed by the NOAA Space Environment Center using a formula devised by Rudolph Wolf in 1848: R=k (10g+s), where R is the sunspot number; g is the number of sunspot groups on the solar disk; s is the total number of individual spots in all the groups; and k is a variable scaling factor (usually <1)>
The Boulder number (reported daily on is usually about 25% higher than the second official index, the "International Sunspot Number," published daily by the Sunspot Index Data Center in Belgium. Both the Boulder and the International numbers are calculated from the same basic formula, but they incorporate data from different observatories.

Right: Rudolf Wolf devised the basic formula for calculating sunspots in 1848. Today, Wolf sunspot counts continue, since no other index of the sun's activity reaches into the past as far and as continuously. An avid astronomical historian and an unrivaled expert on sunspot lore, Wolf confirmed the existence of a cycle in sunspot numbers. He also more accurately determined the cycle's length to be 11.1 years by using early historical records. [more]

As a rule of thumb, if you divide either of the official sunspot numbers by 15, you'll get the approximate number of individual sunspots visible on the solar disk if you look at the Sun by projecting its image on a paper plate with a small telescope."

You may be sitting there thinking, "Who cares about sunspots?" Wel, if you value electronic communications of any kind, then you care - more than you think! These sunspots create a lot of solar activity and this can easily screw up all different kinds of frequency issues.

Monday, 17 March 2008

Spam King For the Hoosgow!

I SO love this:

"San Francisco - The notorious spammer authorities dubbed "the king of spam" is facing a possible 26-year jail sentence after pleading guilty in Seattle on Friday to charges of fraud and tax evasion.

Robert Soloway, 28, had already been found guilty of spam charges in several civil cases -- Microsoft won a $7.8 million judgment against him in 2005 -- but had avoided paying fines in those cases. The criminal charges to which he pleaded guilty on Friday followed his arrest in 2007 by the U.S. Justice Department.

He was arrested on criminal charges brought by the U.S. Department of Justice in May 2007. In a 2005 discussion group post, Soloway bragged, 'I've been sued for hundreds of millions of dollars and have had my business running for over 10 years without ever paying a dime regardless to the outcome of any lawsuits.'

That year, Soloway raked in more than $300,000 from his spam operations, according to his plea agreement. Soloway has avoided fines in the past, but this time around he may not be so lucky. In addition to the jail time he now faces, he has also agreed to discuss his financial assets while being monitored by a lie detector. While there have been hundreds of spam prosecutions in the United States, it is extremely rare for spammers to face criminal charges, and those involved in the matter say that Soloway's case could serve as a deterrent to other spammers.

In an interview last month, Microsoft senior attorney Aaron Kornblum said he thought the prosecution would make other spammers think twice. 'There have not been a large number of criminal CAN-SPAM prosecutions in the U.S.,' he said. 'This is significant.'
Soloway is set to be sentenced on June 20. The prosecution had been seeking $700,000 in damages when Soloway was first charged nearly a year ago."

This is heaven - especially if this smug bastard goes to jail. He is lower on the totem pole of morality than defense lawyers! At least to some small degree they are doing the right thing. This guy isn't doing anything that has benefitted anyone. Let him go - and no commuting his sentence for good behaviour! He can sit in a jail cell with no computer access dreaming of his money!

I like that.

Friday, 14 March 2008

A.W.A.D. - 14-Letter Words, 14-Letter Definitions

Back in 1994, when I founded on a Pi Day (March 14), I had no idea that one day we'd be celebrating its quadridecennial. Here's what the last 14 years look in numbers:

So far we have sent out 3,782 unique words and 297 AWADmail compilations to 640,000 present subscribers in 200 countries, that is more than 1.6 billion pieces of email. Well, this week we're seeing all things 14. We'll feature words that are 14 letters long, and define each of them in 14 letters.

(uh-KRIT-o-kro-muh-see) noun
Color blindness.

[From Greek akritos (undistinguishing) + chroma (color).]

(tin-ti-NAB-yuh-layt) verb intr.
To ring; to tinkle.

[From Latin tintinnabulum (bell), from tintinnare (to jingle).]

(tinkt-myoo-TAY-shuhn) noun
Change of colour.

[From Latin tinctus (a dyeing) + mutation (changing).]

(brob-ding-NAG-ee-uhn) adjective
Of gigantic size.

[After Brobdingnag, the fictional region where everything was enormous, in Jonathan Swift's satire Gulliver's Travels.]

(sur-kuhm-BEN-duh-buhs) noun

[From Latin circum- (around) + English bend + Latin -ibus.]

Thursday, 13 March 2008

Mercury's Mysterious Craters

Craters come in all shapes and sizes, some more bizarre than others. Recent photos of Mercury have revealed two new categories of crater that scientists are puzzling over how to explain.

When NASA's MESSENGER spacecraft flew by the planet Jan. 14 it snapped pictures of several craters with strange dark halos and one crater with a spectacularly shiny bottom.

"The halos are really exceptional," said MESSENGER science team member Clark Chapman of the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado. "We've never seen anything like them on Mercury before and their formation is a mystery."

Two of the craters are located in Mercury's giant Caloris Basin, a thousand-mile-wide depression formed billions of years ago when Mercury was struck by a comet or asteroid. The larger of the two is about 40 miles wide. Both craters have dark rims or "halos," and one is partially filled with an unknown shiny material. Chapman offered two possible explanations for the halos:

1. The Layer Cake Theory: There could be a layer of dark material under the surface of Caloris Basin, resulting in chocolate-colored rims around craters that penetrate to just the right depth. If such a subterranean layer exists, however, it cannot be unique to the Basin. "We've found a number of dark halos outside of Caloris as well."
2. The Impact Glass Model: Thermal energy from the impacts melted some of Mercury's rocky surface. Perhaps molten rock splashed to the edge of the craters where it re-solidified as a dark, glassy substance. Similar "impact melts" are found around craters on Earth and the moon. If this hypothesis is correct, future astronauts on Mercury exploring the crater rims would find themselves crunching across fields of tiny glass shards.

Chapman noted that the moon also has some dark haloed craters. "Tycho is a well-known example," he said. But lunar halos tend to be subtle and/or fragmentary. "The ones we see on Mercury are much more eye-catching and distinct."

The difference may be gravity. Lunar gravity is low. Any dark material flying out of a crater on the moon travels a great distance, spreading out in a diffusion that can be difficult to see. The surface gravity of Mercury, on the other hand, is more than twice as strong as the moon's. On Mercury, debris can't fly as far; it lands in concentrated form closer to the impact site where it can catch the attention of the human eye. None of these explanations account for the shiny-bottomed crater.

"That is an even bigger mystery," Chapman said. Superficially, the bright patch resembles an expanse of ice glistening in the sun, but that's not possible. The surface temperature of the crater at the time of the photo was around 400 degrees Celsius. Perhaps the shiny material is part of another subsurface layer, bright mixed with dark; that would be the Marbled Layer Cake Theory.

"I haven't heard any really convincing explanations from our science team," he said. "We don't yet know what the material is, why it is so bright, or why it is localized in this particular crater."

Fortunately, MESSENGER may have gathered the data researchers need to solve the puzzle. Spectrometers onboard the spacecraft scanned the craters during the flyby; the colors they measured should eventually reveal the minerals involved. "The data are still being calibrated and analyzed," Chapman said.

If they don't solve the mystery, scientists hope MESSENGER's two upcoming flybys — one in Oct. 2008 and another in Sept. 2009 — will do the trick.

Eventually, Chapmain said, "we'll get to the bottom of this mystery," and probably many more mysteries yet to be revealed.

War against Web tops music biz "screw-ups" list

The talent scout who turned down the Beatles has long been credited with committing the music industry's biggest gaffe.

But Dick Rowe's billion-dollar boo-boo has been beaten to the top spot on Blender magazine's list of the "20 biggest record company screw-ups of all time" by the failure of record companies to capitalize on the Internet.
The major labels took top dishonors for driving file-sharing service Napster out of business in 2001, instead of figuring out a way to make money from its tens of millions of users. The downloaders merely scattered to hundreds of other sites, and the industry has been in a tailspin ever since.

"The labels' campaign to stop their music from being acquired for free across the Internet has been like trying to cork a hurricane -- upward of a billion files are swapped every month on peer-to-peer networks," Blender said in the report, which appears in its newly published April issue.

Rowe came in at No. 2 for politely passing on the Beatles after the unpolished combo performed a disastrous audition in 1962. Beatles manager Brian Epstein later claimed the Decca Records executive had told him that "groups with guitars are on their way out," a comment that Rowe denied making. He went on to sign the Rolling Stones.

Motown Records founder Berry Gordy was No. 3, because he sold the money-losing home of the Supremes and Marvin Gaye for about $60 million in 1988. The sum was dwarfed the following year when A&M Records sold for about $500 million. And in 1990, David Geffen got about $700 million for Geffen Records. (Gordy did retain ownership of the lucrative Motown copyrights.)

Geffen Records grabbed two spots on the list: No. 11 for suing Neil Young in the 1980s because it did not like his uncommercial musical direction; and No. 12, for pumping a reported $13 million into a Guns N' Roses album that still has not seen the light of day after more than a decade of work.

Other hall of shamers included Columbia Records at No. 10, for dumping Alicia Keys and rapper 50 Cent before they became famous; and Warner Bros. Records at No. 13 for signing rock band R.E.M. to a money-losing $80 million contract in 1996.

William Herschel - 13 March 1781

Discovery of Uranus
Herschel's music led him to an interest in mathematics, and thence to astronomy. This interest grew stronger after 1773, and he built some telescopes and made the acquaintance of Nevil Maskelyne. He observed the Moon, measuring the heights of lunar mountains, and also worked on a catalog of double stars.

The turning point in Herschel's life was 13 March 1781, while he was living at 19 New King Street, Bath, (now the Herschel Museum of Astronomy) when he made the first sighting of the planet Uranus. This made him famous and enabled him to turn to astronomy full-time. Naming the new planet Georgium Sidus, Latin for "George's Star", in honour of King George III also brought him favour (the name didn't stick - in France, where reference to the British king was to be avoided if possible, the planet was known as 'Herschel' until the name 'Uranus' was universally adopted). That same year, Herschel was awarded the Copley Medal and was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society. In 1782, he was appointed "The King’s Astronomer" and he and his sister subsequently moved to Datchet (then in Buckinghamshire but now in Berkshire) on 1 August 1782. He continued his work as a telescope maker, selling a number of them to other astronomers.

Work with his sister Caroline
In 1783 he gave Caroline a telescope and she began to make astronomical discoveries in her own right, particularly comets. Caroline also served as his full-time assistant, taking notes while he observed at the telescope.

In June 1785, owing to damp conditions, he and Caroline moved to Clay Hall in Old Windsor. Clay Hall (or Clayhall Farm) had been owned by Samuel Foote, father of Topham Foote whose bust by Peter Scheemakers is in Windsor Parish Church. Topham's mother sold the farm to her brother Richard Topham who willed it to Sidney Bleuclerk. On 3 April 1786, William Herschel moved his family to a new residence on Windsor Road in Slough. He lived the rest of his life in this residence, which came to be known as Observatory House. It is no longer standing, having been demolished in 1963 to make way for a high-rise office building.

On 7 May 1788, he married the widow Mary Pitt (née Baldwin) at St Laurence's Church, Upton in Slough. His sister Caroline then moved to separate lodgings, but continued to work as his assistant.

The Creatacious

The Cretaceous–Tertiary extinction event was the large-scale mass extinction of animal and plant species in a geologically short period of time, approximately 65.5 million years ago (mya). It is associated with a geological signature, usually a thin band dated to that time and found in various parts of the world, known as the K–T boundary. The event marks the end of the Mesozoic Era, and the beginning of the Cenozoic Era. Non-avian dinosaur fossils are only found below the K–T boundary and became extinct immediately before or during the event. Mosasaurs, plesiosaurs, pterosaurs and many species of plants and invertebrates also became extinct. Mammalian and bird clades passed through the boundary with few extinctions, and radiation from those Maastrichtian clades occurred well past the boundary.

Many scientists theorize that the K-T extinctions were caused by one or more catastrophic events such as massive asteroid impacts or increased volcanic activity. Several impact craters and massive volcanic activity in the Deccan traps have been dated to the approximate time of the extinction event. These geological events may have reduced sunlight and hindered photosynthesis, leading to a massive disruption in Earth's ecology. Other researchers believe the extinction was more gradual, resulting from slower changes in sea level or climate.

During the Maastrichtian stage of the Cretaceous, there was already a progressive decline in biodiversity prior to the ecological crisis indicated by the K–T boundary. After the K–T event, biodiversity required substantial time to recover, despite the existence of abundant vacant ecological niches.

Even though the boundary event was severe, there was significant variability in the rate of extinction between and within different clades. Because atmospheric particles blocked sunlight, reducing the amount of solar energy reaching the earth's surface, species which depended on photosynthesis declined or became extinct. Photosynthesizing organisms, including phytoplankton and land plants, formed the foundation of the food chain in the late Cretaceous as they do today. Evidence suggests that herbivorous animals died out when the plants they depended on for food became scarce; consequently, top predators such as Tyrannosaurus rex also perished.

Coccolithophorids and molluscs, including ammonites, rudists, freshwater snails and mussels, and those organisms whose food chain included these shell builders, became extinct or suffered heavy losses. For example, it is thought that ammonites were the principal food of mosasaurs, a group of giant marine reptiles that became extinct at the boundary.

Omnivores, insectivores and carrion-eaters survived the extinction event, perhaps because of the increased availability of their food sources. At the end of the Cretaceous there seem to have been no purely herbivorous or carnivorous mammals. Mammals and birds which survived the extinction fed on insects, worms, and snails, which fed on dead plant and animal matter. Scientists hypothesize that these organisms survived the collapse of plant-based food chains because they fed on detritus.

In stream communities, few groups of animals became extinct; because stream communities rely less directly on food from living plants and more on detritus that washes in from land, buffering them from extinction.

Similar, but more complex patterns have been found in the oceans. Extinction was more severe among animals living in the water column, than among animals living on or in the sea floor. Animals in the water column are almost entirely dependent on primary production from living phytoplankton, while animals living on or in the ocean floor feed on detritus or can switch to detritus feeding.

The largest air-breathing survivors of the event, crocodilians and champsosaurs, were semi-aquatic and had access to detritus. Modern crocodilians can live as scavengers and can survive for months without food, and their young are small, grow slowly, and feed largely on invertebrates and dead organisms or fragments of organisms for their first few years. These characteristics have been linked to crocodilian survival at the end of the Cretaceous.

Wednesday, 12 March 2008

Falling Asleep... the blog!

I cna't keep my eyes open. Time for bed!

The Beautiful Moon and Other Photos

I downloaded some wonderful images from my camera, some of the just-past-full moon, right after the eclipse (the next day). I am always fascinated and besotted by the full moon. It's amazing. If you look closely at it, the lower left hand portion is not really round. The moon is only full for a moment and then begins to wane. People never realise that.

Tell me that this isn't the most beautiful face in the world! This dog loves attention and we love to give it to him. You just can't help it!

We had a lot of rain over the weekend and as usual, Wayne was underwater in the lower quarters. We went to Costco on Sunday and this is the sight. Even though the lines are bright and clear, they are under at least eight inches of water. It's quite amazing.

Another Trip to the Hospital

My mother had a grand mal siezure last night and Ray called 9-1-1.

The neurologist had told him not to bother taking her to the hospital, but I have to say that sounds like bad advice to me. She usually has small, localised seizures that last a short time (maybe 30 seconds) and this time, according to Ray, she had a grand mal seizure, with the whole nine yards - all kinds of muscle spasms and long-lasting. He said seven to ten minutes, but I have no way of knowing how true that is... time is a funny thing when someone you love is going through that. But I do believe that it was more severe than normal.

Also, she does not have siezures that often. This was odd in all ways.

So I met them at Chilton Hospital and went to Fast Track 8 on the four-hour plan. How that is fast track I just don't know. They were hopping there - there were calls coming in all the time. I saw several different EMS teams.

Her nurse, Tameca, was very sweet. She's tall and pretty and showed Ray where Ma's urethra is when she catheterised her. At least it was educational.

Hopefully this will be the last trip for a long, long time.

Total, Screaming Frustration!

Every time I try to login to Blogger, my laptop goes completely crazy! It opens a million window, redirects without success and puts me through all sorts of torture to get to my dashboard. It is becoming too annoying to log on.

I did log in at work a couple of days ago to post something about astronomy and it worked just fine. It has to be with my laptop. I wonder if it is something I unwittingly downloaded or if Facebook did something or what. I can't honestly tell you how I managed to log in this time. But any attempt to get something through to Blogger has been unsuccessful as well. It is very annoying.

Hopefully I can get this working soon.

Tuesday, 11 March 2008

The Korean War

I've been watching so many M*A*S*H episodes lately, I should really know what they are writing about:

The Korean War was an escalation of border clashes between two rival Korean regimes, each of which was supported by external powers, with each trying to topple the other through political and guerilla tactics. In a very narrow sense, some may refer to it as a civil war, though many other factors were at play. After failing to strengthen their cause in the free elections held in South Korea during May 1950 and the refusal of South Korea to hold new elections per North Korean demands, the communist North Korean Army moved south on June 25, 1950 to attempt to reunite the Korean peninsula, which had been formally divided since 1948. The conflict was then expanded by the United States and the Soviet Union's involvement as part of the larger Cold War. The main hostilities were during the period from June 25, 1950 until the armistice (ceasefire agreement) was signed on July 27, 1953.

In South Korea, the war is often called 6·25 or 6·25 War (Korean: 6·25 전쟁), from the date of the start of the conflict or, more formally, Hanguk Jeonjaeng (Korean: 한국전쟁; Hanja: 韓國戰爭, literally “Korean War”). In North Korea, while commonly known as the Korean War, it is formally called the Fatherland Liberation War (조국해방전쟁). In the United States, the conflict was officially termed a police action — the Korean Conflict — rather than a war, largely in order to avoid the necessity of a declaration of war by the U.S. Congress. The war is sometimes called The Forgotten War because it is a major conflict of the 20th century that gets far less attention than World War II, which preceded it, and the controversial Vietnam War, which succeeded it. In China, the conflict was known as the War to Resist America and Aid Korea ( ), but is today commonly called the “Korean War” (朝鮮 戰爭 Chaoxian Zhanzheng, 韓國戰爭 Hanguo Zhanzheng, or simply 韓戰 Hanzhan).

Korea had been a unified country since the 7th century. During the 19th century imperialist nations threatened Korea's long standing sovereignty. After defeating China in the Sino-Japanese War of 1894-95, the Japanese forces remained in Korea, occupying strategically important parts of the country. Ten years later, they defeated the Russian navy in the Russo-Japanese War (1904-1905), contributing to Japan's emergence as an imperial power. The Japanese continued to occupy the peninsula against the wishes of the Korean government and people, expanded their control over local institutions through force, and finally annexed Korea in August 1910.

At the close of World War II, forces of both the Soviet Union and the United States occupied the Korean peninsula in accordance with an agreement put forth by the United States government. The Soviet forces entered the Korean peninsula on August 10, 1945, followed a few weeks later by the American forces who entered through Incheon. U.S. Army Lt. Gen. John R. Hodge formally accepted the surrender of Japanese forces south of the 38th Parallel on September 9, 1945 at the Government House in Seoul.

Many Korean people had organized politically prior to the arrival of American troops.

Rings Around Rhea

The Saturnian moon Rhea may have a tenuous ring system consisting of three narrow, relatively dense bands within a particulate disk. This would be the first discovery of rings around a moon. The discovery was announced in the journal Science on March 6, 2008.

In November of 2005 the Cassini orbiter found that Saturn's magnetosphere is depleted of energetic electrons near Rhea. According to the discovery team, the pattern of depletion is best explained by assuming the electrons are absorbed by solid material in the form of an equatorial disk, which contains within it several denser rings or arcs, of particles perhaps several decimeters to approximately a meter in diameter.

Voyager 1 observed a broad depletion of energetic electrons trapped in Saturn's magnetic field downstream from Rhea in 1980. These measurements, which were never explained, were made at a greater distance than the Cassini data.

On November 26, 2005, Cassini made the one targeted Rhea flyby of its primary mission. It passed within 500 km of Rhea's surface, downstream of Saturn's magnetic field, and observed the resulting plasma wake as it had with other moons, such as Dione and Tethys. In those cases, there was an abrupt cutoff of energetic electrons as Cassini crossed into the moons' plasma shadows (the regions where the moons themselves blocked the magnetospheric plasma from reaching Cassini). However, in the case of Rhea, the electron plasma started to drop off slightly at eight times that distance, and decreased gradually until the expected sharp drop off as Cassini entered Rhea's plasma shadow. The extended distance corresponds to Rhea's Hill sphere, the distance of 7.7 times Rhea's radius inside of which orbits are dominated by Rhea's rather than Saturn's gravity. When Cassini emerged from Rhea's plasma shadow, the reverse pattern occurred: A sharp surge in energetic electrons, then a gradual increase out to Rhea's Hill-sphere radius.

These readings are similar to those of Enceladus, where water venting from its south pole absorbs the electron plasma. However, in the case of Rhea, the absorption pattern is symmetrical.

In addition, the Magnetospheric Imaging Instrument (MIMI) observed that this gentle gradient was punctuated by three sharp drops in plasma flow on each side of the moon, a pattern that was also nearly symmetrical.

In August 2007, Cassini passed through Rhea's plasma shadow again, but further downstream. Its readings were similar to those of Voyager 1.

There are no images or direct observations of the material thought to be absorbing the plasma, but the likely candidates would be difficult to detect directly. Further observations are planned for Cassini's first mission extension, with a targeted flyby scheduled for March 2, 2010.

Saturday, 8 March 2008

Rain By the Bucket

I think it has finally stopped, but it has been raining all day, and not just raining and drizzling. In fact, there has been no drizzling... either hard rain... or torrential downpours! If it was as mild as drizzling, I've missed it. I suspect at least three inches of rain fell between 1500 yesterday and around 1530 today!

It's still grey and crappy here. I know that there is a possibility of snow but not enough to matter. It is very March here. I like the change of seasons, but I'm not crazy about this depressing weather. It's grey, dark, wet, chilly. Not exactly outdoors weather. I want to be outside again. I've been inside for what feels like ages. I want to drive home from work with the sunroof and windows open. I love that feeling!

So any time the weather is ready to change, I'm ready for it!

Friday, 7 March 2008

A.W.A.D. - Lesser-Known Counterparts of Common Words

Have you ever asked yourself "If I can postpone something why can't I prepone it?" Well, you definitely can. It's just that sometimes we are not aware of the word. Prepone is an everyday word in India, where meetings, elections, weddings, movie releases, exams, court cases, and more are preponed all the time:

This week's collection features five words that are lesser-known counterparts of more common words.

(pree-PON) verb tr.
To reschedule an event to an earlier time.

[Modeled after the word postpone, from Latin pre- (before) + ponere (to put).]

(no-SEE-bo) noun
A substance producing harmful effects in someone because it is believed to be harmful, but which in reality is harmless.

[From Latin nocebo (I will harm), from nocere (to harm). Modeled after placebo (I will please).]

(dis-TO-pee-uh) noun
An imaginary place where everything is very bad, as from oppression, disease, deprivation, etc.

[From Greek dys- (bad) + utopia (an ideal place). Modeled after Utopia, an imaginary island described in Sir Thomas More's 1516 book Utopia as a place enjoying a perfect system in law, politics, etc. The word utopia is from Greek ou (not) + topos (place).]

(in-HYOOM) verb tr.
To bury.

[From Latin inhumare (to bury), from in (in) + humus (earth). Ultimately from the Indo-European root dhghem- (earth) that also sprouted human, homicide, homage, chameleon, chamomile, and Persian zamindar (landholder).]

(PREE-kwuhl) noun
A book, movie, drama, etc. set in a time preceding that of an existing work.

[From Latin pre- (before) + sequel, from Latin sequi (to follow).]

Just When You Think It's Safe..

...we get blown out to a call. At 2353, seven minutes before my shift ends.

Totally unfair. I'm off to bed now (at 0130 - groan!).

Thursday, 6 March 2008

Another Night on the Town

I have 53 minutes left and counting down.

We had two calls at the same location, the first for someone feeling sick. I turned to Luis and said, "Another stimulating call." He had a chuckle out of that. I went off to join the crew and head off to a sick patient.

One thing you neve want to hear is a patient say, "I'm going to die."
There are a lot of things that elicit scorn and upraised eyebrows on EMTs; this is not one of them. Few patients actually state that they are going to die to be overdramatic; when a patient states that, we take it very seriously. We have had patients who came up with perfect stats and stated that. They made the trip to the hospital and then code in the ER, dead nearly immediately. Someone told me about a man whose wife called and said that he "didn't look right". They checked his vitals, all normal. He was laughing and talking and joking the entire ride to the hospital and Bob could hear them in the back as he drove. As he was backing into the hospital bay, he suddenly heard the EMT in back shaking the man and yelling his name.

The man suddenly turned bright red and was unresponsive. He was dead on arrival - an aortic anuerism, something always and immediately fatal. And all because his wife saw something that the rest of could not see.

People are so often deluded about many things. But, it seems, not about their death.

Wednesday, 5 March 2008

Six Words

Here's something interesting I was lead to on a fellow blogger's site (thanks, Mary!):

Rhea, at Word Tangle posted a challenge that she had gotten from another blogger, who got it from another blogger... you know how it goes. It's a 'Six-word memoir' based on the idea that Hemingway was once challenged to tell a story this way. His apparently read: 'For Sale: Baby shoes, never used.' So the basic rules are to write your own, post on your blog with or without pictures, link back to the person where you found it, and tag people by commenting them. I don't know if I'll tag anyone specifically.... so if you read this and want to do it, feel free!"

Wow. How would I do that? Mary's right, when she wrote, "Those of us with lots to say can't keep it to 6 words ya know!!"

This requires thinking. Lots of thinking. In the meantime, hopefully YOU will read this and come up with something you can say in six words that sums up you as a memior.

While I am working on this, I am also down to 4 minutes on a bid on a jigsaw puzzle I had when growing up that our cocker spaniel, Katie, had eaten a couple of pieces. It is up for bid on ebay and I want it! It is currently listed at $10.49, with one bidder (and since I began typing this down to less than 2 minutes). I can shark this - I hope! We will find out soon.

I won! And by a miracle, too. I had 52 seconds to go, clicked on Place Bid and the system logged me out! I had to calm down to log in, confirm the bid - and it wasn't enough! At six seconds, I got in a second bid and WON! Just in time. So for now, my memoir:

Six seconds I beat the clock!

Iraqi TV Debate: Is the Earth Flat?

Just when you thought we were out of the Dark Ages:

"-From the transcript-

Interviewer: Lunar and solar eclipses, sunset and sunrise, and the changing of seasons -- how would you explain all these phenomena, if the Earth is not round, as you claim?

Fadhel Al-Sa'd: The sun circles the Earth because it is smaller than the Earth, as is evident in Koranic verses.

Have you ever seen how the sun moves? I have seen the sun moving. The sun makes one move every 24 hours.

What I say is based on Koranic science. He bases his arguments on the kind of science that I reject categorically -- the modern science that they teach in schools. This science is a heretic innovation that has no confirmation in the Koran. No verse in the Koran indicates that the Earth is round or that it rotates. Anything that has no indication in the Koran is false."

Ye gods. I thought the Geocentric theory was stomped all over with cleats on in the 16th century, but it seems I was mistaken. Hard to imagine that the world's stupidest Christians who buy into the "intelligent design" theory and this guy aren't the best of friends, isn't it? I get embracing religion even if I don't do it; but to toss your brain out the window as well? What is it that makes people do such painfully stupid things?!

A Quake in England

FEB 27
53.403N 0.332W 18 4.7
. One person injured and damage to buildings in the Lincolnshire and South Yorkshire areas. Felt (V) at Barnsley, Bedworth, Beeston and Stapleford, Bentley, Beverley, Bicester, Boston, Brigg, Brighouse, Chesterfield, Chorley, Cleethorpes, Doncaster, Droitwich, East Retford, Eaton Socon-Saint Neots, Failsworth, Grantham, Grimsby, Heywood, Hinckley, Ilkeston, Kirby in Ashfield, Leicester, Lincoln, Long Eaton, Loughborough, Mablethorpe and Sutton, Matlock, Melton Mowbray, Mold, Morley, Oakham, Rotherham, Sheffield, Skegness, Sleaford, Spalding-Pinchbeck, Whitefield and Worksop. Felt widely in the United Kingdom, north to Arbroath, southwest to Falmouth-Penrynm and east to Great Yarmouth. Felt (II) at Gent, Belgium. Also felt at Douglas, Isle of Man; at Antwerp and Brussels, Belgium; and at Aniche, France.

Now, there is something that you don't see evey day. England is not exactly a hotbed of seismic activity!

As the Staff Waxes

Last year in November, the staff began to wane, just as the moon does when it's past the full stage. The numbers began to creep down, heading ever more slowly toward the low times that January brings. I look forward to this time, once we reach October. It's been a long, fruitful and rewarding season, but winter brings (for me) a respite from the insanity that grips us all during the season.

Now, as we head toward the longer days and lingering sunrises and sunsets of spring, all is right with the world. As much as I loved the waning numbers and closing of departments and different things that dropped (such as the payroll), I have begun to look forward to seeing old friends and the fun bustle of outings and members happily heading to the links like Stratavarius to his beloved violin.

I miss a lot of the people who are gone on layoff: Mike, who always has great stories from his days of old on the force and now from his son's deployments; Marc, who always has a smile and a good laugh about something, the parttime guys, etc. There are a lot of good people who work for us and each and every one of them brings richness to my life. Ya gotta love that!

So it is with a light heart and a happy spirit that I am preparing for the next season of craziness and new faces and the return of missed faces. Different departments have begun calling out to its staff and soon the others will follow. It's seeing old friends that makes life rich!

Stranger Blogger Behaviour

Lately, when I try to log in to Blogger, weird things happen. When I first did it on Saturday, the Internet Explorer program went nuts and opened a million windows without end. Now it opens a couple of windows. Earlier tonight I could not log in at all. This time I went into Internet Explorer Tools and cleared out all the cookies, temp files and anything else after deleting the Blogger link under Favourites and I was logged in!

I wonder what that is all about.

Subsequently, instead of having six or seven postings by now, I've only the one that I managed to squeeze in last night. And it seems that whenever I am feeling loquacious this is when I am least likely to get on the site - for whatever reason - and post to my blog.

Go figure.

I have some catching up to do at this point.

Tuesday, 4 March 2008

Easter & Interesting Info

Easter this year is: Sunday March 23, 2008

As you may know, Easter is always the 1st Sunday after the 1st full moon after the Spring Equinox (which is March 20). This dating of Easter is based on the lunar calendar that Hebrew people used to identify passover, which is why it moves around on our Roman calendar.

Found out a couple of things you might be interested in! Based on the above, Easter can actually be one day earlier (March 22) but that is pretty rare. This year is the earliest Easter any of us will ever see the rest of our lives! And only the most elderly of our population have ever seen it this early (95 years old or above!). And none of us have ever, or will ever, see it a day earlier!

Here are the facts: The next time Easter will be this early (March 23) will be the year 2228 (220 years from now). The last time it was this early was 1913 (so if you're 95 or older, you are the only ones that were around for that!).

The next time it will be a day earlier, March 22, will be in the year 2285 (277 years from now).

The last time it was on March 22 was 1818. So, no one alive today has or will ever see it any earlier than this year.