Day Of The Moon

The day the sun goes dark:

If the Moon were in a perfectly circular orbit, a little closer to the Earth, and in the same orbital plane, there would be total solar eclipses every month. However, since the Moon’s orbit is tilted at more than 5 degrees to the Earth’s orbit around the Sun, its shadow usually misses Earth. The Moon’s orbit must cross Earth’s ecliptic plane in order for an eclipse (both solar as well as lunar) to occur. In addition, the Moon’s actual orbit is elliptical, often taking it far enough away from Earth that its apparent size is not large enough to block the Sun entirely. The orbital planes cross each other at a line of nodes resulting in at least two, and up to five, solar eclipses occurring each year; no more than two of which can be total eclipses.[1][2] However, total solar eclipses are rare at any particular location because totality exists only along a narrow path on the Earth’s surface traced by the Moon’s shadow or umbra.

An eclipse is a natural phenomenon. However, in some ancient and modern cultures, solar eclipses were attributed to supernatural causes or regarded as bad omens. A total solar eclipse can be frightening to people who are unaware of its astronomical explanation, as the Sun seems to disappear during the day and the sky darkens in a matter of minutes.

Since looking directly at the Sun can lead to permanent eye damage or blindness, special eye protection or indirect viewing techniques are used when viewing a solar eclipse. It is technically safe to view only the total phase of a total solar eclipse with the unaided eye and without protection; however, this is a dangerous practice, as most people are not trained to recognize the phases of an eclipse, which can span over two hours while the total phase can only last a maximum of 7.5 minutes for any one location. People referred to as eclipse chasers or umbraphiles will travel to remote locations to observe or witness predicted central solar eclipses.

We can thank the dark side of the sun, as it were, for increasing our scientific understanding:

Complete listing of important solar eclipses in history

In ancient times, and even more recently, people associated eclipses with bad omens:

  • As recently as 2010, during the near annular (very large partial eclipse), out of fear, people stayed home. Few were on the streets, restaurants and hotels saw a dip in business (many customers preferred not to eat during the event), and most schools closed when students did not show up.
  • In Cambodia, in 1995, instead of screaming and banging during a solar eclipse, soldiers shot into the air to scare the mythic dragon from the sky. It was reported that the only scattered casualties were from the bullets.
  • In Baja, California, in 1991, astronomers were surprised by the weeping and wailing of hotel staff, who were terrified by the onset of darkness.

Of course, we’re more enlightened-or are we?

Conspiracy theorists have been predicting for decades that Nibiru – also referred to as Planet X – is going to collide with Earth and destroy it. Fortunately for us, their doomsday predictions have never actually been right (so far).

An unseen planet debunked by NASA, Nibiru was first mentioned in 1976 by Zecharia Sitchin in his cult book ‘The 12th Planet’. The mystery planet is apparently home to a race of ancient aliens called the Annunaki, whom Sitchin credited with creating the human race.

Nigel Watson, author of the UFO Investigations Manual, supports Sitchin’s idea, explaining: “Nibiru collided with a planet called Tiamat that was situated between Mars and Jupiter. The result was the creation of the asteroid belt and planet Earth.

“Nibiru is populated by the Anunnaki, an advanced humanoid race, who visited Earth thousands of years to mine gold in Africa.

“As an outcome of needing workers to carry out these mining operations they used genetics to create Homo Sapiens”.

So if the aliens show up, be prepared. Otherwise, just enjoy the two minutes of darkness!

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The Strange Appeal Of Criminal Nostalgia

What is it? It’s the dark fascination we have with past criminals, and the era that they inhabited. Case in point-the 90’s, which had its share of strange and deadly criminal behavior. Case in point-the infamous Unabomber:

People who enter Harvard at 16 and earn Ph.D.s in math before becoming professors at U.C. Berkeley aren’t generally seen as future killers. However, Kaczynksi showed signs of mental illness—in particular, he complained people were conspiring against him. He also became a devout Luddite. (His sister-in-law recalls him writing, “Technology has already made it impossible for us to live as physically independent beings.”) In time he largely exiled himself from the world, entering that cabin with no running water or electricity in 1973.

He struck the people who knew him as harmless. Even as evidence started to emerge of his true identity, his brother David continued to insist, “Ted’s never been violent. I’ve never seen him violent.” Indeed, in one of the bizarre ironies of the case, David appears to have helped Ted construct his longtime home. “That’s our understanding,” Christoffersen said. “It was some brother time they had spent together in the woods building this cabin, trying to maintain a relationship.”

The 90s was a decade that teetered on the brink of the 21st century. It was a time when we wanted to leave the messes of the last century behind us and move forward. But it was also an era in which celebrity and crime became blurred to the point of surreal absurdity. Another case in point-OJ Simpson, and his white Bronco:

The Bronco’s current owner Mike Gilbert — Simpson’s former sports agent — will try to strike a deal for the car on “Pawn Stars,” the series set at the Las Vegas-based World Famous Gold & Silver Pawn Shop. The episode, “If the Pawn Don’t Fit,” airs Aug. 14 at 10 p.m. on History.

“Not many people realize it’s for sale … and I just thought it was a really cool thing to put on the show,” says “Pawn Stars” personality Rick Harrison, who co-owns World Famous Gold & Silver Pawn Shop. “I never glorify gangsters or murderers on the show … and I think OJ is a douchebag … who did some really bad things. I’m a dad with six kids and I’m trying to teach each of them a little bit of morality.

“But I felt it would be good for the show and I figured I’d give it a shot.”

There’s that and the fact that interest in Simpson is, once again, at a fever pitch, now that he’s scheduled to be released on parole as early as October after serving nine years behind bars in Nevada for participating in a 2007 armed robbery.

“Celebrity” criminals have been with us throughout history-the Jack the Rippers, the Al Capones, the cases that reflect the darker side of human nature and ourselves. In the online social media era, criminals can gain instant celebrity status with their acts, and we can feel a visceral sense of satisfaction in seeing them exposed and caught. When real celebrities go bad, they can be a lesson for the rest of us. But what about the lessons of the past?

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Of Fidgets And Fads Gone By

It’s official: 2017 appears to be the year of the Fidget:

What is it for? The fidget spinner has been framed as just a toy—but also as a stress-relief tool, a classroom menace, a treatment for ADHD, and a possible salve to smartphone addiction, among other things.

Fidget spinners might or might not be any of those things, but at their core they are something more, and something stranger: the perfect material metaphor for everyday life in early 2017, for good and for ill.

* * *

Toys similar to fidget spinners have been around for years, but over the last month or so the current incarnation has reached fever pitch. As with other cultural trends, like Flappy Bird and Pokémon Go, kids adopted the gadgets first. Since the winter, fidget spinners have invaded classrooms, causing teachers to confiscate them as contraband. They’ve become ubiquitous impulse purchases at mobile-phone shops and bodegas. And as I write this, fidget spinners dominate the bestsellers in toys and games.

Of course, it’s not just a toy, there’s science involved:

And every fad has its killjoys:

So, how do they stand up to past fads? As long as we’re making comparisons, behold, the Pet Rock:

So maybe it’s just because we’re easily distracted, or want to be…we look for a simple spin on things in these times. But fidgets are real, and they are there for you. Isn’t that what a good fad is all about?

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Doughnut Day And Other Milestones

First, a history of the doughnut:

Hanson Gregory, an American, claimed to have invented the ring-shaped doughnut in 1847 aboard a lime-trading ship when he was 16 years old. Gregory was dissatisfied with the greasiness of doughnuts twisted into various shapes and with the raw center of regular doughnuts. He claimed to have punched a hole in the center of dough with the ship’s tin pepper box, and to have later taught the technique to his mother.[8] Smithsonian Magazine states that his mother, Elizabeth Gregory, “made a wicked deep-fried dough that cleverly used her son’s spice cargo of nutmeg and cinnamon, along with lemon rind,” and “put hazelnuts or walnuts in the center, where the dough might not cook through”, and called the food ‘doughnuts’.[9]

According to anthropologist Paul R. Mullins, the first cookbook mentioning doughnuts was an 1803 English volume which included doughnuts in an appendix of American recipes. By the mid-19th century, the doughnut looked and tasted like today’s doughnut, and was viewed as a thoroughly American food.[10]

Another theory on their origin came to light in 2013, appearing to predate all previous claims, when a recipe for “dow nuts” was found in a book of recipes and domestic tips written in 1800 by the wife of Baron Thomas Dimsdale,[11] the recipe being given to the dowager Baroness by an acquaintance who transcribed for her the cooking instructions of a local delicacy, the “Hertfordshire nut”.

And, the 50th anniversary of what has been called the Beatles’ definitive album:

During a return flight to London in November, Paul McCartney had an idea for a song involving an Edwardian era military band that would eventually form the impetus of the Sgt. Pepper concept. Sessions for the album began on 24 November in Abbey Road Studio Two with two compositions inspired by their youth, “Strawberry Fields Forever” and “Penny Lane“, but after pressure from EMI, the songs were released as a double A-side single and were not included on the album.

In February 1967, after recording the “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” song, McCartney suggested that the Beatles should release an entire album that would represent a performance by the fictional Sgt. Pepper band. This alter ego group would give them the freedom to experiment musically. During the recording sessions, the band furthered the technological progression they had made with their 1966 album Revolver. Knowing they would not have to perform the tracks live, they adopted an experimental approach to composition and recording on songs such as “With a Little Help from My Friends“, “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” and “A Day in the Life“. Producer George Martin and engineer Geoff Emerick‘s innovative recording of the album included the liberal application of sound shaping signal processing and the use of a 40-piece orchestra performing aleatoric crescendos. Recording was completed on 21 April 1967. The cover, depicting the Beatles posing in front of a tableau of celebrities and historical figures, was designed by the British pop artists Peter Blake and Jann Haworth.

Both have a rich history, shrouded in legend. Both doughnuts and the Beatles come in many different varieties, although for my own part Sergeant Pepper, like the Beatles’ other later albums, feels incomplete, as if they somehow ran out of room (which they literally did for some songs that were later included on Magical Mystery Tour.) It’s as if they knew they’d reached a turning point in their careers, so along with wanting to show the world that they were no longer just mop-topped pop singers but serious musicians in their own right, they wanted to put out their best work before time ran out, which unfortunately for the band it soon would.

Of course, both doughnuts and the Beatles are eternal…

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What’s In A Word?

So Donald Trump set the Internet ablaze with his creation of a new word:

The trouble began, as it so often does, on Twitter, in the early minutes of Wednesday morning. Mr. Trump had something to say. Kind of.

“Despite the constant negative press covfefe,” the Twitter post began, at 12:06 a.m., from @realDonaldTrump, the irrepressible internal monologue of his presidency.

And that was that.

A minute passed. Then another. Then five.

Surely he would delete the message.

Ten. Twenty. It was nearly 12:30 a.m.

Continue reading the main story


Forty minutes. An hour. The questions mounted.

Had the president’s lawyers, so eager to curb his stream-of-consciousness missives, tackled the commander in chief under the cover of night?

Perhaps, some worried aloud, Mr. Trump had experienced a medical episode a quarter of the way through his 140 characters.

Or maybe he had simply gazed upon his work, paused and thought: “Yes. Nailed it.”

No one at the White House could immediately be reached for comment overnight.

In the end, it didn’t mean what you thought it did:

Mr. Alnaemi said the word “covfefe” was “something meaningless” in Arabic, a language that Mr. Trump, who campaigned on a pledge to ban Muslims from the United States, has never publicly claimed to speak.

There is no standardized method for rendering Arabic words in Latin script, but the professor said if Mr. Trump had wanted to write “I will stand up” in Arabic he would have written something like “saqef” or “sawfa aqef.”

“Honestly when I heard that some writers thought Trump was speaking Arabic I said to myself, ‘Wow, they know Arabic more than I do,’” Mr. Alnaemi, who was born and raised in Iraq, said. “Because I cannot think of a word that would mean the equivalent of ‘covfefe.’”

Like many new words, it seems to have taken on a life of its own. It’s an all-purpose word, good for all occasions. And it continues a linguistic tradition:

According to the “Oxford English Dictionary”, there are at least 350 words in English dictionaries (most of them thankfully quite obscure) that owe their existence purely to typographical errors or other misrenderings.

There are many more words, often in quite common use, that have arisen over time due to mishearings (e.g. shamefaced from the original shamefast, penthouse from pentice, sweetheart from sweetard, buttonhole from button-hold, etc).

Mrs. Mapalprop, a character in Richard Brinsley Sheridan’s 1775 play “The Rivals”, was famous for her “malapropisms” like illiterate, reprehend, etc, but these never gained common currency. Likewise, it seems unlikely that “Bushisms” (named for US President Bush’s unfortunate tendency to mangle the language) like misunderestimate, or Sarah Palin’s refudiate will ever become part of the everyday language, although there are many who would argue that they deserve to.

Many misused words (as opposed to newly-coined words) have, for better or worse, become so widely used in their new context that they may be considered to be generally accepted, particularly in the USA, although many strict grammarians insist on their distinctness (e.g. alternate to mean alternative, momentarily to mean presently, disinterested to mean uninterested, i.e. to mean e.g., flaunt to mean flout, historic to mean historical, imply to mean infer, etc).

So, what’s in a word? Maybe it really does mean what you think it means-then again, maybe not…


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Slow Ride

There’s apparently a new phenomenon sweeping Norway:

It began with the broadcast of a train journey from the coastal city of Bergen to the capital, Oslo. The formula was simple: put a few cameras on a train and watch the scenery go by — for seven hours.

Rune Moklebust and Thomas Hellum are the brains behind the whole thing.

“Did you know where this journey would lead, how successful it would be?” asked Doane.

“No idea at all,” said Moklebust. “It’s normally one of those ideas you get late night after a couple of beers in the bar, and when you wake up the next day, Ahh, it’s not a good idea after all.”

But much to their surprise, there was a green light from their bosses at Norway’s public broadcaster NRK2.

“We actually like it being a bit strange and a bit crazy, because then it’s more fun,” said Moklebust.

Of course, there can be problems:

The non-stop transmission, entitled  Reinflytting: Minutt for Minutt, was meant to culminate on April 28, with the animals swimming from the mainland to the island. 

But the reindeer started their journey later than expected and took a longer route. On the day of what was supposed to be the last broadcast, the 31-member production crew didn’t see any signs of movement. So NRK decided to put the transmission on hold for now, according to Aftenposten.

Slow TV was a surprising sensation in 2009 when NRK aired Bergensbanen minutt for minutt, a 7.5-hour train journey across the southern part of Norway, from Bergen to Oslo. 

The documentary drew an impressive 1.2 million viewers when it aired.

So what is it about this that makes it so popular? Are we entering a phase where the pace of life is so fast that we literally feel the need to slow down?

watch paint dry

Of course maybe we’re just really bored with all of our online distractions-and in fact we may be turning away from them. So where do we go, when we want to take it slow in the 21st century?

There may be more to this, as well:

In 2015, the Publishers Association found that digital content sales had fallen from £563m in 2014 to £554m, while physical book sales HAD increased from £2.74bn to £2.76bn. The Bookseller also discovered a similar result, finding in its own report about the five biggest general trade publishers in the UK – Penguin Random House, Hachette, HarperCollins, Pan Macmillan and Simon & Schuster – that their ebook sales collectively fell 2.4% in 2015.

The shift was attributed to the explosion in adult colouring books, as well as a year of high-profile fiction releases, including The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins and Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee. “Readers take a pleasure in a physical book that does not translate well on to digital,” the Publishers Association report read.

But Nielsen’s survey of 2016 attributed the increase in print sales to children’s fiction and to younger generations preferring physical books to e-readers. A 2013 survey by the youth research agency Voxburner found that 62% of 16- to 24-year-olds preferred print books to ebooks. The most popular reason given was: “I like to hold the product.” While Nielsen found that 50% of all fiction sales were in ebook format, only 4% of children’s fiction was digital.

So slow down, stop and smell the roses, etc.


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RIP Family Member

Ronald Edward Canary passed away over the weekend.



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