Saturday, June 20, 2015

Tomorrow is June 21st - so what?

To start with, it is the 172nd day (173rd in Leap Years) of the year – not quite half-way through the parade of 365 (366 every 4th time around) days in this segment of our lives we call ‘a year’. Nothing special there, eh? I’ve seen 71 of them in my life time – so tomorrow is no big deal.

Well, it actually DOES have a couple of significant ‘tags’ to it:

For those of us in the Northern Hemisphere, it marks the ‘First Day of Summer’ – sometimes called the ‘Summer Solstice’. You can just go ahead and ‘Google’ yourselves crazy over what that means – or you can just look here and see what I said about it at this time last year: Solstice 2014 

Whilst ‘Summer Solstice’, in an astronomical sense, means: 

'The time at which the sun is at its northernmost point in the sky (southernmost point in the S hemisphere), appearing at noon at its highest altitude above the horizon’, it is more commonly thought of as the ‘longest day of the year’. 

Well, that brings up a couple of interesting points:

First:  in reality, even THAT day, like all the others, is 24 hours (1,440 minutes, or 86,400 seconds) long. 

Second: What we usually think of is “How long will the sun be ‘up’ that day?” Well, ‘long’ depends on where you are. Let me show you what I mean:

Here, where I live - in St Louis, MO, USA - the sun will rise tomorrow at 5:37 am and set at 8:30 pm – 14 hours and 53 minutes later. ‘Yee-hah’ you think; lots-o-sunshine. Sure, but where I was born - in Swansea, UK - the folks there will be greeted tomorrow by the sunrise at 4:57 am (50 minutes earlier) and it won’t depart them until 9:37 pm – giving those lucky buggers almost 2 hours more of sunshine! Well, let’s say ‘sunlight’; it does tend to be cloudy there more than here!  

Don’t feel TOO bad, the ‘Luck of the Irish’ covers many things! Where my wife was born - Dowra, Co Cavan, Eire - people will be up eating their rashers, black pudding and sausages at the exact same time as the sun will rise in Wales - at 4:57 am. Hmm!! Maybe they'll not; the pubs often don’t close until about 2 hours before that. However, they’ll be out in the fields tossing hay into huge piles until after the sun sets – at 10:09 pm – getting the better of the Taffs by another 32 minutes. Seems that ‘32’ is ALWAYS coming up in conversations with the Irish.  

Seriously, spare a thought for the poor buggers in Appalachia. If you live in some places - like Lynch, Kentucky - where the valleys run ‘more or less’ north-south and are so deep – maybe 1,000 feet or more – you are happy as a ‘pig-in-what-pigs-like-to-wallow-in’ if the sun, even on ‘this Solstice thing’, appears in your valley before 10:00 am and is not gone before 3:00 pm.  No wonder such places revel in ‘Moonshine’!

So much for Astronomy!  June 21st 2015 has another meaning. It is to be celebrated as ‘Father’s Day’.  Again, do your own ‘Google’ thing. I’ll leave the levity of the paragraphs above to briefly address the seriousness of thought that the day should evoke.

We all have – or have had one – a father. We all have our own memories and thoughts of what a ‘father’ is – or should be; and what ours is, or was - to us.

I leave you to ponder your own thoughts, whether they be loving or despising, and  toss out these few points:

Spare a thought, tomorrow, for the many children who didn’t get to know their father – whether because he died (perhaps in serving his country) before they were born, or whether he simply and selfishly abandoned their 'Saturday night's pleasure' and bears the label ‘father’ only in a biological sense. WAY too many single mothers in this country find themselves shirked by some lout who leaves a stain on the concept of family - and a burden to be borne by her and the society into which he contributed nothing but sperm.     

Teach YOUR sons the values, and give them the guidance that they will need, to one day be worthy recipients of a hearty and genuine “Happy Fathers’ Day” greeting.

These are the words of some notables – about Fathers  - enjoy the day. 

Monday, May 25, 2015


Wrong end of the stick - nothing to do with the 'Mayflower'. This has to do with those April showers - and what they allegedly bring - those May flowers.

Here is a compilation of some (not all) of the flowers in bloom in my yard on Memorial Day 2015.
Can you name them?












Saturday, April 18, 2015

Just a humble dot . . .

What is a dot?   Wait, don't groan just yet! 

This is a dot

‘But it’s blue’, you say. Good eye, Sherlock! Who said it had to black?  That is what you probably expected to see, right?    How would that blue dot look on Mrs Patel's forehead?   I think it would best be red: The bindi dot

But, enough of this ethnicity stuff – for now – we’ll come back to it a little later.

Yes, a humble ‘dot’ can be this color, that color, by itself, in a group . . .  well, you decide: See here what a dot looks like:  A dot - in many guises

Wait, have you heard of a Polka dot?  Of course you have - even if it was not anything to do with a bikini. But have you heard of it spelled this way?   

Yes, that is the ‘mascot name’ of the High School in the small town of Poca, West Virginia. It's true - I even refereed soccer games there. No! Their uniforms did NOT have polka dots on them. 

But wait - a ‘dot’ can be more things than the traditional concept of a simple small circular object. It can be a 'DOT' – a large complex organization – as in Department of Transportation. Where I live, in Missouri, we have MODOT; across the Mississippi River in Illinois,they have an IDOT – of course they have that in Iowa, Indiana and Idaho too.

Returning to the smaller version of dots -  the one which we, the people who spend too much of their crawling around the internet, are most familiar - is one of those that follows that annoying faux-abbreviation – www. I mean, think about it:  ‘World Wide Web’ – 3 syllables; needs to be ‘abbreviated’ to three tri-syllabic single letters – www?  George Carlin once asked why ‘abbreviation’ is such a long word?  All may now groan in unison. 

OK – that provides the much awaited segue back to the ‘ethnic thing’ mentioned above. Not only do we see the ‘dot’ immediately after the ‘www’, we see another 'dot' in domain names – or more precisely, in the domain name extensions that announce various websites. In the USA, we most commonly see ‘.com’ – enunciated as ‘dot-com’. Of course, there are the ‘dot-gov’, ‘dot-org’ and the ‘dot-edu’ domain extensions.  Across the pond, in Merry Olde England, you’ll see ‘dot-co-do-uk’ – as in a www followed by a ''

Now oddly enough, one of its (England’s) most famous bards once said, in the play (whose name must NOT be spoken) – ‘Aye, there’s the rub’. That was whilst talking of a situation in Scotland – another part of the UK. Of course, 'Bill-of-Stratford' - as he may be seen in today's social media venues - could not possibly have known what was to come half a millennium later. You see, there is yet another little-known part of the UK – the part in which I was born and raised. It is known as Wales. Until 2015, any website – whether in the USA, or in the UK, that dealt with Wales probably had a domain name extension that was‘dot-com’ or ‘dot-co-dot-uk’. Not a whit of consideration given to the possibility of a ‘dot-WALES’, was there?   Well, in 2015 – it ‘.wales’ – AND its equivalent in Welsh – ‘.cymru’ (kum-ree, for the phonetically inclined) became recognized – AND available in the USA.

I proudly believe I may have launched the very first such domain name extension, in conjunction with my rebuild of the local Welsh Society’s website. 

* Edited in early 2016: the website is no longer available - (no) thanks to lack of interest from the membership of the Society.

So, you see - though the humble 'dot' may appear so insignificant, just as with Mrs Patel's forehead, it is what is BEHIND that humble 'dot' that is so important. 

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Yee-hah, it's April !

Yes indeed it is!  That magical 4th month of our modern calendar - thanks to that Roman fellow, Julias Caesar, in 46 BC.

Were you one of the unwitting fools who got caught out today - or just one of the many fools

who don't know what April Fools' Day is all about? If you read that, then now you know!

Moving forward almost 300 years from that Roman era, we come to the appearance of one St George - well, being Welsh - and him being the patron Saint of England, I won't say too much about him - especially as he supposedly slew a dragon (another insult to the Welsh!) - and is even depicted in that act on the banks of the River Thames (that's in London, for the geographically-challenged among us)

His birthday is celebrated on April 23rd - and is logically known as St. George's Day.

That's an interesting date - one some believe is both the birth and death date of William Shakespeare - others say he was born on April 26th. I'll bet Mary Arden knew the exact date - in 1564. "Who is she?", you may ask; "Just 'Google' it, I say!"

Not too many years later - about 56 in fact - something else happened - though it September, not in April. Listen up: You MUST have heard of that saying: 'April showers bring May flowers', right?

Well, did you know that in 1620, the rainy days of April (not some reported religious persecution) lead, some 5 moths later, to a bunch of people (whose 'name' John Wayne often used) departed from the coast of England to a place across the pond - also named Plymouth - on a sailing ship. What do you think those (albeit belatedly) April showers brought to America? Yes - (singular, but still) a Mayflower! 

After the Industrial Revolution, transportation took some quantum leaps - and people also began to get 'antsy'; fed up with living in the same house or town for year after year, they again called upon those 'April shower followers' - who has not had the joy of this experience? -

That brings us to the modern era - well, not quite 'modern' - there was another BIG event that took place on April 16th - back in 1943. In the midst of the ravages and turmoil of World War II, while her husband was waging war against the Axis in Europe and North Africa, a frightened mother-of-two, gave birth to a third beautiful (but fat) baby boy - humility dictates that I not show that photo of him - just know that he, 'C'est moi'.

So, finally we are about to embark on another 'April notable'!  Do you know what is the birthstone of April? Oh, sure - all the ladies do - it is the diamond!

Even their 'men-folk' (well, those red-blooded American men - especially those in St Louis and Chicago) know - and fervently care - about diamonds. You think I'm crazy? 

Look at your calendar: April 5th, 2015  A 'Battle Royale' is slated this weekend. 

Forget the 'Ides of March' - the 'Ides of April' is every bit as terrifying - tax filing day! 

But, not to end on a down note, April brings one more joy - the humming birds will return to my yard - see last year's blog about these amazing creatures: Humming birds

March is history, it is APRIL !! 

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Half and Half

Two halves make a whole – we all know that, but what is meant by the term?

It’s all in the context, you see. Take these four simple examples:

We (in the US at least) have just gone through the ordeal of suffering an interminable number of drunken fools falling about the place in celebration of St Patrick’s Day and claiming that because some great-great—or-maybe-not-so-great-grandfather of theirs left Ireland many moons (more on that later) ago, they are Irish!  I’m not so sure about that. I think one has to have more than 1/32nd part of Native American blood to legitimately call themselves ‘Native American’ and claim whatever benefits that may accrue. [Ask Elizabeth Warren – I’m sure she will know!   lol]    It irks me that ‘people’ (in this case that noun should equate to ‘ignoramuses’ (yes, that is the correct plural) associate Drunkenness with the Irish. I challenge ye all, ye feckers, to name another ethnic group or nationality that has a thriving ‘anti-alcohol’ organization. Ever hear of ‘The Pioneers'?

I’ll wager that those who have previously read my missives know that I have a tendency to digress. ‘Tis a ploy, so it is!

To be sure, we all know that a ‘Half and Half’ refers to that concoction that consists of half a pint of Harp lager topped with a half a pint of Guinness – as here:

Still on a fluid thought – they do ‘flow’, you know, there is a product (vegans and the lactose-intolerant turn your faces) that goes by that ‘Half and Half’ name too – a mixture (one would surmise) of 1 part milk and 1 part cream – frequently used in coffee or cooking:  

Whilst your minds are on eating, do you recall (if you were born before 1950 – and lived in the UK or Ireland, you may well say ‘Yes’ – else, more likely ‘No’) going to an Indo-Pak (some were ‘Indian’, some were ‘Pakistani’-owned, some were ‘bi’ – in the culinary sense, restaurant. If you saw ‘lamb’, but no beef’ on the menu, you were more likely in an ‘Indo’ establishment. The place I went for my very first curry was owned-operated by a nice man named ‘Hoq’ (maybe ‘Hoque’?) who took orders, cleaned tables, cooked, delivered the food to your table and collected the money – from those who hadn’t ‘dine a runner’!  Six years or so after that first curry, and three years after I left the UK for the USA, I returned to that 30’ by 30’ restaurant – on the day that the nation of Bangladesh was created. I never saw such excitement among so many (Eastern) Pakistanis * since they beat England in a Test Match (that’s a BIG cricket match) in England

* It’s now crime in the UK - thanks to PC tw*ts - to say the abbreviation (drop the last 5 letters of that word) that once was as common (and used endearingly and never as demeaning) as ‘Brit’, ‘Paddy’, ‘Jock’ or Taffy’ still is.    

There was that digression thing again – did you notice? 

The point is, that it was (in the ‘50s and ‘60s) commonplace in such ‘Indo-Pak’ restaurants to order ‘Half and half’ – meaning a half order of chips (the sliced, fried potato finger that Yanks call, ‘fries’) and a half order of boiled rice – instead of a full order of one or the other. For some obscure reason, sometime (maybe in the ‘80s?), restaurants stopped serving ‘half and half’. Clearly, even a pair of ‘dumb as a box of rocks’ diners could figure out that if one ordered chips and the other ordered rice, the ‘mystical-minds or nattering nabobs of negativism of the sub-continent’ would be thwarted in their intended prohibition of the dreaded ‘half and half’.  Well, it can rarely be obtained now – except by such chicanery - so take a long look into the past:

Now that you have all been sufficiently (and tangentially) lead astray from the REAL point of this blog, let me help you ‘see the light’ – or at least HALF of it – or maybe ALL of it – for HALF of the day!

Friday, March 20th, 2015 will be the First Day of Spring, also known as the ‘Spring (or Vernal) Equinox’. You are now free to immerse yourselves in the mind-boggling facts associated with this celestial event, which has additional lunar (see, I told you I’d come back to the ‘moon’ thing) facets this year. Delve into each of these links, but bookmark this page to return to the others.

I’ll start with two ‘prominent media’ links; first this, which addresses (not a HALF and HALF – though that DOES make a whole!) but a total eclipse of the sun:

Next, another that addresses three celestial events: Three celestial events

And finally, my ‘Equinox Blog’ from 2014. 


Saturday, March 14, 2015



Whilst my friends in the UK may note that today is March 14th, the significance of that date may be lost on them:

In the USA, we (somewhat illogically) type our dates in the MM/DD/YYYY format - unlike the UK where they do it in a logical ascending-unit format: - DD/MM/YYYY - and in continental Europe where they do it in a descending-unit format: -  YYYY/MM/DD. Christmas Day this year will be 12/25/2015 in the USA, 25/12/2015 in the UK and 2015/12/25 in Continental Europe - whereas in Muslim countries, it will be . . . Friday!     

OK, ignoring the YYYY (one more Y than Tom Jones inquired of Delilah), unless you live in the UK (or Ireland), you will recognize (and you need not even be a Roman to do so) that March 14th is not only one day before the Ides of March, but is also Pi day

Yes - today is the 3rd Month, 14th day - so: 3.14 (you may forget the rest of it!) - so:

Regarding 3.14159265358979323846264338327950288419716939937510, where will you be, in this 3rd month, on its 14th day of the 15th year of the century, at 9:26:53.5 am?  

But, what is Pi Day?  The answer is just a click away.

In school, I was always taught to use 22 / 7 as a good enough approximation of Pi.  

If you really want to spend eternity doing so, you can calculate the value of Pi here.   

If not, just look here and have some fun with Pi.  

Or else, just enjoy a slice of this: