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ArchiveJANUARY 2018

 

JAN. 31, 2018    ONCE IN A BLUE ONE

Some say that last night's super moon / lunar eclipse was also a “blue moon,” because it was the second full moon in the month.  But there's an older definition which I explained here:  a “blue moon” is the third full moon in a season that anomalously has four.

The problem arises because although the actual moon circles the earth thirteen times every year, most ancient astronomers chose to divide the year into only twelve so-called months.  They thought they were making the math easier.  Each of the four seasons includes three calendar months (actually two months and parts of two others).  Each of the four seasons also usually includes three full moons.

Some cultures have given a name to each full moon, such as this list on the right.

The Egg Moon, which I've dyed green for Easter, is the first full moon after March 21, defined as the spring equinox by the Christian Church (though not always by the astronomers).  This year the Egg Moon will occur on March 31.  The Church uses this moon to set the date of Easter, which falls on the following Sunday.  Therefore the Egg Moon always appears sometime during Holy Week.  (And nobody I know calls it the Egg Moon.)

Easter is preceded by the six weeks of Lent, including the Lenten Moon, the last full moon of the winter season.  (The word Lent, by the way, is said to refer to the gradually LENgThening days of spring's approach.)

But what if a given winter has not three full moons but four?  This happened in 1999-2000, and it will happen again in 2018-2019:  December 22, January 21, February 19, March 20.

The last full moon of the winter has to be called the Lenten Moon, because it comes a couple of weeks after Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent.  Normally it would be the third full moon of the winter, but in 2019 it will be the fourth.  That winter's third will have to be a Blue Moon.  (The name is said to come from the old word belewe — “to betray” — because it's a Judas, traitorously butting into the sequence to delay Lent and thus the Resurrection by four weeks.)

The ecclesiastical experts keep all this straight for us.  As William Roy and Jerome Barlow wrote in 1528:

Oh, church men are wily foxes!
     If they say the moon is blue
     We must believe that it is true,
Admitting their interpretation.

 

JAN. 29, 2018    IT WEIGHS A THOUSANDTH OF AN OUNCE

One of my favorite creations from high school is an empathetic little essay that I wrote on this date 53 years ago.  It's this month's 100 Moons article.

 

JAN. 27, 2018    IS THE SIBILANT SUPERFLUOUS?

The words “pajamas” and its alternative “jammies” appear to be plural.  They always end in an s, like “pants” or “scissors.”

Your child is wearing pajamas.  This other child is also wearing pajamas.  And that kid is in his pajamas, also.  They're all wearing their pajamases.

What's the occasion?  A “pajama” party, naturally!

What happened to the s?  Make it a pajamas party!!!

 

JAN. 25, 2008 flashback   SHALL THE LAST BE FIRST?

When one writes a diary, one begins at the beginning and adds new entries to the end.  That seems normal to me.

But when one writes a blog (or a web page like this one), one adds new entries to the top of the page, so that the most recent posting is the one that visitors find first.  That seems a little odd.  If you haven't visited in a while, you'll find yourself reading the older posts in reverse chronological order.  And if you scroll down to the archives, you'll find that I've listed the months backwards as well.

The jury is still out on which method should be used for television graphics like the one below, showing the World Series winners since the Yankees last claimed the title.

 WORLD SERIES CHAMPIONS

 WORLD SERIES CHAMPIONS

LAST 7 SEASONS 

-

LAST 7 SEASONS

 2001  NL  DIAMONDBACKS

 2007  AL  RED SOX

 2002  AL  ANGELS

 2006  NL  CARDINALS

 2003  NL  MARLINS

 2005  AL  WHITE SOX

 2004  AL  RED SOX

 2004  AL  RED SOX

 2005  AL  WHITE SOX

 2003  NL  MARLINS

 2006  NL  CARDINALS

 2002  AL  ANGELS

 2007  AL  RED SOX

 2001  NL  DIAMONDBACKS

My colleagues and I sometimes debate whether to use chronological order (left) or to put the most recent on top (right).  Any preferences?

2018 update

I do have a preference regarding two-team comparisons.  The layout on the left below may be symmetrical, but the one on the right makes it easier to compare the two sets of numbers.

AFTER 3 QUARTERS

#AFTER 3 QUARTERS

12-30

Completions-Attempts

17-26

#Completions-Attempts

12-30

17-26

249

Passing Yards

158

#Passing Yards

249

158

181

Rushing Yards

71

#Rushing Yards

181

71

430

Total Yards

229

#Total Yards

430

229

12-80

Penalties-Yards

4-39

#Penalties-Yards

12-80

4-39

30:23

Time of Possession

14:27

#Time of Possession

30:23

14:27

 

JAN. 23, 2018    THERE WAS ALSO A POPE HILARIUS

I've accumulated a lot of facts over the years, but some gaps have remained.

For example, I never needed to type Hillary Clinton's first name, so it took me more than a decade to learn exactly how to spell it.  How many L's?  Is it like Hilary of Poitiers or Hilary Duff?

And I still haven't figured out the Trumps.  Which is Ivania and which is Melanka?

 

JAN. 20, 2018    UPDATE

When I put together my recollections from January of my favorite year, I forgot about college basketball's Game of the Century.  It took place 50 years ago tonight.  I've added a note here explaining how I listened to this historic telecast on my radio.

 

JAN. 18, 2018    COME BACK TO
JAN. 18, 2018       THE 5 & DIME

An ad “as seen on TV” implies that these thin socks will insulate your feet even when the thermometer drops to 35° below zero.  I seriously doubt the added metal makes the shiny socks any warmer, unless you're going to hook batteries up to those aluminum wires.

But here’s a more believable claim.  In a mall near me, this chain store apparently sells cold-weather gear that will protect down to 5° below.

We need that sort of thing!  On January 7 the temperature in Pittsburgh actually did drop to -5°, and for the fourth consecutive day I chose not to venture outside my apartment.  Going outdoors was not a reasonable option.

Whoops, I've just been handed a correction.  It turns out that Five Below actually sells “cool” gadgets and yoga mats and such to young adolescents.  And its name doesn't refer to temperatures but rather to its prices, which are $5 or less.

Inflation has struck again.  That’s five times as much as another discount chain, Dollar General, charged at its 1955 debut, when department-store owner Cal Turner took his competitors’ “Dollar Days” promotions one step further by converting this location in Springfield, Kentucky.

And it’s fifty or a hundred times as much as the old dime stores.  One of them, the Ben Franklin “5-and-10-cent store” seen below, opened in 1935 in Oberlin, Ohio.  The business is still there, but its prices have gone up somewhat.

 

JAN. 15, 2018    T-TICK, T-TICK

A new diner has opened down the road from me.  On its eastern wall, there hangs a huge antique-style clock, several feet in diameter.

I found a similar timepiece advertised on a British website for £170.  However, as I admired it, I noticed something unusual.

Most large clocks have tick marks for the minutes, 60 of them to the hour, as I've shown by retouching the far-right picture.

But this diner's clock, depicted on the near right, has twice as many marks!  They're numbered from 0 to 120.


I can't for the life of me think of any timekeeping method that involves dividing an hour into 120 half-minutes.  (Or, for that matter, dividing a minute into intervals of 8.3 milliseconds each.)  And I can't find any other examples.

The extra markings must be what the retailer describes as “some other artistic decoration,” added to make the big bare face look more like a complicated piece of steampunk Victorian machinery.

 

JAN. 12, 2018    HER PRICE WAS ONE GOAT

My first-person retelling of the Bible is reaching back to some of its more obscure stories.

“I support the traditional definition of marriage,” tweets movie critic Eric D. Snider, who knows his Scripture.  “It's between a man and a teenage girl whose father the man's father has made a deal with.”

A man called Hirah, a friend of one of those fathers, plays a role in my latest episode.  It's set in 1718 BC.  Hirah arrives at a fork in the road leading a freshly shorn goat, with which he intends to pay his buddy's prostitute.  (Even back then, harlotry was already an old profession.)  However, there's a problem.  The woman isn't there, and the locals say she never was there.  They disclaim any knowledge of sex for sale.  It's a mystery.  Where's the whore?

The answer's in Genesis!  I'm sure you remember hearing this inspiring tale in Sunday school.

I call my version A Family of Cheaters.

 

JAN. 9, 2008 flashback   ELECTRICAL ENGINEER

When I woke up this morning, it seemed darker than usual.  I discovered that my electricity was off.

"That's not surprising," I thought to myself.  "A cold front is moving in, and we're under a Wind Advisory from midnight to noon.  High winds have probably knocked down a power line somewhere.  My neighbors are dark too, so it's not my power line that's down, but people on the other side of the river do have lights, so the outage isn't a major regional disaster.  The electric company undoubtedly knows about it, and they'll probably get it fixed by the time the winds subside.  It's nothing to worry about."

I went back to bed until there was enough daylight to sit by the window and read.  Eventually, the lights came on for one second, then went off again.

"That's not surprising," I thought to myself.  "They've probably fixed the downed line, but when they re-energized it, the power surge tripped some circuit breakers.  Now they have to go around and reset the breakers."

An hour and a half later, I glimpsed an electric company vehicle, a bucket truck, heading down my street.

"That's not surprising," I thought to myself.  "The transformer for this neighborhood is around the corner.  They're going to reset the breaker, and the lights will be back on in five minutes."

In five minutes, the lights came back on.

I'm beginning to understand these matters too well.

 

JAN. 7, 2018    THE ADVOCATE
JAN. 7, 2018       OF THE UNDERDOG

Remember the Ted Baxter System, an apparently profitable way to bet on football games which I examined on this website 15 years ago?

One of my readers in Australia has offered an interesting variation on Ted's method.  How does it work?  I used it to chart the 2017 NFL season, and I've analyzed the results in Baxter Revisited.

 

 
JAN. 4, 2018    WINED CHILL

Our remote broadcast crew sometimes receives driving directions to high school football games.  One such set of instructions warned us about a “windy” back road.

Was the road subject to dangerous winds?  Or perhaps they meant it had dangerous curves, in which case they should have called it “winding” (rhymes with minding) instead of “windy” (rhymes with Mindy).

You're probably aware that in modern English the word wind, if pronounced with a short i as in kin, means “breeze,” whereas the same wind pronounced with a long i as in kind means “twist.”

However, it was not always thus.  Consider the following rueful song, to which I've added faces.  It's from Shakespeare's As You Like It.

As the second act of the play begins, it's the dead of winter.  The banished Duke Senior is camped out in the snowy woods, yet he finds this place less distressing than his former palace full of ungrateful courtiers.  His companion Amiens sings:

Notice the rhyme scheme.  When Shakespeare in his lyric cries out to the unseen wind, he employs a long i, just like the long i in the word kind (and, in the next act, mind, hind, bind, rind, find, and probably Rosalind).

I assume this indicates that in those days, wind was always pronounced “wined.”

The Bard continues with a second frigid verse.

I've spelled one of his words “shoarp” to complete the rhyme.

Times have changed.  Nowadays, breezes get the short end of the i.  We even use the short i for winter.  And we use it for windlass, a winch for wind-ing up a cable or rope.

I think I'd prefer “wine-ter” and “wined-lass.”  Blow!  Blow, thou wine-ter wined!

But that's just me.  I'm not too shoarp.

 

JAN. 1, 2018    INSIDE THE PROGRAM CABINET

During the first week of the year that I'd later declare my favorite, my college radio station WOBC broadcast basketball and hockey games on three consecutive nights.  I was still the Sports Director.  But Oberlin wasn't a “party school,” and I wasn't distracted by excessive socializing.  When it snowed, I didn't go out and play.  I stayed in my room and finished a term paper.

Later I turned my attention to my new position at WOBC.  As Program Director, I would need to sort out tapes and records that we received from outside sources, including a comedy about Canadians chasing smugglers. 

Click here for my latest installment in the 14-month series recalling my life 50 years ago.

 

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