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JUNE 13, 2024   PRODUCE ROCKS IN RICHWOOD

In Richwood, Ohio, the village where I grew up, a Farmers Market is held on Thursday evenings.  This year it's in Shelter House #1 at the lake, and opening day is today.

 

Shoppers might notice a brightly-painted stone or two lying under a bench.  The explanation is in a story I'm calling Richwood's Grandma Rocks.

 

JUNE 10, 2024   MEET THE PARENTS

“Catchy,” channel 2.5 in Pittsburgh, replays old situation comedies.  It recently acquired the mostly-forgotten 1965 version of Gidget.  This series, which aired for only one season, starred the cute and talented Sally Field as a 15½-year-old surfer girl.  “Gidget” and I were in high school about the same time, but we had different experiences:  I was studious, she was boy-crazy.

One episode that I happened to watch was #21, in which she met her current boyfriend's parents for the first time.  I immediately recognized the actor playing the young man's father: Hal March (right), who once quizzed contestants on The $64,000 Question.  His program, with an 85% share in 1955, had been much more popular than Sally Fields's show.

 


That brought back more memories.  One was from 56 years ago this week, when, as a member of the Oberlin College Class of 1969, I was awaiting the upcoming Commencement of the Class of 1968.

Near West College Street I encountered a classmate:  Jan Olson, my friend and lab partner.  She introduced me to her parents, also on hand for the ceremonies.

One of us found a caterpillar species on Tappan Square that I had never met in person: an inchworm.

Jan's boyfriend was a member of that graduating class, but a year later they would break up.  In the meantime, while Jan and I were seniors, I dated her casually.  When my parents visited the campus in September, we took her to lunch.


Then on November 8 she invited me to dinner at the Oberlin Inn with her visiting folks.

As we walked to the Inn, she playfully asked, “Are you nervous about meeting my parents?”

I reminded her that I had already done so.

 

 

JUNE 8, 2014 flashback    AND THEY ALL LOOK JUST THE SAME

It’s after midnight on a starlit Wednesday night in Las Vegas, Nevada, so the temperature has cooled to 86° on the far northwest side of the city.

You’re Victor Thompson, a captain in the local fire department.  You’re sleeping peacefully in your modern home in your quiet gated community.

Suddenly your wife wakes you.  Someone is insistently ringing the doorbell!  You get out of bed to find out what’s going on.

Two young men are banging on the front door.  They’re shouting things like “Hey, open up, stupid!  We’ve got the beer, but this #$% door is locked!  We’re locked out!  Let us in, you #$%!”  You argue with them, but they become belligerent and won’t stop knocking.  You fear a home invasion.  You take steps to defend your family.  You grab the firearm you keep nearby.  You shoot through the door.  You hit one man in the chest.

I’ve augmented the story by inventing details and dialogue, but the basic facts are there.  According to an article last week in the Las Vegas Review-Journal, the supposed intruders “were at the door after confusing the home with another in the neighborhood.  They had been celebrating a birthday with another person at a nearby house.  They left for a short time and thought they were returning to the same house.  They did not understand why they weren’t being let back in.”

UPDATE:  Gun culture is multiplying tragic stories like this, although St. Louis professor Anders Walker says that "stand your ground" laws "all basically hold you can only use lethal force if you have a reasonable fear you're going to be injured." 

On April 12, 2023, an 84-year-old man in Kansas City fired two shots through a glass door into a teenager who rang his doorbell on Northeast 115th Street, having confused it with an address on Northeast 115th Terrace.

Five days later, a 65-year-old man in upstate New York fired at least two shots at a car that mistakenly drove into his driveway.  He was charged with murder in the death of a 20-year-old woman.

As somebody tweeted, "our national experiment in freely giving deadly weapons to anyone who wants one and cultivating an atmosphere of paranoia and fear is going extremely well."

How could the Las Vegas men mistake one house for another?  “Residents who live nearby,” the article explained, “described the neighborhood as quiet, yet easy to get lost in.  Keith Patton, who lives on the street behind where the shooting happened, said he and his mother have confused the houses by driving or walking up to the wrong driveway several times.”

How confoundingly alike could these little boxes be?  On Friday afternoon, I decided to see for myself.  I took a quick trip to Las Vegas.  Yes, I did!  I used my preferred mode of transportation for such exploration, Google Earth.  It’s much cheaper and faster than an airplane ticket, and I returned with these pictures in half an hour.

I found that the houses are indeed similar and very closely spaced, though they’re hardly identical —  unless it’s 2:00 in the morning and you’re drunk.  That’s Captain Thompson’s home on the left, distinguished by a luxurious 300 square feet of grass in the front lawn.

And the streets are indeed easy to get lost in.  Captain Thompson’s community is a compact square only a quarter of a mile on a side.  Several such squares have been carved out of the beige flatness of the surrounding desert.  One example is the square shown below, ironically named Vista Verde (Green View).  Construction has been completed on almost all of the houses.

The area of this square is forty acres.  Now you young folks don't remember this, but back in my great-grandfather’s day, forty acres was the ideal size for a single-family farm.  When Vista Verde is finished, its forty acres will contain not one but 170 single-family homes.  (A few of those structures might be for general community use.)

Notice the efficient maze of streets, designed to slow speeders.  There are only two ways in and out, through the gates in the middle of the north and south sides of the square.  In the interior it’s left, right, right, left, left, right, right, left, left, right; and if you get caught in a dead end, you need to use the cul-de-sac to turn around.

Las Vegas is growing by 50,000 new residents a year, and they keep building developments like this.  I wouldn’t want to live in such a cramped residential area, crawling over the other workers’ cells to find an exit from the hive.  The West boasts its wide-open spaces, but back here in the East there really are green views.  It's almost heaven.

Google Earth,
Take me home
To the place I belong,
Pennsylvania!

 

JUNE 5, 2024   WHAT'S NEW

Apparently most little boys can tilt their heads all the way back to look straight up.  Apparently my neck is less flexible.  Therefore I learned that I must also lean back from the waist, causing me to almost lose my balance, leading to a lifelong phobia about looking up.

Anyhow, that's a theory that I added this month to my 2003 confession about cringing.

During the past quarter century (almost), I've written over 700 such articles that are linked from this website's colorful menu.  Their contents aren't graven in stone.  Sometimes I discover a typo that needs to be fixed, and sometimes I run across new information that needs to be added.

Here are some other recent updates which I haven't mentioned on this home page until now.

In April 2024, I reported declining enrollments at the three Pennsylvania Western University campuses including the former CalU.
I quoted a famous pilot who argued that expansion is justified for “virile” nations who want to conquer other nations' territory.
And I linked to a video of the lovely Mimmu, our public-relations contact at a 2001 hockey tournament.

In May, I confirmed that an oldtime radio program was not merely the audio from a TV show.
I found architects who agree that a certain geometric shape should be described as a snack chip.
To a Cinerama article, I added a note about an even wider view from a single video camera.
I added a 1943 view of the porch of the dorm behind which our college radio station once lived.
I imagined our newer studios being invaded by numbskulls.
I updated the layout of the desks in my graduate school's lecture hall.
I heard from a man named Bill McKinney whose great uncle “Short” hired my father in 1929.
And to my father's wartime letters from India, where he contracted a mild case of malaria, I added a photo of a later Lions Club food stand.

 

JUNE 2, 2024   TUK'S THE ANSWER — WE NEED A QUESTION

Does an ancient Southeast Asian symbol lead to a blah cure?  A fictional corporate executive suggests it might.

That's because his assignment is Finding a Problem for a Solution.

 

MAY 31, 2014 flashback    SPOKESMAN QUITS

Jay Carney resigned yesterday.  You probably didn't hear about it.  It wasn’t discussed much in the news.

Carney had been the White House press secretary for 3½ years.  Now he has resigned from that demanding job to spend more time with his wife and 12-year-old son and 9-year-old daughter.  It’s said that financial reasons are also driving him back to the private sector, where he previously spent 21 years in journalism.

Forty years ago, there was another resignation of a former journalist turned White House press secretary.  This one did make all the newspapers, because it was in the aftermath of Watergate.  And the man who resigned was my friend’s father!

Well, “friend” is too strong a word.  Karen and I both went to Oberlin College.  As undergraduates, we sometimes shared a conversation at the same dinner table.  I asked her out once.  I never met her father.


I’ve always been a bit of a nerd.  (I identify with the guys on The Big Bang Theory.)  I’ve never gone out much.  During college, as nearly as I can recall, I got up the courage to ask five different coeds on dates.  However, Karen was the only one who turned me down, so I wasn’t a total failure.

Fortunately, I was unlike that kid at Santa Barbara who recently went on a killing spree because he hated girls who refused to go out with him.  I knew better than to expect romance with anyone who was obviously out of my league in popularity.  Those girls already had cool boyfriends, boys with whom I could never compete.  So I accepted reality, as you can tell from my “allegory in four chapters” at the end of this article.

Instead, I tried to interact with a girl as a person, a colleague, a friend.  And sometimes, under the right circumstances, we agreed to attend a concert or something together.


It was the spring of 1967 at Oberlin.  Karen ter Horst was a freshman who lived at the dormitory called Harkness, and I was a sophomore assigned to eat dinner there.

Three years earlier in that same dining hall, the local College Republicans had hosted a future President, Congressman Gerald Ford of Michigan.  But I didn’t know that.  Nor did I know about Karen’s father, Jerald ter Horst, the son of Dutch immigrants.  He was a newspaperman from Grand Rapids who had known Ford since 1948 and had covered his career and the White House ever since.  As a member of the White House press corps, Jerald had been in the motorcade in Dallas in November 1963, but I didn’t know that either.

All I knew was that Karen was a cute, intelligent blonde who not infrequently sat at my table.  Outside, the sun was still shining one evening in April or May when, as the meal was ending, I asked her out.  She said no, thanks.  And that was the end of that.  Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

2024 UPDATE:  Karen went on to marry one Kelly Morris.  To her classmates, she recently wrote:
"In retirement, I am serving on the Board of the Friends School of Atlanta, which I helped found and where I worked for 18 years as Elementary Head.  I'm also active with the Georgia chapter of Alternatives to Violence Project and the Atlanta Friends Meeting.  And I'm enjoying 4 grandchildren."

But as I hinted earlier, there’s more to the ter Horst tale, beginning with Oberlin's Mock Republican National Convention the following spring when Congressman Ford returned to campus.  Five years later, in 1973, he was appointed to replace Spiro Agnew as Richard Nixon’s Vice-President.  The year after that, the Watergate scandal forced Nixon to resign, and Ford became President himself.

He promised a new era of openness and honesty.  He appointed Jerald ter Horst to be his Presidential press secretary, to much applause from ter Horst's friends in the White House press corps.

A month later, in a surprise announcement, Ford issued a pardon to Nixon so that he would not be prosecuted for any Watergate misdeeds. 

I happened to think this was a good move.  It was time for the nation to return to normalcy.  Nixon had already been humiliated by having to quit the nation’s highest office in disgrace.  Dragging him through multiple criminal trials would accomplish little besides prolonging Watergate for years, giving the lie to Ford’s inaugural promise:  “My fellow Americans, our long national nightmare is over.”

But others wanted to see Nixon behind bars.  Many believe that Ford lost the Presidential election of 1976 because he had let Nixon go scot-free in 1974.

Jerald ter Horst also thought the pardon was a bad idea.  For one thing, he had been telling reporters every day what he believed to be true, that Ford had no intention of pardoning Nixon.  Then Ford proved him wrong.  His boss had thrown him under the bus, and he had lost much of his credibility with the reporters.

However, there was a bigger issue of fairness.  He wrote the President, “I cannot in good conscience support your decision to pardon former President Nixon even before he has been charged with the commission of any crime.  As your spokesman, I do not know how I could credibly defend that action in the absence of a like decision to grant absolute pardon to the young men who evaded Vietnam military service as a matter of conscience and the absence of pardons for former aides and associates of Mr. Nixon. ...  Try as I can, it is impossible to conclude that the former President is more deserving of mercy than persons of lesser station in life whose offenses have had far less effect on our national wellbeing.”

So Karen’s dad resigned as a matter of principle, after only one month.  The next year, he received the Conscience-in-Media Award from the American Society of Journalists and Authors.  I had nothing to do with it.

 

MAY 29, 2014 flashback    CHANGING FACES

LeAnn Rimes gave a lovely presentation of the National Anthem before the start of this past weekend’s Indianapolis 500.  At least I thought so.

Yesterday a letter to the editor, apparently from a crotchety old geezer from the moon who longs for the days of Kate Smith, whined that “her warbling, inaccurate pronunciation of words and failure to sing the notes correctly made a travesty of ‘The Star-Spangled Banner.’”  He included Miss Rimes in the category of “some wannabe vocalist.”

I’m sorry, but she’s no longer a wannabe.  In 1992, she began performing the National Anthem a cappella before Dallas Cowboys games.  In 1997, as a new country music star, she won two Grammy awards.

Back (west) side of pressbox at Rice-Eccles Stadium, site of Opening and Closing Ceremonies

I recall another performance.  Miss Rimes was on a stage in Rice-Eccles Stadium.  I was within a TV truck parked without.  It was the opening of the Winter Olympics.

This was in February 2002, less than six months after the 9/11 attacks.  Security was tight, especially because the President was going to be on hand.  We all had our official credentials, like the ID tag that Mark Vidonic is wearing in this photo taken in the graphics trailer at his curling venue.  Several weeks before, we had mailed in our pictures so they could be laminated onto the credentials, which had to be worn at all venues unless we were actually giving a performance.

But during the week leading up to the big performance at the stadium in Salt Lake City, the cast of thousands had to rehearse the complicated opening ceremony several times.

One day during one of those rehearsals, a cameraman zoomed in on the credential around LeAnn’s neck.

I thought, whose picture is that?  It doesn’t look like her at all!  I had only a fleeting glance, but the photo was something like this.

Surely a star could have submitted a proper professional headshot.  Even I had managed that.

LeAnn must have failed to do so and had to have a mug shot taken upon arrival, like a driver’s license photo.

But she cleaned up nicely for the actual ceremony on February 8.  Hours into the show, just after the lighting of the cauldron by Mike Eruzione and his hockey teammates from the 1980 “Miracle on Ice,” the 19-year-old Miss Rimes began the finale by singing “Light the Fire Within” with the Olympic flame burning behind her.

Once in every lifetime, there's a chance to stand apart.
We can show the world our very best — reveal what's in our heart.
So the story goes, and glory never will end.
Inspiration lights the fire within!

She was accompanied by the 83-member Utah Symphony, and singers from the Utah Opera, and the choristers of The Madeleine Choir School, and 695 “Children of Light” carrying lanterns.  Also, I think there were several thousand candles.  Light the fire, indeed.

And for all my Pennsylvania neighbors who last week won the freedom to marry, for whom “the night has been too lonely and the road has been too long, and you thought that love is only for the lucky and the strong,” here's another performance by this wannabe vocalist.

 

MAY 27, 2024   THIS YEAR'S CEREMONY

The college from which I graduated 55 years ago held its annual Commencement this morning in Ohio.  I watched online.

I was surprised by the number of Asian names that were read during the awarding of diplomas.  An app offered live captions of the procedings in Mandarin, Japanese, Vietnamese, Korean, Hindi, Arabic, and Spanish.

Oberlin has always been a center of activism, but as far as I could tell, today's ceremony was not significantly disrupted by demonstrations.  The exception: one minute when a group of students chanted “Free, free, free Palestine!”

The Commencement speaker, Rhiannon Giddens of the Class of 2000 (1:26 to 1:48), did ask the graduating students to join her in a song by Peggy Seeger:

   I cannot understand
   How the sisters, wives and mothers
   Cannot stop the slaughter
   Of the husbands, sons and brothers 

   There never will be peace
   Till men abandon fighting
   As the way to deal with problems
   That prevent us from uniting

   O how I long for peace
   Among the peoples and the nation 
   How I long to halt the plunder
   Of the wonders of creation
   O how I long for peace 

Other speakers included Jan Weintraub Cobb of the Class of 1971, now the President of the Alumni Leadership Council.  I remember working with Jan at WOBC radio.  And the class of 2024's student speaker was Julia Maskin, who hosted a WOBC program for three years.

Additional alumni, including yet another of my WOBC colleagues, have addressed the Palestinian crisis in thoughtful online posts that raise Dangerous Questions.

 


MAY 26, 2024   GLAPHYS IS ILL

Davina's mother-in-law is bedridden with a fever.

Can a compassionate stranger help her?  And just who is the stranger?  Read about his Pastoral Visit.

 

MAY 24, 2024   ON GRADUATING

“I graduated from high school on this date in 1965.”  In that sentence, high school is the object of the preposition from.

Many folks nowadays omit the preposition — incorrectly, in my opinion — and say “I graduated high school.”  Apparently high school is now the object of the verb graduated, which means that I graduated the object.

How did you improve your school?  Did you redecorate it?  Did you desegregate it?  No, but you insist on saying you graduated it.  Wrong!  You graduated from it!

Some chemistry supply firm, however, apparently did graduate this cylinder. 


 
MAY 21, 2024   FISH EARS AND HEAD STONES

You say fish don't have ears?  Of course they do!

It's true that unlike elephants and humans, fish don't have big flaps of cartilage and skin on either side of their heads.  We mammals have evolved those outer ears (called auricles or pinnas) to collect the vibrations of the insubstantial air and funnel them to the inner ear, where hearing actually happens.

On the other hand, fish move through the denser medium of water.  Big floppity flip-flaps wouldn't focus sounds; they would only interfere with swimming.  However, fish do have “tiny stones in their heads which move in response to sound vibrations, triggering signals to the brain.  It's similar to how human hearing works.”  So writes McKenzie Prillaman in the March 9, 2024, edition of Science News.

And what are the fish listening to?  For a large part, each other.  Prillaman says, “Humans have known for millennia that fish are noisy creatures.”  They may “rub or click their bony structures together, contract certain muscles to drum the gas-filled swim bladder, or vibrate stretched tendons in fins.”

Michelle Schärer-Umpierre has been studying underwater sounds in the Caribbean for the past two decades, including a monthly reproductive cycle.  That's something else that's similar to humans.

“Male red hind groupers,” she reports, “make distinct noises when fighting over territory, courting females, and preparing to release sperm to fertilize eggs.  The latter sound consists of nonstop singing for a few hours on nights around the full moon,” otherwise known as the females' time of the month.

We humans might have inherited more from our evolutionary ancestors than we think.

If you ask us which way is up, we might imagine an arrow from the point of our jaw to our forehead.  But what if our head is tilted?  “Up” is a different direction!

Fortunately, we never got rid of the rocks in our heads.  We simply repurposed them to be part of an inertial guidance system, like a spacecraft.

Within the inner ear, “otoconia” are small crystals of calcium carbonate in the horizontally-oriented utricule and the vertically-oriented saccule.  When acceleration moves them one way or the other, they stimulate sensitive hair cells whose signals help the brain's spreadsheet keep track of our head's latest orientation.  Isn't that great?

 

MAY 18, 2014 flashback   
MAY FOLLIES

Here are some more items of old news from the “In Retrospect” column of the Richwood Gazette, the weekly newspaper in my old hometown of Richwood, Ohio.

In May of 1888, the editor warned gardeners not to buy small packets of seeds from possibly dishonest purveyors.  It often happens, he said, that only a few seeds will actually grow.  “In the fall, what remains of these seeds are gathered up and mixed with the seeds of the coming year and sold again.  The best way to avoid such imposition is to raise your own seed, dried and stored away.”

Also in May of 1888, the Knights of Pythias in the neighboring town of Prospect were “talking of organizing a band to be composed exclusively of members of the order.”

In those days almost every town had a band of musicians — until the gramophone was invented and people could play its cylindrical recordings any time they wanted.  The famous bandleader John Philip Sousa deplored “canned music,” as he aptly called it.

The phonograph proved popular in Richwood.  See here.

It appears that Richwood was a “dry” town that banned liquor while its neighbor to the east was not.  In May of 1913 the paper reported that “fellows from Richwood have been causing Prospect officials untold trouble” by going over there and getting drunk.  Finally, Prospect asked Richwood’s Mayor M.W. Hill to supply a “black list” of Richwood people to whom “booze” should not be sold.  “Mayor Hill promptly supplied Mayor Hough with over a dozen names.  When those affected learned of this, they became ‘madder than old wet hens’ and in no uncertain terms told Mayor Hill just what they thought of him and asserted that they intend to move out of town, but to date have not acted on that extremity.”

Also in May of 1913, the Electric Light Plant had a failure.  Until new parts arrived, the town was “in total darkness from Friday until Tuesday.  The residents were compelled to fall back on coal oil [kerosene], gasoline, acetylene and other methods of illumination.”

But the shopkeepers may not have minded the first night of darkness on Friday, because that same spring the “business houses” had agreed to close at 5:30 pm on Tuesdays and Fridays to give their clerks a couple of nights off.  “The merchants expected to hear complaints, but instead, customers commended the stores for giving clerks time to themselves.”  I’m reminded of the time 43 years later that my father unilaterally decided to close his doors at noon on Saturdays, for similar reasons.  Nowadays most stores can stay open for longer hours because they've hired more than one shift of employees.

Model T Fords were not powerful enough in May of 1913 for drag racing.  But motorcycles were, and young bikers were frightening their elders.  “The roads between here and Marion have become Sunday speedways for flying motorcycles.

“They travel singly and in groups, and the machines are driven at terrific speeds, converting public highways into dangerous places for all who are brave enough to venture therein.  Frequently young women are taken on these machines at breakneck speeds along the country roads.  A moment’s attention drawn from the handlebars, a little pebble under the front wheel, a swerving of the machine, a crash into a telephone pole, and a tragedy develops.  It is hoped the hair-raising, fool-hardy, devil-chasing tomfoolery will soon cease.”

In May of 1938, Richwood High School seniors came to class on the final Friday of the school year “with the girls dressed in short dresses and hair ribbons and the boys in short pants in celebration of senior day.”  We had something similar in my era three decades later, except the seniors didn’t dress like little kids; they dressed in scruffy clothes that would not normally be good enough to wear to school.  I think we called it “Senior Slop Day” or something like that.  Nowadays office workers call it “Casual Friday.”

And in May of 1963, the four local auto dealerships held a six-inning “old timers” ball game on Memorial Day evening.  Although I was a high school sophomore at the time, I don’t remember this at all — even though the game was umpired by my father, Chevrolet dealer Vernon Thomas, along with Plymouth dealer Bernard Benton.  According to the newspaper preview, the two teams represented Swartz Motors Ford, with Claud “Casey” Swartz and Whimp “Advisor” Jordan, and Gruber-Reidenbaugh Pontiac, with Merle “Slow Ball” Gruber and Jack “The Man” Reidenbaugh.  “Both sides have an exceptional lineup of slow and hard-hitting talent, with a few openings on both sides for local volunteers who have their wills and life insurance policies made out.”

 

MAY 15, 2024   HOLD MY ADS

Is this any way to run a newscast?  With no ads at all in the first half, then a second half which is 60% commercials, mostly for obscure pharmaceuticals with weird made-up names like Ultomiris and Amminadab* and Xiidra?

It seems like an odd format, but the advertisers look at the ratings and smile.  I crunch the numbers in All the News for Now.

*Actually Amminadab is not the name of a drug.  It was the name of Aaron's father-in-law [Exodus 6:23, Matthew 1:4].

 

MAY 13, 2024   DON'T WANT TO RETRACE MY STEPS

The neighbor's dog knew the words to an old song — or at least he knew his part — as I recalled here nearly ten years ago.

But he didn't understand how leashes work.  Long ones sometimes entangled him.

To read more, click this box for a classic article I posted to this website more than a hundred months ago.

 I tried to explain the twists and turns in this month's 100 Moons article.

 

MAY 10, 2024   CAN'T YOU READ THE SIGN?

As far back as the 1970s, graphics were created by inkers and sign painters.  One of them was a colleague of mine, though that wasn't his main job.

Nowadays, however, hand-painted placards are being replaced by printed plastic sheets, as well as by illuminated roadside pixels that you drive past too fast to comprehend.

My new article on this subject takes its title from a line in a well-remembered 1971 song by Five Man Electrical Band:
Sign, Sign, Everywhere a Sign.

 

MAY 7, 2014 flashback    MAGIC AMMO

Faced with a difficult situation, sometimes we try to find a “silver bullet” that will provide an easy answer.

Silver bullets are a metaphor for “simple solutions to complicated problems,” writes columnist Landon Y. Jones.  “In folklore across many cultures, a bullet made of silver is the only way to kill a werewolf or devil.”  However, he adds, real-world experiments suggest silver bullets are less accurate than lead ones, and they wreak less havoc.

Of course!  It’s simple physics.  Check out this chart of various metals, with their densities in grams per cubic centimeter.

Aluminum

2.7

Iron

7.9

Silver

10.5

Lead

11.3

Radioactive Uranium

18.9

Depleted Uranium

19.1

Gold

19.3

Platinum

21.4

For two projectiles of the same size, the mass of a silver bullet is 8% less than that of a lead bullet.  With only 92% of the momentum, the silver bullet will be slightly less stable in flight and will do less damage when it hits the werewolf.

But there are other options.  Compared to silver, gold is 84% heavier and platinum is 104% heavier.  Bullets made from these precious metals would be much more effective.  However, they would cost about 70 times as much as silver and 1,400 times as much as lead.

A more practical choice, with essentially the same density as gold:  depleted uranium (DU), a byproduct of enriching fuel for nuclear reactors.  The military loads DU projectiles into some of its weapons, such as the 30mm rotary cannon on the A-10 Warthog aircraft.

You want depleted uranium bullet, kemo sabe?

 

MAY 4, 2024   PLANET WARFARE

As a former physics major, one of the cable TV networks I've bookmarked as a “favorite” is, of course, the Science Channel.  However, most of their programs don't measure up to the PBS series Nova.  More often, they're tabloid-quality investigations of the alleged Bermuda Triangle and “NASA's Unexplained Files.”

What on Earth? was the channel's most-watched series when it debuted more than nine years ago.

Preview descriptions of episodes almost always begin with “Satellite images capture bizarre structures.”  The narrator will pretend to be baffled about these unexpected contours until experts can approach them at ground level.  On a recent weekend they found, and I quote:

  An ancient amphitheater with a history steeped in gladiatorial bloodshed.

  A 19th century Apache fortification linked to a treacherous migrant route.

  A derelict WWII munitions factory.

  The largest aircraft storage facility on Earth and the rotting remains of a defining moment in Cold War history.

  A hidden NATO doomsday communications bunker.

  A lost Soviet-era military compound and the development of a catastrophic electromagnetic weapon.

What does it tell us that the strange shapes all turn out to be relics of humans fighting humans?

 

MAY 1, 2024   COURTLY LOVE


Today marks the 750th anniversary of a May Day party at the home of a banker in Florence, Italy.  There, on May 1, 1274, nine-year-old Dante Alighieri was smitten by an eight-year-old neighbor girl called Beatrice.

The two grew up separately and married others.  However, after her death 16 years later, Dante began writing poems dedicated to her memory.  In the last part of his narrative poem The Divine Comedy, Beatrice appears as his guide, finally ascending again to her rightful place in heaven.

 

 

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