Sunday, March 27, 2016

Woman, Why Weepest Thou

Happy Easter!

In our sacrament meeting today, one of our sisters sang this song, accompanied by piano and cello. It was even more beautiful than this version:

Thursday, March 17, 2016

The Plural of Bigfoot

Guy Edwards "Bigfeet." I heard it on the radio, so I know it's true. Because if you read it on the Internet and it's true, then it's got to be even TRUER on the radio, right?

The photo at right shows Guy Edwards, a self-described “Bigfoot hopeful” and the blogger who founded the Bigfoot Lunch Club blog.

If you want to find out more about Bigfoot, you COULD check out the bazillions of Bigfoot blogs online: just Google "bigfoot blog" and revel in all the hits. But I think most of these are unreliable, as most of these nut-cases seem to think the plural of Bigfoot is Bigfoots.

(Yes, I'm posting this on St. Patrick's Day, because if you believe in leprechauns, then of course you're a Bigfoot Believer. Am I right?)

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

It Breathes

Some 30 very small earthquakes shook the earth under Mount St. Helens earlier this week.

Some of these couldn't even be called earthquakes; they were called "events" by the USGS people who were monitoring the mountain.

Even the large ones were less than 1 magnitude, all of them were at a depth of 3 to 4 kilometers (just over 1-1/2 miles) under the surface and all of them were too small to be specifically located.

These "events" are common as Mount St. Helens goes through its "recharge process." Similar events took place in "swarms" between 1987 and 2004.

Yep, it's alive, it's breathing, and it's recharging.

For more information, check out this interactive map with accompanying explanation.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Happy Pi Day!

Image result for pi dayFrom Time magazine, here's an explanation of why people care about Pi Day:

March 14 (3/14) is celebrated annually as Pi Day because the date resembles the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter — 3.14159265359 or 3.14 for short.

Archimedes of Syracuse (about 287–212 B.C.) is credited with doing the first calculation of Pi, while British mathematician William Jones came up with the Greek letter and symbol for the figure in 1706 — which was later popularized by Swiss mathematician Leonhard Euler, beginning in 1737.

Last year’s date — 3.14.2015 — was especially significant because it matched the first four digits after the decimal point. This year, some math lovers have already started calling 3.14.16 “Rounded Pi Day,” rounding up those four digits.
More about Pi Day, from the New Yorker magazine:

[Last year] we asked the mathematician Steven Strogatz to write an essay for our Web site explaining why pi is worth celebrating. Pi, he wrote, “puts infinity within reach.” It’s also crucial to the math not just of circles but of cycles (which are, when you think about it, circles in time). Pi, Strogatz pointed out, “appears in the math that describes the gentle breathing of a baby.” Structural engineers use it to think about earthquakes. Oceanographers use it to think about waves. It’s everywhere.

Here's another article about "The Pursuit of Beauty" in mathematics. 

And here's one for most of us, those who don't find mathematics beautiful and in fact may have math anxiety. A sample from this one:
1. When your first grader asks for help solving a Common Core math problem involving subitizing and stable order, how do you respond?

(a) I strangle my child while shrieking, “This . . . is . . . why . . . we . . . bought . . . you . . . that . . . fancy . . . computer, Liam! 

(b) I tell my child, “Go ask your mother. Your birth mother. I think she lives in Canada.”
(c) I ask to see the equation, then discuss it with my child using nonsense terms.

Example: “Simply tri-dram the hexabop until the tetramint indoles.” If my child appears confused, I say, “I wish you were smarter.”

Friday, March 11, 2016

Pres. Obama on the Republican Party's Current Mess

Again, from the press conference with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, from the transcript provided by the Huffington Post:

The question was asked: "Some of your critics have pointed to the incredibly polarized political climate under your administration as contributing to the rise of someone as provocative as Donald Trump. Do you feel responsibility for that, or even some of the protectionist rhetoric from some Democratic candidates?"

Pres. Obama's answer:
With respect to your first question, I've actually heard this argument a number of times. I have been blamed by Republicans for a lot of things, but being blamed for their primaries and who they're selecting for their party is novel.

Look, I've said -- I said it at the State of the Union that one of my regrets is the degree to which polarization and the nasty tone of our politics has accelerated rather than waned over the course of the last seven and a half years. And I do all kinds of soul-searching in terms of are there things I can do better to make sure that we're unifying the country. But I also have to say, Margaret, that, objectively, it's fair to say that the Republican political elites and many of the information outlets -- social media, news outlets, talk radio, television stations -- have been feeding the Republican base for the last seven years a notion that everything I do is to be opposed; that cooperation or compromise somehow is a betrayal; that maximalist, absolutist positions on issues are politically advantageous; that there is a "them" out there and an "us," and "them" are the folks who are causing whatever problems you're experiencing.

And the tone of that politics -- which I certainly have not contributed to -- I don't think that I was the one to prompt questions about my birth certificate, for example. I don't remember saying, hey, why don't you ask me about that. Or why don't you question whether I'm American, or whether I'm loyal, or whether I have America's best interests at heart -- those aren't things that were prompted by any actions of mine.

And so what you're seeing within the Republican Party is, to some degree, all those efforts over a course of time creating an environment where somebody like a Donald Trump can thrive. He's just doing more of what has been done for the last seven and a half years.

And, in fact, in terms of his positions on a whole range of issues, they're not very different from any of the other candidates. It's not as if there's a massive difference between Mr. Trump's position on immigration and Mr. Cruz's position on immigration. Mr. Trump might just be more provocative in terms of how he says it, but the actual positions aren't that different. For that matter, they're not that different from Mr. Rubio's positions on immigration -- despite the fact that both Mr. Cruz and Mr. Rubio, their own families are the products of immigration and the openness of our society.

So I am more than happy to own the responsibility as President, as the only office holder who was elected by all the American people, to continue to make efforts to bridge divides and help us find common ground. As I've said before, I think that common ground exists all across the country. You see it every day in how people work together and live together and play together and raise their kids together. But what I'm not going to do is to validate some notion that the Republican crack-up that's been taking place is a consequence of actions that I've taken.

And what's interesting -- I'll just say one last thing about this -- there are thoughtful conservatives who are troubled by this, who are troubled by the direction of their party. I think it is very important for them to reflect on what it is about the politics they've engaged in that allows the circus we've been seeing to transpire, and to do some introspection.

Because, ultimately, I want an effective Republican Party. I think this country has to have responsible parties that can govern, and that are prepared to lead and govern whether they're in the minority or in the majority, whether they occupy the White House or they do not. And I've often said I want a serious, effective Republican Party -- in part to challenge some of the blind spots and dogmas in the Democratic Party. I think that's useful.

You mentioned trade, for example. I believe that there have been bad trade deals on occasion in the past that oftentimes they have served the interests of global corporations but not necessarily served the interests of workers. But I'm absolutely persuaded that we cannot put up walls around a global economy, and that to sell a bill of goods to the American people and workers that if you just shut down trade somehow your problems will go away prevents us from actually solving some of these big problems about inequality and the decline of our manufacturing base and so on.

And that's an area where some traditional conservatives and economists have had some important insights. But they can't be presented effectively if it's combined with no interest in helping workers, and busting up unions, and providing tax breaks to the wealthy rather than providing help to folks who are working hard and trying to pay the bills. And it certainly is not going to be heard if it's coupled with vehement, anti-immigrant sentiment that betrays our values.


Pres. Obama on the Supreme Court

Here are the main points from Pres. Obama's remarks on the Supreme Court. As we all know, there is currently a vacancy on that court. Pres. Obama is constitutionally supposed to nominate a person to fill that vacancy, and the Senate is constitutionally supposed to consider that nominee. These remarks were made in his press conference with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau this week, with thanks to the Huffington Post for this transcript:

With respect to the Supreme Court, I've told you, Julie, what I'm looking for. I want somebody who is an outstanding jurist, who has impeccable legal credentials, who, by historical standards, would not even be questioned as qualified for the Court.
Obviously, it's somebody who I want to make sure follows the Constitution; cares about things like stare decisis and precedent; understands the necessary humility of a judge at any level in looking at statute, looking at what the elected branches are doing; is not viewing themselves as making law or, in some ways, standing above elected representatives, but also recognizes the critical role that that branch plays in protecting minorities to ensuring that the political system doesn't skew in ways that systematically leave people out, that are mindful of the traditions that are embedded in our cherished documents like the Bill of Rights.

So in terms of who I select, I'm going to do my job. And then my expectation is going to be that the Senate do its job as outlined in the Constitution. I've said this before -- I find it ironic that people who are constantly citing the Constitution would suddenly read into the Constitution requirements, norms, procedures that are nowhere to be found there. That's precisely the kinds of interpretive approach that they have vehemently rejected and that they accused liberals of engaging in all the time. Well, you can't abandon your principles -- if, in fact, these are your principles -- simply for the sake of political expedience.

So we'll see how they operate once a nomination has been made. I'm confident that whoever I select, among fair-minded people will be viewed as an eminently qualified person. And it will then be up to Senate Republicans to decide whether they want to follow the Constitution and abide by the rules of fair play that ultimately undergird our democracy and that ensure that the Supreme Court does not just become one more extension of our polarized politics.

If and when that happens, our system is not going to work. It's not that the Supreme Court or any of our courts can be hermetically sealed from the rest of our society. These are human beings. They read the newspapers; they've got opinions; they've got values. But our goal is to have them be objective and be able to execute their duties in a way that gives everybody -- both the winning party and the losing party in any given case -- a sense that they were treated fairly. That depends on a process of selecting and confirming judges that is perceived as fair. And my hope is, is that cooler heads will prevail and people will reflect on what's at stake here once a nomination is made.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Capitalization: Titles

I just checked with the Grammar Girl because good old Microsoft Word's Grammar Policeman told me I was doing it wrong.

Hah! I was right, and MS Word was wrong.

Here's the Grammar Girl page on capitalizing words in titles.

I needed it for the title of a poem, or, I should say, a ditty, I was throwing together:

What I’ve Learned From the Internet

Dogs are awesome, kittens are cute,
You’ll get lots more done if you keep it on “Mute.”

Good dog, bad kitty.
Parrot talks, Trump’s penis is bitty.

Everyone’s got secrets. But not for long, these days.
No good acts goes unpunished, and crime always pays.

That's as far as I've gotten, and probably as far as I'm going to get, with this, which I guess is by way of admitting that I haven't learned all that much from the Internet, after all (insert emoji).

Monday, March 7, 2016

More from the Audubon Society of Portland

Ruby the turkey vulture, enjoying the sunny day

Ruby, one of the Education Birds:

Hatched: Spring 2007
Arrived at Audubon: Sept. 28, 2007

Sex: Female

Expected lifespan: 15-20 years in wild; 20-25 in captivity

History: In 2007, a woman called the Wildlife Care Center to report that an apparently tame Turkey Vulture was hanging around her property near McMinnville, Ore. It had flown down to the ground and thrown an acorn at someone’s feet, slept on the woman's porch, followed her around and into her barn, and jumped onto her arm.
Care center staff made numerous calls to find out where Ruby had come from, but could not find a history. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife permit department and care center staff determined that Ruby had probably been illegally taken from the wild as a baby and imprinted onto humans. As a result, Ruby cannot be returned to the wild, where she would most likely fall prey to predators, be hurt by humans, or  be taken in as a pet.
Beautiful trees with blue sky

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Pittock Mansion

I haven't visited there yet, but will soon, as it is supposedly an easy hike from the grounds of the Audubon Society of Portland.

Here's an article about the Pittock Mansion and the folks who used to live there.

He owned the Oregonian, and she was a stay-at-home mom of six children who also found time to do volunteer work in the community.

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Warp Drive

warp1 Sterling, Va:

"Once upon a time, the short stretch of road known as Steeplechase Drive was just another offramp street in an industrial part of town. Then the headquarters of the Orbital Sciences Corporation moved in." Read the rest (very short) here.

Friday, March 4, 2016

Eliza R. Snow --- More About Her Story

We knew the "Missouri troubles" included rape of Mormon women by those gangs of Trump-like mobsters. But this is shocking to read:

Eliza R. Snow herself was one of the victims, as reported in a recent BYU historical meeting.

According to the Salt Lake Tribune:

"The rape was brutal, and so it made Eliza unable to have children," Brigham Young University-Idaho professor Andrea Radke-Moss said in an interview.
Mormon founder Joseph Smith "offered her marriage as a way of promising her that she would still have eternal offspring and that she would be a mother in Zion."
News about the rape — discussed Thursday by Radke-Moss for the first time in an academic forum — comes from the autobiography of Alice Merrill Horne, the granddaughter of Bathsheba W. Smith, one of Snow's closest friends.
As a child, Horne would spend time at her grandmother's home, listening to the elderly women of Mormondom reminisce about the early days of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Radke-Moss said. "She then wrote about those visits 50 years later in the 1930s, where she recalled hearing those women discuss the rape of Eliza."
Those recollections seem to confirm the speculation of Snow's biographer, historian Jill Mulvay Derr, who has argued that the iconic writer's wording about Missouri "exposes particular rage that is not seen in most of her other poetry."
More from the SLT account of the presentation by Radke-Moss, titled  "Beyond Petticoats and Poultices: Finding a Women's History of the Mormon-Missouri War of 1838":
Understanding Snow's horrific experience could help Mormon women today, "some of whom live in war-torn areas where they themselves have been the victims of rapes," Radke-Moss suggested. "How much better can we nurture and mourn with these women than to provide them with an empathetic model of the survivor of a gang rape in war? And not just any Mormon woman, but the Mormon woman."

It might also help modern Latter-day Saints "rethink, or at least complicate, the origins of plural marriage," Radke-Moss said. For Snow, polygamy was about "spiritual comfort following a savage crime that made her infertile, and a protective measure in the context of trauma and sexual violence that Mormon women experienced."

Aeneas in the Underworld

Remember how the hero Aeneas carried his father Anchises from the burning city of Troy? And remember how he went to find Anchises in the Underworld?

I had forgotten this until I read this excerpt from the Aeneid in the New Yorker magazine, March 27, 2016, issue:

I love this translation, too. I guess it's so beautiful because it's by a modern poet, Seamus Heaney. It's so different from the translations I read as a high school and college student, which were pure torture. This one is so readable; it speaks to my heart and makes me think of Vergil's world (and after-world) view and how not unlike my own they are:

From Book VI:
Elsewhere Anchises, 
Fatherly and intent, was off in a deep green valley 
Surveying and reviewing souls consigned there, 
Those due to pass to the light of the upper world.
 It so happened he was just then taking note

Of his whole posterity, the destinies and doings,
 Traits and qualities of descendants dear to him, 
But seeing Aeneas come wading through the grass 
Towards him, he reached his two hands out
In eager joy, his eyes filled up with tears 
And he gave a cry: “At last! Are you here at last?
 I always trusted that your sense of right
 Would prevail and keep you going to the end. 
And am I now allowed to see your face,
 My son, and hear you talk, and talk to you myself?

This is what I imagined and looked forward to 
As I counted the days; and my trust was not misplaced. 
To think of the lands and the outlying seas 
You have crossed, my son, to receive this welcome. 
And after such dangers! I was afraid that Africa
 Might be your undoing.” But Aeneas replied: 
“Often and often, father, you would appear to me, 
Your sad shade would appear, and that kept me going
To this end. My ships are anchored in the Tuscan sea.
 Let me take your hand, my father, O let me, and do not

Hold back from my embrace.” And as he spoke he wept. 
Three times he tried to reach arms round that neck. 
Three times the form, reached for in vain, escaped 
Like a breeze between his hands, a dream on wings.
(Translated, from the Latin, by Seamus Heaney, 1939-2013.)

So now I'm going to re-read this poem, or at least part of it. I've found a wonderful edition of the first six books that has both the Latin and the English, with helps for the translation. I sure hope part of my years of college Latin remains somewhere in the recesses of this brain.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Who Wrote Shakespeare's Plays, Part 2

Of course the Earl of Oxford isn't the only suspect in the mystery. Here's an interesting bit from Mark Rylance, the founding director of Shakespeare's Globe Theatre in London:

While acting in Stratford-on-Avon, Rylance began to think about the authorship question. “I used to walk a lot at night, after the theatre. I was a Stratfordian”—the term for those who believe that the plays were written by William Shakespeare, of Stratford-on-Avon. “I wasn’t that curious about it. I thought we were acting the plays where he’d lived. It really crept up on me; after a month or so, Shakespeare looked different to me. He looked like Francis Bacon: he was wise, he was witty, and he was private and secretive about the plays. He stood back from his characters and let them speak.”

Rylance began to organize meetings at the R.S.C. to discuss the authorship question. Some of the actors, he says, were discomfited. The Royal Shakespeare Company is based in Stratford-on-Avon; the premise of staging the plays there, a tradition that dates to 1879, is that it’s their author’s birthplace.

Rylance thinks now that William Shakespeare was most likely a front for a small band of writers, perhaps headed by Francis Bacon, which included, among others, Lady Mary Sidney. He argues that in the seventeenth century it wouldn’t have been appropriate for persons of rank to write for the public theatre; therefore they would need to do so anonymously. “If you even suggest that Shakespeare would have had to be at court, it’s heretical,” van Kampen said. “It’s a metaphor, and it’s about Englishness.”

I asked Rylance what the question meant to him as an actor. He said, “I accept that there isn’t enough evidence, that it’s an open question, but the not knowing means I’m not backed into a corner.” He paused, and went on, “If you think of Shakespeare’s plays as a house, the man from Stratford is the main door: the fantasies are wide, but the facts are narrow. Why did he have no books? Why did he have no letters? If you look in the window and find the Earl of Oxford, it’s a bedroom, and this raging Hamlet; in another window you see Bacon, with his books and his Good Pens. The thing about the Stratford people is that they have no evidence. I love fantasy and illusion—we all get to have our fantasies. I’m tired out by my friends being attacked because their fantasy doesn’t match the Stratford fantasy.” Rylance smiled. “It’s very Shakespearean, really, this mystery—as though he set it up in the plays. But it can be harmful to become obsessed.”
 There's more. Check out the whole article if you're interested.