Saturday, December 25, 2010

Happy Santa Claus day everyone!

I just want to make sure everyone from all walks of life has a Happy whatever day today.

The Christmas Story

Best version ever.

"The Christmas Story (2010 version) - as told by the children of St Paul's Church."

Friday, December 24, 2010

Thursday, December 23, 2010

North Point's iBand

Another way to use cell phones and new technology:

"Christmas music using borrowed iPhones and iPads at North Point Community Church."

Christmas Food Court Flash Mob, Hallelujah Chorus

Another submission:

"On Nov.13 2010 unsuspecting shoppers got a big surprise while enjoying their lunch. Over 100 participants in this awesome Christmas Flash Mob. This is a must see!

"This flash mob was organized by to wish everyone a very Merry Christmas!"

Cell Block Yoga

If only they had done yoga, Velma Kelly and Roxie Hart wouldn't have been on trial...

Machinema Meets Thermodynamics

It's a bit of a slow news week before the holidays (Happy Festivus today by the way) so I will just post the Flanders and Swann song The First and Second Law of Thermodynamics performed by characters from the MMORPG City of Heroes/City of Villains. Enjoy!

Reprinted with permission from the Half-Astrophysicist Blog.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Irregular Football League Update

We're in the final week and two underdog teams, the KK Krunchers and The Debate Team, face off for the championship, while the Half-Astrophysicists and the Potato Heads, who must have lost their edge on the bye week, take each other on for 3rd place.

Cell Phones

Sassa got me thinking...could you live without yours? I could live without mine for a short period...I don't use it in banks, post offices, grocery stores, restaurants, etc. And I have a rule at my house that says no texting at the dinner table (only one family did I have to enforce this one! They were texting each other...duh!)

Can't we talk to each other...what is this where we can't put the darn thing away for two minutes? I don't get it!

A GIGGLE with the GOATS Jingle Bells Holiday Performance

Submitted by one of our secret admirers:

Intersection Hwy 11 & Hwy 32 Finally Reopens

They have been working on this intersection and its railroad overpass since the Mesozoic era. I drove through today and it was open for all traffic. Hooray! Now, if they will just finish work on the State Street Bridge, another kink will be taken out of my routine.

Dear Madame Zoltar

Hello, my holiday hymns and hers! How are you? Well, I guess there is little doubt about a white Christmas in Racine this year. It’s very nice and appropriate. I can tolerate temperatures in the 30’s and 20’s. It was chilly at downtown’s Winterfest last Saturday, but even an old-timer like me can take it for a half hour or so. What I worry about is the months to come. Temperatures in the single digits or below zero frighten me. That gets dangerous. I hope that Mother Nature goes easy on us in January and February.

I watched Sunday night’s Packer game with great trepidation. After messing up my prediction of who the starting quarterback would be, I started to believe the hype about the New England Patriots. By game time, I was a pessimist. But then our glorious Green Bay Packers fought with spirit and valor. They gave the Patriots more fight than they’ve encountered in quite awhile. The Packers led at the half. The game finally came down to the last few seconds. There is nothing shameful about that, especially not for a second string quarterback making his first NFL start after only a week’s preparation. I salute you, o mighty Packers! Enjoy your Christmases, and then vanquish the New York Giants on Sunday afternoon.

I just have to take time to once again publicly thank SC Johnson Company for their generous donation of more than $600,000 to fix and maintain the Dr. Laurel Salton Clark Memorial Fountain for children of all ages in Racine: We are truly blessed to have a company of such caliber take a philanthropic interest in our city. Thank you, again, ladies and gentlemen.

I received an email from our own Mr. Logjam late last week. Here is what he had to say:

Dearest Madame Z,

This should be the merriest time of year, but somehow I can't get motivated. I am avoiding sending out the Christmas cards fearing I would end up with blisters on my tongue like last year from licking the envelopes. I'm still trying to find a present for the Mrs. that she won't return on the 26th. I have a string of lights out on the house, decorations that I will have the ambition to June. I'm beginning to think that having to pay my property taxes this week had something to do with it, but that isn't all of it. I'm beginning to think Scrooge was right. Maybe I'm getting tired of people, stores, and TV commercials wanting my money, being afraid to say Merry Christmas; preferring to stay with the sterile "happy holidays." Besides a little heat in the eggnog, I am open for suggestions to get me into the Christmas spirit. Any suggestions or hocus pocus you could bring forth would be appreciated.

As always,

Oh my dear, dear Mr. Logjam, I can empathize with you, but Christmas definitely is a wonderful time of year if you can get in the spirit. (By the way, “heat in the eggnog” is a form of spirits.) I try to ignore the commercialization of Christmas as much as I can. If you are in the stores, though, you will be bombarded with it. I try to make my shopping expeditions into “missions” where I go in, get what I want, and get out, as quickly as possible. I don’t have much control over how others treat Christmas or how it is hyped. My antidote is to seek out situations where the holiday is treated with more respect. One simple thing is taking a leisurely drive to look at Christmas decorations at night. Mr. drewzepmeister posted a blog on this: Even just driving by the lights at the Zoo cheers me up a little.

Christmas music is another way to get into the spirit. I’m not talking about what they blare at you in the stores – I’m talking about a favorite Christmas album or two that you can listen to, or, better yet, attend a holiday concert. Often a choir singing can fill me with a sense of majesty and beauty.

Probably the most important thing you can do, though, is to help someone else. The spirit of giving is the spirit of the holiday. Presents and gifts are wonderful expressions of our love for each other, but perhaps there is some simple need in your community that you can fulfill, whether by action or donation or time and effort. Helping others seems to be what His message is all about, so what better way to celebrate His birth?

Oh my, I sure have run on this week. I hope I helped you a little with my suggestions, Mr. Logjam. The “hocus pocus” should have arrived a few days ago. I sincerely wish each and every one of my Irregulars and regulars a most Merry Christmas! May the love of the season warm your hearts all year long. Joyous Noël!

Want to know what the New Year has in store for you? Find out here:

Be careful on the slippery streets and sidewalks, my dears. Slow and easy does it. Take your time and you will get there in one piece. Peace!

Open Blog - Wednesday

Three more days till Christmas...

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Elvis Presley - "Santa Claus Is Back In Town"

One of my favorite Christmas songs. Merry Christmas!

Lunar Eclipse Pics

I just wanted to post several pics I took of the lunar eclipse last night. High thin clouds obscured the view at times here, but got enough holes to see quite a bit. The clouds started thickening up a bit more right about the time of maximum eclipse when the Moon was deepest inside Earth's shadow.


Reprinted with permission from the Half-Astrophysicist Blog.

Monday, December 20, 2010

The Winter Solstice Eclipse and Statistics

A lot is being made of tonight's "rare" lunar eclipse that occurs on the Winter Solstice. Most news reports state there hasn't been a lunar eclipse on the solstice since 1638 to make the point that this is a rare event.

Which got me to thinking, how often would a lunar eclipse occur on any given date. Heck, I know one has not occurred on my birthday during my lifetime.

I admittedly don't know all the intricacies of calculating eclipse frequencies, so this is an exercise in estimation. Eclipses can occur any month of the year as seen from this list. Not every eclipse is total however, so let's restrict ourselves to total lunar eclipses since that is what everyone is making such a big deal about. They occur about every 18 months on average. Every 100 years there are about 67 total lunar eclipses. Let's assume for a moment (I know this is a bad assumption) that they all occur on different calendar date. It would take about 550 years (well 544, but this is an estimate so close enough) for every day of the year to have on eclipse occur on that date. In reality it will take a lot longer since many dates will have two eclipses occur on them long before the 550 years is up. So to me, the fact that this hasn't happened in 372 years just doesn't seem like that big of a deal to me (although the solstice can vary couple of days adding another layer to the mix, it still seems well within statistical norms).

Now I have made some assumptions here...the most questionable of which is that eclipses are equally likely on any given day. If this assumption is bad, it could make the winter solstice eclipse a more or less rare event...would take some number crunching to find out. I found a cool catalog of 5000 years of eclipses from NASA but it's not in nice form to easily analyze the dates. However, during 5000 years, there were an average of 69.5 total solar eclipses per century, so my guess was pretty close!

So before you think this is a big deal, take ANY random date of the year and try and find when the last time an eclipse occurred on that date. I bet it won't be hard to find a date that has an interval greater than 372 years! So enjoy it, but remember, statistically speaking, it sure looks like nothing out of the ordinary.

Reprinted with permission from the Half-Astrophysicist Blog.

For You Scrooges Out There

Rémi Gaillard ( is at it again. I don't share the sentiment, but I know that some of you are muttering, "Bah, humbug."

Open Blog - Monday

Only 5 shopping days left until Christmas.

Dear Santa,

Please bring me a new gun.

The Sheriff

Sunday, December 19, 2010

I Have a Very Bad Feeling About This...

It might go totally off the geek charts for most people here...

Darn, I Missedd the 'Type-In'

A "Type-In" was held at a pub in Philadelphia yesterday for fans of manual typewriters:

Personally, I was more fond of electric typewriters than manual ones. I had an old IBM Selectric office machine from the late 50's at one point. It weighed as much as a boat anchor and hummed loudly when you turned it on.

I grew up around a typewriter because my sister preceded me in school and she had one. Then I got one. I was never proficient on the keyboard - I use a method halfway between hunt-and-peck and fluent typing. After years and years of eraser pencils that tore holes in paper, and goopy whiteout that stuck to everything, and messy carbon paper that smeared and smudged, I considered it a miracle when the word processor appeared. When computers with word processing software and printers appeared later, it seemed even more miraculous. A lot of the novelty has worn off now, though, and I think nothing of it as I edit this blog before I post it.

I still have a portable electric typewriter, but I haven't looked at it in years. I guess I hang onto it for sentimental value more than anything else. It's just another relic of my prehistoric past.

Here's a couple of links from the story:

HELP needed....

Here's the scoop.

Over a week ago, hubby set up his brother with a gmail account, using my computer.... sounds innocent enough... right........

somehow it piggy backed his new account with my existing account.
When hubby tried detaching them, my account appeared to be wiped out completely.. so I began to reset it up.
When I visited my own blog - MINE, it doesn't recognize me as author, nor does it here.
After much clicking around, and having password assist and other helps emailed to me, my brother in laws account is what controls MY account... the one that I have access to my blogs.
Does ANYBODY at all have a clue how to reclaim my account without wiping out his? For now I reset the password on his before I knew it did that... so he will not be able to access his email (not that he does much anyways...)

Ready to pull out my hair, and why? Because it's too much work for him to hit the button on his own computer and turn it on... grrrr

any help would be hugely appreciated :)

The Winter Solstice Lunar Eclipse

Every now and then you get a lunar eclipse on the winter solstice. That's just the way the geometry of the Earth/Moon/Sun system works out. Lunar eclipses are a pretty and easy to observe phenomena.

A lunar eclipse happens when the Moon is on the opposite side of the Earth from the Sun and passes through Earth's shadow. Lunar eclipses only happen when there is a full Moon. A lunar eclipse won't happen every time there is a full Moon since the Moon's orbit is inclined to the plane of the solar other words, the Moon will usually pass wither above or below Earth's shadow. Every now and then, everything lines up and you get the lunar eclipse.

This eclipse is well positioned for observers in North America, but you have to stay up a bit late. The penumbral eclipse starts at 1:29am eastern time. The penumbral phase is usually not impressive as the Moon is passing through the outer part of Earth's shadow and changes very little (although I have noticed the color of the Moon change from white to a pale yellow during this phase of the eclipse). The ubmral phase starts at 1:32am EST. That's when you notice the dark part of Earth's shadow starts covering the Moon. At this point, it's obvious something is going on. Totality starts at 2:40am EST and mid-eclipse is at 3:16am EST. Totality ends at 3:53am EST and the partial phases end at 5:01am EST.

During the total phases of the eclipse, you can usually still see the Moon as a deep red or orange color. Sometimes it is fairly bright while others it almost disappears. How bright it appears depends on lots of factors including how close to the center of the shadow the Moon passes and how much particulate matter is in Earth's atmosphere. With recent volcanic eruptions, it might be a bit darker of an eclipse than usual, but there is only one way to find out!

No telescope is required to watch the eclipse. Binoculars and small telescopes provide good view. Now just have to stock up on Red Bull to stay awake (or coffee for you coffee drinkers!)

Reprinted with permission from the Half-Astrophysicist Blog.