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25 July 2011

An Earth Robot (Dawn) is orbiting the Solar System's biggest asteroid (4 Vesta)! It uses an ion (xenon) propulsion engine!

Click stamps to enlarge.

A wonderful thing just happened! Earth humans for the first time sent a robot probe to an asteroid and put it into orbit! Then it began taking pictures of the asteroid!

The robot probe, Dawn, shoots through space using an ion propulsion engine! It shoots ions out its ass for velocity and acceleration!

The asteroid, Vesta, between Mars and Jupiter, is the biggest asteroid in the Solar System.

20 July 2011

la Vie Boondocks

from an e-mail to my brother ...
Gentleman who repairs the emergency electric generator

showed up today -- it had taken him a long time to squeeze us in because our area had two authentic tornadoes last month, which made him a super-busy emergency generator fix-it guy.

Last Monday the weekly Self-Test failed, and we started freaking out. (Especially since this is Surprise Tornado Season in New England.) The guy opened the hood and spent an hour mystified and unable to diagnose the problem. (He's been installing Generac emergency generators for 40 years.)

Finally, as he was about to throw up his arms in defeat and frustration, we all noticed a big-ass black rubber hose dangling loose -- two years of vibrating now and then had loosened the hose, and The Thing wasn't getting its propane. It's working fine again now, so
Blow, winds, and crack your cheeks! rage! blow! 
You cataracts and hurricanoes, spout
Till you have drench’d our steeples, drown’d the cocks! 
You sulphurous and thought-executing fires, 
Vaunt-couriers to oak-cleaving thunderbolts, 
Singe my white head! And thou, all-shaking thunder, 

Strike flat the thick rotundity o’ the world! 
Crack nature’s moulds, all germens spill at once 
That make ingrateful man!
I learned a lot! It's an engine much like a car or lawn mower, so it spews out carbon monoxide (that's the Bad News) -- but the Good News is that carbon monoxide is heavier than air, so it hasn't been wafting up and through the windows and into our living room, and we haven't been snuffed and killed.
Love and Happiness (Al Green), Live Long & Prosper,

17 July 2011

another Bluebell Wood in England

Click image to enlarge.

photo by Keith Hulbert and Paul Zarucki
Minolta Dimage S414
2 May 2005, late afternoon
Buckinghamshire, UK
51.823N 35.217W

the Bluebell Forest in Essex, and Gerard Manley Hopkins' "The May Magnificat"

Click image, I think it will get Very Big.

in Colonel's Covert, East Leake, 
South Nottinghamshire, England. 
End of May, beginning of April.
52.81459N 1.18986W

IF there are any funny things in the punctuation of this poem, that may lead you to believe they are errors or typos, they are something else. More than any poet whom I enjoy, Gerard Manley Hopkins attended to -- obsessed upon -- every dot of ink in each poem he wrote down on paper. So when I went looking for this Hopkins poem just now -- a Hopkins poem new to me until today -- and filched it (I think he's been dead long enough not to hear any complaints from his estate, and he possibly has no estate because he was a Jesuit priest, and such have sworn an oath to poverty, among other intentionally unnatural desires), I have reproduced it hither WYSIWYG, hoping only that the site from where I filched it reproduced Hopkins' original intentions.

S.W.M.B.O. does not share my appreciation for Hopkins. One reason Hopkins obsessed so on punctuations and diacriticals was that he was trying to re-inject into modern English poetry as much as he could reflect of our lingo's root lingo, circa 650 A.D. Anglo-Saxon a.k.a. Old English poetry, a task Hopkins called "sprung rhythm."

Anglo-Saxon literature is S.W.M.B.O.'s métier -- she is your Go-To Human for all your Beowulf needs* -- and regards Hopkins' sprung rhythm experiment as having all the authenticity of EuroDisney's animatronic talking Madame de Pompadour. (But I am sure many men and perhaps a few women have fallen under Mme Electric Pompadour's spell, too, and visit her often.) In general, S.W.M.B.O. has very little appreciation or regard for anything claiming to be English literature more recent than Ælfrǣd the Great (died 899). 20th century literature she regards largely with confused unpleasantness, like accidentally drinking Moxie soda pop, and what litherachoor the young 21st century has produced so far strikes her with blunt horror, outrage, and the frequent urge to phone the police. Mostly she wonders why sane humans would even write this stuff in the first place, and immediately realizes her question contains its own answer.

This beautiful early summer Sunday morning began gently with a kiss from the satellite TV, from the BBCA = BBC America channel. This fellow Robert Macfarlane

(born Halam, Nottinghamshire 15 August 1976), is a British travel writer and literary critic. Educated at Nottingham High School, Pembroke College, Cambridge and Magdalen College, Oxford, he is currently a Fellow of Emmanuel College, Cambridge, and teaches in the Faculty of English at Cambridge.

had a show called "Unexpected Wilderness," and prowled all over the environs just beyond London to find areas still wild (and that's not easy, but Macfarlane knew where the wild places are), places pretty much as they were before The Angles and Saxons or Picts and Scots canoed from the Continent to the island of Britain.

We tuned in just as Macfarlane was in a Bluebell (Hyacinthoides non-scripta, or Endymion non-scriptum, or Scilla non-scripta, or Agraphis nutans) Forest on the cusp of April/May. At this moment, spring sufficiently warms the soil for the bluebell bulb to revive and bloom, but this woodland explosion of wild blue has only a brief time to shock, scream, astonish and thrill us. Soon the forest canopy will revive, and block sunlight to the forest floor, and all the bluebells will be gone.

Macfarlane is also a Hopkins freakazoid, and as he stood ankle-deep in a lurid blue flood of these gorgeous but temporary wildflowers, he quoted from this poem, and said Hopkins saw the yearly thrill of the bluebell forest as a miracle which always had the power to lift his heart -- which was usually depressed, bleak and unhappy. (Whatever else Hopkins was, no one has ever called him a Happy Camper.)

So here's the whole poem thing.

I think "Unexpected Wilderness" was originally broadcast in UK as "The Wild Places of Essex" in a series called "The Natural World." (Essex is from
Ēastseaxe = "the East Saxons." I think the Saxons were originally hired to come to England as mercenary soldiers.) An astonishing documentary of beauty and ideas -- Who knew these amazing places were there?

Macfarlane makes clear that they were here before we got here and made so much noise and destruction, and they will be here to watch us go. (This week they are watching News of the World and a dozen of its top pervs go extinct, or prepare to defend themselves from criminal charges, or are hiding from outraged lynch mobs.)

* Except who or what Grendel was. S.W.M.B.O. doesn't know, she says nobody knows. I had a lovely e-mail exchange with an f_minor fellow who actually lives in Friesland (their weekly newspaper is written in Fries), and he says nobody on the island has a clue either. Grendel could have been a really big, nasty, man-eating duck. Or it could have been a One-Eyed One-Horned Flying Purple People-Eater.

* * *

The May Magnificat

by Gerard Manley Hopkins

May is Mary’s month, and I
Muse at that and wonder why :
......Her feasts follow reason,
......Dated due to season—

Candlemas, Lady Day ;
But the Lady Month, May,

......Why fasten that upon her,
......With a feasting in her honour ?

Is it only its being brighter
Than the most are must delight her ?

 ......Is it opportunist
......And flowers finds soonest ?

Ask of her, the mighty mother :
Her reply puts this other

......Question : What is Spring?—
......Growth in every thing—

Flesh and fleece, fur and feather,
Grass and greenworld all together ;

......Star-eyed strawberry-breasted
......Throstle above her nested

Cluster of bugle blue eggs thin
Forms and warms the life within ;

......And bird and blossom swell
......In sod or sheath or shell.

All things rising, all things sizing
Mary sees, sympathizing

 ......With that world of good
 ......Nature’s motherhood.

Their magnifying of each its kind
With delight calls to mind

 ......How she did in her stored
...... Magnify the Lord.

Well but there was more than this :
Spring’s universal bliss

 ......Much, had much to say
 ......To offering Mary May.

When drop-of-blood-and-foam-dapple
Bloom lights the orchard-apple

 ......And thicket and thorp are merry
 ......With silver-surfèd cherry

And azuring-over greybell makes
Wood banks and brakes wash wet like lakes

 ......And magic cuckoocall
 ......Caps, clears, and clinches all—

This ecstasy all through mothering earth
Tells Mary her mirth till Christ’s birth

 ......To remember and exultation
 ......In God who was her salvation.

14 July 2011

Monster aaaah! Monster aaaah! Monster! Monster! Get outta here Monster!

Click image to enlarge.

Fred Schneider is ... oh never mind. He's Really Somebody, with a long history of being a Very Big Somebody, and if making money is any kind of criterion for whether you're Somebody (Donald Trump and Rupert Murdoch, by this criterion, are Somebody), Fred Schneider has turned his unusual skills and talents into quite a lot of money.

I suspect Fred doesn't blow it all on 28 Lamborghinis and Hispano-Suizas. But I would love to know what Fred Schneider spends his money on.

I do feel compelled to say that according to Wikipedia

Schneider is well-known for his sprechgesang which he developed from reciting poetry over guitars.

Where Fred is now I don't know, but he's spent a lot of his adult life in Athens, Georgia USA, home of the University of Georgia. Clearly Athens, Georgia must be a surpisingly odd and unusual place, with regular volcanic explosions of unique, original and enormously popular music.

Anyway, over the years Fred has released a few solo albums, and this song, "Monster," is from his first, "Fred Schneider and the Shake Society." He and some remarkably talented friends made this video to go with it, and apparently MTV ended up banning it. It was too dangerous for young and impressionable viewers to see on Planet Earth.

But you can see it on Planet Vleeptron. We're not scared.
Nothing that comes out of peoples' brains and mouths scares us on Vleeptron. If you're not pointing a gun or a knife or making a fist, we're not scared.

(If you are caught brandishing weapons, it's back to the Akira Kurusawa Zeta Beam Drome for you, pal, and you get a one-way zap back to Earth.)

* * *

sound: ON
right-click on song title: Open in New Window
Click on Full Screen



lyrics by Fred Schneider
music by John Coté
from the album "Fred Schneider and the Shake Society"


[spoken:] I saw it officer,
It looked prehistoric ...

There's a monster in my pants
And it does a nasty dance
When it moves in and out
Everybody starts to shout

Monster, aaaah
monster, aaaah
Get outta here monster!
Monster! Monster!
Get outta here monster!

There's a monster in my pants
And it does a naughty dance
When it sees the light of day
You can hear the people say

Oh no, a monster!
Oh no, a monster!
Oh no, oh no, 

oh oh a giant monster
Monster! Monster!
Oh no, a giant monster!

Shut the window, bolt the door!
Don't wanna see that monster no more!

There's a monster in my pants
And it does a modern dance
When it comes into a room
People hit it with a broom

Take that monster!
Take that monster!
Take it! Take it!
Take that you awful thing!
Take that aaah!
Take that aaah!
Take it! Take it! 

Take that you naughty thing!

And they don't wear pants
on the other side of France
But they do wear fleece
to protect them from the beasts

Monster! Monster!
Oh gee, a great big monster!

There's a monster on the run
and it wants to have some fun
When it flies up in the air
all the people stop and stare

The guys give a yell
and the girls start to shriek 

when they see its giant claws
and its razor-sharp beak

[spoken:] Gosh would you look at that thing?
And I thought dinosaurs were extinct!


07 July 2011

Tierra de los Sueños / 6-sheet: historic issue reprint / Gunpowder / components / proportions

Click stamp sheet once or twice to enlarge.

Tierra de los Sueños / TdSPosta
6-sheet: Historic issue reprint
Gunpowder / components / proportions

Dingbats by Adina Weinand

Someone asked me what saltpetre (the British spelling; in the USA it's spelled saltpeter) was, so I had to tell her. It's potassium nitrate KNO3. Where do you get it? It forms, after time, as a white powder on the surface of mammal or bird excrement and urine. It's the component of gunpowder that supplies the big bolus of oxygen for the rapid combustion. 

Charcoal (from softwood) is obviously the carbon fuel, and the relatively small amount of sulfur lowers the ignition temperature, so that the heat of a match or a flintlock spark will begin the combustion. I found the proportions (from a standard circa 1750 recipe) expressed as percentages -- 75, 15, 10 percent -- but simply reduced them to lowest terms: 15, 3, 2 (by weight).

The Fourth of July was just a few days ago so my thoughts have been nudged toward gunpowder -- cheap Macau-style firecrackers particularly. But the celebration features gunpowder explosions because it celebrates a war that used gunpowder/black powder as its high-tech weaponry, Sufficient to kill or maim either by musket or cannon. (By the end of the 19th century, gunpowder had been replaced by smokeless powder, which doesn't reveal the location of the rifleman.)

From China to Turkey to North Africa, and then finally to Europe, the world of the last 1200 or so years would be unrecognizable without gunpowder. In Europe it instantly extincted the knight in shining armor, and drastically changed the design of castles, whose walls were now angled so cannonballs would bounce off them.

Emerging from an era of magic, gunpowder weapons and their spherical bullets quickly took on magical and legendary trappings. Wikipedia:


A Freischütz ("freeshooter"), in German folklore, is a marksman who, by a contract with the devil, has obtained a certain number of bullets destined to hit without fail whatever object he wishes. As the legend is usually told, six of the Freikugeln, or "free bullets", are thus subservient to the marksman's will, but the seventh is at the absolute disposal of the devil himself.

Various methods were adopted in order to procure possession of the marvelous missiles. According to one, the marksman, instead of swallowing the sacramental host, kept it and fixed it on a tree, shot at it and caused it to bleed great drops of blood ... He then gathered the drops on a piece of cloth and reduced the whole to ashes, and then with these ashes added the requisite virtue to the lead of which his bullets were made ... Various vegetable or animal substances had the reputation of serving the same purpose.

Stories about the Freischütz were especially common in Germany during the 14th, 15th and 16th centuries; but the first time that the legend was turned to literary profit is said to have been by Johann August Apel in the Gespensterbuch or Book of Ghosts. It formed the subject of Weber's opera Der Freischütz (1821), the libretto of which was written by Johann Friedrich Kind, who had suggested Apel's story as an excellent theme for the composer.


There was also the legend of the "hard man," a warrior with a magical invulnerability to harm by bullets.

Flash paper is wonderful stuff you can buy at a Magic Shop, if you can still find a Magic Shop. It's sheets of tissue paper impregnated with gunpowder. Magicians use it for sudden smokey flashes -- guaranteed to distract the audience -- and bookies write their bets on flash paper, and if the cops start to smash the door in, someone tosses a cigarette or a match into the bowl of betting slips and FOOMF! -- no evidence.

06 July 2011

Reversing long policy, Obama White House will now send condolences to families of military suicides

Cable News Network / CNN
Wednesday 6 July 2011

Official: White House to lift
ban on military 

suicide condolences

by Dan Lothian, White House Correspondent

    Official: Move applies to families of deployed service members who commit suicide
    Decision will help end "stigma" of wars' mental health toll, official says in statement
    Senators, family of a deceased soldier had asked president to reverse the policy
    Army report showed a steady rise in 2004-2009 Army and Marine suicide rates

(CNN) -- The Obama administration has reversed a White House policy of not sending condolence letters to the next-of-kin of service members who commit suicide, a senior administration official confirmed in a statement to CNN.

The move comes nearly six weeks after a group of senators -- 10 Democrats and one Republican -- asked President Barack Obama to change what they called an "insensitive" policy that dates back several administrations and has been the subject of protest by some military families.

In the statement Tuesday, the White House official said a review had been completed, and the president will send condolence letters to families of service members who commit suicide while deployed to Iraq, Afghanistan and other combat operations.

"The president feels strongly that we need to destigmatize the mental health costs of war to prevent these tragic deaths, and changing this policy is part of that process," the official's statement said.

"Unfortunately, perpetuating a policy that denies condolence letters to families of service members who die by suicide only serves to reinforce this stigma by overshadowing the contributions of an individual's life with the unfortunate nature of his or her death. It is simply unacceptable for the United States to be sending the message to these families that somehow their loved ones' sacrifices are less important."

CNN first reported in 2009 about the family of Army Spc. Chancellor Keesling, who killed himself while serving in Iraq.

The family set up a wall to pay tribute to Keesling in their Indiana home. Along with his uniform and the flag from his burial service, a space was left for the expected condolence letter from the commander in chief.

Upset when they learned a suicide did not merit a letter from the president, Keesling's father, Gregg, wrote to the president and the Army chief of staff requesting the policy be changed. He argued that his son's suicide was a result of what he was exposed to during war and that it deserved to be considered caused by battle.

According to an Army report last year, annual suicide rates in the Marine Corps and the Army -- the two branches most involved in combat operations in Iraq and Afganistan -- increased steadily between 2004 and 2009, to more than 20 per 100,000 people. During that time the rate for those two branches surpassed the age-adjusted, national civilian average, whereas suicide rates for the Air Force and Navy stayed below the national average.

In 2001, the suicide rate among Marines, like the Air Force and Navy, was about half the civilian rate, and the Army's, while higher than the other three branches, was still below the civilian rate, according to the Army report.

CNN's Adam Levine contributed to this report.

- 30 -

03 July 2011

STARTPAGE -- the search engine with a DIFFERENCE! It's none of anybody's business who you are or what you search for!!!

Click on image to enlarge.

Some jerk once told me that anybody who has strong concerns about privacy must have something to hide.

It is also widely accepted (usually by right-wing  conservatives like the Mother of All Rejected Supreme Court nominees Robert Bork) that there is no "right to privacy" in the United States Constitution.

On the other hand, there is Supreme Court Justice Louis B. Brandeis' wonderful dissent in Olmstead v. U.S.:

"... the right to be left alone -- the most comprehensive of rights and the right most valued by civilized men."

So which is it? If you value your privacy, are you a pervert or a terrorist? 

Or if you value your privacy, are you the core of what being an American is all about?

Well, while you're deciding all that, let's talk about Search Engines.

Every time you ask Google to search for "edible panties," Google, Yahoo, and almost every search engine records your IP (Internet Protocol -- your computer's unique address) and what you asked to search for. 

There's some vague controversy about how long they retain this information ... months, years, forever ... but while they're retaining it, you and youe search queries are vulnerable to inspection by a government search warrant or subpoena, and the big search engines will promptly comply.

They made their decision long ago: They'd rather fuck and spy on and betray their customers than piss off the government.

So let me introduce you to a search engine called

It's actually a "meta-search engine" -- which means it does its searching by using Google and other big search engines. So it's quite a powerful search engine.

But Startpage has a Big Difference: It does NOT store your IP address, and it does NOT store your search requests. It keeps no customer database of your queries.

So even if the government slaps them with a subpoena -- Startpage has nothing stored abut you and your searches to give to the government!

So far this post has seemed very America-centric, as if privacy concerns on the Internet were strictly a USA cowboy thing. But StartPage actually has its origins as a Dutch search engine called Ixquick


On June 27, 2006, became the first search engine to delete private details of its users. IP addresses and other personal information are deleted within 48 hours of a search. Ixquick also does not share its users' personal information with other search engines or with the provider of its sponsored results.

Ixquick was awarded the first European Privacy Seal (EuroPriSe) for its privacy practices on July 14, 2008. This European Union-sponsored initiative guarantees compliance with EU laws and regulations on data security and privacy, through a series of design and technical audits. As of January 28, 2009, Ixquick no longer records users' IP addresses at all.

Okay, that's all I've got to say about Startpage / Ixquick for now. I'd LOVE it if Web-Savvy people left a lot of Comments about Startpage, its shortcomings, its fallacies, its loopholes -- because I can't find any yet. All I get from Startpage are hits on my search queries.

Until I discovered Startpage recently, I just assumed that the entire Internet was kissing government and law-enforcement butt and had long ago chosen to play footsie with the authorities -- that there was and would never be any user privacy on the Web.

Surprise! Check out Startpage! (Or let the government probe your inerests in edible panties whenever it feels like it.)

01 July 2011

Tierra de los Sueños / TdSPosta / 1st Day Issue: Gunpowder

   Click on stamp to enlarge.

Tierra de los Sueños / TdSPosta
1st Day Issue: Gunpowder
(charcoal, saltpetre, sulfur)
dingbats by Adina Weinand