Click images to enlarge.
A wonderful slew of Birthday Greetings has poured into my inbox -- chiefly due mechanically to my dust-gathering unattended Facebook page, which automatically e-mails my 11,619 friends that it's my birthday.
Above, a lovely faux postage stamp from my old Army pal what lives in the USA state shaped like the palm of a right-hand mitten.
He and most of his family and neighbors are in mourning because of the above final American college football score. (I don't know who his daughter, a water-polo champion, roots for, because she attended both universities.)
Having attended a university that did not play football after some sort of murder shooting scandal in the gym in the 1920s, I have adopted U-Michigan as my College Football team, and my father-in-law (who wore a sweatshirt that said
THE MICHIGAN OF THE EAST
) asked to be buried in his U-Michigan socks, and was.
On Friday 5 February 2016 I turned LXIX.
My least favorite reply on chat (I'm lePendu on Undernet) when someone demands to know my exact age is:
"Oh, you're older than my dad."
My usual reply to such demands is:
"Oh, you're a mathematician! You love numbers! Me, too, I love numbers! That's so cool!"
Many chatters have noted that when you try to pronounce the acronym asl, it sounds a lot like asshole.
My desires for longevity are modest. I just want to hang in there until 2062 so I can see Comet Halley a second time. I will try not to drool on the attendant who wheels me outside to see it.
Mark Twain came in with Comet Halley, and went out with the spectacularly close 1910 flyby of Comet Halley.
My Great-Aunt Nathalie heard I was writing a newspaper article about Halley's and phoned to ask if it would be possible to see it near Washington DC. 1986 wasn't a spectacularly close flyby, and if you REALLY wanted the best possible view, you had to see it from the Southern Hemisphere. (I flew to the Australian desert.)
But she'd been born in 1910 and all her life her older siblings had told her "You came with The Comet!" Now she wanted to see it. So on my advice, her grandkids drove her out to the Maryland mountains near Camp David, for the clearest least light-polluted skies, and she saw The Comet for the first time! (Or the first time she could remember and understand what she saw.)
Old age (I prefer "dignified maturity") is usually no hindrance to eyesight, particularly if you've had cataracts surgically (actually by ultrasound) removed. Since then, my eyesight's as sharp and eyeglass-free as it was in my twenties.
This may just be urban legend, but it was commonly believed that cataract removal extended human vision into ultraviolet frequencies. The legend says such people were used as coastal UV light-signal observers during World War II. If you know The Truth (or the Not Truth) about this, please Leave A Comment.
Comet Halley appeared over Normandy and England a few days before the Battle of Hastings in 1066. One who'd seen its previous flyby in 989 wrote:
"You've come, have you? ... You've come, you source of tears to many mothers, you evil. I hate you! It is long since I saw you; but as I see you now you are much more terrible, for I see you brandishing the downfall of my country. I hate you!"
-- Eilmer of Malmesbury
the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle
Edmund Halley (a close and very important pal of Isaac Newton) was the first to prove that comets were predictable natural phenomena and did not presage omens of the fall of empires and births and deaths of kings. Specifically he predicted the next return of "his" comet (though when it did show up right on time, 13 March 1759 N.S., he'd been dead for many years).
Halley was a Royal Navy commander who once wheeled Tsar Peter the Great around the Royal Observatory in Greenwich in a wheelbarrow (and then contrariwise). They were very drunk. I'm guessing either gin (the first mass-produced high-octane beverage, also known as "Dutch courage") or rum, though the Tsar may very well have brought his own vodka.
Please visit the (Old) Royal Observatory, designed by Christopher Wren, and overlooking Queens House by Inigo Jones -- if there's a Heaven, this is what the architecture will look like. Outside you can skip back and forth over the illuminated sidewalk line that separates the Western and Eastern Hemispheres (your globe's 0° Longitude Line), and inside you can see the restored Harrison chronometers still ticking away, which solved Longitude calculation anywhere on Earth. (Newton favored a "clock" based on the Galilean satellites of Jupiter.)