Monday, March 31, 2014


Found this circulating among some of the sites I regularly visit and found it pretty funny.

A good way to end March, I think.

Sunday, March 30, 2014


… Napier believed that one of his servants was stealing some of his belongings.  He announced that his black rooster would identify the transgressor.  The servants were ordered into a dark room, where each was asked to pat the rooster on its back.  Unknown to the servants, Napier had coated the bird with a layer of lampblack.  On leaving the room, each servant was asked to show his hands; the guilty servant, fearing to touch the rooster, turned out to have clean hands, thus betraying his guilt.

- e, The Story of a Number, pg. 4, by Eli Maor

Yes, I just started reading a book about the mathematical constant e, which is equal to 2.718281828459045 … (and it’s fairly easy to memorize those fifteen digits east of the decimal point).

And yes, I am enjoying it.

Saturday, March 29, 2014


Is Good for the Soul …

For my penance the priest asked me to read up on the Eucharist. 

Hey!  I did some researched posts on the Eucharist early in the days of the Hopper,

and here.

(Oh, and I also got a book by Cardinal Wuerl to read tonight.)

Friday, March 28, 2014


Monsignor Ronald Knox said, “we are here to colonize heaven, not make things better on earth.”

Knox (1888-1957) was an Anglican priest who converted to Catholicism at age 30.  I know basically nothing about him, but came across the above quote in an article on St. Augustine’s commentary on the Sermon on the Mount.  About Augustine and the Sermon on the Mount I know a little bit.

However, Knox’s phrase intrigues me.  In three words: is it true?  Is it true we are here to colonize heaven, not to make things better on earth?

To my non-professional yet interested eye, I agree with the first half of the sentence, but not the second.

And I think Catholic doctrine – all Catholic doctrine, from the “pro-life” movement so anathema to many American progressives to the “Catholic social teaching” so anathema to many American conservatives – agrees with me.

We are called to fight injustice, be it legalized infanticide that’s the law of the land or the ever-widening wage disparities between CEOs, poor working joes in the middle class, and the poorest citizens of the inner city or Appalachia.  And every injustice in between.

But I do believe Knox has the order correct.  And I think Jesus says so, too, and states it most explicitly in His command that we be first and foremost concerned with the logs in our own eyes before those in our neighbors’.

So I would re-phrase the phrase thusly:

“We are here primarily to colonize heaven, and secondarily to make things better on earth.”

Not as poetic, but more to the truth, I think.

However, I could be wrong, and would not be adverse to listening to why.

(Postscript – I am fully cognizant that Msg. Knox is most likely being hyperbolic to make a point.  Heck, I do that at least once a week here on the Hopper, to an audience 0.00000000000372% the size of his …)


I really want to know why.

Thursday, March 27, 2014


Stumbled across some quotes today from Desiderius Erasmus (1466-1536), Dutch Catholic priest, theologian, commentator; a contemporary, co-conspirator, and critic of Martin Luther.  Don’t recall much about the man, save that a seemingly inordinate amount of time was spent on him in a college history class I took circa fall 1994.

On books –

“When I have a little money, I buy books; and if I have any left, I buy food and clothes.”

“Your library is your paradise.”

“Before you sleep, read something that is exquisite, and worth remembering.”

“I consider as lovers of books not those who keep their books hidden in their store-chests and never handle them, but those who, by nightly as well as daily use thumb them, batter them, wear them out, who fill out all the margins with annotations of many kinds, and who prefer the marks of a fault they have erased to a neat copy full of faults.”

On writing –

“The desire to write grows with writing.”

On Church and Faith –

“I put up with this church, in the hope that one day it will become better, just as it is constrained to put up with me in the hope that I will become better.”

“Only a very few can be learned, but all can be Christian, all can be devout, and – I shall boldly add – all can be theologians.”

On War –

“War is delightful to those who have had no experience of it.”

Now commit them all to memory!

A Tense Philosophy of Work

My daily, Monday through Friday, 8 am to 5 pm existence, tension in the form of a two-part dichotomy:

Does the squeaky wheel get the most oil?


Does it get replaced?

I’ve seen both, and I’m not sure I can predict such outcomes safely and predictably.

Ah, the trials and tribulations of a wage slave!

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Ring of Inanity

Last night, surrounded by my books, words and sentences, paragraphs and chapters on the sublime mysteries of infinity, of salvation through Christ, of the hard practicalities of why the South lost the Civil War, reading a little of this, a little of that, pondering these deep subjects –

Or at least trying to.

The wife was watching Rocky IV (not her fault; I found it channel surfing earlier in the night), and all I could think about was –

Who would win in a fight, Clubber Lang or Ivan Drago?

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Book Review: Everything and More

© 2003 by David Foster Wallace

So I pick up this book on the subject of mathematical infinity from the library a month ago intending to get to it one of these days.  At least crack it open and test drive a chapter.  The cover looks kinda dry, and I’m not sure the topic will sustain me over 305 pages.  But I remember borrowing the book once before and not even doing it the justice of a perusal, so I figure, about two weeks ago, to give it a whirl.

What a whirl!

I read nearly a hundred pages in the first two days.  This is a math book – well, a book about math – that is unlike any other math book, er, book about math I’ve read.

To greater and lesser degrees, it manages to be:

Hip without being stupid

Geeky without being Wolowitzian

Trivia-laden without being trivial

Non-conformist without being conformed to nonconformism

Interesting without being shallow

Non-conventional without being unreadable

Knowledgeable without being self-important

Does any of that make sense? 

Maybe this does: within ten minutes I was mercilessly hooked.  What have I learned?  Not sure, exactly, save that I would love to read more of this type of stuff.  Does anyone else write this / write like this?
However, it’s not without a downside, and boy, it’s a big downside.  Couple of them, actually.  First, while I was able to follow the philosophy and the math more or less for the first 200 pages, I’m completely at a loss in the final haul.  Wallace seems to me to be leaping forward in bigger bounds than the average reader (assuming I’m an average reader; dunno; Wallace seems unsure of his target audience, though I’d guess I’d be somewhere in the vicinity of that bullseye) can keep pace with.  If we were holding hands exploring infinity the first five chapters, now he’s let me go in a mad rush forward to see where all this is leading, writing for himself, it seems, rather than for me. 

Also, while researching the book itself, I came across some opinion that Wallace is peddling – probably unknowingly – facts that aren’t quite a hundred percent factual.  As to that, I rely on the authority of the claimants / complainants I’ve read; me, I’m lost and couldn’t tell a true transfinite operation from a false one.  I also note only one serious critique by someone I’ve read. 

See that list of qualities I wrote above of the book having?  Re-read them please.  Now, they’re still true.  And add on top of this the most shocking fact I discovered two days ago.  Mr. Wallace, after years and years of struggling with depression and medication for depression, committed suicide in 2008.  I actually exclaimed “No!” aloud, loud enough for my wife to cock an eyebrow at me and wonder what all the commotion was about.  Then all I thought about was what a waste and God rest his soul and poor me, now I will never get a chance to read wherever else he intends to investigate

Grade: solid-A.  Everything and More is something I will definitely purchase and re-read in the future.

Scenes from a Blimpie's Restaurant

PATCH (age 5): Daddy!  She won’t give me a sip!

ME:  Little One, give your sister a sip of your drink.  She gave you a sip.

LITTLE ONE (age 9):  But that was pay-back!

ME:  Pay-back?  For what?

LITTLE ONE:  For opening her drink.

ME:  Patch, did your sister open your drink for you for a sip?

PATCH:  Yes.

ME:  And you gave her a sip?

PATCH:  Yes.  Now I want one of hers!

ME:  Little One, give her a sip.

LITTLE ONE:  I don’t want any backwash in my fruit punch!

ME:  Just give her a sip.

LITTLE ONE:  (sticks out her tongue at Patch)

PATCH:  I have a phone and I’m not afraid to use it! 

Patch pulls out her fake, imitation cell phone and chucks it at her sister’s head.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Z-Pak the Sequel

Hi.  Still fighting them microbiotic invaders within my bloodstream and brainstream.  Started my second Z-Pak this weekend.  Though the continuous coughing, the merry-go-round vertigo, and the bathroom-to-bedroom chills are gone, there is a weakness of breath and overall fatigue I can’t shake.  Not to mention pounds and pounds of mucus in my skull.  Which I just mentioned after saying I wouldn’t.

So, there was no writing done this weekend.  Not much reading, either.  I took the girls out on errands Saturday.  Afterwards we watched three episodes of Ghost Hunters on the floor of the living room – Little One is huge into ghosts.  Problem is, I fell asleep.  The little ones took it upon themselves to go out in the backyard and play for two hours while I dozed.  That was the highlight of Saturday.

The wife came home from her business trip sometime Sunday early a.m.  I took a hot bath and put away some pages, then showered and took Little One to mass (she’s an altar server).  Got back and had the energy to take my girls to the park.  Read a little bit of this, a little bit of that when we got home.  Surfed the iPad.  Watched some teevee (including Walking Dead, but hey, Dead!  You’re still on notice!).  Slept like the dead.

Will try to do two-a-day posts, one in the morning and one in the evening, cuz I like to average one post a day and I’m a little behind the eight ball here.  So do check back now and then.  I got a lot to write about, just a question of finding that Boolean intersection of the Energy and Time sets.

Friday, March 21, 2014


What do you do when a union starts to picket your store?

From what I read, it seems this Subaru dealer used a few non-union workers for some minor constructive alterations on their building.  Boom – a few days later a picket of protesters camps out on the lawn in front of their shop.  What to do?  How do you respond to something like this?

Like this:

Add your own banner!

Beautiful.  Classic.  I love it.  Put a smile on my face and kept it there all day.

(Note: I deal with a union at work – not a member myself – and let me tell you, half the union people’d rather not have to pay the dues and initiation fees and whatnot for what “benefits” they get …)

Hat tip:  The Corner at National Review Online.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Beliefs by the Numbers

A lot of the creepy goofiness I write about here is tongue-in-cheek.  A lot of that is because I grew up eating this stuff for breakfast lunch and dinner.  Saturday morning and the weekly-themed Channel 7 4:30 movies (Godzilla, 50s sci-fi, Universal and Hammer horror), Leonard Nimoy’s In Search Of, my favorite section in the library my mother worked at (001.9), Star Trek, Space 1999, and all the weird paperbacks I devoured.  So back then, and we’re talking the Seventies, I believed it all.

Sometime in the intervening period, I grew up.

But I still enjoy it.  Call it camp.  Call it nostalgia.  It still appeals to me.

To what degree?  How much of me wants to believe this stuff true?  I found myself wondering this at lunch earlier today working my way through last night’s ziti-and-meatball leftovers.

How about to these degrees –

Bigfoot – 5%

Yeti –  3%

UFOs – 100% (I saw one!)

UFOs as vehicles for sentient alien life – 5%

Alien Abductions – 0%

Ghosts – 10% (maybe just not what we think they are)

Vampires – 0%

Witches – 10% (see Ghosts comment)

Lake and Loch monsters – 3%

Ancient Aliens (the History-channel types) – 2.5%

Atlantis – 25% (definitely not what Pop Culture thinks it is)

ESP – 10%

The events known as “The Amityville Horror” – 1%

The Holy Grail – 50%

The Shroud of Turin – 100%

So there ya have it.  I think I did something like this here on the blog at some remote point in the past, but I can’t remember when exactly (was it in a JFK post?) and am too busy/too tired to do a search for it.  If I do, though, I’ll comment on my “evolution.”

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Psalm 92

It is good to give thanks to the LORD,
to make music to Your name, O Most High,
to proclaim Your love in the morning
and Your truth in the watches of the night,
on the ten-stringed lyre and the lute,
with the murmuring sound of the harp.

Your deeds, O LORD, have made me glad;
for the work of Your hands I shout with joy.
O LORD, how great are Your works!
How deep are your designs!
The foolish man cannot know this
and the fool cannot understand.

The just will flourish like the palm tree
and grow like a Lebanon cedar.
Planted in the house of the LORD
they will flourish in the courts of our God,
still bearing fruit when they are old,
still full of sap, still green,
to proclaim that the LORD is just.
In Him, my rock, there is no wrong.

Not really a big Psalm-reader here, for my spiritual reading needs; I almost always prefer the storytelling of the Gospels and the Pentateuch along with instructional stuff from the letters of Paul and Sirach of the Old Testament.  A few years back I wanted to read through the Psalms for Lent and only got halfway through.  But – being an aspiring writer and ferocious reader, the colorful language of the Good Book often pulls me in.

This morning, reading this Psalm while the car was heating up, I abruptly found myself in the warm sands of Judah, taking these words to heart.  Then, the quick cooling of the desert night, and I found myself looking up at the multitude of stars in the sky, God’s handwriting in code we’ve only relatively recently deciphered, and I forgot my sorry state and was thankful.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014


A hundred percent better than yesterday, but still at only seventy-five percent or so (if that’s mathematically coherent).  Day 2 of my Z-Pak, three azithromycin pills circulating in my system, telling that bug in my bloodstream that there’s a new sheriff in town, at least until I urinate him out.

Anyhoo – yesterday, day 1, had the blessing of sweeping away that gurgling sensation in the depths of my trachea that, upon exhalation, made my chest heave with coughing spasms.  My ribcage feels like Tyson did a 2-hour bongo solo on it.  Then, all day today, the dizziness is gone.  Hooray!

Only one mistake, though.  Our pharmacist – great guy and phenomenally smart as we’ve grown to respect over the years – recommended this green tea extract.  One eye drop has the same amount of antioxidants as 15 cups of regular green tea.  So the wife, thinking it would be a great way to relax sick old me last night, poured me some herbal tea with an eyedrop of this stuff in it around 9 o’clock … and I was up until 1:30 am!  Turns out it also had as much caffeine as 15 cups of regular green tea …

Well, I’m on the mend.  Should be fine by the weekend, God willing.


OK, Walking Dead, I am done with you.  You jumped the shark Sunday night.

Nine-year-old blond girl murders her seven-year-old blond sister.

Ergo, forty-five-year-old woman murders nine-year-old blond girl.



Yes, you’ve been desensitizing me to extreme violence for three years now.  Yes, I know they’re “undead,” but how many times can one see a human being’s skull punctured and shattered by bullets, knives, hammers, boots and not be affected on some level, even a subconscious one? 

How long can we wallow in man’s inhumanity to man with no glimpse of hope or transcendence before we are incapable of feeling hope or seeking transcendence?

Over four seasons, forty-plus episodes, forty or fifty characters have come and gone, and only once or twice do we see one – one! – character thumb a Bible verse.  No one prays.  No one calls on Jesus Christ.  No one calls on God.

It’s long been a pet theory of mine that Walking Dead is basically a show about hell.  All the characters have died and wind up in hell without a memory of their past earthly life, and are now paying for their willing sins.  There is no morality in their world save for a utilitarian, dog-eat-dog, survival-of-the-fittest might-makes-right type. 

But as I become firmly entrenched in middle age, with, perhaps, more years behind me than ahead of me, I become convinced, stronger and stronger every day, that one has to make best use of one’s hours remaining.  It’s not necessarily a religious argument.  It’s a purely practical one.  You gotta guard what enters into your mind, what passes through those gates of eyes and ears, because, like food you ingest and your body uses to build itself up, that stuff entering your mind becomes a part of you.  Consciously, subconsciously, whatever.  Consider this very, very profound thought: You can’t unsee something.

So, Walking Dead, though you initially provided some thrills, some interesting characters, some food-for-thought, you’ve jumped the shark with the endless and incessant gore porn, nihilism, and shock for shock’s sake. 

Murdering a nine-year-old girl.


Monday, March 17, 2014


Woke up sick Saturday morning: dizzy, tired, achy, chills.  Managed to get through morning errands with Patch – paying necessary bills, heading to the post office, dry cleaners, bank, library.  Had sandwiches with my youngest at Blimpie’s – her pick.  Stumbled home, put on a DVD for her (the wife and Little One were out at a Girl Scout luncheon), and crawled into bed.

Where I pretty much stayed until Monday morning.

Nothing was comforting.  Couldn’t read.  Couldn’t take a bath.  Couldn’t breathe without coughing.  Couldn’t eat without feeling gross.  It’s the same bronchial infection thingie I’ve been getting every year for the past three years.  Azythromycin (sp?) knocks it out; the wife is working on scoring some for me.

So what did I do for 42 hours in bed?

Watched teevee. 

Yeah, and it affirmed what a dumbed-down stupid culture we live in.  How many reality shows about minutiae and ephemera can there be?  I channel surfed through people trying to survive naked in the jungle, deep-fat frying, looking for gold in Alaska, shopping and living to shop, shearing sheep, trying to win Asian singing contests.  And I despair of ever watching anything interesting on the so-called “History” channels.  Seems like the only “history” they broadcast is of the ancient alien kind.

Want depressing?  Try sitting through six episodes of Cops.  I did.  Let me tell you, it doesn’t buttress one’s feelings of brotherhood or optimism for the human race.

Watched a couple of bad-to-okay movies.  Unstoppable, Alien vs Predator, Lakeview Drive.  Watched a Star Trek: The Original Series episode with the wife on Saturday night (“The Ultimate Computer”).  Dozed off and on throughout the night.  Coughing woke me up around 4 am; I watched half of a bizarre movie on TCM about a crazy mother in hippy America keeping her teenage son in crib and diapers.  Then, thankfully, I slept until 9:45 Sunday morning.

Headache subsided as was finally able to read Sunday – and started off with a pair of Asimov short stories.  The wife and girls went to the circus in the afternoon with my blessing, and I enjoyed the quiet of the house.  Watched Walking Dead last night and wished I could take Monday off.

Though perhaps work is exactly what I need.  42 hours in front of the teevee’ll make the healthiest man sick.

Friday, March 14, 2014

π Day 2014

Don’t appreciate the significance of π?

Well …

Here’s what we can do because of it:

  • Find circumferences and areas of circles
  • Measure volumes and surface areas of spheres
  • Determine probability and statistical distributions
  • Calculate the period of a pendulum
  • Determine the fundamental interaction of gravitation in curved spacetime
  • Pinpoint a particle’s position at the expense of it’s energy (and vice versa)
  • Help figure out the fate of the universe (Einstein’s cosmological constant)
  • Respect the law of the electric force
  • Explore the magnetic permeability of free space
  • Appreciate the heights of beauty (Euler’s Identity)

And much, much more!  Wikipedia lists 76 equations where our little friend holds a prominent place.

Happy π Day!

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Vocabulary of Horrorishness

Having reading over twenty H. P. Lovecraft stories and novellas (that’s close to 600 tightly-packed pages of print) in the past seven weeks, I have quickly grown accustomed to the man’s vocabulary.  He likes long, odd-sounding words, mysterious in exact definition but nonetheless oozing in veiled menace.  And they are so weird that they raise red flags in the brain of the reader (a pleasurable red flag, in my instance), and whenever I come across one in a story it’s like receiving an email from a long-lost friend.  Words such as these, for example:






I love them!  Cyclopean and Eldritch appear in just about every Lovecraft story, sometimes several times.  Rugose, Vertiginous, and Fungoid in at least fifty percent by my reckoning.  These five are just the ones I can recall off the top of my head, but if I was to do a scholarly computer-driven breakdown of the man’s work, I’d put Lovecraft’s specialized vocabulary at two dozen words.  Hmm.  I may just have to do a follow-up on this post.

As a post-script, let me add that I love the anachronistic way he spells




Hope no one takes it as politically-incorrect speech (one never really knows what words are considered verboten or when), that’s not the spirit I comment upon them here.  Just that it takes me back to a more rugged, manly (uh-oh!) time and place, where adventure – and horror – still lay within reach at the farthest of the four corners of the earth …

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

The Missing $1

If you’ve read a few math books you’ve undoubtedly come across this one before, but if you haven’t … it’s an awesomely confusing paradoxical conundrum possessing the possible property of stumping anyone, regardless of his level of mathematical ability. 

It goes something like this:

Fifty or sixty years ago, three salesmen traveling through the Rocky Mountains pull up to a motel late one stormy, snowy night.  They’re tired, hungry, and in desperate need of shelter.  The proprietor hesitates but can’t turn them away, so he rents them the only room available for $30.  They pull out their wallets and each forks over a $10 bill.  They take the key, grab their luggage, and find the room. 

Which is a complete mess.  Beds undone, dirty towels on the floor, you name it.  It’s filthy.  They ring up the proprietor who admits he knew the room was a mess.  Something about being shorthanded and having too much to do to prepare for the storm and whatnot.  He offers to shave $5 off the bill as a goodwill gesture.  The salesmen agree and the proprietor sends his son out in the blizzard with five singles to return to his guests.

The men decide to each take a dollar back, and tip the young lad the remaining $2 for his trouble.

Now, let me ask you a question.

Each of the three traveling salesmen effectively paid $9 for the room ($10 less the $1 refund).  That’s $27 from the trio.  And they tipped the proprietor’s son $2.  So … $27 + $2 = $29.

What happened to the other dollar?


Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Searcher Searches

Been reading a lot lately (when haven’t I?), in between the Lovecraft and the mathematics, about alternative religions.  Alternative spiritualities, I guess.  Philosophies and theologies such as:

   Zen Buddhism
   Christian Science
   Infinite Way
   New Thought

Not sure why, other than trying to satisfy some unnamed, ill-defined need.  Just because I can’t name it or define it doesn’t mean it’s not there.  It is. * 

But what about Catholicism, you ask.  You are, after all, a self-proclaimed champion and defender of Catholicism on this blog. 

Well, two things.

First, I’m not converting, nor do I intend to convert.  I am convinced of the Truth of Christ and Church.
I’ve been thinking almost every day on this thought:

If I wanted a buff, Schwarzeneggarian build, would I kneel and pray for it every waking hour of the day, or would I toss some weights about, drink whey protein and eat whole farmloads of chicken and eggs? 

If I wanted a PhD in astrophysics, would I meditate in Church asking for it, or would I start taking classes at the local college, studying all hours of the night, attending every lecture and lab?

If there is something lacking in my life, God provides paths to fulfillment.  So it seems to me I’m doing all this reading – research might be a better term for it – to name and define this weird need that I’ve had for as long as I can remember.

Second, I am reminded of a very famous quote by G. K. Chesterton:

“The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and left untried.”

Which I see the wisdom of and agree wholeheartedly.

So my readings on Eastern religion and New World philosophies, I’m hoping, will lead me to that part of the Christian ideal I’ve left untried.

* = if pressed, I’d say it’s something about thinkinghow to think, what to think, that sorta thing.

Nine-Year-Old Challenge

I’m blow-drying Little One’s hair last night when I decide it’s time for the nine-year-old challenge. She’s reading a book sitting in a chair while I’m trying to get her hair dry – still have to do her younger sister’s – before the timer on the stove goes off announcing that the noodles are ready for the cheese macs.

“You know,” I begin quite nonchalantly, “I was about your age when ‘the Event’ happened.”

Not much of a spark of interest. In fact, she turns the page of her latest book, volume nine of some fourth grade book series, and I’m not quite sure she heard me.

I clear my throat. “You do know what ‘the Event’ was, don’t you?”


No eye contact.

“One day when I was your age, hundreds of thousand of flying saucers descended upon our planet, hovering a mile over all our cities, and took us over.”

Mild interest. Eye contact, at least.

“Yeah,” I say, matter-of-factly. “I thought I told you about this before. They came down from the skies and took us over … without firing a shot.”


“You know how they did it?”

Disbelief. “How?”

Now I let the hammer fall. “They replaced every third person – that’s one in every three people – with an exact duplicate. Only it was an alien. And they loved to eat people. One out of every three people you saw on the street, or came across in everyday life, was a man-eating alien, watching us to keep us in line. And they could eat you at any moment, if they thought you were thinking up some funny business. What do you think of that?”

A shrug. Back to the book.

“Now, my dear, I know you are a writer, and if you want to be a serious writer, let me ask you a simple question.”

Now I have her attention.

“What do you do next?”

“I don’t know.”

“Don’t be so quick. Think about it. You’re the hero. What do you do next?”

I’m expecting things like –

Find a trusted friend somehow, find out how to detect an alien, find their weaknesses, escape to the mountains, something, anything, but instead I get –

“I dunno. Let me get back to you on that one.”

Okay! It’s a deal, future John Connor!

Monday, March 10, 2014

Daylight Savings

Messed me up. What can I say? I’m getting old.

Loss of an hour =

Going to bed later than intended =

Fatigue the next morning =

Extra fatigue since I had to get up early for an obligation =

Less energy =

Even less energy as I lost an hour for a very busy Sunday =

Headache =

Afternoon glass of Cabernet to treat the headache =

Extended headache =

Greater fatigue =

Loss of motivation =

Black dog.

Thus, for Hopper, Spring Daylight Savings yields, inexplicably, depression.

[sigh ...]

Saturday, March 8, 2014

First Color

Well, I am firmly convinced that some of the most difficult metaphysical, existential and / or scientific questions often come from young children in the form of an innocent question.

Case in point:

This morning, getting out of the shower, I overhear Patch (age 5) talking to her mom downstairs: “What was the first color out?”

“What?” my wife asks.

“What was the first color out?”

I think I know where this is going, but I remaing quiet, listening.

“Do you mean what was the first color ever made?” my wife asks, clarifying.

“Yes,” Patch says. “What was the first color made?”

Hmmm – a very interesting question, and one that I think I can answer. (That is, if my physics memory doesn’t fail me.)

Let’s see … you’d have to go back to the Big Bang. Now, I don’t recall the specifics, but I do know that when the “explosion” first took place, the temperatures were so high that matter could not exist. The universe, for that briefest of brief periods, millionths of the first nanosecond, was pure energy. High energy energy. Energy, in the form of super-intense highly energetic gamma rays, the most naturally energetic of radiation on the electromagnetic spectrum.

Then, as time went on, fractionally of a second at first and then over slower and slower periods (hours, then days, then thousands of years, then million of years, etc.), as the universe expanded at the speed of light (and perhaps even faster, what’s known as “inflation”), the universe cooled.

As it cooled, as the temperatures dropped, the universe as we eventually see it gradually coalesced. Froze, so to speak.

Cooling temperatures allowed for lower energetic rays of electromagnetism. After gamma radiation, X-rays were able to form. After X-rays, as the universe cooled further (whether hours, days or millennia I don’t recall), and ultraviolet rays appeared. Finally, after more time elapsed, voilà! Electromagnetic radiation in the 400-700 nanometer wavelength range, or, as is more commonly known, visible light.

And since we’re moving from higher energy to lower energy as the universe cools, we want to know what is the highest energy wavelength of visible light.

The answer is violet.

So it is my contention that violet was “the first color.”

Now … how to explain that to a five-year-old?

Friday, March 7, 2014

Small Stone

Calculus means “small stone” in Latin, as in a small, painful stone stuck in your shoe as you’re trying to journey from point A to point B, a small painful stone that plagues you during the period of years from 1984 to 1996 when you carry that damn thing in your shoe trying to get your degree in Physics.

But, dammit, I still want to master it!

(And I still have that dream where I fail the Calc III final exam … though I’m not always naked when I do so. Just half the time.)

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Shifting Tastes

First song I recall hearing on the radio:
“Rhinestone Cowboy,” by Glen Campbell, circa 1975

Song I was probably listening to at the halfway point of my life:
“Pleiades,” by King’s X, sometime in December, 1990

Last song I listened to before writing this:
Overture to Around the World in 80 Days, last night.

My how tastes change over the years!

Now, just because I listened to the Overture to Around the World in 80 Days last night, don’t think it’s completely out of character for me to listen to some really, really heavy.

Hmm. Come to think of it, I’mma gonna put something heavy into the CD player ... how ’bout a little “Meantime” by Helmet? “Grind” by Alice in Chains? “Grip” by Rollins?

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Remember When America Was Like This?

Was it really so long ago, or does it just seem that way lately?

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Ranking Lovecraft

Okay, I’m really tired and still have too much to do tonight, so I offer a quick blog post about the Lovecraft stories I’ve been reading. I’m about 80 percent done with the anthology – have six more “short” stories to go to finish it – and I really enjoyed most of them save for one. Another gave me young-Stephen-King-type chills, one was unexpectedly and beautifully poetic, and most of the others were not-quite-riveting-yet-nonetheless-entertaining mixtures of adventure, science fiction, and horror to varying degrees.

If I were to put the stories I’ve read so far into some sort of subjective ranking (with their dates of initial publication, for literary trivia aficionados like me), here’s what the list might look like:

Azathoth (1938)

Nyarlathotep (1920)

The History of the Necronomicon (1938)

The Nameless City (1921)

The Whisperer in the Darkness (1931)

The Shadow Over Innsmouth (1936)

The Curse of Yig (1929)

At the Mountains of Madness (1936)

The Mound (1940)

The Call of Cthulhu (1928)

Dagon (1919)

The Dreams in the Witch House (1933)

The Color Out of Space (1927)

The Dunwich Horror (1929)

The Hound (1924)

The Festival (1925)

As far as which was spine-tingling, which was poetic, etc., I’m saving all that for a huge monster post I will do on the anthology once I’ve completed it, probably around the end of this month or so.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Chuck the Hyphen

No, it’s not an anthropomorphised punctuation mark.

Earlier today at lunchtime I was skimming through a book first published in 1926 and noticed that every “today” and “tomorrow” was printed / spelled like “to-day” and “to-morrow.”

I kinda like that antiquated way of spelling.

Apparently, hyphens in hyphenated words don’t have a very long shelf-life. Uh, shelf life. Seems I read somewhere the word “teen-ager”, with hyphen, was first coined in 1941 (can this be true?) but by the late 50s was routinely spelled “teenager.”

Similarly with other words. “E-mail” was the current spelling way, way, way back in the 90s when it first became widespread. Nowadays even the OED – Oxford English Dictionary – writes it as “email.”

And further research (eh, about two-three minutes on Google) tells me that American print tends to chuck the hyphen out a lot sooner than our older, stodgier British cousins.

That being said, back to regularly scheduled blogging


Sunday, March 2, 2014

Hopper Ranks the Beers

Well, the toilets both clogged up today and we have 10 inches of snow forecast for tonight. In the spirit of finding-a-happy-place, may I rank my Top Five beers?


For the record, I’m not a big fan of dark, chunky beers. Nor am I one to salivate over mass-manufactured, chemically-tasting beer flavored water. I’m basically a fan of pale lagers, though I branch out now and then in different directions as the situation demands.

1. Fosters Lager

My current beer of choice, going on close to a decade I’d guess. For me it’s the perfect blend of flavor, bite, fizz, and alcohol content. Nuthin’ like a cold Foster’s oil can on a hot summer day. Or any day, for that matter.

2. Sam Adams Boston Lager

My fall-back beer if no Fosters are available. Love the taste, bite, etc. But just the plain ol’ lager though. The company is always coming out with theme flavored beer depending on the holiday and whatnot, and more often than not, I don’t like them. One flavor related to Halloween absolutely disgusts me in fact.

3. Spaaten Premium

Ah! This is my all-time favorite full-fledged German beer. Me and my pal used to drink this all the time around 2000-2005, so it’s got many fine memories attached to it. Not much different from the trend as far as its qualities, but somehow it’s just better. Dunno, maybe it’s the way it’s pronounced: shpahtten. Yeah, that must be it.

4. Grolsch Premium Lager

A favorite from my early drinking days, the late 80s. Loved the pop-off resealable cap. Don’t drink it much lately, maybe once every one or two years, but I still like the taste.

5. Corona

Maybe it’s not the best Mexican beer out there, but it’s the best to my unassuming palate.

Dishonorable Mentions

Molsen Ice

Drank gallons of this in the mid to late 90s – best beer to get drunk off, but please don’t hold it against me. This was the last of my club and bar hopping days, and what an unhappy time it was.


This is actually the best bang for your buck. I mean, a case of Busch – and a case of that beer was 30 cans for some reason – a case of it ran for $12. A great bargain when you are poor or are counting pennies, as I was several times in my younger days. Beer not entirely that gross, and it did the trick of getting you buzzed, at the cost of some flavor. And those 30 cans sometimes lasted me the whole weekend …

Saturday, March 1, 2014

More for the Great Pile

Went to a local chain bookseller that just happens to have an extensive used book collection for the first time in over a month and picked up a trio of interesting reads. At a combined cost of $7.60 I felt justified with the purchase, because though interesting they immediately seem to me, due to the massive backlog of books I own, and which ceaselessly annoy the wife, these new ones are just more fodder for the Great Pile: those five-foot high towers of tomes surrounding my writing desk.

I’ll get around to reading them sometime before the decade’s out.

Anyway, for those keeping score, here’s what I got:

Report on the Shroud of Turin, by Dr. John Heller

Read this one (library version) two years ago during a two-month Shroud of Turin phase. For the record, I believe the Shroud is what believers believe it to be: the crucified image of Christ mystically imprinted upon it. Don’t remember the conclusions of this book, but I seem to recall the good scientist doesn’t come down sharply on the side of “Hoax!” Probably ambivalent, possibly neutral, to the Truth. But I enjoyed reading the detailing scientific analyses they put the Shroud through.

Fundamentals of Number Theory, by William LeVeque

Certainly way over my head, but since I’m in a whole math-phase-thing right now it felt potentially intriguing to me. Worth a perusal, and perhaps I’ll learn a half-page worth of stuff in this compact-yet-280-page pristine paperback.

Soldier of Sidon, by Gene Wolfe

Always wanted to delve into Gene Wolfe’s work. He’s a classic SF writer who I’ve never read, save for a novella a decade ago that I’ve mostly forgotten but impressed me at the time. In fact, he was a runner-up to my Philip Jose Farmer experiment of a year ago (and in hindsight, perhaps I should’ve gone with Wolfe). This book seems to be a fantasy tale set in Ancient Egypt, and since I know nothing of Ancient Egypt but like fantasy tales, I decided to pick it up.

So that’s it …

Happy reading!