What is the “Equinox”?

Heh, this being my birthday and having worked with some top astronomers in the past, I can tell you how they explained it: The equinox is when the earth’s equator crosses the ecliptic plane (which is the plane that the earth makes around the sun as it orbits).

In (probably only a little) simpler language, this happens because the earth is tilted like a top relative to the ecliptic plane. For part of the year, the north pole points slightly towards the sun and the south slightly away. Later, it is the other way around.

The equinox is the time when both are pointing at the midpoint of those two extremes, more or less up and down. That means for a brief instant, the equator is parallel to the ecliptic plane.

A good way to see how this works is to get a table and a ball. Mark the ball with a pen or something on the top and bottom. Those will be the poles. Draw a line around the equator between the two poles.

Hold the ball near the edge of the table, which represents the ecliptic plane, so the north pole points a little bit towards the table, pointing over the top of the table. Note the equator is at an angle to the surface of the table.

Now, keep the ball in the same spot, but tilt it so the south pole points at the same angle as the North Pole did, but under the table. The equator will have tilted too.

Somewhere in between those two examples, move the ball so that the equator is parallel to the surface of the table. Note where the North and South poles are now. This is the equinox, and it happens twice a year.

It is those movements of the poles that cause the change in the angle of the equator, and hence the seasons.… Read the rest

Hi Readers! Long time no see!

Welcome to 2010. I have a bunch of fun curiosities from Porterville to share with you over the next few months, starting tonight as I hang out in Starbucks. Found old photos and news stories, books from the once-a-month cellar sale by the Friends of Porterville Library, and more!

Enjoy and please share your comments or feedback, let me know what else you might like to see!… Read the rest

2 Shelves of Books Added to the Library

Browse  the Library

Well, actually 1 shelf from my office, and a large pile of books on the floor for which there is no shelf space.

Many of the ones on the floor are pretty recent, acquired from various catch-a-catch can sources in what masquerades as bookstores here in Porterville: the local 99 cent store, the occasional find in a thrift shop, etc.

You can find lots of fun stuff, modern math and algorithms at the heart of the most innovative applications on the internet, technical manuals, hiking books, marketing, psychology, interpretations of current events, and film finance.

If you find any of it interesting (and you will!), simply click on the book and order immediately from Amazon and you will have it in your hands in just a few days!

Browse  the LibraryRead the rest

On The Wall Of Death It’s The Nearest To Being Free

Just played on Pandora – one of my favorite songs ever!

Wall Of Death Lyrics

Richard Thompson

Let me ride on the Wall Of Death one more time
Let me ride on the Wall Of Death one more time
You can waste your time on the other rides
This is the nearest to being alive
Oh let me take my chances on the Wall Of Death

You can go with the crazy people in the Crooked House
You can fly away on the Rocket or spin in the Mouse
The Tunnel Of Love might amuse you
Noah’s Ark might confuse you
But let me take my chances on the Wall Of Death

On the Wall Of Death all the world is far from me
On the Wall Of Death it’s the nearest to being free

Well you’re going nowhere when you ride on the carousel
And maybe you’re strong but what’s the good of ringing a bell
The switchback will make you crazy. Beware of the bearded lady
Oh let me take my chances on the Wall Of Death

Let me ride on the Wall Of Death one more time
Oh let me ride on the Wall Of Death one more time
You can waste your time on the other rides
This is the nearest to being alive
Oh let me take my chances on the Wall Of Death
Let me take my chances on the Wall Of Death
Oh let me take my chances on the Wall Of Death

Read the rest

How Many Images are at the Smithsonian?

One of the things people often want to know about photography at the Smithsonian is, “How many photographs do you have?” with the quick follow-up, “Have you counted all of them?” No one knows for certain, but statistical sampling suggests that there are over fifteen million pictures, in the form of prints, negatives, and digital files.

From: Too Many to Count « The Bigger Picture.

Back in the mid-1980s I and a partner developed a product for archiving photographs and images and indexing them via hypertext based on image archiving work I had done earlier at NASA.

Yeah yeah, I know, a product ahead of its time :).

We immediately saw The Smithsonian and other major museums and archives in DC as possible  early adopters. Although we never implemented the system in DC, we did spend considerable time “behind the scenes” discussing the scope of the project.

Of the numbers that stuck in my mind, … Read the rest


I came across these images yesterday of a building where I used to live in Baltimore for 7 years. I was one of the earliest residents when the one-time factory was renovated into loft apartments. I had long heard that the factory manufactured underwear, never confirmed until yesterday when I found these photos of the erstwhile- BVD Factory.

It is interesting to see that the direction of travel on these main streets in Downtown Baltimore changed several times over the years.

The intersection of West Pratt and Greene Streets is directly across the street from where Camden Yards, the home of the Baltimore Orioles is located. Also of note is that Babe Ruth’s birthplace is one block away, hidden behind some of the buildings in these photos.

Thanks to the Baltimore Museum of Industry for their diligence in keeping the history of Baltimore both available and alive!

Related Images:

Chew on This…

From Gulp! Mexico tells citizens to swallow their gum

Mexicans now chew an average of 2.6 pounds (1.2 kilograms) of gum each year, half what the average American chews but still among the highest rates in Latin America. A lot of that winds up on the street.

Wow let’s run a few numbers here…the Average American ™ chews oer 5 pounds of gum a year. How much is that really?

I would think a pack of 5 sticks of gum would be less then 2 ounces. So 1 pound would be more then 8 packs, and 5 lbs. more then 40 packs.

So the Average American ™ puts away on the order of 1 pack of gume a week.  Not as bad as I thought going in, but still a lot.

Since many, such as me, never chew gum, then others must be putting away a lot more to make up for it.

Read the rest