Friday, December 19, 2014

Sunlight, St. Dominic Church, a Funeral Home Old-Style Calendar, My Mom's Visit, and a White House Tour: This Snowless December

Just outside St. Dominic Catholic Parish Church, Washington, D.C., 1:22PM December 18, 2014.

I've written before about St. Dominic Church in D.C.'s oft-forgotten Southwest quadrant including most recently here.

This church is near where I work.

I stopped by to see if there were any of those old-style calendars from McGuire Funeral Service, Inc., such as I found last year and that I've had tacked up in my cubicle all year. You know the sort -- similar to the one at left -- from some local business with generic weather forecasts for ranges of dates, labeled holidays, and the four "man in the moon" lunar phase faces.

And each day has space for writing stuff in it. Alas, there were none.

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I had a whole entry planned and had started -- including how the meteorology gang reunion was quite nice but depressed me given my own life situation and how the GFS crapped out totally on snow even in Buffalo over Christmas -- but I just don't have time to write it, so in lieu of that, I'm posting just this brief entry. Not only am I meeting my mom tomorrow around 1230PM and taking her to the hotel (it's somewhere around Dupont Circle), but I actually have a plan earlier in the morning at 10AM.

St. Dominic Catholic Church interior, Washington, D.C., 1:25PM December 18, 2014.

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I am supposed to on a specially-arranged White House Christmas tour (which I didn't think was going to happen). Jake works there these days and he arranged it for five other people including Nick.

This will be only the second time I've ever actually been inside it. As an aside, I've never actually seen President Obama (and I highly doubt I will tomorrow either). I saw Pres. Geo. W. Bush at least twice and Pres. Clinton once while they were in office.

As or my mom's visit, later in the afternoon, as I mentioned, she and I are meeting Gary and his mom for a bit of a monumental core drive about and then going to dinner at Logan Tavern around 7PM. And I'll still try to get her to go to Larry's Lounge.

As for Sunday and Monday, I need to go to the gym. This is because I will be off for possibly a full week thereafter.

My next regular blog update might not be until late Sunday or Monday.

--Regulus

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Upcoming Late December Doings and Tentative Weather Outlook Here and in Buffalo

I found this picture online a while ago. It's kind of a wonderful image. Rest and please get better.

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Well, I was going to post a new entry on various topics, but it is already quite late as I start this one (12:23AM, to be exact) and I just posted the preceding entry (a delayed one I had mostly completed in "draft" form for the past three weeks). It features my musings on the movie Interstellar before reposting a Nov. 20 (online) / 21 (print edition), 2014 David Brooks column about the movie as a cultural phenomenon.

I had a decent gym workout tonight though the swim part was short. I'm OK workwise except I need to get in earlier tomorrow than I have been. I wasn't feeling that well this morning but I'm fine now. I think. I'm working on a BA case -- probably my last one ever -- for a jurisdiction in New Jersey.

Looking ahead, my blogging activity for the remainder of the month is likely going to drop off due to a confluence of events including my mom's upcoming Saturday visit and the arrival of Christmas with the planned four day trip with Gary to Buffalo for the express purpose of seeing snow in order to have and enjoy an actual "white Christmas," since it doesn't happen in Washington, D.C.

As for my mom's trip, she arrives for the two-day / one-night visit on Saturday early afternoon. Dinner -- for six people in all -- is planned at Logan Tavern around 7PM. (Old Ebbitt Grill could not accommodate a party of six at an earlier hour.) Joining us is Gary and Gary's mom along with Andrea and Imara. It should be interesting having Gary's mom and my mom meet. Before dinner, the idea is for the four of us to do a bit of early night time sightseeing by vehicle around D.C.'s monumental core. After dinner, the idea is to go to Larry's Lounge.

The "Baby M-Wade" goes to the dentist! Look, ma, no cavities!

Actually, this is one of Pablo Escobar's now-free and multiplying hippos (or, more likely, descendant hippos). I wrote about them here based on a BBC News article. Well, there was late last month a BBC News follow-up article on a new campaign by the Colombian government to sterilize ("sterilise" in British spelling) the hippos (since killing them is quite unpopular).

While I understand why it is necessary, I'm not sure how one sterilizes a hippopotamus.

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Oh, yes, I am (was?) supposed to do something on Saturday morning before she arrives but I'll refrain from talking about that just now. It involves a special tour of a certain place by someone presently working there. However, I'm not sure I'll be able to go.

Concerning the Buffalo trip, the latest (0Z 12/18/2014) GFS advertises a stormy Christmas Eve into Christmas Day for the northeastern corner of the country with rain possibly changing to / ending as snow even in D.C. on Xmas Eve (I'll believe that when it actually happens).

0Z 12/18/2014 GFS valid at hour 162 - 18Z 12/24/2015 for the eastern U.S. showing MSLP, 850mb temp., and 6-hr precip.

It then features a really favorable lake effect event -- similar to the one last month? -- for the Great Lakes, especially Lakes Erie and Ontario with a west-southwesterly flow across the length of these unfrozen lakes.

0Z 12/18/2014 GFS valid at hour 183 - 15Z 12/25/2015 for the eastern U.S. showing MSLP, 850mb temp., and 6-hr precip.

Indeed, the only problem is the timing -- if it were just moved back by 12 to 18 hours, it would be perfect. The lake effect machine at that point is going like crazy. (The GFS has been advertising something similar for the past couple days. I'm not sure what the ECMWF shows.) This would be problematic for our arrival by jet at KBUF.

Of course, this is all still seven days out.

For tomorrow night, I'm supposed to meet at Woodley Café some of the old meteorology ("meto") gang from the 1990s at the University of Maryland, College Park. This includes Mike G. and Chester (YAY!). Gary is supposed to come as well.

As for the others who may or may not show up, well, I'm indifferent since they all wound up like this living on their suburban lily pads ...


That's not Chester, though.

Speaking of Chester, please check out all the back-and-forth comments on that blog entry I wrote back in Oct. 2012 about the (link embedded) Baltimore "corner and inflection points" boundary tour that I did with him.

Chester at one of the Baltimore boundary markers at Rt. 2 and Hanover Street, Oct. 6, 2012.

A new reader to this blog -- a person living in Wisconsin who once resided in the house at 3337 Garnet Road in Parkville -- has given me some very valuable information about the northeast corner marker of the city -- that it in fact existed (at least in the early 1980s) but was on the property itself (in the backyard).

OK, that's all for now. I'm wrapping up this entry at 1:35AM. I have that Clean Bandit song "Rather Be" stuck in my head as I write this. I love the video.

Anyway, I'm not sure when my next update will be -- quite likely not until Friday night. And there might not be any Saturday entries at all.

--Regulus

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

My (Delayed) Musings on the Movie Interstellar and David Brooks' NYT Column about the Film

Note: I originally wrote most of this entry in late November about 2 weeks after seeing "Interstellar" on Nov. 16, 2014 at the National Air & Space Museum's IMAX Theatre.

Dr. Cooper in the higher-dimensional tesseract that he entered after falling into the black hole Gargantua in the movie "Interstellar."

In this hyper-dimensional space that was created by descendants of humans who are advanced-beyond-corporeal-form and that exist hyperspatially, Dr. Cooper is able to "see" time as another spatial dimension, in particular, the critical moments of his life earlier in the film when he made a mistake (thus allowing his daughter to subsequently correct it -- and thus save the human race).

More importantly, it allows him to communicate with his daughter Murphy both as a young girl and an adult through gravitational waves -- using the dust from one of the frequent dust storms on blighted Earth blown into her farm house through an open window to create Morse code signals.

These signals allow her (as an adult) to reconcile general relativity and quantum mechanics -- and thus create the necessary technology for humanity to evacuate dying Earth and set up large space colonies elsewhere.

As for a tesseract, if you ever read the late, wonderful Madeleine L'Engle's A Wrinkle in Time, then you know, what that is in the context of space travel.

By the way, the movie images for this entry come from the pages that make up the Interstellar Wiki website.

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So I haven't actually mentioned on this blog anything about the movie Interstellar other than I saw it last Sunday afternoon at the IMAX theatre at the National Air & Space Museum here in D.C. This is partly because I've been pondering the movie -- gradually coming to like and appreciate it even if aspects baffle me and partly because it was a crappy week and weekend and I didn't feel like writing.

Among the bafflements: Why you would pick a planet (Miller) that is so close to a large black hole -- named "Gargantua" -- that it would have not only massive time dilation effects but, more immediately for anyone there, incredible tidal forces such as the thousand foot high tidal waves (and they are truly tidal waves rather than tsunamis).

Scene of one of the thousand-foot high tidal waves (not tsunamis) that roll across the ocean world of Miller.

Such endless waves of such stupendous height and volume would surely create massive tidal drag that would rather quickly slow the planet's rotation.

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I suppose the answer is that the one-way explorers venturing through the wormhole on the far side of Saturn to one of the trio of worlds (Miller, Mann, and Edmunds) a few light months travel within did not know what they would find. Then there is the issue that information is actually able to pass through the wormhole -- hence the two-way transmissions that are (totally not) possible with what is (at least on one side) a black hole.

Gargantua seen close up with the Endurance -- visible as a speck center right -- being given a centripetal acceleration (i.e., perpendicular to the black hole itself) to nothing less than relativistic velocities riding just above the accretion disk itself.

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Another bafflement: If Miller, Mann, and Edmunds merely orbited in some complex fashion this black hole - binary star system, how was there any "sun" to provide warmth and light? I mean, the accretion disks around the black hole and possibly the binary star are certainly not a realistic long-term stable "sun" for these planets. It would vary wildly based on the amount of inflowing material at any given time. And the jets of X-rays blasted perpendicularly from the accretion disk would sterilize any planet of organic anything that happened to be in the line of X-ray fire.

Gargantua and either the planet Miller or Gargantua's binary companion, a neutron star called Pantagruel. (Yes, Gargantua and Pantagruel.) It's not clear to me which it is.

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I've also been wondering whether Gargantua is in fact the opposite side of the wormhole, or is it a totally separate black hole, which it seems like it would have to be since the opposite end of the wormhole (in whatever distant galaxy it is) should be a (hypothetical) white hole. To this point, the timeline image posted at left below suggests the two are in fact distinct objects, although it too shows Gargantua as effectively a wormhole.

An "Interstellar" movie time-and-worldline.

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Oh, and then the fact that Romilly was onboard that ship for 23 years as Joseph Cooper* and Dr. Amelia Brand went to the surface of Miller (the planet closet to Gargantua and hence experiencing the greatest relativistic time effects). Even if he was in cryogenic sleep for years at a stretch, it still beggars the imagination that he would be alive, much less sane and rational after all that time alone.

*Yes, "JC" initials -- Jesus Christ.

Finally, I'm confused about the situation on Earth -- were there any central governments at all in this dying world? How was NASA able to exist and do the activities it was doing (at NORAD's Cheyenne Mountain facility, I believe)?

The truly alien "sun" of Gargantua and nearby Planet Mann with one of the smaller ships associated with the Endurance.

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All that aside, I wanted to post this David Brooks -- yes, David Brooks -- column the Nov. 24th print edition of The New York Times that also appears online. I kind of liked the column, especially likening love to quantum entanglement. Before I post it, though, let me say that my favorite black hole movie remains ot this day the 1979 Disney film The Black Hole.

OK, without further ado, Brooks' column is below with a few images thrown in just to break up the text.

--Regulus

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Artist's conception of the view nearing a Reissner-Nordstrom black hole with no accretion disk -- just the "hole" (event horizon) itself with frame dragging just beyond the event horizon.

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Love and Gravity

by David Brooks

The New York Times
Nov. 21, 2014 (print edition) / Nov. 20, 2014 (online version)

Source here

Most Hollywood movies are about romantic love, or at least sex. But Christopher Nolan's epic movie Interstellar has almost no couples, so you don't get the charged romance you have in normal movies where a man and a woman are off saving the world.

Instead, there are the slightly different kinds of love, from generation to generation, and across time and space.

The movie starts on a farm, and you see a grandfather's love for his grandkids and the children's love for their father. (Mom had died sometime earlier).

The planet is hit by an environmental catastrophe, and, in that crisis, lives are torn apart. The father, played by Matthew McConaughey, goes off into space to find a replacement planet where humanity might survive. The movie is propelled by the angry love of his abandoned daughter, who loves and rages at him for leaving, decade after decade.

On top of that, there is an even more attenuated love. It's the love humans have for their ancestors and the love they have for the unborn. In the movie, 12 apostles go out alone into space to look for habitable planets. They are sacrificing their lives so that canisters of frozen embryos can be born again in some place far away.

Nolan wants us to see the magnetic force of these attachments: The way attachments can exert a gravitational pull on people who are separated by vast distances or even by death. Their attention is riveted by the beloved. They hunger for reunion.


When the McConaughey character goes into space he leaves behind the rules of everyday earthly life and enters the realm of quantum mechanics and relativity. Gravity becomes variable. It's different on different planets. Space bends in on itself. The astronauts fly through a wormhole, a fold in the universe connecting one piece of space with another distant piece.

Most important, time changes speed. McConaughey is off to places where time is moving much more slowly than it is on Earth, so he ends up younger than his daughter. Once in the place of an ancestor, he becomes, effectively, her descendant.

These plotlines are generally based on real science. The physicist Kip Thorne has a book out, The Science of "Interstellar", explaining it all. But what matters in the movie is the way science and emotion (and a really loud score) mingle to create a powerful mystical atmosphere.

Nolan introduces the concept of quantum entanglement. That's when two particles that have interacted with each other behave as one even though they might be far apart. He then shows how people in love display some of those same features. They react in the same way at the same time to the same things.

The characters in the movie are frequently experiencing cross-cutting and mystical connections that transcend time and space. It's like the kind of transcendent sensation you or I might have if we visited an old battlefield and felt connected by mystic chords of memory to the people who fought there long ago; or if we visited the house we grew up in and felt in deep communion with people who are now dead.

Bloggers have noticed the religious symbols in the movie. There are those 12 apostles, and there's a Noah's ark. There is a fallen angel named Dr. Mann who turns satanic in an inverse Garden of Eden. The space project is named Lazarus. The heroine saves the world at age 33. There's an infinitely greater and incorporeal intelligence offering merciful salvation.

But this isn't an explicitly religious movie. Interstellar is important because amid all the culture wars between science and faith and science and the humanities, the movie illustrates the real symbiosis between these realms.

More, it shows how modern science is influencing culture. People have always bent their worldviews around the latest scientific advances. After Newton, philosophers conceived a clockwork universe. Individuals were seen as cogs in a big machine and could be slotted into vast bureaucratic systems.

But in the era of quantum entanglement and relativity, everything looks emergent and interconnected. Life looks less like a machine and more like endlessly complex patterns of waves and particles. Vast social engineering projects look less promising, because of the complexity, but webs of loving and meaningful relationships can do amazing good.

As the poet Christian Wiman wrote in his masterpiece, My Bright Abyss, "If quantum entanglement is true, if related particles react in similar or opposite ways even when separated by tremendous distances, then it is obvious that the whole world is alive and communicating in ways we do not fully understand. And we are part of that life, part of that communication..."

I suspect Interstellar will leave many people with a radical openness to strange truth just below and above the realm of the everyday. That makes it something of a cultural event.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

A Happy Birthday to My Mom and an Overview of the Pentagram of My D.C. Life: This Christmas Season and GFS Fantasy Panels Edition

First thing's first ...


Happy Birthday to my mom!

If I can borrow and adapt a line from "Are You Being Served?":

Her age is a secret but it's still not over the lower speed limit and well under the upper speed limit on most of the rural open road portions of the U.S. Interstate High System.

She is visiting me on Saturday and staying until Sunday here in D.C. It's a short MARC train ride in from Anny Runnell Kenny, Merlin (OK, Anne Arundel County, Maryland) but she has stayed overnight here in the city only twice in, like, the 22 years I've lived in or (in the 1990s) very close to the District of Columbia.

Ray is not coming.

To be clear, she is staying at a hotel in the vicinity of Dupont Circle rather than in my dust trap of a nearly furniture-less cubby hole. And we'll go to dinner Saturday night after a ride -- courtesy Gary -- around the monumental core at night. After dinner, I want to take her to Larry's Lounge so she can get the slightest little peek at one of the five pillars of my life -- bars, the gym, and work, the other two being sleeping and this damn blog.


Put another way, my life is a five-sided pentagram (is there any other kind of pentagram??). It is thus much like the hidden MASONIC SYMBOLOGY of the street layout of the city where I live, to wit, the District of Columbia! Indeed, according to that labeled aerial map above, I live right off that axis through the Pentagram just above the Supreme Council 33° Temple, Southern Jurisdiction, U.S.A., Scottish Rite of Freemasonry.

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Interestingly, my late paternal uncle, Richard, for whom I was named, was born on December 15th (five years before her) while my mom's only brother, my maternal uncle, was born on December 17th (seven years after her). My uncle still lives in that house on Henry Street in South Amboy, New Jersey. (My dad's birthday is on Jan. 23rd. He'll be turning 74 next month.)

Yours truly waiting for the doctor at the MedStar office in Chevy Chase, Md., 12:34PM Dec. 12, 2014.

*******

I was going to post a longer entry, but I actually have to do some work tonight -- some stuff I should have done on Friday or at least over the weekend but neglected to do, which is bad on me. The content is going right up on the Federal agency website, which is interesting.

It's very peaceful in my apartment at this late hour. I had an OK gym workout following a somewhat difficult day, although in the end I finished the two other web documents I needed to do.

As a follow-up to last night's doings, at this point, I have probably lost my book bag and the gloves and hat that were in it. I somehow left them at No. 9 last night, and I've not been (and likely will not be) able to determine if it is still there for just vanished after I left. I need to buy a new pair of gloves.

The good news for me is we're to get a decent Christmas bonus this year that should arrive next week with the regular paycheck. With it, I can also get a new book bag and a new wool hat, not to mention a needed new pair of shoes. Heck maybe even two pairs.


OK, not that much of a bonus.

In the meantime, I have to use an interim carry on bag to tote my PC to and from work. It's a bag I've had since 1987 (a luggage present set from my mom just in time for the end of high school -- hint hint). It once rolled down an expansive ash field on Mount St. Helens in September 1988.

No, really.

The summit of Mount St. Helens with Mount Rainier visible in the distance; date uncertain but probably 2012. Image source here.

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Anyway, the 4-day Buffalo trip with Gary is still on for next week starting on Christmas day. At this point, the long range GFS model shows a storm system swinging through the Northeast followed by a lake effect set up for at least a couple of the days we are there.

BTW, true to form, the 12Z Dec. 15, 2014 GFS run had a really wonderful "fantasy panel" of monster Eastern U.S. storm at days 15 and 16. Specifically, it was at the very last time step, hour 384 / day 16 valid on New Year's Eve that this whopper appeared (image at left).

There is almost no chance of this happening but sometimes these "fantasy panels" in the day 12 to 16 period are fun to watch while at other times, they're just annoying.

OK, that's all for now. I will likely not be updating the blog tomorrow night. Instead, the next planned update will be late Wednesday (or a bit after midnight Thursday).

--Regulus

Monday, December 15, 2014

Just Another Monday Morning in America ...

My apartment kitchen window in the Hampton Courts, Washington, D.C., 4:33PM December 14, 2014.

Did I capture a touch of Edward Hopper in this image?

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Monday morning.

All in all, it was kind of a shitty weekend with too much drinking and not really much fun. I plan to go to the gym tonight after work. I'll try to update the blog after the gym, but it won't be until late.

The other problem is I don't really know what topics to write about in my entries. I don't want this blog to be nothing but venom and vitriol about all the crap in the world -- hence I've skipped certain topics such as the torture report released by the Senate Intelligence Committee last week.


Not to mention the sick spectacle of that malignant and apparently eternal figure of Dick Cheney making the media rounds (at least to the more accommodating venues such as Meet the Whore) to defend the indefensible. Journalism itself is kind of sick these days.

But at least the Washington Consensus crowd is happy: Neo-liberal economic destruction and neoconservative warmongering, and isn't Fred Hiatt pleased??

Another sunset view from my apartment kitchen window, 4:33PM December 14, 2014.

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However, I do want to point out -- on a more or less hopeless note -- this Salon piece by Sean McElwee.

In short, there is no "emerging Democratic majority" of any sort. It's never coming and we have literally generations of rightwing Republican insanity and dystopian corporate bullshit mixed with Democratic wussiness to endure. I don't want to live in this country anymore. I wish I could move to New Zealand.

--Regulus

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Jukebox Saturday Night for Dec. 13th, 2014: The 12-13-14 Party Started Edition

OK, because of the time it took to write the previous entry, I'm running late, so there are just two songs for this week's edition ...


"Line Drive" by Jazz Funk Soul from the trio's eponymously named album (2014)

The trio consists of Jeff Lorber, Chuck Loeb, and Everette Harp.

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And since I'm going to a party tonight and because, inexplicably, I've never posted this one before ...


"Get the Party Started" by Pink from her album M!ssundaztood (2001)

The video to this song is HILARIOUS.

Many of Pink's videos are quite engaging (and fun) watch as she works out her various issues as Jewish - Catholic girl growing up in the 1980s and 1990s in suburban Philadelphia, the daughter of a nurse and a Vietnam veteran. No wonder there is so much going on in her videos.

"Pumping up the volume, breaking down to the beat. / Cruisin' through the west side / We'll be checkin' the scene. / Boulevard is freakin' as I'm comin' up fast. / I'll be burnin' rubber, you'll be kissin' my ass!"

Ha ha

--Regulus

Saturday Night Specials: Cheap Fortified Wine, Buccal-Pumping Suburban Frogs, Wall-P's Cultural Finery, and a View of the Mogollon Rim

**This entry was posted December 13, 2014.**

2000 block of New Hampshire Ave by V Street NW, Washington, D.C., 3:12PM December 13, 2014.

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As a brief update, I'm back from the gym but soon to head out to Jake's place in Crystal City for a holiday party. I need to stop at Trader Joe's to get a cheap bottle of wine that I am bringing as part of a "white hippopotamus elephant" party.

Yes, a cheap bottle of wine.

RIPPLE!

It was Fred Sanford's drink of choice. The most famous lines in the episode "The Party Crasher":

"He ain't go no ripple!"

"Ain't dat nothing!"

"Ain't no PAH-TEE wit' NO RIPPLE!"

Actually, I got the Trader Joe's idea from Jamie's girlfriend, Jenny, last night at Fox & Hound. I had gone to No. 9 but soon left and was walking to Larry's Lounge but detoured past F&H to see if Jamie was there and, sure enough, he was and, as usual, engaged in this card game called "Magic (The Gathering)" that occupies so much of his waking hours when he's not general managing Floriana.

Jenny was there with some Georgetown Law School student friends and I had a really nice chat with this young, brilliant, very affable man named Zach (all 6' 5" of him).

By the way, Fox & Hound is part of the adjoining restaurant Trio, although there are separate entrances. The receipt I got shows Trio's address but gives its postal "ZIP" code as 20007. That is incorrect. That is the ZIP code for Georgetown. Trio's is in that little notched out 20036 ZIP code centered on Dupont Circle. Just above Q Street, it is the sprawling 20009 ZIP code, which is where I live.

A color-coded map of the postal codes in Washington, D.C., taken from a WaHoPo article about real estate price changes in 2009 (with that info removed).

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Unlike almost every other most straight men I know , Jamie has introduced me to at least two young ladies who are just absolutely wonderful -- one of whom is also now a good friend of mine (Wendy). I like that fact. (Jamie is also one of the most brilliant and insightful people I've ever met.)

Usually, it's the other way around and the female in the guy's life lowers the boom and that's that -- and the man ends up a buccal-pumping frog on a suburban lily pad with a cheesecake-eating housewife, some sticky-poopy babies, and a house full of electronic and plastic junk. And you need permission from your wife just to go to the bathroom. Sort of like this:


Or in the case of Wall-P, the money-and-power mongering doesn't change but you do end up with this kind of wedding:


You also live in a 28-room mansion in D.C., except upon moving in, you painted all the lovely pastel colored walls (a common and aesthetically-pleasing feature of D.C. row homes) a banal off-white and then proceeded to hang on those walls African face masks (and which have nothing to do with your own background, history, expertise, or anything), not to mention Velvet Elvis paintings (your idea of "whimsy" and "play" but also speaking to a deeper truth about you). Oh, and you hang up a Plexiglas fake shark mouth.

And you fill your mansion with tens of thousands of dollars worth of exotic seashells and corals that were dynamited out of distant tropical oceans that you purchased on line. Those purchases made you feel like you were really an urban sophisticate and not a tasteless tool of early 21st Century American corporate oligarchy -- Miller Lites, taquitos, poker nights, and UFC human cock-fighting on pay-per-view watched on 72" flat screen TVs and all.

By the way, Jenny is from Arizona and I related to her just what is the Mogollon Rim. (I think the double "ll" is pronounced in the Spanish way, so it would be "Mo-goh-AEE-YON" though I guess you can just say it as an English "l," so it would "Mug-ah-LON".)

Whatever you're thinking it might be, just stop it right now. The Mogollon Rim is a 200-mile long ESCARPMENT -- what a wonderful word -- that cuts across central Arizona.

The Mogollon Rim as seen near Payson, Arizona in October 2006.

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Jukebox Saturday Night entry to follow next ... 

--Regulus

Friday, December 12, 2014

All Seasons and Times in a Day -OR- Another Ride Along December Sunset Boulevard

Sunset as seen from my apartment overlooking 16th and U Streets and New Hampshire Avenue NW, Washington, D.C., at 4:34PM December 12, 2014.

Actual sunset here in Washington, D.C., this evening was 4:46PM EST. Indeed, that fact is the launching point for this whole entry.

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Friday night. The Sun set several hours ago (at the time of actual entry posting). The Sun is setting at its earliest for the whole year. Furthermore, tonight is (was) the last night of the earliest sunset times of the year -- 4:46PM Eastern Standard Time (EST) in Washington, D.C.

Tomorrow, the sunset actually bumps up to 4:47PM EST and continues to do so all the way until early July. (To be clear, I'm not including the seconds in any of this -- if a time is ":46," the assumption is that the seconds are between :00 and 0:59 with no "rounding up.")

On a related note, Earth is quickly approaching its perihelion (closest to the Sun) point on its orbit for the year.

Schematic diagram showing Earth at perihelion and aphelion by approximate date.

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Yes, the "shortest day" in terms of daylight is on the winter solstice (Dec. 21, 2014 at 2303UTC) and the "longest day" in terms of daylight is on the summer solstice (June 21, 2015 at 1638UTC) but owing to Keplerian orbital mechanics of Earth's slightly elliptical path about the Sun versus a nearly constant rate of axial rotation[1], the earliest and latest sunset and sunrise times are offset from the solstices just slightly (with the sunrises in the opposite sense of the sunsets and for both times of the year).

No, this isn't sunset in Washington, D.C., in December 2014. It's in Sweden in February 2004. Source: Flickr.

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The reason -- as explained in this excellent CWG entry from Dec. 21, 2011 -- is that there are two "competing" forces that determine local sunrise and sunset times: (1) Changes in the Sun's declination, or height above the horizon throughout the year, and 2) the changing time of solar noon. The latter is driven by the Equation of Time.

An analemma helps explain this effect. The above entry contains an animated GIF of the effect. I can only post one sideways still-frame of it.

Above: A sideways still-frame from the above-linked animated GIF showing an analemma for Washington, D.C., for 2011 with the winter solistice spot highlighted.

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The latest sunrise this seasons start on Dec. 31st here in D.C. at 7:27AM EST and runs until Jan. 10th before they start moving in tandem with the sunsets in terms of the overall lengthening of daylight.

Conversely for next year, the latest sunsets start on June 26th at 8:38PM Eastern Daylight Time (EDT) (7:38PM EST) here in Washington, D.C. and it runs until June 30th. The earliest sunrises start June 10, 2015 at 5:42AM EDT (4:42AM EST) and stay there until June 18, 2015.


For a quick summary of how these change, here are four links: The first two show the sunrise and sunset times for the months of December 2014 and January 2015 in Washington, D.C., and the latter two show the sunrise and sunset times for the months of June 2015. (I'm not going to get into the issue of astronomical, nautical, and civil twilight times.)

The Earth is at its closest (perihelion) around January 4th every year and at its farthest (aphelion) around July 4th plus or minus a day. It is winter in the Northern Hemisphere simply because this hemisphere is tilted away from the Sun around the time of perigee and vice versa for the summer.

Got it?

Another schematic of the Earth at aphelion and perihelion also showing a highly exaggerated sense of our planet's slightly elliptical orbit. This image came from Danish Meteorological Institute but I had to correct the aphelion date. It originally said June 4th, which is simply incorrect.

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About the Length of Day and Seasonal Fluctuations ...

Our Home. Earth.

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[1] This "length of day" (LOD) (not length of daylight) varies only by several milliseconds due to angular momentum exchanges between the solid Earth and the atmosphere -- principally through angular momentum exchanges between the atmosphere and the solid Earth as a result of the strengthening or relaxing of the prevailing westerlies or trade easterlies. Furthermore, there are greater seasonal change in the Northern Hemisphere than in the Southern Hemisphere due to greater temperature gradients and much greater topography that acts as a torque.

Hence, there is a net LOD difference during the course of a given year.

Idealized and actual schematics of Earth's atmospheric general circulation.

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In short, the seasonal (as in "inter-seasonal") angular momentum exchange between the atmosphere and Earth is greater in the Northern Hemisphere than in the Southern Hemisphere. There is a greater acceleration of the prevailing westerlies in the Northern Hemisphere winter and greater deceleration of the prevailing in the Northern Hemisphere summer than in the Southern Hemisphere winter summer.

Another cartoon schematic of Earth's atmospheric general circulation pattern.

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As a result, there is a net LOD difference between the seasons with the LOD decreasing (i.e., the solid Earth slowing down) going into the NH winter and the LOD increasing (i.e., the solid Earth speeding up) going into the NH summer. It is on the order of several milliseconds.

This can be augmented by wholesale reversals such as the monsoonal winds over the Indian subcontinent or in a large warm ENSO event in which the trade easterlies relax and can even become westerlies.

A chart of the observed changes in LOD at different time series including within a season (intra-seasonal), seasonal, interannual, decadal, and total since 1900 as published in a book in 2007. Chart by Richard Gross. The vertical axis scale is the same for each time series.

The topic of this blog portion of the blog entry are the seasonal ("inter-seasonal") changes. The serrated uptick is the NH winter representing a slightly longer LOD (i.e., a slower rotation of the solid Earth).

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One way I have found useful to picture this (even if the analogy isn't perfect) is to consider a runner on an east-west facing track.

If the runner accelerates toward the east -- the direction in which the solid Earth is rotating -- the runner's feet are pushing against the Earth and exerting a net negative torque on the solid Earth, causing an imperceptible deceleration of the planet. Conversely, when the runner slows down, she exerts a net positive torque on the Earth, causing it to accelerate imperceptibly.

So, yes, the atmosphere (mass of approximately 5.1 quintillion (10^18) kilograms) can actually slightly change the rotation rate of the solid Earth (mass of about 5.97 septillion (10^24) kilograms) despite the one million times mass differential between the two.

In short, this flea can (imperceptibly) move that elephant.

None of this takes into account other issues such as very long-term lunar tidal drag via the exchange of momentum between the Earth and the Moon or changes within the solid Earth such as massive earthquakes that can redistribute moments of inertia.

For a wild extreme of this, consider the planet Venus, where a "day" is longer than a "year": 243 Earth days versus 224.7 Earth days, to be exact -- and rotating on its axis in the reverse sense of the other eight planets (sorry, Pluto!).

Venus in ultraviolet light.

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On Venus, the upper atmosphere is in super-rotation with respect to the ponderously slowly rotating solid planet. The former whips around the planet every four Earth days. By contrast, nearer to the surface, the crushing atmosphere might have actually caused the planet to slow down to a full stop and start rotating in reverse.

Alternatively, that "backwards" rotation was caused by some ancient cataclysm in the early Solar System that flipped Venus upside down -- and perhaps contributed to that runaway greenhouse effect (870F anybody?) in which any early liquid water ocean became a crushing CO2 atmosphere (90 bars at the surface).

All Summer in a Day, indeed.

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Well, I had planned a whole entry including about my trip to the doctor and check up (my blood pressure has been only a tad above normal the past week) but I seem to have run out of time. I might try to post one additional entry before I go to No. 9 tonight.

For tomorrow, it's a gym visit and posting a jukebox Saturday night entry before going to Jake's place for a "white elephant" holiday party in Arlington (Crystal City).

That's all for now.

--Regulus