Saturday, December 10, 2011

December Sunset Boulevard

The view looking toward southwest toward the Rossyln section of Arlington on a chilly December early evening approaching sunset, Washington, D.C., 4:11PM, Dec. 10, 2011.

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Last night's awards dinner / holiday party was very nice and I even won a technical contribution award (along with $300). Everyone really heartily clapped for me when my name was called, although it was embarrassing, if only because two of the people at the table with me (A. and D., my co-workers and friends) far more deserved an award.

After dinner, L'Enfant Plaza Hotel, Washington, D.C., 7:58PM, Dec. 9, 2011.

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I had wanted to post a longer entry with a specific theme, and indeed I've already begun one, but all my entries take so long to write and at this point, I need to go to dinner. I have no food in the apartment and I think I'd like to sit at a restaurant (at the bar) and have dinner. Later on, I will probably go to Nellie's and/or Larry's Lounge, or maybe some place else.

I keep trying to reach out to DG, but he keeps ignoring me. Fine. I won't text him anymore.

The interior of the L'Enfant Plaza Hotel next to the American Grill, Washington, D.C., 6:22PM, Dec. 9, 2011.

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Chris T. is visiting from Alabama this weekend but I likely won't be seeing him, if only because you-know-who and his future wife are hosting one of their charming parties at their Adams Morgan cliff-top plantation with its 35 rooms all painted off-white . The dinner party will feature the usual fare: taquito surprise (the surprise is that you think they might serve something OTHER than taquitos, but you'd be wrong), Miller Lites, and UFC human cockfighting on pay per pee-yew.

Updated 11:58AM 12/11/2011:

Maybe Wall-P will have a philosophical conversation on Big Questions such as Existence of GOD. 

Those usually go something like this:  
"Physics, chemistry, and biology can explain all natural processes and nothing exists in the physical universe that cannot be explained through science. In this way, I have no need of a GOD and therefore I conclude His existence is irrelevant. Case closed."

Or maybe they'll talk legal theory. 

Wall-P once convincingly explained to me (in his monotonic, rapid-fire style) the essential importance of having torture as a tool for law enforcement guaranteed by the Constitution because it just might be necessary to stop a terrorist from detonating a nuclear bomb in a U.S. city with just 25 seconds to go on a digital countdown, Jack Bauer 24-style.

Even in this absurdly unlikely scenario taken from an undergrad 101 class and Hollywood, it relies on Antonin Scalia "strict Constructionist" mechanistic thought -- assured in legal contracts signed by The Powers That Be -- that this is the ONLY time it would be used rather than on every poor slob and petty criminal by every local police dept., which is OF COURSE what would happen.

It must be great to know everything with such total assurance. All that aside, more likely, they all just played poker until 4AM. 

**End of update**

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Anyway, in lieu of the planned entry, I'll just post a quick one with some pictures I took during the course of last night and earlier this evening.

A person plays a randomly placed piano in the sprawling lobby of the L'Enfant Plaza Hotel, Washington, D.C., 10:19PM, Dec. 9, 2011.

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The celing of the solarium in the L'Enfant Plaza Hotel, Washington, D.C., 6:51PM, Dec. 9, 2011.

We had a reception in there before dinner. It was already dark (this is the time of year with the shortest days / earliest sunsets) and so the solarium was not very sunny ...

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Speaking of the Sun, and to return to a recent blog theme of the view from my apartment kitchen window ...

Sunset from my apartment, Washington, D.C., 4:38PM, Dec. 10, 2011. This was taken about 25 minutes after the lead picture in this blog entry. 

Of note, the actual earliest sunsets occur from December 2nd through December 12th at 4:46PM EST, and on the solstice (Dec. 22nd), we will have actually "gained" a full 4 minutes of daylight on the evening side (sunset 4:50PM) but we will continue to have later sunrises with the latest at 7:27AM from Dec. 31st through January 10th.

The shortest day in terms of NET daylight is the winter solstice.

The Earth's slightly elliptical orbit is the reason for this "displacement" of the earliest / latest sunsets / sunrises from the winter solstice (and conversely, of the latest / earliest sunrises from the summer solstice). It's simply Kepler's Law in operation combined with a constant axial rotation rate of the Earth (or at least constant down to the level of milliseconds). 

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Here the Sun already appears to have set*, 4:40PM, Dec. 10, 2011. The buildings of Rosslyn will soon be nighttime illuminated, and the question will go out:

"So, [M], why did you leave him?"

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*You'll note in the above picture taken at 4:40PM, the Sun "appears" to have set. In point of fact, the Sun was still considered "above" the horizon, and would not set for another six minutes until 4:46PM. There is a very complicated rule governing what is the ACTUAL sunset or sunrise time, as explained by the U.S. Naval Observatory. It is as follows: 

"For computational purposes, sunrise or sunset is defined to occur when the geometric zenith distance of center of the Sun is 90.8333 degrees. That is, the center of the Sun is geometrically 50 arcminutes below a horizontal plane. For an observer at sea level with a level, unobstructed horizon, under average atmospheric conditions, the upper limb of the Sun will then appear to be tangent to the horizon. The 50-arcminute geometric depression of the Sun's center used for the computations is obtained by adding the average apparent radius of the Sun (16 arcminutes) to the average amount of atmospheric refraction at the horizon (34 arcminutes)."

Source here.

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Sunset Avenue and Wednesday's (Antenna) Child

Speaking of sunset ...

I used to have a babysitter as a young child in the early 1970s, an elderly lady named Gertrude Hill (Mrs. Hill) who lived on Spruce Avenue just off the main drag of Sunset Avenue in Wanamassa, New Jersey. She may have actually been born in the U.K. She died a long time ago.

She was such a nice old lady, but her invalid husband was a nasty old man who would when riled try to chase the young children she watched except he never got far with his walker. She also had a very old, bad-tempered small white mutt of a dog named "Lad" that used to growl when you got near it. Lad had these disproportionately thin and small stubs for legs.

She had a daughter and son. The son was named Kenny and I remember he used to eat sub sandwiches while seated in front of the TV.

From her kitchen, which faced her backyard, I remember always staring at the old-style antenna on the next door house (not quite like the one in the picture at left but that was as good as I could find, especially on a cloudy sky), and for some reason I associated that with the word "Wednesday." I have no idea why, perhaps because I first noticed it on a Wednesday.

As I recall, the antenna had a vaguely "W" shape, so perhaps I noticed it on a Wednesday. Regardless, I was Wednesday's Child -- ha ha.

The view outside L'Enfant Plaza Hotel with the ornamental trees wrapped in their Christmas LED lights, Washington, D.C., 5:58PM, Dec. 9, 2011.  

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I've actually been home all day today. I'm watching M*A*S*H reruns on TV Land. Of note, actor Harry Morgan -- who played Col. Sherman T. Potter -- died on Wednesday, Dec. 7th. He was 96. Here is his New York Times obituary.


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OK, I think that's all for now.

--Regulus

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