Stationery

Since I have come to Japan I have found stationery stores to be fun. It is because Japanese are really into handwriting and have some of the best pens and pencils on the planet. I remember buying a mechanical pencil that advanced the lead in a new way. Instead of clicking the top one shook the whole pen. There is some neat stuff.

Not that I would ever need it but correcting things have gone through various stages. The first was the white liquid that dried to write over it. The second was a little correction tape cartridge to cover over the mistake. The third was a small roll of Post-it like paper to cover things and writing on the paper. Now, people use a new type of pen with ink that disappears when you rub it. The increase in temperature causes this.

The other thing different about Japan compared to America is the prevalence of plastic sheets put under paper so it is easier to write. Often these sheets have cartoon characters or decorative designs. English has such a simple written language that there is no need for these whereas Japanese characters can have a lot of details and need a better writing surface.

Little children love erasers. And the erasers can be made in any shape. I like the sushi shaped ones myself. (Just to look at.) The kids collect these. When I was young I remember three type of erasers, pink, an eraser with two ends for ink and pencil, and the crumbly art eraser not this.

Have you been to a stationery store recently?

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Be a Good Child Day

It is early Father’s Day here. Way before there was ever a Father’s Day there was a command to honor your father and mother. This is not a command to be a good parent but to be a good child. In fact in life, one has to live with the parents one is dealt. They can be incredibly good or bad. If you have won the “lottery of life”, realize you are lucky where others have not been. But back to the point of this post. You can’t pick your parents but you can decide if you will be a good child. You can treat people with respect and kindness for the good they have done. And you can treat people with respect and kindness when they have not been so good.

How are you going to be a good child today? If your father is living, do you make the call today? If your father is no longer with you, what do you do to honor the memory?

For me I will remember all the things that my father did to make me smile. Maybe I will have a tuna fish sandwich, for he loved eating those.

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Scaevola’s Cat Thought of the Week* (#8)


The Thought

Servus quaerit cur in siccatorio inesses?

Ut signo vestes, efficientius est.


The Meaning

My servant asks why were you in the dryer?

When I mark clothes, it is more efficient.


The Form

ˉ = Full beat
˘ = Half beat
° = Either a full or half beat may be used
ˉ ˘ ˘ = D = Dactyl (a metrical foot)
ˉ ˉ = S = Spondee (a metrical foot)
ˉ ˘ = T = Trochee (a metrical foot)
/ = Separator between metrical feet
|| = A hiatus – a pronounced pause
X = Either a dactyl or spondee may be used
Y = Either a spondee or a trochee may be used

Form = Elegiac Couplet
X / X / X / X / D / Y
X / X / ° || D / D / ˉ


The Scansion

Sērvūs / qu(āē)rīt / cūr īn / sīccā/tōrĭo*-ĭ/nēssēs?
( ˉ ˉ / ˉ ˉ / ˉ ˉ / ˉ ˉ / ˉ ˘ ˘ / ˉ ˉ )

Ūt sīg/nō vēs/tēs, || ēffĭcĭ/ēntĭŭs / ēst.
( ˉ ˉ / ˉ ˉ / ˉ || ˉ ˘ ˘ / ˉ ˘ ˘ / ˉ )

* A note on scansion: if a word ends in a vowel, am, em, or um, AND the next word begins with a vowel (or an h), then the ending vowel (or am, em, um) of the first word is dropped completely (beat value and all) and the two words are joined. This is known as elision.


The Recitation


The Vocabulary and Grammar

Servus = servus (servus, -i), noun, 2nd declension, singular, masculine, nominative, meaning = male servant.

quaerit = quaero (quaero, quaerere, quaesivi or quaesii, quaesitum), verb, 3rd conjugation, 3rd person, singular, present, active, indicative, meaning = he (servus) asks.

cur = interrogative, indeclinable, meaning = why.

in = preposition, indeclinable, modifies siccatorio, meaning = in.

siccatorio = siccatorium (siccatorium, -ii), noun, 2nd declension, singular, neuter, ablative, meaning = drying room (dryer).

inesses = insum (insum, inesse, infui, infuturum), verb, irregular, 2nd person, singular, imperfect, active only, subjubctive, meaning = you were in. (The construction “Servus quaerit cur…,” introduces and indirect question, “My servant asks why…” Verbs in indirect questions are subjunctive in mood.)

Ut = conjunction (temporal), indeclinable, meaning = when, as (just as, at the same time as).

signo = signo (signo, -are, -avi, -atum), verb, 1st conjugation, 1st person, singular, present, active, indicative, meaning = I mark, sign

vestes = vestis (vestis, -is), noun, 3rd declension, plural, feminine, accusative, meaning = clothes.

efficientius = efficientior (efficientior, -ius), adjective (comparative adjective derived from the present participle “efficiens” of the verb efficio, -ficere, -feci, -fectum), singular, neuter, nominative, modifies the impersonal “it” of the verb est, meaning = more efficient.

est = sum (sum, esse, fui, futurum), verb, irregular, 3rd person, singular, present, active only, indicative, meaning = it (impersonal) is.


*  “Week” is a used here as to specify an undefined length of time, possibly at times equal to an actual week.

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Book Review: Five Million Watts

“Five Million Watts” by Fenton WoodThis is the second short novel/novella (123 pages) in the author’s Yankee Republic series. I described the first, Pirates of the Electromagnetic Waves, as “utterly charming”, and this sequel turns it all the way up to “enchanting”. As with the first book, you’re reading along thinking this is a somewhat nerdy young adult story, then something happens or is mentioned in passing and suddenly, “Whoa—I didn’t see that coming!”, and you realise the Yankee Republic is a strange and enchanted place, and that, as in the work of Philip K. Dick, there is a lot more going on than you suspected, and much more to be discovered in future adventures.

This tale begins several years after the events of the first book. Philo Hergenschmidt (the only character from Pirates to appear here) has grown up, graduated from Virginia Tech, and after a series of jobs keeping antiquated equipment at rural radio stations on the air, arrives in the Republic’s storied metropolis of Iburakon to seek opportunity, adventure, and who knows what else. (If you’re curious where the name of the city came from, here’s a hint, but be aware it may be a minor spoiler.) Things get weird from the very start when he stops at an information kiosk and encounters a disembodied mechanical head who says it has a message for him. The message is just an address, and when he goes there he meets a very curious character who goes by a variety of names ranging from Viridios to Mr Green, surrounded by a collection of keyboard instruments including electronic synthesisers with strange designs.

Viridios suggests Philo aim for the very top and seek employment at legendary AM station 2XG, a broadcasting pioneer that went on the air in 1921, before broadcasting was regulated, and which in 1936 increased its power to five million watts. When other stations’ maximum power was restricted to 50,000 watts, 2XG was grandfathered and allowed to continue to operate at 100 times more, enough to cover the continent far beyond the borders of the Yankee Republic into the mysterious lands of the West.

Not only does 2XG broadcast with enormous power, it was also permitted to retain its original 15 kHz bandwidth, allowing high-fidelity broadcasting and even, since the 1950s, stereo (for compatible receivers). However, in order to retain its rights to the frequency and power, the station was required to stay on the air continuously, with any outage longer than 24 hours forfeiting its rights to hungry competitors.

The engineers who maintained this unique equipment were a breed apart, the pinnacle of broadcast engineering. Philo manages to secure a job as a junior technician, which means he’ll never get near the high power RF gear or antenna (all of which are one-off custom), but sets to work on routine maintenance of studio gear and patching up ancient tube gear when it breaks down. Meanwhile, he continues to visit Viridios and imbibe his tales of 2XG and the legendary Zaros the Electromage who designed its transmitter, the operation of which nobody completely understands today.

As he hears tales of the Old Religion, the gods of the spring and grain, and the time of the last ice age, Philo concludes Viridios is either the most magnificent liar he has ever encountered or—something else again.

Climate change is inexorably closing in on Iburakon. Each year is colder than the last, the growing season is shrinking, and it seems inevitable that before long the glaciers will resume their march from the north. Viridios is convinced that the only hope lies in music, performing a work rooted in that (very) Old Time Religion which caused a riot in its only public performance decades before, broadcast with the power of 2XG and performed with breakthrough electronic music instruments of his own devising.

Viridios is very odd, but also persuasive, and he has a history with 2XG. The concert is scheduled, and Philo sets to work restoring long-forgotten equipment from the station’s basement and building new instruments to Viridios’ specifications. It is a race against time, as the worst winter storm in memory threatens 2XG and forces Philo to confront one of his deepest fears.

Working on a project on the side, Philo discovers what may be the salvation of 2XG, but also as he looks deeper, possibly the door to a new universe. Once again, we have a satisfying, heroic, and imaginative story, suitable for readers of all ages, that leaves you hungry for more.

At present, only a Kindle edition is available. The book is not available under the Kindle Unlimited free rental programme, but is inexpensive to buy. Those eagerly awaiting the next opportunity to visit the Yankee Republic will look forward to the publication of volume 3, The Tower of the Bear, in October, 2019.

Wood, Fenton. Five Million Watts. Seattle: Amazon Digital Services, 2019. ASIN B07R6X973N.

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Where have all the viewers gone?

I read this over at Breitbart.

Primetime Viewership Compared to Same Week Last Year

Fox News: -4 percent

MSNBC: -4 percent

CNNLOL: -33 percent

Total Day Viewership Compared to Same Week Last Year

Fox News: -7 percent

MSNBC: -5 percent

CNNLOL: -21 percent

It looks like CNN is Tapped out. The Cuomo News Network may need to remember not all the bad news is about Trump. It can be closer to home. I haven’t been watching but is Rachel still smirking. I know I am. Are you? (This is unkind but turnabout is fair play.)

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Overreaching Moderation

This is at Pinterest.

https://www.projectveritas.com/2019/06/11/tech-insider-blows-whistle-on-how-pinterest-listed-top-pro-life-site-as-porn-bible-verses-censored/

The pro-life group, Live Action, was put on Pinterest’s porn list as well as PJMedia.com. Clearly the moderators are seeing things no one else is seeing. If you watch the video you will see also how a site can minimize content. The slant is in. The video at the link is about 20 minutes and you will see from a Pinterest insider how the “sausage is made”.

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It’s been 50 years already?

I got something in the mail the other day, it was a notice that if I wanted to attend my high school reunion I needed to remit $55 for myself and another $55 for my guest.

Huh? Where is it at etc….

Seems like the first letter, sent some time in February just didn’t make it to my mailbox. That is according to a phone call to one of the organizers.

But 50 years already! It seems like only yesterday… The old high school building is gone, burned down in the early 90’s.  A lot of memories went with that building.

I just can’t get over the time passing.

Well I’m going to attend.

Just as a topic of discussion, how many other Ratburgers found that they can’t get over the time passing ? How many attended a class reunion? Was it fun? Did they discuss what one did in one’s life? etc etc etc

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One of the Best Ways to Engage with Data

Pen(cil) and Paper.

I just finished “Smarter Faster Better” by Charles Duhigg and one of the points it made was people get into “Information Blindness”. They can’t see things because there is too much information. If one has too many choices one gives up and doesn’t make a choice. If that happens one needs to engage the data. Ask questions of it to get to the information one wants. It gave the example of choosing a wine. Red or white? What year? Cheap or expensive? Soon a long list can be manageable.

When it came to students, hand written notes were better than typed notes on a computer for better test results. Teachers at a low performing school were able to change the school by making cards for each student and seeing what the patterns were. They had the data on computers but they weren’t engaging it.

My opinion is paper and pen helps us because it is more like a picture. Our minds love pictures. And when we create pictures our minds connect with the information.

What has been your experience?

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Scaevola’s Cat Thought of the Week* (#7)


The Thought

Duplos annos regnavisset Roma quidem si

nutricati essent tigridibus gemini.


The Meaning

Rome would have indeed ruled twice the years if

the twins were reared by tigers.


The Form

ˉ = Full beat
˘ = Half beat
° = Either a full or half beat may be used
ˉ ˘ ˘ = D = Dactyl (a metrical foot)
ˉ ˉ = S = Spondee (a metrical foot)
ˉ ˘ = T = Trochee (a metrical foot)
/ = Separator between metrical feet
|| = A hiatus – a pronounced pause
X = Either a dactyl or spondee may be used
Y = Either a spondee or a trochee may be used

Form = Elegiac Couplet
X / X / X / X / D / Y
X / X / ° || D / D / ˉ


The Scansion

Dūplōs / ānnōs / rēgnā/vīssēt / Rōmă quĭ/dēm sī
( ˉ ˉ / ˉ ˉ / ˉ ˉ / ˉ ˉ / ˉ ˘ ˘ / ˉ ˉ )

nūtrī/cāti*-ēs/sēnt || tīgrĭdĭ/būs gĕmĭ/nī.
( ˉ ˉ / ˉ ˉ / ˉ || ˉ ˘ ˘ / ˉ ˘ ˘ / ˉ )

* A note on scansion: if a word ends in a vowel, am, em, or um, AND the next word begins with a vowel (or an h), then the ending vowel (or am, em, um) of the first word is dropped completely (beat value and all) and the two words are joined. This is known as elision.


The Recitation


The Vocabulary and Grammar

duplos = duplus (duplus, -a, -um), adjective, 1st & 2nd declension, plural, masculine, accusative, modifies annos, meaning = twice, twice as much

annos = annus (annus, -i), noun, 2nd declension, plural, masculine, accusative, meaning = years

regnavisset = regno (regno, -are, -avi, -atum), verb, 1st conjugation, 3rd person, singular, pluperfect, active, subjunctive, meaning = he/she/it would have ruled.

Roma = Roma (Roma, -ae), noun, 1st declension, singular, feminine, nominative, meaning = Rome.

quidem = adverb, indeclinable, modifies regnavisset, meaning = indeed.

si = conjunction, indeclinable, meaning = if – this little word often signifies, as it does here, a grammatical construction known as a conditional statement. The particular conditional in this poem is a Past Contrary to Fact conditional: if X would have happened (but didn’t), then Y would have happened (but didn’t). In the Past Contrary to Fact conditional, the verb in each clause is pluperfect in tense and subjunctive in mood.

nutricati = nutricatus (nutricatus, -a, -um), adjective (past participle of nutrico, -are, -avi, -atum), 1st & 2nd declension, plural, masculine, nominative, meaning = nursed, weaned, reared, raised. *1st part of the compound verb nutricati essent.

essent = sum (sum, esse, fui, futurum), verb, irregular, 3rd person, plural, pluperfect, active only, subjunctive, meaning = they would have been. *2nd part of the compound verb nutricati essent.

nutricati essent = nutrico (nutrico, -are, -avi, -atum), verb, 1st conjugation, 3rd person, plural, pluperfect, passive, subjunctive, meaning = they would have been nursed, weaned, reared, raised.

tigridibus = tigris (tigris, -idis), noun, 3rd declension, plural, masculine, ablative, meaning = by (means of) tigers

gemini = gemini (gemini, -orum), noun, 2nd declension, plural only, masculine, nominative, meaning = twins (in this particular case, Rome’s founders, twins who were raised by a she-wolf, Romulus and Remus).


*  “Week” is a used here as to specify an undefined length of time, possibly at times equal to an actual week.

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Long-Lost First Movie of a Solar Eclipse Found, Restored

In May, 1900, British magician Nevil Maskelyne, Jr., travelled to North Carolina in the United States to observe and attempt to photograph the total eclipse of the Sun on May 28th of that year.  Maskelyne was the son of John Nevil Maskelyne, a celebrated magician who was also the inventor of the pay toilet.  (Neither should be confused with the unrelated Rev. Dr Nevil Maskelyne, the fifth British Astronomer Royal from 1765 to 1811.)  Solar eclipses had been photographed before, with the first completely successful photograph taken of the eclipse of 1851-07-28, but Maskelyne wanted to take the next step and make a motion picture of the eclipse.  He used a camera with a telescopic adapter developed by his father, which he had previously attempted to use to photograph the eclipse of 1898-01-22, but his film was stolen during the return to Britain so we’ll never know what it contained.

The film from the 1900 eclipse was stunning.  I have photographed four total solar eclipses (1999, 2001, 2008, and 2010), and even with modern equipment, dealing with the rapid and dramatic changes in light level in the seconds before and after totality is very challenging.  However Maskelyne managed to do it (nothing is known about his equipment or technique), the result was a total success, which was shown in British theatres.  The film disappeared shortly after its theatrical presentation and was believed to have been lost for over a century.  In 2018, a copy (it is unknown whether this was the original or a print) was found in the archives of the Royal Astronomical Society, whose curator did not know what it was, and upon consultation with the British Film Institute’s (BFI) curator of silent films, it was identified as the Maskelyne eclipse film.  The BFI’s conservators re-photographed the original celluloid film onto 35 millimetre film, which was then digitally scanned and restored as a 4K video.  Here is the restored film.  It is embedded here as a smaller video: click on “Watch on YouTube” to watch in full resolution.

Now, as eclipse videos go, this isn’t a competitor for those made recently, but it is one hundred and nineteen years old, the first successful attempt to make a movie of totality, and shows all of the principal phenomena of an eclipse including the diamond ring, Baily’s beads, inner and middle corona, and prominences.  It is a heck of a lot better than any movie I have made of totality.  It may taken the sleight of hand, sense of timing, and iron nerves of a master stage magician to adjust the exposure so precisely as the events of the eclipse unfolded—I know I could not hope to do it.

The Maskelynes were a creative family: Nevil’s son, Jasper Maskelyne, was the third generation of stage magicians in the family and, after joining the Royal Engineers after the outbreak of World War II, consulted during the war on camouflage and deception to aid British forces.

Here is an article from Atlas Obscura with additional details about the movie and its restoration.  This is the press release [PDF] from the BFI announcing the release of the restored film.

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Big Brother Parking Lot

I just came back from a store. It has a parking lot that charges only after the first hour. It used to have the typical gate that opens and you take a card with a time stamp. NOW they take a picture of my car and its license plate. When I get done with shopping I go to a “Big Brother” machine and punch in my license plate number. After I put in the number it shows me a photo of my car and asks for money if I have parked over an hour. (I like free so I shop quickly. No dimes left my hands.) I then drive off the lot. There is no gate I have to pass through on exit but I am sure a camera gets a picture of my departure.

The system works by recording the car license. And if you didn’t pay the right amount and drove off, the police or collection agency would come after you. They probably put in this system because there is a sports stadium nearby and people were working the old system and paying the right amounts. Now they know exactly how long a car has stayed. Before you could switch time stamp cards with someone and get out of paying a lot.

I wonder how much Big Brother is tracking me and my car not just at this store but around town.

Do you have anything like this near you?

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