Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Decline and Fall

In 1928, when England was laboring under the delusion it was still a great empire, Evelyn Waugh published his novel, Decline and Fall. It is a social satire that employs Waugh's trademark black humor to lampoon various features of British society in the 1920s. The title alludes to Gibbon's The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, and Spengler's The Decline of the West, which argued that the rise of nations and cultures is inevitably followed by their eclipse.
In Waugh’s novel, theology student Paul Pennyfeather falls down the slippery slope of the drunken antics of his club and is expelled from Oxford for running through the grounds without his trousers.
Because of this, he loses his inheritance, takes a job teaching at an obscure public school, where he becomes engaged to the wealthy mother of one of his pupils. Pennyfeather is unaware that the source of her income is a number of high-class brothels in South America. Arrested on the morning of the wedding, after running a business-related errand for her, he takes the fall to protect his fiancée's honor and is sentenced to seven years in prison for traffic in prostitution. She marries another man with ties to the high government who arranges for Paul to fake his own death and escape from prison. In the end, Pennyfeather returns to where he started at Oxford. He convinces the college he is the distant cousin of the Paul Pennyfeather who was sent down previously. The novel ends as it began, with him sitting in his room listening to the distant shouts of the same club that proved to be his downfall.
Now, laboring under the delusion that we are still a great empire, as the images of our Black Friday debacle and presidential election have shown us running through the grounds without our trousers, we can only hope that we will not be expelled from the college of civilized nations, entangle ourselves with a brothel owner, find ourselves in solitary confinement, and escape, to begin anew where we began before.

But hope is not a method, is it?

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Supermoon November 14th

If you only see one astronomical event this year, make it the November supermoon, when the Moon will be the closest to Earth it’s been since January 1948.
During the event, which will happen on the eve of November 14, the Moon will appear up to 14 percent bigger and 30 percent brighter than an average full moon. This is the closest the Moon will get to Earth until 25 November 2034, so you really don’t want to miss this one.
"The full moon of November 14 is not only the closest full moon of 2016, but also the closest full moon to date in the 21st century," says NASA. "The full moon won’t come this close to Earth again until 25 November 2034."
"When the moon is near the horizon, it can look unnaturally large when viewed through trees, buildings, or other foreground objects," says NASA. "The effect is an optical illusion, but that fact doesn’t take away from the experience."

So get outside around when the moon is just climbing over the horizon for a visual treat.

Saturday, November 5, 2016

The Great Leap Backwards

Once again, we enter into our semi-annual lunacy here on the east coast. Tomorrow morning at 2:00 AM DST, will become 1:00 AM, EST. 
New Zealander, George Hudson whose shift work job gave him leisure time to collect insects, and led him to value after-hours daylight, proposed the idea in 1895. The German Empire and Austria-Hungary did the first nationwide implementation, on April 30, 1916. 

I think George has long since collected enough insects and gone to his heavenly reward. But the "bugs" still seem to want to do this. The practice benefits retailing, and professional sports club owners, whose businesses exploit sunlight after working hours. But it causes problems for outdoor entertainment and other activities tied to sunlight, such as farming.
Though it has been touted as reducing evening use of incadescent lighting, --which has now been largely replaced by more energy efficient lighting--today's heating and cooling usage patterns and methods differ greatly and the research about how DST affects energy use is limited and contradictory.
DST time changes complicates timekeeping, disrupts travel, billing, record keeping, medical devices, heavy equipment and normal human sleep patterns.  

The biggest supermoon in seventy years will be visible on November 14th. Maybe it's nature's way of telling us it's time to stop the lunacy.