Hello world!

Welcome to WordPress.com. This is your first post. Edit or delete it and start blogging!

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Testing this blog thing

I’m testing a new method for posting blog entries.

This doesn’t necessarily mean that I’m going to start posting blog
entries—but you never know!

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Um…What comes after Mercury?

The IAU has settled on a definition of the word “planet.” They have rejected the sensible proposal offered last week by the committee and have accepted an incoherent mess.

A “planet” is a celestial body that (a) is in orbit around the Sun, (b) has sufficient mass for its self-gravity to overcome rigid body forces so that it assumes a hydrostatic equilibrium (nearly round) shape, and (c) has cleared the neighbourhood around its orbit.

Since a planet must orbit “around the Sun,” excluding bodies around other stars, and a planet must have “cleared the neighbourhood around its orbit” (just try to pin down what that means), the implications of this definition are clear. According to this definition, there are only two planets in the entire universe: Mercury and Venus.

The kids in school today are going to have an easy time memorizing that list.

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I bought two hotdogs and a light fixture.

Last Saturday we went to Ray Winder Field to watch the Arkansas Travelers play baseball. Since the dilapidated old ballpark is going to be torn down after this season, we had to go and pay our respects.
 
Next year the games will be played in the shiny new Dickey-Stephens Park. I like shiny new things, and it will be several miles closer to my home than the old Ray whatsit.
 
Unlike many people around here, I say, “Tear it down!”
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I am still avoiding the nightmarish 67/167.

There are now three west-bound lanes on interstate 40 in North Little Rock, Arkansas between Burns Park and Crystal Hill. What a beautiful sight!
 
The three west-bound bridges from the north interchange to Burns Park are not yet built, nor is there any concrete between them, so it’ll be a while before the whole project is finished. Future generations are certainly going to have it easier than we do. Lucky kids.
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The force is strong with this video.

Posted in Entertainment | 2 Comments

The murderer’s name starts with a “B.” Or a “D”!

I had nothing to read today at lunch. This is terrible. You know how a shark is said to be in mortal peril if it ever stops swimming? That is like my brain. Not that my head is swimming, but I have to constantly take in new information or I might die or something. Fortunately, the restaurant had a television tuned to MSNBC, so I carefully positioned myself to see and hear the news while I ate.

Sadly, it was MSNBC. My entire lunch was spent watching an interview with a psychic about the recent suspect in the JonBenet Ramsey case. That’s right—a psychic.

First of all, the story of this suspect is not inherently interesting or relevant. It is certainly not worthy of all the media coverage that it’s received.

But to interview a psychic? To earnestly interview someone who has no knowledge of the case and whose profession is to be a liar and a fraud?

This is why I get my news from newspapers rather than the idiot box.

Posted in News and politics | 1 Comment

No word yet on planet Claire.

Here are some additional observations on the new definition of planet.

(1) For years many astronomers have been saying that Pluto is not really a planet, but other astronomers and the general public have been insisting that it is. Now the IAU committee has fired back with essentially “OK, you want Pluto to be a planet? Fine. If you’re going to be that way, not only Pluto but Charon is also a planet now. You happy?” I doubt anyone on the committee actually thinks in these terms, but nevertheless that is the result.

(2) The Dawn mission has been planning to explore two asteroids (Ceres and Vesta) since the mission was first planned (and canceled and reinstated, etc.). If this new definition passes, the Dawn mission is all of a sudden now a mission to explore an asteroid and a planet (Ceres)! When it starts getting good pictures of Vesta, it may become a mission to two planets.

(3) The New Horizons mission has been on its way to explore the planet Pluto and other objects in the outer solar system. Now several months after its launch, it’s suddenly on its way to two planets.

Posted in Astronomy | 1 Comment

Interplanet Janet is going to be busy.

There is a huge amount of buzz on the Internet today surrounding the IAU’s proposed definition of a “planet.” The definition they chose is exactly what I have for years been expecting them to select once all the dust settles. It is simple and, in my worthless opinion, appropriate.
 
“A planet is a celestial body that (a) has sufficient mass for its self-gravity to overcome rigid body forces so that it assumes a hydrostatic equilibrium (nearly round) shape, and (b) is in orbit around a star, and is neither a star nor a satellite of a planet.”
 
If this definition gets accepted by the full assembly next week, then the list of planets in our solar system will extend to include the following (and possibly others as well):
 
 1. Mercury
 2. Venus
 3. Earth
 4. Mars
 5. Ceres
 6. Jupiter
 7. Saturn
 8. Uranus
 9. Neptune
10. Pluto
11. Charon
12. 2003 UB313 (a.k.a. “Xena”)
 
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And it’s free, too, except for parking

Today I went to the Little Rock National Airport/Adams Field to pick up somebody’s car. I cheerfully volunteered for this assignment, being an airplane enthusiast, and of course I hung around to watch a few takeoffs and landings. I’m not sure if all airplane enthusiasts are this weird.
 
Is there anything more beautiful than an airplane flying down from the sky, gliding over the runway with precision, then gently touching down? I think not!
 
There is a not-widely-known area of the Little Rock Airport designed for the purpose of watching the circus-like spectacle that is the modern airport. You can find it by heading toward the security check point (where a lot of people—who, it seems, can’t read—like to wait for their arriving friends) and then turn right up a flight of stairs.
 
I went there today and watched what I could. The view of the runways is not terrific, and after watching a few landings and some of the activity at the gates, I decided to explore the new long-term parking deck for the first time. I discovered that this is an even better place to watch the planes. There is a much wider view of the west runway (4L/22R), where you can see almost all of the action. And best of all, the parking deck has a complete view of the east runway (4R/22L)! The east runway is not used right now, because they are expanding it, but it should be fun to watch after it reopens.
 
The only two downsides are the deadly summer heat and the mildly uncomfortable winter cool that we experience here in Arkansas. But that’s the price you pay for being a weirdo. Not much really.
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