Monday, July 31, 2017

Hubba hubba hubba!

Went to the library yesterday. Cleveland Heights Library is part of CLEVNET -- a consortium of 30 or so local and regional libraries in northeast Ohio. I can borrow a book from any of the member libraries, and it'll be at my branch in three to five days.

One of the books I picked up was wrong. It was volume one of a three-volume set, and the Cleveland Public Library Main Branch had sent the wrong volume.

I got home, and called the Business Section desk at the CPL. I explained my problem, and the librarian went to make sure they had volume one still on the shelf. Yes, it was. Yes, they could send it to my branch and it'll be there Monday. He apologized.

I laughed and said no problem, I'm just glad the had it.

He confessed wistfully, "I'm glad I could make someone laugh this week. That made my day."

I think my librarian is under a lot of stress....

Suddenly I'm quite thirsty...

The center of our Milky Way galaxy...

The center of the galaxy is actually the bright white region to the right of and just below the middle of the image. Along the left side are large arcs of gas, heated by clusters of bright, massive stars. Wind and radiation from these stars create the complex structures seen in the gas. The core of our galaxy is concealed by vast clouds of dust and gas. The core heats these clouds, some which harbor stellar nurseries.

The image covers about half a degree of the sky, about the same width as the full moon.

This is a composite image, taken by several different telescopes. Yellow represents near-infrared, taken by Hubble. Red represents infrared, taken by Spitzer. Blue (high-energy) and violet (low-energy) represent X-rays, taken by Chandra.
That's good!

I could never get more than one side.

I refuse to post these to the front page of Wikipedia any more. But I will post them here. The article I wrote or assisted with is in bold.
Did You Know ... that Trinidadian/Indian/Puerto Rican dancer Amar Ramasar fell in love with ballet when he saw a videotaped production of Agon when he was 11 years old?

Sunday, July 30, 2017

My life.

"Tom didn't realize what the ground crew was shouting until it was too late. 'Let go of the weather balloon! Stop biting down!' Suddenly, he was in the upper stratosphere, appearing on KCLE's local radar along with numerous cirrus clouds."

I went outside this morning and was hand-aerating the back yard and spreading limestone. Wore gloves, even. Fuck, now I've got a blister on my right middle finger.

I'm gonna tell people I got bit by the groundhog living under my porch.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

I've always been a sucker for that jet-black hair/translucent creamy white skin look. It makes me melt.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Yes, he's beautiful.

I refuse to post these to the front page of Wikipedia any more. But I will post them here. The article I wrote or assisted with is in bold.
Did You Know ... that NFL inside linebacker Hayes Pullard was the first USC player since 1979 to lead the team in tackles for three back-to-back seasons?

"As the play continued, Chris began to become sexually aroused. He shouted his lines with abandon, his erection becoming ever more painful and prominent as Greg carried him around the stage. The script called for the character to reach sexual orgasm while riding the horse. As he moaned and squealed, Chris began bucking and pressing his erection against Greg's head, his body writhing in the air, his need for release impossible to satisfy in front of the packed theater."

Equus is a 1973 play by Peter Shaffer, who later wrote Amadeus. There are two themes in the play. The first is carried on by a psychiatrist, Dr. Martin Dysart, who has come to believe that "normalcy" is dead and boring. A believer in the philosophical musings of Foucault, he is upset that he makes people "normal" at the cost of the belief, power, "worship", and even evil that make life worth living.

The other theme is carried out by 17-year-old boy Alan. Alan's mother is a Bible-humper, and his father is an atheist. Alan has had a lifelong fascination with horses. At the age of six, a stranger gave him a ride on a horse, during which Alan achieved sexual arousal. Since then, Alan has eroticized horses: He wants to be naked with them, feel their muscular bodies against his own, smell their sweat, and pet their coats. About a year ago, Alan became infatuated with violent themes in the Bible. Alan's father tore down a painting depicting Biblical violence which hung in Alan's room, and put up a poster of a horse.

The play is almost all flashback. Chronologically. the play's narrative is set in motion when Alan meets Jill, a girl who works in a horse stable. Alan takes a job at the stable, and is seemingly a hard worker. But at night, Alan secretly takes the largest horse, Nugget (whom Alan calls "Equus"), out for naked bareback rides. Alan fantasizes that he and Equus become one, destroying their mutual enemies. During these rides, Alan becomes sexually aroused and ejaculates. Alan reveals that he has long thought sex to be abnormal, as his mother has said. But Jill takes Alan to an adult theater, where they run into Alan's father. Although Alan is initially embarrassed by the meeting, he comes to realize that sex is normal and natural. Jill and Alan visit the stable, where Jill seduces Alan. But when Alan hears horses moving about below, he becomes impotent. He throws Jill out of the stables, and then confronts the horses. In Alan's deranged mind, he hears the horses telling him that they are jealous gods, and Alan must only have sex with them. Alan declares himself free from their influence -- and stabs all the horses in the eyes with a spike, because they have "seen his soul". Dr. Dysart, guilt-ridden over his "normalizing" of teenage boys, agrees to treat Alan, but realizes he will succeed only by taking away Alan's ability to worship, and to feel power and love.

The script calls for the actor playing Alan to be naked in several scenes. The play is usually staged with tall, muscular men playing the horses, wire cages around their heads mimicking the shape and outline of a horse's head.

It is not unusual for actors to achieve an erection during the play.

He ain't your daddy's farm-hand.

So, a week ago, I was aerating the front lawn. I have this pronged device which pushes into the grass and removes a core of dirt, which helps the roots grow. As I'm stepping downward, I stepped on a small twig on the lawn. A piece of it went through the bottom of my shoe, through my orthotic, and into the ball of my foot. I bled kind of profusely for a while, and had to stay off my feet for almost a week until it healed. (Yes, that's blood. mwah ha ha ha ha!)

It still bothers me a bit. But I need to get out there and mow the lawn...

I think OSHA needs to intervene, here. He's a distraction at work, and could cause accidents.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

I'm not a graphics person, but if I work long and hard enough I can turn in something approaching decent. I spent 13 hours yesterday working on a project, and successfully finished at 3:30 AM. (When I get on a roll, I get on a roll. There's no shortage of energy.)

At 5:47 AM, a massive thunderstorm rolled through Cleveland Heights, waking me up. Oy...

Sunday, July 9, 2017

July 9, 1755 – The Braddock Expedition by the British Army is routed by a smaller French and Native American force in its attempt to capture Fort Duquesne (now downtown Pittsburgh). It is a defining moment in young George Washington's life.

* * * * * * * * *

The French claimed nearly all of North America east of the Appalachian Mountains. But unlike the British, the French sent only minimal settlers into the area, and almost none of its settlements survived more than a year.

Realizing that possession is nine-tenths of the law, the British stopped enforcing laws that prevented English colonists from moving inland. In 1746, a small but enterprising number of settlers now began moving into Ohio, where they rapidly cleared land, built roads, and displaced large numbers of Native Americans.

Deeply alarmed, the French sent a military mapping expedition into the Ohio Country in 1747 to reinforce their claim. The British chartered the Ohio Valley Company two years later. Investors included some of the most prominent Colonial politicians of the day, including Governor Robert Dinwiddie of Virginia. Large numbers of English settlers began moving into western Pennsylvania and Ohio with the company's financial backing.

The French responded by building a fort on Presque Isle in Lake Erie near what is now Erie, Pennsylvania, and driving off large numbers of British traders.

* * * * * * * * *

Dinwiddie stood to lose a vast sum if the French incursion succeeded. So he ordered 21 year-old Major George Washington of the Virginia Regiment into western Pennsylvania in October 1753. Washington met with the French commander of the area, demanding he leave. "I do not think myself obliged to obey," he told Washington.

The French now began moving south, building roads and forts. Fort Duquesne was erected in early 1754, and Dinwiddie sent Washington to seize it.

War broke out on May 28 when Washington's men surprised the French at Jumonville Glen. A massive French and Indian retaliation occurred, and Washington retreated. Overtaken, he established Fort Necessity (present-day Uniontown) to try to hold out. But he was forced to surrender.

* * * * * * * * *

The British decided to send an expedition to North America under the command of General Edward Braddock. Braddock had two regular army regiments, the 44th and 48th, with about 1,350 men. Another 500 regular army soldiers and militiamen from several British American colonies joined his column, bringing with them 10 cannon. His orders were to seize Fort Duquesne.

Braddock, with Washington besides him, set out from what is now the District of Columbia on April 14. He reached the British stronghold at Fort Cumberland, Maryland, on May 29. Braddock now faced a major challenge: Moving his heavy cannon through and over densely wooded Allegheny Mountains into western Pennsylvania, a journey of about 110 miles. Braddock, sure of victory, decided to build a road while he moved. This would give him an important logistical advantage in holding the fort after it was taken, and permit major British settlement of the area around the road.

Braddock's Road became one of the most important legacies of the march. It exists to this day, and is a major highway.

* * * * * * * * *

The French garrison at Fort Duquesne consisted of 250 French Army regulars and Canadian militia, with about 640 Indian allies. General Claude-Pierre Pécaudy de Contrecoeur, the French commander, received reports from Indian scouts weeks before Braddock approached, and learned of the heavy cannon that Braddock carried. Contrecoeur decided a preemptive strike -- attacking before Braddock could bring his cannon to bear -- was the only way to defeat the British.

On July 9, 1755, Braddock crossed the Monongahela River, about 10 miles south of Fort Duquesne. Washington tried to warn Braddock that the French and the Indians fought differently than the open-field style used by the British. Braddock ignored him.

About 11 A.M., a force of 300 French and Indian troops skirmished with Braddock's 1,400 men. The French field commander was killed, but the French swiftly counterattacked. The British, startled by the second assault, mistakenly concluded that they had been ambushed. The Britsh advance units began to retreat -- and ran smack into their own main force on Braddock's Road. The British column dissolved into chaos as the French and Indians surrounded them, using the cover of the woods.

Suddenly, the main French force of 600 began advancing down the road. As British officers on horseback tried to reform their troops into perfect lines, the French and Indians shot them. With their own troops milling about in front, the British could not bring effective cannon fire to bear. Colonial militia headed into the woods for cover to try to blunt the French and Indian attack; British regulars fired on them, mistaking them for French militia.

Several hours of intense combat ensued.

Near sunset, Braddock was shot and fell from his horse, mortally wounded. Washington managed to cobble together a rear guard, and ordered a retreat.

On July 13, the British reached the shattered remains of Fort Necessity. Braddock died that night. Washington had the general buried in the middle of the road he had constructed.

* * * * * * * * *

The British had suffered horrifying losses. There was an overall casualty rate of 67 percent (30 percent renders a unit no longer combat-effective). The casualty rate was even higher among officers (78.5 percent). The French and Indians reported 23 killed and 16 wounded.

The French and Indians did not pursue. The surviving French commander realized the British were utterly defeated, but he did not have enough of a force to engage in organized pursuit.

The British were left stunned by the loss of Braddock. By now, war between the French and English had moved to Europe, where it was called the Seven Years' War.

The French in North America achieved numerous victories over the British and their Colonial allies over the next two years. But in Europe, the British blockaded the French coast. As French resupply dwindled, British fortunes in North America revived.

By 1760, the British had defeated the French in North America, seizing all of Canada and of North America to the Mississippi River.

* * * * * * * * *

The French and Indian War nearly bankrupted the British. Parliament sought to recoup the costs of the war by taxing the American colonies. This set in motion the American Revolution 16 years later.

For George Washington, the defeats at Fort Necessity and the Monongahela proved life-changing. Washington never forgot how much hubris, pride, and arrogance both he and Braddock had shown. Never again would he show the recklessness of his youth. Over and over, Washington would refer to the losses in western Pennsylvania during his strategic and tactical discussions with his commanders during the American Revolutionary War.

Portions of the original Braddock's Road can still be seen in Pennsylvania.

In 1804, some workmen regrading Braddock's Road discovered General Braddock's remains. Some of the remains were kept as souvenirs. Outraged, a local judge ordered the bones and buttons returned. Some hand bones ended up in a museum, and later the collection of P.T. Barnum. They were lost in a fire in 1864. A section of vertebrae was retained by the U.S. Army, and resides in the Army medical museum in Bethesda, Maryland. Braddock's remains were reinterred on a small hill adjacent to the road. A marker was placed over the site in 1913.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

I refuse to post these to the front page of Wikipedia any more. But I will post them here. The article I wrote or assisted with is in bold.
Did You Know ... that with just 18 months on the job, John McKenna had the shortest tenure of any Chief Usher in the history of the White House?
Paramount's Transformers may be dead.

The Last Knight, which hit theaters on June 21, has grossed only $102.1 million. The previous installment, Age of Extinction, topped out at $245.4 million, versus $342.4 million for Dark of the Moon and a franchise-best $402 million for Revenge of the Fallen.

Actually, I learned something VERY interesting about film economics while reading about the failing franchise.

(1) In the United States and Canada, the movie theater owner will take 50 percent of the box office gross, with the remainder going to the studio. (It's actually more complicated than that. In the first weekend, the studio gets like 70 percent. But the percentage declines over each successive week. A big hit that lingers in theaters, like Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 1, can end up with 90 percent of revenues going to theater owners after eight weeks.)

HOWEVER: Overseas, studios get a lot less. There are very rigid laws and regulations about revenue sharing, which means no negotiation. (Studios often negotiate special deals with North American theaters regarding certain big-grossing films like the Star Wars and Marvel films. They might, for example, take only 40 percent of box office the first week if the theater chain agrees to put the film on ten screens rather than six.) Theater owners overseas take about 60 percent right off the bat, and their take climbs slightly to about 80 percent over time. Most countries also have a quota system for foreign films (they can account for only a certain percentage of films released and box office per year), to protect their indigenous film industries.

Thus, foreign box office is NOT the salvation for a lot of movies. The Mummy (2017), for example, is raking in 80 percent of its profits ($300 million of its $376 million total) overseas. But just $180 million is coming back to the studio. The Last Knight is in the same boat: 75.6 percent of its profit is coming from overseas. It may be fair to say that the studio is probably getting about what The Mummy did, which means those big foreign box office totals don't mean much.

(2) Domestic box office predicts licensing revenue -- which is where massive amounts of money is made. A whopping 85 percent of all licensed material (bedsheets, t-shirts, posters, action figure, trading cards, diapers, disposal picnic plates, Burger King soda cups, tea cozies, collectible swords and jewelry, snowglobes, etc.) are sold in the United States and Canada. Very little of this junk is sold outside North America. In part, it's because the wealthy foreign markets (Western Europe and Japan) are so small in comparison to the North American market. But, in part, it's because these other cultures don't value this stuff. The Germans, for example, will buy Transformers because they are toys. But they don't buy Transformers breakfast cereal or shampoo or collectible spoons. Even the media-hungry Japanese don't purchase that gimcrack.

Licensing deals can make or break movies. Hasbro Studios (the co-producer, with di Bonaventura Pictures) made about $60 million on licensing alone after the first Transformers movie, covering 40 percent of the film's budget (but not any of the prints and advertising costs, which were about $100 million). That number was only a little higher after the $200 million second film, Revenge of the Fallen. But it shot to $80 million for the third (Dark of the Moon) and fourth films (Age of Extinction).

The Last Knight hoped to top $1 billion in box office gross, like the last two films, which would have given Hasbro Studios $80 million again. The studio had hoped for even more licensing income than that: The studio partnered with two Chinese film companies to get around quota and revenue-sharing rules. This gave the film much greater access to the Chinese market, and everyone assumed the Chinese would buy licensed stuff. But the film saw a massive 76 percent drop-off in its second week!! China represented 63 percent of the film's foreign opening, but the picture is now bombing there. (After making $123.4 million its first week, it made a horrific $24.3 million its second week.)

Moreover, the budget for The Last Knight rose to $250 million (not including the $100 million P&A budget), an eye-popping increase over the past four films. With both domestic and foreign box office running 50 percent lower than expected, and no "China boost" in licensing revenue, Hasbro Studios could see its licensing revenue drop to $40 million -- the lowest of the franchise ever. This wouldn't even cover the increase in budget.

From a licensing perspective, the only way to save the franchise would be to slash the budget to under $190 million (which is where the first film was). Even then, the next film would only break even.

Friday, July 7, 2017

I need a farmhand...

A new study says a man should ejaculate at least 21 times a month in order to avoid prostate cancer.

Given the average number of times I rubbed one out between the ages of 11 and 21, I should be safe until the year 7,058.
"Is She With You?", also known as "Wonder Woman's Theme", is a musical score written for the 2016 motion picture Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. The composer was Hans Zimmer, collaborating with cellist Tina Guo.

The theme was reworked by Guo and composer Rupert Gregson-Williams as "Wonder Woman's Wrath" for the 2017 film Wonder Woman.

Hans Zimmer was hired to write the musical score for Batman v. Superman. He had worked with Junkie XL (Tom Holkenborg), a Dutch electronica and film composer, on Man of Steel, and asked him to collaborate on the new film. To avoid reusing themes Zimmer had used for the Christopher Nolan Batman trilogy, Zimmer worked on the Superman music while Holkenborg worked on the Batman music. Unable to "just let go", Zimmer eventually collaborated with Holkenborg on the Batman themes.

Zimmer worked on a number of Wonder Woman themes for the film, using a variety of approaches -- sweeping strings, vocals, etc. All of them have been done and overused, and he didn't like any of the results. Then he had a flash of inspiration: "One thing that has bugged me forever is that our superhero movies are so masculine and male generated. I wanted Wonder Woman to be... I wanted the music to be full of more female..." Zimmer contacted his friend, cellist Tina Guo.

Guo had been a classical cellist since the age of 11. A life-long fan of heavy metal music, she made a heavy metal electric cello music video about eight years ago. A friend showed Zimmer the video, and he contacted her. They became good friends.

Guo spent three days in the studio, discussing different ideas with Zimmer and working out different approaches. Guo wanted to emulate her favorite band, Rammstein, because she felt they had a raw, carnal energy. She wanted something powerful and strong, but also a little more refined. For his part, Zimmer wanted something akin to a banshee's wail, something really terrifying and feminine.

They settled on a relatively simple music trope: Resolution. The initial three notes (an E, G, and B) turn into a minor key, six-note ostinato (or flutter; B-flat and A). After two repetitions, the flutter resolves to a B-natural, before using a glissando to hit lower B-flat.

Contrary to a wide range of sources, Holkenborg did NOT work on the Wonder Woman theme. He did cause Zimmer to start the music at a different spot in the scene, one Zimmer never would have chosen himself. The surprising placement of the musical cue added to its impact.

For the Wonder Woman soundtrack, Rupert Gregson-Williams wanted to stay away from Zimmer and Guo's theme, as it represented a mature Wonder Woman. Gregson-Williams wanted a more percussion-heavy, symphonic sound for the "innocent" Wonder Woman of the film, particularly for the earlier scenes on Paradise Island. Yet, Gregson-Williams knew he wanted to use the Zimmer theme once Wonder Woman comes into her own during the fight with Ludendorff and Ares.

Gregson-Williams and Guo decided to rework the Zimmer theme, using an electric cello rather than electric guitar. Guo played the electric cello with the orchestra, and Gregson-Williams says her ferocity and energy while playing brought out an entirely different kind of playing and emotion from the percusssionists. It was the same music, but wildly different at the same time.

The "Wonder Woman Theme", which some critics refer to as the "War Cry", is first heard during the assault on the Belgian town. It's heard only briefly at first. Gregson-Williams re-orchestrated the theme, shifting the second ostinato a half-tone higher. During the "Wrath of Wonder Woman", Gregson-Williams has the bass brasses play the War Cry first. When we hear it again a few seconds later, it's the electric cello. At mid-battle, as the attack crescendos, we hear the theme again, repeated twice. But Gregson-Williams' own Wonder Woman theme is heard before we hear the War Cry again -- which this time is begun by the electric cello, but finished by strings.
He'd do better to leave his pecs unshaved, like his belly is. That is an impressive tenting he has there, though.

The Sombrero Galaxy...

Also known as Messier Object 104 (M104) or New General Catalogue 4594 (NGC 4594), it is an unbarred spiral galaxy in the constellation Virgo located about 31 million light-years from Earth.

The Sombrero Galaxy was discovered on May 11, 1781 by Pierre Méchain.

The galaxy is approximately 50,000 light-years across, which makes it just a third of the size of the Milky Way.

Its nucleus is both unusually bright and large, and surrounded by a vast halo. Astronomers initially thought that the halo was small and light, later observations by the Spitzer Space Telescope showed that the halo was both larger and more massive than previously thought.

The core is surrounded by a prominent ring of cold atomic hydrogen gas, cold molecular gas, and dust. A particularly dark lane of dust lane exists at the outer edge of the ring, marking the center.

The nucleus of the Sombrero Galaxy is probably devoid of any significant star formation activity. Yet, it is a powerful and steady source of synchrotron emissions. Synchrotron emission occurs when high-velocity electrons oscillate as they pass through regions with strong magnetic fields. This emission is quite common for galactic nuclei with high star formation. The nucleus is also a powerful emitter of submillimeter radiation.

In the 1990s, astronomers discovered that the galaxy has a super-massive black hole at its center, one approximately 1 billion times the mass of the Sun. But neither the synchrotron emission nor the submillimeter radiation appear to be connected to the black hole.

No one knows what's going on in there...

The ring of the Sombrero Galaxy appears to be quite an active region for star formation. The galaxy also appears to have a rather high number of globular clusters, spherical collection of stars that orbit the galactic core much as a satellite does.

I refuse to post these to the front page of Wikipedia any more. But I will post them here. The article I wrote or assisted with is in bold.
Did You Know ... that in 2016, the Commission to Study the Potential Creation of a National Women's History Museum recommended that there be an American Museum of Women's History as part of the Smithsonian Institution, and handed off all fundraising to the Smithsonian's Office of Institutional Advancement to raise the necessary $180 million?
Words fail me.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

After all the hub-ub-bub about The Man in the High Castle last year, the BBC's SS-GB has gotten zero attention. I thought it should.

It's based on the 1978 novel by thriller author Len Deighton. The novel is set in an alternative history in which Nazi Germany invades Great Britain immediately after Dunkirk, and conquers the island nation. Queen Elizabeth flees to New Zealand with the princess royal (Elizabeth and Margaret), and the Duke of Windsor escapes France to Canada. George VI, however, remains in London, is captured, and imprisoned in the Tower of London. Winston Churchill is executed. The shocked United States stays out of the European conflict. The Soviet Union -- lacking American war materiél -- sues for peace and gets it.

The SS has established a branch in Britain, known as SS-GB. SS-GB oversees the British police.

Detective Superintendent Douglas Archer of the London Metropolitan Police is called in regarding the murder of a well-dressed German with a curious sunburn on one arm. Archer is surprised when SS Standartenführer Oskar Huth arrives from Germany to supervise the investigation. Huth and Gruppenführer Fritz Kellerman, Archer's boss, begin waging a battle for power. Soon, it looks as if the British Resistance is involved in the murder. If true, the SS will kill tens of thousands of innocent civilians in retaliation. Archer must solve the case in order avoid mass slaughter. But with the Huth overseeing his investigation, he can't lie and ignore the truth.

Soon, the stakes rise even higher in Archer's investigation...

The BBC mini-series consists of five one-hour episodes. It aired from 19 February to 19 March 2017, and stars Sam Riley as Archer, Kate Bosworth as Barbara Barga, Lars Eidinger as Huth, and Rainer Bock as Kellermann.