Friday, January 19, 2018

Wintermission Soon

Remember the Portmanteau?  What is Wintermission?  The Weather Network says it is coming to us shortly.  What are we getting?  We are getting an unseasonably low-temeratured day or days, sandwiched by two days of milder temperatures.

So I guessed it is a combination of winter and intermission.  Although it could also be a combination of winter and remission.

Wintermission shows up in google searches back to 2007 - with the headline name that season. (see below).

There are now numerous winter festivals using the name - in St. Paul, MN there are shows, signature winter drink competitions, outdoor movies, and snowy fun runs.

Promotional lines for vacationing in Orlando abound: Break the ice with a #wintermission in the park - that is, an Orlando park.  So now it typically has become an expression for taking a vacation - from a winter climate to a warm climate.

What about this term - Wintermittent?  The Toronto Star had a story in February 2007 ' Name that season. They challenged readers to come up with a new name for winter.  Wintermission was the winner.  The close second was Wintermittent - "It also contains the words mitten and tent.  Wintermittent may entice you to go camping, or, on the other hand, you may need your mittens!"
Are there Wintermittent and Wintermission jokes?  No, none found.  More interesting is that the google search comes up with weekly diet menus for weight loss - "best vegetarian diet next to how to gain wintermittent fast on low-fat" - nonsense sentences inserting one's search term as an expression.

Here are a few winter weather jokes:

We had to chop up the piano for firewood - but we only got two chords. 

The snowstorm arrived at a fortuitous moment. It was white on time.

If you are going to play cards in a snowstorm, shovel your deck.

We pulled everything out of the freezer and huddled inside it to warm up! 

Thursday, January 18, 2018

My Recent Rainbows

What are those 'rainbow spots' I've seen recently?  I see them later in the day when the sun is lowering in the sky and there are wispy clouds nearby.  With a lot of lake effects in the Niagara Peninsula, I've assumed this has to do with the moisture from the lake in the sky.

Doing a little searching, this might be cloud iridescence or 
irisation. The term comes from Iris, the Greek personification of the rainbow.  These aren't spectacular, like an arc'd rainbow over-reaching the sky, but they are compelling.  More about rainbows can be seen at this site called  They say that rainbows take many forms.  Multiple bows, bows that cross, red bows, twinned bows, coloured fringes, dark bands, spokes and more.  I found another site  with all the types and pictures. 
The explanation given:   "Sky watchers sometimes report seeing rainbow colors within clouds. These colorful clouds are called iridescent clouds. When you see a cloud like this, you know there are especially tiny ice crystals or water droplets in the air. Larger ice crystals produce solar or lunar halos, but tiny ice crystals or water droplets cause light to be diffracted– spread out – creating this rainbow-like effect in the clouds".
Through the ages, rainbows have been noted for their beauty and mystical  appearance - considered a bridge to the heavens, messenger, archer's bow, or serpent.  Wikipedia says the diversity of rainbows myths are far-reaching. 

Does each of our eyes see a different rainbow?  Yes - two people do not see the exactly same rainbow even if they are standing next to each other.  The same is true of your eyes. Just a few inches can make this happen.

Is the LGBTQ use of rainbows related to the cultures that hold forth that rainbows are able to reverse sexuality?  No - the rainbow flag was created in 1978 by Gilbert Baker, and is considered to be inspired by Judy Garland's Over the Rainbow song and college campuses flying rainbow flags in the 1960s demonstrating for world peace.

What is the Mile-long rainbow flag?  This was created by Baker for the 25th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots in 1994 - it was 2 km long. The flag utilized the basic six colours and measured thirty feet wide.  It has the Guinness Book of World Records as the world's largest flag.  

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

What happens the day after do nothing day?  Could it be a day of something and knowing about something?  Today isn't Epistemology Day, though.  There doesn't seem to be a day that celebrates the theory of knowledge, of knowing.  It could be Ontology Day - that's the study of existence.  No day of celebration there, either.  

So perhaps the day after doing nothing is the day of knowing nothing or not knowing something. We can trace this back to the Greeks.  "You don't know what you don't know," and  "Wisdom is knowing what you don't know."  These are attributed to Socrates.

Modern variations on this:
"Intelligence is what you use when you don't know what to do".  Jean Piaget

"Knowing what you don't know is more useful than being brilliant".  Charles Munger

So today we can be practical, as it is Ditch New Year's Resolutions Day or we can wait for tomorrow and celebrate Thesaurus Day.

We're looking at the historic house at Peninsula Ridge Winery.  These are pictures from previous winters.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

What is Alphabet?

Have you wondered about Google the company?  I use its search engine every day.

So I went to the Alphabet site - it's the company that 'owns' Google.  Its domain name is www. (They couldn't get the domain name of as it was taken by a BMW fleet management division).

These founders are known to be creative and crazy.  Alphabet came about after Google, through a complicated restructure so that Google could be a subsidiary of Alphabet.  And Alphabet could get on with experimentation in all kinds of areas.  Founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin wanted Alphabet to be able to engage in a diverse range of activities.  Pictures of the pair show them as relaxed people with open smiles that have a little mischief showing, and often doing silly things for the photographer.

We know about the Google car, so here are a few more:

"What do we mean by far afield? Good examples are our health efforts: Life Sciences (that works on the glucose-sensing contact lens), and Calico (focused on longevity). Fundamentally, we believe this allows us more management scale, as we can run things independently that aren’t very related."

Such an interesting pair to profile - CNET's article on them is HERE

Do you know that both Page and Brin are "burners" - avid attendees of the "free-wheeling" art festival Burning Man?  I've covered this festival in the past.

The theme for Burning Man 2018 is  "I, Robot".  Here is the introduction on the Burning Man website:
1. A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
2. A robot must obey orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
3. A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.
— Isaac Asimov, I, Robot

Along with developments in robots, there are a lot of events expected in 2018.  You can find theme HERE.  Many of these are outer-space related - for example the expectation of the first picture of a black hole and the launch of the transiting Exoplanet survey satellite.

My pictures today apply the Flaming Pear India Ink filter first, and then Flexifly to get images that remind me of Escher's abstract drawings.  

Friday, January 12, 2018

Breakthrough Listening

Mysterious radio signals are from outer space, say scientists.  These short bursts are bright flashes of radio waves and last for only a few milliseconds.  They've been happening since 2007, and there's one that has a repeating nature - it is FRB 121102. The FRB is an acronym for fast radio bursts.  They are coming from a distant dwarf galaxy.   The Breakthrough Listen initiative began observing FRB121102 in August 2017, and have come to the conclusion: 

"As far as the FRB121102 goes, I don't think there is any slight possibility that [the pulses] are from an extraterrestrial intelligence," Vishal Gajjar, a scientist with Breakthrough Listen, said yesterday (Jan. 10) during a news conference at the 231st meeting of the American Astronomical Society in Washington, D.C."

Another investigation is 'Oumuamua - our first interstellar visitor.  It is an asteroid with a weird, elongated shape. It may be 400 meters long.  It was first detected in mid-October.  "A search for signals that may be of artificial origin has begun, but despite the impressive computational power of the Breakthrough Listen computing cluster at Green Bank, the large data volumes mean that this will take some time to complete," Breakthrough Listen representatives said in the same statement.

Who is Breakthrough Listen?  The search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI)  got a $100 million boost in July 2015 when investor Yuri Milner and physicist Stephen Hawking announced the initiative called Breakthrough Listen.

There is a lot of news and information on the website. It shows Astronomer Frank Drake's equation to estimate the number of intelligent, communicating civilizations currently living in the galaxy.

N: The total number of communicating technological civilizations in the galaxy equals
R: Formation rate of life-friendly stars, times
fp: Fraction of those stars with planets, times
ne: Average number of life-friendly planets per solar system, times
fl: Fraction of those planets where life evolves, times
fi: Fraction of those planets where intelligence evolves, times
fc: Fraction of those planets where interstellar-communication-worthy civilizations evolve, times
Lc: Length of time those civilizations remain detectable from Earth

The current estimate of the number of communicating technological civilizations in this galaxy is between 2 civilizations and 280 million civilizations.

You can check out more at