Category Archive Misc.

Contact Form Updated

The venerable cformII plugin has been retired as it’s not supported  any more, and spam bots started pinging my mailbox.

I’m hoping the that the shiny new contact form plugin works well.


Hair Donated

I’ve been blessed with a full head of thick hair and decided to share that blessing with others. Today I had my pony tail cut off, harvesting approximately 13 inches for donating to charity. It will be used in making wigs for children with hair loss due to cancer or other conditions.


<img class="size-medium wp-image-2154" src="https://i0.wp.com/jamesreubenknowles.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/before.png?resize=225%2C300" alt="My hair, before harvesting it for charity como son las pastillas de viagra. ” srcset=”https://i0.wp.com/jamesreubenknowles.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/before.png?resize=225%2C300 225w, https://i0.wp.com/jamesreubenknowles.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/before.png?w=720 720w” sizes=”(max-width: 225px) 100vw, 225px” data-recalc-dims=”1″ />

My hair, before harvesting it for charity.

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Syntax Plugin Upgrade

I was never really thrilled with the WordPress plugins that use <pre>…</pre> for delimiting code, because of bad mojo between the WordPress editor and <pre>, specifically when the two meet the lowly < character. (Specifically, code can disappear without warning.) I detest having to tip-toe around software; humans shouldn’t have to bend to the code.

I’ve installed SyntaxHighlighter Evolved, which uses the [] notation, and doesn’t care how < is encoded.

Quick documentation can be found on WordPress’ Posting Source Code.

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Wolf Creek Astronomy Observation Location

Jay’s Astronomical Observing Blog has some excellent instructions on how to get to the Wolf Creek site.


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Graph Paper PDF

Sometimes you just need a quick one or two sheets of a specific type of graph paper.

A site called, well, Print Free Graph Paper has a nice selection of basics here.

Incompetech has a nice set of free graph paper generators here.



Cutest Cosplay Ever?

Maybe not “ever” but very cute. This image has been floating around the Net.

Cutest cosplay ever?

Theme Play

I’ll be playing around with changing themes and so forth. I like the previous one, but it’s a bit of a pain to use and doesn’t always display right to boot. Thus I’m giving it the boot.

Why Does Time Slow Down?

The question was posed, “Would someone please explain further why time slows as speed increases?”

As an exercise, I make an imperfect attempt to explain.

This is an anal break down of a simple, everyday event.

If I throw a baseball back and forth with a friend, the ball goes between us with a certain speed.

  1. The distance traveled is fixed. Zero. We’re standing still.
  2. The passage of time is fixed. Every second that goes by is the same length.
  3. The speed of the ball is fixed. (For all intents and purposes. Keep it simple.)

Those things are obvious, and pointing them out anal. I get that.

Let’s change the situation slightly, and add motion.

If we get inside a big cargo airplane and it flies through the air, we can still play catch. The ball goes back and forth with the same speed between us as when we were on the ground.

Looking at it from the ground, the total speed of the ball changes because the moving airplane has to be taken into account. When the ball goes forward, it is going a little faster than the airplane. When the ball goes backward, it is going a little slower than the airplane.

In this situation, when we look at speed, distance traveled, and time…

  1. The distance traveled by the is fixed. We all go from LA to NY on the airplane.
  2. The passage of time is fixed. Every second that goes by is the same length.
  3. The speed of the ball is changing as it goes back and forth. It’s a little faster going forward, and a little slower going backwards.

The important part is that two things are fixed (distance, time) and one has to flex (speed).

Here’s a kink in the picture.

If my friend and I could throw light back and forth like we could a baseball, things would work differently. No matter the situation, light in space travels the same speed. This screws things up.

If we got on a space ship and sped up to tens of millions of miles per hour (seriously you have to go that fast), the effect can be seen. Here’s what happens:

Throwing a baseball on an airplane: Throwing light on a space ship:
The distance traveled by the is fixed. LA to NY on the airplane. The distance traveled is fixed, star A to star B.
The speed of the ball is changing as it goes back and forth. It’s a little faster going forward, and a little slower going backwards. Light’s speed is fixed in space. Nature’s a bugger about that.
Time is fixed; a second is a second. Time is … ?

The only part not nailed down is time. The amount of time to travel back and forth has to flex.

The effect is only seen at insane speeds, at tens of millions of miles per hour. If you’re not going that fast, the effect is so tiny Mother Nature doesn’t notice or care. In other words, time is fixed; a second is a second.

A short Japanese animation that plays with this idea (imperfectly) is Voices of a Distant Star (trailer). A 15 year-old girl goes to space while her 15 year-old boyfriend stays on Earth.

Her expedition goes the insane speeds, so time flexes for her. From her perspective only a short time has passed.

She is depressed by the fact that for her boyfriend, time has not flexed, and nine years have passed for him. She laments,

I want to be hit by the rain, I want to go to a convenience store and eat ice cream together… Noboru… Noboru, who’s become 24 years old! I am the 15 year old Mikako

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Patrick Henry’s Liberty or Death Speech

The Setting

  • British Acts of Parliament trigger the Boston Tea Party
  • General Gage arrives in Boston with four regiments.
  • The first Continental Congress said the repressive Acts of Parliament are “not to be obeyed”.
  • The first Continental Congress encouraged the formation of local militia for defense.
  • Massachusetts begin defensive preparations for war. Parliament declares Massachusetts to be in a state of rebellion.
  • Virginia delegates meet in Richmond….

Patrick Henry put forth resolutions to put Virginia “into a posture of defense…embodying, arming, and disciplining such a number of men as may be sufficient for that purpose.” Before the vote he delivered the following impassioned speech without notes. The resolution passed narrowly, putting Virginia into the cross hairs of Parliament.

Patrick Henry

23 March 1775

No man thinks more highly than I do of the patriotism, as well as abilities, of the very worthy gentlemen who have just addressed the House. But different men often see the same subject in different lights; and, therefore, I hope that it will not be thought disrespectful to those gentlemen, if, entertaining as I do opinions of a character very opposite to theirs, I shall speak forth my sentiments freely and without reserve.

This is no time for ceremony. The question before the House is one of awful moment to this country. For my own part I consider it as nothing less than a question of freedom or slavery; and in proportion to the magnitude of the subject ought to be the freedom of the debate. It is only in this way that we can hope to arrive at truth, and fulfill the great responsibility which we hold to God and our country. Should I keep back my opinions at such a time, through fear of giving offense, I should consider myself as guilty of treason towards my country, and of an act of disloyalty towards the majesty of heaven, which I revere above all earthly kings.

Mr. President, it is natural to man to indulge in the illusions of hope. We are apt to shut our eyes against a painful truth, and listen to the song of that siren, till she transforms us into beasts. Is this the part of wise men, engaged in a great and arduous struggle for liberty? Are we disposed to be of the number of those who, having eyes, see not, and having ears, hear not, the things which so nearly concern their temporal salvation?

For my part, whatever anguish of spirit it may cost, I am willing to know the whole truth — to know the worst and to provide for it. I have but one lamp by which my feet are guided; and that is the lamp of experience. I know of no way of judging of the future but by the past. And judging by the past, I wish to know what there has been in the conduct of the British ministry for the last ten years, to justify those hopes with which gentlemen have been pleased to solace themselves and the House?

Is it that insidious smile with which our petition has been lately received? Trust it not, sir; it will prove a snare to your feet. Suffer not yourselves to be betrayed with a kiss. Ask yourselves how this gracious reception of our petition comports with these warlike preparations which cover our waters and darken our land. Are fleets and armies necessary to a work of love and reconciliation? Have we shown ourselves so unwilling to be reconciled that force must be called in to win back our love? Let us not deceive ourselves, sir. These are the implements of war and subjugation — the last arguments to which kings resort. I ask gentlemen, sir, what means this martial array, if its purpose be not to force us to submission? Can gentlemen assign any other possible motives for it? Has Great Britain any enemy, in this quarter of the world, to call for all this accumulation of navies and armies?

No, sir, she has none. They are meant for us; they can be meant for no other. They are sent over to bind and rivet upon us those chains which the British ministry have been so long forging. And what have we to oppose to them? Shall we try argument? Sir, we have been trying that for the last ten years. Have we anything new to offer on the subject? Nothing.

We have held the subject up in every light of which it is capable; but it has been all in vain. Shall we resort to entreaty and humble supplication? What terms shall we find which have not been already exhausted? Let us not, I beseech you, sir, deceive ourselves longer.

Sir, we have done everything that could be done to avert the storm which is now coming on. We have petitioned; we have remonstrated; we have supplicated; we have prostrated ourselves before the throne, and have implored its interposition to arrest the tyrannical hands of the ministry and Parliament.

Our petitions have been slighted; our remonstrances have produced additional violence and insult; our supplications have been disregarded; and we have been spurned, with contempt, from the foot of the throne. In vain, after these things, may we indulge the fond hope of peace and reconciliation. There is no longer any room for hope.

If we wish to be free — if we mean to preserve inviolate those inestimable privileges for which we have been so long contending — if we mean not basely to abandon the noble struggle in which we have been so long engaged, and which we have pledged ourselves never to abandon until the glorious object of our contest shall be obtained, we must fight! I repeat it, sir, we must fight! An appeal to arms and to the God of Hosts is all that is left us!

They tell us, sir, that we are weak — unable to cope with so formidable an adversary. But when shall we be stronger? Will it be the next week, or the next year? Will it be when we are totally disarmed, and when a British guard shall be stationed in every house? Shall we gather strength by irresolution and inaction? Shall we acquire the means of effectual resistance, by lying supinely on our backs, and hugging the delusive phantom of hope, until our enemies shall have bound us hand and foot?

Sir, we are not weak, if we make a proper use of the means which the God of nature hath placed in our power. Three millions of people, armed in the holy cause of liberty, and in such a country as that which we possess, are invincible by any force which our enemy can send against us. Besides, sir, we shall not fight our battles alone. There is a just God who presides over the destinies of nations, and who will raise up friends to fight our battles for us.

The battle, sir, is not to the strong alone; it is to the vigilant, the active, the brave. Besides, sir, we have no election. If we were base enough to desire it, it is now too late to retire from the contest. There is no retreat but in submission and slavery! Our chains are forged! Their clanking may be heard on the plains of Boston! The war is inevitable — and let it come! I repeat it, sir, let it come!

It is in vain, sir, to extenuate the matter. Gentlemen may cry, “Peace! Peace!” — but there is no peace. The war is actually begun! The next gale that sweeps from the north will bring to our ears the clash of resounding arms! Our brethren are already in the field! Why stand we here idle? What is it that gentlemen wish? What would they have? Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty, or give me death!

A 5 Year Old’s View of History

The following is a lightly trimmed version of an e-mail I sent back in 2006.

In my research, I like to reference primary source material. This led me to renting the 1935 Nazi propaganda film Triumph des Willens (Triumph of the Will) this weekend.

I was rather surprised that my 5 year-old daughter came in near the beginning and watched the whole two hours with me. She asked a lot of questions: who are the people, what are they doing, why… and added even more commentary of her own as she told me the story. This naturally led to talking in simple terms about WWII. It was one of those precious events that couldn’t be captured other than in my mind.

Here are a few main points about WWII (and the movie) through the eyes of a five-year old.

  • A long time ago there was a bad king¹.
  • The bad king had lots of helpers.
  • The bad king and his helpers tricked the good people.
  • The good people did bad things but thought they were doing good things because they tricked them.
  • Lots and lots of good people worked for the bad king.
  • The bad king wanted to teach the good children bad things.
  • The bad king killed lots of people who believed in Heavenly Father.
  • A lot of people died in a very big war to get rid of the bad king.
  • Lots of good people’s houses were burned and broken when they tried to get rid of the bad king.
  • Good people have to be careful so the bad people don’t trick them.

I don’t know that I could come up with a better summary with so few words.

¹ The word “king” is a word we settled on for füher. To her, one is either a “king” or a “prophet.” We’re still working on the idea that George Washington was the president of a republic, not a king. For now he’ll have to put up with being a really good man that fought the bad king and his helpers that were really mean, whom the people chose to be the good king.

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