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Saturday, March 26, 2016

Reason TV has an instructional cartoon explaining Hillary's superdelegates

In the Great Hall of Democracy, there are assembled the Democratic Party's greatest heroes, created from the establishment elite.

Party leaders! Fundraisers! Lobbyists! And...Jimmy Carter!?!?

They are the Super Delegates, 700 electors chosen by party leaders who can vote at the national convention for whichever Democratic candidate they choose, regardless of whom primary and caucus voters actually selected.

Their mission? To fight grassroots candidates that might represent the party's base, to right that which is wrong (according to privileged insiders), and to serve all mankind! Well, no, just Hillary Clinton in the current election season, OK?

Fortune says that the fight isn't over yet, but I think they're doing hat same thing we Redskins fans do when we calculate unlikely mathematical possibilities of making the playoffs.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Why does the date of Easter move around?

As we all know (not), Easter is celebrated on the first Sunday after the first astronomical full moon after the vernal equinox. So what's that all about? There have been entire books written on this subject, so this will be rather cursory, but let me see if I can provide a few basics and links to more.

Last Supper by Valentin de Boulogne
Jesus celebrated a Passover meal with his followers the day before his crucifixion, marked on the Thursday before Easter Sunday.  He was crucified on a Friday, known as Good Friday, but rose from the dead on the third day, which was a Sunday, and which Christians decided to celebrate with a feast day.

Their celebrations crossed over with the Jewish festival of Passover, which was fixed by the first full moon following the vernal equinox, the spring date when day and night are of equal length.

Here are some excerpts from Wikipedia:

Easter and the holidays that are related to it are moveable feasts, in that they do not fall on a fixed date in the Gregorian or Julian calendars (both of which follow the cycle of the sun and the seasons). Instead, the date for Easter is determined on a lunisolar calendar similar to the Hebrew calendar. 

The First Council of Nicaea (325 AD) established two rules, independence of the Jewish calendar and worldwide uniformity, which were the only rules for Easter explicitly laid down by the Council. No details for the computation were specified; these were worked out in practice, a process that took centuries and generated a number of controversies.

In Western Christianity*, using the Gregorian calendar, Easter always falls on a Sunday between 22 March and 25 April inclusive, within about seven days after the astronomical full moon. 

"The Resurrection of Christ" by Bloch
Chambers' Book of Days has an interesting post on the  background controversy, and describes this attempt to resolve it:

At the beginning of the fourth century, matters had gone to such a length, that the Emperor Constantine thought it his duty to take steps to allay the controversy, and to insure uniformity of practice for the future. For this purpose, he got a canon passed in the great (Ecumenical Council of Nice (A.D. 325), That everywhere the great feast of Easter should be observed upon one and the same day; and that not the day of the Jewish Passover, but, as had been generally observed, upon the Sunday afterwards.' 

And to prevent all future disputes as to the time, the following rules were also laid down:
'That the twenty-first day of March shall be accounted the vernal equinox.'
'That the full moon happening upon or next after the twenty-first of March, shall be taken for the full moon of Nisan.'
'That the Lord's-day next following that full moon be Easter-day.'
'But if the full moon happen upon a Sunday, Easter-day shall be the Sunday after.'
Of course, it wasn't that easy - full moon (called the Paschal full moon) is not an astronomical full moon, but the 14th day of a calendar lunar month. Another difference is that the astronomical equinox is a natural astronomical phenomenon, which can fall on March 19th, 20th or 21st, while the ecclesiastical date is fixed by convention on March 21st.

The write-up at Wikipedia is the best I've seen, if you want more particulars on all of this, and the online version of Chamber's Book of Days has some other details.

*Eastern Christianity bases its calculations on the Julian Calendar. Because of the 13-day difference between the calendars between 1900 and 2099, 21 March corresponds, during the 21st century, to 3 April in the Gregorian Calendar. Easter therefore varies between 4 April and 8 May on the Gregorian calendar (the Julian calendar is no longer used as the civil calendar of the countries where Eastern Christian traditions predominate). Also, because the Julian "full moon" is always several days after the astronomical full moon, the eastern Easter is often later, relative to the visible moon's phases, than western Easter.

Among the Oriental Orthodox some churches have changed from the Julian to the Gregorian calendar and the date for Easter as for other fixed and moveable feasts is the same as in the Western church.

Friday links

Videos of violence against marshmallow peeps, including peeps vs. .50 Caliber Rifle Parts 1 and 2, plus Artworks Made From Peeps and instructions for making a Peep chandelier

Disturbing photos of Easter Bunnies with kids.

Peeps on Television: 20 Shows Starring Marshmallow Peeps.

Prepare to be offended: Easter cards from The Onion.

ICYMI, Wednesday's links are here, and include the physics of Superman's x-ray vision, movie scenes before and after special effects are added, the evolution of the Batmobile, a map of imperial Europe's penal colonies, and, for Purim, the SNL skit where Gilda Radner explains that she saves up all of her orgasms for that holiday.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Wednesday links

Happy Purim: Here's the SNL skit where Gilda Radner explains that she saves up all of her orgasms for this day.

Movie Scenes Before And After The Special Effects Were Added.

Sure, Superman Has X-Ray Vision. But How Would It Actually Work?

ICYMI, Tuesday's links are here, and include William Shatner's 85th birthday, why your nose runs when it's cold, explaining the Italian/New Jersey accent, and a baby elephant try to figure out how his trunk works.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Video and infographic: the evolution of the Batmobile

Check out this animation showing the transformation of movie versions of the Batmobile - the infographic below the video contains more details about the cars and the associated iterations of Batman:

Tuesday links

It's William Shatner's 85th birthday: here he is in 1978 'singing' Rocket Man, plus a Star Trek/Monty Python mashup.

How Capicola Became Gabagool: The Italian New Jersey Accent, Explained.

Meet the Amazonian Terminators of Dahomey, the Most Feared Women in History.

Why Does My Nose Run When It’s Cold?

ICYMI, Monday's links are here, and include instructions from 1984 on sending an 'E mail', amazing submarine concepts, Spring equinox science, myths, and music, and Amsterdam’s floating cat sanctuary.

It's William Shatner's birthday: here he is in 1978 'singing' 'Rocket Man', plus a Star Trek/Monty Python mashup

William Shatner (wiki) is definitely not the man you think he is at home.

The Star Trek/Monty Python mashup:


1968 memo to Gene Roddenberry re Shatner's disappearing wigs from Star Trek set.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Monday links

Instructions from 1984: how to send an 'E mail'.

10 Things School Didn’t Tell You About Amelia Earhart’s Disappearance.

Spring is here (although it doesn't feel like it in the DC area): equinox science, myths, and music, and here's Richard Feynman’s Ode to a Flower (and science).

How a Ragtag Gang of Retirees Pulled Off the Biggest Jewel Heist in British History.

Amsterdam’s Floating Sanctuary for Cats.

ICYMI, Friday's links are here, including the Batmobile Parachute Pickup Service van, borderline nations between the US and Canada, and disease-fighting beer.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Watch this baby elephant try to figure out his trunk

He appears completely unable to figure out what the heck to do with that thing hanging on his face. From the Youtube post:
While guiding in the Kruger National Park, me and my guests came across this breeding herd of elephants who were about to cross the road and we decided to stop and watch them cross. That's when this little one appeared from the long grass and had us entertained for a while. He clearly was frustrated with his trunk if you look at the way he was shaking it, blowing air through it and trying to step on it. The reason he is doing this is not known but it could be that there might have been something in his trunk that made it itch or maybe he just didn't understand this long thing on his face... either way it was very funny and made our day...

Instructions from 1984: how to send an 'E mail'

Via Youtube
How to send an e mail 1980's style. Electronic message writing down the phone line. First shown on Thames TV's computer program 'Database' in 1984