Learned a new word

Something of a rarity: I came across a word today that I was not familiar with.

At this post, I saw the word "celerity". Which I couldn't recognize, and wasn't able to figure out fully from context.

It is an old word (borrowed from French) for 'rapid/swift'.

How long will it be before I meet another new word?

Birthdays (past and present)

The weekend before last was my birthday.

(I didn't post at the time, because a combination of work schedule and tiredness left me unwilling to post much of anything.)

The birthday itself involved one fun evening at a restaurant with a ex-girlfriend, and another evening of festivities, cake, and presents with family and friends.

In between, I saw a weekend of extra time at the office. (Did I mention work? Things were very bad that week...) This was definitely a departure from the norm.

Things smoothed out at the office, and the dinner with the ex-girlfriend may have turned into something else. It might be possible, sometime next month, to remove the "ex-" factor in that relationship.

Hopefully, the "ex-" factor won't come back to haunt her. Or me. But at the moment, all I know is that things are looking good.

Perhaps the best birthday present was the completion of the panic-week at work. Which made it much easier for me to take Memorial Day weekend off on a fishing trip.

Fishing is a combination of frustration, waiting, patience, hope, and (intermittent) reward. When combined with pleasant weather and good companions on the lake, it is a special treat. Last year, I only went fishing on Memorial Day weekend. This year, I may go once or twice more.


Memorial Day

Memorial Day is set aside, in the United States, in memory of men who died while on active military duty.

Amid all the fishing, partying, cooking, and camaraderie of the day, it is best to remember that this holiday began as a day for decorating the graves of soldiers.



Car Safety: Lightning-Strikes

Saw this news story, linked through Instapundit.

It's a very scary story. A lightning-strike on a car destroys the cars electronics (or maybe melts something in the lock mechanism) to the point where it is impossible for the person inside to open the door and leave the car.

And there is a fire burning under the hood.

A nearby policeman (and at least one other onlooker) helped the trapped woman out. They began by breaking a window.

I suspect it is standard practice for first-responders to break windows, or bring heavy-duty cutting tools to help remove the roof, if it is impossible to otherwise extricate a person from a car-collision.*

It's actually fairly rare for a car-collision to result in an explosion, though a collision that results in leaking gasoline can make fires/explosions a potential danger.

However, this is in the realm of almost-never-happens rarity. But the Police officer still used the break-the-window method for extracting the woman who was in danger.

Insty mentions his preferred emergency tools for such situations. Even though events like this are rare, the ResQMe or LifeHammer tools would be useful for enabling emergency exits from cars. The needs for such emergency exits can be many and varied; tools of that type appear to fit most of those needs.

Perhaps I should buy one or two of these tools, myself.

* Many people may not be aware of this detail: most windows on the car (except for the windshield) are typically made of tempered safety glass. This is a kind of glass that is hard to shatter, but when broken tends to break into lots of small pieces that don't have sharp edges.


History Detail (non-trivial)

After a long week and a half at work, I realize that I've missed some blogging.

Anyway, today I saw news about the possible discovery of the Santa Maria, flagship of Christopher Columbus on his first exploratory voyage.

That led me to some Wiki-wandering, in which I discovered that the Santa Maria was a carrack vessel, while the two smaller vessels were caravel vessels. (The two smaller ships are often referred to as NiƱa and Pinta, but likely had other official names. Those names are lost to history.)

Interestingly, both the carrack and caravel vessels were recent innovations to Columbus. These vessels were improvements on earlier designs, and much better-fitted to long journeys over the ocean.

As recently as the 1450s, the remnants of the Eastern Roman Empire had maintained part of the Silk Road trade route from China and India. The downfall of Constantinople had closed that route. This generated pressure towards developing other routes to trade with those parts of the world.

At about this time, shipping technology advanced from barge-like balinger vessels to caravels. The newer caravel also used a newer form of hull-building, known as carvel. The older clinker hulls could not be used to build vessels above a certain limit. The newer carvel hulls could both support more complex sail structure, and be extended to construct ships of much larger size.

The newer ship technology, as well as the desire to find better ways of trade, provided the combination of factors that allowed for the Age of Exploration to begin. The Spanish and Portuguese dominated European exploration of the world for more than a century, due to their primacy in building these new types of sea-going vessels.

This explosion of exploration depended on an advances in technology.

I hadn't realized, before today, how much of an advance in ship-building technology was necessary to enable the Age of Exploration.


More Dog Tales

Found elsewhere on the web: a dog saves the life of a child who strayed away from the family home.

The dog was apparently an adopted stray. The child is 3 years old; old enough to walk away, not old enough to always remember the way back. Nor old enough to recognize the danger of a cold night out in the field, as opposed to a night spent inside a warm house.

The dog followed (or searched for) the missing child, and stayed with the child as the night fell. Searchers saw the dog in tall grass, and found dog and child together.

This is the kind of story is a heartwarming surprise. Dogs have the ability to integrate themselves into a human family, to the point where some dogs can recognize that a young child is in need of protection.

Humans and dogs have adapted to each other over the millennia since dogs were first domesticated. This is one example of a way in which dogs have adapted to humans, and shown themselves to be helpful.


Dog Tales

A few weekends back, I spent some time chatting with friends about dogs.

The stories included Big-D, a German Shepherd. Big-D was smart, careful, and had been trained to be a very good tracker. He was known to be a little on the rough side with younger dogs. Just enough so that the younger dogs knew not to cross him. 

With people, he was reserved. He could be friendly, as long as the people in question were not strangers intruding on Big-D's territory.

After living 10 years, Big-D succumbed to kidney failure. It was a sad ending, but he had a full life.

Another dog mentioned in that little conversation was Smart-K. She's a Black Lab. When set to a task (retrieving a ball, or a duck) she runs to it with gusto. She plays hard. When set to find things by scent, she jumps to the task with wild abandon. 

Smart-K has also been trained. She can take direction, search for targets by scent, and has developed a knack for searching the area without wandering out of sight.

Then there was Boisterous, the Black Lab who I used to own. (He can be seen playing with me in my profile picture.) Boisterous was playful and friendly. He never knew when to stop playing. Unless he decided it was time to chew on something. Then he would do his best to destroy the chew-toy.

Boisterous also liked chasing things, which led to an untimely demise. Barely two weeks after that picture was taken, he ran off after a deer. The deer crossed a road, and Boisterous followed. Into the path of a car.

I still miss the dog. 

Other dog stories came up that day. Old hunting dogs, various family pets, and funny events.

I'm wondering when I will decide that I want another dog. And I'm wondering if I want another Lab. 

However, I enjoyed that afternoon of conversation. And I do like the thought of having a dog greet me when I arrive home.


Weekend Reading: Restart

The narrative of Genesis started with a story of Creation. It continued with a tale of an idyllic, child-like life for humanity; followed by a coming-of-age and loss-of-innocence story. Then the narrative continues with an introduction of of both worship and violence.

The thread of relations between mankind and their Creator isn't always obvious.

Adam and Eve have another son, naming him Seth. Seth later had a son, and "Then men began to call on the Name of the Lord".*

It's a change in the culture, or a change in circumstance. Or maybe a change in interaction with God, from one unstated form to another. Whatever the change was, it was significant enough to be mentioned in this story.

Later, during an enumeration of important men in the line from Adam to Noah, we meet another man named Enoch. He had a special interaction with God, such that he didn't die. He "walked with God; and was no more, for God took him."

Again, a very short statement about something that was distinct, but was not described in full.

Then things get to a shocking point. The evil nature of man has increased. The increase reached a point at which God Himself was grieved that He had created humankind.

But a select man, Noah, found grace in the eyes of God. And God gives him a plan of safety from the coming destruction.

Noah is warned about a cataclysmic flood, and instructed to build a large sea-going vessel.** He is instructed to bring his family, and all kinds of animals. Even in the words of warning, God promises protective covenants with Noah. Things are bad, but God promises that He is watching over the people He cares about.

Shortly after Noah enters his vessel, the rains come. It is described as a rainstorm that didn't stop for forty days, joined with some sort of underground fountains bursting forth. Mountains were covered, all living creatures were swept away. The vessel was floating on the water for months before it finds land. Nearly a year passes before plants are growing again.

The scale of this is mind-blowing. It is a restart of global proportions.

After Noah feels it safe to leave his vessel, he worships God. And receives a promise: never again will the ground be cursed because of man. Never again will a flood cover the entire earth. A regular rhythm of seed and harvest will happen.

Finally, God gives a direct order about interactions between humans. If any man murders another, then the murderer ought to be killed himself.

The story is astounding, even though it is full of things that seem strange and questionable to my mind. Was there really a global flood?*** How could so many animals survive a year in that vessel together? Noah was encouraged to take more clean animals than unclean animals. Were these the source of his offering to God at the end of the story?

Yet I am reminded that the point of this story is a developing relationship. God is trying to tell people how to get along with each other, and to remind them that He is the author of the rhythms of nature. He can, when He wishes, send cataclysmic judgement. Yet He has promised to never judge the entire Earth again, in the way that this story indicates happened at least once.

The sign of this promise is the sign of a rainbow. An arc of light in the clouds, visible to any man (under the right circumstances) is said to be a sign of God's promise.


* This sentence is followed by a sentence which most translations render something like, "This is the book of the generations of Adam."
That reminded me of something, so I did a little searching.
Genesis 2.4 "These are the generations of the heaven and earth..."
Genesis 5.1 "This is the book of the generations of Adam."
Genesis 6.9 "These are the generations of Noah."
Genesis 10.1 "Now these are the generations of the sons of Noah; Shem, Ham, and Japeth..."
Genesis 11.10 "These are the generations of Shem."
Genesis 11.27 "These are the generations of Terah."
Genesis 25.12 "These are the generations of Ishmael, Abraham's son..."
Genesis 25.19 "These are the generations of Isaac, Abraham's son..."
Genesis 36.1 "Now these are the generations of Esau, who is Edom..." (also repeated in v.9)
Genesis 37.2 "These are the generations of Jacob"

Some of the sections are short, some of them are long. Most of these statements follow the story of the person mentioned, but some precede the story.

Anyway, this structure is embedded into the old stories that were gathered into the book of Genesis. Some of the narrative irregularities of Genesis--like the two different version of the Creation of man and woman--may be explained if we assume that the stories were originally composed separately.

** It's often translated "ark", but it isn't the same Hebrew word for "ark" that was made by Moses. Noah's piece of nautical construction may have been termed a "life-saver". The Hebrew word only appears elsewhere when describing the wicker basket used to save baby Moses in the Nile. Since a baby-sized wicker basket and a gigantic wooden sea vessel have little else in common, the assumed commonality is "life-saver" or "salvation".

If the cubit given in the story is approximately 18 inches (~45 cm), then the vessel was 450 feet (~137 m) long, 150 feet (~45.7 m) wide, and 45 feet (~13.7 m) tall.

*** Narratives including a Flood-as-divine-judgement existed in many cultures of the time. So did narratives of demigods interbreeding with humans (compare the Nephilim of Genesis 6.1-4). So did tales of multi-century-long lifespans for patriarchs. (Of the 10 generations claimed from Adam to Noah, 6 of the men were said to live 900+ years. All but Enoch were claimed to live 700+ years.)

Is this a sign that God was able to use narratives that were of a type known to exist among those cultures, in that time? Or that people did, at one time, see such a Flood and live to such ages?


Home Again

Last Thursday, I started driving to the NRA Annual Meeting.

Last Sunday, I drove home in the early afternoon. (I wanted to arrive home before the sun set. Succeeded, more or less.)

Monday, I drove to work, and then to the airport. A work-related trip took me to Atlanta. The return flight landed Wednesday at midnight.

I told myself "home again" that night. (Not quite "jiggety-jig", but close...)

While I enjoyed both trips, I feel like I'm in recovery.