Of Course I’m Afraid of Nuclear Fallout

J.W.

Nonsense Party

I’ve been having weird dreams lately. And sleeping kinda restlessly. Sleep is literally my favorite thing to do, so it makes me a little bit cranky when it doesn’t work out quite the way I want it to. A lot of things make me cranky, though. Like:

  • Bathrooms that don’t have toilet seat covers
  • When you think you have another mango in the fridge, but discover you don’t
  • (Related) Starting a recipe and discovering half way through that you’re missing a key ingredient
  • People that don’t signal
  • Anything sticky

I could go on for some time in this fashion, because I’m essentially an 84-year-old woman in a 33-year-old’s body. I’m fine with that.

Aaaanyway…so yes, I’ve been having cranky-making sleep as of late. And the weird dreams always linger in the morning, so I spend the first couple hours of the day trying to get over the yelling match I…

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Teaching With Tentacles

J.W.

streetsofsalem

I’m back at school for the Spring semester with the typical four-course teaching load, including a modern world history course that I have not taught for some time. So it is time to refresh my arsenal of Powerpoint presentations and maps. An interesting map can quickly catch a college student’s attention as easily as it does a blog reader, and after perusing my various digital collections a bit, I realized that I might be able to teach world history almost exclusively through octopus maps! Or at least nineteenth- and twentieth-century history: the creature does not seem to have been used as a metaphorical device before 1870. I searched in vain for a map or caricature depicting Napoleon as an octopus but could not find one, which is incredulous:  few rulers deserve an octopus map to represent their regimes more than the little Corsican!  There’s nothing too terribly original about…

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My Friend Dramane is Volunteering for the War

Great, great read. Outstanding piece of writing. — J.W.

The View Abroad

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This is a story about a man named Dramane – a story that has a beginning but no end – at least I don’t know how it is going to end…so let’s start at the beginning.

Dramane was my first friend that I made after my family arrived in Spain. In the second week of September the sun still screams at anyone who dares venture outside in Zaragoza, but the calendar calls all the kids to school anyway, so I took my daughter’s hand and walked her through the park and into the schoolyard of what would be her first real school.  I forced a big smile and said encouraging things, but my daughter just stared back at me with a look of “But dad, you never taught me any Spanish” on her face.  I gave her a hug, and took a big breath and swallowed hard as she walked…

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Roads, and Other Sicilian Driving Hazards

J.W.

The Dangerously Truthful Diary of a Sicilian Housewife

PART UMPTEEN OF AN OCCASIONAL, HYSTERICAL SERIES

We have had torrents of rain for the last week. As a result, driving my son to school has been permanently upgraded from a Level 2 to a Level 1 risk activity. This is because of the new holes that have formed in the road.

road_hole

I do have a money-making plan to take advantage of this, though. I am going to open one of the giant holes in the road as a municipal open-air swimming pool and sell admission tickets to locals. I shall open the other networked hole-complex as the “Bagheria caves and grotto” and charge an exorbitant admission fee to tourists, which will include a guided tour and a souvenir lump of dislodged asphalt.

Well, this local event reminded me to publish another installment in my occasional series on Driving in Sicily.

Road holes are a major hazard in Sicily. They are…

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Syrian Civil War (Cont’d)

syria

this article comes courtesy of the Associated Press:

BEIRUT (AP) — Twin blasts inside a university campus in Syria’s largest city on Tuesday set cars ablaze, blew the walls off dormitory rooms and left more than 80 people dead, anti-regime activists said.

What caused the blasts remained unclear.

Anti-regime activists trying to topple President Bashar Assad’s regime said his forces carried out two airstrikes. Syrian state media, for its part, blamed rebels fighting the Syrian government, saying they fired rockets that struck the campus.

Aleppo, Syria’s largest city and a commercial capital, has been harshly contested since rebel forces, mostly from rural areas north of the city, pushed in and began clashing with government troops last summer.

Entire neighborhoods have been destroyed since in fighting and frequent shelling and airstrikes by government forces who seek to dislodge the rebels.

The competing narratives of the two blasts at the city’s main university highlight the difficulty of confirming reports from inside Syria. The Syrian government bars most media from working in the country, making independent confirmation difficult, and both anti-regime activists and the Syria government sift the information they give the media in an effort to boost their cause.

Aleppo’s university is in the city’s northwest, a sector controlled by government forces, making it unclear why government jets would target it, as opposition activists claim.

Syria’s state news agency blamed the attack on rebels, saying they fired two missiles at the university. It said the strike occurred on the first day of the mid-year exam period and killed students and people who were staying at the university after being displaced by violence elsewhere. The agency did not say how many people were killed and wounded.

The scale of destruction in videos shot at the site, however, suggested more powerful explosives had been used than the rockets the rebels are known to possess.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights cited students and medical officials as saying that 83 people were killed in the blasts. Several of the more than 150 people injured were in critical condition, it said.

The group, which relies on a network of contacts inside Syria, said it was unclear what caused the blasts.

Syria’s crisis began in March 2011 with protests calling for political reform. The conflict has since turned into civil war, with scores of rebel groups fighting Assad’s forces throughout the country.

The U.N. says more than 60,000 people have been killed.

Jackson Williams.

Good News, Everyone: We’re NOT Going to Die!

this article comes courtesy of the Associated Press:

asteroid1

WASHINGTON (AP) — Upon further review, a big scary-sounding asteroid is no longer even a remote threat to smash into Earth in about 20 years, NASA says.

Astronomers got a much better look at the asteroid when it whizzed by Earth on Wednesday from a relative safe 9 million miles away. They recalculated the space rock’s trajectory and determined it wasn’t on a path to hit Earth on April 13, 2036 as once feared possible.

At more than 1,060 feet wide, the rock called Apophis could do significant damage to a local area if it hit and perhaps even cause a tsunami. But it was not large enough to trigger worldwide extinctions. One prominent theory that explains the extinctions of dinosaurs and other species 65 million years ago says a six-mile-wide meteorite hit Earth and spewed vast amounts of dust into the air, cooling and darkening the planet.

About nine years ago, when astronomers first saw Apophis (uh-PAH’-fihs), they thought there was a 2.7 percent chance that it would smack into our planet. Later, they lowered the chances to an even more unlikely 1 in 250,000.

Now it’s never mind.

“Certainly 2036 is ruled out,” said Donald Yeomans, manager of NASA’s Near Earth Object Program. “It’s why we track them so we can be assured that they won’t get dangerously close.”

Yeomans said now the asteroid, named after an evil Egyptian mythical serpent, won’t get closer than 19,400 miles. That’s still the closest approach asteroid watchers have seen for a rock this large. And when astronomers got a closer look they noticed it was about 180 feet larger than they thought, but not a threat.

Asteroids circle the sun as leftovers of failed attempts to form planets billions of years ago. When asteroids enter Earth’s atmosphere, they become meteors and when they hit the ground they are meteorites.

asteroid2

This is the second time in as many months the asteroid watchers have had good news for Earth. Last month, astronomers got a closer look at a smaller asteroid that they had previously calculated had a 1 in 500 chance of hitting Earth, this time in 2040. And they decided the 460-foot asteroid was no longer a threat.

If you still want to see a space rock come cosmically close to Earth, there’s always next month.

On Feb. 15, a small asteroid, only 130-feet wide, will come close to Earth, about 17,000 miles above the equator. That’s so close it will come between our planet and some of the more distant satellites that circle the globe. But it will miss Earth.

“This will be the closest passage of an object this size,” Yeomans said.

That asteroid, called 2012 DA14, should be visible with smaller telescopes and binoculars, but mostly in Eastern Europe, Asia and Australia, he said.

NASA’s Near Earth Object ProgramHTTP://NEO.JPL.NASA.GOV/

Jackson Williams.