Will.Whim

A weblog by Will Fitzgerald

Monthly Archives: May 2007

Waxing gibbous

Today’s Earth and Sky discusses a few topics mildly dear to my lunatic heart. They discuss blue moons and time zones.

When there’s a second full moon of a calendar month, it’s come to be called a Blue Moon.

I like the careful use of “it’s come to be called,” since it is a bit controversial what “blue moon” means, and where it comes from. But I think they’re right that “the second full moon of a calendar month” is the most common meaning of “blue moon” these days.

They point out that not everyone in the world has two full moons in the same calendar month: Europe, for instance, has two full moon *next* month, because the full moon comes after midnight local times.

Oddly, the good people at Earth and Sky say, “Earth is divided into about 24 separate time zones.” There are actually about 39 time zones, with fractional time zones scattered here and there: Newfoundland, for example, is offset -3 hr 30 minutes from universal time, India Standard Time is +5:30, and Nepal is +5:45.

I think everyone should be subscribed to the world’s most boring mailing list.

Midwest convention

Darrell Swarens has posted a video of the Chicago Sacred Harp Singers’ Midwest Convention, held over the weekend. The video shows James Eldridge leading Panting for Heaven. It shows his skill and composure at leading despite his young age. It also shows the beautiful setting of Ida Noyes Hall at the University of Chicago. The discerning and knowing eye will see lots of midwest and nationwide Sacred Harp worthies around the square.

Thanks, Darrell!

Update: Martha Beverley’s pictures of the convention are now available.

Powerlabs coming soon ….

Powerlabs coming soon! See the our Powerset home page.

Actually, a little more robot overlordship than I'm currently experiencing would be nice

Sitting down to dinner, I said something like today I wrote a program that wrote a program, and its running righ now. Daughter and wife looked slightly alarmed, and dear wife asked if there were any chance that I was working myself out of a job. I said I didn’t think there was much chance that the coming robot wars were about to begin. Getting back to my computer later, I saw this on the console:


~/Work/ps_wordnet/src $ ./convert_wn_file.py -V3.0 -l/tmp ../data/wnprolog/3-0/*.pl > convert.py ; python convert.py
Traceback (most recent call last):
File "convert.py", line 368926, in ?
wn._s_store(100001740,1,'entity',n,1,11)
NameError: name 'n' is not defined

Yep, not much chance at all.

The most ambiguous place name in the US is …

The most ambiguous place name in the US is Lake Winnipesaukee (map) with 163 official alternatives (according to the USGS and its US Board on Geographic Names), followed by Okefenokee Swamp (105), the Mississippi River (103) and the Potomac River (93).

(Lukas is right, I mean ‘place with the most ways to say it’.)

Freebase.com invitation

I’ve got five freebase.com developer invitations; if you’re interested, and are a ‘data fanatic,’ then get in touch with me.

Kelly (and Susan) Clark

Sunday evening, Bess, a number of friends, and I went to hear Calvin professors Kelly Clark (philosophy) and Steve Matheson (biology) speak on “God after Darwin, Dawkins, and Dennet” at the Church of the Servant in Grand Rapids. Kelly has been a friend of Bess’s since high school, and Susan Ford Clark, Kelly’s wife, shared an apartment with Bess their senior year–in fact, Kelly and Susan, and Bess and I, were married on the same day in the same church (at different times). It was great fun to go out to dinner with the Clarks and catch up a bit; we haven’t seen them much over the years.

It was interesting to hear Kelly and Steve Matheson, both evangelical scholars and believers in natural selection, talk. Being ‘pro-evolution’ is a bit of a third rail in some evangelical circles, and being ‘pro-God’ is a bit of a third rail in some professional circles. They did a masterful job of presenting–in just over an hour–a basic epistomological stance, what explanations are, and why theism and natural selection are compatible.

(“Sue” corrected to “Susan.”)

Democracy in action

My dad loves to vote. He once paid to take a taxi just so he could vote in a local school election. He was very disappointed that he couldn’t vote in Michigan’s last gubenatorial race, so we worked hard on getting him registered in Kalamazoo township, where his nursing home is. Well, mostly this was done by Amy, the social worker at his nursing home, Tendercare of Westwood.

In turns out that it’s a school election that will be Dad’s first Kalamazoo-area vote. The township clerk has promised to come directly to the nursing home to collect his vote, and any others of people who can’t get out.

Quotes on names (2)

The uniqueness and immense pragmatic convenience of proper names in our language lie precisely in the fact that they enable us to refer publicly to objects without being forced to raise issues and come to agreement on what descriptive characteristics exactly constitute the identity of the object. They function not as descriptions, but as pegs on which to hang descriptions (Searle).

Quotes on names (1)

When Mr N.N. dies, one says that the bearer of the name dies, not that the meaning dies.

— Wittgenstein, Philosophical Investigations