Category Archives: Math and Science: General


Is it “everyday” or “every day”? There’s room for both, in this world.

Like so:

“Miracles happen every day.”

“It was an everyday miracle when ‘Peppers’, the lovable duckling, took his first flight across Farmer Blackthorn’s pond!”


In any case, today’s miracle is that I’m posting a blog entry, after this many days of absence: 98. Squeak!

A partial list of other miracles which happen every day:

-Cakes also happen every day




Two weeks ago, I was traveling down to Indianapolis, midday, on the Megabus. I looked out the window as the day began to fade away, the shadows to lengthen, the dusk-light to dance, et cetera. The sun emerged from behind the clouds. For some reason, I was able to look directly at it without discomfort for a few moments. [No: I have not received new, bionic eyeballs via mail order.] [Which…hold on, I’m Googling “bionic eyeballs”. Hey, we’ve got bionic eyeballs now! Neat! Also: Aaaaaaaaaaaa!]

The sun is Every Day, and also Everyday. I don’t lend it much thought. But for some reason, at that particular moment, the hard fact of THE SUN was borne in upon me like a–well, a solar flare, is what. It’s so big that we can see it with the naked eye, it makes sugar maples grow, it warms my face in the summer, and it’s 93 MILLION MILES AWAY. WHAT IS THAT. WHAT ON EARTH IS THAT.


Recently, NASA was able to capture its first 360 degree image of the sun, via two probes it sent out in 2006. This is apparently a very big deal. For instance, we will no longer be taken by surprise if a “farside active region” decides to launch a “billion-ton cloud of plasma” at us! Yaaaaaay!

Here is the image from the probes:

Here is a NASA artist’s rendering:


I love astronomical artists’ renderings


Here on Earth’s surface, in Chicago, it’s been snowy. Last Tuesday night, Jessica and I watched the snow careen by in the front window like cannonfire.  I grew up in the Midwest; I have seen snow and ice before. I have never seen anything like this.  Our street is like the surface of the moon.

It snowed again yesterday, and then–again–this afternoon, flakes with the density of sawdust, which I brushed off my coat at intervals to keep it from piling up. When I walked down the street after work I couldn’t see three blocks away; instead, there was a wall of white, which only cleared as I approached it and walked through.

I passed these bushes on Logan Boulevard:

“There’s nowhere for it to go,” said a woman I work with, of the new snow. There are still piles as high my waist in plenty of places, impassable street corners, buried cars. I don’t know what the lesson is, when there’s nowhere else for the snow to go.

Everything happens at once.


This poem is a bruiser, but it’s so good, everyone; I’ve gotta.

EVERYONE: You’ve gotta?
ME: Uh-huh.



I hate my heart What is this wild and bad
renunciation I hate my heart Why
does it hurt me even now after so

much raking over after so much ruck
It’s hard to call my heart it speaking of
part of me that is almost all of me

because what is there that is not my heart
Tucked beneath my breathing lungs it beats
it breathes it is my thoughts what thought do I

have that isn’t folded inside my heart
Is there such a thought a heartless thought I
don’t have one When I walk I carry what

My heart on the stick of my body Or
my courage in the sticking place O screw
don’t I have the courage of my good heart

Is this my scarecrow longing for his heart
I’m scared of my heart the old rags and bones
the rage a rage for order pale Ramon

Even though I’ve raked my heart it rages
Beshrew me I know my heart is good Shrew
little sparrow will you come to my hand

O screw I eat crow I crow my heart out
Am I the shrew to it or it to me
To no one but my heart or it to me

Sarah Arvio

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All In All

I was home for Easter last week; I’ve got a valid excuse for not writing. Celebrating the Risen Lord can certainly take the stuffing out of you.

Instead of attending Mass on Easter morning, my family and I went to the Easter Vigil on Saturday evening, which features, among many fine attributes:

-Seven different Old Testament readings, registering at varying degrees of grimness on the Old Testament Grim O’Meter™

 My brothers went out to obtain pizza to snack on pre-Vigil, during the Butler/Michigan State game. When they returned, and we began eating silly things at a very great rate–things like pepperoni-stuffed breadsticks–my mother said:

MY MOTHER: Boys, why did you get TWO large pizzas?
MY BROTHER BEN: The tomb is empty, Mom.


The next evening, “The Sound of Music” was on the T.V, and I am obliged to watch “The Sound of Music” if it is playing within sight or sound of my person. My mother joined me, and after a time, my father. Neither of them–to my very great astonishment–had ever seen the movie. They had only seen “The Sound of Music” on the stage, when my high school performed it my freshman year, and I played the Reverend Mother. Hahahahahahahahaha!

Anywho, I hadn’t seen the movie in some time, and my mother and I giggled over the Baroness Schräder’s dramatic and thinly-veiled ill will, Maria-ward. She was forever giving Captain Von Trapp or Maria the eyeball for being secretly in love with each other and stuff.


Then there was the scene with the puppetry.

MY MOTHER: This is weird.



On Sunday, my roommate and I decided to go to St. Hyacinth’s Basilica, which is basically the lodestone for Catholic Polish Chicagoans, and light a candle for Poland, and for everyone who died, and their families, and so on, and so forth.

It is a beautiful church.

We arrived right after a Mass had ended, and people were flooding out onto the sidewalk; everyone was dressed as though they had just attended a funeral.  The men wore suits and smoked. Later I would see a woman dressed all in red, with a white jacket, for Poland.

We made our way inside. The church has several side alcoves. In one of them, a baby was being baptized, in Polish.

When we finally seated ourselves in a front pew, and after we prayed, we looked around. People sat in the pews, talking softly, and so did we. We decided that we did not know what we would feel, were we the people of Poland. The closest I can imagine is how I felt after 9/11, the hot-edged this is the most terrible; but that is different.

In front of us, an elderly gentleman hung matted drawings of John Paul II on the wall. This is true.

Outside, news crews were filming. People were singing, but I don’t know what. The Polish national anthem?

The Polish national anthem, for the record, is entitled: “Poland Is Not Yet Lost”.


Around the block from the church is a Polish bar. They had the door propped open, and many voices floated out onto the street. “Dancing Queen” was playing.

JESSICA AND I: Everyone grieves differently!


We decided that JPII was waiting for the Polish delegation to arrive at the gates of heaven.

JPII: Comrades! Come and drink a cup of grog with me!

J/K, he would never call them comrades! He defeated Communism!


So! Science, right?

1. They’ve gone and discovered a new element! It doesn’t have a name yet, but it’s being called “ununseptium” until they do, which is, quoth the NYT, “a very unwhimsical Latinate placeholder that refers to the element’s atomic number, 117.”

ME: You’re nothing but an unwhimsical Latinate placeholder.
YOU: Boohoohhohhoohoo!

They discovered it by smashing calcium isotopes and the element berkelium together.


2. Need I say it?

The Large Hadron Collider is finally, sort of officially and at half-speed, up and running.


This week has been a real whopper already. A whirl-i-gig. A fiddle-stick.

YOU: A whoop-te-doozle?
ME: No.



Fountains, for instance,
have a periphery
at some distance
from the spray.
On nice days
idle people circle
all the way around
the central spout.
They do not get wet.
They do not get hot.

Kay Ryan


Filed under Kay Ryan, Math and Science: General, My Parents, My Roommate, Poetry, Stirring World Events


Maybe this is why I didn’t post anything last week. Maybe my heart had turned to ash, okay?


Landsakes–there’s been ever so much-and-so many goings on,  just generally speaking, that one scarcely knows where to dive in!

For example, we could talk about Scott Lee Cohen, the embattled former Democratic nominee for Lieutenant Governor of the State of Illinois:

If by “embattled” you mean “hoist by your own petard”, and if by “hoist by your own petard” you mean “police records”.

Because if Illinoisans do one thing right, it’s ensuring–via the democratic process!–that only the most hilariously untoward individuals are placed in a position of potential power.

COHEN: I’m a pawnbroker who assaulted my ex-girlfriend with a knife!
CITIZENS OF ILLINOIS: Cohen for President!

Ugh, embarrassing! Embarrassing. Illinois, I can’t take you anywhere.

MY ROOMMATE, THE NIGHT THIS STORY BROKE: [cheerfully.]     Well, the national media doesn’t seem to have picked it up yet!


That same night, I was reading a poem on a webby-site. The poem was about the death of a father. In the comments section below the poem, another reader spoke of how his own father had died; of how the poem moved him. The poet responded: “Thank you.” That is the perfect circle.

I read this to my roommate, and she told me a story.

Several years ago, she sang in a choir. The choir had some sort of show, which took place on two consecutive evenings. There are other details to the story, but the important detail is this.

On the night of the second performance, their conductor congratulated them on their performance of the previous evening. Then he told them that a man–an audience member–had approached him, that night before, and explained that his wife had died some months ago; and that as the man listened to their singing that night, it was the first time that he had been able to forget his grief.


That is everything. 


On February 8, the space shuttle Endeavour [what’s up with that “ou” spelling? That is traitorous, treason-talk spelling] took off for the International Space Station.

They–the astronauts–have attached what’s basically a new room to the space station. The room is known as


Though its technical name is


[This is not a joke]

After this, there will be only four more manned shuttle launches. President Obama’s  proposed NASA budget does not allow for the continuation of the Constellation program, which was developing the next generation of spaceflight vehicular na-na. The plan is to develop such things with the monetary support of the “private sector”.

I am a fan of the private sector. But I am nervous. Some of the space glamour has been stripped from life, it feels like.

[And I know that there are other ways to channel our monies in the here and now and Earth-bound, and who am I to take food from the mouth of a starving baby, but?  But. There is merit in exploration and knowledge, in discovery. It strikes me right to the heart to think that these concepts will somehow continue down a long, downward slide of devaluation. I think there is room for all of it, food for babies and cylindrical space nodes alike. Once I fix my Whole World Calculator, I will set things to rights. I promise.]

Also, do you want to see a manned space vehicle soaring through the hushed, sparkling outer reaches of the universe with a Doritos ad on it?



The Nails

I gave you sorrow to hang on your wall
Like a calendar in one color.
I wear a torn place on my sleeve.
It isn’t as simple as that.

Between no place of mine and no place of yours
You’d have thought I’d know the way by now
Just by thinking it over.
Oh I know
I’ve no excuse to be stuck here turning
Like a mirror on a string,
Except it’s hardly credible how
It all keeps changing.
Loss has a wider choice of directions
Than the other thing.

As if I had a system
I shuffle among the lies
Turning them over, if only
I could be sure what I’d lost.
I uncover my footprints, I
Poke them till the eyes open.
They don’t recall what it looked like.
When was I using it last?
Was it like a ring or a light
On the autumn pond
Which chokes and glitters but
Grows colder?
It could be all in the mind. Anyway
Nothing seems to bring it back to me.

And I’ve been to see
Your hands as trees borne away on a flood,
The same film over and over,
And an old one at that, shattering its account
To the last of the digits, and nothing
And the blank end.

The lightning has shown me the scars of the future.

I’ve had a long look at someone
Alone like a key in a lock
Without what it takes to turn.

It isn’t as simple as that.

Winter will think back to your lit harvest
For which there is no help, and the seed
Of eloquence will open its wings
When you are gone.
But at this moment
When the nails are kissing the fingers good-bye
And my only
Chance is bleeding from me,
When my one chance is bleeding,
For speaking either truth or comfort
I have no more tongue than a wound.

W.S Merwin

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An Ear-and-Eye Full




I have learned that the tears which we produce due to strong emotions are comprised of different chemical compounds* than the tears which are produced when–say–we smell an onion, or wander into a sandstorm in the middle of the Kalahari Desert [why are you doing that, anyway? Don’t do that]. Or–to be more precise–these particular tears contain more of certain “protein-based hormones”, the best-named of which is adrenocorticotropic hormone. Woot!

How far we have come, with our scientific understanding! When our ancestors, the cavepersons, wept in sorrow–no doubt due to a peckish saber-toothed tiger–they had no idea that there were protein-based hormones swimming around in their eyeball-tears! They didn’t even know what a retina is. We do, right?


*[Ugh, that sounds like a robot, doesn’t it? The tears which we produce due to strong emotions. “I do not compute the tears which you produce due to strong emotions, human,” said the Uldof Bot 5000, and swung its shiny robot arms! Robots: They do not have a care in the world.]


I didn’t even know that there was anything in the way of protein-based hormones in tears, though, to be honest. Salt? I thought there might be some salt. Hold on, I will go and look.




Also, there is a song called “The Salt in My Tears”.

The lyrics are a real downer, however, so we needn’t share them here. This little snippet should tell you anything you need to know:

“I realized after all these years/That you ain’t worth the salt in my tears.”



[Tears: Haiti. Haiti, and everyone everywhere helping with Haiti, and doing good and their part. That is all I have to say.]


I’m flying out to New York the last weekend of this month. I haven’t been there in three whole years. Circumstances have stood ever in the way; not this time. I am excited. The last time I was there, it was my birthday. We all went to dinner that night, but I don’t remember where. I remember being very tired all over, body and soul, but staying out late anyway.  For some reason I always remember having a conversation that night, in a cab, about the fact that people can haunt you.

I was trying to recall the last time I even set foot on an airplane. I initially mis-remembered–it’s been about a year, but before that it was a flight to L.A, around this time two years ago. Visiting L.A was consumingly strange, for me; I loved it, immediately, head-over-heels, face-plant into the ground infatuated. Pre-visit, I was all, “L.A, blecccch.” When I came back to Chicago, I got on Craigslist and looked at apartments. In L.A. This is what I am saying.

I started looking through old pictures, from that trip; oh, goodness!




After the Elements

You and I, we are too far
from fire now: the chimney-pots
have driven out their smoke,
and stood alert for its return,
but flames are rare, or else
they are disaster; our rooms in brick and board
have insulated from the wind
our blood and voices,
so that neither moves inside the wilder air–
those bands of warm and cold, force
and impetus or null
that comes when two great streams oppose
and cancel out; we are
too far from water now, both you and I,
the green of dissolution kissing
wrack to wrack, sun
crisping to the glitter
of the stars; for in the water,
night comes soon, and in the water, there are bands
of cold and warm, and in the one
you die, and in the other live
but briefly, you and I;
we are too far from earth,
and when we lie down on the grass,
the palm a star, a shadow-bed,
we’ll never know if under us
there creep the fossils of a youth
who died and slumped beneath the earth,
and earth has moved across
his thorax and his thigh; until the air
we are too far from, though within
its stale caress had brushed the last
of sandstone from his eyes,
and took from bones
the oxygen they kept,
that entered time as expiration,
and enters us as breath.

Judith Bishop


Filed under Indianapolis Colts, Judith Bishop, Math and Science: General, Poetry, Stirring World Events

A Christmas Miracle

I am home for the holidays. Here is a picture of the insides of our Christmas tree.

I think that is a nice tree, don’t you?


I don’t know what you’re doing right now, aside from reading this blog, but you need to hold the phone, and by “hold the phone“, I mean “Yo! Yo yo yo!” and I mean “There is spine-tingling news in the world of physics!” Seriously, take a cold compress out of your steamer trunk, and place it gently on your forehead. If you do not have a steamer trunk, get one:

So anyways, here’s the dealio [NYT]:

“An international team pf physicists working in the bottom of an old iron mine in Minnesota said Thursday that they might have registered the first faint hints of a ghostly sea of subatomic particles known as dark matter long thought to permeate the cosmos.”


“The particles showed as two tiny pulses of heat deposited over the course of two years in chunks of germanium and silicon that had been cooled to a temperature near absolute zero.”

Apparently, these particles are referred to as “weakly interacting massive particles”, or “WIMPS” [sincerely, they are called this, and if you think I am not going to start referring to people as “weakly interacting massive particles”, you have another thing coming, and that thing is called BEING WRONG]. They have been “long-theorized but never confirmed”. 

I guess the [theorized?]  majority of dark matter is either in the form of:


2. Something called Primordial Fog Particles, and if you want to read more about that, read this, because Jesus God, I’ve only got so much verbiage at my command for this folderol, people.

This is something I found about the universe:

That is a lot of stuff, in there!


“The stakes for astronomy and physics could hardly be greater. If the particles are confirmed by tests at other detectors, it would mean that, after more than half a century of speculation, astronomers are zeroing in on the identity of the invisible material that accounts for 25% of the natural universe and determines the architecture of the visible universe.”


I love that these guys were mucking around at the bottom of an iron mine in Minnesota and potentially uncovered something of this magnitude.

IRON MINE: How ’bout them Cowboys?


Please note, however: This is not definitive. There exists a chance that the “pulses were caused by fluctuations in the background radioactivity of [the] cavern”. There does.

But I would not leave you on a low note. I will leave you on a comedic one. Another scientist, Elena Aprile, will be testing these findings [as will others] on her OWN detector, which is under the Alps in Italy, and which is called XENON.

They quote her:

“‘All eyes will be on Xenon,’ she said in an interview a few days before, explaining that her detector, which is bigger, will see more events, adding, ‘Otherwise there will be a big clash.'”




I was reading some poems yesterday, in a scattershot sort of way. One I read was called “On Turning 65”. The poem had an epigraph. It was:

From now on it’s late.
Tomas Tranströmer

I LOVE THAT, I thought, and I searched out its source. It’s from a poem called “Winter’s Gaze”, by the aforementioned Tomas Tranströmer, a famous Swedish poet.

From now on it’s late.

I have been feeling that a-much, lately. From now on it’s late.

It spurs you to action. Don’t wait. Do not regret.



Winter’s Gaze

I lean like a ladder and with my face
reach in to the second floor of the cherry tree.
I’m inside the bell of colors, it chimes with sunlight.
I polish off the swarthy red berries faster than four magpies.

A sudden chill, from a great distance, meets me.
The moment blackens
and remains like an axe-cut in a tree trunk.

From now on it’s late. We make off half running,
out of sight, down, down into the ancient sewage system.
The tunnels. We wander around for months
half in service and half in flight.

Brief devotions when some hatchway opens above us
and a weak light falls.
We look up: the starry sky through the grating.

Tomas Tranströmer

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A Real Bell-Ringer

We’re in it now, we’re trampling through, we’re trudging as fast we can. This next week is the darkest of the year; each day darker than the day that preceded it. And then we reach the Winter Solstice, December 21, when the earth’s axis is tilted as far from the sun as can be, and that day is the very darkest of all.

[My apologies to my readers in the Southern Hemisphere!]

According to the Farmer’s Almanac:


To put things in perspective:


To put things in still more perspective:


You know what I’d do if I were in Fairbanks, Alaska, on December 21, 2009? I’d put a  steel bucket on my head, and walk around all day hitting it with a birch tree stick! It’d be all the same to me.


Earlier today, in Little Rock, Arkansas, a federal judge ruled that the Arkansas Society of Freethinkers was allowed to place a display celebrating the winter solstice and “‘freethinkers’ such as Albert Einstein and Bill Gates” next to a nativity scene at the state capitol.

Do what you gotta do!


Did you know that the Arkansas Society of Freethinkers is on Facebook?


I’d like to take a moment to make a few public service announcements, if I may. My friend Abraham’s blog, 52 Teeth [see BLOGROLL, Item One, To Your Right, Way Down Below The Poem Categories Which Desperately Require Some Sort of Order for God’s Sakes] is now BACK IN ACTION, to-day, after a hiatus of some months. Please go and check it out for fresh tunes and the freshest writin’ this side of the St. Louis Arch! You don’t even know! Woot!


Public announcement the second is shamefully overdue; so shamefully overdue, in fact, that I ought to just hit myself over the head with a large, flat rock and call it a day, because I deserve the concussion I’d get, is the thing.

My friend Fischer has been doing lots of wonderful things this past year, and the world needs to know. Please go to her website, which is this:


And there you will find something(s) called Soft Maps. Soft Maps, if I may quote Fischer herself, are:

“Quilted maps of cities and neighborhoods that represent someone’s unique place in the world.”

They are beautiful, special, made with fingers and hands, and they could be YOUR’N!

Go play around on her site; it’s rad. It’s been added to my Blogroll, too.

Ugh, why do they call it a Blogroll? Why? It sounds like a cross between a jelly doughnut and a sea snail with no eyeballs.



Betcha those sea snails don’t need eyes, though. Why would they? They live on the lightless ocean floor. I’ve seen “Planet Earth.” You can’t pull the wool over my eyes.*

*Let’s be frank–most of the time I operate in an “all wool, all the time” zone


This concludes my announcements.

Now back to the snowman pictures!

You think I don’t have more where this came from? I have more.


Such is the Raging

Or how, when last sun,
6 PM, burns off
to a few dust flakes
fluttering above the sink,

a further light will
trick its way inside
the linoleum until
each tile–such is

the raging within
unfinished things–
flickers and swims
in its own negative.

Nate Klug

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Short blog this week. Short-ishy, I think.


On Monday, the Large Hadron Collider became “the world’s highest energy particle accelerator, having accelerated its twin beams of protons to an energy of 1.18 TeV”, which beat the former record of .98 TeV, held by the U.S.A-based Fermi Lab’s collider. 

A TeV is a teraelectron volt. “Teraelectron” is a million million electron volts, or “lots”, or “ever so many”.

So they took their proton beams, and whatall, and they sent them ’round their underground tunnel:

And it made a thing like this [this is pulled directly from the European Organization for Nuclear Research, or CERN’s, website]:



Whatever it is, it’s good!

They will smash the proton beams into each other, and re-create the Big Bang. Then they’ll tell us all about it.


I added the Fermi Lab to my blogroll. It was time. It’s always all “CERN” this and “Large Hadron Collider” that and “glamorous international team of physicists” blah blah blah! I don’t know about you, but I’m an American.*

Go to their website, and give some love to a particle accelerator facility in your own backyard!**

*There are Americans on the CERN team
**If your backyard is Batavia, Illinois


I know what you’re thinking. “When is she going to stop writing about the Large Hadron Collider?” you’re thinking. “My eyes haven’t been this glazed over since I pitched face-first into that platter of doughnut holes.” [I’M SORRY]

I promise–it’ll taper off. But the LHC has been off for a year, peeps, and so–for the time being–look for breathless particle acceleration reports from yours truly!

Gee, I feel like a cub reporter.


On Monday morning, I sat next to an older woman on the train. She had long, iron-grey hair and a large black coat.  She was reading something I couldn’t see.

At some point, I looked over, and I realized that she was reading letters. They were written on pink legal paper.

Then I realized that they were love letters.

At the top of each page, which I couldn’t help but see, was written one word, in salutation: “Dearest.”  

She would take a letter out of her bag. She would read it, front and back, though perhaps she only skimmed, touched down on the important parts; the odds are good that she’d read them a hundred times.

When she finished each one, she folded it, and then she ripped it into pieces. The pieces went into her bag.

 Then she would pull out the next letter, read it, and rip it apart. Again and again and again.

I only caught three things from looking over at the letters:

1. The word “love”.
2. The sentence “I can’t translate.”
3. The sentence “I took a walk.”

The letters could have been from anyone, of course. But I decided that they must be love letters, because she ripped them apart. She was ensuring that she would never read them again. This is a thing that people do.





It was just sort of amazing, is all.


Wednesday is my 30th birthday! So there’s that.

I think being 30 will be nice. I hear it is, leastaways.

ME: Hello, 30!
30: Hello!

Well, time to make hot chocolate!


The last thing I ever wanted was to
write again about grief did you think I
would your grief this time not mine oh good

grief enough is enough in my life that is
enough was enough I had all those
grievances all those griefs all engraved

into the wood of my soul but would you
believe it the wood healed I grew up and
grew out and would you believe it I found

your old woody heart sprouting I thought
good new growth good new luxuriant green
leaves leaves on their woody stalks and I said

I’ll stake my life on this old stick I’ll stick
and we talked into the morning and night
and laughed green leaves and sometimes a flower

oh bower of good new love I would have it
I would bow to the new and the green
and wouldn’t you know it you were a stick

yes I know a good stick so often and then
a stick in my ribs in my heart your old
dark wood your old dark gnarled stalk

sprouting havoc and now I have grief again
and now I’ve stood for what I never should
green leaves of morning dark leaves of night

Sarah Arvio

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