Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Element of the Month: Meitnerium!

October's Element of the Month:


Atomic Mass: 278ish amu
Melting Point: nobody knows
Boiling Point: nobody knows

After several months without Elements -- and yet with so many Elements that still need months! -- we return to the fray with Meitnerium. It is an unfortunate choice, in that it is a highly fakey Element. The synthetics don't really have much personality, since they don't really exist in a meaningful way, and I kind of feel like I've said all I have to say about them. But we'll try to be brave, here.

Don't feel bad if you don't know about Meitnerium. Neither does the spellchecker.  On the Sporcle Elements Quiz, a favorite dorky pastime of mine, it is the second least identified Element, trailing only Roentgenium. Unless you are fairly youngish and went to a well-funded high school, you probably never even saw it on the periodic table. It was only synthesized in 1982, and the usual international wrangling over naming rights was only resolved in 1997.

The Centerfold!
Just kidding, of course.  This is actually Iridium.

The Wiki says that Meitnerium is the only element named specifically after a non-mythological woman. Now, if you're like me, you're all like "That's BULLSHIT, man, what about Curium?!?" Well, I guess that's what the word "specifically" is in there for, as it turns out that Curium is named in honor of Pierre and Marie Curie both. Yeah, whatever. Pierre Curie. Who's he?

Who, for that matter, is Meitner? Lise Meitner was part of the three-person research team, along with Otto Hahn and Fritz Strassmann, who discovered nuclear fission. Modern thinking, at least as expressed in internet articles about Lise Meitner, seems to hold that she was the real brains of the outfit, but fans of Hahn or Strassmann might debate that. There is a general consensus that she was screwed out of the Nobel Prize because she was a girl, but hopefully that was made up for by an almost endless list of other accolades that were heaped on her in her long and productive late career. And hell, getting a fakey Element named after yourself is really the icing on the atomic cake.

I would try to figure out what non-non-mythological woman or women have an Element named after them, but it's getting kind of late. How about one of you all figure it out and post it in the comments.

"Meitnerium," by roberthirst-art on

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

The Infinite Art Tournament, Left Bracket Second Round: Dou v. de Miró!

Gerrard Dou
1613 - 1675

Tied with Arthur Dove in his first try at the First Round, back in January 2013.
Lost to Oudry in a second go at Round 1.
Easily got by 20th Century Italian Mario Merz in First Round Elimination.

Joan Miró
1893 - 1983

Defeated Jean-François Millet by a single vote in Round 1.  YOUR VOTE COUNTS!!!
Lost to one "Michelangelo" in Round 2.  YOUR VOTE COUNTS!!!

Vote for the artist of your choice in the comments, or any other way that works for you. Commentary and links to additional work are welcome. Polls open for at least one month past posting, but likely much longer.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Through History with The Monday Quiz: the 1140s

...with a record-setting 1.25 Western Hemisphere questions!

1. One of the most powerful political forces in North America before European contact was the league of the the Mohawk, Onondaga, Oneida, Cayuga, and Seneca peoples. Although this league was almost certainly founded in the fifteeth or sixteenth century, there is a counterclaim based on oral tradition that pinpoints the day of founding as August 31, 1142. Name that political unit! (Hint: Starts with an I!)

2. “It is now generally agreed by most scholars that identifiable historical Catharism did not emerge until at least 1143.” By the end of the century, Cathars would be common in southern France, where they were also called “Albigensians.” Without going into the details – although they are pretty interesting – what was Catharism?

3. In 1143, Robert of Ketton fulfilled a request from Peter the Venerable by completing the first European translation of an important book. Robert called his version Lex Mahumet pseudoprophete. What is the real name of the book in question?

4. In 1144, Pope Eugenius III sent one of his most prominent churchmen, Bernard of Clairvaux, on a high-profile preaching mission. Writing back to his boss to report his success, Bernard boasted that "cities and castles are now empty. There is not left one man to seven women, and everywhere there are widows to still-living husbands." What had happened to all the men?

5. Here are the ruins of Merv, in modern Turkmenistan. An oasis on the Silk Road trade routes, Merv was an important city in the Seljuk Empire, hosting a major library and madrasa. From 1145 to 1153, it was thought to have a special distinction among the world’s cities. What was that special distinction?

6. In 1148, Anna Komnene wrote the Alexiad, a biography of her father, Alexios I Komnenos. Of what state must Alexios have been the ruler?

7. Sometime in or around the 1140s, Europeans brought home a new plant they had bumped into in Arab markets. Technically a grass, with a thick, fibrous central stalk, it would turn out to yield an incredibly popular product; by some measures, it is the world's highest-volume agricultural product. The fact that it is so labor-intensive to grow, however, has had some unfortunate historical consequences. Name that plant!

8. 1147 saw the first mention of a river town built along a tributary of the Volga. It would eventually grow to be among the largest inland cities in the world. What is its name?

9. Sometime in or near the 1140s, craftsmen in what is now France, Greece, India, and Peru were working on these items (from the book “10,000 Years of Art”). Which piece is from which place?

10. On July 23, 1148, armies led by Conrad III of Germany, Louis VII of France, and Baldwin III of Jerusalem attacked the city of Damascus. How did that work out for them?

Hey, you know what?  Only Susan completed:

Through History with The Monday Quiz: the 1130s

She did great, with 7/10, and wins her second week running.  But I'll leave off the answers for now, in case anybody wants to go back and give it the old college try.  And maybe we'll mix up the format for a week or two, to combat the perils of "High Middle Ages Fatigue."

Saturday, October 3, 2015

The Infinite Art Tournament, Round FOUR: Krøyer v. de La Tour!

It's the first weekend of October, and our Fourth Round match features a rare Danish entry against an early representative of art powerhouse France.  Both of these guys barely squeaked by their Third Round opponents -- but who will squeak his way into the Fifth Round?  Let's find out.

Peter Severin Krøyer
1851 - 1900

  • Thumped Leon Kossoff in Round 1.
  • Crushed American Jeff Koons, albeit with gentle lyricism, in Round 2.
  • On recount, was found to have beaten Florentine master Domenico Ghirlandaio in Round 3 by a two-vote swing. YOUR VOTE COUNTS!!!

Georges de La Tour
1593 - 1652
  • Trounced Peter Lanyon in Round 1.
  • Walloped animal specialist Sir Edwin Landseer in Round 2.
  • Overcame the Czech abstract painter Frantisek Kupka in Round 3, but only by a single vote. YOUR VOTE COUNTS!!!

Vote for the artist of your choice in the comments, or any other way that works for you. Commentary and links to additional work are welcome. Fourth-round matches are open for at least three months after posting.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Month to Month Resolutions: Where are they now?

Back in 2011, I did Quarterly Reports for a while in which I testified here about my progress on about a million different goals.  Then -- because, golly, what an exciting feature for you readers -- in 2012, I decided to triple the fun, and started doing "Month to Month Resolutions."  Like all things bloggy, that quickly faded away.

But now, as we begin the final quarter of 2015, I thought it might be fun to look back and see how I've done with my goals for what historians call "the Long April 2012" -- the period since I last set goals.

Progress, April 2012 - September 2015, and goals for October 2015

Weighing-in: The April 2012 Goal was "I will continue to weigh myself every morning in the established manner, and the late-March financial penalty of 10 cents per tenth of a pound over 200 pounds, daily, will continue through April.  Ha!  Ha Ha Ha!  (sob!)  This would be well over a $1000 penalty by now.  After ballooning to a record-high 218 in early summer, I've been stable at about 212 for the last few months.
  • October Goal: Maybe I could try to be stable at about 211 by the end of October.
Push-ups: Actually, it was my inability to stick to a push-up regimen that made me think about looking at these old posts.
  • October Goal: How about, I will try to perform ([date] + 10) push-ups every day in October!
Pull-ups: This was a new category in April 2012.  I'll just borrow in the same goal.
  • October Goal: " try to work towards a state of being where I am capable of doing pull-ups. It doesn’t really make sense to put a numerical value on this, as I’m far from sure I am able to do a single pull-up at this point. If I’m able to... do that exercise where you pull your knees up, I’ll try to do, oh, ten of those a day."
Cola: The April 2012 goal was "to consume no more than twelve units of cola per week."  However, I haven't had any cola in more than a month.
    • October Goal: To continue not drinking any cola.
    Veggies: The April 2012 goal was "no fewer than five units per week."
    • October Goal: You know, it's not like I'm wolfing down kale by the bushel or anything, but I actually feel like I eat enough veggies these days, and especially fruit, that it's not something I really need to track. 
    Other Old Goals: I also had formal goals for sending paper mail, writing projects, gardening, music, and quilting.  Well, good for me.  It's hard for me to imagine setting programmatic goals for such stuff at this particular point.

    New Categories:
      Running: Meanwhile, as you know, I try to keep myself motivated to run a lot.  After last year, when I made my 1000 mile goal, this year kind slipped through my hands with lots of problems in the first half of the year.  But, things have been picking up.  After logging 310 miles from January to June, I ran 260 from July to September.
      • October Goal: Run 80 miles
      Running: Since I gave myself over to running, my bicycle has sat basically unused.
      • October Goal: Confirm that bicycle is still in working order.  Take it for a spin around the neighborhood.
      The Transitive Property: One last odd one for October: I'm going to buy a monthly bus pass and not drive my car to work (unless of course I need to have it for work purposes, which happens every couple of weeks).  This should also allow after-work and weekend transit-based adventures!  ...although I am still allowed car-based, or for that matter, bike-based adventures as well. 

      Thursday, October 1, 2015

      The Infinite Art Tournament, First Elimination Round #41/64

      Faceoff #1: Lawrence v. Moore

      Sir Thomas Lawrence
      1769 - 1830

      Tied with Marie Laurencin in his First Round debut in July 2014.
      Lost badly to Fernand Léger in his second try.


      Henry Moore
      1898 - 1986

      Lost badly to Claude Monet in Round 1.

      Faceoff #2: Morandi v. Moroni

      Georgio Morandi
      1890 - 1964

      Lost to Gustave Moreau in Round 1.


      Giovanni Battista Moroni
      1520ish - 1578

      Lost by a two vote swing to Berthe Morisot in Round 1. YOUR VOTE COUNTS!

      Vote for the two artists of your choice! Votes generally go in the comments, but have been known to arrive by email, by postcard, or in a sealed envelope.

      Please note that you may vote only once in each face-off.  Opining that both of the artists in one of the two face-offs is superior to the other is fine, but casting your votes for two artists in the same face-off is not permissible.

      Wednesday, September 30, 2015

      The Wednesday Post

      From the Cartographic Mailbag
      it is always in excellent taste to send presents

      In a Manila envelope I found in the mailbox on Saturday, there was not one but two copies of Tactical Pilotage Chart F-16D, which covers the southern half of the Beaver State.  It was sent without comment by drschnell, no doubt trying to regain the thrill of his mention in last's week's Wednesday Post.

      These are big, handsome specimens of map, and I look forward to using them to inform my tactical pilotage and for other household uses.  I show them here as a reminder that it is always in excellent taste to send presents.  Also, cookies.