Weekly Photo Challenge: The Pantheon

The Pantheon

This week’s photo challenge is alphabet themed, and I was reminded of my time spent at the Pantheon in Rome. The Latin inscription reads:

M·AGRIPPA·L·F·COS·TERTIVM·FECIT

According to Wikipedia, the full message is, “”M[arcus] Agrippa L[ucii] f[ilius] co[n]s[ul] tertium fecit,” which translates to “Marcus Agrippa, son of Lucius, made [this building] when consul for the third time.” Unlike a lot of messages these days, this one is literally set in stone! A larger version is viewable here.

What Are The Four New Elements On The Periodic Table?

DNews briefly explains the latest additions that complete the seventh row of the periodic table. Right now, IUPAC has given them temporary names: Ununtrium, Ununpentium, Ununseptium, and Ununoctium. Yeah, gotta love that impromptu Latin root lesson…Anyway, these new elements will get proper names later on, and hopefully the public will get to learn more about what they can do as well. What a way for the field of Chemistry to kick off 2016!

Weekly Photo Challenge: Letters, Or: Thai Heinz

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Letters, Or: Thai Heinz

Hey, fellow Americans, do not adjust your set. That is indeed a bottle of Heinz ketchup, which I came across in a grocery store in Thailand. No matter how far you travel, some brands refuse to be left behind…Of course, I put the ketchup back on the shelf and stocked up on more local cuisine. That’s the point of traveling: new experiences, not the familiar.

Goodbye, Rosetta!

Hey, folks. Today’s Daily Prompt is all about languages. Specifically, what you’d do if you could master any language overnight. Assuming that the prompt is limited to a single choice, I’d probably have to go with Mandarin. Judging by how the world economy seems to be going, it’s become extremely important for Western businesses to be able to communicate with Chinese clients. When you’ve got a country that’s quickly gaining ground in terms of technology and influence, there’s a lot of potential opportunities to create and expand upon a profitable business. I’d consider getting into the real estate business, though the market can’t keep its momentum going forever. Getting a handle on a shipping company would offer more stability; a growing country needs its imports, after all. Same goes with computer technology, in terms of both physical hardware and software development…

Wow, I wish I had a less boring answer. How about my own programming language? I could come up with some awesome new coding lingo, which would become the new standard for operating systems the world over. Windows? Meh. Linux? So passé. I’d have every computer of the next generation based upon on my creation. Then everyone – China included – would speak my language. Mwahahaha!

Counting In Esperanto

Hey, folks. Today’s Daily Prompt is all about teaching. Specifically, teaching others that one thing you can do really well. This one’s actually kind of hard for me, because my specialty is writing…like the majority of the people on WordPress. I’m pretty sure most of you don’t need another how-to-write lecture, so I won’t even bother focusing on it. Instead, I’ll do something a little bit more obscure: Esperanto. Created in 1887, it’s the most widely-used constructed international auxiliary language. Basically, it was an attempt to get around the communication barrier by using with words influenced by multiple languages. And while it’s never been an official second language in any country, it still has a small but devoted following. Rather than giving a full rundown – even I don’t know everything about it – I’ll stick with just a brief lesson on counting in Esperanto:

  • 0 = Nulo  6 = ses
  • 1 = unu   7 = sep
  • 2 = du     8 = ok
  • 3 = tri     9 = naŭ
  • 4 = kvar   10 = dek
  • 5 = kvin

The tens are expressed by adding dek after the matching digit. 20 = dudek, 30 = tridek, etc. The rules for individual numbers are basically the same as they are in English; you just say the word for the corresponding ten, and whatever digit needed. For example: 11 = dek unu, 27 = dudek sep, 35 = tridek kvin,  79 = sepdek naŭ.

Still with me, right?

When you get up to a hundred, things change up just a tiny bit. 100 = cent. You know, like a penny? The rest of the rules still apply, though: 101 = cent unu, 200 = du cent, 500 = kvincent, 999 = naŭcent naŭdek naŭ. As you might guess, 1,000 = mil. You know, like the thousandth of an inch? So, following these rules a number like 2,679 = dumil sescent sepdek naŭ.

10,000 = dek mil

20,000 = dudek mil

589,345 = kvincent okdek naŭmil tricent kvardek kvin

1,000,000 = miliono

5,000,000 = kvin milionoj

Once you start getting up into the billions and beyond, things start to get…interesting. You can use words like biliono, triliono, etc., but there are different terms depending if you’re using the long or short scales for number systems. If you’re up for learning it, you can find a handy chart for it here.

Adiaŭ, amikoj!

Happy Winter Solstice!

Hey, folks. Happy Winter Solstice!

*Crickets chirping*

…Yeah, okay. It’s not exactly Christmas. But the Winter Solstice is still one of the most important days on the calendar. If you live north or south of the equator, your December 21st was abysmally short or exceptionally long respectively. Why? It’s a little thing called the axial tilt. Earth doesn’t just orbit around the sun; it does it at an angle. It’s like if you put a marshmallow on a stick, constantly spun the stick around, and held it over a campfire while walking in a circle. If you’ve got a globe handy (Does anyone actually still have one of those on their desk?), you can check it out yourself. You’ll find that it’s tilted to 23.5 degrees, just like the real thing. Oh, and while you’re looking, try finding the Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn. They mark the northern and southernmost latitudes at which the sun can appear directly overhead. The summer and winter solstices are basically the sun reaching these lines, in this case being the Tropic of Capricorn.

It’s kind of important.

Knowing the sun’s location was essential to the development modern civilization. It was the basis of our calendars and how we measure years. You know the calendar on your phone you probably never use? Yeah, they didn’t have an app for that 2,000+ years ago. A guy named Hipparchus had to do that stuff the old fashioned way: strict observations and copious amounts of trigonometry. Even that wasn’t enough; it took until 1627 for Kepler to figure out exactly how long a year lasted. And it’s still being perfected now! Since the measurements are based upon our observations of the sun, any new technologies associated with it can help get the numbers more accurate. Considering how the seasons and our calendars may not match up a few thousand years from now, it’d be nice to get things as cleared up as possible.

And you thought Daylight Savings Time was complicated.

Timekeeping aside, why is the location of the sun so important? Well, it’s basically the 15th century version of Google Maps. If you have a compass and the tools to measure the sun’s position relative to the horizon, you could better understand your position and navigate the world more safely. You think having less daylight to do your Christmas shopping is bad? Try sailing across the Atlantic Ocean. But if you’re stuck at home, the sun’s location is a huge factor in something even more essential: Food. You know all that stuff you bought for your holiday meals? A lot of it needed sunlight. And even that’s after all the agricultural advancements made in the past hundred years or so. If you have a garden, you know how this goes; I am longing for my home-grown tomatoes. Just imagine what it was like for ancient cultures who knew the seasons were changing and their food supply was going to be running low. It’s probably why there are so many rituals and festivals associated with this time of year; months of preparation and harvesting just to make sure the winter could be survived. What better way to celebrate life than to do so in the face of death?

And what better day to do it than with the Winter Solstice?

Oh, and one last thing. The Tropic of Cancer and Tropic of Capricorn? They got cool names for a reason: “Tropic” refers to the Greek tropos, or turn. Cancer and Capricorn refer to the constellations in which the sun appeared in during the respective solstices. Thus, the sun turns back from Cancer or Capricorn during the summer and winter solstices respectively. However, Capricorn is a technically outdated name; after 2,000 years of slow shifts in the Earth’s axis, the sun enters the Sagittarius constellation now. Is it time to change the maps yet?

Ryu Teaches More Than The Hadoken

Hey, folks. Today’s Daily Prompt is about learning. Specifically, what kind of learning style works best for you. It reminds me of something Ryu once said:

“Every moment gives us a chance to become more than what we are.”

I know it’s geeky taking inspiration from a video game, but still. I try to put it into practice whenever possible. It usually involves reading. I have a fiery, unbridled passion for books. I always bring something with me to read, and not just because I’m an introverted loner. If I stumble across something interesting on Wikipedia, I’ll spend hours learning everything I can about it. If I took my entire library out of storage and stacked every book in my room, it’d probably cover at least a couple of walls from floor to ceiling. I don’t have Angry Birds on my iPod; I have encyclopedias, translation guides, and access to pretty much every public domain text out there. Open Culture and Stanza (before it went defunct, at least) have been instrumental in turning my device into a portable learning tool and reference desk.

However, not everything can be learned from just reading. Take languages, for example. I’m sure I’m not the only one here who had to learn a foreign language at some point. It was a requirement for my bachelor’s degree. I chose Spanish because hey, I’m in California. People were speaking Spanish here before the state even existed. It’s going to be even more important in the country’s future. Learning accents and verb conjugations has always been easy for me, but it wasn’t just because of reading and memorizing text. It was because I practiced. Language is like a sword; when it’s not used or properly maintained, it gets rusty. The same goes with any skill. I incorporated the vocabulary into my normal routine, and I challenged myself to go through the day without speaking English. More importantly, I spoke to other people – and not just my professor – in Spanish. You’d be surprised how effective it can be.

My preferred style is a combination of distanced observation and hands-on interaction. I’m no super-detective like Sherlock Holmes, but sit me in a room and I can make detailed descriptions and conjecture about pretty much everything. For years, I worked in the customer service industry when things were still done the old-fashioned way: face-to-face with an actual, physical person. Yeah, remember that? So quaint. It taught me how to read people’s faces, vocal tones, and other little nuances in a conversation’s subtext. Whenever I review a video game or a book, I always approach it from an analytical standpoint, so much so that I need to remind myself to have fun. You can get a whole new level of enjoyment out of something if apply what you’ve learned; anyone well-versed in Jungian psychology will get a kick out of how Persona 4 plays out. If I can’t figure something out by just observing it, I’ll try to handle it myself. Yeah, I was the kid taking clocks apart and mixing paints together. It may have been messy, but it was worth it.

It still is. Thanks, Ryu.