A Flying Up Full Moon of August

The Full Moon for this month will be on August 11. To be precise the Moon goes officially 100% full at 9:36 p.m. ET. (That’s 01:36 GMT on August 12.) But if I have a clear night in my neighborhood, I’ll walk outside and look up at it when I have the chance.

You usually hear this August Full Moon called the Sturgeon Moon, but that really only applied to places like the Great Lakes and Lake Champlain where this big fish was easiest to catch at this point in summer.

Sturgeon are very strange prehistoric-looking fish and rightly so as they have been traced back to around 136 million years ago.

Secretary bird leaves treetop nest.Secretary bird leaving nest  – via Flickr

This year I chose the Flying Up Moon, a Cree term for the Full Moon that was used to mark this time when young birds seemed to be ready to leave the nest – the Flying Up Moon.

But those fish are pretty interesting. The word “sturgeon” means “stirrer,” and that is what this giant fish does to the muddy river and lake bottoms as it looks for food. The females require around 20 years to start reproducing, and they can only reproduce every 4 years – but they can live up to 150 years. They are not exactly the same as in prehistoric times when they were the size of bass. There are more than 20 species and some can get to be the size of a small car (about 10 feet).

sturgeon

I saw a sturgeon once in my home state of New Jersey in the Delaware River. That is the habitat of New Jersey’s only endangered fish species. It was a shortnose sturgeon (Acipenser brevirostrum) and big, but not compact car big. The ones in NJ were fished almost to extinction in the past centuries because caviar is made from the roe (eggs) of different breeds of sturgeon.

A more likely Native American name for this month in the land of Paradelle would be Corn Moon which was used by the Algonquin and Ojibwe. Depending on what tribes were in your part of America the name might have been Harvest Moon (Dakota), Ricing Moon (Anishinaabe), while the Assiniboine people named this period Black Cherries Moon, referring to when chokecherries become ripe.


My World Wide Web Adventure

On this day, August 6, in 1991, Tim Berners-Lee first posted, on Usenet, a public invitation for collaboration with the WorldWideWeb project. WorldWideWeb is the first web browser and web page editor. The post started something that revolutionized modern life. You are using it right now.

Tim published the first website, which described the project itself, in December 1990. It was available on the Internet from the CERN network. Berners-Lee worked for CERN (the European Organization for Nuclear Research) and he invented his service so that scientists could easily share and access information via the Internet.

The infrastructure of the Internet had been around for some years but it was a highly technical system known mostly to academics and scientists. Tim’s idea was to use the Net to connect documents with clickable links (hypertext) and make them searchable.

His August 6, 1991 post gave an explanation of the project, how people could use a browser and set up a web server, and get started with their own website. It had the simple but encouraging headline “Try it.”WorldWideWeb – the browser was later renamed Nexus to avoid confusion between the software and the World Wide Web itself.

The World Wide Web, which became known simply as the Web, is that www that used to be common to web addresses. It is what allows documents and other web resources to be accessed over the Internet. The first Web server was CERN HTTPd. We still see HTTP (Hypertext Transfer Protocol) in addresses, more often now with an “s” at the end to show the site is secure – as in https://ronkowitzllc.com.

I met Tim Berners-Lee in 1997. My friend Steve Smith and I acted as advisors for a team of high school students in a website design competition sponsored by ThinkQuest. ThinkQuest was a global competition to create an educational website that was a collection of student-built educational sites. I never met the three students in person until we were given a first-place award and attended the awards ceremony in Washington, DC. Tim Berners-Lee was one of the speakers and presenters. I was quite awestruck to meet Tim and totally intimidated to ask any kind of technical question. It was only that year that I created my own first few websites.

The coaches and kids there from around the world had a pretty good idea of how important he was to the history of the world. Years later, a panel of eminent scientists, academics, writers, and world leaders were asked to make a list of 80 cultural moments that shaped the world. The invention of the World Wide Web was ranked number one. They said, “The fastest growing communications medium of all time, the Internet has changed the shape of modern life forever. We can connect with each other instantly, all over the world.”

The time we spent in DC was very interesting. Our website was called “The Motion Picture Industry: Behind-the-Scenes” and it contained sections on film history, the filmmaking process, interviews with film producers, several self-made short films, their production diary, a movie production simulation game, and a scriptwriting tool. Steve and I played no part in writing the code. That was the point of the competition. We acted as soundingboards and occasionally as “voices of reason.” The kids built the site. In fact, one member was much more advanced than either Steve or me.

The presenter for our category was supposed to be James L. Brooks, the director, producer, screenwriter, and co-founder of Gracie Films. His television and film work includes The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Roda, Taxi, The Simpsons, Broadcast News, As Good as It Gets, and Terms of Endearment. Unfortunately, he never made it there. Soccer great Mia Hamm and Berners-Lee filled in with the presenting part. Both of them were very nice to us.

But Brooks’ wife at the time, Holly, was there and we ended up hanging out with her. She had a brand new not-available-to-consumers digital video camera she was using. I pitched several ideas for The Simpsons (that never got on air) to that camera. Her friend for the weekend was Patty Smyth who was married to tennis bad boy John MacEnroe – but Steve and I knew her as the singer in the rock band Scandal. They were fun to hang out with. Probably more fun than James and John would have been.

We also got a special after-hours tour of the new Star Wars exhibit at the Smithsonian. In our tour group were Sonny Bono and his son. This was not the Sonny of Sonny & Cher days but the Sonny who had been mayor of Palm Springs and was then a Republican congressman from California. He made sure we knew that by wearing a leather bomber jacket with the seal of Congress embroidered on the back. Sonny corrected me on a comment I made about Boba Fett who was his son’s favorite character. Sonny died the following year in a skiing accident.

ThinkQuest was created in 1996 and in 2002 it was taken over by the Oracle Education Foundation and was known as Oracle ThinkQuest. I did several more teams including another winning team in ThinkQuest Jr. for middle school students that was comprised of one of my sons, two of his friends, and a student from the school where I was teaching. I believe the competition itself ended in 2008. The sites seem to have been taken down but I found an archive of parts of ThinkQuest on the Wayback Machine at archive.org and also some other references, including this one from Japan referencing our 1997 winner.

August 1

Every day is full of birthdays, but today has five famous folk’s birthdays that I mark. Since they are all dead, is today more of an anniversary?

On top of my list is Herman Melville who was born on this day in 1819 in New York City in a family of Revolutionary War heroes and once-prominent merchants. In Herman’s time, the family was in decline and in financial instability. His own literary career also began with success and attention but despite writing masterpieces such as Moby-Dick, the end of his career was in almost total obscurity.

Allen Ginsberg was born in Newark, New Jersey, and grew up in nearby Paterson. He was the second son of Louis Ginsberg, a schoolteacher and sometime poet, and the former Naomi Levy, a Russian emigree and fervent Marxist.

Though they both wrote poetry and it was very different, Ginsberg admired Melville’s poetry. “I think he’s one of the four great poets of the nineteenth-century – Dickinson, Melville, Poe and Whitman. His work in poetry isn’t as well known, but it’s great.”  

There are some songwriters born on this day who might be considered, if not poets then poetic.  Ramblin’ Jack Elliott  (born Elliot Charles Adnopoz) was born in Brooklyn in 1931.

Poet and rocker  Jim Carroll was born in New York on August 1, 1949.

The third musician and songwriter was Grateful Dead guitarist, Jerry Garcia, born in 1942 on this day in San Francisco.

Heartbeats From Deep Space

All the remarkable pictures coming to us in the past few weeks from the new space telescope have some people thinking again about what is “out there” and also about who might be out there too.

I read that it is unlikely that the telescope will show us any signs of other intelligent life, but it might show signs of some life forms. Bacteria and such don’t make for summer blockbuster films, so that idea doesn’t get people very excited.

magnetar – a type of neutron star with a powerful magnetic field

But scientists have picked up a radio signal they are calling a “heartbeat” billions of light-years away. Astronomers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and other sites have picked up radio signals that repeat in a clear periodic pattern similar to a beating heart from a galaxy billions of light-years from Earth. The signal was found to last up to three seconds (that is 1,000 times longer than the average radio burst) and repeat every .2 seconds, like a heartbeat.

The scientists don’t think it is some alien sitting at a control panel sending out a message. Though there are not many things in the universe that emit strictly periodic signals, there are some. In our own galaxy, radio pulsars and magnetars rotate and produce a beamed emission, like a lighthouse. 

That’s not a very Romantic explanation of the signal. The alien sending out the signal like E.T.’s heart would be a lot more interesting. But the discovery could help researchers determine at what speed the universe is expanding.

What I do find capital R Romantic is the idea of this “heartbeat” billions of light-years away. Since the time of Edwin Hubble, it has been known the Universe is expanding. More recently, observations have shown that this expansion is accelerating. The reason for this acceleration is unknown but it has been suggested that “Dark Energy” is causing the expansion rate to increase. The origin and physics of this Dark Energy are presently unknown.

At the Age of 14

The summer that I was 14 was not my favorite summer. I guess I was supposed to be excited to be starting high school in September. But our ninth grade was in the same building as grades 7 and 8 in the configuration known as a junior high school in the days before middle schools. It didn’t seem like a big deal to be a freshman in the same building.

My father had gotten very sick the summer I was 10. He had a brain tumor and when they removed it he was paralyzed on the left side of his body. I was 10, and that was the last summer of my childhood.

What set me down this sad nostalgic path to the past was a calendar reminder on my phone that today is the 14th birthday or anniversary of this Weekends in Paradelle blog. That’s almost as hard to grasp as how many years it has been since I was 14.

Weekends in Paradelle started July 30, 2008. I was still toiling full-time in the fields of academia. Actually, I had recently changed jobs moving from one college to another college to direct a writing initiative that was a five-year federal grant. I thought then that the grant would carry me to a point where I might consider retirement from classrooms and campuses, but the end of that grant didn’t mean retirement. But that’s a different story.

As you can read in the first post on this blog, I intended this to be a place for things that didn’t fit on other blogs I was using. More personal, I suppose. It took a month to two to find its place.

The”paradelle” part comes from an invented poetry form – part villanelle, part parody. It is a form I have tried my hand at writing. rather difficult.

The “weekends” was my idea of controlling the posting and limiting myself to Saturdays, Sundays, and sometimes Friday nights. I’ve stayed with that except for the occasional celestial observation that occurs during the week. A Full Moon on Wednesday will get a midweek post.

“Memory is partly fact, partly fumes,” writes Norman Lock in A Fugitive from Walden Pond. I picked up that novel at one of the local leave-a-book-take-a-book Little Libraries in my neighborhood. It was the title that hooked me, since I have been a Walden fan since I read that book the summer I was 14. That’s just one of those many synchronicities.

I didn’t know it was the fourth book in Lock’s historical novel series. It is about a slave, Samuel Long, who escapes from Virginia, and travels the Underground Railroad to Massachusetts. In Walden Woods, he meets Henry David Thoreau, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nathaniel Hawthorne, William Lloyd Garrison, and other transcendentalists and abolitionists. Having made my own journey a few years ago to Walden and encountered all those characters via their homes, books, and graves, I enjoyed the read.

But is memory “partly fact, partly fumes”? Perhaps. I’ve read in several places that our memories change every time we access them. Some of the recollection is fact and i suppose you could call the rest “fumes” from those facts. Fume is an odd word to choose since it is defined as “a smoke, vapor, or gas especially when irritating or offensive.” It goes back to Latin fūmus “smoke” and it shows up in fumigate and the verb form is to be in a state of excited irritation or anger.

Happily, most of my memories are not irritating or offensive. They are partly fact and possibly partly hazy, as through smoke, and not as clear as they once were to me.

I begin another year in Paradelle, my weekend getaway. The weather is excellent today. Clear and not too hot or humid. My 2-year-old granddaughter is her on an overnighter visit. We walked to the Little Library up the block and she found a book she wanted to bring home. She had her sippy cup, we read the book, and now she’s napping as I type. This memory is all fact and partly perfumed by her.

Bid Time Return

Despite all the stories and films and my own best efforts, it doesn’t seem like we will be able to time travel in my lifetime. Readers of this blog know that time travel is a topic I write about rather often. I have come to the somewhat disappointing conclusion that there are only a few ways that I can travel back in time. (I haven’t figured out any travel to the future methods yet.)

One way is simply by using memories. They are, of course, somewhat inaccurate as each time we recall something from the past, we seem to alter it slightly. Still, it is the most common time travel tool.

In the 1975 science fiction novel Somewhere in Time by Richard Matheson and movie version (Somewhere in Time starring Christopher Reeve and Jane Seymour), the protagonist, Richard, finds a method of time travel (found in J. B. Priestley‘s very odd book Man and Time about many theories of time) that involves performing self-hypnosis to convince his mind that he’s in the past.

Richard in the 1970s is dying. He decides he wants to spend his last days back in time. He is motivated by a picture of a woman on a hotel wall that he finds himself attracted to – although she was a famous stage actress who performed at the hotel in the 1890s. He stays in the historic hotel and buys an 1890s suit to wear to help reinforce his traveling back to that place and time. He surrounds himself with that time and place. It works.

Photographs and video are also commonly used for traveling back in time. I often wonder how my grandchildren’s memories will be different than mine simply because of the unbelievable amount of photo and video evidence of their lives that already exist. My sons grew up with me photographing them with film cameras. Film and processing and printing were expensive, so I was a bit limited pre-digital. I also took a lot of videos. Most of that was on a big VHS camcorder. Those tapes were converted to DVDs eventually and now I suppose I should convert them to digital files if I want them to survive. The black and white photos my parents took of me as a child still exist in their original format and don’t require conversions – though I have scanned a lot of them so they could enter the digital age. When I look through old photo albums, it is a kind of time traveling to the past.

A third time-traveling method came to mind recently when my wife and I went to France. We were walking through the little town of Pérouges. This medieval walled town is northeast of Lyon and has been kept very much intact over the centuries. As we walked the narrow paths through the own and when I climbed the watchtower on this small hill that overlooks the plain of the river Ain, I did feel myself back in time.

No, I didn’t see ghosts from centuries past. I touched objects that were ancient. I stood where people had stood 900 years ago. I didn’t time travel, but I did feel something.

Watchtower, Pérouges

According to the archaeological findings, humans have been present at Pérouges since the Chalcolithic Age (about –2500 to –1800). They don’t know when the fortress was built but its first written mention appears in the 12th century, so it is assumed to have been built in that period.

It still looks like a place from almost 1000 years ago. Films set in medieval times are sometimes filmed there, including Les trois mousquetaires (The Three Musketeers)(1961), The Bride (1985), and The Hour of the Pig (1993)

This past week the James Webb Space Telescope’s photos of deep space became another kind of time travel. It is showing us light that began a journey towards us at the birth of the universe.

The line that intrigues me most in the graphic above is this: “If you were in a Virgo Cluster galaxy today, and you had a telescope powerful enough to study the Earth, you would be able to see the prehistoric reptiles.” It’s theoretical and probably not possible, but you could see the dinosaurs. You could see the past. From place in deep space, with that powerful telescope, I could see my past.

Richard Matheson’s original title for Somewhere in Time was Bid Time Return. That comes from a line in William Shakespeare’s Richard II (Act III, Scene 2): “O call back yesterday, bid time return.” At the conclusion of the novel, after Richard has died, a doctor claims that the time-traveling experience occurred only in Richard’s mind. It was the desperate fantasy of a dying man. Richard’s brother is not completely convinced and publishes his brother’s journal of the experience which is the novel.

We are all traveling forward in time. You’re traveling as you read this sentence. Do you want to go back? Go much further forward? So far, I have not found any ways to travel forward in time. I’m still searching.