Moon of Horses

Celtic Moon with Horse
A coin from Armorica, Gaul showing stylized head and a horse (Jersey moon head style, circa 100-50BC) via Wikimedia

Before the sun rises tomorrow morning, the Moon will become full (4:31 AM EDT). You probably won’t notice it until tomorrow night, and you might consider the Moon to look full tonight.

The June Full Moon is commonly known as the Strawberry Moon, because this is the peak of the short picking season for that berry. Well, maybe it is the peak where you live. It is not a Strawberry Moon everywhere. That was the name used by just about every Algonquin tribe. Europeans called this the Rose Moon, and roses are more likely to be blooming in Paradelle than I am to be picking strawberries.

Another old European name for this full Moon is the Mead Moon or the Honey Moon. Mead is a drink created by fermenting honey mixed with water, sometimes with fruits, spices, grains, or hops. The tradition of calling the first month of marriage the “honeymoon” dates back to at least the 1500’s. It may be connected to this Full Moon, either because of the custom of marrying in June or because the “Honey Moon” is the “sweetest” Moon of the year.

As spring ends and summer begins, the daily periods of sunlight lengthen to their longest on the solstice, then begin to shorten again.

Among the Cherokee people, this was known as the Green Corn Moon. It is early for even green corn in my area. There are three federally recognized Cherokee tribes today: the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians in North Carolina, the United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians (UKB) in Oklahoma, and the Cherokee Nation (CN) in Oklahoma. The Cherokee Nation has more than 300,000 tribal members, making it the largest of the 567 federally recognized tribes in the United States.

The Dakotah Sioux were safely more generic with the name Moon When June Berries Are Ripe.

This was also known as the Dyan Moon (today as the Dyad Moon) in medieval England. Dyad is an archaic word meaning pair. It was thought that at this time of the year, the effects of the Sun and Moon are equal.

horsesThere are many cultural legends that connect the Sun and Moon as husband and wife, maid and suitor, brother and sister.

This is the Moon of Horses to ancient and latter-day Celts and Druids.  The Celts called this Equos, “horse-time, which is from the middle of June to the middle of July.

The calendar known as the “Coligny calendar” is one that was made in Roman Gaul in the 2nd century. It also has a Equos. It has an interesting five-year cycle of a lunisolar calendar with intercalary months. Intercalary means that a leap day, week, or month is inserted into some calendar years to make the calendar follow the seasons or moon phases. It reminds me more of the Maya calendar than the ones that are most widely used today.

Are the Celts also the Gauls?  Caesar wrote that the Gauls called themselves Celtae. Gaul was a geographic area (modern France and northern Italy) and “Gauls” were the people who lived there according to the Romans. Linguistically, the people who lived in Gaul were Celts, and this was the main distinction made by the early historians.

I could not find an explanation of why the Celts and Druids called this horse-time or what meaning the Moon of Horses had to them. But this Full Moon of very early summer definitely ushers in the season which officially begins later this week.

Just the Facts, Ma’am

Dragnet - just the factsThe old television police drama, Dragnet, included the catch phrase “Just the facts, ma’am,” that was often used by the detective Joe Friday when questioning (rather misogynistically) women who were telling him too much irrelevant information.

It seems quite difficult these days to get “just the facts” or even figure out what statements are facts.

This past week I read an article in The New Yorker about why facts don’t change our minds. That seems to be particularly relevant in this time of claims about “fake news” and “alternative facts.” The article is about a number of studies done by researchers that show that our minds have limitations when it comes to reasoning about facts.

One study gave participants 25 pairs of suicide notes and, being told that one was real and one was fake, they were asked to distinguish the real from the fake. Half of the notes were truly real, but the experiment actually was meant to examine how randomly telling some participants that they were very accurate in their answers and telling others they were very poor in distinguishing the differences would affect them.

In the second part of the study, they were all told that they had been deceived and that the real point of the experiment was to gauge their responses to thinking they were right or wrong. Now, they were asked to estimate how many suicide notes they had actually categorized correctly.

Those who had been told they had scored high on the first part thought they did significantly better than the average person. This happened even though they knew they had no reason to believe those first results meant anything. “Once formed, impressions are remarkably perseverant,” said the researchers.

This kind of experiment has been done many times with the same results.

You might have read or heard about the term “confirmation bias.” This is the tendency of people to embrace information that supports their beliefs and reject information that contradicts them. If you tend to always watch the news channel that gives you the version of the news you already believe, you are a good example of confirmation bias.

Another experiment described in the article used two groups who had been selected because they had opposing opinions about capital punishment. They were given two studies to read – one with data to support capital punishment as a reasonable deterrent, the other study had data that refuted the deterrence argument. Both studies were fictional.

That group that initially supported capital punishment rated the pro-deterrence data highly credible and the anti-deterrence data unconvincing. Those in the other group did the reverse. No surprise?

Did their views change at all at the end of the study? No, in fact, perhaps more surprisingly, the pro-capital punishment people were now even more in favor of it. Those who had opposed it were more opposed.

Based on that study, if an MSNBC news watcher watched FOX news for a day, it would not help them reach a more moderate view or consensus. He would be even more convinced that MSNBC was telling the truth. Confirmation bias leads us to dismiss evidence that goes against our beliefs, and facts don’t change our minds.

This is not a good thing.


Sunrise, Sunset

sunrise sunset

Being a bit of an insomniac, I often see the sunrise. I don’t live on the Atlantic coast, sso I don’t get to see those horizon sunsets that often.  I’m always awake for the sunset, which in my neighborhood sets at a not very distant mountain. It disappears from my view before the official time of sunset.  People west of that mountain still see the sun up for some time.  It is a relative thing in our perception, though not astronomically.

When is the earliest sunrise and latest sunset of the year? The exact date of earliest sunrise (and earliest sunset) varies with latitude.  Paradelle is at 40 degrees north latitude. Here, the earliest sunrise of the year was this morning (June 14) at 5:25 AM. I saw it a bit later rise above a mountain ridge to the east. (Paradelle is between two mountain ridges called First Mountain and Second Mountain.

Is the photo above a sunrise over First Mountain or a sunset at Second Mountain? They really look about the same.

The latest sunset of the year for me will fall on or near June 27. That is not to be confused with the longest day of the year  (the day containing the greatest amount of overall daylight) which is on the solstice on June 21.

The earliest sunrises come before the summer solstice because the day is more than 24 hours long at this time of the year. In the Southern Hemisphere, the earliest sunsets of the year come before the winter solstice for the same reason. How is that possible? The main reason is the inclination of the Earth’s rotational axis.  At the summer solstice next week, Earth is close to aphelion (farthest point from the sun) which lessens the effect. Conversely, at the December solstice, Earth is close to perihelion (closest point to the sun) which accentuates the effect.

You can ask your phone or your computer for when sunrise and sunset times are for your home.

The Barnum Effect

I just learned this weekend about the Barnum Effect (also known as the Forer Effect). This is when you believe that a vague or general description of personality traits is accurate.

The reference to P.T Barnum is actually a put-down about your gullibility. Who was Barnum? If you saw the film The Greatest Showman you know this 19-century circus entrepreneur. Barnum is also known for touring museum/carnival full of live freak shows and sensational attractions. Many of them were hoaxes.

Barnum is often credited with saying “There’s a sucker born every minute.” Whether he said it or not, he definitely believed it.

As a psychological term, Paul Meehl coined the phrase in 1956 in reference to clinical procedures in which personality descriptions from tests are made to fit the patient. He described it as making a statement that is trivial and true of nearly all patients, but which is made as though it is important for the current patient.

If you ever read your horoscope or take one of those personality tests popular on social media and you believed the results, you have had the Barnum/Forer Effect.

This effect can provide a partial explanation for the widespread acceptance of some paranormal beliefs and practices, such as astrology, fortune telling, aura reading, and some types of personality tests. And it is why mediums, astrologers, mentalists and hypnotists can seem to be really doing something significant and accurate.

I suspect that positive traits are easier for us to believe. When the test/reading/horoscope/medium tells us that “You have a great sense of humour but also know when to be serious,” who is going to argue with that?  Actually, many of these traits are two-parters – “You are quiet and introspective at times, but you also like to have a good time in the right situation.”  Yes, that’s me.

Bertram Forer gave his psychology students a personality test and then gave them a ‘personality sketch’ made up of 14 sentences which supposedly summed up their personalities. The students were asked to rate the accuracy of the descriptions from 1 to 5, and the average score was 4.3. But they all got exactly the same descriptions.

The descriptions he used included these four. Do they describe you?
You are an independent thinker and need proof from others before you’ll change your mind.
You tend to be critical of yourself.
You are easily bored and need variety in your life.
You are not using your full potential.

They describe me.

There has even been criticism of established tests, such as the Myer-Briggs Personality Test based on this effect.

So, why do we believe these things? Is it just because some feed our ego? Researchers call this subjective (or personal) validation. It’s a cognitive bias. We tend to accept a description or statement if it contains something that is personal to us or is significant to us. That includes some statement that seem negative. “You are not using your full potential,” is not a good thing, but it implies that you have greater potential, which is a positive thing.

Someone goes to a medium after the death of a loved one. They want to make contact with the deceased person. They are invested in it working.  They want validation. If the answers are made personal to them and if they are what they wanted to hear, there is a good chance they will believe them, but that doesn’t mean it’s true.

I’m not sure all of Barnum’s scams fit into the same categories. For example, back in 1835, he purchased an 80-year-old black slave. He then claimed that she was President George Washington’s 161-old nursemaid. She was blind and disabled and appeared older than her years. She was in on the hoax. She sang songs and told stories of her time with young George. Why did people believe she was 161 years old? Why did audiences believe he had the Cardiff Giant? That one was his hoax on the British Cardiff Giant who was also a hoax.

I suspect there is at least one sucker born every minute.

At a Drive-In Movie

drive-in screen
via Flickr

This week was the anniversary of the first patented drive-in movie theater which opened on June 6, 1933 in Camden, New Jersey.

Richard Hollingshead Jr. worked at his dad’s auto parts store in Camden, but wanted to do something else. Movies, in this difficult Depression era, were a popular form of escape from the daily grind. From what I have read, Richard was also thinking about his mother, who was carrying some extra weight and found movie theater seats quite uncomfortable. Of course, there was no television, so you couldn’t watch movies from the comfort of your couch.

Hollingshead applied for a patent and opened his drive-in theater on Crescent Boulevard in Camden. It cost 25 cents per car and 25 cents per person but the price was capped at one dollar. He actually called it a “Park-In” theater, but as the trend grew “drive-in” became the accepted label.

Drive-ins peaked in popularity in the late 1950s and early 1960s with about 4000 drive-in theaters in the United States. Now, I read that there are less than 500, perhaps less than that at this writing.

I recall many a movie seen at the drive-in during my younger days in New Jersey. I never made it to that original in Camden. Our family went to the Union Drive-In. We didn’t see kids films. I think my parents thought that the playground before the film and some snack bar goodies was enough for my sister and I, and that we would fall asleep by the time the movie started. For some reason, I remember us seeing The Story of Ruth (1960).  My last visit to that drive-in was with my wife-to-be (who had never been to a drive-in) for a heavy summer double bill of Serpico  and The Exorcist It was hot and you needed the car windows open and the Jersey mosquitoes were out in strength. We didn’t make it through both films.

An article on the Mental Floss website about the best of the remaining drive-ins in America. One that I could still visit is Shankweiler’s Drive-In Theater  in Orefield, Pennsylvania. It opened in 1934, making it PA’s first drive-in and the second drive-in theater in the U.S. Now, it is the longest operating drive-in in America.

Another one that I have been to is the Wellfleet Drive-In Theatre in Wellfleet, Massachusetts. This 1957 location is Cape Cod’s only drive-in. At the Shankweiler’s you can get funnel cake at the snack bar, and at the Wellfleet you can get oysters.  while watching double-feature first-run films.

Drive-in movies had a reputation in the 50s and 60s as places to go on a date to make out, but now they are more often seen as places for families and are often attached to playgrounds and shopping areas.


National Moment of Remembrance

NMR logo

A short reminder post that the National Moment of Remembrance, established by Congress, asks Americans, wherever they are at 3 p.m. local time on Memorial Day, to pause in an act of national unity for a duration of one minute.

Congress officially established the National Moment of Remembrance to put “memorial” back into the holiday and reclaim the day for the purpose in which it was intended.

In Paradelle, that time is in 30 minutes from this posting. The time 3 p.m. was chosen because it is the time when most Americans are enjoying their freedoms on this national holiday.

The Moment was not meant to replace traditional Memorial Day events; rather, it is an act of national unity in which all Americans, alone or with family and friends, honor those who died in service to the United States.

As laid out in Public Law 106-579, the National Moment of Remembrance is to be practiced by all Americans throughout the nation at 3pm local time. At the same time, a number of organizations throughout the country also observe the Moment. For example,  all Major League Baseball games halt and Amtrak train whistles sound.