Housekeeping is a relativistic quantity

Fun with my step counter app 1

JISHOU, HUNAN — I walk a lot. I don’t have a car here, or a Chinese driver’s license, and the campus is compact enough I don’t need a bike. So I walk. I got a cheap little pedometer on my last visit to the States, but I dropped it two days after arriving here, so it’s a goner. Then I realized “there’s an app for that,” so I installed a step counter on my Android phone. Today I was exceptionally walkative. I had classes in the morning, afternoon and evening, so I was in and out of my mountain aerie three times. (I live halfway up a large hill, or small mountain. My apartment is about level with the 16th floor of the main classroom building at the bottom of the hill.) So, here’s today’s stats. 5,781 steps, 3.3 km (about 2 miles). If the app is to be trusted, I did this walking within 41 minutes, for an average speed of 5 km/hr or 3 mph. That seems a little high, considering it was about 95 degrees today, so I wasn’t doing my usual New York strut. Those outings included one round trip to my morning classes, one round ...

My gmail account has been compromised

JIANGMEN, GUANGDONG — Someone has hijacked my gmail address and is spamming people on my contacts list. If you get an email from “me” with a link to a pixfoto site, DO NOT OPEN IT OR FOLLOW THE LINK!! I have changed my gmail password and will notify gmail’s service department. Meanwhile, I will investigate myself

Happy Blog Anniversary! 14

JISHOU, HUNAN –Seven years! Can you believe it? I’m not sure I do, considering how quickly those years went. Seven years ago, I was a high school physics teacher with the lofty goal of combatting scientific ignorance and the less lofty goal of giving vent to my opinions. Now I also blog about my life in China, including teaching English as a Foreign Language and traveling around the Middle Kingdom, music, movies and anything else that pops into my head. In other words, it’s a smörgåsbord of topics. (And boy, I could really go for some smoked salmon right about now.) My WordPress dashboard reports I have made 931 posts, which have received 1,506 comments, in those seven years. That works out to roughly 11 posts and 18 comments a month — not exactly a super-busy blog, but good considering how busy I am sometimes. Some bloggers manage at least one post a day. Clearly, they are either more dedicated or less discriminating about sharing their thoughts than I am. Or maybe they re-post a lot. WordPress continues to be my favorite application for this sort of thing. Thanks to it and my webhosts at, I’ve had very little ...

Playing around with Soundcloud – Jazz bassist Linda Oh tracks

JISHOU, HUNAN — On my last free day before inflicting final exams to my students, I updated iTunes to version 11, started an NCIS season 1 download and checked out New Jazz Artists. Bassist Linda Oh caught my eye (and ear). She was born in Malaysia of Chinese parents, grew up in Perth, Australia, and now works in NYC. Bassists taking lead are pretty rare in the jazz world (one example being Ron Carter), so I decided to check out music. I like it. This track from her debut album is a bit avant garde, so if you’re not a hardcore jazz fan, you might not care for it. Her bass playing is really strong. (I like the comic book style cover art, too.) This one is more melodic. Enjoy.

Happy New Year! 1

JISHOU, HUNAN — It’s 2013. Have a good one, y’all.

Get a box of Beethoven for 99 cents

This is too good deal to pass up. I’m downloading it now from Amazon. Big Box of Beethoven

WordPress to Facebook feed working again, but for how long?

JISHOU, HUNAN — There’s a new plugin for WordPress — Wordbooker — that once again restores the connection I had between my blog and my Facebook timeline, at least until the wonks at FB change their code again. A previous plugin just stopped working, so I resorted to a kludge: automatically tweet my posts, using a functional WordPress plugin, and link my Twitter feed to my Facebook status. This worked fine, but also meant anytime I (rarely) tweeted, those tweets would end up on FB, puzzling anyone who was not following that particular Twitter thread. Wordbooker solves the problem, so I’ve turned off the Twitter-to-FB feed. The new plugin may also make it possible to once again transfer comments between FB and the blog, a neat function that another obsoleted plugin had provided. The kludge also tended to post random images in my Facebook timeline if there was none in the post: the Akismet graphic and the TigerDirect sales logo in the righthand sidebar, for example. Those thankfully have gone away, making the feed look somewhat more professional.

Well, still here

JISHOU, HUNAN — In case you were worried, the end of the world has not come as some predicted. It’s midway through Dec. 21 here in China, and everything is copacetic. You do know that all that hoo-roar about the Mayan calendar was a lot of hogwash, don’t you? Good. Have a great weekend! Woo-hoo!

Busy again, so just a quick post

JISHOU, HUNAN — Today is 12/12/12. Celebrate however you like, a dozen doughnuts, 12 ounces of your favorite drink, 12 chocolate eclairs, 12 shots of JD — whatever. Another day like this won’t come for another 89 years. (Think about it. We can’t have 13/13/13 and so on. So, we have to wait until 1/1/2101.) Tomorrow is Saint Lucia Day. If your family isn’t Swedish or Norwegian, then nevermind. Conversely, you can lie to your kids and persuade the eldest daughter to wake up early and serve you coffee and pastries in bed. Hey, it could work! On a more serious note, the world lost two great musicians recently, both at remarkably advanced ages. Dave Brubeck died at 91, a day before his birthday. Ravi Shankar died at 92. Brubeck was one of the pioneers of “cool jazz” in the 1950s. His most known number is Take Five, which has been covered by so many musicians (including China’s 12 Girls Band) that it’s impossible to list them all. I was fortunate to hear him in concert back in the ’80s. A great musician, and a really nice man. Five of his six children became musicians. Here is Brubeck and his ...

Another clever xkcd comic – describing the Saturn V in simple English

Take the ten hundred words we use most often to talk about the “Up-Goer 5*, the only flying space car that has taken anyone to another world.” Then you will see how your sentences can be short if you know more words. The picture is really big, so I will not put it here. You need to put the pointing thing over this word and hit the hand control thing on the left one time to see it. Do the point-and-hand-control thing here to see the ten hundred words we use most often. —— * That’s the Saturn V, the launch vehicle for the Apollo missions to the Moon.

More origins details

JISHOU, HUNAN — The amateur sleuths tracking down the origins of the Wheatons have uncovered another intriguing detail — the likely origin of the surname. DNA tests of several members of our FamilyTreeDNA surname group have shown there are at least four unrelated family lines sharing the same surname from Devon, England. That in itself is no big surprise. Surnames are a relatively new thing in European culture, dating from the late Middle Ages. Before surnames became common, people went by their given names and perhaps their hometown or occupation, “John, the smith,” “Mary, from Edinburgh” and so on. In the Scandinavian countries, the custom was to use one’s father’s name (patronymic) as a second name: Brita Persdotter “Brita, daughter of Peter,” for example. This custom fell out of fashion in Sweden in the 19th century, but Icelanders still name themselves this way. (Apparently, the Reykjavik phone book is alphabetized by first names for this reason.) It seems that the four Devon Wheaton branches took the surname from a location in Devon, a tiny hamlet named Wheaton. On modern maps, the name is now Whiddon. If you follow this link, you can see a very old farmhouse there called Lower ...
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