Casey At The Bat

Submitted by cvining on

Ernest Lawrence Thayer

The outlook wasn’t brilliant for the Mudville nine that day:
The score stood four to two, with but one inning more to play,
And then when Cooney died at first, and Barrows did the same,
A pall-like silence fell upon the patrons of the game.

A straggling few got up to go in deep despair. The rest
Clung to the hope which springs eternal in the human breast;
They thought, “If only Casey could but get a whack at that—
We’d put up even money now, with Casey at the bat.”

But Flynn preceded Casey, as did also Jimmy Blake,
And the former was a hoodoo, while the latter was a cake;
So upon that stricken multitude grim melancholy sat,
For there seemed but little chance of Casey getting to the bat.

But Flynn let drive a single, to the wonderment of all,
And Blake, the much despisèd, tore the cover off the ball;
And when the dust had lifted, and men saw what had occurred,
There was Jimmy safe at second and Flynn a-hugging third.

Then from five thousand throats and more there rose a lusty yell;
It rumbled through the valley, it rattled in the dell;
It pounded on the mountain and recoiled upon the flat,
For Casey, mighty Casey, was advancing to the bat.

There was ease in Casey’s manner as he stepped into his place;
There was pride in Casey’s bearing and a smile lit Casey’s face.
And when, responding to the cheers, he lightly doffed his hat,
No stranger in the crowd could doubt ‘twas Casey at the bat.

Ten thousand eyes were on him as he rubbed his hands with dirt;
Five thousand tongues applauded when he wiped them on his shirt;
Then while the writhing pitcher ground the ball into his hip,
Defiance flashed in Casey’s eye, a sneer curled Casey’s lip.

And now the leather-covered sphere came hurtling through the air,
And Casey stood a-watching it in haughty grandeur there.
Close by the sturdy batsman the ball unheeded sped—
“That ain’t my style," said Casey. “Strike one!” the umpire said.

From the benches, black with people, there went up a muffled roar,
Like the beating of the storm-waves on a stern and distant shore;
“Kill him! Kill the umpire!” shouted someone on the stand;
And it’s likely they’d have killed him had not Casey raised his hand.

With a smile of Christian charity great Casey’s visage shone;
He stilled the rising tumult; he bade the game go on;
He signaled to the pitcher, and once more the dun sphere flew;
But Casey still ignored it and the umpire said, “Strike two!”

“Fraud!” cried the maddened thousands, and echo answered “Fraud!”
But one scornful look from Casey and the audience was awed.
They saw his face grow stern and cold, they saw his muscles strain,
And they knew that Casey wouldn’t let that ball go by again.

The sneer is gone from Casey’s lip, his teeth are clenched in hate,
He pounds with cruel violence his bat upon the plate;
And now the pitcher holds the ball, and now he lets it go,
And now the air is shattered by the force of Casey’s blow.

Oh, somewhere in this favoured land the sun is shining bright,
The band is playing somewhere, and somewhere hearts are light;
And somewhere men are laughing, and somewhere children shout,
But there is no joy in Mudville—mighty Casey has struck out.

This poem is in the public domain.

H.L. Mencken Interview from 1948

Submitted by cvining on

Dad was a great admirer of Mencken and I was recently inspired to look up this interview with the man, made on June 30, 1948 a few months before Mencken died:

I was a teenager the last time I heard that interview, which I'd stumbled upon at the local public library. On hearing it again just now I am quite taken by how much influence it apparently had on me. Attitudes about hard work, religion, skepticism and even vocabulary. I still occasionally use the word 'ombibulous', a word of Mencken's invention meaning to drink any known alcohol drink.

LIGO - A Tale of Great And Small

By now everyone has heard of the recent detection of gravitational waves produced by two black holes colliding a billion miles away. By the time those waves reached us here on Earth they moved us (you, me, everything, the entire planet) a tiny fraction of the diameter of a proton. A. Proton. Not a fraction of an atom. A tiny, tiny fraction of a proton.

For a mere fraction of a second, we were able to detect that motion. As miniscule an effect as it was, and over so brief a time, it was still enough to cause me to get off my butt and drive about five hours to look at the machine built for the specifc purpose of detecting gravity waves.

I propose to describe my visit and some of my impressions here.

I'll begin with: What is a gravity wave? Here's the way I think of it. First, everything that has matter or energy has gravity. Which means everything attracts everything else. And when something moves, it turns out that it gives off waves. It's a bit like waves in water. Throw a rock in the water: waves come off. A boat moves through the water: waves come off.

But we're speaking of gravity waves. So, the moon moves around the Earth: waves are given off. With a water wave, it's pretty easy to see the water move. What exactly is moving when the moon gives off gravity waves? Space itself is moving. Ripples traveling through space. And everything they pass through ripples too.

The moon, even though it's very close, gives off gravity waves much to small for us to detect. Turns out, only really, really big events will even have a chance for us to detect. That's where black holes come in. Turns out, they can generate gravity waves big enough for us to detect, even though they are so very far away.

OK, at this point I suggest you go visit this website where the physicist Brian Green explains gravity waves to Stephen Colbert:


‘The Senator Be Embezzling’

Submitted by cvining on

A fascinating tale of a state Senator's experience in prison after conviction for obstruction of justice related to violation of federal campaign laws. He's smart, educated and white, thrown into federal prison, full of men exactly unlike him. It's a kind of expose of prison life in the US and well worth the read.

Human Energy Consumption Comparable To Total Heat Produced By Earth

For those who insist the Earth is just way too large for human activity to make much difference, here's a curious fact.

  • Total human enercy production/consumption is estimated at about 17.7 TW (in 2012).
  • Total radioactive decay on the planet amounts to about 20 TW.
  • And the total heat flow from Earth's interior is about 47 TW.

I was a little surprised that human energy use was in any way comparable to the natural heat flow from the whole planet so I had to check it out, but there you are. Pretty impressive and it means, right there, that we're a significant fraction of the planet's energy budget even now. Be clear, this is still pretty tiny compared to the total energy arriving at Earth from the sun which is about 173,000 TW.


Kurt Vonnegut - Some Writing Advice

Submitted by cvining on

Kurt Vonnegut

original posting was on this site

Eight rules for writing fiction:

1. Use the time of a total stranger in such a way that he or she will not feel the time was wasted.

2. Give the reader at least one character he or she can root for.

3. Every character should want something, even if it is only a glass of water.

4. Every sentence must do one of two things -- reveal character or advance the action.

5. Start as close to the end as possible.

6. Be a sadist. Now matter how sweet and innocent your leading characters, make awful things happen to them -- in order that the reader may see what they are made of.

7. Write to please just one person. If you open a window and make love to the world, so to speak, your story will get pneumonia.

8. Give your readers as much information as possible as soon as possible. To heck with suspense. Readers should have such complete understanding of what is going on, where and why, that they could finish the story themselves, should cockroaches eat the last few pages.

-- Vonnegut, Kurt Vonnegut, Bagombo Snuff Box: Uncollected Short Fiction (New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons 1999), 9-10.

See also the attached PDF "How To Write With Style" by Kurt Vonnegut

A bowling ball and a feather walk into a vacuum chamber...

"Physicist Brian Cox of the BBC Two program Human Universe recently visited the world’s largest vacuum chamber at NASA’s Space Power Facility outside of Sandusky, Ohio, to demonstrate the effects of air on falling objects. In the video, a feather and bowling ball are dropped at the same time in normal Earth conditions and after the air has been removed from the room.