Things that I used to know

North Macedonia used to be the Republic of Macedonia

pay phoneAmong the things that I used to know were area codes. The phone rang; I see the unidentified caller and the number, starting with 513. And I tell my daughter, “It’s from Ohio.” And it was.

What’s no longer true, thanks to changes in telephony, is the area code limitations. It used to be that area codes in the United States and Canada, the middle digit had to be 0 or 1. And the last digit was never 0 except for the toll-free 800 calls.

So I can tell you that 205 is an area code in Alabama. Back in the second season of American Idol, Ruben Studdard had a 205 shirt. But I had no idea that the state now has 251, 256, 334, and 938.

If the fourth digit of a seven-digit number were 9, there was a good chance it was a payphone. Youngsters, you should go to a museum and see one of these contraptions.


I was pretty good with countries and capitals. But that’s pretty much limited to their configurations prior to about 1975. So if the country split in two, such as Czechoslovakia, I might know that Czechia’s capital is Prague and Slovakia’s is Bratislava.

But the former Yugoslavia or those Asian countries in the former Soviet Union, not so much. I can suss out the countries through convoluted mnemonics, but the capitals don’t stick to the mind.

(I did get this recent JEOPARDY clue watching the Tournament of Champions that none of the contestants answered. Category: 1921. “Alexander I became ruler of the kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes, which would soon be renamed this.”)


As I’ve noted, my father painted the solar system on the ceiling of my bedroom when I was a kid. I believe there were 12 moons for Jupiter, 9 for Saturn, 5 for Uranus, 2 for Neptune, and 1 for Pluto.

But now, we know Jupiter has 79, Saturn 82, Uranus 27, Neptune 12, and Pluto 5. At least Mars still has two, the Earth only 1, and none for Venus or Mercury.

And other stuff

Last I checked, there were 103 elements. Now, there are 118. Nihonium (element 113)? Flerovium (element 114)?If you insist.

While I can learn new stuff – I work on knowing the Cabinet members, e.g. – some changing facts remain beyond my grasp.

January Rambling #1: Of Oz The Wizard

This is what happens when you reply to spam email.


Gordon Parks’ Jim Crow photos still resonate, alas.

David Brooks of the NY Times: The Brutalism of Ted Cruz.

The father of a boy killed at Sandy Hook gets death threats from people who say the shooting was a hoax.

Amy Biancolli: Not alone at being alone.

Affluenza and F. Scott Fitzgerald.

What militants and the pungent salad radish have in common.

Mark Evanier’s scarlet fever.

The New Yorker: My Last Day as a Surgeon. “In May of 2013, the Stanford University neurosurgical resident Paul Kalanithi was diagnosed with Stage IV metastatic lung cancer. He was thirty-six years old.”

Google got it wrong. The open-office trend is destroying the workplace. “Workplaces need more walls, not fewer,” something I’m painfully aware of.

‘Lost’ Jerry Lewis Holocaust film sees the light.

Your favorite movies, re-edited, including Of Oz The Wizard, the movie arranged in alphabetical order, from Aah to Zipper. Don’t watch “of”, if you value your sanity.

Periodic table’s seventh row finally filled as four new elements are added, and the song to go with it.

British actor Alan Rickman, star of stage and ‘Harry Potter,’ dies at 69. Here are his Top 20 movie quotes.

2015: SamuraiFrog’s 50 favorite pop culture artifacts and the year in 4 minutes.

2016 in the Capital District: Salaries, food and taxes, have yourself a nice hot cup of coffee while you still can.

Metroland, RIP, and Albany’s alternative weekly Metroland nostalgic, bittersweet final issue.

TEDx: James Veitch: This is what happens when you reply to spam email.


Natalie Cole, R.I.P.

The Drifters: A Legacy of Harmony

The Beatles’ 50 Biggest Billboard Hits.

SCIENCE WARS – A capella Parody

“Cortez the Killer” – Anders Osbourne Band with Warren Haynes and Danny Louis, Island Exodus 1/18/2013

Hula Medley – Robert Crumb.

Muppets: Kodachrome and Pure Imagination.


abridged classics
How Mickey Mouse Evades the Public Domain.

Morrie Turner dies at 90; broke barriers in comics.


Coming Out as Gay Superheroes.

A Nigerian comics startup is creating African superheroes.

Google alert (me)

Is Arthur a blog cheat? (I don’t think so). And he credited/blamed me for him getting out 365 blog posts in 2015. You’re welcome.

Chuck Miller’s five most prolific blog commenters of 2015.

Get out the vote/off my lawn.

I is for inert gases

“Unlike noble gases, an inert gas is not necessarily elemental and is often a compound gas.”

inertgasesThis is true: part of what I liked about high school chemistry is that it was sexy. The idea of the Na hanging out there with an extra electron, hooking up with a Cl lacking one, and voila, salt! Hubba, Hubba, and all that.

But then there were those elements, gases who did not mess around with other elements, and I admired them too. After all, they were “noble” gases, virtuous, chaste.

Evidently, though, I must have mislearned part of this:

The noble gases and nitrogen often do not react with many substances. Inert gases are used generally to avoid unwanted chemical reactions degrading a sample. These undesirable chemical reactions are often oxidation and hydrolysis reactions with the oxygen and moisture in air. The term inert gas is context-dependent because nitrogen gas and several of the noble gases can be made to react under certain conditions.

Purified nitrogen and argon gases are most commonly used as inert gases due to their high natural abundance (78% N2, 1% Ar in air) and low relative cost.

Unlike noble gases, an inert gas is not necessarily elemental and is often a compound gas. Like the noble gases the tendency for non-reactivity is due to the valence, the outermost electron shell, being complete in all the inert gases. This is a tendency, not a rule, as noble gases and other “inert” gases can react to form compounds.

So, those six naturally-occurring noble gases, hanging on the right side (in every sense) of the periodic table – helium (He), neon (Ne), argon (Ar), krypton (Kr), xenon (Xe), and the radioactive radon (Rn) – may not be as chaste as I had once imagined. Meanwhile, carbon dioxide IS considered inert, even though it’s not noble, and is used in wine bottling.


ABC Wednesday, Round 15

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