I'm LinkedIn and Google-Plussed.

Mail and packages, use maildrop:
Norman Sperling
2625 Alcatraz Avenue #235
Berkeley, CA 94705-2702

cellphone 650 - 200 - 9211
eMail normsperling [at] gmail.com

Almost Embarking

Norman Sperling, January 29, 2013

Easier Said Than Done:

selling our house
moving. twice.
selling parts of my library
stowing most of the rest
selling our van
selling our sedan
getting new eyeglasses
locating layers of every geological epoch
getting LinkedIn and Google-plussed
researching, selecting, and buying the most advantageous:
* cellphone and plan (iPhone 5, Verizon)
* laptop computer (Macbook Pro, Retina)
* travel trailer (Extreme Warrior Superlite)
* SUV to pull the trailer (Ford Expedition)
* recliner
* folding bike (Brompton H6L)
setting up new blogs:
* GreatScienceTrek.com
* TouchingTheAges.com (geological layers)
* ThereWereGIANTS.com
* HopeRidesOnEveryPitch.com (baseball)

I still haven’t hit the road but I think I’m getting close.

Athletics Should Re-Hire Inge and Braden ... as Coaches

© Norman Sperling, January 27, 2013

The 2012 Oakland Athletics came out of nowhere, staffed with "nobodies", to win the division title over higher-skilled, higher-paid teams like the Angels and Rangers.

They had enough skill and enough training ... and spirit way over the top. You could see it in the final series against the Rangers: Athletics bouncing and beaming and extraordinarily loose; Rangers dejected, tired, out-of-it.

We won't get them all back in 2013. Boston is paying Johnny Gomes a whole lot of money, more likely to boost team spirits than to boost its batting average.

* Coco Crisp is back. Management knows how much he helps morale in addition to batting and fielding.
* Jerry Blevins is back - the longest-tenured Athletic. He's the one who brought in the "Bernie".
* Grant Balfour is back, imploring not only the baseball but his teammates.
* Josh Reddick is back, and I bet he has a standing order for whipped-cream pies.

2 prime characters are still unsigned because of injuries: Brandon Inge, and Dallas Braden. Nobody is gambling on them because they're recovering from serious surgery and may never play in the Major Leagues again.

But Inge and Braden mean a whole lot to Athletics team spirit. So hire them back as coaches, or special assistants, crowd pleasers, "tummelers", to jack up team spirits and crowd enthusiasm. They could roam the tailgates before games and the stands during games. They could roam the minor league affiliates - Braden lives in Stockton, home of the Class-A Ports, and near the AAA Sacramento Rivercats. They'll mean more to team spirit than anybody else on coach's pay.

The A's would also be the first to know if they're ready to return to active service.

The Rule of 3 Strange Terms

© Norman Sperling, January 9, 2013

In teaching astronomy, I not only have to teach many very strange concepts, I also have to deal with the very strange terms that Science uses for them. Over the years, I've learned that students find it harder to learn the words than the concepts.

When confronted by a strange term, a student will learn its definition and keep that in mind.

When confronted by a second strange term in the same field, the student will learn that definition, too, and keep it in mind.

Sharp students can even keep in mind the definition of a third strange term.

But that's the practical maximum. If you try to teach them a fourth strange term, their circuits go on "overload", they freeze, dump all 4 definitions, and regard your subject as "confusing" and therefore "too hard to learn".

So I minimize strange terms. The students benefit any time I can substitute plain English for a technical term.

Some are avoidable. Some are not. I can talk plain-English around a lot of astronomy. "Cliffs shaped like curlicues" works way better than "lobate escarpments" on Mars. "Layering" works better than "stratification" on many solid objects. "Mindset" works well enough for "paradigm". But I still use "nebula" because neither "space cloud" nor "hydrogen-helium cloud" conjure up the right concept in students' heads.

Where the astronomical term describes something entirely beyond human-level experience, no conventional term does well enough. "Nuclear fusion" is NOT "burning" - burning is much weaker, a chemical reaction in electron shells.

Would You Like to Buy a Copy of the Voynich Manuscript?

© Norman Sperling, December 29, 2012
Part of a set on the Voynich Manuscript:
Great Stories from a Book You Can't Read: The Voynich Manuscript December 23, 2012
Voynich: Turkish? December 24, 2012
Voynich: 2 or More Handwritings? December 25, 2012
Voynich: Spiraling Into Folly December 26, 2012
Could 2 of Voynich's Oddities Cancel Each Other Out? December 27, 2012
Did Voynich Swindle Mondragone? December 28, 2012

There is said to be a published version, but unavailable, and cropped so much that people complain. There's an eBook version, a CD ROM version, and an online version. But how about a book you can hold in your hands?

I queried my audience and found 5 who said they'd consider buying a printed copy. I presumed using modern acid-free document paper instead of vellum, and a binding that opens flat. I surveyed their preferences:

For margins, they preferred either the original amounts, or 10-12 mm. (I expected them to want much wider margins, for making their own notes.)

Then I posited 2 potential versions:
* a Replica, reproducing the manuscript in its present form as faithfully as technology allows;
* and a Restoration, with the page-order rearranged as sensibly as possible, with blank pages left for the missing leaves, with script printed black-on-white for ease of reading, and with colors restored to original tones.

Along a continuum from Replica to Restoration, nobody wanted the ink contrast or illustration colors as faded as presently. Preferences ranged smoothly from "fully restored to our best guess of original", to halfway to the present fading.

Everybody wanted the paper color roughly halfway between white, and as-brown-as-present.

With electronic reproduction now making pages and printing so selectable, I wondered if people might want to custom-enhance unreality by inventing a new page order, and rendering lettering and illustrations in user-selected colors, including psychedelic. (About a mile from where I spoke, and about 4 blocks from where I teach, psychedelic tie-dye shirts are still sold by street-vendors on Telegraph Avenue.) But these 5 customers were way more sober than that, and wanted no such thing. They also wanted no enlargement, or just a little.

I suggested 3 kinds of binding. They strongly preferred "quality cloth-covered hardback" and "quality paperback". My imagined "custom vellum-covered hardback" found no favor.

Then I asked them to forecast "In the long run, per 100 copies sold, estimate the number picking:
* replica: 30%
* restoration: 42%
* psychedelic: 5%
* their own custom settings: 30%.
Yes, those don't add up to 100%, but that's what the folks wrote.

Averages of estimates for the proper prices:
* replica: $30
* restoration: $53
* psychedelic: $47
* custom settings: $70.

If you could tailor a copy to your preferences, what characteristics would you want? What would you pay? Compare that to Emperor Rudolph's 600 ducats, or the $160,000 that Voynich never got.

The Journal of Irreproducible Results
This Book Warps Space and Time
What Your Astronomy Textbook Won't Tell You

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