Thursday, 31 December 2015

New Year's Eve jog

I did run 3K this afternoon. And I did take photos but under the circumstances I have not put them up.
But will do so some day -  here, as a post script probably. No selfies, sorry.

Postscript  - as promised

There was only 1 spectator officially at the start:

The route went east:

Past the public beach:

By the pine and baseball stands:

End of Moose Bay (as in loyal order of, not the animal)

Now the last km home

And the finish line:


Tuesday, 29 December 2015

Tree branches

These images did not quite fit into the previous observation so I include them here:


The Miracle of Winter

For some people Spring brings the miracle of life returning after months of cold windy snowy weather.
Manni never liked winter because of the dampness:
And when the north wind doth blow and we shall have snow the cold does penetrate:

For me the miracle is that life is composed of some 3/4 water and that water freezes from the surface downward because it is actually lighter at 0C than it is at 4C - ice floats!

Solid, liquid, gas.

Monday, 28 December 2015

If it doesn't snow on Christmas - try again

The temperature fell today. We went shopping this afternoon and it was -7C and a bitter cold wind. All senses are relative to +20C just a couple of weeks ago.

I set the camera on a tripod - thanks, Claudia, shutter speed to 0.5sec F7.1 and ISO 3200 - no filter
but did change the white balance in the compute (Paint Shop Pro).

Focus was "out there" somewhere less than infinity and more than 4m.and varied between shots. There was lots of snow on the balcony and I slipped on occasion. And I was wearing shorts - heat training for -30 C!


And a Tuesday morning post script:

And although the radar map above shows us to be "clear" it is nevertheless snowing.

drones for Christmas

So Your Neighbor Got a Drone for Christmas !

A  Spring a year or so ago I visited Balls Falls to watch the salmon spawning.when a drone flew by me at eye level. Now you can shoot them in Kentucky! A new Olympic sport?

Before Christmas drones with cameras were being offered for sale here in Orillia for $99 Canadian. And last year a drone flew over some ice huts here on Couch. And this morning 15 Canada geese swam by and there
is still Jan 5 for the 12 Days of Christmas. Stay "tuned".


Sunday, 27 December 2015

A Bear on the camp site

Last August while camping at Lake of Two Rivers - while my camera was broken - we heard of the following incident. Some campers were preparing breakfast when a bear jumped on the picnic table and started eating their pancakes.

The bear was marked and taken away,

And the moral of this is:

I am indebted to Rory for making me aware of this wisdom.


Thursday, 24 December 2015

He is here

Out of the East he came:

2000 years ago - but a cosmic blink of the eye.

A thought for those in need, for the women and children, the homeless, the cold and the hungry, the thirsty.
We never met but your work lives on.


Santa Part III / High Tech Part II

The story so far? Why should I try to restrict or define what Santa can do ? He obviously does very well on his own, thank you very much!

In the interests of furthering young people's interest in science, STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) Santa has decided to share some of his secrets this Christmas Season.  or at least make some suggests that may be worth pursuing.

Last May 21st I believe this question was raised: What is really real?  

And there is more to: The Physics of Santa Claus 
- by a team of Norse investigators covering such topics as Ion-shield, Einstein = Santa Claus, Santa Claus - a threat to the environment, Santa sees you, Flying reindeer, Papa with a fake beard.  It is interesting that they suggest a connection with Albert Einstein. The following was published in NATURE on Dec 2, 2015 - I try to keep up with the suggestions!  Measuring entanglement entropy in a quantum many-body system
Before I suggest other literature here, I will try to establish the relevance of this. Consider what could be done if this were connected via drones to 3D printing in space
I, a mere mortal make this suggestion; however, if I can think of it then surely Santa who is older and much wiser than I, has at least an equal or better solution than that one. So young people if you want to join the Santa team, forget about hollywood and start studying - and do not forget to play a lot and smile for Santa is a jolly old elf.

Some of you have no doubt wondered if Santa could automate the construction of toys, as in Magnetic nanoparticles: Self-assembly at the limit
(Start small and build big - like subroutines in computer programs - don't build monolithicly.)
One of course needs control and controllers over this. In short Santa would need a computer and logic functions like Multi-element logic gates for trapped-ion qubits
If I know this then Santa too must know that  "precision control over hybrid physical systems at the quantum level is important for the realization
of many quantum-based technologies. In the field of quantum information processing (QIP) and quantum
networking, various proposals discuss the possibility of hybrid architectures1 where specific tasks
are delegated to the most suitable subsystem. For example, in quantum networks, it may be advantageous
to transfer information from a subsystem that has good memory properties to another subsystem that
is more efficient at transporting information between nodes in the network."

I do not expect you to follow up on this but I will give you some abstracts that indicate that Arthur C. Clarke's idea of technology vs magic may not be far off the mark:

Entangling two transportable neutral atoms via local spin exchange

Nature 527, 208–211 (12 November 2015) doi:10.1038/nature16073
A. M. Kaufman,    B. J. Lester,    M. Foss-Feig,    M. L. Wall,    A. M. Rey    & C. A. Regal

To advance quantum information science, physical systems are sought that meet the stringent
requirements for creating and preserving quantum entanglement. In atomic physics, robust
two-qubit entanglement is typically achieved by strong, long-range interactions in the form
of either Coulomb interactions between ions or dipolar interactions between Rydberg
atoms1, 2, 3, 4. Although such interactions allow fast quantum gates, the interacting atoms
must overcome the associated coupling to the environment and cross-talk among qubits5, 6, 7, 8.
Local interactions, such as those requiring substantial wavefunction overlap, can alleviate
these detrimental effects; however, such interactions present a new challenge: to distribute
entanglement, qubits must be transported, merged for interaction, and then isolated for storage
and subsequent operations. Here we show how, using a mobile optical tweezer, it is possible to
prepare and locally entangle two ultracold neutral atoms, and then separate them while preserving
their entanglement9, 10, 11. Ground-state neutral atom experiments have measured dynamics
consistent with spin entanglement10, 12, 13, and have detected entanglement with macroscopic
observables14, 15; we are now able to demonstrate position-resolved two-particle coherence via
application of a local gradient and parity measurements1. This new entanglement-verification
protocol could be applied to arbitrary spin-entangled states of spatially separated atoms16, 17.
The local entangling operation is achieved via spin-exchange interactions9, 10, 11, and quantum
tunnelling is used to combine and separate atoms. These techniques provide a framework for
dynamically entangling remote qubits via local operations within a large-scale quantum register.

Advances in quantum teleportation
Nature Photonics 9, 641–652 (2015) doi:10.1038/nphoton.2015.154
Received 03 June 2014 Accepted 23 July 2015 Published online 29 September 2015
S. Pirandola,    J. Eisert,    C. Weedbrook,    A. Furusawa    & S. L. Braunstein

Quantum teleportation is one of the most important protocols in quantum information. By exploiting
the physical resource of entanglement, quantum teleportation serves as a key primitive across a
variety of quantum information tasks and represents an important building block for quantum
technologies, with a pivotal role in the continuing progress of quantum communication, quantum
computing and quantum networks. Here we summarize the basic theoretical ideas behind quantum
teleportation and its variant protocols. We focus on the main experiments, together with the
technical advantages and disadvantages associated with the use of the various technologies,
from photonic qubits and optical modes to atomic ensembles, trapped atoms and solid-state systems.
After analysing the current state-of-the-art, we finish by discussing open issues, challenges and
potential future implementations.

Quantum superposition at the half-metre scale
T. Kovachy,    P. Asenbaum,    C. Overstreet,    C. A. Donnelly,    S. M. Dickerson,   
A. Sugarbaker,    J. M. Hogan    & M. A. Kasevich
Nature 528, 530–533 (24 December 2015) doi:10.1038/nature16155
Received 19 June 2015 Accepted 09 October 2015 Published online 23 December 2015
The quantum superposition principle allows massive particles to be delocalized over distant positions.
Though quantum mechanics has proved adept at describing the microscopic world, quantum superposition
runs counter to intuitive conceptions of reality and locality when extended to the macroscopic scale1,
as exemplified by the thought experiment of Schrödinger’s cat2. Matter-wave interferometers3, which
split and recombine wave packets in order to observe interference, provide a way to probe the
superposition principle on macroscopic scales4 and explore the transition to classical physics5.
In such experiments, large wave-packet separation is impeded by the need for long interaction
times and large momentum beam splitters, which cause susceptibility to dephasing and decoherence1.
Here we use light-pulse atom interferometry6, 7 to realize quantum interference with wave packets
separated by up to 54?centimetres on a timescale of 1 second. These results push quantum
superposition into a new macroscopic regime, demonstrating that quantum superposition remains
possible at the distances and timescales of everyday life. The sub-nanokelvin temperatures of
the atoms and a compensation of transverse optical forces enable a large separation while
maintaining an interference contrast of 28 per cent. In addition to testing the superposition
principle in a new regime, large quantum superposition states are vital to exploring gravity
with atom interferometers in greater detail. We anticipate that these states could be used to
increase sensitivity in tests of the equivalence principle8, 9, 10, 11, 12, measure the
gravitational Aharonov–Bohm effect13, and eventually detect gravitational waves14 and phase
shifts associated with general relativity12.

Subject terms: Quantum mechanics Ultracold gases Matter waves and particle beams

So I expect by now all good/nice children are sound asleep - maybe the parents too? Learning is hard work and requires lots of concentration, and outdoor play and exercise. Drink lots of water and sleep well.
And yes, I sleep with my beard outside the blankets! Love to all and to all a good night


High-Tech Santa - Part I (continuing as Part III too)

If it doesn't snow on Christmas ....

Oh, Oh, oh,



PS Isn't this proof that Santa is a comet, that Santa comet made the original delivery of water to earth?

And I quote:
"He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,
And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot."    - seems to me that is himself ! 


Wednesday, 23 December 2015

Santa Claus Part II

Today/night I want to just briefly touch on "the problem" and tomorrow  "suggest" possible solutions as exercises left to the student, Q.E.D., etc.

Let us first remind ourselves of the story and why:

                         Bill carved this - another Bill photographed it. They have yet to meet.

The Santa problem is why were these explanations ever given - flying reindeer seem the most ludicrous inventions. It seems that the assumptions made yesterday are adult explanations to inquiring children with threats being made to behave.

Once I was a child and spake as a child and now I am adult and have to explain Santa to Kim and Rory.
Well first of all let us introduce a red herring: Arthur C Clarke's 3rd law:
"Clarke's Third Law: Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic."
I am assuming that Santa belongs to the advanced civilization and we do not. As evidence I submit that with the technology available to neolithic people of Europe we today could not build Stonhenge or the Pyramids. In fact one explanation often prayed for is the Alien one - they did it, we could not.

And so today we might say: ah ha!
"Whichever means are used to deliver presents to billions of homes during the festive season, it’s clear that
Father Christmas&Santa Claus is way more technologically advanced than us."

Now we are getting somewhere!

Tomorrow I shall present some exercises for the interested "good" student to begin to understand Santa and possibly come up with a way of distributing refugees to deserving people. I will try to reduce the number of assumptions.


Tuesday, 22 December 2015

Santa Claus- Part I

Examples of Logical Fallacy

We all know Santa exists or we woiuld go through this ritual each year, would we? Our parents told us and as we know from the court case in "Miracle  on 34 Street"   parents do not lie. How many fallacies have I presented to this point?

Let us consider The Physics of Santa Claus   - after all there is "The Physics of Star Trek" by Lawrence M. Krauss   isn't there? So why not of Santa.

Now the following is just what I have gleaned from the internet/google. And I quote:


The Physics of Santa Claus

A Scientific Disproof of the Santa Theory, and a couple of Rebuttals Thereto.

Original source: (The Human Neutrino aka Linda Harden) 
  1. No known species of reindeer can fly. BUT there are 300,000 species of living organisms yet to be classified, and while most of these are insects and germs, this does not COMPLETELY rule out flying reindeer which only Santa has ever seen.
  2. There are 2 billion children (persons under 18) in the world. BUT since Santa doesn't (appear to) handle the Muslim, Hindu, Jewish and Buddhist children, that reduces the workload to 15% of the total - 378 million according to Population Reference Bureau. At an average (census)rate of 3.5 children per household, that's 91.8 million homes. One presumes there's at least one good child in each.
  3. Santa has 31 hours of Christmas to work with, thanks to the different time zones and the rotation of the earth, assuming he travels east to west(which seems logical). This works out to 822.6 visits per second. This is to say that for each Christian household with good children, Santa has 1/1000th of a second to park, hop out of the sleigh, jump down the chimney, fill the stockings, distribute the remaining presents under the tree, eat whatever snacks have been left, get back up the chimney, get back into the sleigh and move on to the next house. Assuming that each of these 91.8 million stops are evenly distributed around the earth (which, of course, we know to be false but for the purposes of our calculations we will accept), we are now talking about .78 miles per household, a total trip of 75-1/2 million miles, not counting stops to do what most of us must do at least once every 31 hours, plus feeding etc. 
    This means that Santa's sleigh is moving at 650 miles per second, 3,000 times the speed of sound. For purposes of comparison, the fastest man- made vehicle on earth, the Ulysses space probe, moves at a poky 27.4 miles per second - a conventional reindeer can run, tops, 15 miles per hour.
  4. The payload on the sleigh adds another interesting element. Assuming that each child gets nothing more than a medium-sized lego set (2 pounds), the sleigh is carrying 321,300 tons, not counting Santa, who is invariably described as overweight. On land, conventional reindeer can pull no more than 300 pounds. Even granting that "flying reindeer" (see point #1) could pull TEN TIMES the normal anoint, we cannot do the job with eight, or even nine. We need 214,200 reindeer. This increases the payload - not even counting the weight of the sleigh - to 353,430 tons. Again, for comparison - this is four times the weight of the Queen Elizabeth.
  5. 353,000 tons traveling at 650 miles per second creates enormous air resistance - this will heat the reindeer up in the same fashion as spacecrafts re-entering the earth's atmosphere. The lead pair of reindeer will absorb 14.3 QUINTILLION joules of energy. Per second. Each. In short, they will burst into flame almost instantaneously, exposing the reindeer behind them, and create deafening sonic booms in their wake.The entire reindeer team will be vaporized within 4.26 thousandths of a second. Santa, meanwhile, will be subjected to centrifugal forces 17,500.06 times greater than gravity. A 250-pound Santa (which seems ludicrously slim)would be pinned to the back of his sleigh by 4,315,015 pounds of force.
In conclusion -- If Santa ever DID deliver presents on Christmas Eve, he's dead now.

Rebuttal: (Jim Mantle, Waterloo Maple Software) 
Come on, ya gotta believe! I mean, if you can handle flying furry animals, then it's only a small step to the rest. For example:
  1. As admitted, it is possible that a flying reindeer can be found. I would agree that it would be quite an unusual find, but they might exist.
  2. You've relied on cascading assumptions. For example, you have assumed a uniform distribution of children across homes. Toronto/Yorkville, or Toronto/Cabbagetown, or other yuppie neighbourhoods, have probably less than the average (and don't forget the DINK and SINK homes (Double Income No Kids, Single Income No Kids)), while the families with 748 starving children that they keep showing on Vision TV while trying to pick my pocket would skew that 15% of homes down a few percent.
  3. You've also assumed that each home that has kids would have at least one good kid. What if anti-selection applies, and homes with good kids tend to have more than their share of good kids, and other homes have nothing except terrorists in diapers? Let's drop that number of homes down a few more percent.
  4. Santa would have to Fedex a number of packages ahead of time, since he would not be able to fly into Air Force Bases, or into tower-controlled areas near airports. He's get shot at over certain sections of the Middle East, and the no-fly zones in Iraq, so he'd probably use DHL there. Subtract some more homes.
  5. I just barely passed Physics and only read Stephen Hawking's book once, but I recall that there is some Einsteinian Theory that says time does strange things as you move faster. In fact, when you go faster than the speed of light time runs backward, if you do a straight line projection, connect the dots and just ignore any singularity you might find right at the speed of light. And don't say you can't go faster than the speed of light because I've seen it done on TV. Jean-Luc doesn't have reindeer but he does have matter-antimatter warp engines and a holodeck and that's good enough for me. 
    So Santa could go faster than light, visit all the good children which are not uniformly distributed by either concentration in each home or by number of children per household, and get home before he left so he can digest all those stale cookies and warm milk yech.
  6. Aha, you say, Jean-Luc has matter-antimatter warp engines, Santa only has reindeer, where does he get the power to move that fast!You calculated the answer! The lead pair of reindeer will absorb 14.3 quintillion joules of energy. Per second. Each. This is an ample supply of energy for the maneuvering, acceleration, etc, that would be required of the loaded sleigh. The reindeer don't evaporate or incinerate because of this energy, they accelerate. What do you think they have antlers for, fighting over females? Think of antlers as furry solar array panels.
  7. If that's not enough, watch the news on the 24th at 11 o'clock. NORAD (which may be one of the few government agencies with more than 3 initials in it's name and therefore it must be more trustworthy than the rest) tracks Santa every year and I've seen the radar shots of him approaching my house from the direction of the North Pole. They haven't bombarded him yet, so they must believe too, right?

Yet another Rebuttal to the rebuttal:
Several key points are overlooked by this callous, amateurish "study."
  1. Flying reindeer: As is widely known (due to the excellent historical documentary "Santa Claus is Coming to Town," the flying reindeer are not a previously unknown species of reindeer, but were in fact given the power of flight due to eating magic acorns. As is conclusively proven in "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" (a no punches pulled look at life in Santa's village), this ability has bred true in subsequent generations of reindeer, obviously the magic acorns imprinted their power on a dominant gene sequence within the reindeer DNA strand.
  2. Number of households: This figure overlooks two key facts. First of all, the first major schism in the Church split the Eastern Churches, centered in Byzantium, from the Western, which remained centered in Rome. This occurred prior to the Gregorian correction to the Julian calendar. The Eastern churches (currently called Orthodox Churches) do not recognize the Gregorian correction for liturgical events, and their Christmas is as a result several days after the Western Churches'. Santa gets two shots at delivering toys. 
    Secondly, the figure of 3.5 children per household is based on the gross demographic average, which includes households with no children at all. The number of children per household, when figured as an average for households with children, would therefore have to be adjusted upward. Also, the largest single Christian denomination is Roman Catholic, who, as we all know, breed like rabbits. If you don't believe me, ask my four brothers and two sisters, they'll back me up. Due to the predominance of Catholics within Christian households, the total number of households containing Christian children would have to be adjusted downward to reflect the overloading of Catholics beyond a standard deviation from the median. 
    Also, the assertion that each home would contain at least one good child would be reasonable enough if there were in fact an even 3.5 children per household. However, since the number of children per household is distributed integrally, there are a significant number (on the order of several million) of one child Christian households. Even though only children are notoriously spoiled and therefore disproportionately inclined towards being naughty, since it's the holidays we'll be generous and give them a fifty-fifty chance of being nice. This removes one half of the single child households from Santa's delivery schedule, which has already been reduced by the removal of the Orthodox households from the first delivery run.
  3. Santa's delivery run (speed, payload, etc.): These all suffer from the dubious supposition that there is only one Santa Claus. The name "Santa" is obviously either Spanish or Italian, two ethnic groups which are both overwhelmingly Catholic. The last name Claus suggests a joint German/Italian background. His beginnings, battling the Burgermeister Meisterburger, suggest he grew up in Bavaria (also predominantly Catholic). The Kaiser style helmets of the Burgermeister's guards, coupled with the relative isolation of the village, suggest that his youth was at the very beginning of Prussian influence in Germany. Thus, Santa and Mrs. Claus have been together for well over one hundred years. If you think that after a hundred years of living at the North Pole with nights six months long that they remain childless, you either don't know Catholics or are unaware of the failure rate of the rhythm method. There have therefore been over five generations of Clauses, breeding like Catholics for over one hundred years. Since they are Catholic, their exponential population increase would obviously have a gain higher than the world population as a whole. There have therefore been more than enough new Santas to overcome the population increase of the world. So in fact, Santa has an easier time of it now than he did when he first started out.
Santa dead, indeed; some people will twist any statistic to "prove" their cynical theory.

I shall take a break and sleep on this and maybe resume tomorrow - there were a lot of fallacies presented, Marie. Hope you appreciate them.


Philae last night Dec 21?

Yes Virginia, there is a Santa Claus:

Ok, updates to the story.
Good news, Rosetta really received something. Bad news, we're not sure what.
Once again, quick translation by me:
Because the news of the contact were uncertain, we called Pål Hvistendahl, the head of media relations of ESA, who confirmed that Rosetta really received a distinctive message last night.
According to Hvistendahl, the data acquired wasn't decent (clear?), but it's still being analyzed and they're trying to contact the lander every time Rosetta is in right position.
*What happened last night? *
Walter Schmidt tells how last night the Rosetta probe was listening if any messages were coming from Philae, when it noticed a signal more powerful than the background noise in the frequency used by the lander.
"We also got telemetry packets, but none of them did seem to have any usable information", tells Schmidt.
"Basically, signal on this frequency can only be from Philae's transmitter. We are careful and are researching right now if there could be any alternative sources that'd be powerful enough on this band."
According to Schmidt, the computers on Philae turn on the radio transmitter only after they have acquired a faultless data packet from the Rosetta probe.
Even though he didn't say it, this should mean that if (when) Philae has sent a signal, it has done it only after succesfully receiving a message from Rosetta. Meaning that Philae can communicate in both directions.
And here's the original article in Finnish:
Kerroimme tänään päivällä, että komeettalaskeutuja Philaeen on saatu yhteys.
Yhteyden saamisesta kerrottiin Ilmatieteen laitokselta, missä tiedon läheisessä yhteydessä lennonjohtoon olevalta laskeutujan PP-instrumentin päätutkijalta Walter Schmidtiltä välitti professori Minna Palmroth.
Koska tiedot yhteydestä ovat sekavia, olimme juuri puhelinyhteydessä ESAn tiedotuspäällikköön Pål Hvistendahliin, joka kertoo että viime yönä Rosetta otti tosiaan vastaan omalaatuisen viestin.
Hvistendahlin mukaan kunnollista dataa ei laskeutujasta saatu, mutta viestiä tutkitaan parhaillaan ja uutta yhteyttä yritetään uudelleen aina kun luotain on sopivasti laskeutujan näköpiirissä.
Mitä tapahtui viime yönä?
Walter Schmidt kertoo klo 21:18 että, viime yönä Rosetta oli kuuntelemassa Philaesta mahdollisesti tulevaa viestiä ja huomasi taustakohinaa voimakkaamman signaalin laskeutujan käyttämällä taajuudella.
"Saimme myös telemetriapaketteja, mutta yksikään niistä ei näytä sisältävän mitään käyttökelpoista tietoa", kertoo Schmidt.
"Periaatteessa tällä taajuudella tuleva signaali voi olla peräisin vain Philaen lähettimestä. Olemme varovaisia ja tutkimme parhaillaan vaihtoehtoisia lähteitä, mistä riittävän voimakas tällä taajuudella tuleva signaali voisi olla peräisin."
Schmidtin mukaan Philaen ohjaustietokoneet käynnistävät sen radiolähettimen vain sen jälkeen kun ne ovat ottaneet vastaan virheettömän datapaketin Rosetta-luotaimelta.
Vaikka tätä ei Schmidt sanokaan, tarkoittaisi tämä siis sitä, että jos (kun) Philae on lähettänyt signaalin, on se tehnyt niin vasta kyettyään ottamaan vastaan viestin kunnolla Rosettalta. Viesti siis kulkee laskeutujassa kumpaankin suuntaan.
Toiveet kunnollisen yhteyden saamisesta ovat näin ollen korkeammalla kuin kertaakaan sitten heinäkuun ja Philae näyttää olevan ainakin jossain määrin toiminnassa.
Palaamme asiaan heti kun saamme lisätietoa (vaikka joulun aikaan).

It is a cold hostile place:

The Best of 2015 - NATURE highlights

Here are the best science images of 2015
(according to the art and design team for NATURE)

And here are the science events that shaped 2015
(Gene-editing, climate change and Pluto are among the year’s top stories)

Best features of 2015 from NATURE 

like: Quantum physics: What is really real?

And 4 women in Nature’s 10 Ten people who mattered this year. 

This important in looking for idols/role models - people who have succeeded,
and so can you!

All the best for 2016


and now back to the important issues concerning Santa 

Monday, 21 December 2015

21st December - Winter solstice

Today the sun will appear to have reached its southerly most point in the heaven; the shortest day/longest night - Winter Solstice
December 22, at 04:48 UTC.   or local Orillia/Toronto: 21. Dec    23:49 EST..

Winter solstice and Christmas
"There is nothing in the Christian Bible to specify the day of Christmas. Prior to the
fourth century, Christ’s birth had been associated with Three King’s Day on January 6.
But the pagans and the newly converted were being a major problem to the church because
they were still celebrating the Unconquered Sun. Nothing the church did or said made a
difference; the winter solstice was just too important a festival.

What the Christians did in this dilemma, was execute a move seen over and over in
history. If you can’t defeat them, and refuse to join them, at least make it appear
that you defeated them. Sometime between AD 354 and 360 a few decades after Emperor
Constantine’s conversion to Christianity, the celebration of Christmas was shifted to
the day of the Unconquered Sun. But the tradition of the Sun god lived on a long time."

And note that St Nikolaus is believed to have died in 343CE/AD. His legend was on the rise.

How the Winter Solstice was stolen by Christmas - an American point of view

Why is Christmas Day on December 25th?

And then one has meteorologists wanting winter to begin December 1st. The thermal inertia of the earth means that climate follows the sun, does not preceed it. So January 1st would be a practical beginning of winter
and then spring April 1 - we have been fooled by spring often enough - why not once more! And summer July1st and autumn October 1 - if the weathermen cannot start on the astronomical date, then at least on the psychological one, please.

And to finish the successful return of the sun let us not forget New Year's eve and Janus the two-headed Roman god who looks both backward and forward, a fitting end to 2015 and start to 2016

St Nikolaus

Naughty or nice? This isn't our usual image of Santa or Santa Claus. It goes back to the origin of the name: Claus from Klaus from Nikolaus and Santa or Saint - so Saint Nikolaus. And his "day" was never December 25th. This photo was taken in Odendorf in 2009 for my Nikolaus Ralley on the 1st Wenesday/Mittwoch following the 1st Advent Sunday/Sonntag when "our" village held a Christmas market in the streets. And several mangers or creches were built up for the "coming". His day is December 6.  He died on December 6, 343 in Myra, present day Turkey and is known as St Nicholas of Myra

I think it is important today to recall that nations are short-lived human inventions of convenience and usually war. The First Nation peoples did not own land but held their territories in trust. Naturally they did not like other people to move in and expropriate their fields or destroy their crops but they usually were good hosts.  Think Turkey at this time of year and one does not usually think of a Christian country - but a bird in the oven! - but rather of a different religion if one is even that enlightened.

So was St Nicholas a real person?
Who is St Nicholas? 
How St Nicholas became Santa Claus

Here is for those who want a more academic work on Saint_Nicholas
Resources on the ecclesiatical bishop St Nicholas of Myra
Evolution of St Nicholas
America and the Creation of Santa Claus
The English Father Christmas
Work of historians, folklorists and critics on the origins of Santa

 And finally why I believe in Santa: the poem A Visit from St. Nicholas By Clement Clarke Moore
but I usually know it as: 'Twas the night before Christmas

'Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there;
The children were nestled all snug in their beds;
While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads;
And mamma in her 'kerchief, and I in my cap,
Had just settled our brains for a long winter's nap,
When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from my bed to see what was the matter.
Away to the window I flew like a flash,
Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.
The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow,
Gave a lustre of midday to objects below,
When what to my wondering eyes did appear,
But a miniature sleigh and eight tiny rein-deer,
With a little old driver so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment he must be St. Nick.
More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name:
"Now, Dasher! now, Dancer! now Prancer and Vixen!
On, Comet! on, Cupid! on, Donner and Blitzen!
To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!
Now dash away! dash away! dash away all!"
As leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky;
So up to the housetop the coursers they flew
With the sleigh full of toys, and St. Nicholas too—
And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof
The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.
As I drew in my head, and was turning around,
Down the chimney St. Nicholas came with a bound.
He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,
And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot;
A bundle of toys he had flung on his back,
And he looked like a pedler just opening his pack.
His eyes—how they twinkled! his dimples, how merry!
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,
And the beard on his chin was as white as the snow;
The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
And the smoke, it encircled his head like a wreath;
He had a broad face and a little round belly
That shook when he laughed, like a bowl full of jelly.
He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself;
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread;
He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
And filled all the stockings; then turned with a jerk,
And laying his finger aside of his nose,
And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose;
He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.
But I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight—
“Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night!”

I know it off by heart but here my source is The Random House Book of Poetry for Children (Random House Inc., 1983)


Saturday, 19 December 2015

Christmas Bird Count - and whether Santa's elves get caught and counted too

Today is Orillia's annual bird count
Owen  - maybe Oscar and Evan too - has expressed concern that perhaps Santa's elves who are flitting back and forther checking whether Owen - maybe Oscar and Evan too - has been nice each time he has been checked, might be at risk of being caught and counted by mistake.
At last report from Santa's workshop all elves accounted for, Sir!

Now Norrie, on the other hand has been concerned that her red-haired fairy has been taken captive, maybe being mistaken for a red-headed woodpecker. There have been many look-alikes and stand-ins.
Chickadees pretending to be woodpeckers:

And there are Downies picking up after people like fairies often do or did:

But none resembling a long lost red-headed fairy.

Today birds only need be counted not captured so Owen, you can relax - if you have been good, and Norrie, maybe no news is good news?

PS Owen, did you know that birds are related to dinosaurs? Just a thought for the future.


Thursday, 17 December 2015


Saturday is "Our" day for this year's Christmas Bird Count or CBC. And yesterday I saw some birds in the
count week or CW - so there!

5 Trumpeter Swans

One of the adults at least has been banded - the yellow wing tag.  And the 5 are not afraid of being very close to the "hand of man". So here is a link to other birds who can live with us
(From  "The Scientist")


Saturday, 12 December 2015


I am in a camera club with competitions, like nature, but with no evidence of humans in the image, the so-called "hand of man". But sometimes the hand of man shows how strong nature is. One haunting image is that of a very old wooden barge sitting on some glacial grooves in granite. And on the old wooden planks an evergreen sappling is growing - Neys Provincial Park 2000.

A week or so ago I saw a sappling growing in a crack between a road and a curb. No chance? However, it is a sign of nature's power and determination:

I am in a "reflective" mood  after the results in Paris.

Have a good 3rd Advent.