Untying the Knot

A once-popular saying – now sprinkled with dust – goes, “there’s nothing like the feel of a well-tailored suit”. It’s been awhile since I bought a tailored suit (off-the-rack seems to do it these days), but there’s something to be said for “feeling as good as you look”. If the shirt, belt, socks, shoes, and even pocket square aren’t carefully coordinated however, the suit falls short. And what about the necktie? Once upon a time the tie question was, “which knot should I use?” Now the better question might be, “should I even bother”?

Neckties seem to be more of a fashion statement than staple these days.  Once an indicator of labor (vs. leisure), ties are now disappearing altogether, in favor of the open collar (if there even is a collar).  The irony of today’s neckties is you’re more likely to see them on a security guard or restaurant waiter than you are a CEO or bank manager.  Today’s fashionistas likely dismiss ties as a passing fad akin to the sweater vest or leg warmers.  Yet in their current post-cravat form, ties have been around over two centuries.

Neckties didn’t mark labor (vs. leisure) so much for me.  Rather, they marked California vs. Colorado.  In my early years in the workforce in California, as an architect and then airport planner, I unfailingly wore a tie to work.  I also wore a suit, or at least a sport coat.  The nature of the work however – hovering over a drafting board with pencils and other instruments of design – demanded the coat be relegated to the closet for most of the day.  As for the tie, we architects developed a habit of throwing the tail over the shoulder, much the way the superstitious toss a pinch of salt.  As a result, I have more memories of the back of a tie than of the front.

Once I moved to Colorado in the 1990’s, and my job moved to the technology sector, ties retreated to my bedroom closet for good.  Twenty-five years on, my need for them equates to weddings, funerals, and a handful of restaurants with dress codes.  Quite a contrast from my childhood, when ties were worn not only every Sunday in church, but also on every trip on an airplane.  Thank goodness my parents bought me the “clip-on” variety.  As a kid, I had no clue how to tie the knot.  I didn’t a care for a “noose” around my neck either.

Neckties carry more history than today’s post allows.  They evolved from costumes of war, with the cravat becoming the first formal statement.  Several variations followed, but it was the “Langsdorf” – or “long tie” – which eventually took hold.  Along the way, ties morphed from short to long (and back to short again), and from wide to narrow (and back to wide again).  Neckties changed from white to black, from solid-colored to striped, paisley, and geometric.  Ties even went through a phase where the designs were more free-form and specific; vertical artwork if you will.  Picture a big fish, head down.

Made in Britain

Here’s an interesting bit of tie trivia (assuming the topic comes up at your next party).  In Britain and its Commonwealth countries, diagonal stripes on ties run from the left shoulder down to the right side, as a nod to the regimental dress of the military.  In the United States, it’s the opposite – right shoulder down to left side.  Don’t believe me?  Go check the closet or your local department store.  (I’ll wait.)  Furthermore, those stripes aren’t really on the diagonal.  If you unstitch the tie into the single piece of cloth it started with, you’ll see those stripes run horizontal.

The “Atlantic” backwards knot

Neckties birthed some elegant terminology, like Steinkirk, Solitaire, Ascot, Langsdorf, and a handful of words just for the knots (four-in-hand, Pratt, Shelby, Windsor).  Speaking of knots, guess how many ways you can tie a necktie?  Eighty-five – although only thirteen are recognized as symmetrical and balanced.  One of those, the Atlantic, boasts a knot tied backwards, but on a forward-facing tie.  I like it.

Pillow design and photo courtesy of Randi Zubin

Someday I’ll donate my ties to Goodwill (or sell them on Etsy – the makers out there are doing cool things).  Now however, they’ll serve as a reminder of the way things used to be: in some ways good; in other ways a little tight around the collar.

Some content sourced from the 12/2/2019 Wall Street Journal article, “The Knottiest Problem: What to Do With a Closet Full of Old Ties?”, and Wikipedia, “the free encyclopedia”.

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The Twenty-four Days of Christmas

The Christmas season seems to begin a little earlier each year. Stores decorate and start their sales around Halloween. Lights go up on houses well before Thanksgiving, while Christmas cards show up in mailboxes by Black Friday.  The longer the season though, the more abrupt the conclusion. Be honest; who among us sings Christmas carols (or watches Hallmark movies) on December 26th?  Not many.  We worry and scurry for weeks about a single day – then suddenly it’s over.  Here’s a better approach.  Let’s focus instead on the one, true Christmas season preceding the day. Let’s focus on Advent.

For most Christians, Advent refers to the twenty-four days before Christmas (not to be confused with the song-famous Twelve Days, which come after Christmas).  Advent begins four Sundays before December 25th.  The word literally means “coming”, as in the (first coming) birth of Jesus at Christmas, and the (second coming) reappearance of Jesus at the end of time.  If you’re looking for the season’s theme song, go with “O Come, O Come Emmanuel”.  It’s the one, true Advent carol.

Once upon a time Advent included fasting, penance, and daily prayer, but today the season seems to be nothing more than a countdown.  Even in Sunday church services, the four candles of the Advent wreath are lit as the four Sundays pass by – a weekly countdown to the Christmas candle in the center. Here’s a more efficient idea.  Let’s add another ball in Times Square; one that takes twenty-four days to drop instead of sixty seconds.  Might save a lot of wreaths and calendars.

Speaking of calendars, maybe a countdown is enough to signify a season.  Advent calendars are all the rage these days.  I had one when I was a kid; the flat, cardboard kind with twenty-four numbered doors of varying shapes and sizes.  Oddly, the doors were never arranged numerically, as if the calendar was made more appealing by having to search for a given day.  Not so oddly, each door fronted a bit of chocolate.  As if waiting twenty-four days for Christmas wasn’t hard enough, Advent calendars forced a kid to wait twenty-four hours to “open” each piece of chocolate.  A test of patience.

       

If cardboard and chocolate don’t catch your attention, perhaps you’d prefer a more elaborate version of an Advent calendar.  Consider Fran’s Chocolates of Seattle (above left), which produces its annual calendar fronted by an original watercolor.  Add in twenty-four delectable chocolates in twenty-four drawers, and this calendar sets you back $175.  Or how about Liberty London’s “Beauty Advent Calendar” (above right), which includes twenty-four wellness products – many of them full-size – like probiotic deodorant, essential oil candles, and skin bronzer?  This one sets you back $275, with the price justification you can re-gift whatever items are not to your taste.

Lest you think a fancy (or not) calendar is the only way to acknowledge Advent, I can’t close without mentioning the Christingle.  I don’t remember creating one of these as a kid.  A Christingle is made up of an orange, a candle, a bit of red ribbon, and four sets of dried fruits or sweets, skewered on cocktail sticks.  It’s a strange-looking assembly, but the Christingle gets an “A” for symbolism.  The orange represents the world.  The candle represents Jesus as the light of the world.  The red ribbon represents God’s love (or Jesus’ blood).  The fruits/sweets represent the gifts God gives us, and the cocktails sticks represent the four corners of the globe.  Lots going on in one sort-of-neat package.

Austria may lay claim to the biggest Advent calendar in the world!

If you’re reading this post before December 1st, you have the entire twenty-four days of Advent ahead of you.  Twenty-four days to slow down and appreciate the meaning of day twenty-five.  Sounds more like a season than a single day, doesn’t it?  Mark your calendar then.  Advent is here.

Some content sourced from Wikipedia, “the free encyclopedia”.

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Media Meltdown

Nope, not that media.

A few weeks ago, I gave Legacybox a try.  Heard of ’em?  Legacy converts old home movies – the ones you may have on VHS or 8mm tapes (or even reel-to-reel) – into clean, digitized formats. I sent Legacy a heaping box of my tapes (reel-to-reel was slightly before my time), and a month later received a single, tiny thumb drive in return. Remarkable really: dozens of hours of precious video memories packed into a bits-n-bytes “box” the size of a fingernail clipper. If I’d chosen a digital download instead of the thumb drive, I wouldn’t have received anything (physical) in return.

We’ve flash-landed into a digital, live-stream, can’t-hold-it-in-your-hands world of multimedia these days.  Phonograph records, celluloid film, audio and video cassettes, and optical media like CD’s and DVD’s spin firmly in the rear-view mirror; collectables reserved for only the most nostalgic.

[It’s not a stretch to say print media – books, newspapers, magazines, and photographs – aren’t far behind, but that’s another post for another day.]

For those of you born in the last century – literally, not figuratively – let’s eulogize some of these once-upon-a-time physical media formats.

The “8-track”

I’m old enough to remember 8-track tapes, are you?  Before I owned my first “LP” or “45” record, I was regularly subjected to my dad’s music choices on his car stereo 8-track player.  In hindsight, there’s something endearing about the bulky, inefficient format of the 8-track tape (except when your only memory is your dad’s music).

The smallish 45 “single”

Before the 8-track tape gave way to the compact cassette, I built up a pretty good collection of 1970’s 45 rpm records (“singles”) – 100 or more.  My older brother – who built a sizeable collection of 1970’s 33 rpm records (“LP’s”), understandably disdained my choices in music.  His flavor was “classic” rock (ex. Rick Wakeman, Emerson, Lake & Palmer) while mine was “bubblegum” (ex. Olivia Newton-John, Barry Manilow).  Appropriately, I have Olivia’s “Let’s Get Physical” re-running in my head as I cover today’s topic.

The cool thing about compact cassettes was – of course – you could record things (birthing the concept of the “playlist”).  Just as noteworthy, you could play cassettes in your car’s “deck”.  Your records had to stay home.  It wasn’t long before my 45’s were stashed in the closet and I was all-in on “tape”.  I spent countless hours recording and listening as I hugged my very first tape recorder.  I spent countless weekly allowance dollars on the Columbia House Record and Tape Club.  When the ultra-compact Sony Walkman debuted in 1979, cassette-tape music went everywhere you did.

Right about the same time as the Walkman, JVC (VHS) and Sony (Betamax) figured out how to put video on tape.  My early memories of movie rentals at the video store include renting the video player too.  After all, the price tag on first-generation “VCR’s” ran into the thousands of dollars.  I can still picture myself lugging a bulky VCR down the street to my apartment, with a pile of cables, an instruction booklet, and a stack of videotapes to watch.  Then, twenty-four hours later, I’d pack it all up and lug it back to the store.

The colorful “laserdisc”

Compact discs (CD’s) and digital versatile discs (DVD’s) felt like space-age technology in the ’80’s and ’90’s.  But press the Pause button for a moment.  Did you forget laserdiscs (LD)?  LD’s were the first optical disc storage medium, and man did I buy into the hype of those rainbow Frisbees.  By the time I invested in a (bulky) LD player and loaded up on (pricy) LD’s themselves, DVD’s were beginning to take over the home video market.  Sadly, I still have my LD collection today (along with my no-longer-functioning LD player).  I figure the whole setup isn’t even worth the time to advertise on Craigslist.  In hindsight, laserdiscs were the very definition of unwieldy.

Finally (for physical media), I never graduated from DVD’s to Blu-ray discs, but “cinephiles” claim Blu-ray looks and sounds even better than its digital successors.  Regardless, Blu-ray should be considered the final frontier in a history of physical media dating back to the 1800’s.  Check out Wikipedia’s timeline of audio formats (player-piano rolls!) here.

Thanks to companies like Legacybox, Netflix, and Spotify, digital media is here to stay.  But I must concede, there’s little pride in perusing a collection of utterly un-physical files and folders on my laptop.  Maybe Olivia Newton-John knew what she was singing about after all.

Or maybe that’s why I’m still hanging onto my laserdiscs.

Some content sourced from the 10/11/2019 Wall Street Journal article, “Streaming Is Killing Physical Media.  Here’s Why You Won’t Miss It”, and Wikipedia, “the free encyclopedia”.

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Smallest and Innermost

Mercury

Last month, I spent an entire post lavishing love and affection on Earth’s beautiful space neighbor, the planet Venus (see here). I was quick to point out – from Earth – you can occasionally see the planets Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn as well. Turns out that list is, ahem, incomplete by at least one planet. Clearly miffed by my post, our solar system’s Mr. Smallest and Innermost – the planet Mercury – decided to speak up this week.

Don’t burn yourself, little one (image courtesy of NASA)

For those of you who missed it, Mercury passed in front of the Sun on Monday.  For five hours or so, Mercury looked like a little black mole on the bright cheek of a much larger creature.  His orbit took him almost directly across the center of the Sun.  You may think Mercury’s show is no big deal; after all, he circles the Sun every 88 Earth days.  However, consider Earth, Mercury, and the Sun must be exactly lined up (put a ruler on it) for humans to witness a Mercury “Sun transit”.  We only get fourteen Mercury transits every Earth century.  The next one won’t happen until 2032.

I missed Monday’s Mercury transit myself, because a) I wasn’t up at sunrise in the Northern Hemisphere (when it happened), and b) I didn’t have the necessary eye protection to give it a direct look.  Instead, I enjoyed the online photos and videos from NASA and the world’s other space agencies (like this one).

Mercury’s the tough little guy on the left

The truth is, you don’t have to wait for a Mercury transit to observe the first rock from the Sun.  On several early mornings last month, you could’ve seen Mercury rising in the east (same as Venus), and you’ll see him again early next year – no telescope required.  Guess I got caught up in the allure of Venus and completely ignored her nearby brother.

If Mercury and Earth were side-by-side

Mercury – like all the planets – has some interesting facts.  He completes three rotations about his axis (days) for his every two orbits of the Sun (years).  Pretty slow for the smallest orbit in the solar system.  He has no moons.  He’s only about a third the size of Earth.  He’s pretty beat up, with the most craters of any planet, and “wrinkles” caused by the cooling and contracting of his iron core.  Only two of Earth’s spacecraft have ever visited Mercury, and even those stayed far away from the surface for obvious reasons (800.6°F on the sunny side; -279.4°F in the shade).

The Roman god for which Mercury is named is a lot “cooler” than the planet itself (ha).  Young Mercury wears a lot of hats, including (god of) financial gain, eloquence, and divination.  (Side note: perhaps Mercury should’ve been my blog mascot.  “Eloquence” was the theme of my very first post).  He also serves as the guide of souls to the underworld. Curiously, all these responsibilities take a back seat to Mercury’s most commonly known role – as speedy messenger to the other gods.  This role explains the naming of the planet, the fastest of the eight to circle the Sun.  Maybe we should also consider Mercury as messenger to the other planets, in case something gets weird with the Sun.  After all, Mercury will be the first to know.

I can’t talk about Mercury without a reference to the late, great Ray Bradbury.  Of all his wonderful science-fiction short stories – and there have been at least a hundred – my Bradbury top five includes “The Golden Apples of the Sun”.  “Apples” followed an exploratory rocket ship heading past Mercury to the Sun.  The crew is tasked with collecting a sample of the Sun’s golden fire.  I can still imagine the ship’s giant scoop as it extends from the hull and grabs a bit of the Sun.  The story’s real drama comes just after the collection, as the ship overheats and the life-support systems begin to shut down.  With respect to Bradbury, I won’t give away the ending.

Well then, enough about Mercury (probably too much).  I’ll conclude with a great tweet from Katie Mack, who was quick to note about Monday’s Mercury transit: “The official song of #TransitOfMercury is, obviously, ‘King of Pain’ by the Police.  But please note that the ‘little black spot on the Sun today’ referenced in the song is a ‘sunspot’, not Mercury, since ‘it’s the same old thing as yesterday,’ and (Mercury) transits only last a few hours.”

Keep on a-circling the Sun, Mercury.  I won’t forget ya next time.

Some content sourced from the BBC.com article, “Planet Mercury passes across the face of the Sun”, the Space-Facts.com article, Mercury Facts – Interesting Facts about Planet Mercury, and Wikipedia, “the free encyclopedia”.

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Raining Cats and… More Cats

Google “cat”, and you’ll get a return of 6.4 billion hits. Spend five seconds per hit and you’ll need a millennium to get through ’em all. That’s a thousand years on everything there is to know about cats. Your dog will think you’re nuts. Your cat, on the other hand, will wonder why you didn’t start your search sooner. Felis catus, after all, is more manipulative than we humans want to believe.

Something in the cosmos moved me to write about cats this week.  When I started this post (last week), the calendar just closed on National Black Cat Day (10/27) as well as National Cat Day (10/29).  Then my daughter relocated to Seattle, which involved two cars, her cat, and a whole lot of packing.  (Pretty sure half the packing was for the cat.)  Then Monday Night Football happened, and the video of a black cat eluding officials during the Giants-Cowboys game went viral.  Finally, the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) spiced up its headlines with a piece called, “Should Your Cat Be Vegan?”

I think this cat-aclysm of events caused all other blog topics to step aside this week (again with the manipulation).  Maybe it was my daughter’s cat, a little upset I hadn’t written about her after several hundred posts.  More likely it was another WSJ article I’ve been saving from last April: “There Is Now Scientific Proof Your Cat Is Ignoring You”.  Now there’s a headline.  Talk about manipulation.  Assuming a little obedience school and training, you probably have your dog right where you want him.  Your cat?  Obedient?  Never.

Per the WSJ article, cats hear and recognize their names; they just choose to show no response.  When they do show a response it’s not for affection, but for potential reward, like petting or playing or food.  Jennifer Vonk, an animal cognition psychologist, says, “…we (humans) sort of reward them for doing what they want to do… they’re better at manipulating our behavior than vice versa.”  In other words, your dog wants to please you while your cat just wants to please itself.

Aside from persistent clawing (which can take down an upholstered chair faster than an army of serrated knives) I rather enjoy the company of cats.  They’re quiet.  They’re soft.  They’re cute when they’re little fluff balls rolling around the carpet playing with toys.  And they’re low maintenance, preferring to catnap or full-on sleep while you dutifully attend to their litter box and food bowl.  So it’s a wonder to learn (“…Scientific Proof…”) – despite their outward laziness – cats have the cognitive ability to do everything dogs can.  They just choose not to.  A little disturbing, no?

Dogs make six distinctive sounds: barking, whining, whimpering, and so on.  Cats – as if to one-up their canine competition – make seven, and they all mean different things.  Cats meow, purr, trill, chatter, yowl, hiss, and growl.  (Listen to every one of them here.)  If you’ve ever heard a cat chatter, it’s mildly disturbing, as if he’s on the verge of a paws-to-the-walls freak-out.  But if you ever hear a cat growl, it’s one of the most unsettling bass-voice attention-getters ever emitted from a small, carnivorous mammal.  My daughter’s cat growled while sitting on my lap once.  Small wonder I didn’t wet my pants.

Domesticated cats have a long history, dating back to 3000 years BC in Egypt or something like that.  They fare well whether “house” (dependent), “farm” (semi-dependent) or “feral” (fully independent).  They also have an impressive list of trivia bits.  A few of my favorites:

  • Cats spend up to 50 percent of their day grooming themselves.  Maybe humans should too.  Grooming tones down their scent to avoid predators, cools them down, and promotes blood flow.  Smart.
  • A group of kittens is called a kindle.  I’ll never look at my e-reader the same way again.  Also, a group of full-grown cats is called a clowder (hold the clams).
  • The average running feline can clock around 30 mph.  No wonder I’ll never catch my daughter’s cat after she “autographs” the upholstery.
  • Cats can’t taste sweets.  In other words, keep an eye on the steak but don’t worry about the big cake in the middle of the table.  Your cat doesn’t care.
  • Your cat has more bones than you do: 244 vs. 206.  No wonder they’re so nimble.
  • Cats sweat.  Through their paws, in fact.  They also pant, which should be the eighth distinctive (and disturbing) sound they make.
  • Disneyland hosts approximately 200 feral cats.  Their job, of course, is to control the amusement park’s rodent population.  Think about that the next time you’re deep inside the Haunted Mansion.

I learned a lot about cats as I prepared for this post.  I realize the whole “nine lives” concept simply means cats are smart enough to cheat death more than most animals. Including humans.  Maybe that’s why they ignore us.  We’re less intelligent.  And easier to manipulate.

Some content sourced from Wikipedia, “the free encyclopedia”.

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Cardinal Roll

A paper towel, a napkin, and a facial tissue were chatting at a paper goods party one day. The towel spread himself flat and declared, “I’m the biggest one here, not counting the tablecloth under the dessert buffet.” The napkin glared at the towel and said, “Think you’re so important? All you do is clean up messes. I’m part of every place setting at every dinner table in the land!” To which the tissue sniffled, “Sorry boys, but I’m more important than either of you. No bathroom or lady’s purse would be complete without me”. Just then a roll of toilet paper wheeled by. Glancing at his paper pals, he grinned confidently as if to say, “No contest”.

It’s true, isn’t it?  If I dragged you to the same paper goods party and said, “Choose one, but it’s the only one you’re allowed for the next twenty-four hours”, toilet paper wins every time.  Paper towels, napkins, and facial tissue come in plenty of sizes, quantities, and pretty designs, encouraging us to put them on display in our houses.  TP gets no such fanfare and frankly, we’re embarrassed to be seen anywhere with those virgin-white rolls.  When was the last time you proudly displayed your 24-pack of Quilted Northern or Angel Soft as you waited in the grocery store checkout line?  If you’re like me, you jam those rolls into the lower part of the cart.  You want them invisible.

Cute, huh? It’s called “Cloudy Day”

Here’s where you’re probably thinking, “Toilet paper?  He’s writing a blog about toilet paper?”  Damn right I am.  When Procter & Gamble (P&G) comes out with a “bathroom tissue” product called “Charmin Forever Roll”, I’m all over it.  Imagine if you will, a roll of toilet paper one foot in diameter (actually, don’t imagine; just look at the photo below).  This bad boy’s three times bigger than your standard roll.  He’s the equivalent of the 24-pack you were trying to hide in your shopping cart.  It’s like putting a tractor tire next to your toilet.  The “Forever” comes with its own sturdy stand, and the idea is, it never runs out.  Well, almost never.  The Forever lasts twenty-one days on average.  If you told me my job was to change the toilet paper roll only once every three weeks?  I might actually do it!

The “Charmin Forever Roll”

What, you ask, inspired P&G to create a quarter mile of rolled toilet paper the size of an LP vinyl record?  Human nature, that’s what.  No matter how easy the task, people refuse to change the roll (on top of whatever else they’re doing in the bathroom).  In fact, a survey of 2,000 bathroom users – as if the survey-takers had to screen out “non-bathroom users” – found 85% agreed to the phrase, “An empty toilet paper roll is one of the most frustrating bathroom scenarios”.

Don’t you just hate this?

You should’ve seen this coming and beaten P&G to the punch.  Toilet paper has been rolling out in ever-bigger sizes since those 4″ originals hit the shelves.  We’ve graduated to “double”, “triple”, “jumbo”, “mega”, “mega plus”, and “super mega”.  It’s getting grandiose.  Even the Forever isn’t the biggest anymore.  Last month Charmin debuted the “Forever Roll XL”, which gets you 50% more than the Forever.  You can go a whole month without changing the roll.  Not only that, P&G lets you subscribe, so your XL tractor tires show up at the front door all by themselves.  Order a dozen and you’re good for a year!

There’s no end to the madness, if shopping habits tell the truth.  When P&G first offered the Forever, they gave us a choice of an 8.7″ or a 12″ round.  They figured we’d want to ease into the idea of super-sized toilet paper.  Wrong.  Consumers went straight for the 12″, which is why P&G fast-tracked the 13.2″ XL (and promptly dropped the 8.7″).  Just how “XL” is a 13.2″ roll?  3.2 pounds – or 2,550 squares.

Clearly, the sky’s the limit when it comes to a roll of toilet paper.  I can picture it now: a roll the size of a Ferris Wheel.  Laugh all you want – homebuilders are probably already redesigning bathrooms to accommodate one.  And then – maybe then – toilet paper will get more attention than just who was supposed to change the empty roll.

Some content sourced from the 10/16/19 Wall Street Journal article, “The Empty Toilet Paper Roll Torments Families.  Procter & Gamble Has an Answer”.

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Girl Crush

The Goddess

Last Sunday, our corner of the night sky was graced with a full moon called a “Tiny Hunter”. Tiny, because the moon was at the furthest point in its elliptical orbit. Hunter, because this time of year harvested fields leave few places for animals to hide. (Add a full moon and the hunting’s even easier). When our Tiny Hunter rose in the east that night, it was as if a giant flashlight switched on in the heavens, blotting out a typically starry night. But I know it didn’t blot out everything. Venus, beckoning brightly to the west, was saying hey, this is my party too.

Next to the moon, Venus is the brightest bulb in the night sky. Even if you don’t know where she sits, you can find her by simply scanning the western horizon at dusk or eastern at dawn for the most brilliant pinpoint of light. As if outshining all of the stars isn’t enough, Venus is also the most vivid planet. Mars, Saturn, and Jupiter occasionally make an appearance, but Venus always seems to be there. Even in broad daylight.

“Morning Star” or “Evening Star” – take your pick

I’m not gonna lie; Venus gives me a bit of a girl crush. After all, she’s the Roman goddess of love and beauty. Now consider her other “outstanding” attributes:

  • She’s the only planet in our solar system to identify as female.
  • She’s referred to as our “sister planet”, not only because she’s our closest neighbor, but because she’s virtually the same size.
  • She rotates in the opposite direction of seven of the eight planets (including Earth).
  • She hosts two continents: Ishtar Terra (named after the Babylonian goddess of love), and Aphrodite Terra (named after the Greek goddess of love).
  • Her rotation is so slow, a day in her world is longer than a year in ours. But, a year in her world is shorter than that same day. Say what? You read that right: Venus completes a trip around the sun faster than she completes a rotation on her own axis.
  • Her orbit is closer to the shape of a circle (vs. an ellipse) than all other planets.
  • She has no moons or rings. Naturally, why would the goddess of love and beauty need adornments?

No wonder the Babylonians referred to Venus as “bright queen of the sky”, eh?

Given her allure, it’s a wonder our earthly culture hasn’t done more to embrace her. I went in search of homage to Venus and here’s all I could come up with:

  • Sandro Botticelli’s iconic “The Birth of Venus” (top left), with our girl posed unashamedly naked on a seashell.
  • Vincent van Gogh’s post-impressionist “The Starry Night” (top center), with Venus as the bright “star” just to the right of the cypress tree.
  • The Bible’s Song of Songs (fitting, if you know the book’s subject matter), Chapter 6, Verse 10.
  • John Gray’s bestselling relationship guide, Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus.
  • Gillette’s “Venus” line of women’s shaving products.
  • The “Venus” women’s clothing line (catalog arrived for my wife just last week).
  • A nasty-looking fly-trapping plant.
  • Frankie Avalon’s adoring anthem “Venus” (Hey, Venus… oh, VENUS…).
  • Shocking Blue’s psychedelic rock hit “Venus” (I’m your Venus… I’m your fire, at your desire…).

If that’s the extent of our tribute to Venus, no wonder we have the phrase “hell hath no fury like a woman scorned”. Venus shows her not-so-lovely side if she wants to. She’s the hottest planet in the solar system (including Mercury), with an average surface temperature of 863 degrees F (462 C). Her atmospheric pressure is 92 times stronger than Earth’s (which is why her surface is beautifully crater-free). She’s covered in a thick layer of sulfuric acid clouds. Her wind speeds are extraordinarily high. And she’s explosive, with a long history of volcanic activity.

The second rock from the Sun… and the brightest of all eight.

Scientists believe – 700 million years ago under drastically different conditions – Venus was temperate enough to host oceans of water and life itself. So…, what in God’s name happened to make her so nasty now? Whatever it was, even our most advanced spacecraft can’t land on her surface today (though we’re working on it).

Considering this brief education on Venus, I suggest you ignore her siren song and simply admire her from afar. Even if you could speed your car along an interstellar highway, you’d need over forty years to get to Earth’s twisted sister. No; stay on her good side lest she show her surface temperatures and atmospheric pressures. That wouldn’t go well for you. I’d rather look Medusa in the eye and be turned to stone.

Some content sourced from the 9/22/19 Phys Org article, “Could Venus have been Habitable?”, “Venus Facts:…” from The Planets website, and Wikipedia, “the free encyclopedia”.

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