Question

What does the term buckdancer's choice mean and what is its origin?

Its origin seems varied. A buckdance generally refers to a dance done solo, such as tapdancing. A buck-and-wing is a kind of southern mountain dancing. The term also may have come from a Native American ceremonial dance by a brave costumed as a buck. A buckdancer's choice, then, would seem to refer to a solo dancer's own style or choice of dance to be done in performance.

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Does the Moon rise and set as the Sun rises in the east and sets in the west? The enormous full Moon always takes me by surprise, and I'd love to get some shots of a big yellow Moon. Is it possible to predict the dates and times when the Moon will appear largest over the horizon?

Basically, the Moon rises in the east and sets in the west, but its path varies during the month because its orbit is elliptical. However, you will never see a rising Moon in the west or a setting Moon in the east. The time to see a huge Moon is in its full phase and when it is close to the horizon. If you check the right-hand calendar pages in the print Almanac, you will see the notation "Moon runs low"; this is when it is closest to the horizon. Check the date for each such notation, then check the left-hand calendar page for the Moon's phase and the time of its rising and setting for that date.

How can I best clean a small pewter vase?

If the vase is not an antigue one, it would be safe to use a homemade paste made from vinegar, flour, and salt. This has a mildly abrasive quality. If you have antique pewter, which is generally of a softer alloy than modern-day pewter, use more care. For older pewter, make a paste of wood ashes and water for polishing.

What is considered the first horror film to hit the big screen?

That honor goes to Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, which debuted in Chicago in 1908.

What is red tide that occurs on ocean coasts?

Red tide refers to a toxin that can kill fish and contaminate shellfish, making the shellfish inedible. It occurs when a certain type of dinoflagellates blooms, causing a reddish discoloration of the water.

What makes a cape, as in Cape Cod, a cape?

The geographical definition if a cape is a piece of land, either a point or larger mass, that juts out into water and is a peninsula. People use the term loosely, sometimes using it to refer not to one specific point but to a whole area of land. The Cape of Good Hope, for example, does not just mean the point south of Cape Town, South Africa, but refers to the entire region.

Why does the Sun rise approximately one minute later each day at this time of the year, but sunset is at the same time for a couple of days in a row?

The situation you describe occurs as we approach the winter solstice. By contrast, as we approach the summer solstice, sunrise gradually gets earlier, while sunset gradually gets later. The reason for this is that Earth orbits the Sun at an irregular rate. It does not move at a steady pace, but rather speeds up and slows down. Of course, the use of standardized time also is a contributing factor. If people measured time by the Sun (sundials), we would be marking the true movement of Earth relative to the Sun. But that would mean a fluctuating standard of time, which would be much more inconvenient than an apparent anomaly in the sunrise and sunset.

What ever happened to the state of Franklin?

Franklin was the name of a "state" formed by settlers in 1784. After four years, that state collapsed and eventually became part of Tennessee. It was named for statesman Benjamin Franklin.

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