According to preliminary reports, the nation's Gross Domestic Product (G.D.P.) grew faster than it has in two years, and has finally shown a positive quarter after four negative growth quarters in a row. Some are pointing to these numbers and stating that the recession, which had been predicted to be very long and very deep, is now probably over.
Back when Bush was in office, there were some talking about recession even before the first negative growth quarter for the G.D.P. was posted, and many people, most of them conservative, mocked the idea mercilessly. Anyone calling out the warning in late 2007 or early 2008 was called a recession pimp. You probably recall that Phil Gramm called us a country full of whiners in the early summer of 2008, and was given a trip to the woodshed by McCain a few weeks later.
Had McCain won, I am confident that Phil Gramm would have had more real power in the McCain administration than Sarah Palin could ever have dreamed of getting.
Since I'm taking a trip down memory lane with all these links, let me link to a post from last year about how uncannily correct Peter Schiff was before the fact. In the interest of full disclosure, Schiff was predicting that gold would be at $2000 an ounce by the end of 2009, and currently it is only slightly above $1000 an ounce, so nobody's right all the time.
We've seen that G.D.P. isn't the best way to look at the economy. Those who say the current recession started in late 2007, and that is now the conventional wisdom, pointed to job growth. As you can see on this graph, there was actual job growth in the last three months of 2007, but economists agree that we need some job growth just to keep pace with the growing population of people of the age to be in the work force. Numbers vary, but the general consensus is that job growth somewhere between 140,000 and 200,000 is the break even point, so even those short blue bars at the left side of this graph are not enough on average to keep up with population growth. Everyone of every political stripe can agree that losing jobs in the economy isn't good, and we have now had 21 consecutive months of bad news about jobs. The Obama administration's only positive spin is that the trend is getting better, unlike the last year and change of the Bush administration where things just got worse and worse, but we are still a long way from getting actual job growth in a month, and even when that happens, there will be a lot of experienced people trying to get those jobs that new entrants to the work force would have taken in better economic times.
The economy works best when money is moving around, and people with jobs that create positive cash flow are the best means around for circulating money. Even with the years of growth we have seen in the G.D.P. in the past thirty years or so, economic disparity has kept working people from seeing many of the benefits of a growing economy.
It's a little surprising that Sarah Palin is still news one year after she was the vice presidential candidate on a ticket that got beat badly. It was not a rocket ship to fame for William Miller in 1964, it wasn't much help to Geraldine Ferraro in 1984, but these aren't normal times. Right now, the G.O.P. needs young stars, and for all her flaws, she has more star power than any other Republican under 50 years old, and the Party Of Angry Old White Men can't afford to have an angry old white man at the top of the ticket in 2012. Given her baggage, and given the fact that she bought some of that baggage herself when she became Sarah "No Mas" Palin earlier this year, she probably won't be the standard bearer, but the G.O.P. could definitely do worse.
While her continued play in the press is unusual, it's a complete shock that the press is still talking to Levi Johnston. If the world had gone according to plan, she would still be governor now and he would be her son-in-law. But neither of those things are the case, and in an odd way, it's the weird soap opera twists and turns that keep the press interested in these people.
Let me correct that comparison. Soap operas have plots and writers and character development. The lives of the Palins and the Johnstons are more like an episode of The Best of Jerry Springer.
I don't find myself agreeing with conservatives very often, and I would have more respect for them if they were actually consistent. Let's try a little thought experiment, shall we? Let's say some major Democratic politician had a daughter who gave birth out of wedlock before she graduated high school. Just to make it easy, let's say it was Chelsea Clinton. Conservatives would still be screaming about it to this day. It's would be the fault of Chelsea the slut, it would be the fault of Bill the slut, it would largely be the fault of Hillary the bad mother, more interested in being co-president than raising her daughter.
Back when being an unwed mother was a badge of shame, the shame was equally shared by the young girl and her family. In Sarah Palin's case, I think she deserves some blame for not being more protective of her daughter's future. She's proud as all get out of being a small town girl, but coming from a small town means everybody knows everybody's business. Having your daughter dating a kid whose mom sells drugs isn't acceptable, and it's exactly the sort of situation where parents in a family with a top-down authority structure would draw the line. But Todd was having too much fun winning snowmobile races and Sarah was too busy being governor, so their daughter's future wasn't a priority, just like the start of poor Trig's life wasn't a priority when the chance to run for vice-president presented itself.
Now Levi Johnston is going rogue, a young man with a chip on his shoulder and more importantly, people who are happy to listen to him tell his side of the story of the odd time when the Palin family was thrown into the circus of massive media spotlight. He's going to pose for Playgirl, a magazine I didn't even know still existed. He says Sarah called Trig "the retarded baby". Sarah's people gave a non-denial denial about this, saying you can believe the word of anyone who pose naked for the world to see. You might recall that a waitress said she heard Governor Palin say "So, Sambo beat the bitch" after Obama finally won enough delegates for the Democratic nomination. I don't know if she said either of those things, but given her level of intelligence, education and class, I can easily believe she did.
John McCain chose Sarah Palin. In many ways her story outshone his during the last few months of the election. Unlike most vice presidential picks, she was a major reason his candidacy never gained traction. She had a chance to get real political power, but she's too hooked on instant gratification to do the hard work that power entails, and preferred to get in line at the money spigot. She shouldn't be surprised that Levi Johnston is standing in the same line. She knew her daughter was pregnant out of wedlock when she agreed to be a candidate, and a private family matter became a national headline. The Palins want to freeze Levi out of the life of their grandchild, and they have the right to do that. Levi has the right to tell his story and remind the world that Sarah and Todd are not upstanding Christian role models, just over-reaching white trash.
Y Combinator is a company based in Palo Alto that gives small amounts of venture capital to internet start-ups. The application process is nice and straightforward, so I've decided to apply this year for the round of funding that starts next January. The amount they offer isn't all the money in the world, but they don't ask for all the stock in the world, so it's a fair deal for a guy like me. I can live on the money they offer, which is more than I can say for teaching gigs right now.
Not to go into too much detail, but the idea is for an educational site that would mostly be free to the public with a fee-based section for students taking particular college courses. My hope is that we can create a business model where the fee is for a semester and at some reasonable price, unlike the textbook racket.
I want to thank Ken Rose for telling me about Y Combinator, Rob Fulop for taking time to get together and giving me his advice on start-ups, and to sfmike for his help making my application look better and to Mike's partner Tony for letting me use his Mac to test out the feasibility of the product.
I'm being intentionally vague as to what the website is. The application process ended yesterday and Y Combinator takes about a week to decide who they will fund, so I'll know better by late next week as to whether it's thumbs up or thumbs down.
Not really all that long a time to wait, but when you're waiting, it always seems long, doesn't it? ~
Back when I was a regular on alt.obituaries, it was considered bad form to discuss a celebrity who was still alive. An exception was made if there were news reports of a person being gravely ill. If those reports were in the tabloids, those were called Brave Last Days Alerts.
For example, if we are to believe the front cover of The National Enquirer, Dick Clark only has a year to live.
According to his spokesman, since he only has one year, Mr. Clark has decided on the year 1960. ~
In this final installment of my review of Robinson's New Higher Arithmetic, a math text published 114 years ago, I'd like to bring up two techniques from the book that could still have value today. Robinson called them "casting out nines" and "casting out elevens". The modern names are "mod 9" and "mod 11".
All calculations back in the day were done by hand. How could you be sure you didn't make a mistake? Robinson recommended methods he would call "proof of addition" or "proof of subtraction" or "proof of multiplication" that you could use to check your work.
The first one is casting out nines. You may have learned this at some point in your education, but that isn't guaranteed since it isn't required knowledge, and you might have forgotten it as well. To cast out nines, add all the digits together of a number. If the sum of the digits is more than ten, add up those digits, and repeat the process until you get a number less than ten.
Example: Casting out nines in 2,598,960. 2+5+9+8+9+6+0 = 39, 3+9 = 12, 1+2 = 3.
What this tells us is that if we divide 2,598,960 by 9, we get a remainder of 3. If after casting out nines we get 9 as the final answer, that means the number is divisible by 9.
The idea is that if we add a column of numbers, the remainder of the total when divided by nine should be the total of the remainders of the original numbers when divided by nine. Likewise, if I multiply two numbers together, the remainder of the product will be the product of the remainder. If this didn't work, you messed something up. Since casting out nines is fairly easy, it's more likely you messed up the addition of the column or the multiplication.
There's also casting out elevens, which is only slightly trickier. Instead of adding all the digits, we start at the ones place, add that digit, then subtract the tens place digit, then add the hundreds place, then subtract the thousands place, alternating back and forth until all the digits are used. Let's do this with 2,598,960. I'll alternate the colors of the digits, where black are the ones to be added and red are the ones to be subtracted.
2 - 5 + 9 - 8 + 9 - 6 + 0 = 1.
Because we are adding and subtracting, we might get a negative number, though we did not here. When that happens, add 11 until we get a positive number.
You might think there's not much point to this in a world full of spreadsheets and calculators, since the machines aren't going to make addition or multiplication mistakes, but people still make transcription errors, and casting out nines or casting out elevens can catch these. Here are two common types of errors we humans make. Duplicating the wrong digit: We were supposed to write 377 and we wrote 337 instead. Casting out nines, the simpler of the two methods, will catch this if we do the process to both the original list and the list we typed into calculator or computer.
Transposing digits: The true number was 275 and we wrote 257 instead. Casting out nines won't help here.
2+5+7 = 2+7+5 = 14 in either case.
This is why Robinson's included the slightly more difficult back-up plan of casting out elevens.
2 - 5 + 7 = 4, while 2 - 7 + 5 = 0.
In a spreadsheet like Excel, there is the mod function so =mod(2598960,9) will give you 3 and =mod(2598960,11) is 1, but the whole idea is that you might have mistyped something from another source, so it makes sense to do the casting out of nines and elevens on the original source by hand.
The curriculum is changing constantly, but the amount of time students are in class isn't increasing that much. This means that when new material is added, usually something has to go by the wayside. It might be time to double back and put casting out nines and casting out elevens back in the mix.
So I was looking through my Flags of Many Lands™ collection, and I spotted several flags that have a similar look. I went to the World Flag Database to find all flags that follow the similar pattern, and I found these six. All use black, white, red and green, all have three horizontal stripes with the middle stripe white, and all three have some geometric shape - triangle, trapezoid or rectangle - over on the left. Two of them, #3 and #5, also have a small logo, #3 a star and #5 the Islamic crescent moon and star. All the nations that went with this pattern are from the Middle East and northern Africa. Here are the countries listed alphabetically, which is not the order they are in from above.
Jordan Kuwait Palestine The Sudan United Arab Emirates Western Sahara
Here's a little trivia quiz. Match the countries with the flags. For a bonus point, figure out which of these countries is not yet part of Matty Boy's Flags of Many Lands™ collection. ~
This week, the Mutant Mercenaries were the fourth best team in the league. Unfortunately, our opponents were the second best team in the league, so we lost and the record is now 3-4. We are mere percentage points out of the playoffs with six weeks remaining.
Last week, I was the only one of my blood relatives to win. This week, I was the only one to lose, as both my nephew and my brother made it in to the win column. Adam's fiance Liz still has one of the two undefeated teams in the league, but they go head to head next week, so that has to change. Also next week, it's brother against brother, so somebody related to me (which would include me) has to win. It's like the Civil War or something. You can almost hear the violin and banjo in the background, while Sam Waterson reads an incredibly well-written letter from a soldier writing to the wife he fears he will never see again.
"My darling Sarah..."
Wait a second. It's just a damn game on the Internet! Ain't nobody gonna die. I've got to get a grip on myself. ~
It's standard practice in Hollywood to mock Ben Affleck. He and his pal Matt Damon got famous at the same time for writing Good Will Hunting, and both have worked in successful movies with ensemble casts, Affleck most notably in Shakespeare In Love andDamon in the Ocean's Eleven series, but when it comes to being the name above the title guy, Damon can point to The Bourne Identity and the sequels and Affleck is stuck with Gigli.
Here's something Ben Affleck has done that Matt Damon has yet to do. He's directed a really good film.
Gone Baby Gone is an adaptation of a novel by Dennis Lehane. Lehane also wrote Mystic River, which was turned into a movie by director Clint Eastwood. While he sets most of his own novels in the Boston area, Lehane wrote three scripts for the HBO series The Wire, which is set in Baltimore.
Ben Affleck does not star in Gone Baby Gone. The lead role is played by Ben's brother Casey, who fits the part better because he's not as tall and physically intimidating. Casey plays a private investigator based in the Dorchester neighborhood, and in several scenes he has to prove to people who underestimate him that he is indeed a tough guy from a tough neighborhood.
The story does a good job of explaining why a private investigator would be preferable to the cops. A private eye knows scumbags, and the scumbags will talk to him, while they won't talk to the police. The story revolves around a missing little girl. The aunt and uncle of the girl, who live in the same two family house, hire the male-female detective team, played by Affleck and Michelle Monaghan, to augment the search. Besides Affeck and Monaghan, the other actors who get their names in big type are Morgan Freeman and Ed Harris, who play cops assigned to the case.
The family of the missing girl are the most recognizable actors not given the star treatment. The aunt and uncle are played by Amy Madigan and Titus Welliver, while the mother is played by my latest adopted actor Amy Ryan. Madigan is the veteran of this trio, her career on film starting about ten years earlier than the other two, her best known role now probably being her work on Grey's Anatomy, but she has been in major roles since she played Kevin Costner's wife in Field of Dreams. Welliver may be best known as Silas Adams in Deadwood. Amy Ryan's best known work was already discussed in an earlier post.
Amy Ryan usually plays characters for whom the audience will easily feel sympathy, but not so in Gone Baby Gone. She's an unfit mother and she feels very little guilt about it, and the guilt she does feel she sublimates by drinking heavily. It may have been this work against typecasting that garnered her an Academy Award nomination and won her several critics' circle prizes.
I liked the movie a lot. It aims for the level of reality The Wire was able to maintain for five seasons. Of course, in reality people don't say quite so many clever or funny or revealing things as movie characters do, and our stories here in the real world don't always have such well defined arcs or moments of complete resolution.
Ben Affleck deserves praise for making such a good film in his directorial debut. Instead, in Hollywood, he more likely gets blamed for making a movie that only grossed $20 million in domestic box office.
Poor Ben just can't catch a break. Except... he is married to Jennifer Garner and avoided being married to Jennifer Lopez, who seems much more high maintenance than Garner to this outsider's view. Sound like two pretty good breaks to me. ~
Nine of ten from The You Tubes this week. There's plenty of Etta James on the website, even songs from the same album, her tribute to Billie Holiday, but not You've Changed. Go figure.
I decided to put up a picture of the 80's synth pop band Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark (O.M.D. for short) because according to iTunes, I've had this song on my computer for a very long time and this is the first time it's been played! I guess when you have about 1,100 tunes on your computer, there have to be few songs that haven't been randomly selected yet. Still, I was surprised.
I like craigslist. As an adjunct professor, I'm looking for work almost all the time, so I check in there to see if anyone needs a math teacher on a regular basis.
I understand there are sections on the website where you can meet people interested in intimate relations of a brief and financial nature. I honestly wouldn't know about that. I'm just looking for math gigs, and I've found a few on craiglist.
Recently, I put up an ad for a platonic activities partner, someone who might like to go to movies or play boardgames or just relax and watch a football game, that sort of thing. Some may think it's a little desperate to go to the internets to meet friends, but I've done similar things all my life with some really good results. I met Padre Mickey because I put an ad on a college radio station for bandmates. My dear friend Mina answered a personal ad I put in the Bay Guardian years ago. Through the Internets, I met two friends whose comments show up on this blog from time to time, Alan and Abu Scooter. I met sfmike in person by putting a comment up on his blog.
So, Internet friends... not that odd an idea to me.
But on craigslist... somebody needs to get these people a dictionary. Platonic is supposed to mean "no sex", and when I'm looking for a male activities partner, the "no sex" idea is more like a ironclad rule than a flexible guideline.
The good news is that these bozos make it clear what they want in the responses to the ad instead of me finding out once we meet.
The irony is that I put the ad for male activity partners instead of female activity partners because I didn't want it to be mistaken for a come on.
When you Google "a.p. obituaries", the first website you are sent to is Legacy.com, which puts up an incomplete list of the a.p. obits on their site. The second choice, the Yahoo! selection of a.p. obits has many more people. A.P. did mark the passing of Captain Lou Albano last week and his obit was on the Yahoo! list. George Tuska didn't make that list.
So I'm redirecting my wrath at Legacy.com. Another obit between Captain Lou and Soupy they didn't think was worth the electrons was Vic Mizzy, who wrote the theme songs for both Green Acres and The Addams Family, among other works.
Vic Mizzy's contribution to mankind is much more important that all the work that everybody at Legacy.com will ever do. I don't know if they are just too young or just too ignorant, but I'll switch to Yahoo! and have them out of my hair.
My apologies to the folks at A.P. for accusing them of the sloppy work done by the people from Legacy.com.
Someone needs a pie in the face.
Last week, I remarked on two obits that Legacy.com, borrowing from the Associated Press list, didn't think were worth covering, wrestler Captain Lou Albano and comic book artist George Tuska. I am willing to concede that those two obituaries might mean more to me than they do to the average person, but Legacy.com can get really obscure when they want to. Water rights attorneys and losing candidates for lieutenant governor of North Carolina and the like. Pretty weak claims to fame if you ask me.
But yesterday, early TV icon Soupy Sales died and the Legacy.com didn't think it was worth a mention.
Shame on Legacy.com, and I mean deep, everlasting shame.
The best obit I have found online is from The Detroit Free Press. Soupy was a local boy made good, did his schtick on TV in Detroit before taking it to Los Angeles and the through L.A. to the rest of the country. Soupy had his puppet pals and his running gags and also, he threw and caught pies to the face. His estimate was 9,000 cream pies in the old kisser throughout the span of his career.
We won't forget you, Soupy, even if Legacy.com did. Maybe they need a visit from White Fang, the meanest dog in all Deeeeeeeetroit! ~
Here's a nightmare that could happen to almost anyone. You wake up one morning and someone with the same name as you is now infamous. For Scott Peterson of Mendicino, no relation to the murderous Scott Peterson of Modesto, this is the least of his troubles.
For the people who know Scott Peterson of Mendicino, no one has died, but a lot of lives have been ruined or turned upside down.
I first heard of Scott Peterson of Mendicino (for the rest of the story, just called Peterson) on the Internet back in the mid nineties. Peterson invented a board game called Pirateer, a variant of backgammon or Parcheesi, a race game where you roll dice and move your pieces forward with ways of knocking your opponent's pieces back.
The game was published in 1995 and won the Mensa Select award in 1996. For serious board gamers, the Mensa Select award carries almost no weight at all. The best of the Mensa Select games, like Ingenious, Apples 2 Apples and Times Up!, are considered "light" games by board game geeks, and the games considered classics by geeks like me, games that would include Settlers of Catan, Acquire, Power Grid, Puerto Rico and Euphrates and Tigris, have never won a Mensa Select prize and never will. The brainiacs consider these games too complex.
So there's this split among game players, though Peterson didn't seem to know about it. There was (and still is) a newsgroup on the Internet called rec.games.board, and it is populated by serious gamers. Peterson went on the group to promote his game, and most of the reviews were lukewarm at best. This set Peterson off. He began flame wars with anyone who dared suggest his game was anything less than a modern classic. He would hijack conversation threads that had nothing to do with his game to promote it or attack his critics. He claimed his game had sold more copies than Settlers of Catan, which at the time was the hardcore board gamers' favorite.
A major line was crossed when he started posting articles and comments under another name, forging the name and ID of Richard Irving, one of his most vocal opponents on rec.games.board. When this was discovered, Peterson was persona non grata forever. People swore never to buy Pirateer on principle, and mentioning the his name or his game was considered a breach of newsgroup etiquette for many years.
Leap forward into the 21st Century. In 2002, Pirateer goes out of print. (Settlers of Catan, on the other hand, is the Law & Order or C.S.I. of the board game industry, still in print and spawning over a dozen spin-offs at last count.) Peterson starts suing people. In 2006, he wins a settlement of a quarter million from his publishers Warren Industries, but not before he goes on a hunger strike because the proceeding is too slow.
But as we saw earlier with his dealings on the newsgroup, Peterson can never leave well enough alone. He had disputes with his local investors in Mendicino, and he went about trying to ruin their lives. He started whisper campaigns against them, doing his best to get them fired from their jobs. He accused them of everything from embezzlement to infidelity. He filed lawsuits against anyone he considered an enemy, including accusing an ex-wife of slander because she said he showed signs of "narcissistic personality disorder".
Interesting questions remain unanswered about who actually will get paid in any of this or how much will be sucked up in legal fees.
It is a mercy that murderous psychotics like Scott Peterson of Modesto are very rare indeed, and very few of us will ever have our lives or the lives of our loved ones turned upside down by a person like that. But creeps like Scott Peterson of Mendicino are much more common, and they make much smaller messes in many more people's lives. ~W.L.~
Maybe you've already seen this on the web, maybe you haven't, but there's a motivational seminar in Fort Worth on October 26 that sounds like a hoot. For only $19 for EVERYONE IN YOUR OFFICE, you and all your co-workers can get fired up listening to speeches from the line-up of yahoos pictured above. The super special guest star is George W. Bush, 43rd President of the United States, who got so motivated by how many ever zeros there were on the check they gave him that he will travel all the way from his new home in Dallas to Fort Worth to give his talk.
Hope he's not too tuckered out.
Here's the Who's Who from left to right.
Colin Powell: Maybe he'll bring a tiny vial of anthrax with him. That would be so motivational!
Terry Bradshaw: Years ago, I saw him on 60 Minutes and I thought "He's not dumb, he just has a Southern accent." Then I saw him try to sing Hard Day's Night with Paul McCartney.
ZigZiglar: This guy is Mr. Motivation himself. If your boss gives you a ticket to a motivational seminar and ZigZiglar isn't on the bill, motivate yourself right out of your seat and go do something useful with your day. It doesn't matter that Ziglar is 327 years old. He's not retired, He's re-fired!
You'll hear lots of memorable little nuggets like this at a motivational seminar. They will stick with you forever. Not unlike scars from surgery.
Robert Schuller: Does God love this guy? Look, he's got a crystal cathedral. Not stone, not wood, not steel, crystal. If you've ever played Dungeons & Dragons, you just know crystal's got to be better.
George W. Bush: I don't have to say more, do I? Motivational! Or as he might say, motivationable!
Tamara Lowe: You may be wondering who this is. She's a best selling author of the book Get Motivated! As far as I can tell, she put this little shindig together.
Rick Belluzzo: You thought you could pick out the most evil person from this line-up? Well, take a second look at Rick Belluzzo. He is widely considered to be the person who killed a company called SGI before becoming president of Microsoft for 14 months (or as he is listed in the program, Legendary President of Microsoft) before he abruptly resigned. Here's the second graf from the Seattle Post-Intelligencer'sstory about him pulling a Palin.
"The unexpected resignation prompted speculation that Microsoft's corporate culture, dominated for more than 20 years by Chairman Bill Gates and Chief Executive Steve Ballmer, can be difficult for outside executives to penetrate."
After failing upwards into the gig at Microsoft, now he's a speaker at these low-rent business pep rallies.
Did we mention that a $19 ticket gets your entire office in the door? Yes, hypothetical question asker, I believe we did.
Rudy Giuliani: During the question and answer, you might want to check to see if he's sent his pal Bernie Kerik a fruit basket yet. Bernie has a new permanent address called JAIL thanks to some activist judge, and he might need some thoughtful gifts to brighten the place up.
You get all this valuable stuff for just $19 for your whole office. An entire business day for every one who works for you flushed down the crapper ON PURPOSE so the next day and the day after that, your workforce will be a jillion times more productive, because they will be MOTIVATED!
You have to wonder how this works as a business model. They have to be losing money on every warm body that walks through the door. Could it possibly be that they will try to motivate you and your co-workers into buying over-priced crap when you are there?
I like going to YouTube and listening to various versions of a song. I did this with the song entitled Sway, which is an English translation of the Spanish song Quien Sera?, which translates literally to "When will it happen?" It was recorded by a bunch of artists back in the 1950's, and this decade it's made a comeback.
For musicianship, the best version is probably Rosemary Clooney singing with Perez Prado's orchestra. Clooney has a very clear tone which doesn't get in the way of the crazy bombast of Prado's arrangement. Dean Martin also recorded it back in the day, as did Julie London, but I like this one best of the versions recorded back when the song was written.
But if we put musicianship aside and concentrate on the song itself, the best version is this snippet by Jennifer Connelly from the 1999 film Dark City. Only in the director's cut does Connelly sing it herself. In the original version shown in cinemas, Anita Kelsey does the voice, and she is a singer with more range than Connelly.
But it's a song about how dancing is like sex, and the image and the sound from this short version gets that point across much better than anything else I've seen. Connelly is supposed to be a lounge singer. Some great lounge singers don't have great voices, just the ability to inhabit a song. From the modern era, Michael Buble has recorded it, as have the Pussycat Dolls. You have my permission to ignore these.
If I may use a metaphor that will be best understood by My People, Jennifer Connelly exhibits an amazing power here with next to no effort. She knocks this song out of the park as casually as she might flick an ash off a cigarette. ~
Last week, I took out the Big Ugly Stick on the English measurement system, the one we use here in the United States and is used nowhere else. I actually gave the system the lightest of taps, not the demolishing I usually perform when the B.U.S. must be deployed.
The idea is simple. Why waste valuable brain space remembering weird numbers, where xblings make a blung and yblungs make a farkle? 5,280 feet make a mile, 3 teaspoons make a tablespoon, 16 ounces make a pound, except when 12 ounces make a pound, as in apothecary's weight system.
Oh, goody! Let's have a special, goofy system for measuring medicines, because nothing could possibly go wrong with that.
Such a headache.
Other countries had stupid measurement systems back in the day, and they threw them over. Maybe they were forced to do so by tyrannical leaders, and if that's the case, let me say...
Take, for example, the Spanish. They had the vara. In Texas, they said a vara was 33.5 inches. In California, it was 33 inches. In Mexico, a vara was 32.9927 inches. From there, a million square varas (1000 varas x 1000 varas) was a labor and twenty five labors was a league.
The Spanish use the metric system now. Good thinking, Spanish folks!
The French had a weird system in place before metric, and it was still used sometimes in Louisiana, so Robinson's included it in the book. 12 lines made an inch, 12 inches made a foot, 6 feet was a toise and 32 toises made an arpent.
Okay, some new goofy words, but we have that foot and inch thing, so we should be able to work this out.
Fat chance. A French foot was about 12.8 English inches long.
Why does this feel like men bragging about their... measurements?
One last bit of obsolete French weirdness. The three temperature systems mentioned in Robinson's were Fahrenheit, Celsius and Réaumur. Kelvin had been around for about 40 years when this book was published, but who needs something actually scientific? Réaumur was like Celsius in that 0 degrees means water freezes, but water boils at 80 degrees Réaumur instead of 100 degrees, like in Celsius.
The French lost this nonsense. Good thinking, the French. (How often do I write that?)
Next week: A good idea from Robinson's. Casting out nines and elevens, anyone? ~
In my fantasy league, I took as my first pick, the fourth pick overall in the league, quarterback Tom Brady. This goes against most fantasy football experts' view of the importance of players. The idea is that the absolute best running backs and wide receivers are much better than the fifth or sixth best players at those positions, so grab those guys first. My idea was that Brady in 2007 had one of the greatest years ever for a quarterback, both for his own stats and leading his team to a perfect 16-0 regular season record. In 2008 he was injured very early in the season and never played again. I hoped that this year he would be healthy and return to form.
In the first five weeks, Brady was just an average quarterback and it looked very much like a wasted a pick. In week 6, he was on fire, the best fantasy player in the league regardless of position. He threw six touchdown passes before he was benched in the third quarter and the Patriots won 59-0 against the hapless Tennessee Titans in a freak October snow storm in New England. He also lead my team, the Mutant Mercenaries, to the highest fantasy total in the league this week and a comfortable win by more than seventy points.
Sadly for the family honor, I was the only one of my blood relatives to win this week. My nephew Adam's team, KennyPowersIsGod, ran into the second best team in the league, the so far undefeated Golden Domers. My brother Michael, who was calling his team Hornets in honor of our mutual high school alma mater Alameda High School, was the lowest scoring team in the league, and has changed the team name to Bob's Dumb Boy. Keep the chin up, bro, better days are coming.
Next week, Tom Brady and the New England Patriots play against another struggling team, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The game is being played at Wembley Stadium in London. A lot of the regular season games played in Wembley have been lackluster performances, but I hope Tom can put an end to that streak. ~
I currently subscribe to my local paper, the Oakland Tribune. During down time on weekdays, riding on BART or during office hours when no students are asking questions, I fill in the Sudoku. On Mondays and Tuesdays, the Sudoku puzzles are ridiculously easy, so I usually have time to do the crossword puzzle as well.
I don't normally do crosswords. I never got in the habit, though I learned about them when I was a kid. My Grandma Hubbard loved the crosswords, and sometimes, even though I was just a kid, I could actually help her. I was crazy about natural science, so if it was the name of some exotic species, sometimes I could let Grandma Hubbard know about an ibis or gnu or anole.
My grandma was born on July 4, 1906. When I was a little kid before I attended school, I thought the fireworks were just everybody's way of celebrating her birthday. I also thought it was really cool that she was born before the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, though she was born in Kansas and would have been a babe in arms when it happened, so she had no memory of it.
I remember I asked her when I was five how old she was. My mom let me know that it was rude to ask, but grandma gladly offered that she was 55. Though I was pretty good at math even back then, for the rest of my life, I would say my grandma was 55. After all, she answered the question once truthfully and that should be good enough for a loving grandson.
I'm now almost as old as Grandma Hubbard. She's long gone now, but solving the crossword is like having a conversation with her. She taught me to fill in the "easy" stuff you know has only one answer, using those letters added in to see if that helps make other nearby clues clearer. Sometimes in my head, I hear myself saying, "Okay, Grandma, what about 32 across?" Modern crosswords use clues with modern usage, and I'll think "Oh, yeah, Grandma Hubbard wouldn't know about Britney Spears or the Internet. I'll have to get those clues on my own."
This week, the New York Times is running a series of new crosswords written by people who have been writing crosswords that paper for at least fifty years. Today's puzzle was written by a woman who had her first published in 1955. My grandma may have worked on some of her stuff.
There were four long answers with tricky clues about possessives. Is the answer supposed to be "Oliver's tone" or "Oliver Stone"? Since crosswords ignore punctuation, they both turn out the same. Grandma wouldn't have known about Oliver Stone, since she died before he became famous. But the other three long answers were Margaret Sanger, Tom Smothers and George Shearing. Grandma Hubbard would have known those.
There was also a question about "Basso Pinza." Of course, Grandma Hubbard would have known that was "Enio".
Every time I do a crossword, I hear my grandma's voice a little. Today, it was a little clearer than usual. ~
Largely a list from the late seventies and early eighties, eight out of ten from The You Tubes, lots of live versions. The connecting tissue of this body of songs is how many title have parentheses, including both songs that weren't available in video form.
If I used Padre Mickey's rule of "Let's stop here, it's not going to get better", I could have let James Brown have the last word, but a Tom Waits song came after that, and I'm never going to kick Tom Waits off stage.
Too late, captain! Cuteness damage reported on all decks!
Yes, even in the 23rd Century, the technology to protect oneself from this level of cuteness does not exist. This is Avery Trudeau, daughter of my niece Nefara, born a week ago last Tuesday. Mother and child are doing fine.
Back when the internet was a text based environment suited to slow dial-up modems, I was a regular at several newsgroups, including alt.obituaries. I hated missing that someone interesting had died, so I went to the newsgroup daily. Sadly, it degenerated into a lot of noise and little signal, so I left. Now, I go to the Associated Press obituary page to keep track.
This week, there were a couple deaths of people I consider celebrities, but the fancy pants A.P. isn't so sure. The first is Captain Lou Albano, the professional wrestler best known to non-wrestling fans as Cyndi Lauper's dad in her seminal video, Girls Just Wanna Have Fun. Being a showman, Captain Lou milked this fifteen minutes of fame for as long as he could, even claiming that he was the person who put Cyndi Lauper on the map.
News flash: Cyndi could actually sing, and still can. She didn't make it into the stratosphere with her career, but I will proudly admit I owned Cyndi Lauper records when I was younger. I have never owned any recording by that Madge person who started recording songs at about the same time Cyndi did.
Still, it's a tip of the cap to Captain Lou. Rest in peace, ya big palooka.
Today's obituary that the A.P. doesn't think makes the cut is comic book artist George Tuska. A major part of his career at Marvel was drawing Iron Man, a comic I never liked, but he also drew Luke Cage, Hero For Hire and continued on the book when it was retitled Luke Cage, Power Man. He was also the artist for several issues of The X-Men, another comic I collected.
For a while, Tuska worked under the name Carl Larson. Name changes were fairly common back in the day, and many of them hid the fact that the comic book industry was largely populated by artists and writers who were either immigrants or the sons of immigrants, most of them Eastern European or Jewish or both. Tuska was born in 1916 in Hartford, Connecticut, the son of Russian immigrants. His style borrowed heavily from the slam-bang action style of Jack Kirby, born Jacob Kurtzberg in New York City in 1917, the son of Austrian Jewish immigrants.
Best wishes to the family and friends of Captain Lou Albano and George Tuska, from a fan. ~
There are a lot of ways humans have degraded the environment. Some people worry that we may have already screwed the pooch, that our actions have already triggered the eventual cause of our doom. I don't deny that's possible, but it's not a certainty, so let's assume we actually survive.
We need clean energy. The era of fossil fuels will eventually be over. Whether actual shortages of petroleum happen in my lifetime or the lifetime of the next generation or the one after that, it is just a handful of decades away. Wind and solar and tides are good options, but they aren't enough.
My friend Ken Rose told me about the hope a lot of people have for thorium based reactors. Thorium is much more plentiful than uranium, and more importantly, the waste materials created by a thorium plant have half lives measured in decades instead of millennia. Even better, thorium based reactors can use some of the waste products from other nuclear reactors as fissile material.
It's like a cleaner car that runs on waste products. Nukes for hippies.
Currently, India and the United Arab Emirates are in the forefront of the technology, but the U.S. ran an experiment back in the 1960's that proved thorium reactors are practical. Last year, Orrin Hatch and Harry Reid introduced a bill to approve federal funding for a thorium project, but the bill didn't make the senate floor. They have promised to re-introduce the bill this year.
People are afraid of nukes. The fear is not unfounded. Accidents like Three Mile Island and Chernobyl can still happen. But they really are rare and the real problem, long term waste storage, effectively vanishes with thorium based reactors. The question now is will people overcome their fears and take advantage of a positive technology.
Just as it was in the 1930's, the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.
A group bidding on owning the St. Louis Rams has dropped Rush Limbaugh from their roster, claiming that his inclusion makes it tougher for them to complete the task. Limbaugh, not surprisingly, has taken this opportunity to bash all the people he hates already, or more accurately, the people his listeners hate. I am not sure if Rush has an actual conviction about anything.
And that is part of the problem. Rush is a drug addict. He either broke or seriously bent multiple laws obtaining mass quantities of the prescription pain-killer Oxycontin, which is described to be more like heroin than aspirin. It was never proven in a court of law whether his infractions were actually criminal, because it never got to trial, largely because he could afford a big scary lawyer that cowed the prosecuting attorneys.
NFL players get the book thrown at them when they are found to be using illegal or unauthorized drugs. They lose their ability to earn a living in their chosen field. Rush has shown himself to have enough money to be above the law. There is no morals clause in his contract and his listeners don't seem to give a rat's rectum about his many sins, including those bordering on illegality. He is the voice of their discontent, the one who best articulates their rage against the modern world. For many of them, the next best articulator is Jim Beam or Pabst Blue Ribbon. They don't expect morality from either of those crutches, they don't expect it from their main crutch either.
I don't know if Rush actually believes what he says or really listens to it. In a recent interview, he said words to the effect that he was not controversial, but Obama is. If he can remember back to earlier this month through all his self-medication, he might now realize he doesn't really understand how people perceive him. In any case, he can cry all the way to the bank if he so desires.*
Language note: "Laughing all the way to the bank" is not clever. Everyone is entitled to laugh on the way to the bank to cash a check. The clever statement was "crying all the way to the bank." Liberace, critically despised but publicly adored, is given credit for coining that phrase. ~
Today is yet another Blog Action Day, and the topic this time is climate change. I went on-line to find out the origins of the phrases "global warming" and "climate change". People on both sides of the debate blame the other for using "climate change" more often than "global warming" nowadays. The late William Safire did a little research on the phrases and dates the use of "global warming" back to at least 1969. He didn't do due diligence on "climate change". The earliest usage I found is from the mid 1970's.
People who believe humans have something to do with changes we are definitely seeing think the other side is using "climate change" because it sounds less scary, some Orwellian euphemism. Those who deny any human cause think the other side (let me say it, our side) is using the phrase as an admission that the world is not getting warmer.
Here's the situation in a nutshell. Climates are changing. Some are getting warmer, but not all. There are many causes, not least of which is the sun. But humans are adding to this as well. Science Daily reports on the finding of Aradhna Tripati, a UCLA scientist whose work has found that CO2 levels are higher than they have been in fifteen million years.
Deniers are fond of saying that CO2 is natural. It certainly is. So is arsenic. We definitely need both CO2 and oxygen in our air. Animals need the oxygen and exhale CO2. Plants need the CO2 and exhale oxygen. Sweet little system. But like all systems, it needs to be in balance.
Let me show some snapshots of the climate in Oakland, California over the past forty years. The East Bay of San Francisco has some of the mildest weather in the world, rarely going below freezing and rarely getting above 100 degrees Fahrenheit. But even this mild climate is showing changes, as the charts below will indicate.
September 1969: The end of the sixties had very mild weather in the Bay Area. These red marks each correspond to a day in September, the left-right position to the high temperature during the day and the up-down to the low temperature during the night. The highest temperature all month was 80. There is one mark high above the rest of the data, a day when the evening temperature never got below 68. The red circle means this point is an outlier, far away from the rest of the data. The outlying part is the low temperature.
The line shows the correlation between day and night tempertures. The correlation in 1969 was very strong. A warm day would be followed by a warm night, a cool day by a cool night.
Northern California at its mildest and most predictable.
September 1979 is a different story. There is one really warm night, that circled diamond above the rest, but there was also a three day heat wave, the hottest day getting to 98, which in Oakland is considered a sign of the apocalypse.
1989 goes back to being predictably mild, but now the evening temperatures are cooler than they were in 1969. Also the correlation between daytime and nighttime temperatures isn't as strong.
1999 warms up some from 1989, though there aren't any days over 90 degrees. There is one outlying hot day and one outlying warm evening.
Then we have this year. The average daily temperature was close to as hot as 1979, but there was no one day remarkably hotter than the rest. The temperature got over 80 nine times, far more often than any other September on this list. The only outlier is an outlyingly cool evening at 47 degrees. Notice that the line slopes downward from left to right. The correlation between daytime and nighttime temperatures is very weak, and there are enough odd days that we actually get negative correlation.
Let me reiterate. Oakland has very mild weather. Even experiencing climate change, there is nothing catastrophic happening here yet. The problem with climate change is twofold.
1. Humans are the species that burns the world to stay warm. It used to be forests destroyed for firewood. Now we turn mountains into craters to get at coal, or suck a place dry of its oil or natural gas deposits.
2. We are the opposite of nomads. We are a worldwide infestation. If we need stuff, we take it, even if that stuff is in the most inhospitable place on earth. Some of those unwelcoming places are getting worse, and getting worse faster than we would have predicted.
We can change, though we are almost always resistant to it. We can think about the ways we live, the energy we use, the energy expended by others on our behalf to make our lives more convenient in acts we don't even think about. What do we purchase? Where was it made? How was it transported from where it was made to where we bought it?
Climate change is real. No sensible person says otherwise.
Humans are part of the reason. There are those that argue otherwise, but the best science says they are wrong. Some are getting paid to lie. Others are just human and resistant to change.
As you may already know, there are different names for flocks of birds depending on the species. A covey of quail, an exaltation of larks, a murder of crows, a parliament of owls, etc. Here's a link to a longer list.
Slightly odder, the same species can have several names for groups. Geese are only in a gaggle if they are on the water. In the air, they are a skein or if in a V formation, they form a wedge. On the ground, a group of geese are known as those goddamn poop machines.
I made one of those up myself. See if you can guess which one.
This is definitely flowery use of language, but this is for birdwatchers to use when talking to one another. It's a hobby and jargon is expected. I understand people feeling poetic about birds. Birds are pretty.
Browsing around in Robinson's New Higher Arithmetic, we find poetic jargon dealing with things that shouldn't be hobbies. In the 500 page book, over 50 pages are devoted to weights and measures. Most of this superfluous verbiage deals with the English measurement system, though as we will see next week, there are also other systems of measure that are now completely obsolete, and a good thing, too.
In the English system, it's almost never a nice power of ten that separates one measurement word from another. It would be nice if 10 flurbs made a flink, but no. It's 12 inches or 16 ounces or 16 grains or 20 pennyweights or 16 drams make up the next biggest size measure to which a special name has been given.
There's one exception. 100 pounds is a hundredweight. Well, it's easy to remember at least, yes? I'm not sure "a hundredweight of flour" is any easier to say than "100 pounds of flour", but at least it's a power of ten.
Oh, if it were only that simple.
100 pounds of butter is a firkin.
100 pounds of grain or flour is a cental.
100 pounds of dry fish is a quintal.
100 pounds of nails is a keg.
100 pounds of clay is a cheesy pop song from the sixties.
If that wasn't bad enough (and me going for an antique pop culture gag didn't already make it worse), some geniuses decided the English system need the long ton as well as the regular ton, which is 2,000 pounds. In the long ton system, 28 pounds is a quarter and four quarters makes a hundredweight, which weighs... 112 pounds. Twenty hundredweight makes a regular ton if a hundredweight actually is 100 pounds, but if we use the 112 lbs. = hundredweight, twenty of those makes a long ton, 2,240 pounds.
Some people may hate the metric system. I understand their annoyance, though I don't agree with it. A good thing about metric is that it's consistent. The prefix Kilo- means thousand, no matter what. Kilogram = 1,000 grams. Kilometer = 1,000 meters. People in computers who use base 2 a lot noticed that 2^10 = 1,024, which is almost a thousand, so they use the letter K to talk about 1,024 bytes. They borrowed the K from kilo, but they do not use the prefix kilo. Similar stuff but not the same, and they don't use the same word.
We've trimmed a lot of the useless fat off the English system in the 100+ years since Robinson's was published, but there's a reason why every country on the face of the earth except one (guess which one?) has decided to give it the heave-ho.
Congratulations to Elinor Ostrom and Oliver Williamson, the winners of the 2009 Nobel Prize in economics for their work in institutional economics. Paul Krugman, the 2008 winner, wrote a short piece on his New York Times blog explaining what they did to get the prize.
Ostrom is the first woman to pick up the Nobel for economics. In the previous 40 years of awards, it was 62 guys and no gals. Nice to see the shutout streak ended.
There is no Nobel Prize in mathematics. The Fields Medal is the most prestigious award in math, nowhere even close to as famous as the Nobel. The Fields Medal is awarded every four years with two to four people winnning the prize, each getting about $20,000. In comparison, Ostrom and Williamson will split about $1,4000,000.
The Fields Medal has been around longer than the Nobel for economics, but because it's handed out every four years instead of every year, only 48 people have won the award. So far, it's an all male club. The next ones will be awarded in 2010.
There were a lot more women in math when I was getting my master's degree earlier this decade than there were when I was getting my bachelor's degree back in the 1970's. Here's hoping this change in the general population means there will be a female Fields medalist soon. ~
Here is the smiling face of Michael K. Williams, the actor that plays the fictional character Omar Little, the head coach of my fantasy football team the Mutant Mercenaries. We were the ninth best team in a twelve team league. Our opponents were the tenth best team, so we won.
This is why Michael/Omar is smiling.
I did everything I could to out-think myself this week. Anyone who was questionable or doubtful I benched. I went out and did some research and picked up the new number one receiver for the Cleveland Browns, Mohamed Massaquoi. The Browns completed 2 of 17 passes, Mohamed caught the longest one. That makes him number one! It also meant he sucked at fantasy football.
As for the blood relatives in the league, my brother's team lost yet again, running into the second best team in our group, while my nephew, who is also league commissioner, won again. The leader of the league is my nephew's fiance. It's much too early to suspect widespread fraud and collusion.
Omar has some very simple advice for his owner this week.
I'm working on it, buddy. See how we roll next week, facing Nurse Rachett Baby, who is currently at 3-2, but riding a two game losing streak. ~
The Huffington Post has a photo gallery of yearbook pictures of politicians. In the spirit of the late lamented Princess Sparkle Pony blog, I've decided to mercilessly mock some of the worst. I've also decided to leave the women alone. They get beat up about their looks all the time in real life, so let's take a whack at the guys instead.
If you go to look at all the pictures, I'm going to give highest marks to Joe Biden and John F. Kennedy, both looking super dreamy. Among the Republicans, John McCain looks good but uncomfortable in the dress whites.
And now, to the mocking, shall we?
Dick Cheney really rocks a flat-top, doesn't he? His wife says he was the hunkiest catch in their high school, and given this picture and the fact the high school was in Wyoming, I'm going to say she's probably right. Still, given how much hair product is necessary to make that look work, we have to consider the possibility that Cheney did not go bald for genetic reasons, but that his hair, long weary from torture, devised and executed an ingenious plan for escape.
Hi, Al! Congrats on your future Nobel Prize.
Here's an inconvenient truth, buddy. The only people who should part their hair that high on their heads are women whose hair is at least down to their shoulder blades.
Males at any position on the handsome to ugly continuum can take heart looking at this picture, realizing that this guy will grow up and actually have sex. More than just sex, he'll get divorced twice because of affairs. Yes, this guy will have a little something on the side during his first marriage, marry the slut he was cheating with and then cheat on her.
I guess it makes up for all the times you were beat up in high school, doesn't it, Newt?
The Huffington Post said these were school yearbook photos, but they didn't say what schools. I hope to heck this is a college photo and not a high school picture, because it's way too obvious that guy smiling out at us is already a drunk.
And last but not least, the Big Dog. Is this his high school picture or eighth grade? He doesn't just look dorky, he looks dor-KAY! There should be a new word for dorkiness at this level.
To be fair, some guys grow into it, and Clinton definitely did. If you've seen any pre E.R. roles of George Clooney, you would be amazed that he became the Sexiest Man Alive.
But honestly, I think Clinton is smiling out at us here because he thinks he looks good. Self deception is a powerful force in the world. Personally, when I look at this picture, I hear the late great Kirsty MacColl singing There's A Guy Works Down The Chip Shop Swears He's Elvis.
Not a bad list this week. Definitely taken from the iTunes collection of an old person, but still not bad. Ten out of eleven from The You Tubes, with only Rickie Lee Jones missing the cut. There are plenty of versions of The Ballad Of The Sad Young Men around, but I like Rickie Lee's the most. Very nice and sparse.
The videos include live versions from Professor Longhair, XTC, Jimi Hendrix and Bernadette Peters. The Temptations are "live" but they don't have microphones, so all you get is the Tempts dancing. Personally, I love the Tempts dancing.
Side note I: Hall and Oates loved the Temptations, and their last show was at the Apollo Theater as part of the Temptations on stage, doing the dance moves and everything. They decided to break up the band after that, on the theory that they might sell a whole lot more records, but it wasn't going to get any better than that. They had a point.
Side note II: XTC is one of the few bands other than The Beatles who decided to stop touring but keep recording. If you watch the performance, you'll see they were really good live. No Thugs is a tricky song and they rip it up.
Side note III: The songs by Queen and Stephen Sondheim just happened to be on the list at random, but I dedicate this list to Our President who has decided to end the Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy in the military. It's about damn time.