Monday, March 28, 2011

There's a few hits, a lot of hits...
and then there's Maru.

This blog gets about 4,000 hits a week. I'm happy with that.

The Other Blog gets between 14,000 and 18,000 hits a week
. I'm startled and ecstatic about that.

Maru's feeder and videographer Mugumogu posted a video of the Internets supahstah one week ago, with Maru doing whatever Maru feels like doing. Washing himself, playing with a toy, getting in a box and filling all possible space, deciding whether being in a box is more fun that playing with a toy.

You know, cat stuff.

121,000 views in a week. And Mugumogu thanks us for all our best wishes.

If you have a blog that is more popular than a cat, you can write your own ticket.

Another state worker taking your hard earned money has the nerve to complain.

According to a new Field poll, a plurality of Californians now feel that state worker pensions are too generous. With scandals like the Bell city employees' pay packages and a town like Vallejo filing for bankruptcy instead of paying the pensions of cops and firefighters, I understand how public resentment has grown. Closer to my situation, the pay packages for people at the district level of the Peralta Community Colleges, where a boatload of people are making between $100,000 to $300,000 a year each, are more than a little grating when workers who actually makes students' lives better are getting canned left and right, like teachers, librarians, facilities workers and janitors.

But here's a guy sucking at the public teat who would actually like to tell you that he is getting screwed at the pension level and there should be something done about it.

That guy is Matty Boy.

Hi, how are ya? Nice to see ya.

Now that I work for the state of California and I'm part of the state pension plan, this means I will get docked Social Security benefits. I understand the idea is "double dipping" and I will note that I don't get any Social Security deduction from my check at Laney.

The thing is, I worked for more than twenty years out in the private sector before becoming a sponge off the taxpayers, having the gall to think that the time I spend 'splainin' order of operations or the quadratic formula or the Central Limit Theorem to community college students is actual gainful employment. More than that, I'm a part-timer, so I have to work several jobs to keep a roof above my head, and some of those gigs are still in the private sector. That means Social Security is taken out of those checks and I will get less of it than the average Joe, even though the system is still expected to be solvent when I get to retirement age, whatever age that scummy old coot Alan Simpson thinks that is.

And much more than this, I am NOT a unique case.

The current system has a sliding scale, but it depends on how may years you were paid "substantial earnings", a number which has increased over time because of inflation. If somebody has had a state gig his or her entire life, then it makes sense that since that person paid nothing into Social Security, he or she should just get by on a state pension and whatever savings were accumulated. But folks like me who have become state workers late in life and still have to work part time at companies that are taking Social Security out of each paycheck will never see any benefit from that removed money if we do not work enough hours outside the public employee system.

To me, it's just another example of a tax system designed to make the rich richer and the non-rich poorer. They use "small business owners" as human shields, but the very rich are robbing us blind when there has been enough growth in this country's economy in the past forty years that the tide should have lifted all the boats, not just the yachts.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Sunday Numbers 2.0, Vol. 6:
Solving quadratics and the imaginary number i.

You might dimly remember the quadratic formula from a class you took in high school or college. One memorization technique is to sing the formula to the tune of Pop Goes The Weasel. This week, we are going to look at the formula, notice a problem that arises and see if we can get around it.

The original impetus of the problem was this. We have two numbers j and k, but instead of giving you the two numbers directly I tell you their sum j + k and their product jk. For example, if I tell you the sum is 10 and the product 21, with a little guess and check you should be able to figure out on of the numbers is 3 and the other 7. It doesn't really matter which one we call j and which one we call k, since 7 + 3 = 3 + 7 and 7 * 3 = 3 * 7. In terms of our variables a, b and c, the sum is -b and the product is c, while we set a = 1.

The problem is that guess and check can come up craps. If say the sum is 2 and the product is 5, you won't be able to guess the answer. Even more annoying, no pair of real numbers works. In this case, consider the quadratic formula where a = 1, b = 2 and c = 5. The quadratic formula has a square root in it sqrt( - 4ac), and the mathematical expression b² - 4ac is called the discriminant. Remember that we are not supposed to take the square roots of negative numbers, but in this case 2² - 4*1*5 = -16. We know the square root of 16 is 4, but what is the square root of -16? It was decided that is was 4 times the square root of -1. This means the two numbers that add up to 2 and multiply to 5 are 1 + 2*sqrt(-1) and 1 - 2*sqrt(-1).

Just because they wanted to solve all problems of this form and not for any practical application, mathematicians started working with the square root of -1, which the called the imaginary number and was eventually symbolized by the letter i. Little did they realized this new system of real numbers combined with imaginary numbers, which together are called complex numbers, would have real world applications in fields such as electrical engineering and quantum mechanics that were not even discovered when this algebra problem was kicking around. This is not the last time some mathematician works on a problem for his or her own amusement only to have practical applications discovered for this branch of math many years later, sometimes decades and sometimes centuries after the fact.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

As one gets older, the mind wanders.
Part Two.

Songs get stuck in people's heads. This is not a sign of senility or hearing voices. This is how the human brain works. Usually, when a song gets put in heavy rotation in the soft gooey grey .mp3 player I have between my ears, I can usually go back and track the reason why with some forensic precision.

For instance, there is a movie in theaters right now that I have no intention of seeing, but the posters are plastered all around at the BART stations.

For me, the next logical step is for my brain to cue up The Reflections singing their cheesy 1960s hit (Just Like) Romeo and Juliet, a song which completely misses the point of Shakespeare's play, but no matter.

It's catchy.

But sometimes I have no idea how a song jumps to the top of my brain's playlist. I think it's because as one gets older, the mind tends to wander.

This Thursday, it was like Dave Chappelle as Samuel L. Jackson came out, slapped me upside the head and screamed


As Casey Kasem must have said a jillion times, here's Freda Payne and her number one hit from 1970, Band Of Gold.

Friday, March 25, 2011

As one gets older, the mind wanders.
Part One.

I've been reading a lot of stuff about Miss Elizabeth Taylor since she died earlier this week and apparently I'm not alone. If you go over to The Other Blog and scroll down to the Popular Posts feature, you will see that four of the top ten posts on my gossip blog are about The Last Great Movie Star, including the most popular and second most popular. That has never happened before.

I read that she and Debbie Reynolds buried the hatchet years ago. I didn't know that. They were both aboard the Queen Mary back when it actually was a boat that went places. Debbie deduced this when she saw an army of porters moving a mountain of stuff, including gowns and dogs and cases of jewelry, into a set of suites and quick as a bunny, Debbie thought "Oh, Liz is on board." She could have tried to avoid her, but the boat isn't THAT big, so instead Debbie sent her a note and invited her to dinner. By this time, both of them had re-married and Eddie Fisher was completely out of the picture, and Debbie says one of things that made her reach out was remembering when both she and Liz were 17 years old and working on the MGM lot and they were best pals.

And I thought, MGM. I thought about how Liz was best friends with Roddy McDowall from when they were kids until the day he died in 1998. I thought about how MGM taught its stars how to be gracious with the public and how well so many of those stars learned that lesson.

As the title of the post suggests, as one gets older, the mind tends to wander. From Liz Taylor and Debbie Reynolds and Roddy McDowall, my brain then flew to... Ricardo Montalban.

The connection is graciousness.

Years ago, back in the 1980s, Ricardo Montalban was a guest on David Letterman. Back then, Dave was a lot younger and his audience was young, hip and snarky. What was their view of Ricardo Montalban?

Fantasy Island. Rich Corinthian leather. That ridiculous outfit he wore in The Wrath of Khan when he uttered the deathless line "I want to keep on hurting you, Kir-r-r-r-r-r-r-r-r-r-rk!"

And so Ricardo Montalban strides proudly onto the stage, into a pit of jackals ready to rip him to shreds.

And he was the most charming guest on a talk show that I have ever seen.

He remembered that he had worked with Paul Shaffer on a project and made a point to say hello. He answered questions about "rich Corinthian leather" and he said that people remembered the ads because they were well-written. He even remembered the name of the copywriter on the Cordoba ads, Jim Allardice.

When they cut to commercial, I thought, "Ricardo Montalban is no longer just a punchline to me. He is one of the good guys." To this day, nobody talks mess about Ricardo Montalban in my presence without me standing up for him, because he was a stand up guy.

Tomorrow: The mind wanders again.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Old wives' tale or the real deal?
Some anecdotal evidence.

I suffer from seasonal allergies. I tend to sneeze like crazy when the weather is windy and it's common for me to get a scratchy throat when it's rainy.

A student at the art school where I teach recommended local honey for seasonal allergies. The idea is a spoonful morning and evening is giving you a small dose of the local pollen and helping build up your immunity. I can see how it "makes sense", but whether it actually works or not is another matter.

As it happens, there is a farmer's market right in front of the art school every Wednesday and a stand that sells local honey there. My student may have heard his information there. In any case, the stand had some East Bay honey and I've been having the spoonful morning and evening for a couple weeks now. Even though we are going through a rainy spell with intermittent windy and cold days, my allergies are not acting up. It may be coincidence, but I'm running low on honey and I'm going to buy another jar today.

As for the scientific literature, here is a link to Discovery Health. There was a study done at Xavier University, but it wasn't peer reviewed. There may be some benefits to honey in general and local honey may be better than just any old honey you buy at the store. Honey is a bad idea for babies because of infant botulism, but if you are over 12 months old, the only bad thing about honey is that it is almost pure sugar, but a much healthier version than the corn syrup crap in most processed foods.

So, the Matty Boy view. Give it a shot, it can't hurt much. Side effects include a pleasant sweet sensation on your tongue in the morning and evening. Usually in this type of weather, I would be a mass of nasty symptoms, but right now I'm okay. I'll report back in when the flowers are in full bloom.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

A few kind words for narration.

I've read several writers complain about narration in film. The big idea being violated is "Don't say it, show it." Exposition, narration's sneaky second cousin, gets bad mouthed in the same way. If you are the kind of person who watches commentary tracks, you will have heard writers apologizing to actors for any scene in which the actor is forced to give exposition. It's clunky, it slows down the pace, etc. I've never taken a screenwriting class, but I get the feeling people teaching screenwriting hate narration with a white hot hate.

As a person who watches movies but has never made one, let me say a few kind words about narration.

The documentary exclusion: Some of my favorite films are documentaries. Occasionally, a documentary can get away with no narration, like Koyaanisqatsi and Winged Migration, but these are a tiny minority of exceptions to the rule.

The vast majority of documentaries need narration and exposition. This does not make them bad films.

The opening scene narration exclusion: Some really good movies start with a scene of narration. In Citizen Kane, we get a newsreel talking about the life and death of Charles Foster Kane just before some newspaperman is sent on assignment to get more of the story. In L.A. Confidential, it's Danny DeVito reading while he is typing a story for his scandal mag Hush-Hush.

Both of these are really good movies. If you aren't convinced with those two on the list, let me throw in Casablanca, which doesn't even have a clever tie-in reason for the narration.

Sometimes it's the quickest way to set up a story. Nothing wrong with moving the action along.

One of the greatest narrated films of all time: I've already said how much I like Billy Wilder's Double Indemnity, but it bears repeating. Some think of it as the first film noir, though I think The Maltese Falcon should be put in the genre as well. Whether it's the first or not, it's one of the best. The movie has a good gimmick for the narration, as it is supposed to be Fred MacMurray confessing his crime into a dictating machine for his colleague Edward G. Robinson to find in the morning. As I pointed out in my first review, it has the line that nicely sums up the entire genre: "I did it for the money. I did it for a woman. I didn't get the money and I didn't get the woman."

A very good modern film with narration: I recently rented The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, starring Brad Pitt as Jesse and Casey Affleck as a member of the last gang assembled by the James brothers (Sam Shepard plays the much older Frank) who kills Jesse because he fears for his life. It has a great cast - Garret Dillahunt, Jeremy Renner, Sam Rockwell, Paul Schneider, Mary Louise Parker - and off-screen narration by Hugh Ross. As for the rule of "Don't say it, show it", this movie shows plenty, with a lot of long close-ups of Pitt, Affleck and Rockwell, who plays Robert Ford's brother Charley, but there's a lot of back story, and the audience wouldn't know it except for the narration.

An under-rated classic with narration: The St. Valentine's Day Massacre from 1967 is not true to the facts of the historical record, but it is a hell of a lot of fun to watch. Netflix doesn't think it's worth having around, but you can get it on for a reasonable price. It's directed by Roger Corman and, like all his films, made inexpensively, but it's got a great sixties cast of character actors and narration by one of the best voice actors of all time, Paul Frees. I can't say for sure, but I think Corman may have gone with voice-over narration because people were so used to it from The Untouchables, which was made in the 1960s and was also about the Prohibition era.

The reviews on Amazon are generally good, though they quibble about how little Jason Robards looks like Al Capone and how many details are not historically accurate. I am a little sorry to hear how fast and loose with the facts the movie is, because when Frees in narration says a line like "At 7:30 a.m. on the last day of his life, Albert Weinshank was having an argument with his wife about money." I want to believe it is completely accurate.

As I said, I haven't been able to find this movie on Netflix or at the Oakland Public Library, but even though it's been several years since I've seen it, I can recommend Corman's The St. Valentine's Day Massacre, not in spite of the narration by Paul Frees but because of it.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Repeat after me:
Prediction is difficult, especially about the future.

Well, the first weekend of the NCAA men's basketball tournament has come to a close and my bracket is out of the running. It wasn't complete garbage, more like mediocre with 31 correct predictions out of 48, but mediocre ain't gonna get you in the money.

You might think that predicting the outcomes of win-lose games would be a 50%-50% gamble, but in our set of 127 brackets, the average number of correct prediction was 30.8 of 48, or around 64%. One of the big reasons for the improvement over flat out guessing is seeding. When a #1 seed plays a #16, it's crazy to pick an upset. Likewise, #2 vs #15 is pretty much a done deal as well and #3 seeds went a perfect 4-0 in the first round as well. If you picked all the #1, #2 and #3 seeds to win in the first round, that's 12 correct predictions and just 36 more "tough" games to choose. If you go 50%-50% on the rest, that's 30 correct without getting very lucky or clever.

Let's switch to a guessing game that is much tougher to do and hard to figure the odds on mathematically. Alt.obituaries, a newsgroup I used to subscribe to when the Internets were young and so was I, has a deadpool each year. Before January 1, you have to submit a list of 40 famous people who you think will die before the next January 1.

I had never done this before because I don't actually care for predicting people will die, but now that I'm running The Other Blog, I figured I'd make a list of 40 out of the people marked for death and right soon by the vultures of the gossip world.

I'm not really doing this for fortune or fame. There is no entry fee and first prize is a bottle of Moxie, an East Coast brand of root beer.

I entered the deadpool under the nom de mort Brave Last Dave, a pun on the "Brave Last Days!" headline the tabloids use so often in cases like this. Given how badly the tabloids did in 2010, six correct out of sixty six predictions fatalities, I figured Brave Last Dave would be near the bottom of the standings all year long. But on Jan. 3, I got my first hit, in fact the first hit of the year, with Anne Francis, the lovely blond who starring in Forbidden Planet and Honey West. I started getting the idea that maybe I'd get about a hit a month and actually have a chance to get that free bottle of Moxie, favored fizzy drink of the now departed Ted Williams.

But since then... nothing. In February, the tabloids were absolutely certain Zsa Zsa Gabor and Miss Elizabeth Taylor would be on the other side of the lawn before the month was out, but Spring is about to sprung and both of those lovely women are still with us. Zsa Zsa is pretty stunning. 93 years old, broken hip, found in a pool of blood, leg amputated, infection set in so the leg was amputated even further, had a stroke and is still clinging to life.

I tell ya, that old bird is tougher than a two dollar steak.

The tabloids lean very heavily on former TV stars when they predict someone is going to die, so there was no chance I was going to get a hit with the recently deceased Secretary of State Warren Christopher or even Dodger great Duke Snider. They could have mentioned Jane Russell before she died, but that's aiming slightly older than their target demographic. It's much more about Mike Connors (still alive and best wishes) than it is about Michael Gough (recently deceased and best wishes to his family and friends).

Yes, Spring is nearly here and though there are many months left, I expect that if I'm ever going to have any Moxie, I'm going to have to buy it my own damn self.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Sunday Numbers 2.0, Vol. 5:
Sorting animations.

As Donald Knuth said, "An algorithm must be seen to be believed." In some browsers, you can click on the pictures to watch an animation of some famous sorting algorithms.

Here is a video from The You Tubes of heapsort. This is a link to another animation of Heapsort, which puts in a heap sorted backwards, then takes the big values at the front of the line and moves in in exact order into the back of the line.

Here is a YouTube selection for Quicksort. Note that some of the lines are green, which means in the proper position, and some are in blue, which means not yet perfectly sorted. While the project appears to be try to set things up from left to right, you'll notice very early on a green line This is a link to another animation of Quicksort, which picks a single value, puts it in the proper position, with everything smaller than the value in front of it and everything bigger after it. This effectively splits the data set into two parts to be sorted yet again. This is called a divide and conquer algorithm.

My friend Ken sent me a link to a bunch of animating in place sort algorithms. These include Heapsort and Quicksort, as well as merge, bubble, shell and others.

Thanks to Ken. Fun stuff, if you like that sort of thing.

(Nerd puns. Tee hee!)

The cruel, the stupid, the cruel and stupid.
That's infotainment!

Let's agree on something. There are real problems in the world.

Let me put forward my view. TV isn't helping.

I don't watch Bill O'Reilly's show. I gave it a view for a few uninterrupted minutes on a YouTube clip once and I tuned in on during the Iranian protests when innocent bystander Neda Agha-Soltan was killed to see what the Fox News take was on the crisis.

From these unedited clips, my take on O'Reilly is that he's stunningly dim-witted, incompetent at his job and massively full of himself.

To make himself look better, he brings on guests like Ann Coulter, who has all his traits but perhaps a little more so. This week during a segment on the Japanese disaster, Ann came up with the remarkable statement that the modern scientific consensus is radiation is good for you.

As I said before, real problems in the world. TV isn't helping.

If I have any part of this wrong, please enlighten me.

And just to be fair and balanced, let me bring up The Ricky Gervais Show on HBO. Several years ago Gervais and his friend Steven Merchant started making podcasts that were incredibly successful, and last year they were turned into a cartoon show on HBO. The show has been picked up for a second season and when the first season DVDs appeared on Netflix, it had that sure sign of a hit, the VERY LONG WAIT label.

The show consists of Gervais and his friend Stephen Merchant mocking a not very bright man named Karl Pilkington.

It is the worst piece of shit I have seen in ages.

Gervais is allegedly on my team. He's an atheist, I'm an agnostic, yadda yadda yadda. I've laughed at some of his stuff, notably parts of The Invention Of Lying. I dislike embarrassment comedy, so I am not a fan of any version of The Office. But listening to these shows, you get to hear the real Ricky Gervais and he is a miserable excuse for a human being. Being trapped in an elevator with him would be as much torture as being locked in that same elevator with Coulter or O'Reilly.

If you get through to the end of one episode of this dreck, you are either a stronger person than I am or more sadistic. I'll let you decide which.

I had a similar experience with Kathy Griffin as an entertainer. I saw some of her performances, thought she was funny in a mean sort of way, laughed because I disliked her targets.

I then watched her reality show. She's mean to everybody.

I talked to a friend who dealt with Griffin professionally once and said it was an experience she will never repeat.

But let me repeat.

Real problems in the world. TV isn't helping.

I can give multiple examples to back up both these statements.

To quote my friend Victor Manjarrez, we don't deserve to survive as a species.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

The parable of the blind men and the elephant.

I didn't intend to make a study of the reports of the causes of the financial meltdown. It happened incrementally, with some very intentional steps and others less so.

First and most intentionally, I bought and read Michael Lewis' The Big Short, which I reviewed earlier this month. Next, I rented Charles Ferguson's Inside Job based on several people's recommendations and a sense of duty to watch a few of the Oscar winning and nominated documentaries.

There are major differences between The Big Short and Inside Job. First and most obvious, it's a book versus a movie. It's easier for Lewis in his book to spend more time explaining some tricky ideas. The two of the main weapons of mass destriction, the Credit Default Swap (CDS) and Collateralized Debt Obligation (CDO), definitely qualify as tricky ideas, intentionally designed by mathematicians and lawyers to be very hard to understand.

Alliances of mathematicians and lawyers. Even I shudder at the thought, and I'm supposed to understand half of that pretty well.

The second big difference between The Big Short and Inside Job is worm's eye vs. bird's eye. Lewis talked mainly to small players who figured out how to make a profit but had zero power to stop the avalanche. Ferguson got some interviews with the big fish, though there are a lot of times the caption "xxx refused to be interviewed for this film" appears. Glenn Hubbard (no relation), the genius who engineered the Bush tax cuts, is cheerful through most of the questions until he is asked to take some responsibility for the carnage, and there is some talking head from the Business Roundtable, a pleasant sounding name for an evil lobbying group created by the ass covering buffoons who got us into this mess. Almost all of the people who sit in front of the camera and tell the truth are not Americans, people from the governments of Iceland and Singapore and France who got taken for a nasty ride and admit their foolishness and a little of their culpability but make compelling cases that they were among the fleeced and not among the fleecers.

I recommend both the book and the film, so I don't want to give all the juicy bits away. There are parts of the colossal mess that are covered by both. A very fair question is "Where were the regulators?", and both The Big Short and Inside Job have plenty of scorn to heap upon Moody's, Fitch and S&P. One thing both the movie and book agree upon is that it was in the financial interests of the rating agencies to give high marks to repackaged crap. A company would pay a set price to Moody's to rate a CDO, but if it wasn't the highest rating available, maybe that company would ask S&P to rate the next one.

The book goes into more detail than the film on this topic, as was the case regularly when they overlapped. Since the end of the Cold War, a lot of young people good at applied math would go into financial engineering rather than weapons engineering because that was obviously where the money was. Lewis puts forward the thesis in The Big Short that if a young person was going into the field for a big payday (and why else?), then the really good financial engineers (known as quants) would be at the companies giving million dollar bonuses and the second string would be at the ratings agencies who would pay mere hundreds of thousands in salary.

To use a March Madness analogy, it was like a Number 1 seed vs. a Number 16. There was effectively no chance the big money would lose.

To give a point to the film, an excellent point was made in Inside Job as to why the massive financial bailout was voted through in the fall of 2008 by both Republicans and Democrats, an event that was the last nail in McCain's grotesquely mismanaged campaign, doomed to lose six weeks before a vote was cast.

Simply put, the world runs on credit. Sadly then and frighteningly still true today, it's way too much credit, with the big financial players massively over-leveraged, sometimes in the range of 30 to 1 or even 40 to 1 when measuring obligations in the markets compared to cash on hand. While this was a zero-sum game, which means if Company X loses $50 billion, somebody else makes $50 billion, several of these companies were on the hook for more money than they had, so Company X could lose everything, say $30 billion, and others would have $20 billion less than they expected. While all of these were flat out gambling losses, it meant that the people who lent to legitimate businesses had no money to lend. The scary and completely plausible scenario was that airlines would cease to function, because they are constantly borrowing to buy that day's fuel allotment.

No financial service industry, no planes in the air.


Like... oh, nowish.

No James Bond villain ever made a better blackmail threat.

Add to this mix a talk I heard on the broadcast from The Commonwealth Club by Phil Angelides, the former California state treasurer and failed Democratic nominee for the governorship who was appointed to the blue ribbon government panel investigating the financial meltdown. This was the least intentional step in my search for knowledge, as I was driving down to Santa Cruz and the broadcast came on the radio in my dad's truck.

Yes, my father is a Republican who listens to NPR. I may have to report him to the proper authorities.

The panel was set up after the 2008 elections where the Republicans deservedly got their heads handed to them, so the Dems got six members and the Republicans four. Angelides plays the good boss in this talk, lauding his staff for long hours and excellent work, several of whom are in the audience and mentioned by name. But he doesn't deny the obvious, that this was an investigation done on the cheap by government standards, spending less than $10 million before issuing their report. This is a tiny fraction of the money Ken Starr spent looking for presidential blowjobs, and that total has to be adjusted for inflation. To compare it to another financial investigation from this era, the man charged with looking into the wrongdoing of Bernie Madoff has already spent $200 million.

Charles Ferguson was in the audience at the Commonwealth Club after giving a talk earlier in the week on the same subject, and he was one of many who sent in questions as to why the government hasn't seen fit to prosecute anyone involved in the fiasco. Angelides correctly points out that it wasn't his commission's task to put people in jail, and notes that after the most recent though much smaller similar meltdown, the S&L crisis of the late 1980s, over 1,000 people were sent to jail, including CEOs. As of this writing, there has not been a single person convicted for any wrongdoing. I don't even know of any big wig who has been indicted.

Instead of chiding the judicial system, let me pick up a few sturdy bricks and throw them at the Republican nominees to this committee. Before the final panel released their report, three of the Republican nominees got together to write a rebuttal and the fourth wrote his own separate rebuttal.

Their conclusions were as predictable as the dawn. It was not the fault of their paymasters, the American corporations. It was the crazy Asian investors who had so much cash. It was the semi-government agencies like Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae. No more regulation is needed. No one is criminally culpable.

I'm not sure if it's actually detectable in my writing, but I'm trying to cut down on the addictive drug of vitriol. I actually understand and agree with some of the underlying points of conservatism, but there is really no one in power making those points. The modern "conservative" movement is a loose coalition of fucking morons who think the world is 6,000 years old and fucking thieves who think a CEO making 6,000 times more than the average employee is perfectly acceptable if the market will bear it.

Ah, that first sip of vitriol! It still goes down smooth.

I don't agree with The Tea Party, but from what I see, it's largely a Revolt of the Morons. If these idiot dogs will go for the throats of their moneyed masters, there will be a blood bath and every fatality is a blessing on humanity. As Neils Bohr or Yogi Berra said, prediction is hard, especially about the future, but I could see an internecine fight like this changing the political power structure in this country. I wish I could be optimistic about the future, but watching the Obama administration, I think the people with money will just let the Republicans wither and buy more Democrats. Watching people in the streets in Wisconsin gives me some hope.

While I see change in the political world as a distinct possibility, sadly there is no political will to force change in the unregulated markets created by the eager-beaver quants on Wall Street, whom I will immodestly call my evil twins. Human greed focused by human intelligence is the most destructive power on earth, and even 9.1 earthquakes pale in comparison.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Looking to honor the dead, instead I pay tribute to the living.

Ferlin Husky died this week. I felt like I should know more about Ferlin Husky, and so like when Charlie Louvin died, I went to The You Tubes to look up the best work of Ferlin Husky.

I gotta say it. His name and his hairdo were better than his singing or his choices of songs. His biggest hit was Wings of a Dove. It's bad form to speak ill of the dead but... meh.

He did record Mountain of Love, which was written and originally recorded by Howard Dorman in 1960.

I love Mountain of Love, but if I was going to recommend one recording, it would be the Top Ten version from Johnny Rivers.

Let us now spare a thought for Johnny Rivers. He will likely never be in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, though he deeply deserves it. Born John Ramistella in New York City but raised in Baton Rouge, young Johnny played in a trio with his dad and his uncle. The DJ Alan Freed recommended he find a less ethnic name and he became Johnny Rivers, the main river being the Mississippi, with a little help from the Hudson.

Rivers could record anything, from country stuff like Mountain of Love to covers of R&B like The Seventh Son by Willie Dixon and soul classics like The Four Tops' Baby I Need Your Loving and Smokey Robinson's Tracks of My Tears. He also made a big hit out of Secret Agent Man.

Here's Johnny Rivers' original stereo version of Mountain of Love. If you know enough music theory, you know this song's great strength is the use of the triplet. If you don't that much music theory, just get up and dance. It's got a helluva beat.

And if I'm going to give a salute to Johnny Rivers, it would be just dead wrong not to include his greatest hit, a song he wrote with Jerry Adler called The Poor Side of Town. They called his genre The Go-Go Sound, and while it's very poppy and lushly produced, Johnny had himself one hell of a lot of soul.

Best wishes to Johnny Rivers, his family and friends, from a fan.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

It's 4:00 p.m. PST on Saint Patrick's Day...

and I am stone sober and my bracket is already crap.

As for the first anomaly, I work this evening so I will still be sober until well after 7:00 p.m.

As for the second situation, having a bracket go to crap really doesn't count as an anomaly with me.

Yes, I know there are bigger troubles all over the place, but if the Leader of the Free World can put together an NCAA bracket, I think a broke-ass math professor should have the right as well.

Here's hoping things are going better for you.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Only 603 days til Election day!
Should we care?

It doesn't just seem like election seasons are starting earlier than they used to. They start earlier now. Back in 1968, Robert Kennedy and Hubert Humphrey weren't even declared until after New Hampshire and the first person to declare against L.B.J. was Gene McCarthy in November 1967. I was looking back at more recent polls from about 20 months before the general election and most years, the front runners from February or March a year before were the nominees. In 1995, it was assumed Bob Dole was the standard bearer and he was beating Clinton in head to head match-ups. Bush was the assumed front runner in 1999. The biggest recent error was in 2007, when the polls showed Rudy Guiliani the person hardest to catch and ahead of Hillary Clinton (or Barack Obama) in important battleground states.

The thing is, in most recent elections, there would be several people declared to be running by now. No one has actually declared yet, so we get nonsensical speculation that puts former reality TV star Sarah Palin as something akin to a "front runner". We also have Newt Gingrich, who is at least fifteen years past his freshness date, Mitt Romney, who is almost exactly what the Tea Party doesn't want, and Rick Santorum, who has the problem that Googling his name brings up an unsavory sex act. Donald Trump seems to be completely blissfully unaware that people don't like him very much.

As for Michele Bachmann, she's like the anti-matter version of Dennis Kucinich, but without the good looking wife.

It's my best guess that none of the above will be the party's nominee come the summer of 2012, and if any of them are, the Republicans will be hard pressed to win the White House.

But again, it's 603 days until the votes are counted. Maybe it's best if we don't care about it just yet and get down to the business of how to get out of this mess that started on the Republican watch, largely due to the Republican idea that wide scale theft by the rich helps everybody and that markets can regulate themselves.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Sunday Numbers 2.0, Vol. 4:
Logic and the Britons

Mathematical logic got its first great boost forward in the 19th Century, though at the time there was little practical use to it. The great mathematicians on the continent were working trying to understand magnetism and its implications to physics, but a hearty band of British oddballs decided to revolutionize the study of logic.

George Boole is considered the originator of modern mathematical logic, so much so that the field is called Boolean Algebra. He wrote his important treatise The Laws of Thought in the 1850s.

Augustus de Morgan is another important pioneer. The ways to distribute a not sign ~ through parentheses are called de Morgan's laws. (v stands for the or operator and the ^ is the and operator.)

~(p v q) = ~p ^ ~q
~(p ^ q) = ~p v ~q

He was one of the first professors at University College London, the first major school in Great Britain that accepted students who were not Church of England, which meant that Catholics, Jews, protestants of denominations other that Church of England and those who professed no faith whatsoever could get a first class education in Great Britain due to deMorgan and a few others dedicated to education and religious freedom.

Charles Babbage was another British logician, and he wanted to take mathematical logic to the next step. He designed the world's first mechanical computers, the Difference Engine and the Analytical Engine, both of which were designed to run on steam. Problems arose when trying to build the machines and neither was ever completed.

The literary genre known as steampunk, a derivative of cyberpunk, is based on the "what if" world of Babbage actually succeeding at making a computer.

This did not stop Countess Ada Lovelace from designing programs for Babbage's machines. Besides the acclaim for her work in logic, she was the only legitimate daughter of the famed British poet, libertine and addict Lord Byron, who was as dedicated to illogic as his daughter was devoted to its opposite. The Countess Lovelace was educated by de Morgan and is given credit as the first computer programmer. The language Ada is named after her.

The best known of the British eccentrics fascinated with logic in the 19th Century was Charles Dodgson a.k.a. Lewis Carroll. While still famous for Alice in Wonderland, he was also a mathematician, clergyman and photographer, and enjoyed putting together logic puzzles based on the ideas of syllogism using silly but logical statements. For example:

(a) No ducks waltz.
(b) No officers ever decline to waltz.
(c) All my poultry are ducks.

Therefore (d) None of my poultry are officers.

Makes sense to me. Sort of.

I should have done more research.

Last Monday, I wrote a blog post about a production vehicle that Volkswagen would be releasing in China in 2012.

This is what I get writing a blog post based on an e-mail without doing any research.

The pictures are from 2009. The rumor then was it would be released in 2010.

You know, one of those marvelous future things that is always one year away?

Other stories on the Internet say the price would be closer to $25,000, which seems ridiculously high to me, but I'm a cheap bastard without a car right now. Yet other stories said it was just a one-off experiment and there were no plans to even show it at any of the jillion auto shows around the globe.

So once again, let me apologize about spreading a false alarm. I promise to do better homework in the future.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Maru (and the person who feeds and films him) are safe.

I can't even tell you how shallow I feel, but after some geeky mathy thoughts about Richter scales and tsunamis and nuclear reactors, my next thought was "OMG!!! Maru!" After all, this is the only living soul I really know in Japan.

Maru and his videographer Mugumogu are fine, thank Odin, Buddha and the little baby Jesus. It would be a blessing if you can spare a thought and a few bucks for the folks in Japan who aren't.

Maru would thank you, too. Not enough to get out of a bag and let you have it, because all bags belong to Maru, silly human. But still, Maru would thank you in a special Maru type way.

It would probably involve being lazy and/or cautious and/or adorable.

You're welcome.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Tsunami travel times.

The big news this morning is a huge 8.9 earthquake off the coast of Japan which caused a tsunami. This picture shows how quickly the wave will travel all across the Pacific. Best wishes to all in its path and if haven't found cover yet away from the ocean, stop reading this and run!

To those of you still safely in front of your computer screens, I previously discussed the math of a tsunami about three years ago, which are significantly different from other waves. A normal everyday wave has a crest and a trough, while a tsunami is a solitary wave or soliton, all crest with no corresponding trough. Waves with crests and troughs tend to run into each other and cancel each other out. Solitons don't get canceled out and big ones travel faster than small ones, so parts of this wave created in Japan will even hit Antarctica sometime in the next day or so with a lot of destructive force.

That's the thing about nature, isn't it? Beautiful, fascinating and terrifying all at the same time.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Trademark lines for impressionists quiz.

It's been a very long time since I had a trivia quiz, so I got an idea for a new one based on trademark lines that should be used by anyone trying to do a vocal impersonation of a famous person.

For example, if you are going to do Jimmy Cagney, you pretty much have to say the line "You dirty rat!"

As soon as you say "The name is Bond. James Bond." You're doing a Sean Connery. (NOT a Roger Moore or Pierce Brosnan or anybody else!)

Personally, I always use a line from Murder in the Sun when I do my James Mason impression "I could have sssssscampered down the hill and crushed her neck in thessssse powerful handsssss.", but that is obviously a much more idiosyncratic choice.

In any case, here are ten words or phrases associated with vocal impressions of people or characters from film or TV, spanning many decades. See how many of them you can get.

1. Pilgrim.
John Wayne, answered by danielk.

2. You realize of course, THIS means war!
Bugs Bunny, answered by Ken.

3. And not a lot of people know that.
Michael Caine, answered by the Googling Karlacita!

4. You betcha!
Sarah Palin, answered by danielk. (Would have also accepted Marge Gunderson.)

5. Engage.
Patrick Stewart, answered by danielk. (Jean Luc Picard would have been more precise.)

6. Eee-yeeeeeeeeees? OR Ooooooooooh, goody!
Frank .... oh hell, that guy who used to turn up on the Jack Benny show, answered by danielk. (Partial credit here. Frank Nelson, who also got work on I Love Lucy.)

7. Thankya ver'much.
Elvis Presley, answered by danielk.

8. Tenk you very much.
Latka, character played by Andy Kaufman, answered by danielk.

9. I know you are, but what am I?
Paul Ruebens, answered by danielk. (Pee Wee Herman would have been more precise.)

10. Well....
Ronald Reagan, answered by ken.

Well done to all who answered.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Quick Charlie Sheen joke.

This one is whizzing around the Internets, so stop me if you've heard it before.

Actually, this intro is longer than the joke, so there will be no time to stop me. It's just a figure of speech.

Q: How much cocaine has Charlie Sheen done?
A: Enough to kill Two and a Half Men.

Thank you. Try the veal! I'll be here all week.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Introducing the Bachelor-mobile!

Volkswagen has been working on a new prototype for truly basic transportation for about three years now and has unveiled the prototype, announcing it will be available for sale in China in 2012, just in time for the end of the world if we are to believe those pesky Mayans. The car is four feet wide, eleven feet long, a single seater with a rear mounted one cylinder diesel engine that in prototype got over 100 km per liter of fuel, which would mean getting between 230 to 260 miles per gallon. The tank holds 1.7 gallons (7 liters) and the price before tax, tip and dealer preparation will be about 4000 yuan, which right now translates to $600 American.

I call dibs on the nickname The Bachelor-mobile for three important reasons.

1. The owner is completely oblivious to the idea that his car is a phallic extension.
2. The owner is happy to let the world know he is as cheap as hell.
3. Sorry, honey, I can't give you a lift. There's no room.

I would also like to quote my nephew Eli who said, "1.3 billion Chinese are about to have an epic bumper car match."

I know the young people prefer LOL, but I'd rather type... Tee Hee!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Sunday Numbers 2.0, Vol. 3:

It's easy to explain the idea of a continuous curve on a surface in everyday English. If you can draw a picture without ever lifting the pen from the surface, that is a continuous curve.

In this picture, let's assume the blue curve is just being hidden by the red curve at the five points of intersection. This means we can see the red picture is continuous and we will assume the blue picture is continuous. The difference is that the blue line represents a "smooth curve" and the red does not. This becomes important in differential calculus.

This particular drawing is from a lesson on how integral calculus works to find the area under the blue curve and bordered below by the horizontal line (representing the x-axis) and between the vertical lines labeled a and b. The graph in red is also a continuous curve.

There are lots of ways to have mathematical functions that create discontinuous graphs as well. The function pictured to the left is y = Floor(x), represented in most math books by the odd looking brackets you see in the picture where the bottom of the brackets exist but the top do not. The idea of Floor is that any real number x has a closest integer that is less than x. For example, Floor(2.5) = 2 and Floor(pi) = 3. (Oh-h-h-h-h-h... Floor(pi)!) The Floor of any whole number is itself, so Floor(4) = 4, but as soon as we move down from 4 the tiniest tick, Floor(3.999999999) = 3. This means you have to lift the pen off the surface and put it down away from the line segment you were drawing previously.

The standard way for mathematicians to state that a function is continuous this is "The function f(x) is continuous at all points x for which it is defined". the converse is "The function g(x) is not continuous at some set of points". It can also happen that a function may not be defined at a point x, but can either be continuous for all points near x, which we call a neighborhood of x. Conversely, a function may be undefined at a point and discontinuous at that point. A famous example of that kind of discontinuity is y = 1/x, which isn't defined at 0, is approaching infinity if x is positive and close to zero, but approaching negative infinity is x is negative and close to zero.

The mathematical template for continuity proofs is called epsilon-delta, where these two Greek letters are stand-ins for really small numbers. In the picture to the left, the red line represents the function f and f(a) = b. If we want to prove that f is continuous at a, which the picture shows to be true, the plan of attack is to let some nebulous observer choose a small number we will call episilon. What is asked of us is to find a neighborhood around a such that the inequality b - epsilon < f(x) < b + epsilon for every x in the neighborhood. We usually are asked to make the neighborhood around a to be symmetrical around a so the letter delta is added to a and subtracted from a to give us the boundaries of the neighborhood.

Let me give an example. We want to prove f(x) = x² is continuous around x = 4. I could let epsilon equal some specific small number like 0.01, but the true proof comes from proving it for any given small number. Since 4² = 16, we would look for the square roots of 16+epsilon and 16-epsilon, both of which will be very close to 4 is epsilon when very small. We then would see which square root is farthest from 4, and the distance would be our delta.

This is a very standard part of analysis. The standard "big" way to split up math is into analysis and algebra, and if I had my druthers, I'd rather do algebra. A lot of proofs in analysis are kind of tedious, while occasionally, algebraic proofs can be very pretty and elegant. If you want to see the average math graduate student's eyes glaze over and a nearly unstoppable desire to sleep overtake him or her, just say "epsilon-delta".

I don't know, someone from the analytical side of the field might stumble upon this post and give a spirited defense of epsilon-delta proofs, but I have to admit, if it happens, it will be the first time I've heard of it.

Next week: Logic and eccentric Britons.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Philip Glass and melody.

I saw the Ensemble Parallèle's production of Philip Glass' 1993 chamber opera Orphée at the Herbst Theater last weekend and I loved it. I got a comp ticket from my very generous blog buddy sfmike, the author of the Civic Center blog, who was also a supernumerary in the show, one of the spooky strongmen/clowns who move everything in the Underworld that is incapable of moving itself. He writes about the many rehearsals and the critical review, which you can read about through the links.

The show only played twice and I will be able to tell people years from now that I saw it. They will be positively envious or I will be silently judging them.

I struck up a conversation with a fellow audience member, a woman named Bonnie who was connected to the new wave/punk scene back in the day, so we had many common points of reference. She loved the production but said she wished Philip Glass was more melodic.

Allow me to retort with embedded videos from the You Tubes.

This is the movement entitled Some Are from Glass' Low symphony, based on side two of David Bowie's great album Low, produced by Brian Eno. Some might argue that this is melodic because the work of Bowie and Eno is melodic, and that argument has some merit.

There is yet another Philip Glass work from the early 1990s called Passages, a collaboration with Ravi Shankar. Shankar plays on nearly every piece, but Glass wrote half and Shankar half. This one by Glass, Ragas in a Minor Scale, is very melodic indeed. I actually have a large section of it running through my brain on heavy rotation right now, and I don't mind a bit.

Again, thanks to sfmike for the ticket to the show, and also for an impromptu Oscar party with a prediction competition that neither of us won, sad to say. Congratulations to Cindy, the winner.

Friday, March 4, 2011

How much do I love Hilter finding out about bad news?

Well, a lot.

This time, someone tells the Fuhrer about Scott Walker taking the prank call from someone pretending to be billionaire right wing asshole David Koch and, as usual, Hitler is very well informed and not at all pleased.


Book review:
The Big Short by Michael Lewis

Back in the 1980s, Michael Lewis went straight from Princeton to Wall Street, though his degree had nothing to do with finance. His lack of expertise did not hurt his career, but he quit the field just a few years later, much wealthier and terrified as hell. He turned his experiences into the book Liar's Poker, and in the bargain found a calling better suited to his talents, writing non-fiction best sellers.

Not without cause, Lewis thought he was watching an industry headed for an apocalypse and right soon. Conservative sectors of the financial industry were going nuts in the 1980s, due in no small part to de-regulation. He was in the game when the previously dull and solid savings and loan industry crashed, and he worked at Salomon Brothers, the first investment bank to go public. This meant the owners were no longer gambling with their own money, but instead with the money of the stockholders. Old timers were appalled, but it wasn't really the end of the world, even though some big names went to prison, including Michael Milken, Charles Keating and John Gutfreund, Lewis' former boss at Salomon Brothers.

No, the real crash of the financial industry was still about twenty years in the future, and when it came, Lewis decided to write an article about it for the now defunct Portfolio magazine, and then expand the shorter piece into the book The Big Short.

While Liar's Poker was kind of a bug's eye view of the financial world because Lewis was such a little fish, The Big Short is more like a worm's eye view. Because of non-disclosure agreements, it's hard to get the people at the top to talk. He did get some valuable information from insiders who saw the trouble in subprime loans early like Meredith Whitney, Steve Eisman and Greg Lippman, but a lot of the narrative of his book follows some very small fish indeed, investors local to the San Francisco Bay Area instead of New York. (Lewis lives in Berkeley.) These outsiders saw that if it was possible to bet against the loans being made by subprime lenders, the odds were massively in their favor.

Home ownership used to be straightforward. Get a down payment together, show proof of income and a solid credit rating and you could have your piece of the American Dream. That, of course, was in the quaint 20th Century. With sub-prime lending, down payments and proof of income would vanish as criteria and all that remained was your credit score. The thing was, it was pretty easy to go from no credit history to good enough to get a loan in a matter of months by getting a single credit card and paying off the entire balance every month. Lewis tells the tale of a migrant worker making $14,000 a year picking strawberries getting approval for a home loan of over $700,000.

You might argue the strawberry picker was an idiot, and I wouldn't disagree. But what about the idiocy of the company that made the loan? How can they possibly turn a profit on this? Lewis does a good job explaining this as well. A lot of subprime companies made the loan, got the points up front off the not really credit worthy buyer then sold the loan immediately.

Okay, you might say, but who's a big enough idiot to buy the loan? The loans were based on teaser rates and balloon payments. Maybe the strawberry picker could make the teaser rate payments, but he'd probably not be able to continue two years later when his monthly payment blew up. No matter, thought the alleged non-idiots taking the gamble on him. If he keeps paying, fine. If not, his house value probably went up, then he could re-finance. Worst case scenario, the company buying the loan now could foreclose and they owned a house, an alluring piece of the American Dream they could sell for a profit.

They could see no way this well-thought out plan could fail.

They couldn't, but others could. The thing was, to bet that the housing market was really a massive bubble, you needed to enter the bond market. Some people might think the stock market is a place where the big fish eat the little fish, but the stock market is to the bond market as a well maintained aquarium is to the deep blue sea. With exotic bonds like the Credit Default Swap (CDS) and the even more arcane Collateralized Debt Obligation (CDO), it was nearly impossible to know exactly what you were buying and even the alleged "experts" couldn't agree on what the things were worth. There's a very funny scene where Lippmann from Deutsche Bank, the biggest fish Lewis could talk to who bet against the CDOs, calls up his counterpart at Morgan Stanley, who thought the incredibly bad loans in the obscure package really deserved a triple A rating. The deal was set at 100. Lippmann's model said they are worth 72. The person from Morgan Stanley counters that their model put the value at 95.

"Fuck your model," Lippmann patiently explains. "If you really think they are worth 95, I will sell them to you at 77. Otherwise, dude, you owe me $1.2 billion, and I want it fucking now!"

Of course, this was not the end of the conversation. Lawyers stepped in and eventually Morgan Stanley paid Deutsche Bank half that amount, $600 million, for being on the wrong side of a tiny part of the biggest bet in the history of the world.

The Big Short is supposed to be the story of gamblers in a zero sum game, which means for every dollar one gambler might make, someone else at the table has to lose a dollar. But here's where the story gets scary. A single loan could be repackaged again and again into derivatives like CDSs and CDOs, and the amount of money actually tied up in home loans that wouldn't get paid off was a tiny fraction of the money floating around in the casino that every major player in the financial world was gambling in. Some were on the right side but many on the wrong side so deep, bankruptcy was their only option and the winners wouldn't get paid off.

Like I said, it's supposed to be the story of gamblers. The main characters in the book are smart guys on the right side of the bet like Dr. Michael Burry, an obsessive researcher who stopped being a surgeon to become an investment advisor, and Charlie Ledley and Jamie Mai, a couple of neighbors in Berkeley, California who started Cornwall Capital and dove bravely into the bond market, only to be mocked by the big fish with whom they swam as Cornhole Capital. But all the good guys get their bets paid off, and so do all the idiots, only two of whom are featured prominently by name, Howie Hubler at Morgan Stanley and a CDO manager named Wing Chau. All of them get paid off because of the massive bailouts of the financial sector under presidents Bush and Obama, engineered by the scum in charge Ben Bernanke and Tim Geithner.

While I have mentioned many of the plot points, there's plenty I haven't talked about, and The Big Short is still a ripping good read, largely because Lewis is a better writer than I am. While there is a good chance you will finish the book either somewhat depressed or pissed off as hell, I still recommend you read The Big Short. The sad moral is that the idiots and thieves are still in charge up and down the line, and you can see in slow motion the post mortem of the last train wreck they caused while waiting for the next one.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Republicans making sense!
Not a dream!
NOT an imaginary story!

There's a lot of balloon juice floating around Washington D.C. right now about the situation in Libya. Hillary Clinton says Qaddafi has lost all credibility and should step down. Senators McCain and Lieberman, who never met a war they didn't like, want as much military intervention as possible. There's talk of a "no fly zone" being bandied about by White House spokesfolks.

Who is saying we should take it easy? Who is saying we should get all multi-national on this situation if we stick our noses in at all? Sen. Richard Lugar, Indiana, the guy I keep hoping will be the start of bringing the Republican Party back from the lunatic brink.

It's a long shot, I know, but it may come about some sweet day.

Who agrees with him? Lindsey Graham, who usually sides with Grandpa Walnuts and Droopy Dogg, a.k.a. McCain and Lieberman.

I know Republicans making sense is rare. In fact, I invented the label for the first time today after nearly four years of blogging. But sometimes, you have to take the sanity where you find it.

Thank you, Sen. Lugar, I hope people will understand you are the voice of reason on this.