Thursday, November 20, 2008

Cool interactive history of the Middle East!

A wonderful Flash movie. (Click on the image to go to the site where you can watch it!)

I expect you'll be amazed, as I was, at how various empires extended their reach. . . .

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Latest find by Lawrence Livermore Laboratories

As reported on FreeRepublic, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, the United States' chief lab charged with "ensuring the safety, security and reliability of the nation’s nuclear weapons" (Wikipedia article), has discovered a new element:
Posted on Saturday, November 15, 2008 9:34:43 AM by dvan

A New Element Discovered

Lawrence Livermore Laboratories has discovered the heaviest element yet known to science.

The new element, Governmentium (Gv), has one neutron, 25 assistant neutrons, 88 deputy neutrons, and 198 assistant deputy neutrons, giving it an atomic mass of 312.

These 312 particles are held together by forces called morons, which are surrounded by vast quantities of lepton-like particles called peons.

Since Governmentium has no electrons, it is inert; however, it can be detected, because it impedes every reaction with which it comes into contact. A tiny amount of Governmentium can cause a reaction that would normally take less than a second, to take from 4 days to 4 years to complete.

Governmentium has a normal half-life [in the United States] of 2-6 years. It does not decay, but instead undergoes a reorganization in which a portion of the assistant neutrons and deputy neutrons exchange places. In fact, Governmentium's mass will actually increase over time, since each reorganization will cause more morons to become neutrons, forming isodopes.

This characteristic of morons promotion leads some scientists to believe that Governmentium is formed whenever morons reach a critical concentration. This hypothetical quantity is referred to as critical morass.

When catalyzed with money, Governmentium becomes Administratium, an element that radiates just as much energy as Governmentium, since it has half as many peons but twice as many morons.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Bail-out for the auto makers? Please, no!

I have been deeply concerned about the socialistic shift in our government's perspective over the last several months. And so, now, the auto makers are making their appeals to Congress to bail them out. A mere $50 billion. But where does it all end? Are we, company owners who are careful with our money, who make sacrifices to make ends meet, who can afford to pay our employees only relatively "average" wages and stretch to provide them basic benefits like 401(k) plans and health care, . . . are we supposed to subsidize these corporate giants who have been paying their employees unbelievable wages for years, who have promised them the world (and more)?

I remember living in Flint, Michigan, home of GM headquarters, back in the late 70s. Our neighbors, who had done little to develop their skills beyond graduation from high school, hated their jobs, hated GM, but were unwilling to do anything about either situation because, they said, "Where else can I make $25 an hour?" I'm sure that was overtime pay, but they were making a lot of overtime. And, combined with methods they used to game the system--having friends check them in and out while they were off fishing or hunting--they made very good money.

And now we, the ones who have been paying high prices for our cars due to these union members' shenanigans--we're supposed to feel sorry for them and have money taken out of our pockets so they can continue to live high off the hog?

I don't think that's right!

We are told great disaster lies ahead if we do not pay up. "For every job provided by the Big Three automakers," we are told, "there are 10 more in the broader economy." Is that true? And is it true that, if the jobs in the Big Three go away, all these other jobs will disappear as well? I doubt it!

Automobiles will still need to be fixed. There will still be a call for parts for all these used vehicles. If one brand goes down, some other brand will have to replace the vehicles once they die. . . .

I was pleased yesterday to read an article in The Economist that provided a far more elegant argument against further government largesse directed to Detroit:
Bailing out Detroit would be a bad use of public money. It would be bad in principle, because it would be an open invitation to companies everywhere to apply for aid to survive the recession. Banks qualify for help because the entire economy depends upon their services. They are vulnerable to sudden collapses in confidence that can spread to other banks that are perfectly solvent. A good car company does not face the same threat. And although Detroit employs a network of suppliers, which would suffer if production shuts down, nothing would sap a recovery and job-creating enterprise like locking up badly used resources in poorly performing companies.

America’s carmakers accept the principle, but they argue that in practice they too are a special case. . . . [And] with one last shove from the taxpayer, it will be alright.

There is something to this--but not because of what is happening in America. As our special report explains, the global car industry is shifting from the saturated markets of rich countries to the huge potential of fast-growing emerging markets. As recently as 2005, America bought 10m more cars than the total of the BRICs--Brazil, Russia, India and China. This year, sales of cars in the BRICs should overtake those in America. . . .

In the next 40 years, the world’s fleet of cars is expected to increase from around 700m today to nearly 3 billion.

Some greens and pedestrians may find that a terrifying prospect. But for today’s embattled carmakers it is an extraordinarily exciting one--and that includes the giants from Detroit. GM has been as nimble abroad as it has been flat-footed at home, an early-mover in China, Brazil and Russia, it holds strong positions in all three markets. Ford is not far behind.

The next Chapter
But is that justification for a bail-out? Not at all. The United States created Chapter 11 precisely to help companies that need protection from their creditors while they restructure their liabilities and winnow out the good business from the bad. If the North American businesses of GM and Ford filed for Chapter 11, their activities elsewhere would be largely unaffected. Even in North America, their businesses could continue to make vehicles as they shed costs and renegotiated contracts.

The carmakers retort that being in Chapter 11 will poison their business. Buying a new car is a long-term gamble on there being dealers, spare parts and a thriving second-hand market for your vehicle. Drivers overwhelmingly tell surveys that they would not take the risk when Mercedes and Toyota make perfectly good alternatives. But $50 billion is a lot to stake on a hunch. A wiser bet is that whatever consumers say today, the stigma of being in Chapter 11 would fade, obscured by price cuts, advertising and most of all news that the car companies were tackling their remaining problems. Remember that, in many ways, Chapter 11 is more stable and predictable than depending upon the government.

That is an unpopular message. It is almost certain to be ignored by Congress, which is itching to “save jobs” and to counter the public-relations disaster of bailing out Wall Street. If the state is determined to keep the industry out of Chapter 11, it should set up a special fund and demand preferred equity to deter shareholders in other industries from asking for money. But it would still do better to let the car firms fail.
My answer: Amen! Please! Let it be! Let them fail! . . . And let their problems (and private solutions) become a proper warning to other large firms who would like to bully taxpayers into providing their multi-hundred-million-dollar annual salary executives their desired salaries, and their overpaid workers and over-pampered retirees all their desired benefits.

The rest of us don't get to enjoy such benefits; why should they . . . especially at our expense?

Monday, November 17, 2008

Facing giants in the midst of a land flowing with milk and honey . . .

Along with virtually everyone else I've talked to about this, I've been deeply distressed by the socialistic turn of the United States government in the last many years, but most especially as evidenced by the unprecedented corporate bail-outs of the past few months.

Now comes someone who wants us to view things differently. And I'm inclined to believe him.

Gary Moore has a degree in political science from the University of Kentucky. After serving as an artillery officer, he became a senior vice president of investments at Paine Webber during the 1980s. He then thought about attending seminary but soon discovered that seminaries no longer teach about the moral dimensions of managing this world’s wealth, despite them being a favorite topic of Moses, Jesus, and the church fathers.

He began informal study of the subject and later founded The Financial Seminary, a non-profit ministry, to build bridges between the financial and moral communities. He also founded his own investment firm as “counsel to ethical and spiritual investors.” Since then, he has advised some of America’s well-known ministries, churches, banks, and individual investors, while authoring many articles about integrating religion or spirituality and ethics with personal financial management and political economy.

And Moore writes:
[I] was mentored by the Rhodes Scholar turned legendary mutual fund manager Sir John Templeton, about whom [I have written] two books.

Mr. Templeton was not only respected for his unusual gifts for making money but also as one of the most devout and ethical men on Wall Street. Mr. Templeton died last year. But he had always celebrated Thanksgiving by sending greetings and presents for that day as he believed gratitude and generosity are absolutely crucial for enriching our worldviews and then our lives. That also allowed him to keep Christmas spiritual and focused on God’s Gift to us. It is in that spirit--and in memory of Mr. Templeton--that The Financial Seminary sent this [article] . . . so it might be shared with [others]. . . .

As in the ancient story [Numbers 13], Mr. Templeton was famous for focusing on the milk and honey in the Promised Land while the majority focused on the giants.

During the early eighties, people thought inflation would impoverish us; but Mr. Templeton predicted a soaring stock market. During the early nineties, people thought the federal debt was earthshaking; but Mr. Templeton predicted “the twenty most prosperous years in history” for our world. Yet he was very much a realist. In the late nineties, he predicted that if you invested in the Dow Jones, you would be lucky to break even in ten years, which has also been prophetic. Being a serious student of the Bible, Mr. Templeton knew fat years and lean years are simply the order of things [Genesis 41]. Yet God knows we are again seeing giant-sized problems and are again feeling rather hopeless.

Our natural tendency to focus on our challenges can be demonstrated by my holding a piece of paper aloft and asking what you see. You’ll probably respond “a sheet of paper.” But if I take a magic marker, place a dot in the middle and ask again, you’ll likely reply you see “a dot.” Of course, what you really see is a very large piece of paper with a relatively small dot. That’s precisely why our media focus on the very small number of plane crashes rather than the much larger number of planes that arrive safely each day. Unfortunately, after a while, that focus on the negative becomes a habit and begins to shape our worldview, including how we see the economy and our finances.

For example, let me ask if you’ve ever seen the size of our federal debt. . . . Virtually all of us have, of course. There’s even a billboard about it on Times Square that we often see updated on the evening news. It’s now about $10 trillion, which sounds so giant-sized it can frighten any of us. But [it's like the dot on the paper. N]ow let me ask this: Have you even once seen the size of our nation’s assets? . . . Very, very few of us have. Yet the same people who estimate the federal debt also estimate our nation’s assets, which are much, much larger. I’ll get to those assets in a moment. [They are like the paper surrounding the dot.]

But my point is that while [God] teaches us to count our blessings, the world usually teaches us to count our challenges. That’s been true since the very beginning, as explained in this beautiful passage Mark Buchanan wrote in Christianity Today a few years ago:
In the Garden of Eden the first thing the serpent did was create in Adam and Eve a sense of scarcity. "Did God really say you must not eat any of the fruit in the garden?" (Gen. 3:1).

God did say--commanded, in fact--that they "may freely eat any fruit in the garden except fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. If you eat of its fruit, you will surely die" (Gen. 2:16). The serpent's trick, then as now, is to turn this staggering abundance and gracious protection into frightening scarcity and bullying deprivation, the stinginess of a despot.

The serpent lied, and we got taken in. Now, despite the overwhelming evidence that we live amidst overflowing abundance—abundant food, clothes, warmth, friends, things—we always feel it's not enough. We sense it's running out, it's insufficient. . . . [T]he deepest theological concept is thankfulness; because to know God is to thank God.
God had a divine plan to deal with our human tendencies to focus on the economic negative. It is called the Book of Numbers. It seems a boring book but it’s a crucial one as it was essentially summarized by St. Paul when he counseled us to “put your minds on the things that are good...that deserve praise” [Philippians 4:8].

You see, it’s always been true that to know God, who is Ultimate Reality, you have to know not only our economic challenges but also our blessings.

By today’s standards, the Hebrews didn’t have many economic blessings. But they did have what economists call “human capital,” or people with rudimentary skills. So God had Moses number, or count, those blessings.

We, too, need to carefully consider the “overwhelming evidence” of our “overflowing abundance” before we can cross over to our own Promised Land. But first, let’s put our blessings into the larger perspective, both historically and globally, just so we know how very, very thankful we should be.

Economic historians tell us that at the time of Christ, the average human lived on the equivalent of about $600 per year. Due to limited diet, poor health care and seemingly endless war, Jesus was relatively old when he was crucified at thirty-three. At the end of the first millennium, people around the world were still living on the same $600 per year. And as hard as it is for us to imagine, when the Pilgrims and Native Americans celebrated the first Thanksgiving, they were living on even less.

Importantly, while historians tell us the American economy has seen its share of fat years and lean years since the first thanks/giving season, our economy has been growing at a fairly steady 2% per year for the past two hundred years. Yet, always remember, a minister named Thomas Malthus famously predicted back then that we would have starved long ago as food production could not keep up with population growth. As with most worldly-minded economists, the good reverend forgot that people are not simply mouths to feed but are created in the image of God to be co-creators. That’s basically why economics is called “the dismal science” and we Christians need to practice “spiritual economics.”

From a global perspective, the average human now lives on less than $8,000 a year. The Economist magazine recently estimated the average net worth of a human being is less than $2,500. Let me repeat those realities: Today, the average person in our world lives on less than $8,000 and has a net worth of less than $2,500.

Now, let’s number our blessings. As to income, the average American today lives on nearly $50,000, or nearly one-hundred times what people did at the time of Christ.

In its most recent report, which is very rarely seen, but a small, relevant portion of which is available here, The Office of Management and Budget in the White House estimated that America’s total wealth is $120 trillion, with a “T.” Subtract the $8 trillion America owes other nations and our net wealth is an astounding $112 trillion. Yes, that figure has fallen some in 2008, as it always does during recessions. It may fall even further, as it did from 2000 to 2002. Still it is an amazing number.

The report says the average American enjoys about $370,000 of wealth. No, what we call “private wealth” or our personal wealth, isn’t that large. It’s about half of that. But you need to add the value of your portion of [your] church, for example--a value that is in what economists call the “independent sector” of the economy. And you need to add your portion of the roads that [permit you to travel from place to place and that enable shipping companies to transport goods from factories to your favorite retailer . . . and from the retailer to your home. --These are all resources that] are in the “public sector.”

All that wealth--plus our parks, schools, military, libraries, foundations, Red Cross and so on--is very real wealth that enriches us each day. Yet we seldom think about it as we focus on the twin giants of deficits and debt.

So I hope that you’ll open a copy of the OMB report, study it, and, each time someone talks about the huge deficit our federal government will run this year and next, and it will, to stimulate us out of recession, or the size of our federal debt, you will put those giants into perspective by sharing the size of our assets. There is no need to argue the deficit or our debt “doesn’t matter.” They do. And they will matter more as the boomers retire, particularly if our wars continue. Guns and butter are expensive. Difficult stewardship decisions must be made. So pray for our leaders. But as the story of the Hebrews indicates, there is never reason for the children of an almighty God to feel “small as grasshoppers” when contemplating such giants.

In fact, it will surprise those who’ve lived in fear of the federal debt, but the White House report says that as a percentage of our national wealth, the federal debt has actually been in decline for nearly fifty years. Yes, as reported nearly every day, the nominal size of the debt has been growing. Yet as has rarely been reported, the size of our assets has been growing even faster, hence the increase in our net wealth. The same pattern has been repeated in households so household wealth is also at an all-time record despite the much reported increase in personal debt. As a percentage of our nation’s assets, the federal debt is only 6.8%, down from 10.4% in 1960. That is, if the federal debt was a mortgage and our American home was valued at $100,000, our mortgage would be $6,800.

Still, economists who study human nature tell us today’s realities amount to little if people falsely assume they will not have enough tomorrow. They will still hoard what they have, reducing both giving for today’s challenges and investing for the future. They thereby turn their worst fears into future realities, just as the Hebrews did when their fear of the giants, and not the giants themselves, kept them out of the land that God had promised for over four hundred years.

So it seems very timely to share with you what might have been Mr. Templeton’s last and most important economic prediction. Yes, he told the financial media our stock market would likely be flat during this decade as he knew our economy was running low on “spiritual capital,” or the virtues of thrift, prudence, patience, trust and so on. But understanding the somewhat cyclical nature of economic reality, he also knew that would pass, however painfully. So he also asked [me] to co-author an article for Equities magazine about why the Dow Jones Industrial Average might rise to the one million level by the year 2100. Yes, he saw milk and honey in our future even after numbering the giants.

So Mr. Templeton left us one sure-fired investment recommendation for sharing in that milk and honey rather than wandering the dry desert of despair when he counseled:
In all my years of investment counseling, there was only one investment which never proved faulty, and that was tithing--giving at least 10% of your income to churches and charities. In all my history, I have never seen a family who tithed for as long as ten years that didn’t become both prosperous and happy. That is the best investment anyone can select.
Thanks be to God indeed.

--Reprinted by permission of the author. Emboldened emphases added.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Flotsam science: low-cost rubber duckies provide clue to ocean (and sub-glacial) currents

In an era of billion-dollar space telescopes, gene machines and city-size particle accelerators, some scientists just have to make do with tub toys. From Greenland's glaciers to the boundless Pacific main, researchers are tracking thousands of rubber ducks, frogs, beer bottles and wooden tops set adrift around the world to solve critical questions of oceanography, glaciology and global warming.

[They] call it flotsam science.
The field got its start back in 1992 when a Pacific storm dumped 28,200 plastic ducks, turtles and frogs from their shipping container into the ocean. Each of the toys had a unique manufacturing code that positively identified its origin . . . thus providing a wonderful means for discovering where ocean currents travel.

Some of the toys from that accident made it through the Bering Strait into the Arctic Ocean, over the North Pole via pack ice, and into the North Atlantic Ocean. According to Dr. Curtis Ebbesmeyer, editor of The Beachcombers Alert, the professional journal dedicated to this research.

Eleven years after its release,
one of the plastic ducks turned up in Maine, while one of the plastic frogs washed up in Scotland, more than 7,000 miles from where it started.
And the latest deliberate release of such flotsam? In August, Dr. Alberto Behar of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, placed
Dr. Behar tosses some rubber ducks into the Jakobshavn Isbrae. Each duck has been imprinted with an email address and, in three languages, offers a reward for its return.90 yellow rubber ducks into the melt water flowing down a chasm in the largest of Greenland's 200 glaciers -- the Jakobshavn Isbrae -- which has been thinning rapidly since 1997. Each duck was imprinted with an email address and, in three languages, the offer of a reward. If all goes well, Dr. Behar hopes that one day they will emerge 30 miles or so away at the glacier's edge in the open water of Disko Bay near Ilulissat, bobbing brightly amid the icebergs north of the Arctic Circle, each one a significant clue to just how warming temperatures may speed the glacier's slide to the sea.

Much more at the original article in the Wall Street Journal.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Onomastic sobriquets . . .

[Oh, yes! Enjoy the vocabulary lesson! . . . Onomastic: "Of, relating to, or explaining a name or names." And sobriquet: affectionate or humorous nickname.]

Lynn C. Hattendorf Westney, Associate Professor and Assistant Reference Librarian at the University of Illinois, Chicago, presented a wholly fun paper at the 35th Annual Congress of the Social Sciences and Humanities in Quebec back in May of 2001. Title of the paper: Dew Drop Inn and Lettuce Entertain You: Onomastic Sobriquets in the Food and Beverage Industry. And its subject matter: examples of "international onomastic appellations [that] demonstrate that the names of contemporary dining and drinking establishments serve as semantic and/or humorous reflections of societal mores."

Westney seems never to have heard the editor's aphorism I learned many years ago to "Kill which's wherever you find them." If you can overlook her ubiquitous use of the word, however, I think you'll find the paper--that consists, primarily, of "names in the food and beverage industry which reflect contemporary culture and which are characterized by their amusing and titillating patronyms and puns"--quite a bit of fun to peruse.

From coffee shops
Aroma Borealis in Alberta, Edmonton (and elsewhere),
Brew Ha Ha of Phoenix, Arizona,

Espresso Yourself in Juneau, Alaska (and elsewhere; photo from Anchorage),
and Pony Espresso of Dubois, Wyoming . . .
to hot dog stands like
Franks for the Memories of Mundelein, Illinois,
Mustards Last Stand of Evanston, Illinois,
Puppy Love of Plymouth, New Hampshire, and
Relish the Thought of Chicago, . . .
to Asian restaurants
Beau Thai in Portland, Oregon, or
Seoul Food (Korean barbecue) in Denver, Colorado . . .
to establishments that indicate what they serve:
Adams Rib of Riverdale, Illinois,
the Crepevine in San Francisco,
Grateful Bread of Seattle, and
Jonathan Livingston Seafood of Chicago . . .
to places whose names leave you wondering:
Eaton Gogh in Norfolk, Virginia,
The Hearty Boys of Chicago, and
The Perfect Wife, Manchester, Vermont . . .
these and a hundred more all here for your bemusement!

Oh! But while looking for photos to grace this page . . . I came across some additional pages with fun names.

I didn't record them all. But here's one I enjoyed: Creative Shop Names.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

One of those products someone should have thought of long ago . . .

Amazing what a creative mind can come up with!

I bumped into this product on the Sonlight Curriculum Sonlighters Club forums . . . and became so intrigued at the benefits, I promptly went to the referenced site and bought one for each of the women in our family for use on our next family outing.

Introducing the pStyle: a device to enable women to pee comfortably standing up . . . which creates all kinds of additional benefits:
  • You can keep your outfit on . . . which means you . . .
    • When you're out-of-doors, you can "take care of business" without having to expose yourself (or potentially exposing yourself) to other people or the elements. (Ever see the guys standing by their cars on the side of a highway? You know what they're doing, but you realize they're being (at least relatively) discrete.)
    • You can "take care of business" without having to grapple with something that is hard to remove such as a ski suit, backpack, or caving suit.
  • If you have trouble sitting or squatting . . . or don't want to sit or squat for some reason (filthy toilet seats in a public restroom, anyone?!?) - you don't have to.
  • Ever been in one of those "restrooms" (Port-a-potty?!?) where you really wish you could get out of there faster? . . . Now you can!
  • No more extra waiting in line for a stall with a door.
  • No need to jump in the water to pee when you're on a boat that lacks a toilet.
  • In sum: It is faster, easier, and safer to pee whenever you need to!
"I took my pStyle on an 8-day river rafting trip where we were required to pee in the river to avoid attracting animals to the campsites," wrote one user. "While all the other women had to squat in the cold water, I was able to stand on the edge of the boat and take care of business."

Check it out at

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Big holes . . .

Pretty astonishing photos from around the world of big holes in the earth! --Please forgive the blog title.

How about this one from Mirna in Eastern Siberia: the Mirny Diamond Mine: 525 meters deep and 1.25 km in diameter!

Air currents, due to convection, are so strong above the mine, that several helicopters have crashed. So at this time, all flights above the hole are being prohibited!
Or the Kimberley Big Hole in South Africa: Reportedly the largest hand-dug excavation in the world. 1097 meters--a bit over five-eighths of a mile--deep.
The Bingham Canyon Mine southwest of Salt Lake City in Utah. (According to Wikipedia, "As of 2004, ore from the mine has yielded more than 17 million tons (15.4 Mt) of copper, 23 million ounces (715 t) of gold, 190 million ounces (5,900 t) of silver, and 850 million pounds (386 kt) of molybdenum. The gold and silver are impurities removed from the copper during refining. The value of the resources extracted from the Bingham Canyon Mine is greater than the Comstock Lode, Klondike, and California gold rush mining regions combined."
And then, finally, this pretty one: the Great Blue Hole in Belize--close to a quarter mile across and 145 meters deep in the center.
You can find a bunch more photos of these and other such astonishing holes at D*mn Cool Pics. --And as I said above . . . please forgive the title of the page. The rest of the content that I viewed was wholly unobjectionable but/and extremely interesting!

As always: Enjoy!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Death Clock

I've been working on a "200-year plan" for our family on my website. In one of my recent posts, "numbering our days"--simply beginning our plan with an acknowledgment of approximately how long we might expect to live . . . and using that estimation as a framework on which to build.

Well, I just found a tool that might provide more accurate numbers. Check out You'll find an estimate of your moment of death . . . down to the second.

As the owner of the website suggests, its purpose is to remind you that "life is slipping away . . . second by second" . . . though there are ways, potentially, for you to improve your chances for living longer.

One weakness in the site: it doesn't tell you how many seconds in a week (604,800), a month (approximately 2.5 million), or a year (31.5 million). So I could easily calculate that I'm looking at only about 20 more years, based on somebody's actuarial averages. (That sounds low to me--it has me dying at 74 years of age; but whether it's a bit low or about right, it's eye-opening.)

Even if I live to an "optimistic" age of not-quite-87, it's still eye-opening.

As for potentially extending your life . . . maybe you would like to . . .
  • Quit smoking.

  • Reduce your BMI (Body Mass Index) below 25. [The site even includes a handy BMI calculator.]

  • Or, perhaps--with God's help--you can change your attitude. (Work on becoming more optimistic? --Definitely avoid sadism and/or pessimism!)

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Musical Mystery Tour Ends

I didn't realize there was a 40-year mystery up for grabs until I read Beatles Unknown "A Hard Day's Night" Chord Mystery Solved Using Fourier Transform:
It’s the most famous chord in rock 'n' roll, an instantly recognizable twang rolling through the open strings on George Harrison’s 12-string Rickenbacker. It evokes a Pavlovian response from music fans as they sing along to the refrain that follows:
"It’s been a hard day’s night
And I’ve been working like a dog"
The opening chord to "A Hard Day’s Night" is also famous because, for 40 years, no one quite knew exactly what chord Harrison was playing.
Professor Jason Brown of Dalhousie University’s Department of Mathematics decided to apply a mathematical calculation known as a Fourier transform to solve the problem . . . and came up with the idea that George Martin, the Beatles producer, added an F note played by a piano.
The resulting chord was completely different than anything found in the literature about the song to date, which is one reason why Dr. Brown’s findings garnered international attention. He laughs that he may be the only mathematician ever to be published in Guitar Player magazine.
For the full technical presentation of Brown's triumph, see CHAAAAAAAAG...It's been a hard day's night! and, perhaps, Wired's How Math Unraveled the 'Hard Day's Night' Mystery.


(By the way, in case you need a reminder about the opening chord, here is a copy from the Wired article:


Monday, November 03, 2008

For the closest parallel to the current financial panic . . . go back to 1873

Scott Reynolds Nelson, a professor of history at the College of William and Mary, has written an intriguing paper that urges analysts to abandon the idea that the current financial panic is most closely parallel to the Great Depression.
According to most historians and economists, that depression had more to do with over-large factory inventories, a stock-market crash, and Germany's inability to pay back war debts, which then led to continuing strain on British gold reserves. None of those factors is really an issue now.

Contemporary industries have very sensitive controls for trimming production as consumption declines; our current stock-market dip followed bank problems that emerged more than a year ago; and there are no serious international problems with gold reserves, simply because banks no longer peg their lending to them.

In fact, the current economic woes look a lot like what my 96-year-old grandmother still calls "the real Great Depression." She pinched pennies in the 1930s, but she says that times were not nearly so bad as the depression her grandparents went through. That crash came in 1873 and lasted more than four years. It looks much more like our current crisis.
I found the details Nelson puts forward quite fascinating . . . and I appreciate having my financial time horizon pushed back another 60 years.

Check out The Real Great Depression in The Chronicle of Higher Education, "The Chronicle Review" for October 17, 2008: Volume 55, Issue 8, Page B98.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Brilliant viral marketing

Love him or hate him (i.e., I hope, love or hate his proposed policies), Obama's campaign has done a brilliant job of marketing.

Who would have thought? --For the price of an iPod Nano and a little website development, you can create this kind of outpouring of creative "love"?

Yes, We Carve! -- Carve your own Barack-o'-Lantern:

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Don't you just love listening to this guy?

I have noted before how soothing--statesmanly, actually--Obama sounds. Boy! If he were to prove as good in practice as he claims to be in his speeches, I think I could follow this man . . . except for his obvious commitment to a culture of death . . . and his inability--any more than McCain--to explain where he is going to get the funds from to underwrite all his messianic desires. . . .

[And this is why I gagged the entire time I filled in my vote for McCain last week: who will pay for all the ridiculous big-government-will-save-you, liberal, borrow-and-spend policies of the Republicrats who have been running our country for the last eight years? Can't we just throw all the bums out?]

Oh, for more Ron Pauls and Davey Crocketts.

Still, supposing Obama wins next Tuesday, I pray he might prove even half as good in practice as he comes across in his speeches.