Archive for December, 2008

Groucho Marx dedicated his 1959 autobiography, “Groucho and Me,” to “six masters without whose wise and witty words my life would have been duller.” The six were Robert Benchley, E.B. White, George S. Kaufman, Ring Lardner, S.J. Perelman, and James Thurber.

Thurber’s book My World and Welcome to It is a collection of short stories and humerous essays. A short-lived television series of the same title was based on Thurber’s book. I remember watching this program and enjoying it very much, but at the same time I knew it wouldn’t last. You had to think a little to appreciate  what was going on. Television at the time was being dummed down, a sad trend which continues. Each episode was like a blog post, short and sweet with a point made  somewhere in or around it. 

Thurber died before the Internet existed, so he isn’t the original blogger. But his essays and his illustrations would have been perfect for a blog and if he were alive today I’m sure he would have a great one. And the television show would be the original video blog.


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It seems to me that making a New Year’s resolution is a subtle acknowledgment of failure to live up to some expectation during the past year, and at the same time granting yourself absolution by resolving to “do better” in the coming year. All sins confessed to are forgiven until repeated. Rather than perpetuate this annual cycle of failure and and forgiveness, I hereby resolve to resolve no more. And if that doesn’t work out, there is always 2010.

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Bad Drivers

bad_drivers1There are two kinds of drivers on the road today – normal ones like me, and the rest. And the rest are bad drivers who,  at least when I am behind them, drive 35 mph in a 50 mph zone, then do 50 mph in a 35 mph zone.  They slow down at intersections, signaling occasionally but only after starting to turn. They sometimes change their minds and don’t turn and don’t cancel their turn signal. Bad drivers have their own handbook. It must be a bestseller around here.

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Living Like Pigs


pork pig show

Originally uploaded by Fagu

Although I generally deplore anthropomorphistic photographs, this reminds me of what my mother would sometime say when we didn’t clean up the bedroom three of us shared as boys – “You must enjoy living like a bunch of pigs!

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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

polymath (Greek polymathēs, πολυμαθής, “having learned much”) is a person whose knowledge is not restricted to one subject area. In less formal terms, a polymath (or polymathic person) may simply refer to someone who is very knowledgeable. Most ancient scientists were polymaths by today’s standards. 

 410px-hildegard2Saint Hildegard was a German abbess, author, counselor, linguist, naturalist, scientist, philosopher, physician, herbalist, poet,visionary and composer. I guess that makes her a polymath. As an herbalist, she was fond of spelt. This is a grain closely related to wheat but considererd healthier. I use spelt flour in my bread. I suppose it’s healthy, I just like the taste. Hildegard’s parents donated her to the church. Things were different back then.

Leonardo di Vinci was a polymath, Albert Einstein wasn’t. This illustrates the difference between a genius and a jack of all trades, so to speak.

I never met any of these people. I’m not that old. Well, except for Einstein, but I was only three when he died and I probably wouldn’t remember him anyway. But I do know a polymath.

Wayne was an infantryman in Vietnam. He never mentioned it, but I imagine this made him very knowledgeable on things like keeping your feet dry and your head down. He was also a homebuilder and cabinett maker. This made him very knowlegeble in business, as well as in practical trades like plumbing and carpentry. Wayne is an especially knowledgeble (and still licensed, I believe) electrician, who wired his new house with the care and joy of an artist. He was a shop teacher for many years, and half the people I know here remember him from the classroom well and fondly. Wayne is also a musician who plays guitar and sings in a local bluegrass band. He and wife have raised two daughters, and that I imagine will make a man knowledgeable. Wayne enjoys a cold beer on occasion, and a good Scotch, too. And he knows how to catch a fish.

Wayne is a blue-collar polymath.

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Little big storm

Originally uploaded by Ahmed Zahid

Added to my Flickr Favorites this morning. I had almost given up even looking for new photos, but this caught my attention. It was taken in the Maldives, a tourist destination in the Indian Ocean. The Maldives is the smallest Asian country in terms of both population and area; it is the smallest predominantly Muslim nation in the world and their constitution precludes non-Muslims from voting. It is also the country with the lowest highest point in the world. Just a coincidence . . . geography having nothing to do with it.

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Equipartition Theorem

I am awed by, and feel sorry for, anyone who understands this – 

Figure 1. Thermal motion of an α-helical peptide. The jittery motion is random and complex, and the energy of any particular atom can fluctuate wildly. Nevertheless, the equipartition theorem allows the average kinetic energy of each atom to be computed, as well as the average potential energies of many vibrational modes. The grey, red and blue spheres represent atoms of carbon, oxygen and nitrogen, respectively; the smaller white spheres represent atoms of hydrogen.

The equipartition theorem is a formula from statistical mechanics that relates the temperature of a system with its average energies. The original idea of equipartition was that, in thermal equilibrium, energy is shared equally among its various forms; for example, the average kinetic energy in the translational motion of a molecule should equal the average kinetic energy in its rotational motion. Like the virial theorem, the equipartition theorem gives the total average kinetic and potential energies for a system at a given temperature, from which the system’s heat capacity can be computed. However, equipartition also gives the average values of individual components of the energy. It can be applied to any classical system in thermal equilibrium, no matter how complicated. The equipartition theorem can be used to derive the classical ideal gas law, and the Dulong–Petit law for the specific heat capacities of solids. It can also be used to predict the properties of stars, even white dwarfs and neutron stars, since it holds even whenrelativistic effects are considered. Although the equipartition theorem makes very accurate predictions in certain conditions, it becomes inaccurate when quantum effects are significant, namely at low enough temperatures.

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The Euro

010201349233001I once paid 99 cents for one Euro.  Today, I would have to pay about 45% more for the same thing.  I don’t think the exchange rate is going to improve anytime soon.

1 EUR = 1.44017 USD
Euro (EUR) US Dollar (USD)
1 EUR = 1.44017 USD   1 USD = 0.69436 EUR

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I subscribe to  “A Phrase A Week” and find it fascinating.  Just click here if you want to try it out yourself. I have never received any spam or junk mail through this site.

Make no bones about


To state a fact in a way that allows no doubt. To have no objection to.


This is another of those ancient phrases that we accept with our mother’s milk as an idiom but which seem quite strange when we later give it some thought. When we are trying to convey that we acknowledge or have no objection to something, why bring bones into it?

It has been suggested that the bones were dice, which were previously made from bone and are still called bones in gambling circles. That explanation doesn’t stand up to scrutiny – ‘to make no dice about it’ makes little sense. Also, in a 1542 translation of Erasmus’s Paraphrase of Luke he discussed the command given to Abraham to sacrifice Isaac and wrote that ‘he made no bones about it but went to offer up his son.’ Erasmus wasn’t noted for his visits to the gaming tables and would hardly have used betting terminology to discuss a biblical text. (more…)

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OPEC Cuts Production

OPEC sees the writing on the wall and fears Obama’s energy policies will move their best customer toward less dependence on their only product. It doesn’t matter at this point who you voted for, now is the time to support America against the economic terrorists called OPEC. While it may be uncomfortable or even painful now, in the long run we will be better off when we don’t need so much foreign oil. I say let them cut production, we’ll cut consumption by an equal or greater amount.

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