Tuesday, March 31, 2009
You can check out how the world record has changed over time, apparently the 100 m race is not like some others, great increases in speed just aren't possible it seems. Although it was probably pretty hard to judge the speed without stopwatches or other accurate timekeeping devices. Once performance enhancing techniques (a polite way to say drugs) became available, it is interesting that the times began to drop.
Sunday, March 29, 2009
The first year we grew a garden, just after having our first real yard, we had a bumper crop of huge luscious tomatoes. That was almost forty years ago and since then we have manged to kill hundreds of tomato plants without success in getting even a modest crop. I can say with Thomas Jefferson, "Though an old man, I am but a young gardener." If I thought I could make a living gardening, I would have done so years ago. I don't mind the work, the sweat or the bugs, but I do get discouraged with seeds that don't grow at all.
Poet Wendell Berry said, "One of the most important resources that a garden makes available for use, is the gardener's own body. A garden gives the body the dignity of working in its own support. It is a way of rejoining the human race." I don't have to rejoin the human race, I never left it.
Saturday, March 28, 2009
Amazing Grace, a film about Wilberforce and the struggle against the slave trade, directed by Michael Apted with Ioan Gruffudd as William Wilberforce, was released in 2007 to coincide with the 200th anniversary of the date on which Parliament voted to ban the transport of slaves by British subjects.
The poet William Wordsworth was so impressed with Clarkson's achievements that he wrote this sonnet to him.
Sonnet, To Thomas Clarkson, On the final passing of the Bill for the Abolition of the Slave Trade, March, 1807.
- Clarkson! it was an obstinate Hill to climb:
- How toilsome, nay how dire it was, by Thee
- Is known,—by none, perhaps, so feelingly;
- But Thou, who, starting in thy fervent prime,
- Didst first lead forth this pilgrimage sublime,
- Hast heard the constant Voice its charge repeat,
- Which, out of thy young heart’s oracular seat,
- First roused thee.—O true yoke-fellow of Time
- With unabating effort, see, the palm
- Is won, and by all Nations shall be worn!
- The bloody Writing is for ever torn,
- And Thou henceforth wilt have a good Man’s calm,
- A great Man’s happiness; thy zeal shall find
- Repose at length, firm Friend of human kind!
- William Wordsworth
Friday, March 27, 2009
When playing Scrabble, I always lost to my children because I would be trying to make some long word and they kept playing three and four letters. My efforts could be said to be ficulnean.
Thursday, March 26, 2009
Look, this word isn't even close to being the longest word ever used, Aristophanes used the word Lopadotemachoselachogaleokranioleipsanodrimhypotrimmatosilphioparaomelitokatakechymenokichlepikossyphophattoperisteralektryonoptekephalliokigklopeleiolagoiosiraiobaphetraganopterygon, λοπαδοτεμαχοσελαχογαλεοκρανιολειψανοδριμυποτριμματοσιλφιοκαραβομελιτοκατακε-χυμενοκιχλεπικοσσυφοφαττοπεριστεραλεκτρυονοπτοκεφαλλιοκιγκλοπελειολαγῳοσιραιο-βαφητραγανοπτερύγων in the Greek alphabet
The first known written instance of floccinaucinihilipilification, as recorded in the Oxford English Dictionary, is in 1741, in a published letter by William Shenstone. The quotation is: "I loved him for nothing so much as his flocci-nauci-nihili-pili-fication of money." Other notable users of the word have included Robert Southey (in the Quarterly Review 14:334, 1816), and Walter Scott (Journal 18, 1829). Scott, however, replaced the "nauci" component with "pauci". The feminine noun construction, floccinaucinihilipilificatrix, can be found in the Robert Heinlein novel The Number of the Beast. Wikipedia.
Neither of these words is legal in Scrabble.
You know it is New York by the gum spots on the sidewalk, no one would think to put those in sound stage production. I think the themes and story line are a little too much for small children. I was most impressed by the cockroaches cleaning the bathtub and the rats helping to clean the rest of the apartment. It has some long musical numbers that aren't too difficult to endure and moves right along. It was a surprising good movie.
Tuesday, March 24, 2009
“Individual progression is fostered in the family, which is ‘central to the Creator’s plan for the eternal destiny of His children.’ (“The Family: A Proclamation to the World,” Liahona, Oct. 2004, 49; Ensign, Nov. 1995, 102). The home is to be God’s laboratory of love and service. There a husband is to love his wife, a wife is to love her husband, and parents and children are to love one another.” Russell M. Nelson, “Salvation and Exaltation,” Ensign, May 2008, 8
"We live in a world that is filled with options. If we are not careful, we will find every minute jammed with social events, classes, exercise time, book clubs, scrapbooking, Church callings, music, sports, the Internet, and our favorite TV shows. One mother told me of a time that her children had 29 scheduled commitments every week: music lessons, scouts, dance, Little League, day camps, soccer, art, and so forth. She felt like a taxi driver. Finally, she called a family meeting and announced, 'Something has to go; we have no time to ourselves and no time for each other.' Families need unstructured time when relationships can deepen and real parenting can take place. Take time to listen, to laugh, and to play together." M. Russell Ballard, "Daughters of God," Ensign, May 2008, 109-110
Saturday, March 21, 2009
In a world where explosions are considered the main character of a movie, it is refreshing to find a movie that can make you shed a tear or two on the strength of its characters and its story line. My vote for one of the top ten, is Secondhand Lions.
Friday, March 20, 2009
The problem with the definition, of course, is that one man's (or woman's) trivial or base is another's monumentally important subject. I find the worst writing lately, in the comment columns of the news. If there were some sort of filter, allowing only those who could write grammatically to post comments, both the tenor and the substance of the comments would increase in quality.
Wednesday, March 18, 2009
Rimsky-Korsakov was a contemporary of Modest Mussorgsky. Mussorgsky is famous as the composer of A Night on Bald Mountain, ruinously featured as one of the compositions in Walt Disney's Fantasia. However, I do not hold that against Mussorgsky. One of my all time favorite compositions is suite, Pictures at an Exhibition. Which, by the way, part of which, The Great Gate at Kiev, was one of the first polyphonic compositions played on the nascent Apple IIgs, the first "multimedia" computer ever sold.
Little did we know when marveling at the sound from the IIgs, that very soon we would be hearing full stereo from an iPhone. I can now listen to the entire composition of Pictures at an Exhibition and carry it around in my pocket.
Monday, March 16, 2009
As it was, I got back into computers after a stint with the U.S. Army during the Viet Nam War. I started again in 1975 with my brother's Commodore computer. I graduated to Apple IIs in the 1980s and almost every single model of microcomputer that came out for the next ten years or so but spent most of time with the Mac, especially after attending the introduction by Steve Jobs in 1984. Now, we always seem to own five or six of them at a time.
Computers have fundamentally changed the way I do things. They are so pervasive, that I can seldom go anyplace, unless I take a computer with me.
The real question is whether or not the computer is a benefit or a detriment to society? Do we really have a better quality of life from banging away on computers? As Robert Wilensky said, "We've all heard that a million monkeys banging on a million typewriters will eventually reproduce the entire works of Shakespeare. Now, thanks to the Internet, we know this is not true."
Sunday, March 15, 2009
I have chaos in my soul sometimes, but I have yet to give birth to a dancing star.
My view of chaos was forever changed by reading Douglas Hofstadter's book.
Hofstadter, Douglas R. Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid. New York: Basic Books, 1979.
Hofstadter wrote, “It turns out that an eerie type of chaos can lurk just behind a facade of order - and yet, deep inside the chaos lurks an even eerier type of order” What appears to be unordered is, in reality, only a different and strange or unknown to the observer, type of order. It may be that we are constrained by our point of observation and reference to view only the most superficial part of the true structure of the universe.
Saturday, March 14, 2009
Treasure Island is not a children's book. It is nothing like that great American classic, Alan Mendelsohn the Boy from Mars. It isn't the timeless classic of Lord of the Rings either. But what it is, is one of the best crafted and scariest books ever written. If I had an opinion, which I do on occasion, I would say that Walt Disney and his loyal followers have done more to damage real story telling than anyone else I know. All you have to do is watch the insipid Disney version of Treasure Island and then read the book, to know what I mean. Even the old Wallace Berry version of Treasure Island is a faint shadow of the real thing. It is like eating Hostess Twinkies instead of real food. The best movie version of the novel starred Charlton Heston. How many of you have seen that one?
Have you ever read a book recommended by your mother or father? Finding out that your grandfather likes a book is probably the kiss of death. Here is what Stevenson had to say about the book,
And may I also share the grave where these and their creations lie!
If sailor tales to sailor tunes,
Storm and adventure, heat and cold,
If schooners, islands, and maroons,
And buccaneers, and buried gold,
And all the old romance, retold
Exactly in the ancient way,
Can please, as me they pleased of old,
The wiser youngsters of today:
--So be it, and fall on! If not,
If studious youth no longer crave,
His ancient appetites forgot,
Kingston, or Ballantyne the brave,
Or Cooper of the wood and wave:
So be it, also! And may I
And all my pirates share the grave
Where these and their creations lie!
Probably some of the most sensational of the books romanticizing life on Mars are by Edgar Rice Burroughs, born September 1, 1875. Burroughs, most famous as the author of Tarzan of the Apes, wrote a whole series of books about John Carter and his adventures on Mars. Actually, the sensational covers of the books did almost as much as the content to make Burroughs rich and famous.
I have found the books to be entertaining, especially for reading on airplane flights, but since I don't spend much time reading fiction any more, they are pretty low on my list.
The heroes of the movies about Tarzan of the Apes, at least the old ones, were not even vaguely like character in Burroughs' novels.
How ironical, that Schiaparelli should be remembered because of books about John Carter of Mars!
Friday, March 13, 2009
Pi, Greek letter (), is the symbol for the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter. Pi = 3.1415926535... Pi Day is observed on March 14 (3/14), due to π being roughly equal to 3.14. Pi Approximation Day is observed on July 22, due to π being roughly equal to 22/7. Wikipedia.
Some also celebrate Pi Approximation Day in addition to Pi Day, which can fall on any of several dates:
- April 26: The Earth has traveled two radians of its orbit by this day (April 25th in leap years); thus the entire orbit divided by the distance traveled equals pi
- July 22: 22/7 in the more common day/month date format, an ancient approximation of pi
- November 10: The 314th day of the year (November 9 in leap years)
- December 21, 1:13 p.m.: The 355th day of the year (December 20 in leap years), celebrated at 1:13 for the Chinese approximation 355/113
Wednesday, March 11, 2009
We often spend too much of our lives worrying about what we cannot do, Helen Keller said, "When one door of happiness closes, another opens; but often we look so long at the closed door that we do not see the one which has been opened for us." She also said, "I seldom think of my limitations, and they never make me sad. Perhaps there is just a touch of yearning at times; but it is vague, like a breeze among flowers."
Mankind has an infinite potential. We are truly sons and daughters of a kind and loving Heavenly Father. When I think on the fact that truly, I am a child of God, how can I dwell on my limitations? We can all improve at being human, loving our neighbors and finding time to help and lift others. I work with many people who would be considered to have severe physical limitations, but they find a joy in service that transcends their mortal condition.
Tuesday, March 10, 2009
Albert Schweitzer said, "The fundamental rights of [humanity] are, first: the right of habitation; second, the right to move freely; third, the right to the soil and subsoil, and to the use of it; fourth, the right of freedom of labor and of exchange; fifth, the right to justice; sixth, the right to live within a natural national organization; and seventh, the right to education."
If justice is a fundamental right, then why is it so seldom found? As Earl Warren said, "It is the spirit and not the form of law that keeps justice alive." Frederick Douglass said, "Where justice is denied, where poverty is enforced, where ignorance prevails, and where any one class is made to feel that society is an organized conspiracy to oppress, rob and degrade them, neither persons nor property will be safe."
Finally, Hubert H. Humphrey, "It was once said that the moral test of Government is how that Government treats those who are in the dawn of life, the children; those who are in the twilight of life, the elderly; and those who are in the shadows of life, the sick, the needy and the handicapped."
Monday, March 9, 2009
In 1066 William the Conqueror, the Duke of Normandy, invaded England leading an army of Normans, Bretons, Flemings and Frenchmen to battle with the English army under the command of King Harold Godwinson. This event is now referred to as the Battle of Hastings. One effect of the Norman Conquest of England was the ascendancy of the French language as the language of the Court and subsequently the nobility of England. As a result, almost every common term in English has both a French and an Anglo-Saxon form; for example pig and ham (ham from the French jambon).
Since a large percentage, some say as much as thirty percent, of so-called English words actually came from French, English speakers who have never studied French probably already know thousands of words.
Sunday, March 8, 2009
In our modern enlightened society we seem to thrive on disaster movies and TV series on how the world as we know it is going to end. The idea of a universal flood is rather tame compared to such blockbusters as The Day After Tomorrow. There seem to be a proliferation of cataclysmic events that could destroy the world from meteors (Deep Impact) to the whole Planet of the Apes series. Maybe enlightenment has shown us that the Bible is right after all.
Some words have little or no derivation. They are coined expressions that did not come from Greek, Latin or Anglo-Saxon. If I am not lackadaisical about my efforts to sort out the English language, I will soon become so.
Friday, March 6, 2009
I know many loquacious people and some that could be said to be the opposite. As Mark Twain said, "The right word may be effective, but no word was ever as effective as a rightly timed pause." He also said, "An average English word is four letters and a half. By hard, honest labor I have dug all the large words out of my vocabulary and shaved it down till the average is three and a half... I never write metropolis for seven cents, because I can get the same money for city. I never write policeman, because I can get the same price for cop.... I never write valetudinarian at all, for not even hunger and wretchedness can humble me to the point where I will do a word like that for seven cents; I wouldn't do it for fifteen."
I have gone my whole life looking for an opportunity to use a writ of habeas corpus, just so I could say I had done it. It certainly starting to look like it will never happen. However, it is one of those Latin phrases that everyone has heard and has almost come to signify obscurity in the law.
Thursday, March 5, 2009
In my rock and ice climbing days, I used to think that hanging on a cliff was precarious. Now that I have some perspective in the matter, I think living is precarious. I also think the Latins had a good idea in precarious times, pray.
Wednesday, March 4, 2009
Some words beg to be used, others you must beg to use. If you really want to impress someone with your vocabulary, pusillanimous is probably one of those words you can omit without harm to your reputation
Tuesday, March 3, 2009
One of the advantages of youth, is the ability to sit and watch the sky, without worrying about something else, or even knowing that all of the clouds are acting in a predictable fashion and that the predictability has a name.
If one of the storms ventured near, we would leap into the car and drive frantically in the direction of the rain, careening down dirt roads until we caught the wet tail of the storm. We would then jump out and dance in the rain, until it moved on to some other location. I would still go outside and watch the rain when I lived in Panama, where it rained once or twice a day. I still miss watching the clouds.
I once worked as an assistant to a professional magician. I learned how many of the tricks were done, but couldn't learn how to do any of them. Sometimes seeing, believing and even understanding are not doing.
In life, as well as magic, we sometimes learn that reality is more than we can handle. But, I have learned to compensate by learning about things that I will never be able to do and places I will never be able to visit. It is sort of a prestidigitation of the mind.
In our society of instant communication and constant pressure, maybe we need to make a place for solitude. I don't think that the Solitude Ski Resort or the Belfast Stadium qualify.
Sunday, March 1, 2009
English slang is full of onomatopoeia. So is Spanish, all you have to do is read Mafalda to know that. If we spent more time inventing words and less time using the ones we have, maybe the world would be a better place, splat, crunch, paf paf paf, clank.