Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Novels and Theorems

I went to the bookshop but the Da Vinci Code is sold out.

That? You haven't read it yet?

Well, I admit, no. I know it's not rated greatly, but I need something light to balance Thomas Mann.

You like classical books?

I do. I just finished Tale of Two Cities. But I also like science books. I am a physicist by training, you know.

Have you read Deva Sobel's Longitude?

Oh yes, the book about clocks.That was good.

And Fermat's Last Theorem? Some people say if you put one theorem in a book, you lose thousands of readers.

Well, I'm not so sure. Many educated people read novels nowadays.They demand more out of mere stories. They want ideas. Even physicists read novels. I number among my friends ten of them.

Yes, but there are not so many physicists in the world
...

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Monday, July 30, 2007

Voluntourism

You're doing what?

Voluntouring. In Myanmar.

Could you...?

Explain? Sure. Instead of sitting on a beach for a week this summer, I'm helping build a school in Myanmar.

Yeees. You have carpentry skills?

Well, I can learn.

Have you ever worked on a building site in tropical heat?

That's why I'm doing it. Never have. Give some help to some people who were unlucky in where they were born.

Do you think everyone who lives in a poor country envies rich westerners coming into a poor country, parading their luck, shopping and saying they're sorry?

Well... There's a bit of give and take.

Yes. I've heard in some cases the volunteers receive more than they actually give. They have to be trained, no sooner do they learn something useful than a fresh lot come in and have to be trained.

Can you suggest something better?

I agree it's not easy to find discreet ways to be charitable. But how about buying a ticket and paying a skilled Bangladeshi carpenter, skilled, used to working in a hot conditions, to go?

While I lie on a beach?

Well, I'm not saying whoa there, don't go. There's heaps of very worthy projects. Just tread carefully, listen quietly and talk softly.
...

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Sunday, July 29, 2007

Iceberg Posting


You've had a really interesting career, moved around a lot, just how many countries have you been posted to?

Dunno. Started in Egypt, Libya, then Borneo. That was where I was sent back to Edwardsville to pick up five toolkits for electricians.

Ten countries?

I had the option of going where they put me or putting up with six months on an iceberg, after which I could go to Japan.

You took Japan.

And the iceberg posting turned out OK. There was an aircraft runway, a trailer park...

How big was the iceberg?

Five miles by seven miles.

Where was it?

It'd been floating around the Arctic for several years.

And how many countries have you been to do you think?

Well, after Japan, there was Korea...
...

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Saturday, July 28, 2007

Packing

Have you got room for just a small package for Mimi?

No.


Oh, go on. Don't be so mean.


OK. OK. Anything else?


Well, I was just wondering, I've got these two paintings, it would be cheaper to have them framed in Bangkok than here.


All right.


Oh that's a big help. They'll just pack flat and nice at the bottom of your suitcase.


Next thing you'll be asking me to carry your paint brushes.


No. You judge me most harshly. I'd never do that. Oh, but I do wonder. Just a teensey weensey favor...?


Oh no! Not your easel as well!
...

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Friday, July 27, 2007

Typography

Something else about media and and how it affects what you say.

McLuhan would be pleased. What this time?


Another film coming out that film school I saw today. A film on typography.


On what?


Typography. You know, letters like a, b, and c, big and small, the design of those letters. Aka lettering, fonts, print, type or type glyphs.


Any good?


Usual yahoo fare. Some liked it. Some didn't. Only two minutes long but what students are able to produce these days comes closer to something professional.


What can you say in two minutes?


Cut out the human commentators and speak it fast, flash images, together with words on the screen, you move the narrative along at TV CM speeds.

Which is my point, how deep into an issue can you go with a television commercial?
...

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Thursday, July 26, 2007

Shadow artist

A shadow artist?

Someone who wants to be an artist, but never does, they lack confidence and make excuses.


A loser?


Often quite the opposite. Remember Delia?


The business consultant?


Originally she wanted to be an opera singer. Makes a good living at her work nowadays. But drives everywhere singing arias at the top of her voice. Uses her income to finance her daughter’s piano lessons. Shadow artist.


Displacement theory?


You could call it that if Delia was scolded or punished by her parents for saying she wanted to be a singer when she was younger, so her operatic aspirations re-emerged in her pushing her daughter into the piano. But I think she just lacked the confidence to do what she really wanted to do.


It’s getting a lot easier to become an artist.


But still just as difficult to make a living out of it.


True
.


And artists have to get support from somewhere.


Paying the piper?


But the artist doesn’t always play the tune the piper asks.
It’s a very old problem. Even Leonardo fell out with his sponsors on occasion.
...

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Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Urashima and Kaguyahime


Urashima Taro. The young fisherman who rescued a turtle, he was taken to the palace of the sea king, as a reward. Thought he’d spent three days and wanted to go home. Princess says, OK, gives him a box, tells him never to open it. He gets back to his village, realizes he’s been away 300 years, opens the box, smoke comes out and he turns really, really old.

Why did he open the box?

It’s not clear.

Maybe you need to rewrite the ending to explain more for modern audiences.

Well, I did try. I had him going back, but he is invisible and no one can see him, he speaks but no one can hear him. He gets unbearably lonely, opens the box, becomes 300 years older, visible, but like a ghost, so now everyone is too afraid to speak to him.

Not bad. Urashima loses on a double bounce. Modern rewriting but still ghostly enough to be medieval.

Maybe a good one for the ghost story season just beginning.

Oh, speaking of which, there’s a new ending to Kaguyahime on TV.

On TV?

It’s an ad. All her servants come down from the moon and tell her she has to go back there. But she’s sitting in a nice room with a new air conditioner and she says, “I don’t want to go back. I like it here.” So they go away. But then they come back again.

In force this time?

No, no. This time they say, “We’re coming to stay with you. We don’t want to go back either. You have a nice place. We like your air conditioner.”

Hmm. Clever twist for modern life. Sometimes those old stories have ho-hum endings.

...

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Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Pictures in blogs and books


This looks funny.

The picture?

Well when you open the book, the picture is squeezed into the middle. You expect to see the picture on the outside edge of the page.

Yes.

Watch. On the right page, it's on the right. On the left page it's on the left. Easy to see.

Yet on the blog, the picture being on the left doesn't interrupt the text so much. You go from left to right, reading the text first, seeing the picture on the right, second. There's a natural flow.

True, but, we look at book pages and computer screens differently. The geography isn't the same.

Aha, media. Depending on the media, the message goes to the left brain or to the right brain.

...

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Monday, July 23, 2007

Susan Sontag interviews herself

Why do you take photos?

I travel, so I like to recall where I’ve been. And people I’ve met.

So you are a tourist in other people’s realities?

Eventually the camera makes me a tourist in my own reality.

Could it also be that your traveling becomes a reason for taking photos?

Perhaps. But to take a photograph is to confer importance on an otherwise unnoticed event.

But don’t you think, with some photos, when you record the past, you are also inventing it?

You mean, because photographs give people an imaginary possession of a past that is unreal?

So the camera lies?

Not only that, it also helps people take possession of space in which they are insecure.

Will you write a book about photography?

Books are funny little portable pieces of thought.

Will you try taking photographs of your thoughts?

If I do, the images will be surreal.

...

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Sunday, July 22, 2007

Larry King

Communication isn’t just about words. I often think what you are trying to say is conveyed as much by facial expression and body language as the words you choose.

Larry King?

A man who likes to talk. A man who likes other people who also like to talk. He knows something about the subject.

He knows a lot about a lot of subjects.

He knows a lot because he talks to a lot of people who know a lot.

He chooses his friends. He likes people who have a passion for their work, who talk simply and have a sense of humor.

He has style.

He has a style. Bracelet and braces.

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Saturday, July 21, 2007

Mapmaker's story

We need a story. It needs to be a strong enough story to become a scenario.

I have a story.

Yes.

A man.

A good start.

He took three journeys in his life.

Three.


The first was in his 20's. He set off with no plan and just wandered from place to place. He returned having seen a lot of places, met a lot of people, learned a lot, but felt he had missed something from not having prepared well.

He took his second journey in his 40s. This time he prepared well; he had maps, and a plan. On returning he reflected that he had seen a lot, missed very little, but had only received, not given much to people he met along the way.

His last journey he took in his 60s. This time, he took a map, as before, but before going he learned how to draw. He saw a lot, missed little, met a lot of people, and taught people along to way to draw maps. He returned home feeling he had given and received on this his final journey.

The story has good structure. It's a nice myth. But as it is, it's not a movie script. It's hard to film a myth. Too structured, too simple, too solemn.

I developed the story from a mathematical formula. It's a three part story. Each part has two elements. Part one: 0-0. Part two: 0-1. Part three: 1-1.


But you need to put flesh on the skeleton. We need to know who he was. When he lived. Where he went. Why he went travelling. How he got around.
...

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Friday, July 20, 2007

Chocolate

Dessert?

Chocolate?

How about almond mousse?

Let’s stop the questions there. Say chocolate for me and almond mousse for you.

It means a trip to the shop.

Hmm. That’s a bit embarrassing. This will be the third consecutive night I dropped in to buy chocolate.

Why don’t you just saunter in and pick up a couple of bottles of water and then just as you get to the check-out, glance at the candy rack…

And swoop up a couple of packages as if it were an impulse purchase?

If you go in every night on cue, it looks like you suffer from an addiction.

But I do.
...

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Thursday, July 19, 2007

Hupmobile

I've bought a car. A Hupmobile.

A what?

A Hupmobile.

That's not a car. This is 1965 for God's sake. Maybe in 1915.

1930 actually.

Robert, I'm not going to argue. You're graduating next year. You're going to be a vet.

Robin, you are arguing.

All right. But that's a vintage car? That's a liability. We have responsibilities. We're getting married.

But it's beautiful. And my father used to have one.

Robert!


Epilogue:


Robert died in 1972 aged 26, his father (PhD) died 1994 aged 86. Both had special abilities but have no mention to speak of on the Internet.
...

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Cobweb

He seems to like it.

That's a cat for you. They like anything new.

How did you paint the cobweb? White paint?

Not paint. Liquid gum.

And then painted over the top?

Tedious job applying it. Getting the lines in arcs. And then scraping it off afterwards.

I like the leaf.

That's to give a sense of depth.

Nice.
...

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Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Earthquake

Where were you when it happened?
In my office.
But it was a public holiday.
There was a lot of miscellaneous stuff to catch up on.
Ha, zatsuyo?
Some of those houses just wobbled and fell down. Apparently old ones with big windows and few supporting walls inside were most at risk.
Fair enough.
That was an architect’s appraisal.
Good analysis, but you know from what I heard, there wasn’t enough preparation to even supply even drinking water.
And it’s raining.
I know. Sometimes I think preparations for emergencies are not a Japanese strong point. You know, nuclear power stations in Japan, and there are 55 of them, were built without adequate planning of how to protect them from major earthquakes. I saw one “expert” on TV saying they couldn’t predict how strong an earthquake was going to be so how could they build in protective measures? I wonder if it’s something to do with language.
Language?
You know I just saw on TV, after the quake, firemen in Tokyo reacting to the Niigata quake by preparing for an earthquake. Saying things like, “Gambatte, genki de, yoroshiku,” and rushing outside to practise hoisting ladders and squirting hoses. What does “gambatte, genki de, yoroshiku” mean?
Those are expressions to create a feeling, like encouragement. Akin to saying something like “Put your best foot forward altogether now, let’s do it.”
Hmm. But no specific ten point plan?

There usually is a plan. Step one: Deny. Step two Cover up. Step three: find a scapegoat.
A scapegoat? For an earthquake?
...

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Monday, July 16, 2007

Hippocrates



Hippocrates? Good doctor. Told his group practice colleagues to be clean and tidy and keep their fingernails cut short.

And still famous today. What does it take to be still famous two and a half thousand years later?

He set a good example. Said wise things. Started a school.


So it's not just a matter of saying something sensible. You need to gather disciples to go out and amplify the message.

And you have to say something original. Before anyone else. Or at least be recognized as the first to say it.

An oath.

Yeah. My school made us hold our hands up and recite it before they would let us graduate. Did yours?

I will maintain the utmost respect for human life? And all that? We said it. But sometimes I have heretical thoughts. Like doing my best to keep a patient alive even though its only the medicine doing it and the patient would rather be, shall we say, elsewhere?

Occasionally I have the same doubts. Has technology outrun the Hippocratic Oath so it needs to be redrafted?

Shouldn't be any problem. It's been revised several times as society has evolved over a couple of millennia.
...

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Sunday, July 15, 2007

Form and function in car design

An MA45? Not a name to trip easily off the tongue or set feelings alight. Like Mustang, Cobra, or Viper. Or Diablo.

Well, it’s not as bad as some of those other names like Mazda Bongo, Volugrafo Bimbo, AMC Gremlin, Suzuki Justy, or Honda Acty Crawler.

And its looks?

Its aesthetics may not win a concourse. But its sound! A straight six has this distinctive note. Especially shooting through the Manawatu Gorge. Wagnerian!

What about those other ones with nice lines cited in the lineup? Maybe your budget wouldn’t stretch to an E-type but a DS would tickle the old chap pink. You know he has a soft spot for Citroens.

That’s because he values function as highly as form. He likes to open the trunk and throw in a few hydrangeas along with his chainsaw as well as his lunchbox. You know, he still likes to tell the story about a DS being able to get along on three wheels if one falls off. But I know, that’s just an urban myth that’s been around the block more just a few times.

And you prefer pure form?

Well I couldn’t find a Dino.

A Dino? You can’t get a lawn-mower in the back of one of those.

When I get my Dino, I won’t have to be mowing lawns anymore.

...

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Saturday, July 14, 2007

Weather and language

Rain makes my bones ache.

You mean the cold and damp.

All right. Humidity is at 75 percent.

And don’t you mean your nerves, not your bones?

All right again. I concede that too. But I don't just mean the typhoon. Any time it rains the aches and pains kick in. There was an article on the effect of weather on bicycle commuting I was trying to retrieve but you have to subscribe.

I would think the result is obvious. Good weather, lot of bicycles. Bad weather, lot of cars. Some things you hardly need an academic study for.

Maybe I should write something on the effect of weather on language use.

Again, some things you hardly need an academic story for. In good weather people open with “Nice day” or some such. Bad weather triggers a grimace and “Rain makes my bones ache.”

This damp is bad for my nerves, you mean.

You're learning.

...

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Friday, July 13, 2007

Friday 13

It's...

Friday...


Yes, the 13th. Aren't you afraid?


Not much. I tread carefully but I did get out of bed. I got through the day with no more than a trouser tear so far. I wasn't intending to fly or drive or start a new piece of needlework or lay down the keel of a new fishing boat, or get married today so I didn't need to take avoiding action on those activities. Where does all this nonsense come from?


13th disciple, Judas, last supper, held on a Frday?


Bah. More of your numeracy superstitions. Like your 777 last week. Did you see that none of the tickets with 7 in them won anything? All the lucky numbers on that day were sixes or threes or twos.


OK. I'm a slow learner. But did you know that hundreds of millions of dollars are lost when the thirteenth falls on a Friday in the US because people put their heads in the sand, won't do business, won't fly like normal.
...

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Thursday, July 12, 2007

Forensic Linguistics

Pencillist struck again.

Struck?

Leaving a comment on the pencil case blog, July 6. Every time I write something about pencils, out he pops. Leaves a comment signing himself only as “Pencillist.”

Is it someone you know?

Narrowed it down to two people. One is an elderly Brit living in Cumberland who never seems to know where he is, the other is a Paraguayan financier who never seems sure of who he is. Oddly, they both write in the same style.

And those stylistic features are…?

Sort of a cross between the forthright haughtiness of the Economist and the sprawling sentences of Bulwer-Lytton. Pithy aphorisms punctuating extended post-nominal modifications.

A lot write like that.

Sure. However, the last comment made me quite sure it was either the Brit or the Paraguayan. It opens with an ironic evaluation “At last…” and moves towards a disapproving “Disappointingly…” I know strong feelings drive both of these characters through their lives and this pervades their prose. Then there’s the three word closing. “Good goat though.” They both have a particular penchant for this pattern. I often find in their emails three word sentences like “Obvious from context,” or “Depends on perspective.”

And is the goat a red herring?

Like a wild sheep chase? Puzzle. In the end, it's still a toss-up between the Leicester in the Lake District or the Perendale in Paraguay.


What Pencillist said...

"At last a posting about something serious. Most people take pencils and what to put them in far too lightly. Then there is the question of what to put in pencils. Recently I was intrigued by the heading "Goat in pencil" and rushed off into cyberspace to find out if this was anything like passing a camel through the eye of a needle. Disappointingly it turned out to be some watercolourist called Tracy drawing a goat in pencil. Good goat though."

...

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Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Fat

Doctor, can I just ask you, I'm a bit concerned, my weight has gone up to 70 kilograms.

From what and since when?

I was 67 kilos six months ago.

Hmm, three kilos, huh.

That's fat, isn't it?

Well, considering you are, what is it, a hundred and fifty centimeters...

So you think I should diet?

And exercising. But there is a way to lose three kilos pretty quickly.

Tell me, tell me.

The human head weighs three kilos.
...


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Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Counting

Where are you in the picture?

12
th in the 2nd row down from the top.


Why do the ages start from the bottom? Usually we start from the top and count down.


Cultural difference? Count one to five for me on your
fingers. Which finger do you start with?


The thumb, see? Doesn’t everyone?


Er, no.
We start from the little finger.
...

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Monday, July 9, 2007

Cessna 172


PILOT LEO: Dolltown Clearance, this is Cessna 172.


CONTROLLER: Cessna 172, go ahead.

PILOT LEO: Cessna 172 is ready to copy his IFR clearance.

CONTROLLER: What is your destination?

PILOT LEO: VFR to Kichijoji requesting 4500 meters.

CONTROLLER: Cessna 172, cleared to depart on runway west, climb to 4500 meters above the river heading steady on WNW.

PILOT LEO: 10/4, thanks good buddy, talk me down on Sunday return.

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Sunday, July 8, 2007

Lancet flukes and spelling

You know why an ant climbs up a blade of grass, reaches the top, falls down, climbs up the blade of grass again, reaches the top, falls down again and goes on repeating this time after time?

The ant is exercising. For the same reason some humans go skiing.

Daniel Dennett says there's this fluke inside some ants' brains. It hijacks the ant's thinking. The fluke wants to survive by getting into the belly of a sheep. Religion is similar. Religion hijacks human brains.

Oh Jesus. That's a leap. Dennett compares a microscopic fact about biological parasite with the grandeur of human beliefs?

But you know, what's interesting, what's even more interesting than this analogy, and Dennett's book, is the outrage, the protests against his investigation of why human beings have this need to believe in some sort of religion.

Need to believe?

But many of them are from the vocal Bible Belt. They can't spell to save themselves. And oh some of them, the sheer volume of their claptrap is deafening.

Why are you so against religion?

I'm not. I'm sitting on the fence. But as I see it, the bigotry, the shrill panic in the protests seem to come from the fervent believers, not the atheists or brights, or whatever they call themselves.

What was it that Dennett inflamed so many people, mainly Americans, with?

"Suppose you go out in the meadow and you see this ant climbing up a blade of grass and if it falls it climbs again. It's devoting a tremendous amount of energy and persistence to climbing up this blade of grass. What's in it for the ant? Nothing. It's not looking for a mate or showing off or looking for food. Its brain has been invaded by a tiny parasitic worm, a lancet fluke, which has to get into the belly of a sheep or a cow in order to continue its life cycle. It has commandeered the brain of this ant and it's driving it up the blade of grass like an all-terrain vehicle. That's how this tiny lancet fluke does its evolutionary work.
Is religion, then, like a lancet fluke?
The question is, Does anything like that happen to us? The answer is, Well, yes. Not with actual brain worms but with ideas. An idea takes over our brain and gets that person to devote his life to the furtherance of that idea, even at the cost of their own genetics. People forgo having kids, risk their lives, devote their whole lives to the furtherance of an idea, rather than doing what every other species on the planet does – make more children and grandchildren."


Makes sense to me. Just a lot of Bible bashers seem to get hot under the collar about it.

Know what you mean. Southern Baptists and their ilk talk loudly, talk a lot, go on and on, pounding and thumping about how non-believers are damned. Really they are just the same as Al Qaedans.

Hm. With you there. No difference.
...

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Saturday, July 7, 2007

Tanabata 070707


Do you think I should buy a lottery ticket today?

Because the date is 777?

Or 070707 if you file files the way you do. Should I?

That's how many times I've told you? Poor people buy lottery tickets?

Yes, yes. And rich people buy shares. Same thing. But the date is 777. It's Tanabata Festival . And we're in Kamakura. -a-a-a-a in -a-a-u-a. Tanabata plus Kamakura equals seven letter As!!! That's as near to a coincidence of a date and a festival and a place as I'm ever going to get.

All right. For a bit of peace, go out and buy a lottery ticket.

(One hour later)

Couldn't get one. All sold out. Everyone in Kamakura had the same idea.

Must have been a lot of superstitious people came out here today.
...

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Friday, July 6, 2007

Pencil cases

They're going to ban pencil cases in the end of semester exams.

Yeah?

One student was hiding notes in his at the end of last year.

No!

Sure as I stand here today.

So no more My First Thomas?



Nope.


And Grinning Skull Dog?


Banished.

Well, I'll sure miss Curious George.


...

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Thursday, July 5, 2007

Ronald Reagan and morning


It’s morning in America. Who said that?

Ronald Reagan?

Not exactly. An adman, Hal Riney wrote it and spoke it as a campaign ad for Reagan for the 1984 elections.

It did the trick. Reagan won.

Brief and to the point. Persuasive. Effective ad.

That’s what Reagan was good at. Communicating. Reducing the message to the essentials. Didn’t go on and on. Wasn’t disagreeable while disagreeing.

While being simplistic. But, you know, I remember hearing, somewhere, he insisted on having any world crisis summarized on no more than one sheet of A4 paper at his morning meetings. Not some thick report.

One A4 sheet? That’s about as much as I can manage and I’m half the age he was then.

And here’s some trivia. He also had the U.S. government switch from 8 inches by 10.5 letter size to 8.5 by 11 inches to get closer to A4 size.

So that’s what a president does. Legislates new paper sizes.

He had his wry side. He knew what government was about. At some stage he observed that the government's view of the economy could be summed up in a few short phrases: If it moves, tax it. If it keeps moving, regulate it. And if it stops moving, subsidize it.

Morning (again) in America

It's morning again in America. Today more men and women will go to work than ever before in our country's history. With interest rates at about half the record highs of 1980, nearly 2,000 families today will buy new homes, more than at any time in the past four years. This afternoon 6,500 young men and women will be married, and with inflation at less than half of what it was just four years ago, they can look forward with confidence to the future. It's morning again in America, and under the leadership of President Reagan, our country is prouder and stronger and better. Why would we ever want to return to where we were less than four short years ago?


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Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Happy birthday


Did you know the song "Happy Birthday" is copyright?


So if you sing it you could be sued?


It's possible.


So if someone asks me "When were you born?" and I answer "Born on the 4th of July" I should pay royalties to Oliver Stone?


That's the direction the law is dragging us.

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Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Cinderella

I suffer from being a kind of Cinderella. You know the story.

I know the story. What's your point?

Well, I must publish the daily blog posting every day before midnight.


Can't you rejig the timing?


That can be done but I'd rather not.


Can be done but you'd rather not? Whatever do you mean?


If I fiddle with timing I lose my deadline. I need deadlines. I publish my daily blog before midnight so I accumulate a chapter a day.

I understand. You don't have deadline, you put it off, put it off....


Put it off. And it never gets published.


So you have this Cinderella syndrome?


No, no. Not Cinderella syndrome. Totally different. For the Cinderella syndrome, look
here.
...

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Monday, July 2, 2007

Zard

Zard died? Only 40?



Zard was the group's name. Izumi Sakai was the singer. But yes, she fell three meters and died of head injuries. May 27.


Fell? Not pushed?


No suspicious circumstances. Her cancer was in remission. She was coming back from a 5 AM walk. Big figure in J-pop. 40,000 at her memorial service.


And she was popular because...?


Look. Her songs had a sadness but hope. They encouraged young people. Some melodies owed their origins to Bach canons. She had 42 singles on the charts and 17 albums. And get this, together with the Bach, her lyrics had an atmosphere of everyday conversation in them.

Sakai Izumi (6 Feb 1967 to 27 May 2007)
...

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Sunday, July 1, 2007

Erhu


Erhu?

An erhu? It’s a two stringed, snake skinned kind of lute. See?

Lute? I thought they had fretted necks and a wooden resonant soundboard.

You’re right. There’s no finger board but this allows great flexibility. And the snake skin, python skin, gives the erhu its distinctive, almost nasal sound.

And lutes are plucked, right?

Point taken. Whereas the erhu is played with a bow. Usually horse hair.

A lot of animals go into making an erhu?

A law was passed in 1988 protecting endangered species, including pythons. Erhu skins are now made from farmed pythons, not wild. And you can only take two erhus out of China on your travels.

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