Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Quote for the Day: Barbara Cartland

Sandra Harris: Have English class barriers broken down? 

Barbara Cartland: Of course they have, otherwise I wouldn't be sitting here talking to someone like you.

- Barnara Cartland (1901-2000), 
English author, in a radio interview

In younger days.

Tuesday Trivia


Henry:   Come on, Junior.
Indiana: Will you please stop calling me Junior?
Sallah:   Please, what does this mean? Always with this Junior?
Henry:   That's his name: Henry Jones, Junior.
Indiana: I like Indiana.
Henry:   We named the dog Indiana.
Sallah:   The dog? You are named after the dog.
Marcus:  Can we go home please?
Indiana: I have a lot of fond memories of that dog.

- Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade

Indiana Jones was named after a dog, but that dog happened to be George Lucas’s Alaskan malamute, Indiana. The appearance and demeanour of Indiana, Lucas’s dog, not the archaeologist-adventurer, also inspired Chewbacca, the furry giant alien in Star Wars.

"I had an Alaskan Malamute when I was writing the film. A very sweet dog, she would always sit next to me when I was writing. And when I'd drive around, she'd sit in the front seat. A Malamute is a very large dog—like a hundred and thirty pounds and bigger than a human being and very long-haired. Having her with me all the time inspired me to give Han Solo a sidekick who was like a big, furry dog. Not quite like a dog, but intelligent."
―George Lucas

Lucas and Indiana


New York jeweller Harry Winston donated the famous 45.52 carat Hope Diamond to the Smithsonian Institution in Washington DC in 1958. He mailed the diamond to the Smithsonian by registered post, the cost being $2.44 plus $142.85 for $1m insurance. “It’s the safest way to mail gems,” Winston told The Evening Star (Washington, D.C.). “I’ve sent gems all over the world that way.” 

The envelope

The Hope Diamond.  Look familiar? . . . .

The Heart of the Ocean necklace and diamond from the Titanic film

In the 17th century, King George I of England, decreed all pigeon droppings to be the property of the Crown. Pigeon lofts were policed to enforce the law. This was because pigeon poo was the only known source of saltpeter, an essential ingredient in making gunpowder. Reliance on pigeon poo ended in the late 18th century when saltpeter was discovered naturally occurring in South America.


The mimic octopus can alter its colours, body shape and behaviour to resemble more than a dozen other underwater species to make itself appear less palatable to predators.


The real estate that "plays" Downton Abbey, Highclere Castle, has been the home of the Carnarvon family since 1679. In 1922, George Herbert, the 5th Earl of Carnarvon, co-discovered the Tomb of the Egyptian pharaoh Tutankhamun. On the show, the names of the Earl of Grantham's beloved dogs, Isis and Pharaoh, are nods to the real castle's connection to Egyptian history.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Quote for the Day: Michael Jordan

"I can accept failure, everyone fails at something. But I can't accept not trying."

- Michael Jordan (1963 - )

Monday Miscellany: Some Odds, Ends and Personals


Byter Martin S sent me an email in respect of my quoting some rhymes about God:

Re: Pedantry
I believe the quote is to be written as follows…..
How odd of God/To choose the Jews
But certainly, from what I know, not as you have written it.

Martin has taken me to task before and has been correct.

I had written the above couplet as :

How odd
Of God
To choose 
The Jews

rather than as suggested by Martin:

How odd of God
To choose the Jews

In my defence I plead that I had seen the couplet, and some of the other ones quoted, written in both formats but I stayed with the 4 line version in that that is how they were quoted in the Oxford Dictionary of Humorous Quotations

Having looked at it again, particularly at how the lines scan when read or spoken, I confess to preferring Martin’s version.

Martin headed his email to me “Pedantry”.

Pedantry is:

I believe that Martin’s comments are valid and not pedantry.

Thanks, Martin.

Here are the couplets again, in the revised format:

How odd Of God
To choose The Jews.
- William Ewer (1885–1976) 
Not odd of God,
Goyim annoy ‘im.
- Leo Rosten 
But not so odd as those who choose
A Jewish God, yet spurn the Jews.
- Cecil Brown or Ogden Nash 
Not odd of God,
His son was one. 
Not so odd,
The Jews chose God. 
Not odd, you sod,
The Jews chose God. 
How strange of man
To change the plan.

The word "pedant" comes from the French pédant or its older mid-15th century Italian source pedante, "teacher, schoolmaster". The origin of the Italian pedante is uncertain but several dictionaries suggest that it was contracted from the medieval Latin pædagogans, "to act as pedagogue, to teach". The Latin word is derived from a Greek word which means "child" and "to lead", which originally referred to a slave who escorted children to and from school but later meant "a source of instruction or guidance"

"The pedant is he who finds it impossible to read criticism of himself without immediately reaching for his pen and replying to the effect that the accusation is a gross insult to his person. He is, in effect, a man unable to laugh at himself."

- Sigmund Freud

From son Thomas:

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Quote for the Day: Benjamin Franklin

“Up, sluggard, and waste not life; in the grave will be sleeping enough.”

- Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790)

Beatles' White Album Tracks, continued

Continuing a look at the various tracks on the Beatles White Album . . .

"I'm So Tired"


I'm so tired, I haven't slept a wink
I'm so tired, my mind is on the blink
I wonder should I get up and fix myself a drink
No, no, no

I'm so tired I don't know what to do
I'm so tired my mind is set on you
I wonder should I call you but I know what you'd do

You'd say I'm putting you on
But it's no joke, it's doing me harm
You know I can't sleep, I can't stop my brain
You know it's three weeks, I'm going insane
You know I'd give you everything I've got
For a little peace of mind

I'm so tired, I'm feeling so upset
Although I'm so tired I'll have another cigarette
And curse Sir Walter Raleigh
He was such a stupid get

You'd say I'm putting you on
But it's no joke, it's doing me harm
You know I can't sleep, I can't stop my brain
You know it's three weeks, I'm going insane
You know I'd give you everything I've got
For a little peace of mind
I'd give you everything I've got
For a little peace of mind
I'd give you everything I've got
For a little peace of mind

(Monsieur, Monsieur, Monsieur, how about another one?)

Video clip:


* * * * * 
Written and sung by John Lennon, although credited to Lennon-McCartney.

* * * * * 
The song was written by Lennon whilst at the 1968 meditative retreat at Rishikesh, India with the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. Lennon was strongly missing Yoko Ono, whose postcards to him were cherished, and he was plagued by insomnia. This song was in the form of an open letter to her. "I got so excited about her letters," he said. "I started thinking of her as a woman, and not just an intellectual woman." Lennon later said of it: "One of my favourite tracks. I just like the sound of it, and I sing it well".

* * * * * 
The Beatles also started and completed "The Continuing Story of Bungalow Bill” during the same recording session.

* * * * * 
At the end of the song there is mumbling in the background which, if played backwards, sounds like "Paul is a dead man. Miss him. Miss him. Miss him." This added to the many supposed references to the "Paul is dead" conspiracy scattered throughout the White album. Lennon was actually mumbling "Monsieur, monsieur, how about another one?"

* * * * * 
"I'm so tired, I'm feeling so upset
Although I'm so tired I'll have another cigarette
And curse Sir Walter Raleigh
He was such a stupid get"

Is the insult for a stupid person person “get” or “git”? I always understood the word to be “git” but apparently Northerners say “get”, as Lennon did on this album, and southerners say “git”.

According to World Wide Words:

From before 1300 a get was what had been begotten, a child or offspring. But by about 1500 it had started to be used in Scotland and northern England in the sense of misbegotten, a bastard; from there it became a general term of abuse for a fool or idiot. By about 1700 get seems to have lapsed into slang or dialect, only to reappear in the wider language in the 1940s with a different spelling and lacking the associations with illegitimacy. James Joyce uses the older spelling (and meaning) in Ulysses in 1922: “The bloody thicklugged sons of whores’ gets!” These days, it’s a widely known and used term of abuse in Britain for somebody regarded as totally worthless or useless, most commonly appearing in cries of frustration such as “that stupid git, now look what he’s done!” 


Video clip:


Blackbird singing in the dead of night
Take these broken wings and learn to fly
All your life
You were only waiting for this moment to arise

Blackbird singing in the dead of night
Take these sunken eyes and learn to see
All your life
You were only waiting for this moment to be free

Blackbird fly, blackbird fly
Into the light of the dark black night

Blackbird fly, blackbird fly
Into the light of the dark black night

Blackbird singing in the dead of night
Take these broken wings and learn to fly
All your life
You were only waiting for this moment to arise
You were only waiting for this moment to arise
You were only waiting for this moment to arise


The only sounds recorded for this track were McCartney’s singing and playing, plus the tapping sound of McCartney tapping his feet as he is playing. 

* * * * * 
The sounds of the birds were dubbed in later. According to Stewart Eltham, engineer: “I taped that on one of the first portable EMI tape recorders, in my back garden in Ickenham, about 1965. There are two recordings, one of the bird singing, the other making an alarm sound when I startled it.”

* * * * * 
The background of the song is the civil rights struggle that was taking part in America at the time the song was written, 1968, the song being written after McCartney read about race riots in America. The blackbird with broken wings learning to fly is symbolic of the black struggle at that time.

The “blackbird” of the title is a black woman, the word “bird” being English slang for a girl or woman. 

“I had in mind a black woman, rather than a bird. Those were the days of the civil rights movement, which all of us cared passionately about, so this was really a song from me to a black woman, experiencing these problems in the States: 'Let me encourage you to keep trying, to keep your faith, there is hope.' As is often the case with my things, a veiling took place so, rather than say 'Black woman living in Little Rock' and be very specific, she became a bird, became symbolic, so you could apply it to your particular problem.”

- Paul McCartney

* * * * * 
One of the 10 most recorded covered songs.

* * * * * 
The guitar accompaniment for "Blackbird" was inspired by J.S. Bach’s Bourrée in E minor, a well known lute piece, often played on the classical guitar.

As teenagers, McCartney and George Harrison tried to learn Bourrée as a "show off" piece. The Bourrée is distinguished by melody and bass notes played simultaneously on the upper and lower strings. McCartney adapted a segment of the Bourrée as the opening of "Blackbird", and carried the musical idea throughout the song. "We had the first four bars (of the Bourrée in E minor) and that was as far as my imagination went. I think George had it down for a few more bars and then he crapped out. So I made up the next few bars, and (sings his four-note variation Bach's theme) it became the basis of Blackbird." – Paul McCartney

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Quote for the Day: Abraham Lincoln

The Half Life of Facts

“Everything that guy just said is bullshit. Thank you.”

- Vinny Gambini, My Cousin Vinny
Opening statement by defence counsel

Would it surprise you to know that most of what you learned at school will be proved eventually not to be true. I’m not talking maths, 2 plus 2 will always equal 4, but things such as physics, science, history, astronomy, sociology. . . 

* * * * * * * *
Some comments:

* * * * * * * *
Half-life is the term used to describe the amount of time required for a quantity to fall to half its value from a certain time. It is usually applied to describe something undergoing exponential decay and is constant over the lifetime of the decaying quantity, but does not need to apply only to something decaying exponentially. Hence radioactive decay is measured in half life amounts but is not always a constant half reduction. A more correct definition therefore would be "Half-life is the time required for exactly half of the entities to decay on average". 

Knowledge and facts have also been described as having half lives, but more of that later.

* * * * * * * *
The science of measuring and analysing science itself is known as scientometrics. One of its early exponents was mathematician Derek J. de Solla Price (1922-1983):

Based on a 13 year study, Price released his findings in 1960 that scientific knowledge had been growing steadily at a rate of 4.7 percent annually since the 17th century. According to Price, scientific data was doubling every 15 years and was expanding by a factor of 10 every 50 years.

* * * * * * * *
The consequence of knowledge expanding so dramatically is that some things that were believed to be true get shown to be incorrect as other facts and knowledge replace or expand the existing information.

At various times in the past it was believed, as fact, that:
  • witches should be burned at the stake
  • the Sun revolved around the earth
  • Pluto was a planet
  • evolution was heresy
  • segregation was scientifically justified.

Those beliefs no longer hold true.

* * * * * * * *
If knowledge is expanding by factor of 10 every 50 years, at what rate do former facts disappear? 

Harvard mathematician Samuel Arbesman sought to answer this in his 2012 book “The Half-Life of Facts: Why Everything We Know Has an Expiration Date.” 

Samuel Arbesman

Some points made by Arbesman:

·Arbesman applied the concept of half-life of radioactive isotopes to facts and looked at how long it took for clinical knowledge about cirrhosis and hepatitis to decay. 

According to Arbesman, “the half-life of truth was 45 years.” In other words, half of what physicians thought they knew about liver diseases was wrong or obsolete 45 years later.

· Like radioactive decay, we cannot predict which individual facts are going to be proved false, but we can know how long it takes for half the facts in a discipline to become obsolete.

· Facts and knowledge break down at different rates. 


“Medicine still has a very short half-life; in fact it is one of the areas where knowledge changes the fastest. One of the slowest is mathematics, because when you prove something in mathematics it is pretty much a settled matter unless someone finds an error in one of your proofs.”

· When we integrate new facts or changed facts into our minds and psyches, we do so as part of the store of facts we already have. 


“We persist in only adding facts to our personal store of knowledge that jibe with what we already know, rather than assimilate new facts irrespective of how they fit into our worldview.” 

· Arbesman: 

“Exponential knowledge growth cannot continue forever. Knowledge growth is slowing compared to major leaps in the past, all the low-hanging fruits having been taken. 
In some fields science is getting harder, but I would not say that science as a whole is becoming more difficult. We are still adding new scientists every year, but the rate of growth has slowed and science is increasingly being done by large teams. But there are many areas where we thought there is nothing left to explore, only for someone to come along and say that there is something there, after all. 
In mathematics there was an extreme case of this in the 1990s, when two high-school students figured out a new way to prove one of Euclid's theorems, something that had not been done in a thousand years. So even though basic geometric proofs are not the frontier of mathematics, there are still things you can do. And even where things slow down in science, often that slowing forces scientists to be cleverer, both in finding ways to create new knowledge but also in finding new ways to combine disciplines. Plus nowadays new technology is a real driving force; the new computational tools have created the potential for a scientific revolution."

* * * * * * * *
Some criticisms of Arbesman’s half-life of facts concept:

· Facts and knowledge do not break down exponentially.

· It is unclear that there is any way to establish what constitutes "knowledge" in a particular area, as opposed to mere opinion or theory.

· Knowledge cannot be quantified.

· Falsification of a doctrine is not comparable to the exponential decay process that atomic nuclei go through.

· The whole concept is imprecise and varies from discipline to discipline.

* * * * * * * *
What’s useful about the concept?

· It highlights that a lot of what we know and believe will be unreliable next generation.

· Arbesman: “Stop memorizing things and just give up. Our individual memories can be outsourced to the cloud.”

In other words, simply google it when you need to know.

· Arbesman:

“I want to show people how knowledge changes. But at the same time I want to say, now that you know how knowledge changes, you have to be on guard, so you are not shocked when your children coming home tell you that dinosaurs have feathers. You have to look things up more often and recognise that most of the stuff you learned when you were younger is not at the cutting edge. We are coming a lot closer to a true understanding of the world; we know a lot more about the universe than we did even just a few decades ago. It is not the case that just because knowledge is constantly being overturned we do not know anything. But too often, we fail to acknowledge change.”

* * * * * * * *
“The only thing that is constant is change -”

534-574 BC

Friday, March 27, 2015

Quote for the Day: Betrand Russell

"The most savage controversies are those about matters as to which there is no good evidence either way. Persecution is used in theology, not in arithmetic." 

- Bertrand Russell in "Unpopular Essays", "An Outline of Intellectual Rubbish" (1950)

Funny Friday

Another Friday, folks.

Looking up something the other day I came across some pics of Barbie Doll heads used in imaginative ways.  Here's one:

Another, this time with Ken and Blaine . . .

One more:

So today’s theme is Barbie.

No, not that Barbie.

This one:

One day a father gets out of work and on his way home he suddenly remembers that it's his daughter's birthday. 

He pulls over to a Toy Shop and asks the sales person, "How much for one of those Barbie's in the display window?" 

The salesperson answers, "Which one do you mean, Sir?

We have: Work Out Barbie for $19.95, Shopping Barbie for $19.95, Beach Barbie for $19.95, Disco Barbie for $19.95, Ballerina Barbie for $19.95, Astronaut Barbie for $19.95, Skater Barbie for $19.95, and Divorced Barbie for $265.95". 

The amazed father asks: "It's what?! Why is the Divorced Barbie $265.95 and the others only $19.95?" 

The annoyed salesperson rolls her eyes, sighs, and answers: "Sir..., Divorced Barbie comes with: Ken's Car, Ken's House, Ken's Boat, Ken's Furniture, Ken's Computer, one of Ken's Friends, and a key chain made with Ken's balls.

They're bringing out a new Barbie doll called "Internet Barbie", which is really a fat guy claiming to be a hot blonde.

After months of putting up with my daughter's begging I've finally agreed that she can have a barbie for Christmas.

I prefer a traditional turkey roast myself, but it will be worth it to see the smile on her little face when I put those flame grilled sausages on her plate.

An Australian barbie . . .

An English guy relocates to the outback in Australia.

He'd been living there a few days, when the phone rang.

He answered the phone and the guy on the other end introduced himself as his neighbour, he told him he lived on a smallholding 50 miles away and would like to welcome him to Australia.

The neighbour then said, "Why don't you drop by on Saturday at about 7.30 for a real Australian barbie?"

"Yes, I'd like that", said the Englishman, "But what's a real Australian barbie?"

The Aussie said, "Well, we eat as much as we want, drink as much of the amber brew as we want and have as much sex as we want".

"The Englishman said, "Sounds great, what's the dress code?"

"The Aussie said, "Wear what you like mate, there'll only be the two of us".

Bonus item:

The following was sent to me in an email by Leo M.  It is not a Barbie item but it is too good not to post . . .

* * * * * * * *
A refuse collector in Cairns , Australia is driving along a street picking up the wheelie bins and emptying them into his compactor. He goes to one house where the bin hasn't been left out, and in the spirit of kindness, and after having a quick look about for the bin, he gets out of his truck goes to the front door and knocks. There's no answer. Being a kindly and conscientious bloke, he knocks again - a bit harder and then harder still. 

Eventually a Chinese man comes to the door. "Harro!" says the Chinese man. "G’day, mate! Where's ya bin?" asks the collector. "I bin on toiret," explains the Chinese bloke, a bit perplexed. 

Realising the fellow had misunderstood him, the bin man smiles and tries again. "No! No! Mate, where's your dust bin?" "I dust been to toiret, I toll you!'' says the Chinese man, still perplexed. 

"Listen," says the collector. "You're misunderstanding me. Where's your 'wheelie' bin?'" 

"OK, OK." replies the Chinese man with a sheepish grin and whispers in the collector's ear. "I wheelie bin having sex wiffa wife's sista!"

Corn Corner:

When Princess Di was a youngster, she took Ken and Barbie out of their dreamhouse and set them on fire.

After 20 minutes, the only thing still alight was Barbie's foot.

It seems her Ken doll burned out long before her leg end ever did.