Why I am glad I don’t have cable TV

In the early nineties, Bruce Springsteen had a hit with the song “57 Channels and Nothing On”. It was the precursor to the same feeling we felt over the “500 channel universe” we experience today.

I have no cable by choice. I can afford to put it in, but apart from educational channels and the news station, I really have little to no interest in what passes for entertainment, and, frankly, no time to sit down and watch what appears to be mostly pointless programming spread out over hundreds of television stations. Here is a small list of programming explaining why I feel this way.

  • My 600-lb life (and related TV shows)
    • A century and a half ago, we locked up anyone who was a freak in a cage and charged admission for patrons to pass by, point, and either express shock, or laugh at them. I see this programming is kind of like that.
    • Ah, the life and escapades of the morbidly obese. I am doubtful that any show that depicts the private hell of individuals (whatever the problem is), when it is presented as “reality TV”, is helpful to the individual whose problem is being flaunted for TV ratings, nor is it helpful to anyone watching the show who shares the same problem, as that is not effectively the reason this show is being broadcast. Shows like this are effectively human suffering, served up as lighthearted entertainment.
  • Faux News
    • From pie charts that add up to more than 100 per cent, to unapologetic right-wing bias, the secret to Faux News high ratings is sensationalism and incendiary reporting.
    • And when it isn’t racist, it is merely cheerleading for Republicans and very nearly their every wrong move. It is a more socially-acceptable version of InfoWars (or is it In-Faux-Wars?).
  • The Bachelor/Bachelorette
  • Real Housewives
    • Real housewives? What does that mean? Purportedly married but dressed as if they are single and hot to trot, this is now a franchise of blondes, brunettes and redheads who more or less look and dress alike, and are nowadays from all parts of the United States, ready to make you feel like you don’t belong. Face it, you don’t look like them, you can’t afford to dress like them, you also probably can’t afford the houses they live in. They are not real in any sense that matters to most viewers.
    • The franchise consists of “Real Housewives of ” <fill in the name of an American city>. Every time I think I have a complete list of cities, I always find one more not in my list. The last one I found was “Atlanta”. Atlanta was notable because most of the ladies were black. I doubt that you are going to hear about racial inequality in a way that broadens or enhances the discussion. They dressed and appeared to live more lavishly than any woman of colour I know.
    • These are the stories of domesticated dramas. Whether it is about unmarried people on the make, or married women (who cares about married men?), don’t expect too many challenges to traditional stereotypes, or to the norms of sexual roles we have all come to accept. Wake me up if there are any surprises, since I don’t expect any. You might expect surprises that are there for shock value, such as the guy finding out that she was a he, or whatever.
  • Here Comes Honey Boo-Boo
    • Time to clear the room
  • 'American Pickers' Season 2 premiere on History Channel ...History Channel
    • There is not much actual history on this channel
  • Who Wants to Marry a Millionaire/Multi-Millionaire/etc.
    • And this is because, indeed, the only thing on a woman’s mind is marrying for money.
    • Notice how I am writing as if it is understood that the millionaire is a man, and that the ones chasing him are women; not the other way around.
    • There is some scientific basis supporting the fact that, in nearly all cultures, women tend to choose a man who is financially secure for their husband, and this is even independent of culture worldwide. In addition, the reverse is true far less often.
  • Dr. Pimple Popper
    • About the only doctor Americans can afford without the Affordable Healthcare programme.
    • Again, it’s the kind of programme which makes you question what you are doing with your spare time. And the depressing reality is that the 500 channel universe is filled with such vapidity and emptiness, that there is probably nothing else on.
  • Project Blue Book
    • This is one of the reasons that anyone who likes history has found to their disappointment that the History Channel no longer discusses anything about history. Project Blue Book is about UFOs.
  • Pawn Stars. You Could Learn A Thing Or Two.Pawn Stars
  • Rust Valley Restorers
  • The Antique Road Show
    • Pawn Stars and Rust Valley Restorers are both on the History Channel, and The Antique Road Show is on PBS. The Antique Road Show gives a better history education.
    • One line you will never hear on the Antique Road Show, regarding something like a curious object bought at a garage sale for $100: “Why does this say ‘Made in Taiwan?'”. Or, regarding an heirloom passed down for several generations: “I don’t know what it is. Well, at least it has sentimental value. Have a nice day.”
  • Lego City
    • It’s pretty bad when we mistrust the imaginations of children with toys so much that toy companies feel the need to sponsor cartoons which depict a universe made of toys from one manufacturer.
    • I suppose that nowadays the idea of children playing with toys from different manufacturers is now regarded as an anti-competitive practice.
  • The “W” Channel
    • used to be “women’s network”
    • of 58 titles listed in their annual lineup of shows and movies, 42 cover the themes of marriage and romance
    • Feminist? One show if you count “Ms. Matched” — still a marriage theme, because that’s all women think about, apparently, especially in this small-screen movie. I think only the “Ms.” in the title makes it appear feminist.
  • Much
    • Was “Much Music”, but is now minus most of its music videos.

The indices of Harper’s Magazine

I have been a fan of Harper’s Magazine since the 1980s. In particular, I loved the Readings section, as well as the factoids list (with citations) known as Harper’s Index, near the front of each issue. Here are 100 factoids I’ve researched from over the years, dates not important, but they have been taken from issues since 2000. I have favoured factoids that are not dated, but that was difficult as many good ones with dates crept in. The URL for Harper’s magazine is http://harpers.org, and is available on some newsstands, but not as many these days as in days previous.

  • Cost to produce Safeguard, the only U.S. ground-based long-range missile shield ever deployed: $23,500,000,000
  • Number of days in the 1970s that the system was operational before it was abandoned as inadequate: 135
  • Pounds of fuel required to maintain this year’s 11,500 Olympic torches: 2,029
  • Ratio of the amount of energy generated by 1 gallon of ethanol to the amount of energy required to produce it : 1:0.9
  • Number of times Colin Powell said, “I don’t recall” or, “I can’t recall” during his 1987 Iran-Contra testimony: 56
  • Percentage of global economic activity accounted for by the world’s 200 largest corporations: 27.5
  • Percentage of the world’s population that these corporations employ: 0.8
  • Minimum number of mentally retarded Americans who have been executed by the justice system since 1976 : 35
  • Estimated chance that a U.S. prisoner is mentally retarded: 1 in 14
  • Days after Time named George W. Bush 2000’s man of the year that Russians named Vladimir Lenin man of the century: 4
  • Places by which Russia’s ranking in the U.N.’s Human Development Index of living standards has fallen since 1990 : 31
  • Rank of the United States and Britain among nations whose residents are most likely to be obese: 1,2
  • Rank of Hungary: 3
  • Ratio of the number of pardons George W. Bush has issued turkeys to those he has issued human beings: 2:1
  • Ratio of the average life span of a commercially bred turkey to that of a wild one: 1:7
  • Year in which Disney’s Mickey Mouse copyright will expire if the Supreme Court reverses a 1998 extension this winter (2002): 2003
  • Minutes that a Massachusetts surgeon left a patient with an open incision while he went to deposit a check: 35
  • Percentage change since 1990 (to 2003) in the number of U.S. schoolchildren labeled “disabled” : +37
  • Chances that a U.S. adult does not want to live to be 120 under any circumstances: 2 in 3
  • Chance that an American adult believes that “politics and government are too complicated to understand” : 1 in 3
  • Chance that an American who was home-schooled feels this way: 1 in 25
  • Acreage of a Christian nudist colony under development in Florida (in 2004): 240
  • Percentage of the 13,129 varieties of dirt in the United States that are endangered: 4
  • Years in prison to which two ex-Pentagon officials were sentenced last year for taking bribes of money and prostitutes: 24
  • Number of years a North Carolina man has been in prison for stealing a television: 33
  • Rank, on the Turkish bestseller list in March (2005), of a thriller depicting a U.S. invasion of Turkey: 1
  • Rank of Mein Kampf: 2
  • Average percentage by which the power of the male heart declines between the ages of 18 and 75 : 20
  • Average percentage by which the female heart does: 0
  • Amount a Chinese online gamer made last year (in 2004) by selling a virtual sword he had borrowed from a friend: $850
  • Months later that the friend retaliated by stabbing him to death with a real knife: 6
  • Number of beetles that right-wing entomologists have named after Bush Administration officials: 3
  • Number of times that Mary, Jesus’ mother, is referenced by name in the Bible and the Koran, respectively: 19,34
  • Number of “Wal-ocaust” T-shirts sold by a Georgia man before Wal-Mart ordered him to cease and desist: 1
  • Ratio, in the United States, of the number of Wal-Mart employees to the number of high school teachers: 1:1
  • Portion of states where the projected climate in 2100 will not be able to sustain their official tree or flower: 3/5
  • Number of words spoken by Clarence Thomas during Supreme Court oral arguments since February 2006 (until Aug 2007): 132
  • Number by Samuel Alito, the Justice who spoke the second-fewest words: 14,404
  • Percentage of single U.S. women in their twenties who are “very” or “extremely” willing to marry for money: 61
  • Percentage of women in their thirties who are : 74
  • Percentage change since 1985 (to 2009) in the number of U.S. newspapers with reporters covering Congress : –72
  • Percentage of six- to nine-year-old American girls (in 2009) who wear lipstick or lip gloss : 46
  • Number of poppyseed bagels that could be made with Afghanistan’s annual poppy harvest : 357,000,00
  • Percentage of British elementary-school students who think Isaac Newton discovered fire : 60
  • Number of U.S. states that have more pigs than people : 3
  • Minimum number of birds that die from crashing into New York City windows each year : 100,000
  • Number of Bentleys purchased in Russia in 2000 and in 2010, respectively : 0, 113
  • Estimated portion of registered voters in Zimbabwe who are dead : 1/4
  • Average minutes more exercise per week that a heavy drinker gets than a non-drinker : 21
  • Portion of the total U.S. corn crop that goes to make ethanol : 2/5
  • Projected worldwide surplus of low-skill workers by 2020 : 93,000,000
  • Projected worldwide deficit of high- and medium-skill workers by that time : 85,000,000
  • Rank of China among global beer producers by volume : 1
  • Rank of the United States : 2
  • Percentage change since 1988 (to 2012) in U.S. teen-pregnancy rates : –36
  • In abstinence rates among white teens : +31
  • Among black teens : +56
  • Portion of Americans who don’t walk for at least ten continuous minutes at any point in an average week : 2/5
  • Percentage of American cats that are overweight : 58
  • Percentage of men in dual-income marriages who said they struggled with work-family conflict in 1977 : 35
  • Who say they do today (2013): 60.
  • Average annual cost of detaining an inmate at the military prison at Guantánamo Bay : $900,000
  • At a supermax prison in the United States : $65,000
  • Portion of all online advertising that is never seen by a human being : 1/2
  • Percentage of U.S. children in 1960 who lived in households headed by heterosexuals in their first marriage : 73
  • Who do today (2015) : 46
  • Estimated minimum gallons of water used annually to produce Coca-Cola products : 8,000,000,000,000
  • Ratio of money spent by Britons on prostitution to that spent on hairdressing : 1:1
  • Years in prison to which a New Mexico man was sentenced last year (in 2015) for shooting children with a semen-filled squirt gun : 18
  • Estimated number of people who will be driven into extreme poverty by 2030 because of climate change : 100,000,000
  • Percentage of the world’s civilian-owned firearms that are owned by Americans : 48
  • Number of Americans aged 60 and older who have outstanding student loans : 2,800,000
  • Portion of those borrowers who have taken on debt to pay for a child or grandchild’s education : 3/4
  • Percentage of children’s toys available in Sweden that contain banned chemicals : 15
  • Of sex toys available in Sweden : 2
  • Average number of people who die in avalanches in the United States each year : 27
  • Number of FBI confidential informants (in 2017) who worked for Best Buy’s Geek Squad between 2008 and 2012 : 8
  • Rank of Nebraska among states with the least liked state flags : 1
  • Number of days in January that the flag at the state capitol flew upside down before anyone noticed : 7
  • Number of US states in which fluorescent pink is a legal color for hunting apparel : 6
  • Chance an American has taken an “active shooter” preparedness class : 1 in 10
  • Percentage of US “active shooters” from 2000 to 2016 who were killed by police : 21
  • Who were killed by armed civilians : 1
  • Number of universities in which half of all the US tenured and tenure-track history professors are trained : 8
  • Number of the twenty largest German companies that are headquartered in the former East Germany : 0
  • Rank of Germany in consumption of nonalcoholic beer : 2
  • Of Iran : 1
  • Portion of Hawaii’s drinking water that comes from underground wells : 9/10
  • Gallons of raw sewage that leak into the ground from Hawaii cesspools each day : 53,000,000
  • Percentage change since 2009 in reports of human waste on San Francisco streets (in 2018): +391
  • Chance that a given day is a public holiday in Cambodia : 1 in 13
  • Rank of Disneyland among the happiest places on earth, according to Disneyland : 1
  • Percentage of Disneyland employees who worry about being evicted from their homes : 56
  • Number of dead people Americans have elected to Congress : 6
  • Factor by which a millennial is more likely than a baby boomer to claim they have a food allergy : 2
  • Number of states that allow roadkill to be salvaged for food : 31
  • Rank of Arabic among France’s most spoken languages : 2
  • Factor by which graduate students are more likely to experience depression or anxiety than the general population : 6
  • Percentage of Americans aged 18 to 34 who say they’d like to live forever : 24
  • Of Americans over 55 : 13

Google Autocomplete Follies

Humans are a curious species. We like to ask the questions about why things exist/happen/not happen, and so on.

When I built my search engine questions, I began with the word “WHY”, then gradually built on that, one word at a time. Now, I pass on the list of questions to you.

If the list of Google autocomplete suggestions which is to follow is taken to be the true distillation of human thought, we seem to be very preoccupied with aches and pains, bodily functions, and weather events, and not a whole lot outside of that.

WHY

⦁ him
⦁ is the sky blue
⦁ don’t we
⦁ him cast (sic)
⦁ do whales beach
⦁ am i so tired
⦁ are you running
⦁ do cats purr
⦁ am I always tired
⦁ do we yawn

WHY DOES

⦁ my cat lick me
⦁ my dog lick me
⦁ it hurt when i pee
⦁ salt melt ice
⦁ ice float
⦁ my stomach hurt
⦁ my head hurt
⦁ my jaw hurt

WHY DOES IT

⦁ snow
⦁ snow in Canada
⦁ rain
⦁ always rain on me
⦁ hurt to swallow
⦁ hurt to poop
⦁ hurt to have sex
⦁ hurt to breathe
⦁ hurt when I cough

WHY DOES IT SEEM

⦁ like everyone is rich
⦁ impossible to lose weight
⦁ impossible to get a girlfriend
⦁ hard to breathe
⦁ hard to swallow

WHY DOES IT NEVER

⦁ work out with guys
⦁ snow in London/Manchester/Swansea/England/Florida
⦁ snow on Christmas
⦁ snow
⦁ rain in California
⦁ get dark in Alaska

WHY DOES IT ALWAYS SEEM

⦁ to be (Phil Collins lyric)
⦁ to rain at night
⦁ to rain on the weekend
⦁ to rain on Good Friday
⦁ to be my fault

The most annoying sound on radio

Related image
This picture was shot at Square One … no, in Vaughan, no, in Scarborough, … Edmonton?, … oh, well… they all look alike.

Why do jewellery commercials have to be so tasteless and annoying? I single out jewellery commericals, since they are more annoying even then furniture commercials, their main competitor for the gold standard of tastelessness.

But no. We have sharpers like Russell Oliver, and others who will go on TV and radio and in the most garish manner known to man, tell you how you can trade in your jewellery for cash, in a way that seems to rob your most prized possessions of all the dignity and memory they once had. But I don’t believe he is the worst.

On the radio station I listen to, which doesn’t play a lot of ads, I admit, there is that infernal commercial from Spence Diamonds. Oh, that Scream! I didn’t know that it has been dubbed the “Spence Scream”, and even hashtagged #SpenceScream since at least 2014. It has even attracted some imitators, and an attempt had been made to vote it out of existence (Spence didn’t listen and it still persists to this afternoon). Since it was Spence that initiated the vote, I believe that maybe they thought it was too memorable, and couldn’t come up with a less annoying idea.

I am annoyed because I am already married, been there, done that. Having been through it, it is a tad degrading to hear it. The marriage (mine, at least), was about love. Clearly, Spence is agaisnt this idea. They want it to be about their diamonds.

Curiously, the comment sections of the YouTube videos of Spence promos have curiously well-worded and lucid critiques of Spence’s advertising practices. These are not your normal trolls. These apparently well-educated and erudite people seemed to have a lot of time on their hands, and are gravely preoccupied with dignity and class.

I think: look, the couple sounds very much in-character on the radio, just get rid of the scream.

The Government is telling me who I am: The voting Survey: a lesson in sampling bias part III

As a response for participating in the survey, I finally know who I am, because the government told me so. Apparently I am a pragmatist. In an earlier one of these online surveys, I was someone on the loony left. These labels are, on some level, amusing. It’s kind of like reading a Horoscope characterization of yourself, with about the same level of scientific accuracy. Most things on this list as so broadly-defined that they can apply to just about anyone. I will just show this characterization below without comment:

YOUR VIEWS MOST ALIGN WITH

  1. Pragmatists
    • My democracy is balancedand straight-forward
    • Pragmatists generally want governments to strike a balance between decisive action and compromise. They tend to prefer a clear line of accountability to voters, but not at the expense of collaboration between parties.
    • Pragmatists are split about whether special measures are needed to help increase the diversity of representation in Parliament.
    • Pragmatists typically prefer that election ballots are easy to use and to understand.
    • Pragmatists generally view voting as a democratic duty rather than a personal choice and are slightly more inclined to support mandatory voting. They are among the least likely archetypes to support online voting.

Who are Pragmatists?

  1. MEDIAN AGE
    • 52
  2. MALE
    • 48%
  3. FEMALE
    • 52%
  4. OTHER
    • *
  5. RURAL
    • 25%
  6. SUBURBAN
    • 29%
  7. URBAN
    • 46%

In Memoriam, 2016

What a year. A lot of really well-liked musicians and entertainers have shuffled off this mortal coil. Indeed, it was a depressing year for celebrity deaths, and increased global warming and Trump winning the election didn’t help things. We witness the cosmically interconnected deaths of multiple people within the same sitcom; both Carrie Fisher (Princess Leia in Star Wars) and mother Debbie Reynolds (Co-starred with Gene Kelly in Singin’ in the Rain) die within a day of each other. And the actor behind R2-D2 in the same year. This is to say nothing about ’70s and ’80s music icons. This list of more than 45 people who died this year are just the ones that most easily come to mind. It still seems like a long list. Of course, if you are an “in memoriam” junkie, there is always the much, much longer list at http://www.nndb.com

Abe Vigoda (1921-2016)

Abe Vigoda – One of two former members who passed away this year, from the now-syndicated TV comedy series Barney Miller. Abe played detective “Fish”.

Alan Thicke (1947-2016)

Alan Thicke – Sitcom actor mostly known for his role as a father in Growing Pains. He was also host of the talk show The Alan Thicke Show

Alvin Toffler (1928-2016)

Alvin Toffler – Author of the much read and much studied ’70s social commentary “Future Shock

Arnold Palmer (1929-2016)

Arnold Palmer – Recognized as one of the greatest golfers in sports history.

Billy Paul (1934-2016)

Billy Paul – Writer and singer of the soul hit Me and Mrs. Jones, and possibly the originator of the word “jonesin'” whenever someone has a romantic obsession with someone else, or with an idea.

Bob Elliott (1923-2016) with comedy partner Ray Goulding (1922-1990)

Bob Elliott – one half of the duo “Bob and Ray“. Bob and Ray was a radio comedy program which was popular during the 1940s and 1950s. And many of their skits have stood the test of time. Ray Goulding died in 1990.

Bobby Vee (1943-2016)

Bobby Vee – Early 1960s pop singer, with over 10 hits in reaching the top 20.

Brock Yates (1933-2016)

Brock Yates – Contributor to Car and Driver magazine, and invented the concept of the Cannonball Run, which inspired many 70s car-oriented movies such as Smoky and the Bandit, and the actual movie named Cannonball Run.

Charmaine Carr (1942-2016)

Charmaine Carr – Played the eldest von Trapp sister Liesel in the movie The Sound of Music.

David Bowie (1947-2016)

David Bowie – Singer/songwriter/gender bender/fashion plate. More here and here.

Edgar Mitchell (1930-2016)

Edgar Mitchell – the 6th man to walk on the moon during Apollo 14.

Fidel Castro (1926-2016)

Fidel Castro –  President of Cuba for around 55 years. He turned American holdings into public holdings while thumbing his nose at the American government. Along the way, he killed off a lot of his opponents, restricted free speech, but also had free education, and free healthcare, which was the envy of Central America, causing average life expectancy to extend beyond those of Americans. So, while reviews are mixed, he is, on balance, revered as one the great leaders of the 20th century.

Florence Henderson (1934-2016)

Florence Henderson – Played mother Carol in The Brady Bunch.

Frank Sinatra Jr., (1944-2016)

Frank Sinatra, Jr. – Son of Frank Sinatra.

Garry Shandling (1949-2016)

Garry Shandling – Played host on the quasi-reality-sitcom The Gary Shandling Show.

Gene Wilder – I prefer to remember him for his roles in the Mel Brooks movies Young Frankenstein and Blazing Saddles. More here.

wilder_no_meme
Gene Wilder (1933-2016)
George Kennedy (1925-2016)

George Kennedy – Most famous for his starring roles in Naked Gun, and all four sequels of the Airport films, based on an Arthur Haley novel.

George Michael (1963-2016)

George Michael – Lead singer of Wham! and later soloist. Died of heart failure.

George Martin (1926-2016)

 Sir George Martin – Producer for The Beatles.

Glenn Frey (1948-2016)

Glenn Frey – Solo musician, and former lead singer of The Eagles.

Greg Lake (1947-2016)

Greg Lake – The “L” in ELP (Emerson, Lake, and Palmer). Before that, he was the drummer for King Crimson.  Died on 7 December.

Gordie Howe (1928-2016)

Gordie Howe, OC — Played in the NHL for just over a quarter century, and another six years in the WHA. Known as “Mr. Hockey”.

Harper Lee (1926-2016)

Harper Lee – Author of To Kill a Mockingbird.

Henry Heimlich (1920-2016)

Henry Heimlich – American physician and inventor of the Heimlich Maneuver.

Henry McCullough (1943-2016)

Henry McCullough – Played lead guitar for Joe Cocker and for Wings. He was also a solo performer at the original Woodstock festival in 1969.

Bob Newhart (left) and Jack Riley (right) (1935-2016)

Jack Riley – Played the neurotic patient Elliott Carlin in The Bob Newhart Show. He also has a movie career that dates back to playing a doctor in the original version of the movie Catch-22.

Joe Santos (1931-2016)

Joe Santos – Played Lt. Becker on The Rockford Files; also played in Magnum P. I., and The Sopranos.

John Glenn (1921-2016)

John Glenn – First man to circle the globe in a space capsule, aviator, astronaut, and Ohio state senator.

Kenny Baker (1934-2016) next to R2-D2.

Kenny Baker – The man inside R2-D2.

Leon Russell (1942-2016)

Leon Russell (Claude Russell Bridges) – Soloist and session musician to some of the best names in ’60s and ’70s music: The Rolling Stones, The Beach Boys, John Lennon, Eric Clapton, The Carpenters, Jan and Dean, Dave Mason, B. B. King, and Rita Coolidge, to begin to scratch the surface.

Leonard Cohen (1934-2016)

Leonard Cohen – Folk/Pop singer, poet, painter.

Marvin Minsky (1927-2016)

Marvin Minsky – Father of artificial intelligence.

Maurice White (1941-2016)

Maurice White – Founding member of the 70s dance band Earth, Wind and Fire.

Merle Haggard (1937-2016)

Merle Haggard – Country and Western singer.

Morley Safer (1931-2016)

Morley Safer – News anchor for CBS’s 60 Minutes. He was in television journalism for 61 years.

Muhammad Ali – Three-time world heavyweight champion in boxing. More here.

StangoAli
Muhammad Ali (1942-2016)

Pat Harrington – Played Duane Schneider on the sitcom One Day at a Time.

pat-harrington-1-sized
Pat Harrington (1929-2016)
Patty Duke (1946-2016)

Patty Duke – Played both Helen Keller and Ann Sullivan in both best-known film adaptations of the movie The Miracle Worker. She won an Oscar for the first one in 1963. She has been either on film or TV fairly steadily between 1958 and 2012.

Paul Kantner (1941-2016)

Paul Kantner – One of the founding members of Jefferson Airplane.

Sir Peter Shaffer (1926-2016)

Peter Shaffer – British Playwright best known for Amadeus and Equus.

Prince (Prince Rogers Nelson) – Prolific pop musician, talent scout, and record producer. More here.

prince_nodrugs
Prince (1958-2016)
Richard Adams (1920-2016)

Richard Adams — Author of the children’s novel Watership Down.

Robert Vaughn (1932-2016)

Robert Vaughn – Starred in Man from U. N. C. L. E. He also had a number of movie roles throughout the 1970s.

Ron Glass (1945-2016)

Ron Glass – Played Detective Harris on the sitcom Barney Miller.

Scotty Moore (1931-2016)

Scotty Moore – Elvis Presley’s first guitarist.

Steve Young (1942-2016)

Steve Young – Wrote Seven Bridges Road, which became a hit for The Eagles.

Susannah Mushatt Jones (1899-2016)

Susannah Mushatt Jones – World’s oldest living person at time of death, born in Alabama in 1899 to sharecroppers, and was the granddaughter of slaves. Since high school, she spent most of her life in Brooklyn, New York City, and had retired since 1965. She attributes her longevity to never having smoked or consumed alcohol.

Umberto Eco (1932-2016)

Umberto Eco – Professor of semiotics, University of Boston

Denise Matthews (1959-2016) (post-Vanity)

Vanity (Denise Katrina Matthews) – Singer, Songwriter. Boy-pal Prince was about to introduce her and her lingerie-clad all-girl band to the world as “Vaginia and the Hookers”. Late into the night, she persuaded Prince that her stage name was to be called “Vanity”, and her lingerie-clad all-girl band was to be called “Vanity 6”. Prince said: “Wha’? Why ‘6’? There’s only three of you”. The group lasted for one album and one tour. Two years later, she would land several movie and TV roles. Among her other boyfriends during her life of glamour were Adam Ant and Nikki Sixx. By 1996 she had renounced her drug use (oh yeah, she was also battling drug addiction) and all ties to the entertainment industry by finding God and creating her own ministry.

William Christopher (1932-2016)

William Christopher  — Played Father Mulcahy in the hit TV series M*A*S*H.

W. P. Kinsella (1935-2016)

William Patrick (W. P.) Kinsella — Canadian novelist known for Shoeless Joe, which was adapted to film.

Zsa Zsa Gabor (1917-2016)

Zsa Zsa Gabor — Hungarian-American Beauty queen, socialite and actress.

 

Famous Teetotalers 012: Right-wingers

thenuge
Theodore Anthony Nugent

Ted Nugent or “The Nuge” is a hard rock/psychedelic guitarist whose musical career dates back to 1963. He has made his stance against drug and alcohol abuse part of his right-wing activism. He is an ardent Republican supporter, and is strongly in favour of gun rights. It is said that his stance against substance abuse had an influence on a part of the Punk Rock movement known as the “Straight Edge” movement.

Bill O'Reilly
Bill O’Reilly

Bill O’Reilly, a host on Fox-TV, also won’t ever be accused of accusing the Republicans of anything is it legal to buy tramadol online wrong, unless it involves Donald Trump. And he is also teetotal. His show The O’Reilly Factor, was the highest-rated news show on the Fox network, and brought in the style of news commentary where afflicting the afflicted and comforting the comforted becomes the norm. But he would tell you that his roots are working class. This, like much of what he says, is disputed. However, he there is no disputing that he studied at Harvard; that he has had much experience in journalism before becoming part of the punditry machine that is Fox News.

The Chances of Winning the Lotto

There are many lotteries called “Megabucks” thoughout the United States, similar in many ways to the Canadian “Lotto 6-49”.

Winning the lottery is how many people believe they will become financially secure in their lives. In fact, about one person in 4 believe  this.

The chances of winning a lottery like the Massachusetts Megabucks lotto or the Ontario Lotto 6-49 are based in the idea that, out of 49 numbers available, you choose 6 numbers once each. Chosen that way, there are 13,983,816 ways of winning, or close to 14 million ways. If you have only one lotto ticket, then your chances are 1/13,983,816 = 0.000000715, give or take a billionth or two.

It would be fun to summarize what those chances are actually like in relation to other things.  Here we go, from my research:

  • You are 500 times more likely to die by murder or execution
  • You are 248 times more likely to be struck by lightning
  • You are 140 times more likely to die from a bee sting or a snake bite
  • You are 21.5 times more likely to be killed by terrorists
  • You are 20 times more likely to be killed in a traffic accident on you way to buying a lotto ticket
  • You are 14 times more likely to correctly guess someone’s PIN number
  • You are 14 times more likely to be consumed by a rare strain of flesh-eating bacteria
  • If you buy 50 tickets a week you could win once every 5000 years
  • You are 6.992 times more likely to die when our Earth collides with an asteroid, ending all life on Earth as we know it

But any non-participants out there don’t need my lecture. They have something better: What if you spent $10.00 on lotto tickets for 35 years? Multiplied out for thirty-five 52-week periods, becomes $18,200.00 If you had instead invested that same money in, say, a mutual fund over the same number of years at $10.00 per week, you would have $100,314.56, which is about $80,000 in profit.

Apart from it being a sure thing, it is a significant gain in wealth over what would have happened if the money was squandered on lotto tickets.

Homage to species that barely existed

It has come to my attention in recent years that we are the stupid ones. Homo sapiens, as we so arrogantly call ourselves, might be the least intelligent of the surviving genii of hominids. Our species won out over Homo neanderthalensis because we were more competitive and selfish than they. Neandethals have larger brains than us, and of course it is a matter of debate as to whether that necessarily makes them smarter. And since we value smarts, we would look on suspicion when calling a species smarter than us, especially if they’re all dead.

But look around you, folks. We may value intelligence, but is it really a distinguishing survival skill? You might need it, but your survival arsenal must also include aggression, competitiveness, and selfishness if you are to claw and kick your way to the top. While I am not a Republican supporter (indeed, I am a socialist), I still must admit that Republican candidate Ron Paul has cornered the market on depth of thought, and committment to traditional conservative values (which includes staying out of foreign conflicts — a position, incidentally, which places him solidly to the left of Obama). When I listen to him, I can’t help but think that he has given his positions on the issues lots of thought. Even if you don’t agree with everything he says, such as eliminating the US Department of Education, eliminating the Federal Reserve, or abolishing income tax, or his other Libertarian views, you have to at least give his views a once-over to see what he is about.

But the press seemed to treat him as if he was invisible, ignoring that he came in second in a straw poll. The ones getting the attention are not quite as smart, but are more aggressive and attention-seeking. It mirrors the evolution of Homo sapiens quite nicely. But the Democrats have been equally burned by this media-generated survival of the fittest: anyone remember Larry Agran? In the Democratic convetion of 1992, he was frozen out by the media, though he had early leads in the polls. That convention got us Bill Clinton instead.

The tragic flaw may be that both Agran and Paul were anti-war; but of course to be anti-war, at least in the traditional sense of the U.S. staying out of foreign conflicts, that takes thought that is at least deep enough to see past the media-generated rhetoric. If you are a brainless and agressive opportunist, you don’t need to trouble yourself with thoughts of peace. Ron Paul dies that the Sarah Palins of the world may live.

My writing about politics here is more than just a digression. I am trying to point out here that on a grand scale, our culture, and maybe all cultures and our species generally, seems to shun altruism. Politicians, for example, who hold policies on the far right (such as Ron Paul), yet who have policies that are lock-step in line with the most leftists (Paul’s anti-war stance) are seen as altruistic and unelectable. People who stay within the party platform and adhere unthinkingly to a formula for “what is conservative” make themselves more electable and get themselves less media flak. This is a kind of selecting out of “less selfish” people in favour of the “more selfish” people of the kind we seem to be attracted to as a species. It is possible that Neanderthal Man is … us.

The Max Planck Institute sequenced the neanderthal genome in 2010 or so, and found differences on the order of only a few thousand base pairs per chromosome. and only 200 or so in mitochondrial DNA. One begins to think that perhaps Neanderthals are not even a separate species, but reflect a genetic diversity between humans, and that the genetic lineages that made Neanderthan Man different from the rest of us are simply lost. The stereotype that Neanderthals are lesser beings than us, somehow have now come under question.

So what if happiness is a mental illness?

It is rather amazing that through all I have experienced, that these truths were the deepest and most enduring. They are also the most comforting. Simply keeping a balanced life, and looking on the positive side of things. What could possibly be wrong with that?

Perhaps happiness and satisfaction with one’s life, however humble is a form of denial.

Maybe someone someday might point out that all forms of happiness are mental illnesses. After all, happiness is statistically rare, and thus it is not normal. Due to its relative rarity, it may well be characterized by an abnormal functioning of the central nervous system, requiring repeated “positive thinking”. In turn, “positive thinking” requires that we only focus on the bright side of life. Clearly, anyone who thinks positive is only looking at part of the picture, and is thus out of touch with reality. Bentall (1992) had this as an abstract for his article in the Journal of Medical Ethics (widely quoted):

“It is proposed that happiness be classified as a psychiatric disorder and be included in future editions of the major diagnostic manuals under the new name: major affective disorder, pleasant type. In a review of the relevant literature it is shown that happiness is statistically abnormal, consists of a discrete cluster of symptoms, is associated with a range of cognitive abnormalities, and probably reflects the abnormal functioning of the central nervous system. One possible objection to this proposal remains–that happiness is not negatively valued. However, this objection is dismissed as scientifically irrelevant.”

According to Bentall, happy people are off their chumps. Lost their marbles. One clown short of a circus. I would suppose, however, that making happiness an illness will rob most shrinks of a treatment goal.

So for now, while psychiatrists are working away at their objections to happiness, and until it is proven to me that I am better off heeding these objections, I shall forever commit my life to these seemingly shallow, but more enduring truths, that focusing on the bright side of life is the better way, and it should be something that is taught to every child and adult, for their own good, and for the good of society.

[Media Monday] The Difficult Listening Moment in Two Words

MacArthur Park.

I didn’t need to say anything else, didn’t I? MacArthur Park is that unlistenable 1968 hit whose only strength lay in the instrumental piece. How often does Jimmy Webb need to remind us that someone left his bloody cake out in the rain, then strech the metaphor until it loses all focus and meaning? But, ah! it’s that 90-second instrumental near the end that rescues it. That 90-second piece often impinges on younger ears as cliche beyond belief. But that is only because this original recording has appeared so often in advertisements, theme songs, and the like in the decades since, that it in fact has become cliche. Stuff like that only happens to really good music (unfortunately). And that 90-second part is so different from the rest of the 7-minute tune that it doesn’t seem to belong. And it’s the orchestration, not the words or the vocalist, that won the Grammy in 1969. For your edification as well as for a bit of nostalgia, here is the 90-second passage in question:

[mp3t track=”Richard_Harris_-_Part_of_MacArthur_Park.mp3″]

But of course, this is the difficult listening moment, and I’m afraid that wasn’t difficult enough to listen to.  And no, I won’t subject you to Richard Harris’s singing, or even Donna Summer. What I will do is to play for you the Cockney version by The Burtons. The whole thing reeks of Morgan Fisher.

Music of the 80s

The 1980s also had some great stuff, but I admit what I liked mostly was the obscure college radio stuff. Having been a former college radio DJ, I had the chance to sample through literally hundreds of songs in search for that “diamond in the rough”. In its day, finding The Jesus and Mary Chain’s 1985 LP Psychocandy didn’t take much digging. Nobody knew what to call it, but it recently got tagged as “Noise pop” by some guy writing for Wikipedia. I really have no idea what to call it to this day, although I admit, some of their tunes bordered on noise, due to their insistence on screeching guitar feedback, especially in their earlier work.

Here is “Just Like Honey”, which appeared on several commercials, including a recent car commercial:

Why it doesn’t suck: Music from the Seventies V

You Should Be Dancing was the first serious disco hit for the Bee Gees in 1976, a year before Saturday Night Fever. The song later made it on the soundtrack as well, although it was not played on the film. Neither was Jive Talking.  It used the signature falsetto that was found in many of their subsequent hits throughout the 70s and 80s.

I like the rock drums and guitar on this tune, since it makes it rise above the plasticity and superficiality of all disco that came later (by nearly everyone including the Bee Gees). This song was culled from their mid-seventies comeback period, where many of my favourite Bee Gees tunes reside. I am not all that fond of their music before or after, but Jive Talkin’, Nights on Broadway, Fanny, and  You Should be Dancing are my all-time Bee Gees favourites. All of these hits occured in a short period between 1975 and 1976.

Bee Gees – You Should be Dancing: [audio:http://stridersjournal.net/other/[Bee_Gees]_-_You_Should_Be_Dancing.mp3]

Why it doesn’t suck: Music from the seventies IV

The blog that has inspired this series said that the late Minnie Riperton (1947-1979) screamed the lyrics to “Loving You”. We need to distinguish between screaming (something the lead singer of a group like Journey would do), and seriously hitting the high notes. God blessed Riperton with divine vocal cords, with a range of five and a half octaves, rare in most humans. Her natural voice could range above a falsetto into what is called the “whistle register”. Yes, she could sing higher than the Bee Gees or Frankie Valli. Higher than John Denver’s yodeling on the song Calypso, in fact. Unlike the Bee Gees and Denver, Minnie Riperton used full voice in hitting those notes, which is why feats like these are so rare.

They may have needed guards at Riperton’s concerts to make sure no-one brought their dog.

“Loving You” topped the charts in the United States and 24 other countries.

Mariah Carey has been compared with her, and she would appear to be slightly less melodic (still pretty good though).

Before you click on the recording below, you might want to send your dog outside if you have one.

[mp3t track=”Minnie_Riperton_-_Loving_You.mp3″]

Why it doesn’t suck: Music from the seventies III

It was 1972, and while commercialism of the music industry was on the rise, there was still enough genuine and original songs to call 1972 a high water mark in popular music. Things got even better in ’73, but then a long, slow decline happened that persists to this day. In my opinion, 1972 was also the high water mark of Kenny Loggins’ music. After this, he started over-commercialising himself, especially with the soundtracks: Danger Zone (Top Gun), Footloose (Footloose), and I’m Alright (Caddyshack) are three over-played songs on radio that immediately come to mind.

“Danny’s Song” is a tune penned by Kenny Loggins during his time with Loggins and Messina that fits in with a number of songs of that period that you can imagine a kindergarten or grade 2 teacher teaching their kids to sing. It is wholesome, with just the right pharmacy in sacramento that requires no perscription to buy viagra amount of sentimentality that, I think, hits everyone at a basic level. Kind of like “Yellow Submarine”, or “This Land is Your Land”.  When Anne Murray sung this tune a year later, she was nominated at the 1974 Grammies for best female vocalist. She was up against Roberta Flack (“Killing Me Softly”), and won the Grammy in 1974. It is one case where, while the cover was a bigger hit than the original, the original still stands on its own.

The period had a raft of similar tunes, but some of them were trying to hit you over the head with this Kindergarten teacher idea to such an extreme so as to bring actual children in as backup singers.  Two over-the-top examples that immediately come to mind are: “Candy Man” by Sammy Davis Jr., or “Sing” by the Carpenters.

[mp3t track=”Kenny_Loggins_-_Dannys_Song.mp3″]

 

[Audio] The Difficult Listening Moment: Doing Dylan worse than Dylan II

I have heard comments that hearing Dylan’s voice is “worse than cancer”. I believe such comments are un-necessarily harsh. Remember “Lay Lady Lay”? Didn’t that border on melodic? OK, I rest my case. He was terrible most of the time, not all of the time.

On the other hand, Willliam Shatner has no business deviating his acting day job. If God hands us only one great talent in our lives, be it singing, song writing, playing an instrument, acting, writing, and so on, we ought to make the most of it and count our blessings, since it is these limited talents alone that place us already above the crowd. It is rare that people are successful in more than one talent, and when it is usually attempted, the result is often, uh, humbling for the performer. And unintentionally amusing for the audience.

To illustrate the over-reaching kind of talent, here is William Shatner talking over “Hey Mr. Tambourine Man”.

Fortune Cookies for Human Rights

You know, I was minding my own business in this classy Chinese restaurant, engorging myself on their copious buffet, had my fill, and was handed the bill with an accompanying fortune cookie.

This fortune cookie (the one to the left) really existed, and I never saw the like. I am used to fortune cookies containing old sayings, universal aphorisms, little smippets of wisdom, and sometimes a blandly optimistic prognostication of what the future holds.

I would never have expected one to wield a statement on human rights. But there it was, printed in blue and white, plain as day. The other side of the fortune cookie says “Learn Chinese”, and teaches the phrase “Excuse me”, followed by a list of six lucky numbers. Four of those numbers are too big to use in Lotto 6-49.

Here in the United States and Canada, our culture seems to take human rights for granted. The rights of stray dogs seem to get more attention than the free speech rights of protestors, worker’s rights and so on. We seem to feel more for an abandoned puppy than for an abandoned child these days. I am not sure how animal rights seem to have more cachet in a culture where I have heard about human rights offices and Public Interest Research Groups around North America being defunded or closing altogether, while animal shelters appear to have the status of five-star hotels. How do we get to a point where we have seemed to forgotten about all the struggles that gave rights to minorities, women, and aboriginals, just treating them as though they have always magically existed?

No-one in this world has rights without a struggle, nor lost them without taking their short-lived nature and fragility for granted. The fact that we now have to look outside of our culture to places like the Middle East for examples of human rights advocacy tells us of how far we’ve fallen, and of how dysfunctional our own culture has become.

A much more human-rights-friendly coverage of the Middle East protests appeared, ironically, in Pravda. They seem to quote Al Jazeera more openly, and more often. I know this is far from a human rights advocacy newspaper, and they have their own line of propaganda, but you have to look elsewhere in Pravda for more obvious examples.

What is old is new: RPN on the HP 35s Scientific Calculator

I saw the 35s for the first time in a Staples store just this year, though the calculator has been around in University bookstores since 2007. I bought mine on sale, being listed at $99.00 full price. When it came out in 2007, I heard that it came with a zippered pouch to store the calculator in. Mine, supposedly the 2011 model, came with a vinyl pouch that was open, with rather stiff elasticized cloth bands on the sides, making the calculator difficult to actually place in its pouch, especially the first time it was used.  Once in the pouch, it was difficult to take back out of its pouch. The calculator feels light when held in one’s hand. I’m not sure why I noticed that. Somehow I thought it would feel more substantial, given all of the functions and programmability, and the 800 or so memories that it boasts of.

2012 will be the 40th anniversary of the scientific calculator. HP made the world’s first scientific calculator in 1972, and it was an RPN calculator with no algebraic mode. Anyone who has tried to program in a serious way would appreciate that RPN is easier to program for (from the manufacturer’s point of view), because of its reliance on a memory model called “stacks”, which most computer science undergraduates know about, by second year at the latest. While the act of doing things algebraically might seem easier to us humans, programming a calculator to think in terms of human algebra is more difficult than you would think. It takes a computer many more steps, and thus it is much slower than RPN in terms of processor time. It was probably not until the early 1990s that calculators were capable of anything close to human-style algebra, and only recently have processors become so small and fast that the speed of the algorithm is not really as important as it used to be. But human speed might be. To those who take the time to understand how RPN works, and how the 35s implements stacks, RPN is still faster for humans to perform calculations.

Many of the features on the 35s are common on much cheaper calculators: statistics, regression, vectors, mixed fractions, complex numbers, numberical integration, numerical differentiation, a linear tramadol buy online usa solver, and there are much cheaper calculators that can solve single-variable polynomials up to order 3. I own a $5.00 calculator that can solve linear systems in up to 3 unknowns. Also, there are too many features on the “new” HP 35s that are tied up in menus, which is something that turned me off from using TI calculators. The only tangible attraction I can think of for this calculator is likely to be its programming mode. The 35s is among the very few non-graphical calculators around today that one can write programs in.

Playing with it a bit, I find that scientific notation seems to work up to 10500, meaning the computation of factorials can go to unheard-of extremes, even going beyond the capacity of an Excel spreadsheet. I was able to find, to several sig figs, the value of 253!, wheras Excel 2007 craps out past 125!. This means that this calculator is particularly powerful for performing permutations (nPr) and combinations (nCr).

I have lost my touch with the use of stacks from my programming days, but it looks like the calculator does a lot of pushing and popping, even in the middle of the stack. In addition, it only seems to perform calculations on the stack 2 at a time, even though the stack can accomodate 4 numbers. When you enter numbers, it’s like “pushing” numbers on to the bottom of the stack. You enter a number, and the stack moves up. If  you enter two numbers then add them, the stack moves down and the result of the addition is entered in the immediate register in the stack, called “x”.  The true implemtnation of this is that, for the registers t, z, y, and x, t gets its number copied to z, z copies to y, and y copies to x. This results in a duplication of t in the stack. If a “+” is pressed when a stack contains the numbers “1 2 3 4”, it adds only 3 and4, then the top 2 registers shift down and the result of adding 3 and 4 is placed in “x”: “1 1 2 7” becomes the resulting stack. The “1” and “2” shift down, but in reality, the memopry register values are just copied.

Microphones

I had decided to do my little contribution to society, and join LibriVox.org, and record a free audio file for them. My biggest problem so far has been microphones. I have an Optimus mike that was purchased 5 years ago, and had hardly been used. I had decided to use it for LibriVox, but my first problem was in finding an adaptor, since the Optimus uses a quarter inch plug, and my sound card has only eighth-inch jacks.

I went to The Source (which used to be Radio Shack), and got two adaptors, one mono and one stereo. The stereo adaptor I purchased fell apart inside the jack, and I almost took the front end of the computer off trying to dislodge it. First, the sheath came off, leaving the bare plug, stripped of its barrel with its bare contacts hanging in the air. With a pair of pliers, I managed to remove the rest of the plug. But when that happened, I noticed that one of the insulators on the plug was stripped off. I checked the package. Made in China. !@*#$ free trade agreements! @!#@$$#$@!! global economy!

I took a chance on the Chinese-made mono plug, and Buddha smiled on me for that one, for it seemed to work fine. Trouble was Windows didn’t know it was there, so I tried the back. That was fine, but the levels were too quiet, even with the Windows levels turned all the way up.

The Theme of the Journal has Changed

Times are changing at Strider’s Journal, and the time has come to retire the Crappy Album Cover series. After 329 posts and some 700 album covers, I think the time has come to put the topic to rest and move on.

That doesn’t mean that anyone coming here will no longer find the occasional article dealing with the absurd or outright humourous. That will still happen, but not with the same frequency.

Readers will find more articles dealing with science, technology, and math, either from experience/education or from what I have researched. There will also be some articles dealing in computer science.