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Monday, February 28, 2011

Things that amaze me most: Part VII

As I told you before, there are a number of things/events/emotions that absolutely blow-my-mind because they are so introspectively amazing and give me a deeper sense of awe. So I made a list of the things that amaze me most... some big, some small, some acts, some things... but all, in my mind, amazing.  So far:

Part I:    THE PACIFIC OCEAN
Part II:   BIG NUMBERS
Part III: THE YOUNG: Babies, toddlers and teens
Part IV:  LAUGHTER: A peek into the soul
Part V:   NATURE: Her splendor and fury
PART VI: THE POWER OF 1

PART VII: THE NATURAL LAWS OF PHYSICS

Take something simple... like gravity, for example.


In the early days of television, in black an white no less, there was a weirdly funny comedian, Ernie Kovacs  (married to Edie Adams), who had an early-early SNL-type precurser show. He was an incredibly funny man, with an acerbic wit, perhaps 50 years before his time. A popular, regular feature on his show was called "The Answer Man."

Once, when asked why people in Australia never fall off the earth since they are always upside down, he answered: "My good man... people in Australia are falling off all the time."

Which begs the question...what would happen if Isaac Newton never
"discovered" gravity? Would that apple actually fall down on his head?

You know, many scientist allow that there are such things as parallel universes where laws of nature are reversed... so watch out! If that apple ever falls up, you are already there but just haven't realized it yet.

Gravity... it's the law.

In 1988, the Russians built and flew the world's largest aircraft, The six-engine ANTIBIV /AN-225. If taxied onto a football field, it would reach almost goal line to goal line, with a wingspan that was even wider. It stood as tall as a six story building and had a gross take-off weight of 1,410,000 pounds--705 tons! That's like 20 fully loaded semi-trailer trucks... or a good handful of railroad cars with a locomotive.  The massive plane needed jet assists to take off... and the Russians canned it after claiming bragging rights at the Paris Air Show of 1989.


So how big can an aircraft be and still fly? Actually, that isn't the question. An aircraft of any size is technically able to leave the ground under it's own power--subject only to the technology to manufacture it and the runway to handle it. The law of physics that allows the lightest plane to fly works on any scale.


How big can a ship be and still float? Under construction now is an enormous tanker--one of 10 to be built--that will be one-quarter mile long--can you imagine, four ships to a mile? It will be wider than five full-size buses parked end-to-end... and 24 stories tall! It will be able to carry 18,000 20-foot long containers at a time! That's like a train with 18,000 cars. Imagine waiting on that at a railroad crossing.

And yes, it will float like any row boat because it will conform to those same laws of physics that define why anything floats. Following 'the rules,' a ship--of ANY size, even if made of cement, can float as easily as a tiny model made of balsa wood.

It floats because it has to... That's the law.


Ever hear of maglev trains? (Maglev stands for magnetic levitation.) In service in France, England and China, these trains, and the people in them, literally 'float' above the rails? These incredible machines ride on thin air as they are suspended between the force of magnets repelling against each other. Weight is not an issue. Anti-magnetic resistance is invincible!

Since the maglev floats virtually friction free above the track, it can move very quickly because it doesn't have to overcome drag. The Shanghai Transrapid maglev hit  a record 360 mph on one straight stretch!

And yes, it does need a special rails... seemingly ruling out service in the U.S which has a hard enough time even maintaining the track across the roads I travel.

How does it do that? I don't know but it's the law.

Sure... magicians can fool us... and they do. Sleight of hand and tricks that make the seemingly impossible possible are cool. I always ask: "How do they do that?"


But in the real world, it's not a question... it's an exclamation: "WOW!" God, and the natural way of things, does a super job at the "WOW" stuff. Magicians just help us appreciate what real-life "gee-whiz" suckers we are.

My favorite real thing for a simple mind... and it's not a trick: The hanging belt. Take 34 seconds to see it here.

Gravity and energy and bridges, oh my!
Atoms and E=MC2 and scrapers to the sky.
Tides and magnets, the big and small...
How we use them to live with and work with and all!
How does it do that? I don't know...
but it has to... it's the law!

I love this stuff!

Friday, February 25, 2011

Editor's note: OK...

 ... so I haven't blogged in two weeks. Hey! I've been busy. But that's even too long for me to feel good about... so while I'm working on the next post, I got a kick out of this one, which I wrote and posted about a year-and-a-half ago. Enjoy.

 

Laugh and the world laughs with you...

... or thinks you are some kind of a weirdo. In any case, these actual 1998 newspaper headlines are worth passing along. Why 1998, you might ask? Because that's all I could find. They are, however, timeless:


  • Include your children when baking cookies
  • Something went wrong in jet crash, experts say
  • police begin campaign to run down jaywalkers
  • Drunks get nine months in violin case
  • Iraqi head seeks arms
  • Is there a ring of debris around Uranus? (personal favorite)
  • Would-be women priests appeal to pope
  • Panda mating fails; veterinarian takes over
  • Teacher strikes idle kids
  • Clinton wins budget; more lies ahead
  • Plane too close to ground, crash probe told
  • Miners refuse to work after death
  • Juvenile court to try shooting defendant
  • Stolen painting found by tree
  • Two sisters reunited after 18 years in checkout line
  • War dims hope for peace
  • If strike isn't settled quickly, it may last a while
  • Couple slain; police suspect homicide
  • Man struck by lightning faces battery charge
  • New study of obesity looks for large test group
  • Astronaut takes blame for gas in space
  • Kids make nutritious snacks
  • Local high school dropouts cut in half
  • Typhoon rips through cemetery; hundreds dead
Almost everyone who blogs loves to write. Thus, a pretty cute writer's joke:

A screenwriter comes home to his burned down house. His sobbing and slightly-singed wife is standing outside.  "My God. What happened, honey?" he asks.

"Oh Jerry, it was terrible," she weeps. "I was cooking. The phone rang. It was your agent.  Because I was on the phone, I didn't notice the stove was on fire. The house went up in a second. Everything is gone! I nearly didn't make it out of the house. Poor Fluffy is..."

"Wait. Wait!" the man says. "Back up a minute. My agent called?"

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Valentine's Day Special: That's Amore... or is it?



So you think Dean Martin's song is all that can be said about amore? Well wrong, wrong, wrong.

Actually, the song was Dean Martin's signature song dating back to 1952. Wikipedia explains Amore (pronounced somewhat as AA-MAW-REH) means "love" in Italian, giving a general translation in English "that's love" (as if we didn't know). It first appeared in the soundtrack of the Martin and Lewis comedy film The Caddy, released by Paramount Pictures on August 10, 1953.

It received a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Original Song of that year, but it lost to "Secret Love" from Calamity Jane starring Doris Day. (Secret: growing up years and years ago, Doris Day was my first screen love.)

But it goes much, much deeper than that as American poet Ogden Nash so adroitly pointed out. Born in 1902, Nash was most known for his light verses... the ones that made people laugh and groan. He died in 1971 but lives on in verse familair to many even now.

He wrote cute, fun to read stuff like:



Ode to a Baby:
A bit of talcum
Is always walcum

The Firefly
The firefly's flame Is something for which science has no name
I can think of nothing eerier
Than flying around with an unidentified glow on a
person's posteerier.

The Catsup Bottle
First a little
Then a lottle

The Ostrich
The ostrich roams the great Sahara.
Its mouth is wide, its neck is narra.
It has such long and lofty legs,
I'm glad it sits to lay its eggs.


Reflections on Ice-Breaking
Candy
Is Dandy
But liquor
Is quicker.

The Cow 
The cow is of the bovine ilk;
One end is moo, the other, milk.


The Lama
 The one-l lama,
 He's a priest.
 The two-l llama,
 He's a beast.
 And I will bet
 A silk pajama
 There isn't any
 Three-l lllama.

OK... so what has that got to do with Dean Martin's song, That's Amore? Well, Martin, who I really never enjoyed... but he did have the smoothest voice ever, stopped at love. Ogden Nash knew there was more to be written... so he did:

Amore
by Ogden Nash

When the moon hits your eye
Like a big pizza pie
That's amore.

When an eel bites your hand
And that's not what you planned
That's a moray.

When our habits are strange
And our customs deranged
That's our mores.

When your horse munches straw
And the bales total four
That's some more hay.

When Othello's poor wife
becomes stabbed with a knife
That's a Moor, eh?

When a Japanese knight
Used his sword in a fight
That's Samurai.

When your sheep go to graze
In a damp marshy place,
That's a moor, eh?

When your boat comes home fine
And you tied up her line
That's a moor, eh?

When you ace your last tests
Like you did all the rest
That's some more "A"s!

When on Mt. Cook you see
An aborigine,
That's a Maori.

A comedian-ham
With the name Amsterdam
That's a Morey.

When your chocolate graham
Is so full and so crammed
That smore.

When you've had quite enough
Of this dumb rhyming stuff
That's "No more!", eh?

I like Ogden Nash, no more can I say.

PS: HAPPY VALENTINE'S DAY!

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Gone missing! Is this one of those British things?

Not too long ago, when a person or thing was not where it should be or couldn't be found, he/she/it was missing. He/she/it didn't just 'git up and go a-missin' (my new and more colorful way of saying missing)... he/she/it was just -- missing. I read where someone's jewelry 'went missing.' Sounds like the jewelry was complicit in the act. Even the definitive New York Times does it as do all of the network news anchors. 

It is British, of course. Those Brits got even with us for that Revolutionary War thing. They tricked us into using their language.



Next thing you know, it won't even be proper to say, "'So he goes, 'Hello.' Then I go, 'Hi yourself, stranger.' " Hmmm. There goes all the killer pick-up lines.

Let's face it
English is a stupid language.
There is no egg in the eggplant
No ham in the hamburger
And neither pine nor apple in the pineapple.
English muffins were not invented in England
French fries were not invented in France.

We sometimes take English for granted
But if we examine its paradoxes we find that
Quicksand takes you down slowly
Boxing rings are square
And a guinea pig is neither from Guinea nor is it a pig.

If writers write, how come fingers don't fing.
If the plural of tooth is teeth
Shouldn't the plural of phone booth be phone beeth
If the teacher taught,
Why didn't the preacher praught.

If a vegetarian eats vegetables
What the heck does a humanitarian eat!?
Why do people recite at a play
Yet play at a recital?
Park on driveways and
Drive on parkways

You have to marvel at the unique lunacy
Of a language where a house can burn up as
It burns down
And in which you fill in a form
By filling it out
And a bell is only heard once it goes!

English was invented by people, not computers
And it reflects the creativity of the human race
(Which of course isn't a race at all)

That is why
When the stars are out they are visible
But when the lights are out they are invisible
And why it is that when I wind up my watch
It starts
But when I wind up this observation,
It ends.

Now don't get the idea that it matters not... er, doesn't matter. Speaking English is a genuine health hazard.

Japanese eat very little fat and suffer fewer heart attacks than us.
Mexicans eat a lot of fat and suffer fewer heart attacks than us.
Chinese drink very little red wine and suffer fewer heart attacks than us.
Italians drink excessive amounts of red wine and suffer fewer heart attacks than us.
Germans drink beer and eat lots of sausages and fats and suffer fewer heart attacks than us. 

LOGICAL CONCLUSION:
Eat and drink what you like. Speaking English is apparently what kills you.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

How to balance the budget and save the world

It's so simple, really. Remember the 1993 movie Dave starring Kevin Klein and Sigourney Weaver? Klein played the role of both President Bill Mitchell and his exact look-alike, Dave Kovic.

Synopsis (thanks to IMDb): Bill Mitchell is the philandering and distant President of the United States. Dave Kovic is a sweet-natured and caring Temp Agency operator, who by a staggering coincidence looks exactly like the President. As such, when Mitchell wants to escape an official luncheon, the Secret Service hires Dave to stand in for him. Unfortunately, Mitchell suffers a severe stroke while having sex with one of his aides, and Dave finds himself stuck in the role indefinitely. The corrupt and manipulative Chief of Staff, Bob Alexander, plans to use Dave to elevate himself to the White House - but unfortunately, he doesn't count on Dave enjoying himself in office, using his luck to make the country a better place, and falling in love with the beautiful First Lady...

I thought the real fun part was when 'Dave,' who had stepped into the role of the conniving president, unbeknown even to the first lady (who couldn't tell them apart), asked his friend, accountant Murray Blum to come to the White House late one evening. Blum, played really well by Charles Grodin, showed Dave how he could easily and simply shave money from the federal budget so the First Lady's pet project, a day-care center for disadvantaged kids, could continue. (If you are not with me, then you haven't seen the movie... which is really, a must-see.)

Anyhow, it was a piece of cake for Dave to 'find' millions of dollars (remember, this is 1993 when a million dollars went further) allocated to pork projects that he diverted, thus saving the day... and winning the surprising admiration of the First Lady by this uncharacteristic benevolence.

Well, that is one way... but then since when has congress ever 'saved' a dollar, let alone a million... or billion or trillion? (Hey U.S. Government... my hardware store is selling wrenches and toilet seats for the space program for half-off... only $8,700 each.) But here's another.


As I was reading the morning news, I saw that in the United States, 10 people a day loose a finger to a table saw. Gross! That comes to 3,650 1/4 fingers per year, not allowing for double-digit loss. (Get it? Double-digit loss... )  Anyhow, the Consumer Public Safety Commission estimates these losses cost our economy $2 billion annually in lawsuits alone. (Read my story on this.)        

Now that is $2 billion dollars... or about $550,000 per finger. Remember that number.

Another story told about the time and fuel wasted as we sit idle in our cars in traffic tie-ups on expressways. It averages, in the big cities, 70 hours per year per driver... at an estimated cost in fuel, lost productivity and time of $115 billion dollars.

In the same paper, the feature story was on our increasing use of social media... Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, etc. and the enormous amount of data that is thrown our way to digest... much of it when we are at work. The loss of time and production was estimated at a staggering $650 billion dollars and increasing daily!

Are you with me here? If we can all agree to stop cutting off our fingers on table saws, keep the peddle to the metal instead of sitting willy-nilly in traffic and use all forms of social media between 9-pm and 7-am instead of when we are working, we save $767 BILLION DOLLARS annually! Can't we do without sleep to save our country?

My God... that is pretty close to a trillion dollars--give or take some loose change, which can probably be found in the cushions of the couches of America-- in savings! Maybe we can build that day care center for underprivileged children after all... just like in the movie.