Friday, June 28, 2013

Ford Theater

The Ford Theater is in Washington DC, and is famous for being the location of the assassination of President Lincoln.

It is still a working theater, and during the day, when the tours are allowed, one can sit in the two seats that are front row/center.  This is where the current president and first lady sit.   The Presidential Box is much too dangerous.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Paris Museum of Natural History

The Paris museum of natural history, has been brought up to date, and is like many other museums in major cities.  

But this was not always the case. About 20 years ago it was a wonderful relic, frozen in time, open to the public, but the exhibits and cases had not been touched since about 1910.

One could walk along two narrow aisles and touch the skeletons along the floor.  The cases were filled with jars of weird body parts preserved in formaldehyde in solution.  

The city should have realized that as time had past, the value of the exhibit had declined, and then returned and exceeded the value of the original museum.  Here  was a three-dimensional space from 1910, with the colors, tastes, designs, methods, hand writings.....  from a lost era. 

A lost opportunity.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Defending Jacob

I found this book excellent, well written, and thought provoking.

The legal system assumes everyone has free will, and can choose not to commit a crime.  The jury tends to be selected from those that know nothing of the case, from people that have no expertise or prior knowledge of the case. That is, those that have less interest in society.

The book brings up the issues of genetic and environmental influences that affect a person.  Do we punish people for what they did, or protect society from dangerous people?  

Monday, June 10, 2013

Flashdance the Musical


It is about a girl who works in steel factory, who is dating the factory manager, dances in a seedy bar at night, and dreams of getting in the exclusive dance academy to become a professional dancer.

The stage sets were really good, they sometimes magically faded from one locale to another, the musical moved along nicely and did not dwell too long on any song.  The group dancing was excellent.

But, the story line needed tightening up.  The climax of the musical was the three minute academy entrance test dance, and here the illusion broke down.  She would have failed the test, miserably.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Nothing New under the Sun

A long time ago, someone told me the story of when they were in the Second World War.  He was assigned in to the photographic division of the Royal Air Force, in Scotland, to retrofit bombers with cameras.

The official reason was to take pictures of the bombing areas in Germany, to see what was damaged and how well it was damaged.  The real reason was to ensure the pilots actually flew to Germany.  Many of the pilots were naturally terrified of dying, and flew out over the North Sea, dropped their bombs in the cold grey waters, circled to use up fuel, and returned without a single bullet hole.

Last week in the Economist was an article, Zapping Mosquitos and Corruption, where the same tactic is used to solve similar problems in present day Pakistan. The technology is different, the people the same.

"Other officials, such as veterinarians who are paid to travel to farms to deworm cows, have to take smartphones to record themselves at work and upload geotagged self-portraits to an official website. This makes it possible to check that they are actually turning up for work."

Thursday, June 6, 2013


I will be in Saint Petersburg next month, and coincidentally came across a book I have had forever, Political Jokes Of Leningrad.

Is was published in 1982; the world was a different place.  The jokes, many of which are not strictly funny, show the mindset and paranoia of the people in the Soviet Union before it crashed and burned.

"On a bright spring afternoon in a Leningrad park there is an intense discussion concerning the origin of Adam and Eve.
A Tartar asserts that Adam must have been Moslem since it is believe by some Moslems that an apple is a magical fruit.
A French Communist visiting Leningrad claimed that Eve was French because it was his feeling that only a French girl would sleep with a man for an apple.
Finally the Leningrader said he believed, without any doubt, that they both had to be Russian.  It was his contention that only Russians could be naked and barefoot and still claim that they lived in Paradise."

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Expanding Universe - the downside

The universe is visible to us and we have been able to learn much from telescopes and other instruments.  It is a complex place, and it has a beginning, and a future.

However, from a paper by Lawrence Krauss, he observes "we live in a very special time in the evolution of the universe: the time at  which we can observationally verify that we live in a very special time in the evolution of the universe."

In about 100 billion years, long after our galaxy and Andromeda will have merged, all the distant galaxies will be so red-shifted to be invisible.   We will seem to be in an island universe, with no evidence of expansion, the big bang, or dark matter.

If our knowledge today does not persist, we will no longer be able to deduce the basic features and history of the universe .  The evidence will be not longer available.