January 27, 2009

"Bedtime Music" Hiatus

Just a brief note to say that I'm putting my Bedtime Music series on a one-week hiatus, insha'allah. I've got some things to do this week that are of a super-high priority. I may or may not get time to do other postings this week; if I do, expect them to be very short and simple (like videos).

January 24, 2009

The Unemployed: Lazy or Productive?

A short, interesting Freakonomics blog post over at The New York Times: what do people do when they're unemployed? Are they lazy with an excess amount of free time on their hands? Or do they try to be busy and find ways to raise money while working at home?

How do unemployed people spend their time? How does unemployment affect time use in the entire economy? What is the lost output from unemployment, and what is the utility loss?


The unemployed use the time freed up from work for pay almost entirely in leisure and personal maintenance; they do no more household work than employed people. Similarly, in areas where unemployment is perennially high, there is less work for pay, more leisure, but no more household production.

But when unemployment suddenly rises, as in a recession, people shift from work for pay to household production; people don’t take more leisure time than before.

So if we would measure output to include production at home, we would infer that a recession doesn’t reduce total output by as much as we thought; and perhaps the utility burden of a short recession is not as severe as one might imagine.

The Daily Show on the Closing of Guantanamo and Faux News

Both of these are pretty funny. Enjoy!

The prisoners at Guantanamo could go to prisons within the US, to allies abroad, or to synchronized dance squads.

Faux News is really scared about what might happen, and oblivious to what already has.

January 23, 2009

Signs from Malaysia

Both of these pictures were taken from a feature at The Telegraph called Sign Language.

Somehow I find it hard to believe that they get a lot of Muslims walking in in the first place. From Kampar, Perak, Malaysia

I hope they wash their hands afterwards. ;) From a newsagent's shop.

January 22, 2009

Bedtime Music: Bee Gees - You Should Be Dancing

Most people, like me, probably associate the Bee Gee's song, You Should Be Dancing, with the 1977 movie Saturday Night Fever (and rightfully so; the song is on the soundtrack). However, You Should Be Dancing was actually released the previous year, in 1976, on the band's album Children of the World. This was the third song overall and the first song for the Bee Gees that reached #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 in which Barry Gibb used his now-famous falsetto.

This particular video came from the end of a television show (the credits start at the 4:11 mark) in which the
Bee Gees performed live at the Manhattan Center on April 17th, 2001.

January 21, 2009

Bedtime Music: Chic - Le Freak

One of the more popular songs when I was a teenager was the 1978 hit, Le Freak by Chic. The song has an interesting history. Guitarist Nile Rodgers and bassist Bernard Edwards were supposed to have a meeting at Studio 54; however, singer/actress Grace Jones forgot to leave word with management that Rodgers and Edwards were coming. As a result, the two were denied entry into the club. Upon returning home, Rodgers and Edwards began jamming together. Their anger at not being allowed into the club resulted in the beginning of a "protest song." As Rodgers later noted, "...we started singing, 'f*** off!' [Repeats the lick.] 'Aaaaahh, f*** off!'" Later that night, the "f*** off" became "freak off" and then "freak out." The rest, as they say, is history.

The song reached #1 on the
Billboard Hot 100 not once, but three times, and was the best selling record ever for the band's label, Atlantic Records. It was also the best selling single for Warner Music (Atlantic's parent corporation) for twelve years, until 1990 when Madonna released Vogue.

January 20, 2009

Bedtime Music: The Trammps - Disco Inferno

We're running a bit late tonight, but we can still get this in before we actually go to bed. ;) Tonight's song is Disco Inferno by The Trammps, released on their 1976 album of the same name. In the initial release the song didn't do very well in the pop charts, reaching only 53rd place on the Billboard Hot 100. However, Disco Inferno got a second chance when it was used in the soundtrack for the 1977 movie, Saturday Night Fever; by the spring of 1978 the song's re-release had risen up to #11. Disco Inferno is The Trammps' biggest and most recognized song in the band's history.

Unfortunately, this video isn't of the best quality, although it's interesting for the flashback to '70s fashion.
;) I don't know when the video was shot although, obviously, it was done in New York City.


I guess we've just been expecting too much these past eight years.

January 19, 2009

Bedtime Music: Gloria Gaynor - I Will Survive

This week's theme: Disco. Yeah, sure, why not? ;)

And what better song to start with than the classic I Will Survive, released in 1978 by Gloria Gaynor on her album, Love Tracks. The song, about a woman who realizes she doesn't need her ex-boyfriend back in her life, was immensely popular back in the day and continues to be popular through numerous covers, parodies, and pop culture references (not to mention karaoke). Interestingly enough, George Carlin ranked this song #9 in his list of the "ten most embarrassing songs of all time." (Then again, lots of people hated disco. Who cares?)

Personally, I've also liked Victor Navone's Alien Song parody. In case you didn't know, the alien's name is Blit Wizbok, and he recently celebrated his 10th birthday.

January 18, 2009

Response to Nizar

I came across this one guy's blog post tonight (the son of Muslim parents who's slipping into atheism). I tried leaving a comment on his blog but apparently you have to log in to his blog to do so, something I'm not interested in doing. Instead, I thought I'd post my comment here as I suspect he'll find it in a day or two, insha'allah.

Stumbled across your blog. As a Catholic-turned-atheist-turned-Muslim, I understand your doubts although I disagree with your beliefs. I think your dad was wise not to try to argue with you; what kid believes their parents, at least at first?

“When I was a boy of 14, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be 21, I was astonished at how much the old man had learned in seven years.” (Mark Twain)

What I think you've done is stumbled into the cult of rationality. It's an easy trap for intelligent people to fall into (been there, done that). "Science and technology will solve all our problems and, if it doesn't, logic will guide the way to a bright shiny future." Yeah, that's the ticket. @_@ And it becomes this idol for atheists and agnostics. Science, technology and logic are all very good, but they're merely tools, the means and not the end. As moral compasses they're unreliable. As anyone who's worked with tools will tell you, you pick the right tool for the job; science, technology and logic aren't designed to provide the moral direction mankind needs. But if you want to have a better understanding of the universe or live a better material life (the dunya), that's what you use.

From Ministry of Space Exploration
I find it interesting that you would use the WMAP image of the cosmic microwave background radiation (CMBR) for your third picture. A couple weeks ago, I gave a talk to about 60 Muslim children and teenagers about astronomy, and I used that very image for my final picture, my representation of the universe. And one of the kids asked me, "What's outside the universe?" And I answered Allah (swt). Now I've been working on a blog post that expands further on that answer (it's only about half-finished), but what I want to say here is this: as good as the technology is to provide what is, to date, the best picture of the primordial universe, that science, technology and logic will never give you a complete picture. It will never provide you with a basis for your morality. And it will never provide you with an understanding of who your creator is. The cult of rationality can never do that for you. Only Allah (swt) can.

BTW, I agree with your mom regarding Hamas. Ask yourself if the Jews in the Warsaw Ghetto were right to fight back against their Nazi oppressors. Gaza is nothing more than the Jewish version of the Nazi ghetto, and the Jews know that well. Then give some thought to 2:191, and see what your mom says. Remember, oppression is worse than death.

January 17, 2009

In Mottos We Trust

A very interesting map over at Strange Maps today: the United States with each state's motto written over it. Some of the mottos on the individual states are written in an absurdly small font either due to the size of the state (much of the northeast) or for no good reason (e.g., Indiana). Check out the original post for individual mottos and explanations for each of the fifty states.

The US goes by the motto In God We Trust (but only since 1956, when it replaced the ‘unofficial’ motto, E pluribus unum). A motto (from the Italian word for pledge, plural mottos or mottoes) describes a quality or intention that a group of people aim to live up to - a mission statement of sorts. As such, America’s newer motto has invited more controversy than the older one, since it seems to run counter to the principle of separation of church and state. Its introduction did seem to make sense at the time, what with the Cold War against those godless communists.

As demonstrated on this map, the 50 states making up the US each have their own motto too. The two-and-a-half score state mottos display a wide variety, of quotations, languages and underlying messages. English is the favorite language, but not even by half: only 24 state mottos are originally in English; Latin, once the language for all solemn occasions (and not just exorcisms), accounts for 20. Two mottos are in native languages, and French, Spanish, Italian and Greek account for one each. The system of checks and balances seems to work for mottos too: if the national motto is overtly religious, then only six of the state ones refer to God, either directly or obliquely. Most deal with secular rights, and the readiness to defend them. The Bible is tied with Cicero as the source for the most mottos (three), while classical literature has proven a particularly fertile breeding ground for inspirational quotes (mottos originate with Lucretius, Aesop, Virgil, Brutus and Archimedes).

January 16, 2009

Bedtime Music: Swing Girls - In the Mood

In the movie Swing Girls (which I briefly mentioned a few days ago), the actresses (and one actor) had been taught how to play music for several months prior to filming; as a result, all of the performances in the movie were "real," performed by the actors themselves. When the film was released, they did at least one promotional concert, entitled "Swing Girls' First & Last Concert" (although I've read on IMDB that several concerts were performed in both the U.S. and Japan). This video is of Glenn Miller's 1939 classic, In the Mood.

An interesting side note:
In the Mood was apparently based at least in part on the melody of another song called Tar Paper Stomp, written by jazz trumpeter and bandleader Wingy Manone, who recorded the song in 1929 and 1930. After the success of In the Mood, Manone apparently was paid off by Miller and his record company not to contest the copyright.

Discovery of Significant Amounts of Methane on Mars

An interesting article out of NASA today. While I suspect that the methane plumes mentioned are probably of geologic origin, the idea that microorganisms (endoliths) may be living underneath the surface of Mars is not a new one. Certainly the possibility of a biologic origin to some or all of the Martian methane is quite plausible. Cross-posted at Areology.

Mars today is a world of cold and lonely deserts, apparently without life of any kind, at least on the surface. Indeed it looks like Mars has been cold and dry for billions of years, with an atmosphere so thin, any liquid water on the surface quickly boils away while the sun's ultraviolet radiation scorches the ground.

The situation sounds bleak, but research published today in Science Express reveals new hope for the Red Planet. The first definitive detection of methane in the atmosphere of Mars indicates that Mars is still alive, in either a biologic or geologic sense, according to a team of NASA and university scientists.

"Methane is quickly destroyed in the Martian atmosphere in a variety of ways, so our discovery of substantial plumes of methane in the northern hemisphere of Mars in 2003 indicates some ongoing process is releasing the gas," says lead author Michael Mumma of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center. "At northern mid-summer, methane is released at a rate comparable to that of the massive hydrocarbon seep at Coal Oil Point in Santa Barbara, California."

Methane -- four atoms of hydrogen bound to a carbon atom -- is the main component of natural gas on Earth. It is of interest to astrobiologists because much of Earth's methane come from living organisms digesting their nutrients. However, life is not required to produce the gas. Other purely geological processes, like oxidation of iron, also release methane. "Right now, we don't have enough information to tell if biology or geology -- or both -- is producing the methane on Mars," said Mumma. "But it does tell us that the planet is still alive, at least in a geologic sense. It's as if Mars is challenging us, saying, hey, find out what this means."

If microscopic Martian life is producing the methane, it likely resides far below the surface, where it's still warm enough for liquid water to exist. Liquid water, as well as energy sources and a supply of carbon, are necessary for all known forms of life.

"On Earth, microorganisms thrive 2 to 3 kilometers (about 1.2 to 1.9 miles) beneath the Witwatersrand basin of South Africa, where natural radioactivity splits water molecules into molecular hydrogen (H2) and oxygen (O). The organisms use the hydrogen for energy. It might be possible for similar organisms to survive for billions of years below the permafrost layer on Mars, where water is liquid, radiation supplies energy, and carbon dioxide provides carbon," says Mumma.

"Gases, like methane, accumulated in such underground zones might be released into the atmosphere if pores or fissures open during the warm seasons, connecting the deep zones to the atmosphere at crater walls or canyons," he says.

"Microbes that produced methane from hydrogen and carbon dioxide were one of the earliest forms of life on Earth," notes Carl Pilcher, Director of the NASA Astrobiology Institute which partially supported the research. "If life ever existed on Mars, it's reasonable to think that its metabolism might have involved making methane from Martian atmospheric carbon dioxide."

However, it is possible a geologic process produced the Martian methane, either now or eons ago. On Earth, the conversion of iron oxide (rust) into the serpentine group of minerals creates methane, and on Mars this process could proceed using water, carbon dioxide, and the planet's internal heat. Another possibility is vulcanism: Although there is no evidence of currently active Martian volcanoes, ancient methane trapped in ice "cages" called clathrates might now be released.

The team found methane in the atmosphere of Mars by carefully observing the planet over several Mars years (and all Martian seasons) using spectrometers attached to telescopes at NASA's Infrared Telescope Facility, run by the University of Hawaii, and the W. M. Keck telescope, both at Mauna Kea, Hawaii.

"We observed and mapped multiple plumes of methane on Mars, one of which released about 19,000 metric tons of methane," says Geronimo Villanueva of the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. Villanueva is stationed at NASA Goddard and is co-author of the paper. "The plumes were emitted during the warmer seasons -- spring and summer -- perhaps because the permafrost blocking cracks and fissures vaporized, allowing methane to seep into the Martian air. Curiously, some plumes had water vapor while others did not," he says.

According to the team, the plumes were seen over areas that show evidence of ancient ground ice or flowing water. For example, plumes appeared over northern hemisphere regions such as east of Arabia Terra, the Nili Fossae region, and the south-east quadrant of Syrtis Major, an ancient volcano 1,200 kilometers (about 745 miles) across.

It will take future missions, like NASA's Mars Science Laboratory, to discover the origin of the Martian methane. One way to tell if life is the source of the gas is by measuring isotope ratios. Isotopes are heavier versions of an element; for example, deuterium is a heavier version of hydrogen. In molecules that contain hydrogen, like water and methane, the rare deuterium occasionally replaces a hydrogen atom. Since life prefers to use the lighter isotopes, if the methane has less deuterium than the water released with it on Mars, it's a sign that life is producing the methane.

Whatever future research reveals--biology or geology--one thing is already clear: Mars is not so dead, after all.

Photo Credits: Trent Schindler/NASA (first picture); NASA (second picture) For more pictures and animations, please click here

January 15, 2009

Bedtime Music: Ray Anthony - Harlem Nocturne

I'm happy to say that this is the 100th post of my Bedtime Music series.

Tonight's song is a familiar melody to me,
Harlem Nocturne, originally written by Earle Hagen and Dick Rogers in 1939. In writing this song, Hagen was trying to imitate Duke Ellington's sound; since then, Harlem Nocturne has become a jazz standard, covered by many artists and bands.

This particular cover is by
Ray Anthony (whose birth name is Raymond Antonioni) from The Ray Anthony Show, a TV variety show broadcast in 1956-57. Anthony is still alive (he turns 87 on the 20th), and has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Happy birthday, Ray!

Water Drop

This is a very cool slow motion video of (what seems like a very large) drop of water falling into a container of what looks like sand. It's interesting how deep it drops into the "sand," then returns back to the surface more or less intact before losing its cohesion and bursting. Check it out!

January 14, 2009

Bedtime Music: Rak Bela Combo - It Don't Mean a Thing (If It Ain't Got That Swing)

Sorry about the lack of a video for last night's Bedtime Music; I was quite busy yesterday.

Tonight's video is of the
Duke Ellington classic, It Don't Mean a Thing (If It Ain't Got That Swing). The song was written in 1932, three years before the birth of the Swing Era. The title was based on the oft-stated credo of Ellington's former trumpeter Bubber Miley, who was dying of tuberculosis. According to Ellington, the song became famous "as the expression of a sentiment which prevailed among jazz musicians at the time."

This particular cover of the song is performed by the
Rak Bela Combo, a trio of guitarists: Bela Rak Jr., Bela Rak Sr., and bassist Kristof Gelley. I like this video because it's a good example of the versatility of music in performance, in this case playing swing on acoustic guitars.

Study Confirms Local Governments Use Traffic Citations to Raise Money

This isn't surprising; I remember a time my dad got a ticket when we were heading north on the Interstate one year. "You won't receive any points," the cop said. Yeah, no points to be added to your driving record; we just want your money.

Got a lead foot? Hold on to your wallet.

A new study to be published in next month's Journal of Law and Economics finds statistical evidence that local governments use traffic citations to make up for revenue shortfalls. So as the economy tanks, motorists may be more likely to see red and blue in the rearview.

Study authors Thomas Garrett, assistant vice president at the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, and Gary Wagner from the University of Arkansas Little Rock, examined 14 years of revenue and traffic citation data from counties in North Carolina. They found that the number of traffic citations issued goes up the year following a revenue drop.

"Specifically, a one percentage point decrease in last year's local government revenue results in roughly a 0.32 percentage point increase in the number of traffic tickets in the following year," Garrett and Wagner write.

That number may sound small, but it's a statistically significant correlation, the authors say.

The study controlled for demographic and economic differences in the sample, which contained data from 96 North Carolina counties collected from 1990 to 2003.

The finding adds credence to something many drivers have long suspected: Safety isn't the only motive in traffic enforcement efforts. Since many municipalities retain the money generated by traffic fines, perhaps traffic enforcement also acts as a bit of a fundraiser.

"There is ample anecdotal evidence that local governments use traffic tickets as a means of generating revenue…," Garrett and Wagner write. "Our paper provides the first empirical evidence to support this view…."

And don't expect to be able to throttle up when the economy recovers. The study found no significant drop in tickets when revenues increased.

HT: Economist's View

Another Reason to Stay in School

One of the most common reasons given why young people should stay in school is that the more education they have, generally speaking, the higher their income level will be. For example, a person with a graduate degree should make more money than someone with only a Bachelor's degree, a person with a Bachelor's degree should make more money than a high school graduate, and so on. Of course there are exceptions but, in general, this statement is fairly accurate.

Another reason to stay in school is that the more education one has, the more likely one won't be unemployed. The proof? The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) publishes a monthly report called The Employment Situation. In this report the BLS slices and dices the employment and unemployment numbers in a number of different ways, one of which is to look at the employment and unemployment numbers by the level of education people 25 years and older have (Table A-4). What the report shows is that there is a consistent pattern in terms of the unemployment rate vs. the amount of education people have. The more education one has, the lower the unemployment rate. In December 2008:

  • Those who had less than a high school diploma had an unemployment rate of 10.9%
  • For high school graduates with no college education, the unemployment rate was 7.7%
  • For those people who either had some college education or an associate's degree, the unemployment rate was 5.6%
  • For those people with a Bachelor's degree or higher (Master's, professional, or doctorate), the unemployment rate was 3.7%

Keep in mind that the overall unemployment rate for December was 7.2%.

I get a lot of hits from businesses and universities because I tend to write on topics that are of interest to them; for these people I'm preaching to the choir. (Although, if you're in college but considering dropping out, don't! Obviously the odds are better for you in these rough economic times to continue to stay in school until you at least get your Bachelor's degree.) For those of you who are in high school (or teaching high school students, get the message out to), stay in school! Go on to college if you can. It's far easier to ride out a recession if you have a job and are making money than not. The odds will be in your favor.

January 12, 2009

Bedtime Music: Santo & Johnny - Moonlight Serenade

New theme this week: big band/swing music. Milady and I watched a cute Japanese movie over the weekend, Swing Girls, which featured this type of music. Insha'allah, I'll talk about the film again later this week.

Moonlight Serenade was originally written and recorded by Glenn Miller in April 1939. The song was actually derived from an earlier song (1935) entitled "Now I Lay Me Down to Weep," the music to which Miller also wrote. This particular video features Santo & Johnny's cover of Moonlight Serenade.

January 11, 2009

British vs. American Journalism

What makes this interview so refreshing to watch is not just seeing the Israeli PR flack squirm as he gets grilled by the UK's Channel 4 reporter Alex Thomson, although that's immensely satisfying by itself. No, what's so great is the fact that here's a journalist who's doing his job, asking difficult questions, not allowing the interviewee to squirm off the hook. You know, real journalism.

As opposed to the American variety of "journalism," as captured so well by the crew at The Daily Show:

January 9, 2009

Bedtime Music: Kiss - Beth

On Monday's Bedtime Music selection, I noted that the song Frankenstein had been a last minute addition to Edgar Winter's album; likewise, that the song was originally the B-side on the 45-rpm single yet was more popular than the A-side. The same can be said for Beth, the Peter Criss ballad on the Kiss album, Destroyer, released in 1976. Ironically, even though Gene Simmons and Peter Stanley both wanted the song off the album (it wasn't your typical Kiss song), Beth has turned out to be the band's highest charting single of all time (#7) and only one of two singles recorded by the band that became a gold record.

Although it's not stated on Youtube, this video is from the February 23, 2003 concert with the
Melbourne Symphony Orchestra at the Telstra Dome, Melbourne. The concert was recorded and became the 2003 album, Kiss Symphony: Alive IV. This video is one of the last performances by Criss as a member of Kiss as he left the band shortly afterwards and the band has retired Beth from their concert setlist.

January 8, 2009

Bedtime Music: Gordon Lightfoot - The Wreck of the Edmond Fitzgerald

In my opinion, one of the most important songs from the 70s is that of Gordon Lightfoot's The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald, released on his 1976 album, Summertime Dream. For those of you not familiar with the sinking of the SS Edmund Fitzgerald, the Fitzgerald was a bulk carrier freighter that sailed the Great Lakes. Launched in 1958, she was, for a time, the largest ship on those waters. On November 10, 1975, the Fitzgerald sank in 530 feet (162 m) of water near Whitefish Bay, Ontario, Canada, without having given any distress calls. All 29 men aboard died. The exact cause of the sinking is unknown. An excellent documentary by the Discovery Channel on the sinking of the Fitzgerald (which I have watched) suggests that three rogue waves in succession may have caused the Fitzgerald to take on water into the cargo holds before snapping the ship in half.

What's interesting about this song is the speed with which it was written and recorded. The
Fitzgerald, as mentioned above, sank on November 10, 1975. The sinking was reported in a Newsweek article entitled "Great Lakes: The Cruelest Month," which was published on November 24th. Lightfoot used the article as his inspiration to write the song, which was then recorded in December, 1975.

January 7, 2009

Bedtime Music: Jim Croce - Time in a Bottle

Although I didn't really start to become interested in the radio until 1974, the works of Jim Croce were extremely popular in the early 70s when I was growing up. Most of the younger generation are probably unfamiliar with his work due to Croce's tragic death in an airplane crash in September 1973, when Jim was only 30. Ironically, he died one day before the release of his fifth album, I Got a Name.

This particular song,
Time in a Bottle, was released on his 1972 album, You Don't Mess Around With Jim, with both the song and the album reaching #1 on the charts in 1974. The song was written for Croce's then-unborn son, A.J. Croce, who would later become a successful musician in his own right. Although I haven't found any sources to confirm this, I'm fairly certain that the woman and child in the the video are Jim's wife, Ingrid, and his son, A.J.

Jim Croce - Time In A Bottle 1972 by tch47

January 6, 2009

Bedtime Music: Focus - Hocus Pocus

The song that made me decide to change the theme this week away from instrumentals was this: Hocus Pocus by the Dutch band, Focus. Technically, there are no lyrics in Hocus Pocus; the song is in the musical form known as a rondo. Here, the vocal parts are yodeling (for which the song is famous) and gibberish, alternating with the power guitar riff.

Hocus Pocus was released on the 1971 album, Moving Waves. This video comes from a 1972 broadcast of the Old Grey Whistle Test. (There is another version of this video at Youtube without the announcer appearing at the beginning and end, but the visual quality is quite poor.)

January 5, 2009

Bedtime Music: The Edgar Winter Group - Frankenstein

Originally I was going to use the theme of "instrumentals" this week; however, I've found a couple of other videos that I want to use so the new theme is "music from the 70s."

When I originally thought of "instrumentals," one of the first songs that came to mind was of
The Edgar Winter Group's classic Frankenstein. This song was originally released in 1973 on the album They Only Come Out at Night. The song was, in fact, a last minute addition to the album and placed on the B-side of 45-rpm records (the A-side being the song Hangin' Around). However, that changed when word came back from DJs that Frankenstein was the more popular song. The original single that was played on radio was only 4:44 long; however, this version, from a 1973 broadcast of the Old Grey Whistle Test, is over twice as long, at 9:12. In this recording, Edgar Winter shows his musical versatility by playing a synthesizer, saxophone and the drums.

January 4, 2009

Movie Sunday - Forbidden Planet

Earlier this week I stumbled across a webpage that featured clips from various movies. One of those movies is the science fiction classic, Forbidden Planet, starring the late Walter Pidgeon, Anne Francis, and a non-comedic Leslie Nielsen. Loosely based on Shakespeare's The Tempest, this film was influential in a number of ways, from the first appearance of "Robbie the Robot" (who would later appear in about two dozen movies and TV episodes) to being one of Gene Roddenberry's inspirations for his TV series, Star Trek. I've always liked the film because it successfully combines hard science fiction with soft science fiction (most SF focuses on either one or the other).

In times long past, this planet was the home of a mighty, noble race of beings who called themselves the Krell. Ethically and technologically they were a million years ahead of humankind, for in unlocking the meaning of nature they had conquered even their baser selves, and when in the course of eons they had abolished sickness and insanity, crime and all injustice, they turned, still in high benevolence, upwards towards space. Then, having reached the heights, this all-but-divine race disappeared in a single night, and nothing was preserved above ground.

Commander John J. Adams: Nice climate you have here. High oxygen content.

Robby the Robot: I seldom use it myself, sir. It promotes rust.

January 3, 2009

Drum Corps Saturday - 2005 San Francisco Renegades

The last video I can find for the 2005 DCA championships (for the Open Class)* is of the San Francisco Renegades. The corps scored 92.525 in the prelims and 93.738 in the finals, placing fifth in both competitions. This is the highest ranking the corps has had in DCA to date. The corps' show theme that year was "Days of Future Past," with the following repertoire: Ave Maria, The Ascension, Halloween, Niner-Two (Drum Solo), Open Up Wide, Nights In White Satin, and La Villa Strangiato.

  • If anyone can point out any other entire shows for this particular championships, I'd appreciate it.

  • January 2, 2009

    Bedtime Music: Elton John & Kiki Dee - Don't Go Breaking My Heart

    This is a favorite song from my teenage years, Don't Go Breaking My Heart, a duet by Elton John and Kiki Dee (Pauline Matthews). I was fourteen when it was released in the summer of '76 (you can do the math to figure out my age ;) ). The song was written by Elton John (and not by Bernie Taupin, although this was before the break-up between the two men in '77-'79), with the song being done in an imitative Tamla Motown style. (Dee had signed with the Tamla Motown label some time around 1970; however, she moved to John's label, Rocket Records, in 1973.) The song was an immense hit for both singers, reaching #1 in both the US (four weeks) and the UK (six weeks); ironically, this was the last Elton John single to reach #1 in the UK until 1990. What's not as well known is that John and Dee have recorded two other duets, a cover of the Four Tops' Loving You is Sweeter than Ever in 1981 and a cover of Cole Porter's True Love in 1993 (which reached #2 in the UK).

    How to Protect Your Job in a Recession

    The blog Advertising is Good for You linked to a Harvard Business Review article (published September 2008) entitled How to Protect Your Job in a Recession. I thought the article's executive summary had some good advice, so I'm posting it down below. All of the emphases are mine.

    As the economy softens, corporate downsizing appears almost inevitable. Don't panic yet, though. While layoff decisions might seem beyond your control, there's plenty you can do to make sure you retain your job. In this article, Banks, a former HR executive at Chase Manhattan and FleetBoston Financial, and Coutu, an HBR senior editor and former affiliate scholar at the Boston Psychoanalytic Society and Institute, describe how to improve your chances of survival. It's mostly a matter of coolheaded planning, they observe. When cuts loom, the first thing to do is act like a survivor. Be confident and cheerful. Research shows that congeniality trumps competence when push comes to shove. Look to the future by focusing on customers, for without them, no one will have work. Survivors also tend to be versatile; tight budgets demand managers who can wear several hats, so start demonstrating what other capabilities you can offer. If you're, say, a manager who once worked as a teacher, take on a training role. Remember to be a good corporate citizen: Participation matters now more than ever. It isn't the time to behave as if work is beneath you or to argue for a new title. When one executive's department was folded under the management of a less-experienced colleague, she swallowed her pride and wholeheartedly supported the new hierarchy. Her superiors noticed her commitment and eventually rewarded her with a prestigious appointment. It's also important to offer leaders hope and realistic solutions. Energize your colleagues around change, like the VP of learning at a firm undergoing major staff reductions did. He organized a humorous in-house radio show that revived spirits and helped management communicate with employees-and ended up with a promotion.

    US Unemployment Rates - November 2008

    The November US unemployment figures were released recently. The figures, overall, are continuing to get worse. Here are some of the highlights:

    • Overall, the "official" national unemployment rate (U-3) increased by 0.2%, from 6.5% to 6.7%, over October's number. For the past twelve months, the national rate has increased 2.0%.
    • For the most inclusive unemployment rate measured (U-6), the increase was 0.7%, from 11.8% to 12.5%. For the past twelve months, U-6 has increased by 4.1%.
    • In terms of monthly change, the state with the largest increase was Oregon (again), with a 0.9% increase; North Carolina had the next largest increase, at 0.8%, and the District of Columbia and Indiana had increases of 0.7% each.
    • On an annual basis, the state with the largest increase continues to be Rhode Island with an increase of 4.1%. North Carolina has moved into second place, with an increase of 3.2%, and Georgia and Idaho are tied for third with increases of 3.0% each.
    • The states with the lowest annual increases are Nebraska at 0.4%, Iowa and South Dakota at 0.5%, Wisconsin at 0.8%, and Kansas, New Hampshire and Utah at 0.9%.
    • The state with the highest unemployment rate is Michigan, which increased 0.3% to 9.6%; Rhode Island, which was tied for the highest rate in October remained at 9.3% to place second. California and South Carolina are tied for third with a rate of 8.4%.
    • The states with the lowest unemployment rates continue to be Wyoming (3.2%), North Dakota (3.3%), and South Dakota (3.4%). Utah has been joined by Nebraska at 3.7% each.
    • In terms of non-farm payroll employment (i.e., number of jobs), the states with the biggest decreases since October were Florida (-58,600), North Carolina (-46,000), California (-41,700), Michigan (-36,900) and Georgia (-30,000).
    • For annual changes in non-farm payroll employment, the states with the biggest decreases are Florida (-206,900), California (-136,000), Michigan (-112,700), and Arizona (-82,200). Two states continue to have statistically significant increases over the past year: Texas (221,200; down 9,200 from October) and Wyoming (8,200; down 1,300).

    The PDF version of the Bureau of Labor Statistics press release can be found here.

    January 1, 2009

    Bedtime Music: Nat King Cole and Natalie Cole - Unforgettable

    This is not a duet in the traditional sense, two people singing together at the same time; however, the use of audio technology to create a duet between a deceased father and his daughter was a very popular move when Natalie Cole's "digital duet" of Unforgettable came out on her 1991 album, Unforgettable... With Love. (Several other artists have used the technique over the years, including Kenny G and Celine Dion. Ironically, Kenny G was criticized for his "digital duet" with Louis Armstrong's song, What a Wonderful World.) Natalie Cole's duet brought her three Grammy Awards in 1992: Song of the Year, Record of the Year and Best Traditional Pop Vocal Performance. The original recording of Unforgettable by Nat King Cole was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2000.