Archive for the 'Miscellaneous' Category

Mass Method

November 13, 2008

“I don’t know how it will be in the years to come. There are monstrous changes taking place in the world, forces shaping a future whose face we do not know. … It is true that two men can lift a bigger stone than one man, and bread from a huge factory is cheaper and more uniform. When our food and clothing and housing are all born in the complication of mass production, mass method is bound to get into our thinking and to eliminate all other thinking. In our time mass or collective production has entered our economics, our politics, and even our religion… This in my time is the danger. There is great tension in the world, tension toward a breaking point, and men are unhappy and confused. … And now the forces marshaled around the concept of the group have declared a war of extermination on that preciousness, the mind of man. By disparagement, by starvation, by repressions, forced direction, and the stunning hammerblows of conditioning, the free-roving mind is being pursued, roped, blunted, drugged. It is a sad suicidal course our species seems to have taken.”

John Steinbeck, Chapter 13, East of Eden, 1952


Fractals: Hunting the Hidden Dimension

November 6, 2008

Watch this fascinating NOVA program on fractals. For numerous reasons, I am unable to write a decent description of fractals at the present time, other than to say that they are the most beautiful geometric shapes yet discovered by man. Today, fractal mathematics is responsible for radical innovations in science, communications, health care, entertainment, and so on. Many scientists believe that fractals are the secret to understanding the complex nature of space, time and life in our universe. Here is an earlier post on the subject from a couple of years ago.

You can watch Hunting the Hidden Dimension in five short chapters by clicking on these links: Fractal Basics, the Mandelbrot Set, On the Defense, Fractals in the Body, and Nature’s Fractal Nature.

President Bush’s Grandfather Involved in Fascist Plot to Overthrow FDR in 1933

October 5, 2008
Prescott Bush and his son, former President George W. Bush

Prescott Bush and his son, former President George H. W. Bush

This is a story that did not get much any press here in the United States when it first ran in 2007: George W. Bush’s grandfather, Prescott Bush, among other prominent American businessmen, was involved in a 1933 plot to overthrow President Franklin D. Roosevelt and install a fascist dictatorship in America allied with Hitler and Mussolini. Here is the story from the BBC. (Story begins at 20 seconds.)

50th Anniversary of Seminal Silicon Valley Firm

December 10, 2007

A lawyer I work with is the daughter of one of the Fairchild 8, so named because they were the eight men (most under 30) who founded Fairchild Semiconductor in 1957 and laid the foundation for Silicon Valley. The company was named for its principal investor (and Howard Hughes-like entrepreneur) Sherman Mills Fairchild.

(Click here for a larger version of the photo, with names.)

The San Jose Mercury News recently ran a series on Fairchild’s 50th anniversary, writing:

Many consider the men … to be the founding fathers of Silicon Valley. To be sure, other electronics companies had earlier starts, and others would prove even more successful than Fairchild, but much of what one associates with Silicon Valley – the innovations, glorious rises and spectacular flameouts, young employees going off on their own to pursue ideas their bosses ignore, savvy venture capitalists helping transform these ideas into viable companies, the creation of vast wealth – can be traced to Fairchild Semiconductor.

The articles include Fairchild at 50, Fairchild’s Birthday Celebrated and a PDF of the companies and innovations these men were responsible for. Co-founder Robert Noyce, for example, invented the integrated circuit (microchip) at Fairchild; Gordon Moore wrote Moore’s Law and, with Noyce, co-founded Intel in 1968.


Outstanding Obituary

December 10, 2007

My brother from New Orleans sent me this over the top obituary of an overworked lawyer in the Big Easy, written by his widow after he suffered a heart attack visiting her in the hospital. Here is a link to his profile at the law firm where he worked. Here is an article published about his death in the paper from his prior home in Pennsylvania, where people describe him as “arrogant” and “noticeably lacking in accepted social graces”, but also as “an outstanding lawyer and smarter than anyone he dealt with”. Lastly, the funeral home’s online guest registry.

“Right On” Award

December 8, 2007

Last night at my employer’s annual Christmas bash, I was given the First Annual “Right On” Award for working with the litigators and responding to every new challenge and assignment with that attitude (and often with that phrase). I hope the award is soon accompanied by a raise in pay.

Ordinary School Day Turns into Horror – 1981

November 28, 2007

Six weeks into my 9th grade year in 1981, when I was a fresh-faced newcomer to the campus of Greenville High School in my hometown in South Carolina, a suspended student came to the campus and stabbed a teacher in the chest with a knife during second period.

I was in a nearby classroom when we heard the screams of students in Henry Chiarello’s class who witnessed the event. At first I thought the screams were joyful, perhaps coming from some assembly or pep rally my class had not been invited to. Soon, though, as more students spilled out of their classrooms and saw the teacher on the hallway floor with blood spewing from his wound, it became clear that we were hearing screams of terror. The rest of the day became a blur.

It has been a long time since I thought about that day more than 25 years ago, but when I was visiting South Carolina over the Thanksgiving holiday, the subject came up during a family conversation. The next day I went to the new public library and researched the story in the microfilm files for the local newspaper.

Here is the headline of the afternoon paper, which went to press while our teacher was still in intensive care after the attack. Here is the next day’s headline, and the jump page, published after he died on the operating table during a second round of open-chest surgery. Here is a third article addressing school security policies after the crime. Finally, here is Mr. Chiarello’s obituary.

His killer, an 18-year old student named Jewel Garrett, was sentenced to life in prison with a minimum of 20 years. I understand she has come up for parole on at least two occasions, but has not been released. I hope she will spend her life in prison and that she thinks about her unspeakable act on a daily basis.

The irony of the story is that she intended to attack another teacher, but she knocked on the wrong classroom door.*

RIP Mr. Chiarello. You did not deserve this.

[ * Update: After replying by email to the comment below and learning more from Mr. Chiarello’s sister, the myth of his being the unintended victim has been disproven. I credit that misperception to the rumors flying around school that day and in the weeks after. As one would expect, the family still grieves.]

Vote for Hillary, or Not…

November 17, 2007

I came across the Vote for Hillary blog in a comment on another website. At first, I was put off, but once I started reading, I realized it’s a laugh riot.

Whatever It Is, I’m Against It

August 14, 2007

This guy is writing some of the finest political satire around today. The tightest and funniest read on life in Bush’s America, usually in under 200 words. Great pictures, too:

Whatever It Is, I’m Against It

High Technology

April 6, 2007

This morning a partner in the law firm I work for called his legal secretary into his office for some advice on using a new document management program the firm recently installed. He needed to learn how to pull up a document by the number that the program assigns to each document in the database.

His secretary brought him to the proper screen on his computer and instructed him to type in the appropriate document number. He typed in the number, but nothing happened.

“Why isn’t it working?”, he asked.

“Because you are pushing the numbers on your telephone,” she said.