Friday, June 17, 2011


The future of documentary filmmaking and more...

Lynn & Ecki

Lynn Blakey and her husband Ecki fly 
Family House guests to the Moon.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

They've Got Rhythm

Who could ask for anything more?

The Footnotes Tap Ensemble toe the line at 
SECU Family House in Chapel Hill.

Monday, June 6, 2011

An Indispensable Passage

"Don't Worry Baby"
Recorded in January-February 1964

June 2011, Greensboro, N.C.

"After the second hook, [in] the
average pop song [an] instrumental obbligato
[an indispensable passage] often happens....

[Composer] Brian [Wilson] chooses
to...restate the intro, with its trick of remaining
on an A chord in the fourth measure
while the bass goes to B.

"However, this new beginning differs from the
first one because the background singers lay out
again, and the foreground is occupied by 
the surf guitar hitting simple
staccatto E and A chords 
over the intro harmony....

"In its own way, this is totally brilliant.
The last thing that would work 
here would be [an] intricate noodle solo 
on guitar. That would totally ruin the mood.

Anything smarmy on [a] new instrument (strings? horns?)
would err as egregiously in the other direction.
Nonetheless, we needed some relief, and this
choice re-uses the nice intro trick with a slightly
different color to set up the song's essential message:

"True love should eliminate the worries that
accompany day-to-day life and its conflicts."

--Music critic Greg Panfile

I couldn't have said it better myself.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

"The Little White House"

Fun Facts About FDR...

In 1923 he invested in a
dirigible transportation system—
The General Air Service would have run
between New York and Chicago.

Helium-filled dirigibles, mind you.

 The Secret Service nicknamed Fala "The Informer."
FDR made secret train trips during the War.
When they stopped and Fala went for walks, passersby
often recognized him and realized FDR was aboard.

The first president to fly while in office, 
he took the Boeing Flying Boat ("The China Clipper")
 to Casablanca to meet Churchill.

He and wife Eleanor were fifth cousins, once removed.

At their wedding cousin Teddy, the former president, 
quipped, 'It is a good thing to keep the name in the family."

FDR may have been stricken in 1921 
with Guillain-Barre Syndrome, 
not polio, according to a 2003 study.

 When re-elected in 1944, he was 
dying of cardiovascular disease.

 FDR enjoyed wearing a white skirt and patent-leather
party shoes. He also had shoulder-length hair.

Back in the day, that was the style for boys under age five
who were having their photographs taken.

Boys in those days typically did not get haircuts
until about age five or six.

 His December 8 speech originally read 
"...a date which will live in world history."

He was the first president to appear on television. 
(Not above, but at the 1939 World's Fair 
giving the opening day speech.)

He belonged to the Hasty Pudding Club at Harvard.
His favorite food was fried corn mush.

Margaret's Art

Recent work by Margaret, 14.

The Next Jobs and Gates...

Biopunks and biohackers---"Their movement has also produced a burgeoning class of entrepreneurs who see the kernels of billion-dollar ideas coming out of their biotech playtime....

In the future "the majority of manufacturing capital won't be spent on raw materials and machinery—rapidly reproducing cells can take care of that. In a sense, the cells will behave both as the factory and the product."

"Two of them, Joseph Jackson and Guido Núñez-Mujica, he writes, are prototyping the LavaAmp, a machine that copies DNA—and is the size of a cell phone. The LavaAmp plugs into a computer and is intended to retail for $100."

The Biopunk Movement

Fake Numbers, Real Lives

A few days ago I read the column by financial reporter Jim Jubak on fraudulent accounting at the Chinese corporation Longtop.
Supposedly audited by Deloitte....however....

”The first lesson is that the rules governing Chinese companies that list on U.S. exchanges have a huge loophole. In many cases local accounting firms that are affiliated with the Big Four accounting companies do the actual audits in China.”
So…local Chinese accountants were verifying phony numbers.
In how many major publicly traded Chinese corporations is this also going on, one wonders?

Today I’m reading the new book “Mao’s Great Famine” by Frank Dikotte
It is a tale of absolute, utter, and upspeakable madness. Between 1958 and 1962, Mao killed 45 million of his own people in an insane dash to boost steel production. Starvation, murder, abuse, ecological catastrophes, cannibalism…an entire nation turned into a death camp.
An interesting sidelight is that factory and agricultural managers everywhere soon began turning in phony numbers to their superiors to prove how well they were doing. Why? Obviously, to avoid, being purged (i.e. murdered) by their superiors for being right-wing deviationists. Or they tossed sand in the rice or put inferior materials into steel mills–anything to keep up the numbers.
Does this sound familiar?
Today China has Ghost Cities, high-speed railroads that can’t run high-speed trains, processed foods that are intentionally contaminated.
The Great Leap Forward finally collapsed under its own weight–too many were dying. One wonders if today’s Chinese miracle will collapse under the weight of its own phony numbers…

Get Happy

The new book


"In the mid-1980s, 120 men from San Francisco had their first heart attacks, and they served as the untreated control group in the massive Multiple Risk Factor Intervention

The 120 untreated controls...were of great interest to Gregory Buchanan, then a graduate student at Penn, and to me because so much was known about their first heart attacks: extent of damage to the heart, blood pressure, cholesterol, body mass, and lifestyle—all the traditional risk factors for cardiovascular disease. In addition, the men were all interviewed about their lives: family, job, and hobbies. We took every single “because” statement from each of their videotaped interviews and coded it for optimism and pessimism.

Within eight and a half years, half the men had died of a second heart attack, and we opened the sealed envelope. Could we predict who would have a second heart attack? None of the usual risk factors predicted death: not blood pressure, not cholesterol, not even how extensive the damage from the first heart attack. Only optimism, eight and a half years earlier, predicted a second heart attack—of the sixteen most pessimistic men, fifteen died. Of the sixteen most optimistic men, only five died....

"All studies of optimism and CVD (cardiovascular disease) converge on the conclusion that optimism is strongly related to protection from cardiovascular disease. This holds even correcting for all the traditional risk factors such as obesity, smoking, excessive alcohol use, high cholesterol, and hypertension. It even holds correcting for depression, correcting for perceived stress, and correcting for momentary positive emotions. It holds over different ways of measuring optimism. Most importantly, the effect is bipolar, with high optimism protecting people compared to the average level of optimism and pessimism, and pessimism hurting people compared to the average.

Why optimists are less vulnerable to disease. How might optimism work to make people less vulnerable and pessimism to make people more vulnerable to cardiovascular disease? The possibilities divide into three large categories:

  1.      Optimists take action and have healthier lifestyles. Optimists believe that their actions matter, whereas pessimists believe they are helpless and nothing they do will matter. Optimists try, while pessimists lapse into passive helplessness. Optimists therefore act on medical advice readily....Optimists may take better care of themselves.
         Even more generally, people with high life satisfaction (which correlates highly with optimism) are much more likely to diet, not to smoke, and to exercise regularly than people with lower life satisfaction. According to one study, happy people also sleep better than unhappy people.
         Optimists not only follow medical advice readily, they also take action to avoid bad events, whereas pessimists are passive: optimists are more likely to seek safety in tornado shelters when there is a tornado warning than pessimists, who may believe the tornado is God’s will. The more bad events that befall you, the more illness.

  2.      Social support. The more friends and the more love in your life, the less illness. ..People who have one person whom they would be comfortable calling at three in the morning to tell their troubles were healthier....Lonely people are markedly less healthy than sociable people.  Happy people have richer social networks than unhappy people, and social connectedness contributes to a lack of disability as we age. Misery may love company, but company does not love misery, and the ensuing loneliness of pessimists may be a path to illness.
  3.      Biological mechanisms. There are a variety of plausible biological paths. One is the immune system. The blood of optimists ha[ve] a feistier response to threat—more infection-fighting white blood cells...—than the pessimists. 
         Another possibility is common genetics: optimistic and happy people might have genes that ward off cardiovascular disease or cancer.
         Another potential biological path is a pathological circulatory response to repeated stress. Pessimists give up and suffer more stress, whereas optimists cope better with stress. Repeated episodes of stress, particularly when one is helpless, likely mobilize the stress hormone cortisol and other circulatory responses that induce or exacerbate damage to the walls of blood vessels and promote atherosclerosis."

Sunny Side

Thoughts on the future of the U.S. economy from Bob Doll, the chief equity strategist at BlackRock which manages $3.6 trillion in client money....

"Over the next 20 years, the U.S. work force is going to grow by 11%, Europe's going to fall by five, and Japan's going to fall by 17. This alone tells me the U.S. has a huge advantage over Europe and a bigger one over Japan for growth," he says.... "The long-term growth rate of any economy is the product of the change in the size of the work force multiplied by the productivity of the work force." 

* "In 1995 the U.S. produced roughly 25% of the world's goods and services and in 2010, after 15 years that included a tech bust, a terrorist attack and a housing bust that triggered a financial crisis, the U.S. was still producing that same 25% of global GDP."

* "I think the entrepreneurial spirit is alive and well in the U.S." He argues that we are still the source of technological innovation and home to the greatest universities and the most creative businesses. He sees promising advances in health care and alternative energy technologies. By alternative he doesn't necessarily mean "green" energy, but simply new power sources given that he expects oil prices to keep rising.

Nazis Tried to Teach Dogs to Talk

You can't make up these things....

"The Germans hoped to use the animals for the war effort, such as getting them to work alongside the SS and guard concentration camps to free up officers.
The bizarre 'Wooffan SS' experiment has come to light after years of painstaking research by academic Dr Jan Bondeson into unique and amazing dogs in history.
Dr Bonderson, from Cardiff University, visited Berlin to scour obscure periodicals to build up a bizarre - but true - account of Nazi ideas."

Friday, June 3, 2011

Septet Sermonettes

"John the Revelator"

"Oh, Pharoah"

guests at SECU Family House in Chapel Hill.

"Ship of Zion"

"Well Enough Alone"

Thursday, June 2, 2011


Complete instructions from Instructables.

High of 94 today.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Artist Pete was at his easel...

Artist Pete was at his easel
When round the bend sped trucker Cecil.
His cargo was ten thousand weasels,
All mean and achy with the measles.

Sleepy Cecil went to yawn
And when he woke his life was gone.
Smashing, crashing went the diesel
Mashing all ten thousand weasels.

And poor Pete? He fainted,
His canvas repainted—
Red spotted with diseas-ed weasels
And a dash of deceas-ed Cecil.

The lesson of this trucker's woe?
Lord, teach us mortals to go slow
Lest we be fleeting pigments
For some roadside Van Gogh.

Mad Bull's Lost Its Way

Not the stock market.

(Via Gizmodo)