Thursday, November 29, 2007

My Advice to US Presidential Candidate Hopefuls

The latest news reports out of Australia have Prime Minister elect, Kevin Rudd, appointing a former rock singer, Peter Garrett, as Environment Minister. This may not be a surprising move because Peter Garrett is not only known for his bald head and gangly dancing, but he is also known as a social activist. I suppose you could call him "new age". His very popular song about Aboriginal Land Rights (Beds Are Burning) is a case in point.

Now Peter Garrett is a Minister in the Federal Government.

I'm sure that Peter is delighted with his new-found power. Instead of getting out there and protesting, he can actually do something about the problems he has complained about through his music and the media.

Considering that Mr Garrett will manage Australia's slow push towards a more environmentally friendly society, he may have to change the name of his band from "Midnight Oil" to "Midnight Energy Efficient Renewable Resource". It doesn't quite have the same ring to it.

Enough about Peter Garrett. The truth is, he might actually do a good job. Once they reach positions of real responsibility, some celebrity politicians prove that they do have what it takes.

Governer Schwarzenegger is one example. I don't know much about US politics, but I really wanted him to lose the election so he could say, "I'll be back". But it turns out that he is doing a half-decent job. Either that or the respondents to the opinion polls are too scared to vote against "The Governator".

Jesse Ventura, former wrestling star, was less successful. Despite his election as Governor of Minnesota, his massive decline in popularity prompted him to decide not to run for re-election in 2002. At the time, Governor Ventura was involved in no less than 11 major controversies. Obviously "The Governing Body", as he was nicknamed, wasn't as scary as Arnie. Ventura now lives in Mexico.

So my advice to Hillary, Obama and Guiliani is that if you want to make it in politics, either become a tofu-eating, plant-loving vegetarian, or turn on the video camera and go beat someone up.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007


The art of popcorn-making is dying. I remember when my father passed on the secret of popcorn-making to me one night. We were standing by the stove and he was shaking the pot over the open oven flame.

Not too much oil.
Not too much heat.
Shake. Shake. Shake.
And the fourth secret, which I am not at liberty to disclose.

I was never much good at making popcorn, despite that I know the fourth secret. The last time I tried to make popcorn from corn-kernels over an open flame, I wasted a bag of popcorn and about an hour and a half. There were times, though, that I got it right and the corn popped perfectly. I dubbed myself "The Popcorn King". I seem to have lost the knack and thus the popcorn throne. My shake-the-pot technique has been found wanting - and then there's the fourth thing, which I don't do very well. But I can't tell you what that is.

So now I do what the majority of the popcorn-eating population do. Either I buy it ready-made from a popcorn vendor, or I use the microwaveable stuff.

The popcorn-vendor popcorn is not bad. The machine spits out a decent popcorn, but then it is a risky business. You have to be careful from whom you buy - and I doubt they do the fourth thing, which as you know by now, I can't share. Trust me, I doubt they do it. At least not in public.

Microwaveable popcorn is certainly the easiest method. It is quick, reliable and tasty. The manufacturers have hit on the right blends of fatty oils, preservatives and salt. You can buy the salt reduced or salt free varieties, but then, what's the point? Believe it or not, there is actually an art to making microwaveable popcorn. Well, I wouldn't go so far as to say that it's an art. It's more of a skill.

You see, the popcorn manufacturers can't test every microwave on the market, so the instructions are very general, "...on the highest setting for between 2 and 4 minutes". In my microwave, four minutes is popcorn murder. Complete incineration. Now, I don't know about you, but to me it's much more fun creating black, inedible kernels while standing over a stove furiously shaking the pot and doing the fourth thing (which I can't reveal) than it is standing there watching the popcorn burn inside the microwave.

You really have to have the knack, even when using the microwave. It is certainly a matter of trial and error. You have to learn how your microwave behaves. You have to feel what it feels. See what it sees. Understand its psyche and get inside its mind. A microwave is like a person, each one is different. If you understand one, it doesn't mean that you understand them all. My microwave, for example, is schizophrenic. Sometimes two minutes is enough. Sometimes it needs up to three. Four minutes is completely out of the question and even three can be totally lethal.

So I stand by the microwave. Watching. Listening. Feeling. And when my instinct tells me that the popcorn is ready, despite the heavy popping sounds, I quickly flick it off. Too long and the popcorn is toast. Not long enough and I end up with more crunchy, teeth-killing kernels than I would like. The timing has to be perfect to get the right ratio of edible popcorn to unpopped kernels.

But even when the microwave gets it right, it's a real shame I can't do that fourth thing.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

You Took the Music Right Out of My Mouth

Ever heard of Wierd Al Yankovich? He's a musical satirist. That means that he takes a popular tune and substitutes the original lyrics for his own, more amusing ones. For instance, one of his most famous victims is Michael Jackson's "Beat It" (renamed "Eat It").

One may be forgiven for thinking that the parody is often better than the original, which it often is.

Songs have two main parts: the music and the lyrics. As it turns out, the lyrics are secondary, it's the music that's important. You can take the words away from almost any song and you are left with the musical component, which often stands on its own.

But, believe it or not, there are people who deliberately break the rules. They retain the words and substitute the original music for their own. I'm talking about the following unfortunate invention: Rock Operas - operas sung to contemporary rock or heavy metal. Imagine if they decided to make a Rock-Opera out of Macbeth. Yep. That's all we need. 15 long-haired 17 year-old school dropouts belting out "Fair is foul, and foul is fair" to heavy base guitar and merciless crashing symbols. Just like William imagined.

It's difficult to fathom but if, for some reason, Rock or Metal Operas don't appeal, how about Hip-Hopera, which is actually a real word. Hip-Hopera is opera sung to Hip-Hop or Rap (officially "Rap Opera", although I prefer "Ropera" or "Rapopera")? Just imagine Macbeth portrayed by some gold-chained, 300 pound black dude rhyming out, "Out, out, brief candle! Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player that struts and frets his hour upon the stage and then is heard no more: it is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing."

"A tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing". How apt. However, I suppose it takes a special skill to massacre Macbeth in A minor.

According to Wikipedia, "The infinite monkey theorem states that a monkey hitting keys at random on a typewriter keyboard for an infinite amount of time will almost surely type a particular chosen text, such as the complete works of William Shakespeare." But whatever you do, don't give the monkey a guitar.

This blog post is in response to a challenge to write about Macbeth in song.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Mysteries To Befuddle Us

Apparently, one of the great mysteries of the 20th Century is "who really wrote JFK's famous "ask not what your country can do for you..." speech. I'll give you a few options. Was it:

a) John F. Kennedy himself
b) Theodore Sorensen, his chief speech writer
c) Something he overheard his janitor saying while cleaning the Presidential Bathroom
d) None of the above

If you guessed c) or d), you would be wrong, although, during the Cuban Missile Crisis, the janitor did say to Kennedy, "Our goal is not the victory of might, but the vindication of right", while freshening up the toilet bowl.

Guessing b) would put you in range, but not quite, according to author Thurston Clarke. Mr Clarke has written a book called "Ask Not", which delves into the mystery of who actually wrote that famous speech. He would have you believe that a) is the correct answer. The drama of the story behind the speech will probably be revealed in some multi-million dollar, star-studded Hollywood
blockbuster production. Oh, and sorry for the spoiler.

Other mysteries of the 20th Century include:
- What really happened aboard Apollo 13?
- What really happened aboard the Titanic?
- What is really in Area 51?

- What really happened to Amelia Earhardt?
- Who killed: JFK, The Red Barron, Marylin Monroe, Azaria Chamberlain, Jimmy Hoffa...

Well, we all know the answer to these questions: just watch the movie.

So many things seem to be mysterious about the 20th Century, it makes me wonder how much we were actually paying attention.

But now that we are in the 21st Century, it is time to start over and create new mysteries to befuddle pundits for years to come. And we have already got a doozy on our hands.

It seems that the biggest mystery of the 21st Century is currently being acted out. On the eve of Annapolis, I am yet to hear one convincing argument as to why Israel should negotiate anything with Fatah, who has no control over itself, let alone the "Palestinian People". I am yet to hear one logical point of view detailing how, given recent history, surrendering part of our capital city to the Arabs will bring Israeli citizens a moment of peace. I am yet to hear how experiences with past agreements and the disastrous consequences of the expulsion from Gaza on Southern Israel has proved that giving land to these terrorists will bring peace.

My prediction is that one of the biggest mysteries of the 21st Century will be: why Prime Minister Ehud Olmert was hell-bent on plunging his country towards suicide.

I hope I'll still be around to watch the movie.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Don't Google Yourself. You May Not Like What You Find.

I did a bit of egosurfing (otherwise referred to as vanity searching, egosearching, egogoogling, autogoogling or self-googling). I looked up "Karp" and didn't find much that thrilled me.

I then Wikipedia'd myself and found a whole bunch of Karps listed - from punk rock bands to mathematicians. Not that I was expecting an article about me, but I thought that I might find someone with the same family name that did something interesting, something I could relate to.

And then I saw him.

Robert Karp. This was the type of guy I can identify with. Bob lived from 1911 to 1975, but from 1938 to 1974 he was employed by the Walt Disney Company to write the scripts for the Donald Duck newspaper comic strips. Now, there you have it, a man after my own heart - he writes, doodles and gets paid for it. What a perfect job.

So now that Donald Duck is my favorite cartoon character, I just had to find out some interesting facts about him. I discovered that not only is Donald Duck a household name, but he, too, has a household of his own. Take a look at this article, it describes the Donald Duck family tree. Here is an excerpt:
Donald's father is Quackmore Duck, his mother is Hortense McDuck and his twin sister is Della Thelma Duck.

Huey, Dewey and Louie are the children of Della.

Donald was supposedly born in 1920 in Duckburg.

Hortense McDuck is Scrooge McDuck's sister. Quackmore Duck is the son of Elivira "Grandma" Duck and her husband Humperdink Duck.

Donald Duck is a descendant from both the McDucks and the Coots. According to the cartoon, Back To Long Ago, Donald appears to be the rebirth of the 16th century sailor, Pintail Duck.

Scrooge McDuck is the richest duck in the world. mentions that his full name is actually Donald Fauntleroy Duck. His parents must have been drunk at the time.

I never knew that people followed Donald Duck with such fanaticism. I mean, I know that Disney does all it can to market their products to kids (fan clubs and all that), but this sort of detail smacks of geeky Star Trek fans and their Trekkie clubs. I can think of almost nothing worse than attending a Donald Duck convention to be surrounded by a thousand ill-tempered, clumsy, speech-impaired Donald Duck look-alikes.

But Donald stood the test of time. If he were real, Donald would be 87 years old this year. I don't think I know of anyone else who could get away with not wearing pants for that long.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Living Your Life Vicarously Through Others

You are a parent who wants your kid to be a lawyer or a doctor, but they really want to be an accountant or an actuary. You are a coach pushing your team to be the best at their sport, but they just want to run around and get sweaty for fun.

That's because you are living your life vicariously through others.

I have no problem with that. In fact, I condone and encourage it. Just because you didn't make it in your dream profession or in your dream sport, it doesn't mean that you can't still live the glory. Just because you found yourself sitting behind a desk, day after day, shuffling papers or whatever, it doesn't mean that you can't feel the warm glow of the spotlight of victory on your shoulders, albeit through someone else.

In fact, living your life vicariously through someone else is the easiest way to become successful. All you have to do is pace the side of the pool and shout unintelligble instructions while your child swims lap after lap. They feel the pain, but their success is yours. You may have to obsess about your child's dance routines while she spins pirouette after pirouette. She may get dizzy, but her wins are your wins.

It takes far too much effort to put in all the blood, sweat and tears to become the best at something. Why work so hard when you can get someone to do it for you, but you still get to reap the benefits?

Some of you might think that I am trying to make my point by being sarcastic. You know, say the opposite of what I think and then make it too ludicrous to be true. But I'm not. I'm straight-faced serious. I sincerely belive that you can be all that you want to be, just by basking in someone else's glory.

Look, put it like this, living life vicariously through others is merely a form of outsourcing. If you need to get a project done but don't have enough time, outsource some of it to a consultant or expert, so you can get on with the other stuff. Living your life vicariously through others is no different. You don't have the time or resources to achieve your dreams, so get someone else to do it for you. Outsourcing is a legitimate method of attaining a goal that you cannot reach on your own. How can you argue with that?

So go on, don't hesitate! Sit down, have a cup of coffee and live your dreams.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Not Everyone Can Be a Superhero

I would make a bet that when we were kids we all wished, at some stage or other, that we could be someone special, like Superman, Spiderman or, heaven help us, even Batman. Sometimes those fantasies linger a little bit longer and live in the recesses of our minds during our teenage years, fading away slowly as we approach adulthood.

I seem to fall into some unclassified category of adults who still like to think about what life would be like if I found that I was, say, impervious to bullets. Oh, yeah! Fearlessly striding into battle, shooting at the bad guys with bullets bouncing off my chest as I single-handedly win the war. But I would also have to be able to fly as well because what is the point of, say, going to an Iranian nuclear site to blow it up if I couldn't get over the fence? I'd also have to have super-strength because even if they couldn't shoot me, all they would have to do is punch me in the nose and I'd be finished. Maybe I should add invisibility to my wish list because then I could sneak into Ahmadinejad's office and listen in on his secret conversations with evil terrorists. But what would be the point in that if I couldn't understand what they were saying? I'd have to be super-fluent in all languages, too. But I digress...

According to the Blue PLAY Survey (PDF), conducted by American Express in 2005, "More than a quarter of adults (26%) sometimes wish they could revert to their childhood years, saying life is too serious". That's only because they don't have powers of time-travel that can whisk them back to any point in time and change history to save the world from the forces of evil, all the while preserving the timeline they are sworn to protect, yet never revealing any of this to mortal man, destined to wander anonymously through time and space.

But not everyone can be a superhero. Just think about it for a moment - who would you save? The damsel on the outside ledge of a skyscraper is not there in distress. She is there because the ledge provides the best angle from which to zap the neighbor across the road with her magical zapping powers, while the neighbor uses his forcefield to deflect the zapping attack harmlessly into space. The hostages locked in an old vault deep beneath the earth are not gasping for breath as the oxygen supply slowly runs out and the time bomb sits in the corner ticking away. They are all busy morphing into their liquid form to slide under the door to freedom.

If we were all superheroes the world would be complete anarchy. As soon as someone says something that rubs the wrong way, there would be a fistfight with the two combatants destroying downtown Manhattan as they bounce off walls and do impossible acrobatic stunts off national monuments, even if they weren't in Manhattan to begin with. Imagine what would happen if your neighbor didn't like you. They wouldn't send their dog to eat your prize roses. They would rip your entire house from it's foundations and hurtle it mercilessly towards the sun. Meanwhile, in the Batcave, you would be refilling your Batman Utility Belt with Batgrenades and Batarangs which you would launch from your Batmobile in a drive-by attack on their home. Pow!

It would be an impossible situation. So, logically, I can only conclude that we can't all be superheroes. Some of you will just have to face the harsh reality that only us, a small percentage of the population, can leap tall buildings in a single bound. Now, out of my way while I practice landing.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Speed Demons

Recently, Wired Magazine Online ran a story about a man and his friend whose dream it was to beat the record of 32 hours and 7 minutes driving from New York to California. The title of the article was “Totally Illegal Cross-Country Sprint for Glory.” Their mission was to travel at crazy speeds along public roads through various states, risking their own and everybody else’s lives in the process (I suppose that’s the “for Glory” part).

The amount of planning it took to set this whole thing up is extraordinary. Police scanners and radar detection devices are only the start. 150 hours spent devising a series of complicated Excel spreadsheets detailing fuel stops, routes and detours proves their obsessive determination, not to mention the spotter plane they arranged to feed them information from the air about police, construction and other obstacles up ahead. Planned down to the very last detail, two men and their tricked-out BMW headed off to break a 20-year record.

My first reaction was to envy these people for their daring, bravery and skill. Then I thought about it and realized that they are actually probably two of the most stupid people on the planet. Firstly, the “independently wealthy” brains behind the operation poured real dollars into the project. I mean real dollars – top of the line GPS and bumper-mounted night vision cameras don’t come cheap. Once you have considered the obscene waste of money, think of the danger in which these two hooligans put the public. Traveling at an average of 90 miles an hour means, at times, exceeding the speed limit by 30, 40 or 50 miles an hour. Even the author of the article admits “For occasional spurts, 90 is not uncommon on the highway. But for a day and a half of barreling across the United States, 90 miles per hour is essentially insane”. Overtaking 16-wheeler trucks on a single-lane highway in inclement weather at double the legal speed limit is way past dangerous. It’s an open miracle that they didn’t kill anyone.

All that aside, the legal consequences of their actions are tremendous - two guys on a premeditated traffic-law-violating-extravaganza. Of course, they boasted about it to their friends and family. After all, what is the point of going through all that with nobody to greet you at the finish line? If their fancy equipment were to fail, what sort of defense are they going to be able to propose if they get caught? At one point the article points out that, “Sitting in the passenger seat, Maher now looks around at the piles of GPS units, the maps and plans and scanners, the squawking boxes. He's sitting in an electronic crime scene”. What could they possibly say at their trial to convince the judge to set them free or, at least, minimize their sentence? They planned and committed crimes and then had the adventure published in Wired Magazine. See you in 15 to 20, boys.

Yet, despite all of the potential dangers, the two rev-heads made it to their destination. Racing from New York to Santa Monica Pier in 31 hours and 4 minutes, they broke the record by 1 hour and 3 minutes. Congratulations.

And Wired Magazine has a lot to answer for. The article was written in such a way that it might possibly inspire others with lesser skills, equipment, backup and experience to attempt breaking the record. Heck, even these two maniacs shouldn’t have risked the lives of the driving public, despite their expertise. Look at some of the comments left by readers of this article, “This is really cool…” and “Records are meant to be broken” and “I did it in 35.5 hours back in 1991…” Video clips of the ride and a video-tour of the modified car only help to increase the romantic notion that breaking the law and avoiding the police is a cool thing.

Call me a wet-fish, but endangering lives just to beat the clock is not admirable. It’s foolish, irresponsible and reckless. “Wired” should not have run the story. At the very least they should have published it before the statute of limitations expired on the crimes committed by these two lunatics. Now that would have been sensational.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

The Product Every Supermarket Lacks

Go down to your local supermarket and take a look around. What is missing? Come on, think. What is it that you have always needed but could never find in your local grocery store? Any ideas?

Okay, I'll give it to you: ham or latke flavored soda.

Now you are kicking yourself because it was so obvious that you should have guessed it right off. CNN reports that this "holiday season" Jones Soda Co. in the United States is marketing a number of new flavors that have always been missing from the American diet, including ham flavored and latke flavored soda. Both kosher and caffeine free.

I don't know about the ham one, but I wonder about the latke flavor. Did the product development team fight about whether it should taste like store-bought, instant or home-made latkes? Also, do you have to drink through a thick layer of oil before reaching the actual soda? That could really put a damper on the fizz.

Just in case you were worried that the other traditional Channukah flavors were being left out, you should know that the Jones Soda Co. Channukah Pack includes all your favorites, such as Apple Sauce, Chocolate Coin and Jelly Doughnut flavors (while stocks last). Sounds...scrumptious.

According to the CNN article (and please, don't eat before reading the next bit), "For its contract to supply soda to Qwest Field, home of the Seattle Seahawks, Jones came up with Perspiration, Dirt, Sports Cream and Natural Field Turf. The company -- fortunately or unfortunately -- prides itself on the accuracy of the taste."

Now, I can see how they got it right for the ham and latke flavours, but perspiration flavor? Field testing must have been fun. Can you imagine the Jones Soda Co. executives around a large board-room table testing out the Perspiration flavour before it went to market?

"Glad you all could make it to this taste testing. I'm Bob from Product Development. We have here what we think is a winner for the Perspiration Flavor line of sodas. Okay, Jack, being the CEO you can go first. Drink from bottle number one and tell me what you think."

[Jack drinks]

"Um. It's good. A bit salty. I don't think my perspiration is that salty. What do you think, Jim?"

[Jim drinks]

"Yeah. I think Jack is right. His perspiration really isn't that salty."

News: Entertain Me!

To me, there is nothing like sitting on the couch with a nice big, hot cup of coffee and a newspaper. It's a mystery to me, but for some reason it can be very relaxing to be able to sip a steaming cuppa and read the news: usually morbid stuff like how many people died in what tragedy in which part of the world.

I remember that when I used to have a TV at home I would watch the news as a form of entertainment. Sure, I rationalized that I was "informing myself" about world events. But, get real, it was enjoyable to sit and munch on a cheese-topped cracker and listen to the newscasters report on things that only happen to other people.

It is for this reason, I also used to like listening to the news on the radio. Talk-back radio was especially fun because you got to hear regular people air their opinions on how leaders of foreign countries should shape their policies towards other foreign countries. When it comes to foreign affairs (especially someone else's), everyone is an expert.

The Internet has brought a whole new dimension to the news. If the regular news isn't entertaining enough, you can now amuse yourself with made-up news (ala The Onion) or with news of people doing stupid things (News of the Wierd).

One of my favorite books "Chronical of the 20th Century", is a compendium of newspaper-like articles spanning the 20th Century. The articles in the book include happenings from around the world, but have a focus on Australia and its involvement in world affairs. A marvelous gift from my parents-in-law.

There are serious articles about world wars, political upheavals, tragedies and famine. Then there are nostalgic pieces covering social, cultural and sporting issues (like the fact that Kaarlo Makinen of Finland won the gold medal for wrestling in the Bantamweight division in the 1928 Amsterdam Olympic Games). The inside front cover of the book is a map of the world as it stood in 1900. The inside back cover shows a map of the world as it stood in 1999. It's really quite interesting to see how events moved those lines around.

The great thing about this book is that you can pick it up at any point in the 20th Century and then just go with it and follow the articles through time. The articles themselves are not original newspaper articles. Each piece is written using the style and terminology of the day, with the knowledge of the time. It is absolutely fascinating. Break out the beer and sunflower seeds and I can sit for hours, and relive Israel's miraculous birth and survival or immerse myself in the Great Depression of the 1930s.

Whichever way you look at it, it's funny how news, no matter how stupid, inspiring or horrible, keeps us entertained. So next time there's an earthquake, tsunami, economic crisis or upset in international one-day cricket, boil the kettle, make yourself comfortable and enjoy yourself.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Science: That's Entertainment!

I think that the point of scientific, theory, conjecture and experimentation is for our entertainment pleasure. I can just see all the white-coated scientists with their rotten tomatoes at the ready, aiming for my good typing hand. How dare I minimise the importance of scientific wisdom! Think of all of the good that science has brought to the world! In one line I reduced to mockery millennia of effort and thought. Entertainment, indeed!

In the hope of causing a ruckus, I am prepared to defend my viewpoint - feel free to disagree. Take a look at this website. It lists the top 20 most bizarre scientific experiments of all time (note that they are only the top 20. This implies there are more!) Some of them are truly revolting, others are interesting and the rest are amusing. But they are all entertaining. I mean, reading them is fun. Science = Entertainment.

I know you are thinking that the scientific experiments on a website called "" can't possibly be serious. And even if they are, they don't really deal with hard-core scientific issues. But don't dismiss my theory just yet.

You can't get more mainstream-scientific than than the quintessential scientist, Albert Einstein.

Albert Einstein and his contemporaries, Boris Podolsky, and Nathan Rosen, created a thought experiment. A thought experiment is a theoretical experiment, all you have to do is postulate. You don't actually have to do anything. In the scientific world, this famous thought experiment is lovingly referred to as the Einstein-Podolsky-Rosen (EPR) Paradox. In a nutshell (according to Wikipedia), the EPR Paradox "challenged long-held ideas about the relation between the observed values of physical quantities and the values that can be accounted for by a physical theory". Or, even more simply, the EPR Paradox attempts to prove that the theory of Quantum Mechanics is not complete.

When you take into account all of the arguments, the EPR Paradox seems convincing: Quantum Mechanics is found lacking. Unfortunately, real experiments have cast doubts on the soundness of the EPR Paradox.

How in the universe (pun) can this possibly be "Entertainment"?

Well, it is entertaining on a few levels. Firstly, the wonderful irony is that Einstein's theory of relativity is one of the major pillars of Quantum Mechanics and Einstein found the whole philosophy of Quantum Mechanics difficult to stomach. That, in itself, is amusing. But even more so, the debate gave rise to the following two delightful quotes:

"I cannot believe that God would choose to play dice with the universe." - Albert Einstein

The rebuttal:

"God does not play dice with the universe; He plays an ineffable game of his own devising, which might be compared, from the perspective of the players (i.e., everybody), to being involved in an obscure and complex version of poker in a pitch-dark room, with blank cards, for infinite stakes, with a Dealer who won't tell you the rules, and who smiles all the time." -Pratchett and Gaiman's book "Good Omens".

If science can spawn magical quotes like these, then there is no doubt that the purpose of it all is for our entertainment.

(This post is in response to a challenge to write a blog about the Einstein-Podolsky-Rosen Paradox. How did I do?)

Keeping With Tradition

According to this Wikipedia article, in Nordic countries, only government-run vendors can sell alcohol because the government wants to crack down on alcohol consumption in countries where "binge drinking is an ancient tradition". Nice one.

This got me wondering about other interesting ancient traditions. How about: kissing the Blarney Stone. According to tradition, one who kisses the Blarney Stone is given the gift of eloquence. At his own risk, one must climb over the parapet of an Irish castle and hope that his friend doesn't let go as he lowers himself precariously over the edge to lay his lips on the Blarney Stone. One of two things can happen. Either he falls, in which case the myriad expletives flowing from his mouth in the seconds before death prove the tradition true; or he doesn't fall and when questioned as to his death-defying experience he answers, "Oh, blimey. Lost for words! Can't describe the feeling!", proving the tradition of eloquence somewhat false.

Military personnel are famous for "hazing" as a traditional way of welcoming new recruits. Come to think of it, kids do the same at school to the new guys. Taking advantage of the newbies is obviously a cross-cultural and cross-generational tradition.

Tevya, of "Fiddler on the Roof" fame, sang of keeping traditions. Nietzsche spoke of learning to change in order to avoid self-destruction. Tevye didn't self destruct and Nietzsche didn't sing, so I guess they are even.

I think that some traditions are not just nice things we do for sentimental reasons, but they are necessary to enable us to get on in life. Familiarity. Routine. Habit. For example, my traditional prayer before lighting a barbecue in public - that prayer is all that stands between me and a totally humiliating disaster; or only eating sunflower seeds while drinking beer. Is there any other way?

In the modern computer age, where this morning was a lifetime ago in technology years, I hereby resurrect my ancient tradition of blog posting. Hurrah!