Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Current Harvard Lectures Against Capitalism

Michael Sandel wrote a recent best-seller, "What Money Can’t Buy: The Moral Limits of Markets." Sandel is a philosopher who teaches to packed classes at Harvard University. Paul Farrell of Marketwatch has written a review of the book and Sandel’s presentation of his ideas. This blog entry is a summary of Farrell’s analysis, which frequently quotes Sandel. Here is Sandel’s essential contention:
"Without being fully aware of the shift, Americans have drifted from having a market economy to becoming a market society ... where almost everything is up for sale ... a way of life where market values seep into almost every sphere of life and sometimes crowd out or corrode important values, non-market values." Sandel argues that market values have come to dominate "…whole areas of life."
Markets to allocate health, education, public safety, national security, criminal justice, environmental protection, recreation, procreation, and other social goods unheard-of 30 years ago. Today, we take them largely for granted."
Examples ... for-profit schools, hospitals, prisons ... outsourcing war to private contractors ... police forces by private guards "almost twice the number of public police officers" ... drug "companies aggressive marketing of prescription drugs directly to consumers, a practice ... prohibited in most other countries."
More: Ads in "public schools ... buses ... corridors ... cafeterias ... naming rights to parks and civic spaces ... blurred boundaries, within journalism, between news and advertising ... marketing of ‘designer’ eggs and sperm for assisted reproduction ... buying and selling ... the right to pollute ... campaign finance in the U.S. that comes close to permitting the buying and selling of elections."
Sandel states that market dominance degrades a society through inequality and corruption:
First, inequality: "Where everything is for sale, life is harder for those of modest means." If wealth just bought things, yachts, sports cars, and fancy vacations, inequalities wouldn’t matter much. "But as money comes to buy more and more, the distribution of income and wealth looms larger."
Second, corruption: "Putting a price on the good things in life can corrupt them ... markets don’t only allocate goods, they express and promote certain attitudes toward the goods being exchanged." Also "corrupt the meaning of citizenship. Economists often assume that markets ... do not affect the goods being exchanged. But this is untrue. Markets leave their mark."
Sandel argues that the market mindset seeks to turn all social status and responsibilities into commodities:
But "not all goods are properly valued in this way ... Slavery was appalling because it treated human beings as a commodity, to be bought and sold at auction," failing to "value human beings as persons, worthy of dignity and respect; it sees them as instruments of gain and objects of use."
Nor do we permit "children to be bought and sold, no matter how difficult the process of adoption can be."
The same with citizenship ... jury duty ... voting rights ... "we believe that civic duties are not private property but public responsibilities. To outsource them is to demean them, to value them in the wrong way."
Sandel’s view is that a contest among values is in play, and that politicians are not generally competent at debating values:
Today’s "political argument consists mainly of shouting matches on cable television, partisan vitriol on talk radio and ideological food fights on the floor of Congress," says Sandel, so "it’s hard to imagine a reasoned public debate about such controversial moral questions as the right way to value procreation, children, education, health, the environment, citizenship and other goods."And capitalism "has exacted a heavy price ... drained public discourse of moral and civic energy."

Summarized from:


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Comments by the Blog Author
I think this is instructive because it shows the exact nature of popular American intellectual anti-capitalism.

Capitalism makes the rich richer and the poor poorer (although the dictatorships which still rule the poorest of the world’ nations may be most reponsible for such ongoing poverty).

Capitalism supposedly commodifies everything, even jury duty.

Capitalism is disorderly in a way that is ugly.

Capitalism drains civic discourse of moral and civic energy. I don’t know what this means. I suppose that it means that public discussions get right down to specific programs and specific costs involved. But moral energy – whatever that is – is inevitably reduced by free markets for goods and services?!

To me, Sandel’s argument boils down to a complaint that capitalism lacks any necessity for a benevolent and all-powerful leader. Capitalism is a system lacking any requirement for a Platonic benevolent dictator. There’s much less necessity for central planning. There’s no desire to prop up what is failing, and this creative destruction is inherently repugnant to a mindset given to planning and civic excellence.

Finally, Sandel is wrong about current American politics. The bank bailouts of 2008 were profoundly anti-capitalistic, yet both parties produced nominees who voted for TARP I in the U.S. Senate. The 2012 election saw again major parties favoring the bank bailouts and other favors. So, prima facie, capitalism as a philosophy is not in control of modern politics, elections, or power. Sandel’s whole argument presupposes an all powerful market force that simply doesn’t exist except as a fractured, internally divided set of adversarial parties – which is as it should be.

Monday, April 29, 2013

The 25 Biggest Male Turn-Offs

By mommyfriend | July 9th, 2012

Shoot us while we're down! According to YourTango, when a man smells a woman's tears he becomes less attracted and sexually aroused by her. And here we thought it was the snot.

Staking claim at his place 
Unless you're specifically invited to occupy a drawer, leave your scented candles at home.

Friendships with your exes
"  He's a great guy, it just didn't work out," you say. The whole "really great guy" thing is the problem.

Making plans for him 
Never make plans for him without checking first according to MSN Glo. (Note: Hacking into his calendar doesn't count as checking either.)

He doesn't care what color you dye your hair or which shoe looks better, just pick one and be done already, he's hungry.

Mothering him 
He loves you mothering him until he hates it. A little TLC is fine, but leave the mothering to the woman impossible to replace.

A little healthy competition is fun, sexy even. But you're a sulky sultress every time you don't win, you're no fun .

Being High Maintenance You might be Daddy’s Little Girl but in a relationship you’re suppose to be a grown ass woman.

Telling his secrets
OK, there are "secrets" and then there are secrets. You know the difference, now shhh! MSN Glo suggests the loyalty and confidentiality we keep will encourage continued communication.

Reading articles like this 
Oh, how he hates it when you read generalizations about him. Mostly because he knows they’re right.

Hating his sports 
If sports are his religion, let him have them without distraction. If you really want to know the rules of the game, ask him to explain when there's not a game on.

Being a little girl 
A bedroom filled with Sanrio is not sexy. I repeat, not sexy.

Perpetual lateness and putting yourself before others is an unattractive quality. eHarmony.com went so far as to say flakiness gives off the impression that he's a temporary fixture in your life.

Wearing too much makeup 
Unless you're a high fashion model or a drag queen, he thinks less is more.

Acting like you know better 
Stop judging his friends and family. He likes them, even if you don't.

Talking too much during sex 
Don't ask him what he's thinking (you don't want to know), and don't talk about the kids (he doesn't want to know, at least not right then anyway).

What do you mean constant nagging isn't a turn-on? We don't understand.

Sister, put down the frying pan. Take a walk, shop, eat, cry, or whatever you have to do to keep your special brand of crazy on the DL.

Giving ultimatums 
Strong-arm a man into marriage and he'll strong-arm you into the land of resentment according to Shy Magazine.

Making jokes at his expense  
A playful jab is probably OK when made in good spirit to the proper audience, but tread lightly.

Being a boring bedfellow 
He's more than willing to put in the work, but he doesn’t want you to just lay there. At least pretend you want to be there.

Playing therapist 
He knows you took Psych 101 in college because you told him a dozen times. Now just listen.

Drinking like a minor 
He came to party, not to babysit. Shy Magazine says once a lady gets sloppy, all bets are off.

Trying to change him 
We're all works in progress. Respect the man he is and the man he'll become even without your interference.

Having bad hygiene 
This is where both sexes meet on a united front. Take care of yourself, and not only when things start getting funky.



Sunday, April 28, 2013

Fraudulent Psychology Research -- unsurprisingly --

The New York Times today ran an excellent article on fraud in academic psychology research -- an absolutely perfect example of the integrity we can expect from government-paid social science research:


Saturday, April 27, 2013

Humane Job and Training Help


Back to School And Into a Job

By Bill Weir, Andrew Lampard, David Miller, David Kovenetsky
April 26, 2013

Critics assail "for-profit" colleges for overpricing their education and not preparing students for today’s job market. But one such school is shredding that label with its innovative tuition promise: If you don’t get a job, they don’t get paid.

The school is called App Academy, and it teaches novice developers how to code software. The intensive course, operational in New York City and San Francisco, lasts only nine weeks but crams in a gigantic curriculum. Students learn multiple software languages, like SQL and JavaScript, and solve rigorous problem sets.

"Our goal is to place students as software engineers," said Kush Patel, one of App Academy’s co-founders.

"We don’t care so much if they can do graph theory or algorithms or other obscure kinds of CS topics. We want to give them real-world skills they can use and actually get them a job."

Here’s how the tuition scheme works: Students study free-of-charge during the course’s duration. Upon gaining employment after graduation, alumni forward 15 percent of their annual base salary to App Academy, but not all at once.
Instead, that sum -- typically around $12,000 for the average graduate -- is deducted incrementally from an employed graduate’s bi-weekly pay check for six months. If a student isn’t hired within one year of completing App Academy, that student won’t be charged tuition.
But that hasn’t been a problem for App Academy: Ninety-three percent of its graduates have received offers or are working in tech jobs.

According to Patel, the average App Academy graduate earns $83,000 a year
– not bad for someone making a career change or who was previously unemployed. But the course is anything but easy. App Academy’s acceptance rate is less than 10 percent, and once admitted, students put in 80 to 90 hours a week in the lab.

As for who App Acacemy accepts, Patel says it takes students from every background. They just need to be fast learners and excellent problem solvers.

"Some of our most successful students in the class have been a yoga instructor and a rug salesman," he said.

Interested applicants should visit App Academy’s website to learn more. As for other for-profit schools, Patel suggested that they take notice of App Academy’s tuition model, as well.

"We just turned a profit," he said.


Friday, April 26, 2013

Positive Quiddity: Cary Grant

Cary Grant epitomizes positive quiddity for two reasons. The first is the remarkable stream of high quality performances on film from 1937 through 1941. He didn’t perform in a single forgettable light comedy during
that period.

The second reason is even more remarkable. Many ambitious young artists go to Hollywood to become famous and successful. Frequently they seek to become the persona they are portraying. Typically this results in a disastrous career and often an early death. From Fatty Arbuckle to John Barrymore to Veronica Lake to James Dean to Marilyn Monroe to singers like Jimi Hendrix and Curt Cobain, the reach for personality change and the goal of grace through fame do not work.

My observation is that only two became the personae they were portraying. An American radio sports announcer became the common sense Hollywood film cowboy he was portraying – Ronald Reagan. And a runaway acrobat became the Anglo-American gentleman he portrayed on film – Cary Grant.

It is an almost impossible accomplishment. The method and the mental habits remain mysteries.

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Cary Grant
(born Archibald Alexander Leach; January 18, 1904 – November 29, 1986) was an English film and stage actor, who later gained American citizenship. Known for his transatlantic accent, debonair demeanor and "dashing good looks", Grant is considered one of classic Hollywood’s definitive leading men.

Grant was named the second Greatest Male Star of All Time (after Humphrey Bogart) by the American Film Institute. He was known for both comedic and dramatic roles; his best-known films include The Awful Truth (1937), Bringing up Baby (1938), Gunga Din (1939), The Philadelphia Story (1940), His Girl Friday (1940), Arsenic and Old Lace (1944), Notorious (1946), The Bishop’s Wife (1947), To Catch a Thief (1955), An Affair to Remember (1957), North by Northwest (1959) and Charade (1963).
Nominated twice for the Academy Award for Best Actor (Penny Serenade and None but the Lonely Heart) and five times for a Golden Globe Award for Best Actor, Grant was continually passed over. In 1970, he was presented an Honorary Oscar at the 42nd Academy Awards by Frank Sinatra "for his unique mastery of the art of screen acting with the respect and affection of his colleagues".

An only child, Leach had an unhappy upbringing, attending Bishop Road Primary School. His mother had suffered from clinical depression since the death of a previous child. Her husband placed her in a mental institution, and told his nine-year-old son only that she had gone away on a "long holiday". Believing she was dead, Grant did not learn otherwise until he was 31 and discovered her alive in a care facility. When Grant was 10, his father abandoned him after remarrying and having a baby with his new young wife.

Grant was expelled from the Fairfield Grammar School in Bristol in 1918. After joining the "Bob Pender Stage Troupe", Leach performed as al stilt walker and traveled with the group to the United States in 1920 at the age of 16 on the RMS Olympic, on a two-year tour of the country. He was processed at Ellis Island on July 28, 1920.

When the troupe returned to the UK, he decided to stay in the U.S. and continue his stage career. During this time, he became a part of the vaudeville world and toured with Parker, Rand and Leach. Still using his birth name, he performed on the stage at The Muny in St. Louis, Missouri, in such shows as Irene (1931), Music in May (1931), Nina Rosa (1931), Rio Rita (1931), Street Singer (1931), The Three Musketeers (1931) and Wonderful Night (1931). Leach's experience on stage as a stilt walker, acrobat, juggler and mime taught him "phenomenal physical grace and exquisite comic timing" and the value of teamwork, skills which would benefit him in Hollywood.

After appearing in several musicals on Broadway under the name Archie Leach, Grant went to Hollywood in 1931. When told to change his name, he proposed "Cary Lockwood", the name of the character he had played in the Broadway show Nikki, based upon the recent film The Last Flight. He signed with Paramount Pictures, where studio bosses decided that the name "Cary" was acceptable, but that "Lockwood" was too similar to another actor's surname. Paramount gave their new actor a list of surnames to choose from, and he selected "Grant" because the initials C and G had already proved lucky for Clark Gable and Gary Cooper, two of Hollywood's biggest film stars.

Grant appeared as a leading man opposite Marlene Dietrich in Blonde Venus (1932), and his stardom was given a further boost by Mae West when she chose him for her leading man in two of her most successful films, She Done Him Wrong and I’m No Angel (both 1933). I'm No Angel was a tremendous financial success and, along with She Done Him Wrong, which was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Picture, saved Paramount from bankruptcy. Paramount put Grant in a series of unsuccessful films until 1936, when he signed with Columbia Pictures. His first major comedy hit was when he was loaned to Hal Roach’s
studio for the 1937 Topper (which was distributed by MGM).

The Awful Truth
(1937) was a pivotal film in Grant's career, establishing for him a screen persona as a sophisticated light comedy leading man. As Grant later wrote, "I pretended to be somebody I wanted to be and I finally became that person. Or he became me. Or we met at some point." Grant is said to have based his characterization in The Awful Truth on the mannerisms and intonations of the film's director, Leo McCarey, whom he resembled physically. As writer/director Peter Bogdanovich noted, "After The Awful Truth, when it came to light comedy, there was Cary Grant and then everyone else was an also-ran."
The Awful Truth
began what The Atlantic later called "what would be the most spectacular run ever for an actor in American pictures." During the next four years, Grant appeared in several classic romantic comedies and screwball comedies, including Holiday (1938) and Bringing Up Baby (1938), both opposite Katharine Hepburn; The Philadelphia Story (1940) with Hepburn and James Stewart; His Girl Friday (1940) with Rosalind Russell; and My Favorite Wife (1940), which reunited him with Irene Dunne, his co-star in The Awful Truth. During this time, he also made the adventure films Gunga Din with Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. and Only Angels Have Wings (both 1939) with Jean Arthur and Rita Hayworth, and dramas Penny Serenade (1941), also with Dunne, and Suspicion (1941), the first of Grant's four collaborations with Alfred Hitchcock.
Grant remained one of Hollywood's top box-office attractions for almost 30 years. Howard Hawks said that Grant was "so far the best that there isn't anybody to be compared to him". David Thomson called him "the best and most important actor in the history of the cinema."

Grant was a favorite of Hitchcock, who called him "the only actor I ever loved in my whole life". Besides Suspicion, Grant appeared in the Hitchcock classics Notorious (1946), To Catch a Thief (1955) and North by Northwest (1959). Biographer Patrick McGilligan wrote that, in 1965, Hitchcock asked Grant to star in Torn Curtain (1966), only to learn that Grant had decided to retire after making one more film, Walk, Don’t Run (1966); Paul Newman was cast instead, opposite Julie Andrews. Producers Broccoli and Saltzman originally sought Cary Grant for the role of Jamers Bond in Dr. No, but discarded the idea as Grant would be committed to only one feature film, and the producers decided to go after someone who could be part of a franchise.

In the mid-1950s, Grant formed his own production company, Granart Productions, and produced a number of films distributed by Universal, such as Operation Petticoat (1959), Indiscreet (1958), That Touch of Mink (co-starring with Doris Day, 1962), and Father Goose (1964). In 1963, he appeared opposite Audrey Hepburn in Charade. His last feature film was Walk, Don't Run three years later, with Samantha Eggar and Jim Hutton.

Grant was the first actor to "go independent" by not renewing his studio contract, effectively leaving the studio system, which almost completely controlled what an actor could or could not do. In this way, Grant was able to control every aspect of his career, at the risk of not working because no particular studio had an interest in his career long term. He decided which films he was going to appear in, he often had personal choice of the directors and his co-stars and at times even negotiated a share of the gross revenue, something uncommon at the time. Grant received more than $700,000 for his 10% of the gross for To Catch a Thief, while Hitchcock received less than $50,000 for directing and producing it.

Grant was nominated for two Academy Awards, for Penny Serenade (1941) and None But the Lonely Heart (1944), but never won a competitive Oscar; he received a special Academy Award for Lifetime Achievement in 1970. Accepting the Best Original Screenplay Oscar in 1965, Father Goose co-writer Peter Stone had quipped, "My thanks to Cary Grant, who keeps winning these things for other people." In 1981, Grant was accorded the Kennedy Center Honors.

Grant poked fun at himself with statements such as, "Everyone wants to be Cary Grant—even I want to be Cary Grant," and in ad-lib lines—such as in the film His Girl Friday, saying, "I never had so much fun since Archie Leach died". In Arsenic and Old Lace (1944) a gravestone is seen bearing the name Archie Leach.

Cary Grant retired from the screen at 62 when his daughter Jennifer was born, in order to focus on bringing her up and to provide a sense of permanency and stability in her life.
In the late 1960s, he accepted a position on the board of directors at Faberge. By all accounts this position was not honorary, as some had assumed; Grant regularly attended meetings and his mere appearance at a product launch would almost certainly guarantee its success. The position also permitted use of a private plane, which Grant could use to fly to see his daughter wherever her mother, Dyan Cannon, was working. He later joined the boards of Hollywood Park, the Academy of Magical Arts (The Magic Castle, Hollywood, California), Western Airlines (now Delta Air Lines) and MGM.

In the last few years of his life, Grant undertook tours of the United States in a one-man show, A Conversation with Cary Grant, in which he would show clips from his films and answer audience questions. Grant was preparing for a performance at the Adler Theatre in Davenport, Iowa, on the afternoon of November 29, 1986, when he sustained a cerebral hemorrhage (he had previously suffered a stroke in October 1984). He died at 11:22 p.m. in St. Luke’s Hospital at the age of 82. The bulk of his estate, worth millions of dollars, went to his fifth wife, Barbara Harris, and his daughter, Jennifer Grant.


Thursday, April 25, 2013

Cary Grant's Last Performances

Very late in life, Cary Grant was convinced to perform a live, one-man show at cities throughout America. The main feature of the program would be his answering questions, live, from the audience. The article below represents the reaction of an astute man who attended this show with his wife.
An Evening with Cary Grant
by James J. Asher
PO Box 1102
Los Gatos, CA 95031
"Let’s go early," I told my wife, "maybe an hour ahead so that we can get a front row seat to see Cary Grant in person." How naive can one be? When we arrived, the line snaking into the auditorium was already a block long. I looked around. There were people of all ages — many had flown in from as far away as Japan and Australia just to spend an evening with Cary Grant.

Every plush red seat in the huge triple-balcony auditorium at DeAnza College in Cupertino, California was occupied by an excited fan. At regular intervals along the aisles that led to the stage a microphone was positioned. The stage was empty except for a microphone next to a tall stool and a small table on which there was a pitcher of ice water and a glass. Behind these items was a huge pull-down screen for an 8-minute montage of memorable film clips that would be used to present Mr. Grant.

Before he appeared, we discovered that Cary Grant was Archibald Alexander Leach born Sunday January 18, 1904 in Bristol, England. The setting was the Edwardian age of gas-lit streets, horse-drawn carriages, trams and four-masted schooners. His father, Elias James Leach

He left school to perform in English music halls where he mastered the acrobatic art of making people laugh by slipping backward and taking a fall — a skill that he would use later in many movie comedies.

Yes, he was tall, dark and terribly handsome in those early films but when he came on stage, he was even better looking at eighty. Tall, lean and tanned with silver hair, black horn rimmed glasses, and impeccably dressed in a dark suit. I thought of the critic who marveled "at the Cary Grant clothes, all worsted, broadcloth and silks, all rich and underplayed, like a viola ensemble."

The format was simple. Anyone in the audience was invited to step up to a microphone in the aisle and ask a question. The first person was a woman with red hair and a colorful scarf.

"Cary," she started and then paused. "May I call you Cary?"

"If it pleases you," the mellifluous voice floated into the audience, "by all means." When I heard him speak, I felt like Clint Eastwood who said to a friend after he met Cary Grant at a party, "Oh, my God. He actually talks like that!"

The woman retreated with, "Mr. Grant, you look so elegant in the way you dress. The young men of today look like they’re on their way to a Halloween party. Why can’t they dress like you?"

There was a dramatic pause before he spoke. "I appreciate your comment about my clothing. But you know, in any relationship between a man and a woman, at some point, the clothes must come off." Laughter filled the auditorium. He had this audience in his pocket.

Now someone from the audience was standing in each aisle behind every microphone waiting patiently to ask a question.

The next question: "Mr. Grant, how tall are you?" No detail about this man was uninteresting to his fans. He once complained to a reporter, "Why is it not sufficient to see and enjoy the performance of a great entertainer or athlete and then leave him or her alone?" The answer, of course, is that the fan and the celebrity have a special and peculiar one-way friendship. The celebrity is an intimate friend to the fan who, unfortunately, is a stranger to the celebrity.

Straightaway without missing a beat, Cary Grant responded to the "How tall are you?" question with, "Six feet and a half inch tall."

The moderator pointed to a person in the balcony. "Mr. Grant, what is it like being Cary Grant?"
As he spoke, I could hear the stand-up comics imitating him with, "Judy! Judy! Judy!" — a line that never appeared in any of his movies. What he actually said was, "Susan! Susan! Susan!"

His answer: "Everyone wants to be Cary Grant. Even I want to be Cary Grant. Let me expand a bit. I sense that you may feel that I am free of problems. Let me assure you that I have the same anxieties and insecurities as anyone in this auditorium — maybe more."

A follow-up question from a balding man with rimless glasses: "Why is someone as famous and wealthy as Cary Grant traveling to different places speaking to audiences?"

"To build my self-assurance."

A handsome middle aged woman with perfectly quaffed grey hair was speaking. "Mr. Grant, do you remember a movie you made called, North by Northwest?"

"Yes. Yes I do."

"Mr Grant, you threw yourself on the ground as the crop duster swooped down on you."

"Yes. I remember."

"Mr. Grant, in the next scene, the soil spots on your suit were in a different location."

"I beg to differ with you. The studio provided a dozen identical suits to make that movie, but we had a special person on the set to pay close attention to those details."

"No, Mr. Grant," the woman insisted. "The soil spots shifted from one scene to the next."

"Well," Cary cleared his throat, "how are you so sure?"

"Because," she replied, "I have seen the movie eighteen times."

Cary bowed his head in a gesture of respect to the woman and said, "You know, you are probably right. I have a print at home. After I leave here, I’m going home and look at it again."

A high school student with auburn hair in a pony tail and wearing a letter sweater pleaded: "Mr Grant, please come back and make another movie. Please..." The audience supported her request with enthusiastic applause. This is remarkable for a man who was almost excluded from film work when a talent scout viewing Grant’s first screen test jotted down this comment: "bowlegged and his neck is too thick." It was almost as devastating as the reaction to Fred Astaire’s first screen test: "Can’t act. Slightly bald. Can dance a little."

"I am honored that you want me to make another movie," Cary said. "But you know, watching movies is fun, but making them is hard work, especially for the lead actors.

"Let me give you an illustration. Perhaps you remember the movie Notorious. In it there is a close-up of me in a love scene with Ingrid Bergman. When you saw it, you thought I was whispering tenderly to one of the most beautiful women in the world. But actually I was delivering the lines to a fat little man sitting in a canvas folding chair by the name of Alfred Hitchcock. Can you imagine how difficult that was?"

Hitchcock, the Leonardo Da Vinci of the suspense film noir, thought of Cary Grant as an actor’s actor — considerate, pleasant to work with and able to make creative innovations that improved the appeal of any movie. Hitch once commented to an interviewer, "...Look at me. Do you think I would have chosen to look like this. I would have preferred to have played a leading man in life. I would have been Cary Grant."

Grant continued,"...and it is expensive making a movie — more expensive than making any other product. Every mistake, especially by a lead player, may cost a hundred thousand dollars. For example, in the movie I just mentioned, Hitch came to me and said, ‘Cary, in the next scene I would like you to take a sip from the glass of water on the table next to you before you speak your lines.’

"I could hear a gasp from the crew that surrounded the set. The sound man came over to me and implored,
‘Cary, please don’t make a slurping sound because it will be magnified on the sound track and ruin the scene. Also, be careful to set the glass gently on the table without a sound.’ The lighting technician told me,
‘Cary, please hold your arm at this angle when you pick up the glass so that we don’t get a shadow.’

"Keeping all those directions in mind, my task was to deliver a speech that was natural and believable to you. Ah..., indeed it is hard work which I have done for many, many years. I don’t want the responsibility any more. But I do thank you for your request."

"Mr Grant," a person in her early thirties in a professional looking pin-striped suit was speaking. "What is your five year plan?" This is a young person speaking to a man approaching eighty.

"My five year plan is to continue breathing in and out."

The moderator asked the last question. "Cary, is there a question that was not asked that you would like to answer?"

"Well, yes. No one asked me about the production I am most proud of. And that would be the birth of my daughter." The applause from the audience, who were now on their feet, was deafening. The man who, like the rest of us, would like to be Cary Grant, was only with us for a few hours, but if he was willing, I for one would have stayed the entire night to listen.

A few years later, headlines flashed around the world reported the passing of Cary Grant. About death, Cary said,"...I don’t dwell on it...but I don’t want to attract it too soon."


Some quotes in this article are from "Cary Grant, A Class Apart" by Graham McCann, Columbia University
Press, New York.

Your comments on this article are welcomed by the writer, who can be contacted at: tprworld@aol.com

Link for this article:


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from the blog author:

Best books about Cary Grant:

Evenings with Cary Grant
by Nancy Nelson (who convinced CG to do the Evening with Cary Grant series of lectures with Q&A)
Grant's daughter wrote a book, Good Stuff: A Reminiscence of my Father, Cary Grant

and his ex-wife (Dyan Cannon) wrote Dear Cary: A Memoir

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

The Quotable Cary Grant

[responding to a wire from a reporter inquiring, "How old Cary Grant?"] Old Cary Grant fine. How you?

I have spent the greater part of my life fluctuating between Archie Leach and Cary Grant, unsure of each, suspecting each.

Everybody wants to be Cary Grant. Even I want to be Cary Grant.

[About Burt Reynolds] As well as being my, and the world's favorite light comedian, Burt is a very
considerate and thoughtful man.

My screen persona is a combination of Jack Buchanan, Noel Coward and Rex Harrison. I pretended to be somebody I wanted to be, and, finally, I became that person. Or he became me.

I improve on misquotation.

Divorce is a game played by lawyers.

To succeed with the opposite sex, tell her you are impotent; she can't wait to disprove it.

The only really good thing about acting is that there's no heavy lifting.

[1970 Honorary Oscar acceptance speech] You know that I may never look at this without remembering the quiet patience of directors who were so kind to me, who were kind enough to put up with me more than once, some of them even three or four times. I trust they and all the other directors, writers and producers and my leading women have forgiven me for what I didn't know. You know that I've never been a joiner or a member of any particular social set, but I've been privileged to be a part of Hollywood's most glorious era.

My formula for living is quite simple. I get up in the morning and I go to bed at night. In between, I occupy myself as best I can.

My father used to say, "Let them see you and not the suit. That should be secondary."

Mostly, we have manufactured ladies--- with the exception of Ingrid [Ingrid Bergman], Grace [Grace Kelly], Deborah [Deborah Kerr] and Audrey [Audrey Hepburn].

It takes 500 small details to add up to one favorable impression.

Actors today try to avoid comedy because if you write a comedy that's not a success, the lack of success is immediately apparent because the audience is not laughing. A comedy is a big risk. This is a tremendously costly business and to put money into a picture that might not come off -- oh, that's pretty risky.

This, I love. I enjoy talking back and forth to people. You know, otherwise, I wouldn't get to meet the people.

I tell you, in films, one doesn't really meet the audience. You don't get the impact or spirit of your audience, whereas when you are out in the public, you do.'

I've often been accused by critics of being myself on-screen. But being oneself is more difficult than you'd suppose.

It's important to know where you've come from so that you can know where you're going. I probably chose my profession because I was seeking approval, adulation, admiration and affection.

[on Irene Dunne] Her timing was marvelous. She was so good that she made comedy look easy. If she'd
made it look as difficult as it really is, she would have won her Oscar.

I know they nicknamed us "Cash and Cary", but I never asked Barbara Hutton for a penny. I never married a woman for money, that's the God's truth. I may not have married for very sound reasons, but money was the least of them.

[on his many marriages] It seems that each new marriage is more difficult to survive than the last one. I'm rather a fool for punishment--I keep going back for more, don't ask me why.

[Charles Chaplin] is waiting a long time at a trolley car stop. He's the first in line of what turns out to be a huge crowd. The trolley finally arrives, he's the first one on, but then the crowd behind him surges through the door and pushes him right through the door on the other side. And that's a lot like what Hollywood is like. When you're a young man, Douglas Fairbanks Sr. is driving. Wallace Beery is the conductor, and Charles Chaplin's got a front-row seat. You take your seat, and back behind you is Gary Cooper. He has got his long feet stuck out in front of one of the exit doors, and people keep tripping over him and onto the street. Suddenly a young man named Tyrone Power gets on. He asks you to move over. You make a picture with Joan Fontaine. You think you do a good job, but she wins the Oscar, and you get nothing. And pretty soon more and more people get on, it's getting very crowded, and then you decide to get off. When you get off the trolley, you notice that it's been doing nothing but going around in circles. It doesn't go anywhere. You see the same things over and over. So you might as well get off.

[on Katharine Hepburn] She was this slip of a woman and I never liked skinny women. But she had this thing, this air you might call it, the most totally magnetic women I'd ever seen, and probably ever seen since. You had to look at her, you had to listen to her, there was no escaping her.

For more than thirty years of my life I had smoked with increasing habit. I was finally separated from the addiction by Betsy [wife Betsy Drake], who, after carefully studying hypnosis, practiced it, with my full permission and trust, as I was going off to sleep one night. She sat in a chair near the bed and, in a quiet, calm voice, rhythmically repeated what I inwardly knew to be true, the fact that smoking was not good for me; and, as my conscious mind relaxed and no longer cared to offer a negative thought, her words sank into my subconscious; and the following day, to my surprise I had no need or wish to smoke. Nor have I smoked since. Nor have I, as far as I know, replaced it with any other harmful habit.

Everyone tells me I've had such an interesting life, but sometimes I think it's been nothing but stomach disturbances and self-concern.

I think making love is the best form of exercise.

I'd like to have made one of those big splashy Technicolor musicals with Rita Hayworth.

There are only seven movie stars in the world whose name alone will induce American bankers to lend money for movie productions, and the only woman on the list is Ingrid Bergman.

[1980] I have nothing against gays, I'm just not one myself.

[1965] I don't like to see men of my age making love on the screen. Being a father will make me more free than I have ever been. It will be a great experience. I can't wait.

[1961] There is no doubt I am aging. My format of comedy is still the same as ever. I gravitate toward scripts that put me in an untenable position. Then the rest of the picture is spent in trying to squirm out of it. Naturally, I always get the girl in the end. It may appear old-fashioned. There seems to be a trend toward satirical comedy, like The Apartment (1960). Perhaps it is because young writers today feel satirical living in a world that seems headed for destruction.

I can't portray Bing Crosby. I'm Cary Grant. I'm myself in that role. The most difficult thing is to be yourself - especially when you know it's going to be seen immediately by 300 million people.

The secret of comedy is doing it naturally under the most difficult circumstances. And film comedy is the most difficult of all. At least on stage you know right away if you're getting laughs or not. But making a movie, you have no way of knowing. So you try to time the thing for space and length and can only hope when it plays in the movie theaters months later that you have timed the thing right. It's difficult and it takes experience. I'll always remember the great actor, A.E. Matthews, who said on his death bed, "Dying's tough--but not as tough as comedy".

[Charles Chaplin] has given great pleasure to millions of people, and I hope he returns to Hollywood.
Personally, I don't think he is a Communist, but whatever his political affiliations, they are secondary to the fact that he is a great entertainer. We should not go off the deep end.

[on Betsy Drake] Betsy was a delightful comedienne, but I don't think Hollywood was ever really her milieu. She wanted to help humanity, to help others help themselves.

[1981] I have no plans to write an autobiography, I will leave that to others. I'm sure they will turn me into a homosexual or a Nazi spy or something else.

[1983] I asked James Stewart recently if he had thought about dying. He said he hadn't at all. But I have.

My intention in taking LSD was to make myself happy. A man would be a fool to take something that didn't make him happy. I took it with a group of men, one of whom was Aldous Huxley. We deceived ourselves by calling it therapy, but we were truly interested in how this chemical could help humanity. I found it a very enlightening experience, but it's like alcohol in one respect: a shot of brandy can save your life, but a bottle of brandy can kill you.

If I had known then what I know now, if I had not been so utterly stupid, I would have had a hundred children and I would have built a ranch to keep them on.

Look at it this way, I've always tried to dress well. I've had some success in life. I've enjoyed my success and I include in that success some relationships with very special women. If someone wants to say I'm gay, what can I do? I think it's probably said about every man who's been known to do well with women. I don't let that sort of thing bother me. What matters to me is that I know who I am.

I have no rapport with the new idols of the screen, and that includes Marlon Brando and his style of Method acting. It certainly includes Montgomery Clift and that God-awful James Dean. Some producer should cast all three of them in the same movie and let them duke it out. When they've finished each other off, James Stewart, Spencer Tracy and I will return and start making real movies again like we used to.

When a young fellow like Louis Jourdan moves in on your field, you take stock of your assets and liabilities. It make you nervous.

Hollywood is very much like a streetcar. Once a new star is made and comes aboard, an old is edged out of the rear exit. There's room for only so many and no more.

[on aging] When people tell you how young you look, they are also telling you how old you are.

[on Ingrid Bergman] She wears no make-up and has big feet and peasant hips, yet women envy her ability to be herself.

[on Marilyn Monroe, his co-star in Monkey Business (1952)] She seemed very shy, and I remember that when the studio workers would whistle at her, it seemed to embarrass her.


Tuesday, April 23, 2013

The Insidious Power of Irrationality

Introduction by the blog author:
Sway: The Irresistible Pull of Irrational Behavior
is a short book written without jargon on how rational, professional people get pulled off course to make irrational – and sometimes life-threatening – decisions.
I recommend this book because I am something of a logician. I’ve studied reason and logic in detail ever since I was a teenager. And yet there were some irrational decision in the book that even I stumble into!
Below is a good review of the book by a reader who posted a summary on Amazon.com:

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4.0 out of 5 stars
This book keeps its promise, January 31, 2013 By YoyoMitch
This review is from: Sway: The Irresistible Pull of Irrational Behavior
Frequently, a book will promise to shed light on a behavior that is universal but rarely examined; now and again will an author achieve such a stated goal, but few authors do so as well as the Brafman brothers in this present book. From the opening paragraph the authors draw the reader into discovering some of the reasons intelligent, wise, well-trained adults do some very irrational things. They achieve this goal by siting research, using appropriate real-life illustrations and connecting with the reader by speaking of events that are common to everyone's experience.

Not long ago, Bill Engvall, a stand-up comedian, added to his fame by offering a sign for to those who made "stupid" decisions. What made Mr. Engvall's routine so funny is everyone who heard his stories could relate on a personal level (because they had "known someone (never oneself) who had did that").

This book offers some insight into just how those events occur with such frequency. Things as seemingly innocuous as wanting to be on time, arbitrary values, even a single word can influence a decision into becoming one that is, upon reflection, irrational, illogical and (often) dangerous. (For many of us, those bad decisions could have been prefaced with, "Hey, Y'all, watch what I can do!") Becoming aware of these influences will, hopefully, give the reader the awareness to decrease the "sway" those influences have in their life.

This is an easily read, easily understood, well-written book. It would be fitting to be read by anyone who: works with people, has management responsibility or is interested in exploring the age-old question of "how come people do the things they do." It is a scholarly work produced for a mass readership (the concepts presented are stated in common language, clearly explained) and contains no adult language or situations. I marked up the copy lent to me (oops!), anyone reading it will be well served to buy their own copy.

As a therapist, I found the fifth chapter (entitled "The Bipolar Epidemic and the Chameleon Effect") of this book to be most helpful. Therein, the authors address the power a diagnosis has on those who are diagnosed, those who treat them and the outcomes to be expected once a diagnosis has been named. One cannot "throw the baby out with the bath" when it comes to diagnosis, but those of us who weld the "power" to name another's affliction must hold that responsibility in greater regard for the welfare of the client, not the convenience of an insurance carrier. The authors did help me to better understand the dramatic increase in the diagnosis of Bipolar Disorder in the last 10 years (here is a hint, easing the requirements for the diagnosis and money became a part of the equation).

As a theologian, this book reminded me of the power words have in the living of life. I have witnessed how religion has been used as a weapon against the defenseless, a weight on the oppressed, a burden on the broken. I have also witnessed how faith can bring healing, hope, assurance, freedom and acceptance. Those who desire to be transformed, to be "swayed" in a direction that is redemptive, can do so, in part, by remembering Paul's words to the Philippians (4:8) where he urges God's people to live with "whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable" at the forefront of our minds. This will not eliminate all that could "sway" us into irrational behavior, but it will give us cause to rise to a level of expectation, action and behavior that will limit the possible effects of that sway.


Monday, April 22, 2013

Vital New Technologies

Ten Technologies That Will Shape the Future Future Technology
Posted On Real Clear Technology April 22, 2013

The famed physicist Freeman Dyson once remarked that technology is "perhaps the greatest of God's gifts. It is the mother of civilizations, of arts and of sciences."

Whatever your views on technology's divine origin, it's unquestionable that Dyson's technological reverence
is well deserved. Today we see the fruits of technology in the computers we slip into our pockets, the cars we drive, the wars we fight, the medicine we consume and the work we do (or no longer do).

Technology invariably shapes and directs our future. To be aware of technology trends is to peek, however obliquely, at the future of human civilization. We've identified ten technologies that we believe will have a profound impact on our future. Some are already shaping society today. Others are poised to.

Given the pace of innovation in today's world, it's a given that unheard of technologies of equal or potentially greater significance than those canvassed here lie just around the corner. But for now, these are ten to watch.

Biometric ID
As more of our life migrates online and onto digital devices we carry with us everywhere, digital security has become an increasingly pressing concern. Unfortunately, the first line of digital defense -- the password -- has proven woefully inadequate. Many of us create passwords that are too obvious (the most popular password is "password") and reuse the same password across multiple accounts, leaving more of our digital life vulnerable.

That's where biometric identification comes in. Rather than a guessable series of numbers and letters, you can secure your files, bank accounts and personal electronics using your own biology as the password. From retina scans to finger-print readers, biometric identification technology is steadily advancing. Rumors suggest the next iPhone could offer a finger print scanner.

But the promise of biometric identification ranges far beyond simply creating nearly air-tight security for our personal lives -- it could be a vital law enforcement tool. From identifying people by their smell, voice or face, law enforcement agencies around the world are pouring billions into tools that can analyze large numbers of people by unique biological identifiers. It could, in theory, cut down on the number of wrongful arrests. In the wrong hands, it could also represent a potent violation of privacy.

Driverless Cars
Any sci-fan worth his or her salt has dreamed of a flying car. While you shouldn't hold your breath for one anytime soon, you can look forward to the advance of the driverless car. Just as pilotless drones have revolutionized warfare -- taking pilots out of danger -- cars that can operate completely independently made significant strides in 2012, led by Google's driverless models.

Three states have approved "licenses" for driverless car testing in 2012 and more car companies (like Volkswagon) are working on the technology. Google has already demonstrated the technology in a remarkable experiment -- placing a blind man behind the wheel while the car took him on errands, including a stop through a drive-through. The company expects to see such vehicles available to the public in five years. Before then, including in 2013, we'll see larger steps toward "autonomous driving" - such as improved sensors in cars for parking and avoiding collisions, plus a greater ability to "auto drive" while on the highway.
The longer term promise of driverless cars -- like 3D printers -- is profound and in some non-obvious ways.

The most obvious is, of course, you'll no longer have to drive -- which means lethal past times such as drunk or distracted driving will literally disappear, saving tens of thousands of lives. Our roads will be safer. You won't have to worry about finding a parking spot, either. Simply get out of the car and let it drive until it finds one and then send it a text when you're ready to leave a venue for the pick up.

But there's something else that will follow with driverless cars: artificial intelligence. As N.Y.U professor Gary Marcus has pointed out, cars will need to make split second, life-or-death decisions ("do I risk the driver's life by swerving away from this school bus full of children?") to function properly. Grappling with these issues will not only advance the driverless car but artificial intelligence more generally, with equally significant impacts on our society.

Carbon Nanotubes
What do invisibility cloaks, synthetic brains and space elevators have in common? They're all made possible (at least, theoretically) by carbon nanotubes.

Carbon nanotubes are amazingly small structures (one-billionth of a meter) that are nonetheless immensely strong -- almost one hundred times stronger than steel. They are in use today in many carbon fiber-based products (think golf clubs and wind turbines), but their potential use is far more impressive if researchers can succeed in better manipulating them. They could be used to make ever-smaller computer circuits, concrete which resists cracking, artificial muscles, more efficient solar cells and desalination processes. They are one of the few materials thought capable of being strong enough to create a space elevator -- which could ferry cargo between the Earth and low-Earth orbit at a fraction of the cost of rocket launches.

Lasers are by no means a new technology (in fact, they're over 50 years old), but they are increasingly fulfilling the role they were meant to play: blowing stuff up.

Last month, the U.S. Navy demonstrated a laser capable of downing a drone aircraft (not terribly impressive, but still, it exploded...) The U.S. Marine Corps is soliciting the defense industry for a laser defense system that can be mounted to a vehicle to destroy incoming artillery. It's a defensive system that never runs out of ammunition.

Lasers are also seen as a cost-effective means to defend against missile attacks. Aside from Earth-bound foes, sun-powered lasers could also be put to work blasting incoming asteroids. And for the less martially inclined, they can also be used to prepare food or to create (potentially) a massive new energy source.

Robots have been garnering attention of late not because of any particular technological breakthrough per-se but because it's become increasingly obvious that robots are rapidly seeping into every corner of our life.
From factory to floor to corner pharmacy, there's now pervasive worry that robots will steal our jobs (to say nothing about rising up, Matrix-style, to enslave their human creators).

In Japan, robots are already working as care-givers for the elderly. They've been found to help develop
social skills in children with disabilities. Naturally, there's budding interest in robots for more adult-related activities as well.

3D Printing
Few technologies have arrived with such hype as 3D printing. President Obama hailed it as ushering in a renaissance of U.S. manufacturing. The potential of 3D printing is, if its boosters are to be believed, nothing short of revolutionary. Car and plane parts have already been printed and researchers believe it's quite possible to "print" houses and other huge structures with designs that would be impossible to execute using traditional concrete molds. As prices fall on consumer models, you can print toys, household items, even functional guns, from the comfort of your home.

It's not solely for inanimate objects, either. Blood vessels have been created with the technology and many think it can be used to create organs and limbs for those in need. It could be -- eventually -- like the "replicator" of Star Trek fame: tell the computer what you want and, presto, it appears before your eyes.

Mind Controlled Limbs
Researchers made stunning gains in 2012 when a paralyzed woman made a prosthetic limb move with her only her thoughts. The promise of seamlessly fusing artificial limbs to the human body took a major step forward.

As described by Nature, a paralyzed man and woman each had chips implanted into their brain to measure their neurons as they observed technicians moving a robotic arm. A computer recorded the pattern of their thinking as they imagined moving the robotic arm and after they had trained the computer, they took control of the arm and moved it using their own thoughts.

The implications of such a 'neural interface system' are clear: once devastating injuries could be surmounted through a combination of embedded computer chips and robot prosthesis.

Personalized Medicine
Buried within our genes is vital information about our propensity for illness. Armed with this knowledge, we could head off potential maladies before they strike. We could, if society agrees and technology permits, engineer them out of the gene pool altogether. Such is the promise of personalized medicine.

As biotech CEO Narges Asadi explained, "we are moving from the inefficient and experimental medicine of today towards the data-driven medicine of tomorrow. Soon, diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, and most importantly, prevention will be tailored to individuals' genetic and phenotypic information."

Consider the progress to date: The Human Genome Project took 13 years and $3 billion to map a single
human genome beginning in 1990. Today, the process costs less than $10,000 and can be accomplished in two days. This information contains vital medical c lues that can be used in cancer diangnostics and newborn screening. Researchers still need to connect the dots between specific genes and disease types, but most remain hopeful that we could one day see a world with fewer tragic illnesses.

Quantum Computers
Even casual computers users know of Moore's Law: the rule that computer power doubles every 18 months. This doubling has certainly delivered its fair share of innovation, but it pales in comparison to the power inherent in quantum computing. Rather than use traditional, binary code (the 1s and 0s we're all familiar with), quantum computers can represent data in multipe quantum bits (or 'qubits'). This allows a quantum computer to churn through millions of computations at once, not just a single computation at a time.

As best-selling science author Briane Greene wrote, "researchers have estimated that a quantum computer no bigger than a laptop has the potential to perform the equivalent of all human thought since the dawn of our species in a tiny fraction of a second." Armed with a quantum computers, researchers may be able to create new nano-materials for medicines or create even more secure communications using quantum cryptography. Complex computer modeling -- such as those used to model the Earth's climate or the spread of virulent diseases -- would become vastly more powerful, helping us better predict and thus better manage our future.

Cold fusion has been an elusive goal of energy researchers around the world. Though impossible today, the promise is so tantalizing it continues to draw interest. LENR (for low-energy nuclear reaction) a close cousin of cold fusion also promises to deliver essentially limitless, clean, safe energy. With such power at humanity's disposal, it will deliver a cleaner earth (no coal soot, no fission reactor meltdowns, air conditioning for all).
It would also, conceivably, open the door to grander vistas. NASA estimates that a fusion-based rocket engine could travel to Mars in a mere 30 days, compared to the four years it takes with conventional

For now, though, LENR energy is out of reach. It takes more energy to begin the reaction than the current reaction produces in kind. Still, researchers are also pursuing conventional (or hot) fusion, which promises to harvest energy from readily available deuterium with barely any radioactive waste.


Predictions Through Artificial Intelligence

Mining the Web to Predict Future Events
By Kira Radinsky and Eric Horvitz


We describe and evaluate methods for learning to forecast
forthcoming events of interest from a corpus containing 22
years of news stories. We consider the examples of identifying
signi_cant increases in the likelihood of disease outbreaks,
deaths, and riots in advance of the occurrence of
these events in the world. We provide details of methods
and studies, including the automated extraction and generalization
of sequences of events from news corpora and multiple
web resources. We evaluate the predictive power of the
approach on real-world events withheld from the system.


Mark Twain famously said that \the past does not repeat
itself, but it rhymes." In the spirit of this reection, we develop
and test methods for leveraging large-scale digital histories
captured from 22 years of news reports from the New
York Times (NYT) archive to make real-time predictions
about the likelihoods of future human and natural events of
interest. We describe how we can learn to predict the future
by generalizing sets of speci_c transitions in sequences of
reported news events, extracted from a news archive spanning
the years 1986{2008. In addition to the news corpora,
we leverage data from freely available Web resources, including
Wikipedia, FreeBase, OpenCyc, and GeoNames, via
the LinkedData platform [6]. The goal is to build predictive
models that generalize from speci_c sets of sequences of
events to provide likelihoods of future outcomes, based on
patterns of evidence observed in near-term newsfeeds. We
propose the methods as a means of generating actionable
forecasts in advance of the occurrence of target events in
the world.

The methods we describe operate on newsfeeds and can
provide large numbers of predictions. We demonstrate the
predictive power of mining thousands of news stories to create
classiers for a range of prediction problems. We show
as examples forecasts on three prediction challenges: proactive
alerting on forthcoming disease outbreaks, deaths, and
riots. These event classes are interesting in serving as examples
of predictions that can serve as heralds for attention
for guiding interventions that may be able to change outcomes
for the better. We compare the predictive power of
the methods to several baselines and demonstrate precisions
of forecasts in these domains ranging from 70% to 90% with
a recall of 30% to 60%.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Permission to make digital or hard copies of all or part of this work for
personal or classroom use is granted without fee provided that copies are
not made or distributed for profit or commercial advantage and that copies
bear this notice and the full citation on the first page. To copy otherwise, to
republish, to post on servers or to redistribute to lists, requires prior specific
permission and/or a fee.

WSDM’13, February 4–8, 2012, Rome, Italy.
Copyright 2013 ACM 978-1-4503-1869-3/13/02

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Saturday, April 20, 2013

Why Fertilizer Plants Explode

Why Was the Texas Fertilizer Plant Explosion so Deadly? By David Cliff, April 19, 2013

At least 35 people – including a number of emergency services crew – died in an massive explosion on Wednesday night at a fertilizer plant in in the small town of West near Waco, Texas. So what made the blaze so deadly, and could a similar loss of life happen in Australia?

You’ve probably seen the footage, much of which went viral within minutes of the blast – in particular, the chilling amateur video (see below) shot by Derrick Hurtt, in which his 12-year-old daughter Khloey pleads:
"Dad, dad, I can’t hear anything, please get me out of here."

At this stage, many questions are still unanswered. But from the available information, the explosion was most likely the result of ammonium nitrate fertilizer exceeding a critical temperature and breaking down into components that then reacted with each other, producing vast amounts of heat and gas.

There have been a number of similar episodes such as the Texas City Disaster in 1947, where more than 570 people died after a cargo ship laden with ammonium nitrate exploded.

What makes ammonium nitrate explosive?
Ammonium nitrate, a common fertilizer additive, is a white crystalline solid at room temperature.

It is stable except when it is contaminated with organic (carbon-based) material.

In practice, it is commonly mixed with fuel oil to form an industrial explosive (called ammonium nitrate/fuel oil, or ANFO) and is widely used in the mining industry.

In the case of the explosion in West, something had to heat the ammonium nitrate in the fertilizer factory to a critical temperature of 300C for it to auto-ignite.

This would need to be either organic contaminants reacting with the ammonium nitrate or a completely separate fire that spread to the ammonium nitrate storage area.

Video evidence confirms a major high temperature fire was burning for some time before the detonation occurred.

At high temperatures, ammonium and nitrogen dioxide are formed when ammonium nitrate breaks down, and can react together to produce massive amounts of heat.

If the heat isn’t dissipated and the reaction rate is allowed to escalate, the reaction will eventually cause detonation.

In West, it would appear all the damage done was caused by the pressure wave generated by the blast rather than toxic gases, though this has not yet been confirmed.

Controlling the fire
An ammonium nitrate fire is difficult to fight.

Fire retardants that focus on excluding oxygen have no effect as the nitrate part of the molecule, which consists of one nitrogen and three oxygen atoms, provides all the necessary oxygen.

The only effective control is to remove the heat, which causes the explosive reaction, by flooding the area with water.

But it’s unknown if the firefighters who responded to the initial fire were even able to commence a water flood before the explosion, which happened minutes after they arrived.

Fire fighting is further complicated by the presence of other hazardous chemicals used to make the fertilizer, principally anhydrous ammonia (liquefied ammonia gas) and nitric acid.

The fire and explosion in West may have ruptured storage tanks, releasing toxic clouds of these materials.

Other complications could exist if the ammonia is produced on site by reacting natural gas with nitrogen present in the air.

Natural gas is, of course, flammable.

Ammonium nitrate in Australia
The injury and death toll from the explosion at West was mostly due to the fact that the fertilizer plant was so close to residential buildings.

Schools, apartment blocks, and a nursing home were located only a few hundred metres from the plant, as can be seen in the Google map below (the plant is marked with an "A").

In 2007, the Department of Homeland Security introduced national standards for high-risk chemical facilities, but it focused more on the sale of ammonium nitrate than safe storage regulation.
In Australia, ammonium nitrate production and storage facilities are classified as major hazardous facilities and are tightly controlled, particularly since incidents where terrorists overseas have used ammonium nitrate in their explosives.

Major plants in Brisbane and Newcastle are isolated from other buildings and located kilometres from residential zones.

Licences to produce ammonium nitrate are only granted in Australia to companies that demonstrate adequate safety controls.

While the Orica plant in Newcastle has recently been plagued by leaks, Australia’s controls mean an event like the explosion in West on Wednesday is unlikely to occur – and if it does, the consequences will not be as devastating.

- - - - - - - - - - about the author - - - - - - - - -

David Cliff is Professor of Occupational Health and Safetyin Mining at the University of Queensland in Australia

David Cliff was appointed Professor of Occupational Health and Safety in Mining and Director of MISHC in 2011. His primary role is providing education, applied research and consulting in health and safety in the mining and minerals processing industry. He has been at MISHC over twelve years.

Previously David was the Safety and Health Adviser to the Queensland Mining Council, and prior to that Manager of Mining Research at the Safety In Mines Testing and Research Station. In these capacities he has provided expert assistance in the areas of health and safety to the mining industry for over twenty three years. He has particular expertise in emergency preparedness, gas analysis, spontaneous combustion, fires and explosions, including providing expert testimony to the Moura No,2 Warden’s inquiry and the Pike River Royal Commission. In recent times he has also devoted a lot of energy to fitness for duty issues particularly fatigue management. He has been a member of the organising committee for the level one emergency exercises in Queensland underground coal mines since their inception in 1998. He has also attended or provided assistance in over 30 incidents at mines.

David has also extensive experience in providing training and education in OHS in mining to in many countries.

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See also: http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=what-causes-fertilizer-explosions&WT.mc_id=SA_CAT_BS_20130419

Monday, April 15, 2013

Moe Norman -- Eccentric Golf Genius

Murray Irwin "Moe" Norman (July 10, 1929 – September 4, 2004) was a Canadian professional golfer. His accuracy and ability to hit shot after shot perfectly straight gave him the nickname "Pipeline Moe".

Born in Kitchener, Ontario, Canada, Norman developed his golf from childhood at the Rockway municipal course in that city, starting as a caddy in his pre-teen years. He refined his skills competing against talented area players such as Gary Cowan and Gerry Kesselring. He won back-to-back Canadian Amateur Championships in 1955 and 1956. He turned professional in 1957 and played briefly in the PGA Tour, but due to shyness, bullying he encountered from certain pros, and a preference to stay in Canada, he stayed primarily in Ontario rather than travel extensively outside Canada. In the 80s, Norman also played several events on the Senior PGA Tour.

Norman's play, along with his way of dressing, were both described as unconventional. He devised what is known as "The Norman Swing" —- rigid arms extended far from his body, a very wide stance with minimal knee bend, shorter-than-usual backswing and extended follow-through with minimal hand action, which produced amazingly accurate ball placement. He played extremely fast, sometimes not slowing to line up his putts. He was inducted into the Canadian Golf Hall of Fame in 1995. He was self-taught and never took a golf lesson.

Norman was known for sometimes unconventional behavior on the course. It is said that on one hole his caddy told him he could get to the green with a driver and a 9-iron. Naturally, he hit off the tee with his 9-iron and then hit the green with his driver.

Norman's skills as a ball striker are legendary. Sam Snead, himself one of the all-time greatest golfers, described Norman as the greatest striker of the ball. In January 2005, Tiger Woods, the biggest golf star of the modern era, told Golf Digest’s Jaime Diaz that only two golfers in history have "owned their swings": Moe Norman and Ben Hogan. Stated Woods, "I want to own mine." Late in his life, Norman found better financial security when Titleist, a major golf manufacturer, signed him to a lifetime contract to perform golf exhibitions across Canada after he allegedly told a reporter, "Titleist never did nothing for me."

Career Highlights
  • Canadian Amateur Championship winner (1955, 1956);
  • 55 career Canaian Tour and other Canadian event victories;
  • Canadian PGA Championship winner (1966, 1974);
  • Canadian PGA Seniors' Championship winner (1979–1985, 1987);
  • 33 course records;
  • 17 holes-in-one;
  • Several exhibition rounds under 60 (perfect round);
  • Inducted into the Canadian Golf Hall of Fame in 1995;
  • Inducted into Canada's Sports Hall of Fame in 2006;
  • Two appearances by invitation as an amateur in the Masters Tournament: 1956 scored 75-78 then withdrew; 1957 scored 77-74 to miss the cut by one stroke.

  • http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moe_Norman
    *Note that Norman won seven consecutive Canadian Seniors’ Championships from 1979 to 1985 then won again in 1987, making that seven out of eight years.

    -- the blog author
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    "Unknown Legend" Moe Norman DiesBy Brent Kelley, About.com Guide, September 5, 2004

    Is it possible for a golfer to be both unknown to most casual fans and a legend in the golf world? Yes, if you're talking about Moe Norman. The enigmatic, eccentric, infuriating and inspiring Norman - a golf genius according to many golf greats who say he was the greatest ballstriker they've ever seen - died Saturday at the age of 75.

    There are many stories told about Norman, whose unusual swing lives on in the Natural Golf system. One of my favorites is of the time when Norman and Sam Snead were playing an exhibition. Both players needed about 250 yards to clear a stream. Snead laid up, then watched Norman prepare to go for it.

    "You need to lay up, Moe," Snead told Norman, "you can't carry that creek." Norman replied, "I'm aiming for the bridge."

    And after his laser-straight shot rolled right across the bridge, over the hazard, Snead didn't try telling Norman again how to play a shot.

    Moe Norman burst onto the golf scene by dominating the amateur circuit in his native Canada in the 1950s and '60s. He would go on to set 33 course records, win 13 Canadian Tour events, play for Canada in the World Cup in 1971, shoot 59 three times and record 17 holes-in-one.

    But Norman never won on the PGA Tour and, in fact, quit the PGA Tour after just a very brief appearance. If Norman was one of the best ball-strikers ever, renowned for his amazing accuracy - the kind of golfer others golfers stop to watch warm up - why didn't he win on the PGA Tour?

    The real reasons for Norman's demons may never be known. He was an incredibly shy person, and there are some who have speculated that Norman might have been a "higher functioning autistic."

    "Eccentric" doesn't begin to describe Norman's life. He often showed up for golf tournaments wearing terribly mismatched outfits. He played extremely fast, sometimes not even bothering to read a putt before making his strokes on the green. He was a trick shot artist on the driving range, but he sometimes took those tricks out onto the course with him - hitting his tee shots off Coke bottles, for example, during tournament play. He spoke very fast and often repeated phrases, and he never interacted well with galleries or strangers.

    When he found he couldn't stand the conditions on the PGA Tour, Norman retreated to the friendlier and familiar places back home in Canada. And he continued winning, taking seven Canadian Senior PGA titles.

    But he was never good with money and by the mid-80s was spending many nights, out of necessity, sleeping in his car. Moe Norman might well have been forgotten by most of the golf world had his association with Natural Golf not come about.

    Norman became better known in recent years because of Natural Golf, an alternative teaching system developed in the early 1990s. Many people think Norman "invented" Natural Golf, but that isn't so. Natural Golf was developed independently of Norman, but once its similarities to Norman's swing were noticed, Norman and his legend were brought into the fold.

    The year 1995 was a good year for Norman - he was elected to the Canadian Golf Hall of Fame. And he was also given a $5,000-a-month-for-life stipend by Titleist/FootJoy ... for doing nothing. Just to help out a legend who'd had some hard times.

    The Edmonton Journal newspaper, in its obit for Norman, tells another story about him:

    "There is another yarn about Ben Hogan and Norman hitting practice balls together in the 1950s.

    "Hogan had always asserted that there was no such thing as an intentionally straight golf shot. After watching Norman hammer one perfectly straight shot after another, Hogan just scratched his head and walked away, suggesting that Norman "keep hitting those accidents."

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    Moe Norman was a Genius

    I first heard of Moe Norman in 1983 while attending the San Diego Golf Academy. Two of my friends were from Canada and played a little on the Canadian Tour. I think their favorite pastime was telling me stories of Moe Norman and they had plenty. I was not familiar with the mannerisms they described when talking of Moe and I did not think the golf shots I heard of were probable. One thing was very obvious, the pride they felt in their fellow countryman Moe Norman, he was clearly a hero in their eyes.

    Years later I began to hear of Moe in various articles or other media and all of the stories my friends had told me became instantly real. I began to research Moe and discovered the mannerisms were partially due to his autism. Interestingly enough my wife has spent a lifetime researching Autism, ADD, ADHD and Dyslexia. She is currently working with others to open a school for 1st through 8th using new and innovative teaching techniques that support their learning style. Through this discovery I have been privileged to get just a small look into the minds of these talented picture thinkers and am constantly awed.

    Moe Norman was autistic as well as a savant; his quirky behavior was in part a result of these disabilities. What most folks do not know is that along with the quirky behavior caused by these so called learning disabilities come incredible abilities. The ability of imagination, focus, concentration, feel, insight, and often athletic ability are just some of those abilities. Moe Norman was blessed with many incredible abilities and in his words and actions are lessons for us all whether we play golf or search for insight and wisdom in our daily lives. I give so much credit to the Graves Golf Academy for sharing the thoughts, life and swing of Moe Norman because in my opinion within it is golfing perfection. In time I believe the world will realize that behind the quirky behavior of many of our incredible picture thinkers is a gift for the taking if we have the courage to discover it.

    Edward L. Bezanson
    PGA Professional
    Canyon River Golf Club

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    See also:
      http://moenorman.org/ -- where his swing is still being taught

    Sunday, April 14, 2013

    The Virtue of Honesty

    Lawyers should never ask a Texas grandma a question if they aren't prepared for the answer.

    In a trial, a small town Texas prosecuting attorney called his first witness, a grandmotherly, elderly woman to the stand. He approached her and asked, 'Mrs. Jones, do you know me?' She responded, 'Why, yes, I do know you, Mr. Howard. I've known you since you were a boy, and frankly, you've been a big disappointment to me. You lie, you cheat on your wife, and you manipulate people and talk about them behind their backs. You think you're a big shot when you haven't the brains to realize you'll never amount to anything more than a two-bit paper pusher. Yes, I know you.'

    The lawyer was stunned. Not knowing what else to do, he pointed across the room and asked, 'Mrs. Jones, do you know the defense attorney?'

    She again replied, 'Why yes, I do. I've known Mr. Lindquist since he was a youngster, too. He's lazy, bigoted, and he has a drinking problem. He can't build a normal relationship with anyone, and his law practice is one of the worst in the entire state. Not to mention he cheated on his wife with three different women. One of them was your wife. Yes, I know him.'

    The defense attorney nearly died.

    The judge asked both counselors to approach the bench and, in a very quiet voice, said,

    "If either of you idiots asks her if she knows me, I'll send you both to the electric chair."

    Saturday, April 13, 2013

    The Future of Electronic Tracking

    Monitoring People from Space:
    The Good, the Bad and the Ugly
    By Thomas Frey, Futuristspeaker.com

    Evil Menace or Silent Companion?

    In the late 1980s, I was an engineer working as part of an IBM team to build a mobile satellite command and control center for monitoring missile launches from space. This contract was part of Reagan’s "Star Wars" missile defense system.

    Whenever a missile is launched, the heat plume coming out of the back of the rocket produces a distinct heat signature instantly detectable by satellites with infrared sensors.

    The technology we were using over 25 years ago could instantly distinguish between types of rockets, calculate trajectory, and give information on time of impact.

    Since those early years of working with infrared sensors I’ve often wondered if it would be possible to monitor people from space by tracking their personal heat signatures.

    Two overarching trends that get little attention today are those of rapidly increasing precision and awareness.

    As both travel up the exponential growth curves of the emerging big data industry, what inevitably becomes possible is an ability to distinguish a person’s identity from a distance, even space.

    On the surface this may be a frightening prospect. Having someone know where I am at any moment of the day, does indeed make the hair stand up on the back of my neck.

    But at the same time, there is an undeniable convenience factor. If a person is suffering a heart attack or stroke, being kidnapped, or otherwise in a condition of extreme stress, a monitoring system that can shave minutes off emergency response times can mean the difference between life and death.

    As with many of today’s emerging technologies we have to sort the good from the bad. Here are a few thoughts on what may happen in the future.

    The History of Biometrics
    Biometrics is a term that refers to the identification of humans by a certain physical characteristic or trait. It’s often used with computer systems to validate a person’s identity.

    One of the earliest forms of biometric tracking came with fingerprints. The earliest cataloging of fingerprints dates back to 1891 when Juan Vucetich started collecting fingerprints of criminals in Argentina.

    Over the decades a number of other biometric systems have been developed around everything from voice recognition, to DNA, to keystroke and hand print behavior.

    Retina scanning devices are already commonplace in certain areas.
    The 2002 film Minority Report brought attention to Iris/Retina scanning technologies for both personal identification and point of sale transactions. The main character changes his identity by having his eyes transplanted, and later accesses a security system using one of the removed eyes.

    Recently, Renato Zenobi, a researcher at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich, discovered a new area of science – breathprinting. By using a mass spectrometer to analyze the breath of 11 individuals, 4 times a day over nine days, he was able to identify the unique molecules in each breath sample and determine both the health characteristics and the identity of the individual.

    As the field of biometrics advances, we will see a number of personal identification systems that can be observed from a distance, both by drones and satellites.

    Can an infrared signature of a human body be person-specific?

    The answer to this question is still an unequivocal "maybe."

    Infrared radiation is made up of photons with wavelengths that vary from a little less than 1 micron to about 1 millimeter. Since everything from animals, to trees, to cars, and highways all emit photons, the first challenge will be to separate human heat signatures from everything else.

    It will be tricky to separate direct emissions from reflections. If, as example, you were sitting on a seat for a long period and then walked away, the seat would retain a similar heat signature for a short period of time.

    Current technology still doesn’t allow recognition of individual infrared heat signatures.
    Even if we can account for all of those issues, we still don’t know if that infrared signature is 100% unique to that individual. Complicating things further, the clothing we wear, the food we eat, and our current level of activity all have a bearing on our ability to discriminate one person from the next.

    Since photons are just light at a lower frequency, a person’s shape could only be resolved to the resolution limits of the sensor system. The higher the resolution of the sensors, the more accurately a person would come into focus.

    Even with a high res system, variables like the person’s state of health, their metabolic and emotional state as well as their physiologic response to external conditions (extreme cold, for example) will cause variations in thermal signatures.

    For these reasons, it’s unlikely that an infrared-only heat signature will be sufficient for identification. However, tying infrared sensors to other biometric monitors is something that will happen sooner or later.

    Peeling Away the Onion Layers

    As we add layers of precision and awareness to the equation, we begin to see increasingly intrusive capabilities begin to form. Here is a progressive list, going from crude observations to nano-detailed observations, of how this type of technology will evolve over time:

    1. Distinguishing between plants, animals, and humans
    2. Determining gender
    3. Defining age, ethnicity, height, weight, hair color, and other physical characteristics
    4. Doing basic health assessments, monitoring heart rates, blood pressure, skin temperature, etc.
    5. Scanning for levels of brain activity
    6. Remote indexing of stomach content
    7. Monitoring a person’s sex life
    8. Analyzing the chemical composition of a person’s sweat

    Now imagine these monitoring capabilities first from 100 feet, later from a mile away, and eventually from a geosynchronous satellite orbiting the earth.

    The Good

    Even with a strong pushback from privacy advocates, niche uses will find their way into everyday use. Some of the first business models will form around creating early warning systems for people in peril. Here are a few use cases that will be used to advance the technology.

    1. People suffering from heart attack, stroke, seizures, accidents, or other debilitating conditions triggering an alarm for a local emergency rescue team.
    2. Governments will develop non-specific systems to monitor the general mood of their constituency, tracking levels of happiness and anxiety. Rather than relying on traditional polling, these results will be very fast and information rich.
    3. Disease tracking will also be possible. Since many diseases involve human contact or are spread through being in close proximity with those infected, quarantines will happen quicker, outbreaks better contained, and public health in virtually all areas will be managed better.
    4. In the event of natural disasters, those in danger will be quickly alerted of impending dangers.
    5. Parents can use it to find lost kids and pets.
    6. Farmers and ranchers can use it to monitor their crops and livestock.
    7. Tracking rhinos, along with other frequently poached animals, and their attackers will be quite simple.
    8. We will know immediately whenever someone dies.

    The Bad
    Naturally images of big brother hovering over us come to mind with any technology like this. But big brother isn’t the only one that’ll cause problems. Here are a few possible ways things will go bad.

    1. Companies will find all new ways to spy on their competitors.
    2. Governments will try to use it to find tax cheats, those who owe alimony, and even track down unpaid parking tickets.
    3. Hypochondriacs, those suffering from paranoia, and other kinds of alarmists will have a whole new set of tools for clogging up the system.
    4. Political activists will devise new ways of systematizing their efforts, building coalitions, and making a statement.
    5. A whole new line of "satellite masking" products will be developed including everything from cloakable-clothing, to car-blockers, to building-jammers.

    The Ugly
    Many of our latest technologies, designed with all the best intentions, go woefully off track in the hands of the wrong people.
    1. In the event of a war, this technology will be used pinpoint rivals even before they become enemies.
    2. Political hacks will take what is already an ugly process and make it even uglier. People with differing opinions will be discredited and have their reputations destroyed faster than ever.
    3. Reputation tagging will become commonplace. If you thought profiling was bad, once a person gets tagged with whatever label someone wishes to assign, it’ll become a far reaching cloud on their character.
    4. This is a technology tailor made for stalkers.
    5. There will be no place left on earth to hide.
    Final Thoughts
    Growing up as young people we are constantly testing our limits. We are testing the limits of how much we can eat or drink, how little sleep we can get away with, how fast we can run, and even how many people we can date simultaneously.

    Without testing our limits, we can’t possibly know who we are.

    We are all terminally human, and our learning styles and thought processes vary tremendously from one person to another. As such, we need enough runway to fall on our face a few times before we understand our limits.

    Limit-testing is our way of learning how to behave in the future, and extreme transparency has a way of making "different" wrong.

    Transparency has an insidious way of encroaching on our space and exposing our foibles to the rest of the world.

    The technology I’ve described above will eventually happen with or without our blessing. Today’s cellphone tracking systems have already started us down this path. The overarching trend is already well underway.

    Is this a technology that will eventually destroy the world as we know it today, or will it lead us down a path to something better?

    I’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic.