Saturday, May 31, 2014

Lyrical Quiddity: Al Dubin

Alexander "Al" Dubin (June 10, 1891 – February 11, 1945) was an American lyricist. He is best known for his collaborations with the composer Harry Warren.

Dubin sold his first set of lyrics for two songs “Prairie Rose” and “Sunray” in 1909 to the Whitmark Music Publishing Firm.

In 1925, Dubin met the composer Harry Warren, who was to become his future collaborator at Warner Bros. studio in Hollywood. The first song they collaborated on was titled, “Too Many Kisses in the Summer Bring Too Many Tears in the Fall.” But it was another song written with Joseph Meyer that same year that became Dubin's first big hit, “A Cup of Coffee, a Sandwich, and You.”

Warner Brothers purchased the publishing firms of Witmark, Remick and Harms, and since Dubin was under contract to Harms, Warner Brothers inherited his services. In 1929 Dubin wrote Tiptoe Through the Tulips with composer Joe Burke for the film Gold Diggers of Broadway.

In 1932, Dubin teamed officially with composer Harry Warren on the movie musical 42nd Street, starring Ruby Keeler, Dick Powell, Warner Baxter, and Bebe Daniels. With dance routines sequenced by legendary choreographer Busby Berkeley. The songwriting team of Warren and Dubin contributed 4 songs: 42nd Street, "You’re Getting to Be a Habit with Me", "Young and Healthy", and Shuffle Off to Buffalo.

Between 1932 and 1939, Dubin and Warren wrote 60 hit songs for several Warner Bros. movie musicals, including Gold Diggers of 1933, Footlight Parade starring James Cagney, Roman Scandals starring Eddie Cantor, Dames, Into Your Dance and Wonder Bar, both starring Al Jolson. The song Lullaby of Broadway, which he wrote with Warren for the musical film, Gold Diggers of 1935, won the 1936 Academy Award for Best Original Song.

In 1980, producer David Merrick and director Gower Champion adapted 42nd Street into a Broadway musical that won The Tony Award for Best Musical in 1981. Warren and Dubin wrote the music and lyrics for Broadway's 42nd Street, with the book being written by Michael Stewart and Mark Bramble.

Dubin was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1970.

Notable Songs

  • "A Cup of Coffee, a Sandwich, and You" - lyrics by Al Dubin and Billy Rose, music by Joseph Meyer. (1925)
  • "Tiptoe through the Tulips" – Joe Burke. (1929)
  • "Forty-Second Street" – 42nd Street – Harry Warren - M. Witmark & Sons. (1932)
  • "Shuffle Off to Buffalo" 42nd Street
  • "Young and Healthy" 42nd Street
  • "You're Getting to Be a Habit with Me" 42nd Street
  • "Shanghai Lil" - music by Harry Warren from Footlight Parade. (1933)
  • "Keep Young and Beautiful" - Harry Warren from Roman Scandals. (1933)
  • "Shadow Waltz" – Gold Diggers of 1933 - Harry Warren - M. Witmark & Sons. (1933)
  • "We're In the Money" – Gold Diggers of 1933
  • "Pettin' in the Park" – Gold Diggers of 1933
  • "Remember My Forgotten Man" – Gold Diggers of 1933
  • "I've Got to Sing a Love Song" – Gold Diggers of 1933
  • "The Boulevard of Broken Dreams" - Harry Warren from Moulin Rouge. (1934)
  • "Wonder Bar" - Harry Warren from Wonder Bar (1934)
  • "I Only Have Eyes For You" - Dames - Harry Warren - Remick Music Corp. (1934)
  • "Dames" - Dames
  • "Go Into Your Dance" – Go Into Your Dance - Harry Warren - M. Witmark & Sons. (1935)
  • About a Quarter to Nine" – Go Into Your Dance
  • "She's a Latin from Manhattan" – Go Into Your Dance
  • "Lullaby of Broadway" – Gold Diggers of 1935 - Harry Warren - M. Witmark & Sons. (1935)
  • "I'm Going Shopping with You" – Gold Diggers of 1935
  • "Lulu's Back in Town" - Harry Warren from Broadway Gondolier. (1935)
  • "Don't Give Up the Ship" - Harry Warren from Shipmates Forever. (1935)
  • "With Plenty of Money and You" - Harry Warren from Gold Diggers of 1937. (1937)
  • "September in the Rain" - Harry Warren from Melody for Two. (1937)
  • "Remember Me?" - Harry Warren from Mr. Dodd Takes the Air. (1937)
  • "The Song of the Marines" - Harry Warren from The Singing Marine. (1937)
  • "I Wanna Go Back to Bali" - Gold Diggers of 1938 - Harry Warren - Remick Music Corp. (1938)
  • "The Latin Quarter" - Gold Diggers of 1938
  • "Indian Summer" - Victor Herbert - Harms, Inc. (1939)
  • "Feudin' and Fightin'" - title by Dubin, words and music by Burton Lane - Mara-Lane Music Corp. from "Laughing Room Only". (1944)

Friday, May 30, 2014

Pulmonary Hypertension

Pulmonary hypertension (PH) is an increase of blood pressure in the pulmonary artery, pulmonary vein, or pulmonary capillaries, together known as the lung vasculature, leading to shortness of breath, dizziness, fainting, leg swelling and other symptoms. Pulmonary hypertension can be a severe disease with a markedly decreased exercise tolerance and heart failure. It was first identified by Ernst von Romberg in 1891.   According to the most recent classification, it can be one of six different types.


Because pulmonary hypertension can be of five major types, a series of tests must be performed to distinguish pulmonary arterial hypertension from venous, hypoxic, thromboembolic, or miscellaneous varieties.

Further procedures are required to confirm the presence of pulmonary hypertension and exclude other possible diagnoses. These generally include pulmonary function tests; blood tests to exclue HIV, autoimmune diseases, and liver disease; electrocardiography (ECG); arterial blood gas measurements; X-rays of the chest (followed by high-resolution CT scanning if interstitial lung disease is suspected); and ventilation-perfusion or V/Q scanning to exclude chronic thromboembolic pulmonary hypertension. Biopsy of the lung is usually not indicated unless the pulmonary hypertension is thought to be due to an underlying interstitial lung disease; further, lung biopsies are fraught with risks of bleeding due to the high intrapulmonary blood pressure.

Diagnosis of PAH requires the presence of pulmonary hypertension. Although pulmonary arterial pressure can be estimated on the basis of echocardiography, pressure measurements with a Swan-Ganz catheter through the right side of the heart provides the most definite assessment. PAOP (pulmonary artery occlusion pressure) and PVR (pulmonary vascular resistance) cannot be measured directly with echocardiography. Therefore diagnosis of PAH requires right-sided cardiac catheterization. A Swan-Ganz catheter can also measure the cardiac output, which is far more important in measuring disease severity than the pulmonary arterial pressure.

Physical Examination

A physical examination is performed to look for typical signs of pulmonary hypertension. These include altered heart sounds, such as a widely split S2 or second heart sound, a loud P2 or pulmonic valve closure sound (part of the second heart sound), (para)sternal heave, possible S3 or third heart sound, and pulmonary regurgitation. Other signs include an elevated jjugular venous pressure, peripheral edema (swelling of the ankles and feet), ascites (abdominal swelling due to the accumulation of fluid), hepatojugular reflex, and clubbing.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Lasers and Stem Cells

Researchers Use Light to Coax
Stem Cells to Repair Teeth
Harvard Unversity, May 28, 2014

A Harvard-led team is the first to demonstrate the ability to use low-power light to trigger stem cells inside the body to regenerate tissue, an advance they reported in Science Translational Medicine. The research, led by Wyss Institute Core Faculty member David Mooney, Ph.D., lays the foundation for a host of clinical applications in restorative dentistry and regenerative medicine more broadly, such as wound healing, bone regeneration, and more.
The team used a low-power laser to trigger human dental stem cells to form dentin, the hard tissue that is similar to bone and makes up the bulk of teeth. What's more, they outlined the precise molecular mechanism involved, and demonstrated its prowess using multiple laboratory and animal models.

A number of biologically active molecules, such as regulatory proteins called growth factors, can trigger stem cells to differentiate into different cell types. Current regeneration efforts require scientists to isolate stem cells from the body, manipulate them in a laboratory, and return them to the body—efforts that face a host of regulatory and technical hurdles to their clinical translation. But Mooney's approach is different and, he hopes, easier to get into the hands of practicing clinicians.

"Our treatment modality does not introduce anything new to the body, and lasers are routinely used in medicine and dentistry, so the barriers to clinical translation are low," said Mooney, who is also the Robert P. Pinkas Family Professor of Bioengineering at Harvard's School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS). "It would be a substantial advance in the field if we can regenerate teeth rather than replace them."

The team first turned to lead author and dentist Praveen Arany, D.D.S., Ph.D., who is now an Assistant Clinical Investigator at the National Institutes of Health (NIH). At the time of the research, he was a Harvard graduate student and then postdoctoral fellow affiliated with SEAS and the Wyss Institute.

Arany took rodents to the laboratory version of a dentist's office to drill holes in their molars, treat the tooth pulp that contains adult dental stem cells with low-dose laser treatments, applied temporary caps, and kept the animals comfortable and healthy. After about 12 weeks, high-resolution x-ray imaging and microscopy confirmed that the laser treatments triggered the enhanced dentin formation.

"It was definitely my first time doing rodent dentistry," said Arany, who faced several technical challenges in performing oral surgery on such a small scale. The dentin was strikingly similar in composition to normal dentin, but did have slightly different morphological organization. Moreover, the typical reparative dentin bridge seen in human teeth was not as readily apparent in the minute rodent teeth, owing to the technical challenges with the procedure.
"This is one of those rare cases where it would be easier to do this work on a human," Mooney said.

Next the team performed a series of culture-based experiments to unveil the precise molecular mechanism responsible for the regenerative effects of the laser treatment. It turns out that a ubiquitous regulatory cell protein called transforming growth factor beta-1 (TGF-β1) played a pivotal role in triggering the dental stem cells to grow into dentin. TGF-β1 exists in latent form until activated by any number of molecules.
Here is the chemical domino effect the team confirmed: In a dose-dependent manner, the laser first induced reactive oxygen species (ROS), which are chemically active molecules containing oxygen that play an important role in cellular function. The ROS activated the latent TGF-β1complex which, in turn, differentiated the stem cells into dentin.

Nailing down the mechanism was key because it places on firm scientific footing the decades-old pile of anecdotes about low-level light therapy (LLLT), also known as Photobiomodulation (PBM).
Since the dawn of medical laser use in the late 1960s, doctors have been accumulating anecdotal evidence that low-level light therapy can stimulate all kind of biological processes including rejuvenating skin and stimulating hair growth, among others. But interestingly enough, the same laser can also be used to ablate skin and remove hair–depending on the way the clinician uses the laser.
The clinical effects of low-power lasers have been subtle and largely inconsistent. The new work marks the first time that scientists have gotten to the nub of how low-level laser treatments work on a molecular level, and lays the foundation for controlled treatment protocols.

"The scientific community is actively exploring a host of approaches to using stem cells for tissue regeneration efforts," said Wyss Institute Founding Director Don Ingber, M.D., Ph.D., "and Dave and his team have added an innovative, noninvasive and remarkably simple but powerful tool to the toolbox."
Next Arany aims to take this work to human clinical trials. He is currently working with his colleagues at the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR), which is one of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), to outline the requisite safety and efficacy parameters. "We are also excited about expanding these observations to other regenerative applications with other types of stem cells," he said.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

The Australian Cattle Dog

The Australian Cattle Dog (ACD or Cattle Dog), is a breed of herding dog originally developed in Australia for driving cattle over long distances across rough terrain. In the 19th century, New South Wales cattle farmer Thomas Hall crossed the dogs used by drovers in his parents' home county, Northumberland, with dingoes he had tamed. The resulting dogs were known as Halls Heelers. After Hall's death in 1870, the dogs became available beyond the Hall family and their associates, and were subsequently developed into two modern breeds, the Australian Cattle Dog and the Australian Stumpy Tail Cattle Dog.  Robert Kaleski was influential in the Cattle Dog's early development, and wrote the first standard for the breed.

The Australian Cattle Dog is a medium-sized, short-coated dog that occurs in two main colour forms. It has either brown or black hair distributed fairly evenly through a white coat, which gives the appearance of a "red" or "blue" dog. It has been nicknamed a "Red Heeler" or "Blue Heeler" on the basis of this colouring and its practice of moving reluctant cattle by nipping at their heels. Dogs from a line bred in Queensland, Australia, which were successful at shows and at stud in the 1940s, were called "Queensland Heelers" to differentiate them from lines bred in New South Wales; this nickname is now occasionally applied to any Australian Cattle Dog.


Like many working dogs, the Australian Cattle Dog has high energy levels, an active mind, and a level of independence. The breed ranks 10th in Stanley Coren’s The Intelligence of Dogs, rated as one of the most intelligent dogs ranked by obedience command trainability. The Cattle Dog needs plenty of exercise, companionship and a job to do, so a non-working dog might participate in dog sports, learning tricks, or other activities that engage its body and mind.

When on home ground, the Australian Cattle Dog is a happy, affectionate, and playful pet. However, it is reserved with people it does not know and naturally cautious in new situations. Its attitude to strangers makes it an excellent guard dog when trained for this task, and it can be socialised to become accustomed to a variety of people from an early age as a family pet. It is good with older, considerate children, but will herd people by nipping at their heels, particularly younger children who run and squeal. By the time puppies are weaned, they should have learned that the company of people is pleasurable, and that responding to cues from a person is rewarding. The bond that this breed can create with its owner is strong and will leave the dog feeling protective towards the owner, typically resulting in the dog's never being too far from the owner's side. The Australian Cattle Dog can be the friendliest of companions although it is quick to respond to the emotions of its owners, and may defend them without waiting for a command. The ACD was originally bred to move reluctant cattle by biting, and it will bite if treated harshly. The Australian Cattle Dog's protective nature and tendency to nip at heels can be dangerous as the dog grows into an adult if unwanted behaviours are left unchecked.


The Australian Cattle Dog demands a high level of physical activity. Like many other herding dog breeds, the Cattle Dog has an active and fertile mind and if it is not given jobs to do it will find its own activities – which might not please the owner. It will appreciate a walk around the neighbourhood, but it needs structured activities that engage and challenge it, and regular interaction with its owner. While individual dogs have their own personalities and abilities, as a breed the Australian Cattle Dog is suited to any activity that calls for athleticism, intelligence, and endurance.

The Australian Cattle Dog was developed for its ability to encourage reluctant cattle to travel long distances, and may be the best breed in the world for this work. However, some working dog trainers have expressed concern that dogs bred for the show ring are increasingly too short in the legs and too stocky in the body to undertake the work for which they were originally bred.


In a small sample of 11 deceased dogs, Australian Cattle Dogs had a median longevity of 11.7 years (maximum 15.9 yrs). A larger survey of 100 deceased dogs yielded a mean longevity of 13.41 years with a standard deviation of 2.36 years. The median longevities of breeds of similar size are between 11 and 13 years. There is an anecdotal report of a Cattle Dog named Bluey, born in 1910 and living for 29.5 years, but the record is unverified. Even if true, Bluey's record age would have to be regarded more as an uncharacteristic exception than as an indicator of common exceptional longevity for the entire breed. It remains, however, that Australian Cattle Dogs generally age well and appear to live on average almost a year longer than most dogs of other breeds in the same weight class. Many members of the breed are still well and active at 12 or 14 years of age, and some maintain their sight, hearing and even their teeth until their final days.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Cancer Stem Cells Proven to Exist

Genetic tracking identifies cancer stem cells in patients

The gene mutations driving cancer have been tracked for the first time in patients back to a distinct set of cells at the root of cancer – cancer stem cells.

University of Oxford, May 16, 2014

The international research team, led by scientists at the University of Oxford and the Karolinska Institutet in Sweden, studied a group of patients with myelodysplastic syndromes – a malignant blood condition which frequently develops into acute myeloid leukaemia.

The researchers say their findings, reported in the journal Cancer Cell, offer conclusive evidence for the existence of cancer stem cells.

The concept of cancer stem cells has been a compelling but controversial idea for many years. It suggests that at the root of any cancer there is a small subset of cancer cells that are solely responsible for driving the growth and evolution of a patient's cancer. These cancer stem cells replenish themselves and produce the other types of cancer cells, as normal stem cells produce other normal tissues.

The concept is important, because it suggests that only by developing treatments that get rid of the cancer stem cells will you be able to eradicate the cancer. Likewise, if you could selectively eliminate these cancer stem cells, the other remaining cancer cells would not be able to sustain the cancer.

'It's like having dandelions in your lawn. You can pull out as many as you want, but if you don't get the roots they’ll come back,' explains first author Dr Petter Woll of the MRC Weatherall Institute for Molecular Medicine at the University of Oxford.

The researchers, led by Professor Sten Eirik W Jacobsen at the MRC Molecular Haematology Unit and the Weatherall Institute for Molecular Medicine at the University of Oxford, investigated malignant cells in the bone marrow of patients with myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS) and followed them over time.

Using genetic tools to establish in which cells cancer-driving mutations originated and then propagated into other cancer cells, they demonstrated that a distinct and rare subset of MDS cells showed all the hallmarks of cancer stem cells, and that no other malignant MDS cells were able to propagate the tumour.

The MDS stem cells were rare, sat at the top of a hierarchy of MDS cells, could sustain themselves, replenish the other MDS cells, and were the origin of all stable DNA changes and mutations that drove the progression of the disease.

'This is conclusive evidence for the existence of cancer stem cells in myelodysplastic syndromes,' says Dr Woll. 'We have identified a subset of cancer cells, shown that these rare cells are invariably the cells in which the cancer originates, and also are the only cancer-propagating cells in the patients. It is a vitally important step because it suggests that if you want to cure patients, you would need to target and remove these cells at the root of the cancer – but that would be sufficient, that would do it.'

The existence of cancer stem cells has already been reported in a number of human cancers, explains Professor Jacobsen, but previous findings have remained controversial since the lab tests used to establish the identity of cancer stem cells have been shown to be unreliable and, in any case, do not reflect the "real situation" in an intact tumour in a patient.

'In our studies we avoided the problem of unreliable lab tests by tracking the origin and development of cancer-driving mutations in MDS patients,' says Professor Jacobsen, who also holds a guest professorship at the Karolinska Institutet.

Dr Woll adds: 'We can’t offer patients today new treatments with this knowledge. What it does is give us a target for development of more efficient and cancer stem cell specific therapies to eliminate the cancer.

'We need to understand more about what makes these cancer stem cells unique, what makes them different to all the other cancer cells. If we can find biological pathways that are specifically dysregulated in cancer stem cells, we might be able to target them with new drugs.'

Dr Woll cautions: 'It is important to emphasize that our studies only investigated cancer stem cells in MDS, and that the identity, number and function of stem cells in other cancers are likely to differ from that of MDS.'

The study was funded by the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, Leukaemia and Lymphoma Research, the Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation and the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Oxford Biomedical Research Centre (BRC).

Monday, May 26, 2014

Fibonacci Modernized Europe

Leonardo Pisano Bigollo (c. 1170 – c. 1250) – known as Fibonacci, and also Leonardo of Pisa, Leonardo Pisano, Leonardo Bonacci, Leonardo Fibonacci – was an Italian mathematician, considered by some "the most talented western mathematician of the Middle Ages."

Fibonacci is best known to the modern world for the spreading of the Hindu-Arabic numberal system in Europe, primarily through his composition in 1202 of Liber Abaci (Book of Calculation), and for a number sequence named the Fibonacci numbers after him, which he did not discover but used as an example in the Liber Abaci.

Liber Abaci

In the Liber Abaci (1202), Fibonacci introduced the so-called modus Indorum (method of the Indians), today known as Arabic numerals (Sigler 2003; Grimm 1973). The book advocated numeration with the digits 0–9 and place value. The book showed the practical importance of the new numeral system by applying it to commercial bookkeeping, conversion of weights and measures, the calculation of interest, money-changing, and other applications. The book was well received throughout educated Europe and had a profound impact on European thought.

Fibonacci Sequence

Liber Abaci also posed, and solved, a problem involving the growth of a population of rabbits based on idealized assumptions. The solution, generation by generation, was a sequence of numbers later known as Fibobacci numbers. The number sequence was known to Indian mathematicians as early as the 6th century, but it was Fibonacci's Liber Abaci that introduced it to the West.

In the Fibonacci sequence of numbers, each number is the sum of the previous two numbers. Fibonacci began the sequence not with 0, 1, 1, 2, as modern mathematicians do but with 1,1, 2, etc. He carried the calculation up to the thirteenth place (fourteenth in modern counting), that is 233, though another manuscript carries it to the next place: 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, 55, 89, 144, 233, 377. Fibonacci did not speak about the golden ratio as the limit of the ratio of consecutive numbers in this sequence.


In the 19th century, a statue of Fibonacci was constructed and erected in Pisa. Today it is located in the western gallery of the Camposanto, historical cemetery on the Piazza dei Miracoli.

There are many mathematical concepts named after Fibonacci, for instance because of a connection to the Fibonacci numbers. Examples include the Brahmagupta-Fibonacci identuity, the Fibonacci search technique, and the Pisano period.  Beyond mathematics, namesakes of Fibonacci include the asteroid 6765 Fibonacci and the art rock band The Fibonaccis.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Clever Courage: Eugene Fluckey

Rear Admiral Eugene Bennett Fluckey (October 5, 1913 – June 28, 2007), nicknamed "Lucky Fluckey", was a United States Navy submarine commander who received the Congressional Medal of Honor and four Navy Crosses for his service during World War II.

In November 1943, he attended the Prospective Commanding Officer's School at the Submarine Base New London, then reported to Commander Submarine Force, Pacific Fleet. After one war patrol as the prospective commanding officer of the USS Barb (SS-20), (her seventh), he assumed command of the submarine on April 27, 1944. Fluckey established himself as one of the greatest submarine skippers, credited with the most tonnage sunk by a U.S. skipper during World War II: 17 ships including a carrier, cruiser, and a frigate.

In one of the stranger incidents in the war, Fluckey sent a landing party ashore to set demolition charges on a coastal railway line, destroying a 16-car train. This was the sole landing by U.S. military forces on the Japanese home islands during World War II.

Fluckey ordered that this landing party be composed of crewmen from every division on his submarine and asked for as many former Boy Scouts as possible, knowing they would have the skills to find their way in unfamiliar territory. The selected crewmen were Paul Saunders, William Hatfield, Francis Sever, Lawrence Newland, Edward Klinglesmith, James Richard, John Markuson, and William Walker. Hatfield wired the explosive charge, using a microswitch under the rails to trigger the explosion.

Fluckey was awarded the Navy Cross four times for extraordinary heroism during the eighth, ninth, tenth, and twelfth war patrols of Barb. During his famous eleventh patrol, he continued to revolutionize submarine warfare, inventing the night convoy attack from astern by joining the flank escort line. He attacked two convoys at anchor 26 miles (42 km) inside the 20 fathom (37 m) curve on the China coast, totaling more than 30 ships. With two frigates pursuing, Barb set a then-world speed record for a submarine of 23.5 knots (44 km/h) using 150% overload. For his conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity, Fluckey received the Medal of Honor. Barb received the Presidential Unit Citation for the eighth through eleventh patrols and the Navy Unit Commendation for the twelfth patrol.

His book, Thunder Below! (1992), depicts the exploits of his beloved Barb. "Though the tally shows more shells, bombs, and depth charges fired at Barb, no one received the Purple Heart and Barb came back alive, eager, and ready to fight again."

Fluckey retired from active duty as a Rear Admiral in 1972. His wife, Marjorie, died in 1979, after 42 years of marriage. He later ran an orphanage with his second wife, Margaret, in Portugal for a number of years.

He died at Anne Arundel Medical Center in Annapolis, Maryland, on June 28, 2007. He is buried at the United States Naval Academy Cemetary.

Fluckey was awarded Eagle Scout in 1948.  He is one of only nine known Eagle Scouts who also received the Medal of Honor; the others are Aquilla J. Dyess, Robert Edward Femoyer, Mitchell Paige, Thomas R. Norris, Arlo L. Olson, Ben L. Salomon, Leo K. Thorsness and Jay Zeamer, Jr.

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There’s also a book about Flukey written during the last years of his life by Carl LaVO.  The title is The Galloping Ghost: The Extraordinary Life of Submarine Legend Eugene Fluckey.  A description of this biography is posted on

Eugene Fluckey was one of the great naval heroes of World War II. His exploits as captain of the submarine USS Barb revolutionized undersea warfare and laid the groundwork for the nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine fleet that today is the primary deterrent and capability of the United States against nuclear attack. Now a retired rear admiral living in Annapolis, Maryland, he is the most decorated living American, having earned numerous presidential, congressional, and military honors, including the Medal of Honor and four Navy Crosses. In the war against Japan, Fluckey fired the first ballistic missiles from a submarine, sank more tonnage than any other U.S. submarine skipper; including an aircraft carrier, a cruiser, a destroyer, and blew up a train after landing submariners-turned-saboteurs on mainland Japan in 1945. The title of this biography is the legendary submariner s nickname, "Galloping Ghost, " a reference to the hit-and-run tactics that left his enemies baffled about the direction of his attacks.

Here is the admiral's story, told with the exclusive access to Admiral Fluckey's personal papers and based on interviews with him, his family, Barb shipmates, official Navy documents, and the recollections of his contemporaries. The author, Carl LaVO, who spent years researching the subject, offers not only a dramatic, action-filled account of Fluckey's wartime experiences, but also a lively description of his life before and after that captures the infectious optimism contributing to his many successes.

LaVO describes meeting the ninety-year-old retired admiral: With a full shock of hair, trim build, natty clothes, and buoyant demeanor, Fluckey looked much younger and still displayed his characteristic dry wit, despite the fact that Alzheimer's disease had robbed him of many memories. When asked about a long-forgotten episode of his life, the admiral replied with a twinkle in his eyes and hearty laugh, I don t know. You tell me. LaVO took up his challenge and with this book presents Admiral Fluckey's full biography.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Gone with the Wind -- Reconsidered

Introduction by the Blog Author

Below are some incisive book reviews for Gone with the Wind submitted and used by

This supposedly minor classic about a backward American subculture is still being read in America and abroad.  I think this is true because Mitchell’s book is a triumph of the Shakespearean revolution.  It used to be that characters in a play were static, unchanging, statue-like.  Shakespeare’s main characters changed as the play progressed – and this was particularly striking in the tragedies he wrote late in his career.  One sees this as well in the best novelists, including American writers like Herman Melville and Margaret Mitchell. The major characters of Gone with the Wind charge and evolve –and grow tired!—in the course of a twelve-year narrative.

The book has shrewd insight into matters that modern social scientists still haven’t figured out – such as why slavery worked and why so few slaves attempted to run away.  There was a kind of common-sense meritocracy within the black slaves of a plantation and a stunning sense of loyalty that has no modern equivalent.  Mitchell journalistically uses the dialect of 19th century north Georgian slaves as they talk to each other and to white Southerners.  She also correctly notes how the most talented slaves were within the house itself, running the household, insuring the white masters kept up with appearances, and allowing their children to play with the next generation of masters while those blue-bloods were children – Scarlett herself is described as a tomboy who threw rocks as well as the young boys who were slaves and with whom she played as a girl.

This accurate portrayal of the closeness of the races and teamwork in running a plantation were a shock to northern and western readers of the book in the 1930s.  I suspect Mitchell wanted to upset them.

It was a society that worked and remained stable.  The problem was that it didn’t work as well as capitalistic free states with their railroads and cannon factories, something Rhett Butler noticed and acted upon as a war profiteer.

Because Gone with the Wind ingeniously recreates an extinct society, it deserves praise.  And it deserves respect for the awesomely thorough depth of the characters presented – as we read the book we make analogies to people we know because we come to recognize and understand the personae being described.  The proof of this talent comes home if you re-read the book about every twenty years of your adult life.  It is late in life that we come to appreciate the masterful understanding of human character that Mitchell possessed as she drafted this amazing book in her twenties and early thirties.

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487 of 524 people found the following review helpful

By Mark D Burgh on November 3, 2001

Format: Hardcover

I'm a literary snob, I'll admit it. I've read all the classics, and I even know some Literary Theory. Gone With the Wind? Pul-lease, racist, sexist, revanchist trash, made popular by all the young woman dreaming of being Scarlett and having both their Rhett and Ashley. Cheerleader fare. Escapist.


Gone with the Wind is an American War & Peace. This is serious literature, which won the Pulitzer prize, no less. Most people don't see past the epic plot (which isn't as cut and dried as you may think) or the love story, but this is no less than a successful attempt to reclaim a discarded culture. It is not about crinoline and lace, it is about the Apocalypse and how losers of the counter-revolution must learn to live in a place where all their politics, personal or civil, are demolished. Scarlett O'Hara is popular because she is an American, driven, materialistic, sentimental and utterly ruthless. Rhett Butler is the tragic character of this book; the way of life and ideals he disdained are killing him, and he suffers like no one else in this post-apocalyptic landscape. His departure at the end is an act of contrition as much as a romantic failure; he had tried to recreate the materialism of the ante-bellum world, but neglected the spirituality (such as it is) of men like Ashley Wilkes. Both men, the dreamer and the realist end up alone in a very sterile place. This book is proto-feminist as well. Scarlett survives, even as everything around her dies, but in the end, she too is alone.

Don't dumb this masterpiece down. The movie fails to capture even a tenth of the depth here. And that awful sequel! Caused by the mistake that this book is some kind of romance novel. This is Art, and you can't stick a new ending on it, any more than you can a great painting or musical composition.

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135 of 146 people found the following review helpful

By Misfit TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on August 30, 2007

Format: Paperback

I would give this 10 stars if I could. I haven't read this since I was a young girl in the early 70's and should never have waited so long to read it again. The characters were exceptionally well drawn, the dialogue was brilliant, particularly between Rhett (SIGH!) and Scarlett. I swear there was sparks flying off the pages. I am going to miss the people I will have to put behind me now that the book has come to an end, Rhett (SIGH), Scarlett, Mammy, Prissy and Aunt Pitty Pat (LOL).

The author's use of prose was beautiful, all the scenes and action came alive for me. Some people seem to be offended by the racism in the book, but that's how things were back then. Sugar coating it would have ruined the story reducing it to a Harlequin romance.

This is an incredibly well written book about the death of a civilization and the struggles to survive in the new era. This is a book that should not be missed, particularly those who enjoy historical fiction.

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153 of 168 people found the following review helpful

By Mark Blackburn on March 17, 2004

Format: Mass Market Paperback

It took this reviewer half a century to get around to reading this great novel for the first time! Appreciating it then, with 'fresh eyes' I share the view that "Gone With The Wind" is quite simply the most readable long novel of all time. With world-wide sales nudging 25 million, it's probably fair to say that most first-time readers (apart from the odd reviewer here at the world's biggest web site) have shared that opinion in the almost 70 years since Margaret Mitchell wrote her one-and-only book. At least one other, highly readable novelist of the past century, the late James A. Michener certainly felt that way.

I'm recalling an interview of thirty years ago in which Michener - a master storyteller in his own right - expressed awe at Mitchell's achievement. I remember Michener quoted a long-forgotten critic who greeted the book's release in 1936 with the perfect, one-sentence summing up: "It's the shortest long novel I have ever read!" Michener predicted at that time (1975) that "critics will forever have to grapple with the problem of why Margaret Mitchell's novel has remained so readable, and so important to so many people."

Michener singled out a few of the "super-dramatic confrontations" so perfectly conjured up in Mitchell's lucid, timeless writing style: Mammy lacing Scarlett into her corset; the wounded at the railway station; Scarlett shooting the Union straggler; the girls making Scarlett a dress from the moss-green velvet draperies; Rhett carrying his wife upstairs to the long-unused bedroom.

Yet for all of its amazing drama, the novel does not ultimately depend upon major confrontations for its page-turning momentum: Michener I remember, zeroed in on two 'central' paragraphs which provide the reader with
perfect glimpses into the way the two major characters have 'grown' before our eyes within these pages. One of these paragraphs captivates our imagination in about the middle of the book (chapter 29):

"Somewhere, on the long road that wound through those four years, the girl with her sachet and dancing slippers, had slipped away, and there was left a woman with sharp green eyes, who counted pennies and turned her hands to many menial tasks, a woman to whom nothing was left from the wreckage, except the indestructible red earth on which she stood."

And, in the final pages, that indelible portrait of Rhett, age forty-five:

"He was sunken in his chair, his suit wrinkling untidily against his thickening waist, every line of him proclaiming the ruin of a fine body and the coarsening of a strong face. Drink and dissipation had done their work on the coin-clean profile, and now it was no longer the head of a young pagan prince on newly minted gold, but a decadent, tired Caesar on copper debased by long usage."

It's true to say (again as Michener noted thirty years ago) that the weakness of "Gone With The Wind" is the almost exclusive focus on Atlanta, ignoring the rest of the South: When in fact, it was really the ENTIRE South that changed, "altered by war, and defeat, and social upheaval - and stark determination to re-establish itself." Michener astutely observed that GWTW "depicts with remarkable felicity, the spiritual history of a region."

Most everyone these days would concede that Margaret Mitchell's personal views on the "liberation of the former slaves" (as expressed in subsequent interviews) were less than compassionate. Nevertheless, it was NOT Mitchell who composed those words which make some of us wince when they're scrolling up the screen in the movie version - words quaintly poetic perhaps, but manifestly insulting to those Americans whose ancestors never mistook the days of slavery as part of some "pretty world" poignantly longed-for, or in some way better than America today. (This reviewer has a pretty good memory for well-cadenced English prose, and this is his memory of those opening words from some anonymous male screenwriter.)

"There was a land of cavaliers and cotton fields called the 'Old South.' Here, in this pretty world, gallantry took its last bow. Here was the last ever to be seen of knights and their ladies fair, of master and slave. Look for it only in books, for it is no more than a dream remembered, a civilization gone with the wind."

So much better are the novelist's own words, distilled into so many sentences and paragraphs that positively 'sing' in our memory. Like this one:

"He swung her off her feet into his arms and started up the stairs. Her head was crushed against his chest and she heard the hard hammering of his heart beneath her ears. He hurt her and she cried out, muffled, frightened. Up the stairs, he went in the utter darkness, up, up, and she was wild with fear."

Or this:

"Hunger gnawed at her empty stomach again, and she said aloud: "As God is my witness, as God is my witness, the Yankees aren't going to lick me. I'm going to live through this, and when it's over, I'm never going to be hungry again. No, nor any of my folks. If I have to steal or kill - as God is my witness, I'm never going to be hungry again."


I have often thought that "age twenty-six" is the single most important year of any long and healthy lifetime (for too many subjective reasons to list here; but think of the athletes or musicians we've admired when they were at the very summit of their game -- in their twenty-sixth year). So it comes as no surprise to learn that Margaret Mitchell was at that same magic age when she began work on this --- the book another great novelist of the last century would term "this long and powerful recollection of her home town - destined to become a titanic tale of human passions, loved around the world" . . . (its astonishing impact) "a mystery then, and remains one now."

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217 of 229 people found the following review helpful

By A Customer on July 12, 2000

Format: Hardcover

I've read GWTW many times -once you get going you can't stop! I once gave a copy to a friend to read -she said it was 'too old fashioned' oh well her loss. I'm glad I'm in the company of true 'Windies' so I thought I'd share with you some interesting facts about the book:

-Scarlett was originally named Pansy
-Scarlett was partly based on Mitchell herself and her grandmother
-Rhett was based on Mitchell's first husband Red Upshaw
-the initials JRM in her dedication refer to her second husband John Reginald Marsh
-Margaret Mitchell maintained the only character taken from real life was Prissy the maid
-When asked who she'd like to be in the movie version, Mitchell said 'Prissy'
-Like a detective novelist, Mitchell wrote the last chapter first and the first chapter last
-GWTW is the only book to sell more copies than the bible
-Mitchell nearly went blind just proofreading the manuscript!
-Mitchell scrupulously researched every detail for GWTW, even going to the town register to ensure there was no Rhett Butler or Scarlett O'Hara alive during the Civil War
-The novel took ten years to complete, most of it was written in three
-For style, she endeavoured to make her prose so that a five-year old could read it
-If she were ever to write a sequel, it would be called 'Back With the Breeze' On that note, please avoid the Ripley penned sequel 'Scarlett', it is atrocious.

Gone with the Wind is my favourite book of all time, and yours too, I hope. Enjoy!

Friday, May 23, 2014

Superlatively Waterproof Surfaces

Research on super-hydrophobic surfaces could

result in cleaner, more efficient power

By Todd Hollingshead, BYU, May 21, 2014

In a basement lab on BYU’s campus, mechanical engineering professor Julie Crockett analyzes water as it bounces like a ball and rolls down a ramp.

This phenomenon occurs because Crockett and her colleague Dan Maynes have created a sloped channel that is super-hydrophobic, or a surface that is extremely difficult to wet. In layman’s terms, it’s the most extreme form of water proof.

Engineers like Crockett and Maynes have spent decades studying super-hydrophobic surfaces because of the plethora of real-life applications. And while some of this research has resulted in commercial products that keep shoes dry or prevent oil from building up on bolts, the duo of BYU professors are uncovering characteristics aimed at large-scale solutions for society.

Their recent study on the subject, published in academic journal Physics of Fluids, finds surfaces with a pattern of microscopic ridges or posts, combined with a hydrophobic coating, produces an even higher level of water resistance--depending on how the water hits the surface.

“Our research is geared toward helping to create the ideal super-hydrophobic surface,” Crockett said. “By characterizing the specific properties of these different surfaces, we can better pinpoint which types of surfaces are most advantageous for each application.”

Their work is critical because the growing list of applications for super-hydrophobic surfaces is extremely diverse:

  • Solar panels that don’t get dirty or can self-clean when water rolls off of them
  • Showers, tubs or toilets you don’t want hard water spots to mark
  • Bio-medical devices, such as the interior of tubes or syringes that deliver fluids to patients
  • Hulls of ships, exterior of torpedoes or submarines
  • Airplane wings that will resist wingtip icing in cold humid conditions

But where Crockett and Maynes’ research is really headed is toward cleaner and more efficient energy generation. Nearly every power plant across the country creates energy by burning coal or natural gas to create steam that expands and rotates a turbine. Once that has happened, the steam needs to be condensed back into a liquid state to be cycled back through.

If power plant condensers can be built with optimal super-hydrophobic surfaces, that process can be sped up in significant ways, saving time and lowering costs to generate power.

“If you have these surfaces, the fluid isn’t attracted to the condenser wall, and as soon as the steam starts condensing to a liquid, it just rolls right off,” Crockett said. “And so you can very, very quickly and efficiently condense a lot of gas.”

The super-hydrophobic surfaces the researchers are testing in the lab fall into one of two categories: surfaces with micro posts or surfaces with ribs and cavities one tenth the size of a human hair. (See images of each to the right.)

To create these micro-structured surfaces, the professors use a process similar to photo film development that etches patterns onto CD-sized wafers. The researchers then add a thin water-resistant film to the surfaces, such as Teflon, and use ultra-high-speed cameras to document the way water interacts when dropped, jetted or boiled on them.

They’re finding slight alterations in the width of the ribs and cavities, or the angles of the rib walls are significantly changing the water responses. All of this examination is providing a clearer picture of why super-hydrophobic surfaces do what they do.

“People know about these surfaces, but why they cause droplets or jets to behave the way they do is not particularly well known,” Crockett said. “If you don’t know why the phenomena are occurring, it may or may not actually be beneficial to you.”

Thursday, May 22, 2014

High School Grades Predict Adult Income

University of Miami Researchers Find that High School Grade Point Average is Tied to Earnings in Adulthood

A team of researchers led by Michael T. French, professor of health economics at the University of Miami (UM), finds that high school grade point average (GPA) is a strong predictor of future earnings.

The findings, published recently in the Eastern Economic Journal, show that a one-point increase in high school GPA raises annual earnings in adulthood by around 12 percent for men and 14 percent for women.

Although previous studies have found a relationship between higher levels of education and greater earnings, less is known about the association between academic performance in high school and income.

“Conventional wisdom is that academic performance in high school is important for college admission, but this is the first study to clearly demonstrate the link between high school GPA and labor market earnings many years later,” says French, director of the Health Economics Research Group (HERG) in the Department of Sociology at the UM College of Arts and Sciences, and corresponding author of the study.      

The data indicate that overall high school GPA is significantly higher among women, but men have significantly higher annual earnings. For this reason, the researchers analyzed men and women separately. Even so, the study finds that a one-point increase in GPA doubles the probability of completing college—from 21 percent to 42 percent—for both genders.

The results also show that if GPA and other measures of performance are excluded from the analysis model, it gives the impression that African-American men achieve lower educational levels than their white counterparts. But, when these predictors are part of the analyses, it demonstrates that African-American men and women attain higher educational levels than white students with the same high school GPA and background characteristics.

“The results suggest that African-Americans with poor high school GPAs are less likely to graduate from high school and attend college, but once GPA and other factors are included in the models, they are actually more likely than other races to graduate from college and continue to graduate school,” French says.

“One possible explanation for this finding is that African-Americans with relatively high GPAs are more motivated and determined than whites to attend college and obtain an advanced degree.”

The findings can have important implications for policymakers, teachers and school administrators who wish to promote academic achievement for students.

“High school guidance counselors and teachers can use these findings to highlight the importance of doing well in high school for both short term (college admission) and longer term (earnings as an adult) goals,” French says.

The study used multiple waves of data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Adolescent Health. The information included high school records, demographic and background information from more than 10,000 males and females. Educational attainment and income information was obtained when the respondents were between 24 and 34 years of age, approximately ten years after high school graduation.

The study is titled “What you do in high school matters: High school GPA, educational attainment, and labor market earnings as a young adult.” Other authors of the study are Jenny F. Homer, research associate at UM Sociology Research Center; Philip K. Robins, professor in the UM School of Business Administration, Department of Economics, and Ioana Popovici, assistant professor at Nova Southeastern University College of Pharmacy.

May 19, 2014

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Standard American bridge bidding

Standard American is a widely used bidding system for the game of bridge in North America and elsewhere. Owing to the popularization of the game by Charles Goren in the 1950s and '60s, its earliest versions were sometimes referred to simply as 'Goren'. With the addition and evolution of various treatments and conventions, it is now more generally referred to as Modern Standard American. It is a natural bidding system based on five card majors and a strong notrump; players may add conventions and refine the meanings of bids through partnership agreements summarized in their convention card.

Role of Bidding Systems

The purpose of bidding during the auction phase of each deal is to exchange information with one's partner in order to arrive at an optimal contract while concurrently contending with the opponents' attempts to do likewise. A bidding system is a set of agreements about the meanings of the different bids that the players can make. Each bid provides information about the hand's high-card strength and suit distribution based upon hanbd evaluation techniques.


"Standard American" was the label given to the bridge bidding system developed by Charles Goren and his contemporaries in the 1940s. This system was the first to employ the point-count method to evaluate the strength of a bridge hand. Most bids had fairly specific requirements regarding hand strength and suit distribution. The Goren point-count system became so popular that nearly all bridge players in the United States, social and tournament players alike, used it. American bridge teams won world championships using Goren's Standard American.

Modifications began to appear from the 1960s forward. By the year 2000, some completely new bidding systems had evolved, including "Precision Club" and "2/1 Game Forcing" which, although still relying on point-count rules for hand evaluation, are otherwise substantial departures from early Goren methods. Most tournament pairs now assemble their own system from a variety of new treatments and conventions that have evolved. The nearest thing to a common system in tournament play is the "Standard American Yellow Card" (SAYC) promulgated by the American Contract Bridge League. SAYC is widely used in internet bridge play, but only rarely in on-site tournament play.

Most Common Elements

There is no longer a universally recognized standard for social/rubber bridge players. However generally they follow the rules described in Standard American 21, The Rubber Bridge Players Guide for the Twenty-first Century by John Sheridan Thomas.

The essential common elements of modern Standard American systems are:

  • A hand-strength requirement of at least 12-13 points to open 1-of-a-suit.

  • Five-card majors: opening a major suit promises at least a five-card holding in that suit.

  • Weak two bids: Two diamond, heart or spade openers are made with a sound six-card suit in a hand without enough overall strength to open 1 of the suit.

  • Strong two clubs: All unbalanced hands too strong to open at the one-level are opened with an artificial 2 call, as well as balanced hands stronger than 22 HCP (unless opener has the right strength for a 3NT opening bid).

  • Pre-emptive opening bids: All suit openings above the two level are pre-emptive, promising a long and strong suit.

  • Limit Raises: A jump-raise of the opener's suit by responder, in the absence of opponent interference, is invitational to game. In Goren's system, this was a strong game-forcing raise.

  • Notrump openers show a balanced hand, with the following common point ranges:
    • 1NT = 15-17 HCP
    • 2NT = 20-21 HCP
    • 3NT = 25-27 HCP

  • Common notrump follow-up conventions include Stayman, Jacoby transfers and Gerber.


"SAYC" is an acronym for Standard American Yellow Card, which is a specific set of partnership agreements and conventions, using Standard American as a base. Some of the specific agreements in SAYC that elaborate on basic Standard American are:

  • A 2 response to a 1 NT opening is specified as the "non-forcing" version of the Stayman convention.
  • A 2 response to a 1 NT opening forces the opener to bid 3, so that the responder may play there or bid 3, which the opener is expected to pass.
  • Straight Blackwood is used, and not the "Roman Key-Card" or other variation.
  • In response to a 2 opening, the 2 response is the "waiting" version of that response.
  • In response to a weak-two opening, RONF ("Raise Only Non-Force") is used.
  • The Jacoby 2NT is used to show a game-forcing raise of a major suit with four-card support.
  • Negative doubles are used through the level of 2.
  • Fourth suit forcing is used.
  • Michaels cuebid and Unusual notrump are used.
  • Conventions are specified as being "off" in response to a 1NT overcall, except that 2 is still Stayman.

SAYC is a very specific collection of agreements, which can, of course, be modified and augmented by partnership agreement. In practical use, the term is often mis-used to refer to Standard American in general, or it could refer to a system that used SAYC as a base and made additional augmentations or changes to the base agreements.

Afterword by the Blog Author

The advances in Standard American bidding since 1960 have represented a startling and professional series of advances in Contract Bridge.  The game is cleverer than it used to be, and it is still advancing technically.  The SAYC was developed, in part, to save the game by encouraging strangers to play as partners over the Internet.  Internet play is now allowed to accumulate a percentage of master’s points by the American Contract Bridge League.  Most new bridge players develop their knowledge and engage in practice on a computer.

Bridge bidding is not mere use of rules but involves a special sort of game theory logic in that the bids represent a logical series of conventions which, when used together, allow for intelligent decisions (contracts) to be made based on incomplete information.

Bridge bidding changes the mental wiring and the methodologies of the player who becomes competent at it.  And those bidding conventions are still being refined and improved.