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The Annotated "Horse with No Name"

Horse with no Name" by America has become one of my favorite songs as it describes in some way how I feel about things, and it has something to say about our present lifestyle, which may have to be discarded because of peak oil. I will present the lyrics and comment on them, then I will comment on the chords in the piece - they are interesting, too.

On the first part of the journey I was looking at all the life

Apparently the journey starts somewhere where things are fertile, and where there is enough rain. I imagine it to be some southern or Midwestern city, such as Kansas City, Mo.

There were plants and birds and rocks and things
There was sand and hills and rain
The first thing I met was a fly with a buzz

You don't see these things in a desert. The journey begins somewhere just outside the desert, where some of these things exist. Both animate and inanimate things are included, and some of these things do occur in a desert after all, such as sand and hills.

And the sky with no clouds

Represents a beautiful day, with blue skies, and happiness. But this also occurs frequently in a desert.

The heat was hot and the ground was dry

That's a redundancy. What would have happened if the heat had been cold? Now we are getting into the desert. These things don't exist, and maybe you miss them, but what do you care?

But the air was full of sound

Have you ever noticed the difference between a summer and a winter night? On a summer night, you hear bugs twittering, birds, and animals. On a winter night you don't hear anything. If the air was full of sound, we had not reached the desert yet.

I've been through the desert on a horse with no name

What is this horse with no name? And why doesn't it have a name? To me that is a difference between horses and cars. Back in the old days, for transportation you bought a horse. You named the horse and took good care of it. It was not only your method of transportation but your friend, and you had to be on good relations with it. Naming the horse gives some personal feeling to it. Not so with a car. Most people name their horses but not their cars. You hear that Barbaro won the Kentucky Derby but you hear that Tony Stewart won the Nascar 500. Tony Stewart was the driver, not the car, but Barbaro was the horse, not the jockey. So to me the fact that the horse had no name meant it was a car instead. The person is making his journey across the desert in a car. I imagine him crossing the Great Plains and then the southwestern Desert.

It felt good to be out of the rain

That's one good thing about the desert. It does not rain there (at least not much). Rain is inconvenient, dreary, and the symbol of sadness and depression. If you are in the desert, you don't get this. You get endless beautiful weather all the time and what clouds there are produce brilliant sunsets instead of dreary days.

In the desert you can remember your name

This passage is the source of a Mondegreen. I thought at first the lyrics were "In the desert you can't remember your name For there ain't no one for to give you no name." But that does not make sense. If you don't have a name, how can you forget it? You can't forget something that doesn't exist.

To me "can remember your name" means that you can pursue what you want without interference from anything or any person. You are all alone in the desert, and are wondering what is around and what is with this world, and you can think clearly about these things because the phone doesn't ring, your spouse doesn't yell at you, your boss doesn't bawl you out, no dogs threaten you and so forth. To me that is what "can remember your name" means.

'Cause there ain't no one for to give you no pain

This is just what I was talking about. And it emphasizes that it is people that give you the most pain in your life, what I call "Bottom 10s", from the practice of listing the top or bottom 10 of something - the ten worst people in your life. There are no Bottom 10s in the desert.

Also I would like to remark on the grammar. It is full of grammatical errors. Still this is the way people speak when they have feelings about things, such as Bottom 10s. That includes "ain't", "ain't no" (double negative), for (useless word), "give you no pain" (double negative again).

La, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la,la,la
La, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la,la,la

Filler. The singers let the tune show itself.

After two days in the desert sun
My skin began to turn red

Sunburn danger? Skin can turn red in an automobile, especially if it is a convertible. However, I don't think life-threatening stress is involved, even though the desert heat and non-availability of water can be dangerous.

After three days in the desert fun I was looking at a river bed

Of a river where water no longer flows. There are some interesting things about the desert. But this can be a metaphor for the past, for how things used to be. The current of those times have dried up and now only memories in a dried up river bed remain.

And the story it told of a river that flowed
Made me sad to think it was dead

There used to be civilizations in the desert, back when the climate was more favorable. This also says the past is dead and all you can live is the present.

You see I've been through the desert on a horse with no name
It felt good to be out of the rain
In the desert you can remember your name
'Cause there ain't no one for to give you no pain
La, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la,la,la
La, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la,la,la

After nine days I let the horse run free
'cause the desert had turned to sea

The traveler has reached the Pacific Coast, presumably in Southern California. Eventually the desert becomes fertile land again, then the wide expanse of the ocean. Apparently the traveler arrived somewhere where he can walk to get to plants, birds, rocks, things, sand, hills and rain, so he parks the car and leaves it. It then just sits there, unlike a horse, which would then experience a life of freedom.

There were plants and birds and rocks and things
There was sand and hills and rain

Southern California has these things.

The ocean is a desert with its life underground

A different kind of desert - a desert of water. Nothing but water is out there, and all the life is under the surface - fish, mollusks, and whales. Here, "underground" to me means "undersea".

And a perfect disguise above

Hey look at this! An anti-Mondegreen. In a Mondegreen, the singers intend one expression and you hear another. For example, Jimi Hendrix sings "''cuse me, while I kiss the sky", and we hear "'cuse me, while I kiss this guy.", mainly because it makes more sense.

In an anti-Mondegreen, the singer puts in the misunderstood phrase (or at least what you think you will misunderstand it as) and you are suppose to interpret it as the true phrase. In this case "disguise above" does not make sense. I think America means "the sky above", or "sky above". And that is what would exist out in the ocean - an unusually good (perfect) sky above the ocean.

Under the cities lies a heart made of ground
But the humans will give no love

A person who is cold and does not show any love is usually said to have a heart of iron or stone. Here the heart is of ground. They must mean underground things such as subways, basements and garages, and indoors at home or in an apartment complex. In a big city such as Los Angeles, people are not that friendly, and I think this is what this means. After a long journey, you would expect some gratitude. So did the person complete the journey? Or is he still in a desert, a love desert, because no one will relate to him?

You see I've been through the desert on a horse with no name
It felt good to be out of the rain
In the desert you can remember your name
'Cause there ain't no one for to give you no pain
La, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la,la,la
La, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la,la,la
La, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la,la,la
La, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la,la,la

An interesting song. It represents escape from Bottom 10s and other annoying things of life, in a lifestyle of complete freedom. Drive anywhere in the desert and have a clear mind to think things over. So therefore this song also represents our current lifestyle, based on the horse with no name . . . the automobile. Such a lifestyle can last only as long as the fuel for it does, and there are signs the fuel is running out. Does this mean we won't be able to drive in the desert anymore? We have to put up with Bottom 10s but we will have plants, birds, rocks, things, sand, hills, rain and flies.

This song also reminds me of solitary pilgrimages such as experienced by Buddha and Mohammad. You go out into the desert to clarify your relationships to the Ultimate.

The chords are interesting. There are only two chords, E minor and a strange chord for which names such as Dsusp6susp9 do not give it justice. The E minor chord is the easiest basic chord for the guitar. It is just two fingers on the second fret of the 2nd and 3rd strings (A and D, making them into B and E). To get the other what'sit chord, you split your fingers over so they hit the 1st and 4th strings at their second frets, yielding a chord consisting of F#, A, D, A, B and E. This makes "Horse with No Name" probably the easiest popular song to play on the guitar. It's the same Em and whatsit chords over and over again. The whatsit chord looks like a D chord but its bass note is an F#. To me the best name for this chord is the "whatsit" chord, or the "horse with no name" chord, or maybe it's like the horse in the song. The chord has no name. You see, I've been strumming the guitar on a chord with no name.


Santa comes on Two Horses

In the past century or so, there has been a rumor around that Santa comes on eight reindeer. The rumor got hyped up so that now there is a ninth reindeer named Rudolph whose nose shines bright red like a red Christmas tree light string bulb, and maybe even another reindeer named Olive.

Well recently I found something that completely debunked that theory. Santa does not come on a sleigh with nine reindeer; he comes on a horse and carriage with two horses:

I found this in a road with no cars on it in Chester, Virginia. And I got to see him before Christmas. So Santa is not going to come down your chimney, and he is not going to be driving reindeer; if he did, they'd be in danger of being shot by Sarah Palin. He is going to do things the old-fashioned way, in a team of horses with a carriage. So when you hear neighing, Santa is there.


SUUSI 2008 Part 1

It is 2008 July 21 2116 and I am in a room in a Radford dorm, at SUUSI. I presented the story of Tuscobuk with his adventures with the Elk - the elk skin is the Quileute version of Cassiopeia. It's a story of our time. For me it is how I find that with my father's passing and with it my belief in our institutions, I am not trustful of too many institutions, and it seems I have no one to turn to. The elk skin is a symbol of the complex and enormous task of finding the truth about everything. It is so huge that Tuscobuk could not hold on to it - he gave it up to the sky.

I attended Greg Greenway's music and social change workshop. He directed us through some social change tunes, and he wants us to select the two most influential tunes in our lives. This reminds me of SUUSI 2000 when I attended Jennifer Bosveld's The Flag, Mom, and Rock and Roll workshop, in which we all came up with a medley of tunes of our lives.

We were going to go to stargazing tonight but it got postponed because of an incoming cloud deck. Try again later in the week.

Rev. Rebecca Parker says the idea of Jesus saving us for our sins came not just after the death of Jesus but instead about AD 1000, and this led Christianity from non-violence to the Crusades.


No-Hit Loss

On 2008 June 28, Los Angeles defeated Los Angeles in a baseball game. This is the sort of thing that inter-league ball will do - it will make a strange headline like that one. The Dodgers beat the Angels 1-0. But the strangest thing is how they did it.

The Angels did not score a single run during the entire game. The Dodgers did not have any hits anywhere in the game. Therefore the two Angels pitchers, Weaver and Arredondo, tossed a no-hitter. However, the Dodgers won because they scored a run in the fifth inning. Kemp got on base on an error, then while the next batter was batting, he stole second. The throw to put him out at second went wild, and so Kemp got all the way to third. He then scored on DeWitt's sacrifice fly.

Major League Baseball does not consider this a no-hitter. That's because the two pitchers pitched only 8 innings, because the 9th inning wasn't played because the home team was ahead (the Angels were visitors). Maybe this is to keep the records unbiased, but it still seems a little strange to me to say that a no-hitter was not pitched because the game was so long. That has nothing to do with the number of hits.

If there is that much concern about nine innings for a no-hitter, then let's change the rules a bit. After 8 1/2 innings are played, if the home team is ahead, the bottom of the 9th is not played. This is because there is no chance for the visitors to win - only the home teams bats. It seems pointless to continue. But not if the visitors have a no-hitter going and they need 9 innings for a no-hitter.

So change the rules to say that if the home team is ahead after 8 1/2 innings but have not made any hits, the bottom of the ninth is played anyway. Balls, strikes, walks, running on the base paths, and putouts are the same as in previous innings. Runs do score. But as soon as the home team scores a hit, the game ends immediately, as the no-hitter is broken. If three outs occur before this happens, the visiting pitcher(s) will have a no-hitter, and it will be official. So continue the game if the home team has no hits. This will allow a moment of glory for some pitcher, even though he loses the game.


The Spider Theory

Today I attended my Unitarian Universalist church's service. The minister for this service authors the Auspicious Jots blog, covering a wide range of interesting anecdotal material. She gave a sermon entitled, "Why Should We Even Care?" about an incident that she had as an instructor for a World Religions class.

Today, as she was beginning her service, she said there was a spider on the pulpit. She interrupted her reading to try to get rid of the presumptuous arachnid. She flicked her hand holding a piece of paper, and then said, "Beat It!" She gave her sermon, on caring and concern for the things that greet us in life; in her case, being questioned as to whether she accepted Jesus Christ to be her Savior.

I am not sure if she was pleased when I told her that I thought the highlight of her service was the spider. But that's what I feel. When you do the best you can to do something worth doing, your plans can be disrupted by an itsy bitsy spider crawling all over your sermon. Well, that's life, AC. Das is das Leben, und Arbeit macht das Leben nicht süss. C'est la vie. Spiders are a part of life.

That, in fact, is a central part of my beliefs. In particular, I believe in the Beyond theory, which says that there is always something beyond anything you mention. If there is a Theory of "Everything" describing the four forces of nature, that's when we discover a fifth force. When the Unitarian Universalist Association draws up a list of 7 principles for its denomination, that's when an eighth principle becomes evident. When the polls predict that Obama will win New Hampshire, that's when Clinton wins it. It implies that there is an afterlife, a supernatural, but no God, because you can always go Beyond God.

This theory can be reformulated as the "spider" theory. When you think you have the answer to life, the universe and everything, that's when the 42 spots on a pair of dice gyrate and land, and that's when a spider comes up to your answer and ruins it. To me what that spider means in AC's service is that no matter how well you prepare your sermon, the spider can come and ad lib your service, and you can't always say, "Beat It!" She knows this very well as a UU minister, as she believes in the 7 principles, the fourth of which calls for a free and responsible search for truth and meaning. To me, the spider is a symbol of the Fourth Principle.

NOTE: I have gotten a commenter, Robin Edgar, who has told me that the spider is more of a symbol of the Seventh Principle. That it is, since spiders spin webs, like the Interdependent Web of All Existence. So this means now the Spider symbolizes two of the UU Principles - numbers 4 and 7. It symbolizes the Fourth, as the Spider that gets in the way of your sermon. It symbolizes the Seventh, as the Weaver of the Interdependent Web. Who knows? Maybe the Spider will some day symbolize all seven principles, and so the symbol of UUism will be the Spider.

By the way, I have to type this in this way. I have enabled this blog to print comments, but it doesn't do it. It does it with my other blogs. This is a serious problem with Blogger.


Robin Fight

I ran near my house about 2 miles at about 2008 February 20 2:30 pm. I saw a robin fight on the way back on the run. Two robins were pecking at each other and fluffing up their wings near a fence surrounding my development's swimming pool. This shows that even birds which we think of in cute terms sometimes fight with each other. Fighting is by no means unique to the human species. I ran towards them but they still fought. When I got within about 2 feet of them, they flew away. I then continued my run into a path in the woods near a creek, and saw about 10 more robins. It seems there is a flock of robins that is hanging out by the creek near my house.

I have also been seeing many other birds recently, including downy, red-bellied, and even pileated woodpeckers and a fox sparrow. Further the cherry tree in my yard is in full bloom, already now, in February. Last year, it was not until March 11 that the tree achieved this much bloom. Our winter has been warm this year, without any major snowstorms, and has been punctuated by spells of 60s and even 70s days. Is this global warming? One thing's for sure. If things occur too early, then animals that rely on things happening at a certain time are going to be hurt.


Sprinkler Paradox

Today the two ministers of my church, Rev. Jeanne Pupke and Auspicious Jots (otherwise known as Rev. Alane C. Miles) gave a water service today. Rev. Miles mentioned that when she usually goes to Texas, she usually finds brown grass and easily available swimming pools. But this year, with Texas' rain and floods, the grass was all green. She really found it surprising to find a lush green Dallas. But the swimming pools could not be used because they kept closing them due to thunder. She also mentioned that you could hear the sound of sprinklers all over the place; that is, tsh, tsh, tsh, tsh… . But not this year.

I have had to use a sprinkler this summer in the Richmond, Virginia, area. There was no rain for a while and the counties were imposing all sorts of restrictions, such as even-odd sprinkling. These were voluntary, but they were threatening to make it mandatory. Then came a 6-inch deluge. It is the most I have ever seen from a storm here, exceeding Fran, Isabel, and Gaston. Three other storms came here and dumped their rain and lightninged and thundered all over the place. So now I don't need the sprinkler. I do need it now, however, because another drought threatens, and I have newly planted grass.

Which brings me to this point. I threatened to use the sprinkler after the 6-inch storm, because the drought had ended. But I didn't use it then. I didn't need to. Not with 6 inches in the ground. Earlier, I did really need to sprinkle, since we were not getting much rain. But the county said I could water only on certain days.

Which brings me to this principle, which I call the Sprinkler Paradox:

When you can use the sprinkler, you do not need to, because there is enough rain. But when no rain comes, and you really need the sprinkler, that's when the local governments tell you that you can't.

I am not sure how to get out of this paradox, but it confronts every homeowner who has a lawn to keep up.


Barry Bonds Rattles the Opposition

I have been keeping track every once in a while on Barry Bonds' challenge to Hank Aaron's 755 home run record. Last week, Barry scored homer number 754, and then I became more interested in it since I wanted to see what the fan reaction would be to tying the record and beating it. Outside of his home team town of San Francisco, Bonds gets booed a lot, especially where he is now, in Los Angeles playing the Dodgers. I watch late at night to see if I could see Home Run #755 and the resulting chorus of boos, and maybe bottles and other debris on the field. The boos result from the suspected or actual use of steroids by Bonds; certainly there is something funny about a batter who gets better each year he ages, and one who blasts Roger Maris' 61 home run record with 70 runs recently. But #755 hasn't happened. Instead, the Giants are beating the Dodgers, except for last night's game. I think Bonds has got the Dodgers all unnerved.

Since #754, Bonds has hit only 1 out of 10 at bats, with an additional 9 walks, some of them intentional. Why can't he hit? Why does he get walked a lot? Because he doesn't get anything good. No pitcher wants to be the one who throws #755 or #756 to Bonds. So the pitcher does not pitch good ones to him. When Bonds hits, he hits squibblers or short fly balls, which are easy outs. When he refuses to hit bad pitches, he gets walks. However it isn't all that simple.

Two days ago, I observed one trip to the plate by Bonds. The pitcher threw 4 balls and one strike at him, and the strike was not a good ball to hit. The next batter Klesko walked as well, and Molina then hit a single, loading the bases, and then Feliz hit another single, scoring two runs. And just tonight, August 2, Bonds walked, and then the Giants went through their entire batting order, scoring 3 runs. So not only are pitchers and other Dodger players trying to avoid getting Bonds into the action, Bond's mere appearance is giving the Dodger pitcher and fielders the jitters, causing other Giants to hit and score.

And so it shall go for a while. But not forever, as sooner or later, Bonds will come up to the plate with runners on 2nd and 3rd, or with the bases loaded. In the latter case, the pitcher will have to pitch to Bonds, especially if the game is close. And maybe then Bonds will score the home run, and the record will fall, and the boos will follow. That's baseball, with a little dash of steroids thrown in.


SUUSI 2007: The Conclusion

Well now SUUSI is over, and it may be a while before I go onto the campus of Virginia Tech again. It seems strange. The 2007 April 16 shootings occur, and we SUUSIites claim our allegiance to VT, saying that we are all Hokies too. Then we take off for greener pastures at Radford. Seems strange, doesn't it? But things just could not work out at Tech: this fall's students needed to be oriented.

So what happened the last day? I gave my last workshop, on Sudoku, using the brick wall as a screen. I sang with SUUSIBoyz for the last time this year, and we went to see Teens Way Off Broadway at night. This time it was a spoof on Harry Potter, in which he becomes female. The highlight I felt was this woman singing the Dixie Chicks tune "Not Ready to Make Nice". We then went to Cabaret and Serendipity for the last night. In the past, this has really been a big night for Serendipity. After all it is the last night we are at SUUSI, and it is open until 2 am. But at midnight the place was practically deserted. I asked a woman to dance, and shortly after we started dancing I found that we were only one of two couples dancing, and there were only two people sitting on the sidelines. It's like dancing in the desert, or on the Moon. I found out why shortly. A really rousing number played by a motley array of SUUSI stars at Cabaret. Strange.

Closing circle went OK, and then we all took off for home with SUUSI memories. Next year we come to a new place, on a Pilgrimage from Virginia Tech to Radford. Here is a comparison table of the two of them. I will add more later if I think of it:
Virginia Tech
Sharing campus with many other groupsWe are the only ones on campus
Madhouse mealsPleasant meals
Long distancesMaximum distance only about 10 minutes
Parking way off in Litton Reeves infinityConvenient parking, maybe right next to dorm
Ample room for CabaretCrowded Cabaret in a smaller room
Closer for those who live to the NECloser for those who live to the SW
Madhouse opening day registrationMuch more convenient for registration
Teens Way off Broadway in a movie theaterTeens Way off Broadway in a large auditorium
3 sharing double-sized bathroom2 sharing single bathroom
Medieval stone architectureHomey brick architecture
Burruss tower the main landmarkMuse clock tower the main landmark



SUUSI got dramatic. Yesterday after eating at the dining hall, I talked with some friends from my congregation and got my picture taken with some others in front of Detrick, the dining hall. While this was happening, ominous clouds, thunder and lightning appeared. What were the SUUSI gods trying to say? That the SUUSIBoyz were the best all male singing group ever? That SUUSI was nearly over? That SUUSI at Virginia Tech would not be back for a good long while?

In the Ken Wilber class, I found out about levels higher than Turquoise in the Beck-Cowan system. They go Indigo, Violet, Ultraviolet, and Clear Light. I am not sure if I like that type of notation. For one thing it does not alternate warm with cool, individual with collective. I prefer to go Coral, Indigo, Magenta, and Chartreuse. In any case, these levels imply contact with such entities as God and the Great Void. Someone in the class says these are all mental patterns, circuitry in the brain. Indeed, we all know who Donald Duck is, although there is no such actual animal. But it is still brain circuitry. Yes, there is something beyond our experience, but it is beyond our experience. We have no access to it anywhere. Interesting anyway.

My Polyhedra class built the PHiZZ models of Thomas Hull. Two of them made the models, and the class got a good reception.


SUUSI Day 3; Next Year at Radford

SUUSI 2008 will be at Radford University next year. That was announced in a town hall meeting on Tuesday afternoon. It will be 2008 July 20-26, and the theme is “Pilgrimage”.

SUUSI 2007 is doing great. The dancing at Serendipity is good. My workshops turned out well, including Stories of the Sky, which created some new constellations, including a radio telescope in the sky. I found out about the Biological Test Station near Mountain Lake, and about a local cohousing community. Today in a workshop entitled “Integral sexuality”, we learned about how masculine and feminine attributes affect our lives. I think this is stereotyped, but it does explain some things.

In SUUSIBoyz, we sing a song about the earth turning round and round, as well as one about a homesick World War I soldier.

The best performer so far at Cabaret is the combination of Wishing Chair and Amy Carol Webb. Wish they would do an album together. I took a video of Serendipity doing a Latin tune. I especially like the human motion to an alluring Latin beat.


SUUSI 2007 Day 2

It is now the second day of SUUSI.

Another blogger said this SUUSI would be very very hard because of the tragedy of 2007 April 16, three months ago. SUUSI is held at Virginia Tech. We observed silence on the walk to the Ingathering at Burruss. While I went through the memorial of the slain students and faculty near that hall, the heavens shouted. A crack of thunder split the entire countryside. This sounded somewhat ominous to me. Is this to be a thunderous SUUSI? Are voices from up high calling?

However, I felt the SUUSI was just as fun as ever. I straightened out Serendipity by requesting a danceable number. There was a name game, and I selected the name “thunder”. The moving in was a madhouse, however, as the traffic in the tiny Owens parking lot was horrendous. We had more walking with heavy objects to do than in most years.

Today we had our first workshops, and in the morning I told my workshop about math and religion but had no definite answers, as indeed no UU has. In the afternoon I attended a class on Ken Wilber and my leaders told us something that implies that women are abrasive. I disagree with this completely. The logic: women go with the flow, flow is associated with the Yellow Meme, people at the Yellow meme tend to be abrasive; e.g., Jim Kunstler. Therefore, women are abrasive. We were discussing masculine and feminine types. This puts us into boxes, and even worse, stereotypes the sexes. Take the words “masculine” and “feminine” out – replace with individualistic and collective, perhaps.


Sack's Handsome Man

Yesterday I found out from Auspicious Jots a blog posted by someone named Sack. This blog is written by someone living in a typical suburban cul-de-sac. As such, the neighborhood probably did not have much interest to it. It probably consisted of a row of large, closely arranged houses with driveways and multi-car garages, with no stores, parks, or other interesting places. The people there have to drive all over the place to get to the stores, parks, and other centres of action. I can tell from the spelling of "centre", as I have just spelled it, in the blog that the cul-de-sac is in some English-speaking nation other than the United States, perhaps Canada or Australia. It's a driving culture. So nothing much interesting goes on in these cul-de-sacs.

So one day Sack pointed out what happened when a runner ran on these streets. He caught the attention of everyone, especially the women. He was apparently young and handsome, dressed in a light T-shirt and baggy shorts, and attracted more attention when he ran without the shirt.

I too have had similar experiences. When I worked, I used to run in an adjacent park, with nice trails that were easy on the feet. Since I retired, I have to run in my development instead, with streets lined with closely-aligned McMansions that squiggle and turn and end in cul-de-sacs. I usually run in running shorts and shoes and socks. In cooler weather, I also wear a T-shirt, but when the temperature exceeds 68 degrees F (20 degrees C), I run without the shirt. Usually I don't hear of any comments or other people looking at me.

But once in a while I do. Recently a bunch of motorcyclists decided to make a drag pad out of their yards adjoining the development, and the neighbors in the development sued them. They wanted my signature. I visited their house and saw the denuded property and a protective berm. The woman there said she has seen me running up the street many times. Sometimes when I run without the shirt on, someone asks why I am not wearing one. I tell them that it is too hot for a shirt. So apparently running up and down the streets of your development will cause some interest. There are a few runners in my development and occasionally I run into one, but walkers are more common, especially in the morning.

But what this development needs is more interesting stuff, more than what the developers have provided us. In fact, when oil grows scarce, we will really need some of this stuff. In the meantime, the neighbors will have to settle for watching me run up and down its streets and cul-de-sacs.


The Fifty State Quarter Program: An Update

The Fifty-State Quarter program is now nearing an end. 42 states' quarters are out in general circulation. That has made the change in our pockets a lot more interesting than it used to be. When you get change, you could get Massachusetts or Georgia or Oregon or a collection of such states. The designs have turned out to be interesting. They include the horses of Nevada, the branching tree of Connecticut, the spectacular bridge of West Virginia, the Double Buffalo quarters of North Dakota, train vs train of Utah, and Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds with Arkansas. All of them say something about the state. Some ancient, such as the Jamestown settlement of Virginia, and some recent, such as the space shuttle of Florida. Some urban, such as the city skyline of Illinois, some rural as in Wisconsin and Iowa, and some wilderness such as Washington State. Some serious struggles as with New Jersey, and some leisure with Rhode Island. Mammals in Delaware and Kansas; birds in Louisiana and Minnesota, fish in Washington, trees in Vermont and Connecticut, flowers in Mississippi and South Carolina, and food in Wisconsin. So there is a wide variety.

What do I think of the coins? I have ranked them below. I have included states htat have not come out yet; 2007's have come out and one can find them on the Internet; 2008's are still to be decided upon and for these, I made a guess as to what the coin will contain. To me Nevada has the best design of all; the horses and sun are spectacular. California is next because it is a good nature scene. The worst are Montana celebrating death, Indiana celebrating a culture that turns me off, and New Hampshire, which just plain looks ugly. Here is the complete list:

1. Nevada. Horses and Sun are spectacular.
2. California. Great nature scene of hiker and condor.
3. Maine. Good shore scene with lighthouse.
4. Utah. The old-fashioned trains make this one interesting.
5. Iowa. Schoolhouse gives this a rural flavor.
6. West Virginia. Spectacular view from this bridge.
7. North Dakota. Our only two-buffalo coin.
8. Nebraska. Sunshine and scenery.
9. Vermont. Attractive scene of maple sapping.
10. [Alaska]. Good if it contains either polar bear or Big Dipper.
11. South Carolina. Attractive elements but a little crowded.
12. Connecticut. Most intricate of the coins.
13. Kansas. Good try at buffalo coin but too much open space.
14. [Arizona]. Cactus seems dreary - need some spark.
15. Georgia. Peach looks nice but otherwise hackneyed.
16. Rhode Island. Good summer scene but little to do with RI.
17. [New Mexico]. Native American design is interesting - nuke cloud would be frightening.
18. Wisconsin. Good elements but a little busy.
19. Texas. Looks plain but star is distinctive.
20. Minnesota. Good wilds scene but other coins have wilds scenes.
21. Arkansas. Diamond makes this one distinctive.
22. [Oklahoma]. Need something more than outline and woman.
23. North Carolina. Good history but plain design.
24. Alabama. Honors great person but design somewhat unattractive.
25. New Jersey. Battle scene interesting but can be confused with Virginia.
26. Washington. Naturalistic but ordinary.
27. South Dakota. Too obvious and pheasant is not native.
28. [Hawaii]. All designs look too obvious.
29. Tennessee. Instruments good but does not give overall good look.
30. Illinois. Too busy but Lincoln and towers give it a good look.
31. Oregon. Too obvious. What more?
32. Kentucky. Horse would be better outside the fence.
33. Virginia. Too ordinary - honors invaders.
34. Missouri. Arch and boat too incongruous.
35. Idaho. Why does this have a peregrine falcon head?
36. Louisiana. Louisiana, not entire US. But pelican is good.
37. New York. Too obvious but formidable symbol anyway.
38. Ohio. Too much empty space; contradicts North Carolina.
39. Colorado. Too ordinary; looks like torn paper instead of mountains.
40. Delaware. Horseman good but there is more to the state than that.
41. Florida. Three haphazard symbols and too much empty space.
42. Pennsylvania. Too ordinary.
43. Mississippi. Too obvious - was not designed by Mississippians.
44. Massachusetts. Too obvious and trite.
45. Wyoming. Too obvious and trite; also represents cowboy mentality.
46. Michigan. Is about Great Lakes not Michigan.
47. New Hampshire. Rock is ugly and formation crumbled in 2003.
48. Maryland. What's there to like about a steeple?
49. Indiana. Honors undesirable culture.
50. Montana. Symbolizes death.

All I ask now of the US Mint is please don't go back to the eagle in 2009! Continue the commemoration in these quarters and keep our change interesting. My idea is to start all over again with Delaware. Have Delaware find a different design for its coins; perhaps the Lewes Ferry. The same with Pennsylvania and all the rest. The mint could use historical events, trees, birds, or one of a number of themes. But select one and go with it. Let's not go back to the eagle.


Mendacious Blogger

Here are the results of my posting this blog to the new Blogger. Blogger lied. In their "tour", they say that the dreaded bangangle (my notation for "triangle with an exclamation point in it") won't appear. It sure did appear. And it kept spinning and spinning and spinning and spinning. I knew that Blogtrek had over 500 posts but I did not expect this to happen. Just for fun, I checked out Blogtrek. It came up OK, and with the new blog added. So Blogger also lied about whether it was still publishing or not. And it still keeps coming up with these pink remarks about not being connected to Blogger. So from what I can see, Blogger (and Google, the instigator of all this), you have accomplished a downgrade, not an upgrade.

New Blogger

When I tried to reject a spammy comment to Beyond Opinion today, Blogger threw up this thing about the new Blogger. It is supposed to give me all these new features. OK, Blogger. What is it going to take away from me and what is it going to mess up on me? Huh? You don't explain. You don't say whether you are going to take my blogs and duplicate them on my web site, because if you do that you will mess up my website completely because you will exceed my size limit on my personal website. You say that you will let me use the old Blogger for a while. But then the next time I access your site I can't find anywhere where to get to the old blog that I had. You indicate old and new, but when I click on old, you throw up a site that says I need to upgrade to new. OK. You forced me to convert to your new system. If you mess up my website or my blogs, I will no longer use Blogger.

It converted them but it did not seem to do much. My megabyte usage on Mindspring is still the same. I have this new interface to begin with, but much of it seems like old. That is why I am writing this message. I want to see what happens when I post to the new Blogger. I hope this works out OK. And I hope this ends the spate of spam comments that I have been getting regularly. You won't see them on my blog. I moderate them and have rejected them all.

Oh, yes. One thing I see already that I don't see in the old blog. I get pink messages saying I can't connect to Blogger. I get them only a fraction of a second at a time, almost subliminally. So it looks like the new Blogger is not off to a good start. Here goes.


About a month or two ago I found an interesting site on the Web, part of Yahoo! I happened on it when I read a story on the CNN web site saying how Stephen Hawking displayed a question on the site. The site is , in which people submit questions and other surfers answer them. They can be of any number of subjects. I tried it out and found it a good place to answer other people's questions - sort of like a general purpose tutor.

There is a point system with . If you visit a site on a day, you get 1 point. If you ask a question, you lose 5 points. Apparently, you pay to have your questions answered with points. If you answer a question, you get 2 points. From what I gather, after some people answer a question, the originator can select a best answer. That person gets 10 points. If he just abandons the question after leaving it there, it goes to a vote, with the most votes getting "best answer". After you get a certain number of points, you can rate questions, answers, and selections as best answer. You can get email notifications of such things as an answer to your question or being selected best answer to a question.

There's a wide variety of types of questions. Some of these are deeply philosophical, such as "Does God exist?" Others are presumptive, such as "If Tel Aviv were bombed, who would George Bush get his orders from?" Some of them are hilarious or whimsical, such as "Do snakes sneeze?" Some questions occur over and over again, such as "What is 2 + 2?" I've been answering that "5", citing as my reference George Orwell's 1984.

The first question I asked was "When mathematicians refer to the square root of -1, which one do they mean?" Many answerers simply said "i", as this is used as a symbol for the square root of -1. The whole point was that there are two such square roots (i and -i) and it is hard to tell them apart because they have identical properties. I was surprised that an answerer named "mathematician" came up with a way of distinguishing these! He said take the polynomial ring R[X] modulo X2 + 1, and take i to be the image of X in this quotient ring.

I asked "Is Jupiter a planet", hoping to get someone arguing that it was a dwarf star or something. Everyone said it was a planet, however. The "demoting" of Pluto to a "dwarf planet" generated a lot of questions, many of them from "Pluto" fans.

I found that many of these questioners use bad English spelling and grammar, to the point sometimes of changing the meaning of their questions. Some of them evidently have some other language as their primary language, and the resulting English constructions sound weird, and in some places the meaning has changed. Some even answer in Spanish. This is not allowed. There is a Spanish language version of Yahoo! they can go to. I answered one such question in Spanish and English, then later I found the question had been removed.

One effect of is that it drew me away from blogging. I am uncertain of getting a response by blogging, but I do get it from . However, I usually don't get a record on my hard drive of my Yahoo! answers.

Many of my answers have been in mathematics and astronomy, but not all, and in general I find it a good place to get answers from people even if they are facetious.


Double Counting

I ran into two instances of double counting in 24 hours. One is in mathematics, and the other pertains to a Toastmasters rating system.

The mathematical one involved this algorithm on numbers. Take the last digit and deduct it from the rest. For example, with the number 4257, take the 7 and subtract it from 425: 425 - 7 = 418. Repeat the process: 41 - 8 = 33; 3 - 3 = 0. The number is divisible by 11 if and only if you get zero at the end. Further, the digits you pull off along the way form the quotient: 387. Someone on Mathnerds wanted help in proving that this algorithm works. I suggested proving by mathematical induction. If the number is 10x + y (in our example, x = 425, y = 7, 10x+y = 4257), then the operation means subtracting y to obtain 10x, then subtracting y from the result (actually 10y since we chopped off a place): 10x - 10y = 10(x - y). By induction, x - y is divisible by 11 and the quotient is, say, the integer z. then 10x + y = 10(x-y) + 10y + y = 110z + 11y = 11(10z+y), so the number is divisible by 11 and the quotient has last digit y. The person who wanted help wanted to know why we subtract y twice. We do so because the first time represents taking the last digit off the number, and the second time represents subtracting the 10y. In fact, that is why 11 is involved: 11 consists of two 1s.

The Toastmasters instance involved discussion of the Distinguished Club Plan. A Toastmaster Club earns one point for each of the following: earning two Competent Toastmaster (CTM) awards, earning two more CTMs, earning an Advanced Toastmaster (ATM) award, earning another one, earning a leadership award, earning another one, getting four more members, getting four more members, getting at least 4/7 of the officers trained, and turning in required reports in on time. But - a Toastmaster club must be over 20 members or have increased by 5 members before it can even be considered for these awards. A Toastmaster in my club found our club had 3 new members in the year, but because of losses, we increased from 11 only to 13 members. We need 3 new members. If we get that, we earn the first membership requirement (four members) and earn two members towards the second four members. The other Toastmaster said that was double counting - first we count the members to qualify; then we count them towards membership points. I didn't think so. There are two separate requirements - the 20 or increase in 5 requirement and the membership points in the Distinguished Club Plan.

It is interesting that two of these double countings came in the same day. What causes these? Apparently there is the underlying assumption in our society that you need to do something only once - we don't sign a million dollar contract twice, we don't try a man twice for the same crime (that is called "double jeopardy"), and we don’t get married twice. So they generalize to other concepts.. For example, a retiree with a job is said to be a "double dipper". In each case, you must look at the conditions. If the first trial never occurred, then to try the person again is not double jeopardy. If the contract is signed, that is enough to bind the two parties to the requirements of the contract. In our number example, the two subtractions mean two different things - taking a digit off the number, and subtracting a number. The two membership requirements are separate - one is an absolute condition for getting Distinguished Club rating, and the other is one of the points that the club can earn.

Still it is confusing and one needs to check the conditions to see if a certain case really is one of double counting.


Peace: You Can Get It on eBay

Yesterday (2006 May 14) after my Unitarian Universalist church service, someone came up to me and asked if I wanted to sign a petition to form a Department of Peace, a Cabinet-level position in the United States Government. I didn't sign it, as I believe it would create another bureaucratic agency, and further, it could later be merged with the Department of State or Defense; the latter would create Orwellian overtones. But I thought the idea was good of having the Government take the lead in maintaining peace in the world.

So today I Googled for "Department of Peace". I found a web site devoted to that department. But what struck me the most was an ad in the upper right corner. It said:

Department Of Peace
Whatever you're looking for
you can get it on eBay.

So the Department of Peace is available on eBay? Quick, does President Bush know about this? Instead of sending in soldiers to maintain peace in many foreign lands, he could purchase this Department for probably a low bid (who else is going to bid for it?) and use that instead. Peace. You can get it on eBay. Would be nice if it were true.

But then I tried other things in Google. I not only want world peace, I want an end to all war. So I tried Googling for "end to all war". I found that no, you can't get this on eBay:

To End All War at Amazon
Low prices on to end all war.
Qualified orders over $25 ship free

No, you have to get it on Amazon instead, although you can get it for a low price. And what's this about a war going on at Amazon? Is a managerial shakeup at Amazon imminent? Is this what's going to end that war?

That's not all. I found you can get gamma ray bursts at Amazon. I mentioned this to my astronomy society tonight (2006 May 15). Some asked if it comes bottled.

I Googled "depleted uranium" and couldn't find anywhere to buy it. But when I Googled "enriched uranium", I found that it was available on eBay. That's scary. I hope this Ahmadinejad kook over in Iran gets absolutely nowhere near a mouse. Please, Google. Let's stick to selling Peace over eBay. In fact, let's sell Peace everywhere - it needs to be bought in mega quantities.


It makes me want to leave Richmond

Tonight, when I wanted to listen to the 6:00 pm local news on WWBT Channel 12 in Richmond, they were presenting the Kentucky Derby instead. So I went to Channel 8 instead. But then I wondered, when was this race going to take place? All the time I have a problem watching the local and national news on Sunday because sports events such as football and basketball continually bomb them out. But horse races have got to be one of the shortest sports events around. It only lasts a couple of minutes. So I decided to watch that instead. I had to wait a while before they started the race, but then they did, starting off 20 horses galloping to see which can reach the finish line first.

I watched as two horses known as Keyed Entry and Sinister Minister took the lead, with Keyed Entry first. After a couple of laps, all of a sudden they didn't talk about these two horses anymore. Instead they were talking about Brother Derek and then all at once Barbaro, as the horses rounded the final turn. Barbaro took a huge lead and won the race.

I then turned back to Channel 8. I heard the weather woman there describe the forecast for tomorrow - this nice warm weather we had is going to turn into cold and rainy on Monday. At least put that weather on Monday - not on the weekend. Channel 8 continued with sports. Did they talk about the exciting finish at the Kentucky Derby? No, they yapped about NASCAR. I instantly flipped the channel back to 12 for the wrap-up after the Derby. I wanted to find out how Sinister Minister finished, especially since my church just called a new minister. But I could not find that. After the wrap-up was finished, I turned to Channel 8 again for the news.

To me the Kentucky Derby beats NASCAR any day. Why do Richmonders want to watch all these souped up cars sucking up the world's precious oil race around and crash into each other? To me, a horse beats a car any day. Not for everyday transportation, though, as the horse is slower and it does present the plop cleanup problem. But when we are attending leisure events, let's put the car behind us. Let's watch nature's animal creation, the horse, race in an event that takes only a twinkling of the eye to complete. I don't see why Richmond is so gung ho on NASCAR. It makes me want to pack up my bags, leave Richmond, and move to Louisville.

And these cars come either with no names or with mindless names, like X-3 and the like. Horse names have got to be one of the finest creations of humankind. I don't think I will ever see a sinister minister ever in a church (except possibly my church) but you will see one at the Derby. You key entries in a computer and also on a horse - Keyed Entry. Steppenwulfer is a medieval character, or a horse. And remember Funny Cide last year? I sure don't want to destroy the humor of a party or speech, except when it comes in a horse - then I will want to commit funnycide. And take a look at the other entries today - Showing Up, Bluegrass Cat (only a horse can be a cat, except a cat of course), Storm Treasure, Cause to Believe, Flashy Bull, and Point Determined. My point is determined. Horse races beat car races any day. The action is in Louisville, not in Richmond.

And then I listened to the news. But what if the news stories on ABC were horses? And they're off! Here comes Top Spy coming down the track. And now Fighting Addiction is coming up behind him. He's closing the gap, but wait! Here on the outside is Wigging Out, catching up to Fighting Addition as Fighting Addiction is overtaking Top Spy. He's catching up, he's catching up, and… It's Wigging Out by a hair. And so Wigging Out is the winner of the ABC News Derby for today. So bet on your horse. But bet for sure that horses beat cars any day.