Wednesday, April 6, 2016

The Chemistry of Politics

Politics and chemistry share many concepts and even words: coming together vs. falling apart; donor vs. acceptor; tipping point & transition state; polarized vs. neutral; vitriolic & caustic vs. neutral; litmus test; right vs. left; purity vs. impurity; structure & status quo vs. change & kinetics; majority vs. minority; and resonance to name a few off the top of my head. The words "electron" and "election" even look related but are in fact unrelated; electron comes from the Greek word for amber, while the word elect comes from the word to pick and choose.

Years ago, I hypothesized (and published with evidence) that a well-known (but poorly understood) chemical reaction was governed by repulsion: Electronic repulsion at its very core.  Briefly, a catalyst separately held the same substrate in two different ways; an incoming hydrogen molecule would then chose which of the two configurations to ride over the hump while melding into stable products, corresponding to what could be dubbed right and left-handed versions of the same thing. Now, the rate of hydrogen's addition to (choice of) one of two configurations was the deciding factor; it was the deal clincher. Moreover, the two configurations were present in vastly unequal amounts from the start -- around a 10:1 ratio. Prior studies had shown that the incoming hydrogen preferred the minority configuration. That's where I came in. I said that incoming hydrogen was repelled by the major substrate-catalyst complex -- the one with the clingier hangers-on. In effect, I said that substrate binding (clinginess) killed reactivity by swelling a repulsive lobe on the catalyst.

A catalyst is rather like a politician. Its job is to bring us lowly substrates together to make something more stable. But just like my chemistry example, the favored politician with the clingier hangers-on can be the kinetic loser.  It's the repulsion, stupid.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

The Last Letter From Stalingrad

[Long time readers of this blog will get what I'm up to again here. Over the past few years, I've rolled out a letter or two from the book "Last Letters  From Stalingrad." This year, I'm bringing the focus back to one in particular: Letter 39 in the series of 39 letters. I got my hands on a German language edition and have tweaked the translation and added footnotes to the original text.]

The following letter is from a young German officer on the front lines in Stalingrad, written to his father in the winter of 1942-43. The letter captures the break in the chain of command in the German General Staff. Before Stalingrad, unbroken generations of German Wehrmacht had defended their country and fought with professional honor (that they were politically betrayed at times is another matter). After Stalingrad, the esprit de corps would never be the same. The whole fighting spirit of the future German Bundeswehr died as well.
Dearest Father:1 
The division has been trimmed down2 for the big battle, but the big battle won't take place. You will wonder why I write to you and in care of your office. But what I have to say in this letter can only be said among men. You will transmit it to Mother in your own way. The word is out that we can write today.3 For one familiar with the situation that means that we can do it just once more.
You are a colonel, my dear Father, and a member of the General Staff.4 So you know what this means, and I needn't go into explanations which might sound sentimental. This is the end. It will last perhaps another week, I think, then the game is up.5 I do not want to look for reasons which one could marshal for or against our situation. The reasons are altogether unimportant and pointless. But if I am to say anything about them, it is this: Do not look to us for an explanation of the situation, but to yourselves and to the man who is responsible for it.6 Don't knuckle under7 --you, Father, and all those who think like you. Be on guard, so that a greater disaster8 does not overtake our country. The hell on the Volga should be a warning to you. I beg you, don't brush off 9 this experience.
And now on to the present. Of the whole division only 69 men are still of use. Bleyer is still alive, and so is Hartlieb. Little Degen lost both his arms; he will probably be in Germany soon. It is also the end for him. Ask him for any details you would like to know. D___ has lost all hope. I would like to know what he is thinking at times of the situation and its consequences. We still have two machine guns and 400 rounds of ammunition. One mortar and ten shells. Besides that, only hunger and fatigue. Without waiting for orders, Berg broke out with twenty men. Better to know in three days how things will end, than in three weeks. Can't blame him.
Finally, on to personal matters. You can be sure that everything will end decently. It is a little early at thirty, I know. No sentiments. Handshake for Lydia and Helene. Kiss for Mother (be careful, old man, think of her heart trouble). Kiss for Gerda, regards to all the rest. Hand to helmet, Father. First Lieutenant ____ respectfully gives notice of departure.
The original German has Liebster Vater! The usual way to greet a loved one in German would have been Lieber Vater or "Dear Father."  The author's use of the superlative, Liebster, instead of Lieber, or even Liebester immediately sets a familial tone to the letter.

2 The original has Die Division ist ausgeschlackt... which is much harsher than "trimmed down." Ausgeschlackt (infinitive: ausschlacken) means "cannibalized" or more literally, "butchered out."  The "trimmed down" translation sounds like an obese corps had been made fit; in reality a fit corps had been eviscerated.

3 Originally: Wir dürfen heute schreiben, heißt es bei uns: To us, that means we must write today.

4 Du bist Oberst: Army colonel. His father was a higher-ranked officer, but they were both professional soldiers.

5 The original idiom was: Dann ist der Kragen zu: "then the collar is closed."

6 He's referring to Hitler.

7 Originally, "greater disaster" was written as: Größeres Unheil. "Unheil" seems ironic in view of the well-known Nazi salute.

8 Originally, the idiom "don't knuckle under" was "halten die Nacken stief: keep the neck stiff.
This idiom rhymes with the last two lines of the letter.

9 Originally, the idiom "Don't brush off" was ...schlag deise Erkenntnis nicht in den Wind: don't strike this insight into the wind.
A key to understanding this ongoing series is here, and here. Each letter (39 in all) was written by a different and anonymous German soldier who knew he was going to die. I associate these letters with Christmastime for reasons explained at the links.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

We Should Recognize Legal Legerdemain When We See It

According to Politico, the whole Paris Climate Treaty almost got hung up on parsing the difference between the words "shall" and "should."  Apparently, US lawyers threw a hissy fit over contract language invoking what America shall do vs. what America should do (full disclosure, I am no stranger to litigious battles over the meaning of single words in the context of intellectual property disputes). But, my interest is deeper: According to Politico, "shall" has a binding, obligatory legal meaning that "should" lacks (they're fighting over modals!). "Shall" would have meant getting the US Senate involved; "should" just means namby-pamby-only-while-Obama-is-in-office.  "America shall do this" was too serious for Kerry et al. and they insisted that it be changed to "America should do this."  In other words, '"should" is "shall-lite."  I call bullshit on that.

Consult any American or British lexicon and you learn that "should" carries the moral imperative that "shall" lacks.* Shall is more or less just a modal verb indicating future action.

Kerry et al. just morally obliged us to future actions.
* I'm still confused over whether "should" is the subjunctive form of "shall."  Any thoughts?

[added]  More on "should" here. And Victoria responded to me on Twitter!

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Ten Years Gone

I've been on blogger for ten years. Not at this blog of course which I only started on a lark in 2009, but rather my time as chickenlittle, chickelit, El Pollo Real, and El Pollo Raylan. All most fowl. I told the story once of this chicken obsession. Link

Lyrics after the jump

Sunday, September 6, 2015

The Loneliest Atom

No matter how hard you try you will never be able to grasp just how tiny, how spatially unassuming, is a proton. It is just way too small. A proton is an infinitesimal part of an atom, which is itself of course an insubstantial thing. Protons are so small that a little dib of ink like the dot on this “i” can hold something in the region of 500,000,000,000 of them, or rather more than the number of seconds it takes to make half a million years. So protons are exceedingly microscopic, to say the very least.  ~ Bill Bryson
That excerpt was blogged by Althouse without much further comment. The reader is supposed to recall from high school or college chemistry just how small the proton really is -- it is after all just a nuclear particle.

Protons cluster in every atom except for hydrogen where they appear alone.  In humans, protons mostly nucleate in groups of eight (as in oxygen) or six (as in carbon) with attendant neutrons, but they also go it alone in hydrogen.

Despite the proton's exceedingly tiny size in hydrogen, it is readily detected when placed in a magnetic field. They can even be spatially located in soft tissue by MRI. So there's a nice trade off. If only all the  smallest and hardest to see elements were so easy to detect.

Hydrogen is also giving us a glimpse into the mind as in MRI imaging of the brain.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

From The Pink Into The Stink

I recently re-listened to Roger Waters' entire "The Wall."  I hesitate to call it Pink Floyd's "The Wall" because I believe the David Gilmour/Nick Mason/Richard Wright accounts that Waters became an intolerable control freak during that time and the final product was his and not theirs.

"The Wall" is nothing more than an apologia for unrestricted immigration both here but especially in Europe.

What triggered this? My viewing a biopic about Ginger Baker called "Beware Mr. Baker." It seems to me that both Baker and Waters became insufferable assholes because they both lost their fathers in the fight against fascism.

Who was it again who said that we become what we most hate?

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

We Could Use A Moore's Law For Rechargeable Battery Life

Well this is just cool...

Forgetful Scientists Accidentally Quadruple Lithium-Ion Battery Lifespan

Battery technology goes through periodic bouts of breakthroughs followed by long, long, periods of quiescence characterized by product development.

I like the article's focus on chemical elements -- lithium and aluminum.

I found this article while googling tips to conserve lithium-ion battery life.

Seek and ye shall find.

Monday, August 10, 2015

The Physics of Storytelling

The living end of characters tells a story. As our eyes move from left to right across its sweep, the story's words leap translated into our imagination from start to finish. It's not just visual though. Read aloud, spoken stories too have living ends -- a beginning and an end heard just now.


An early physics pioneer you rarely hear about is Henry Moseley, who died 100 years ago today. Moseley made an important discovery now called "Moseley's Law."

Up until Moseley's time, chemical elements in the iconic Periodic Table were arranged according to weight. There was other rhyme and reason to the arrangement of elements in the Table, but no true understanding of their masses beyond: things get heavier. There was hope that atomic mass would reveal something fundamental about physics, and the 1914 Nobel Prize went to Harvard's T. W. Richards for his careful and methodical measurements of atomic weights.

Moseley showed that by shining X-rays onto atomic samples, he got a distinct integer value for each element which he called Z. Others before Moseley -- namely Bunsen and Kirchoff -- had shown how unseen atoms could be "seen" and identified by burning them in flames, but Moseley's experiments were beautifully simple and related all elements together with their Z-values instead of getting a unique "fingerprint" for each. Moseley's law is still used to identify elements in deep space.

Exactly what Z was had only been postulated a few years earlier. Niels Bohr had shown that Z was the nuclear charge (1 for the hydrogen atom) and Ernest Rutherford had suggested that Z for heavy atoms might be about half an element's atomic weight. A Dutchman, Antonius van den Broek had suggested--without proof-- that Z was an element's "atomic number." Moseley proved it.

Good ideas need good proof to become good science.

The Periodic Table was never the same after Moseley.

Henry Moseley probably should have gotten the 1915 or 1916 Nobel Prize in Physics, but he was killed by a Turkish bullet at Gallipoli at the age of 27.   
Henry Moseley (1887-1915)
Isaac Asimov wrote: "In view of what he [Moseley] might still have accomplished ... his death might well have been the most costly single death of the War to mankind generally."

Friday, May 22, 2015

Cold Gray Relics That Sparked A War For US

The remains of the RMS Lusitania lie on the sea floor off the coast of Ireland. The wreck is festooned with fishing nets and live mines which prevent fuller exploration:

SM U-20, the German sub that sank Lusitania, was stranded off the coast of Denmark in 1916. She was partially destroyed and abandoned by her crew. The wreck rusted there until 1925 when she was destroyed by the Danish government:

Sunday, April 19, 2015

100 Years Ago On The Western Front

--Otto Dix Sturmtruppe gehen unter Gas vor (1924)
1915 was relatively quite on the Western Front. The action was at Gallipoli and the Eastern Front. After declaring war on each other the previous summer, the French and British allies fought the Germans through that first winter to an entrenched stalemate. The Western Front snaked from the Alps through France to the North Sea via Belgium. So horrendous was the scale of killing that at the trench level, both sides considered surrendering by Christmas 1914. link  But their leaders wouldn't hear of it. The following spring the grinding war resumed.

100 years ago this week, the small but once a powerful Belgian city called Ypres will mark a grim centenary: the first military use of chlorine gas.

Why Ypres?
The [1914] fighting at Ypres left the British saddled with a most unfavorable defensive position. It was a salient some six miles deep, with the town of Ypres [Ieper in Flemish] at the center of the base. The Germans held positions on low hills that gave them excellent observation over the entire salient. The area was so low that the construction of entrenchments was difficult, ground water being struck in many places at a depth of a one foot. A far better defensive position would have been one extending north and south just behind Ypres--giving up the salient and the town. Ypres, however, had become a symbol of Allied resistance; and the effect on public opinion of pulling back would have been unfortunate. Therefore, the troops held onto it, year after year. [1]
The Ypres salient hosted perennial WW I battles. The first was in 1914, then again in 1915, and last and worst of all, in 1917. But the second one--100 years ago this week--saw the first use of chlorine gas by the Germans.
On the morning of 22 April 1915 the Germans commenced to shell the Ypres salient. At 1730 a strange green vapor (chlorine gas) drifted toward the Allied lines from some 5,000 gas cylinders in the forward German trenches. The cloud engulfed the portion of the line held by some French Territorials and African troops, who promptly fled and left an undefended gap of over four miles. Not only did the Germans lack reserves to push through the gap but the darkness and the fear of their own gas by the German troops prevented them from realizing the extent of the rout. Even with only the few reserves available, the Germans could have accomplished more than they did. [2]
Chlorine gas had been known since 1630 or so. Sir Humphry Davy first recognized its elemental nature in 1810 and he was allowed to name it and he did so after its color: chloros: yellowish or light green (cf. chlorophyll). The use of chlorine as a bleach and a disinfectant dates back to the late 1700's. By the time of WW I, chlorine was being made on an industrial scale throughout the world. 

So why were the Germans the first to use chlorine gas in war? The French had used tear gas the year before.  One reason was an acute shortage of ammunition and a desire to end the carnage. The latter reasoning is essentially the same used to justify Hiroshima. But technological prowess and a dedicated mastermind also led its use as a WMD by the Germans.
Rudolf Knietsch's work at BASF before the war made it possible to liquefy chlorine using compressors lubricated with petroleum. [Fritz] Haber's idea, explained in detail to [Field Marshall Erich von] Falkenhayn and the top military leadership, was to put siphon tubes into steel cylinders, each containing about 20 kilograms of gas. These were then brought to the trenches, where they were positioned and buried in the ground at intervals of about one meter along a continuous front. A lead pipe was screwed into the opening of the cylinders, then brought up over the top of the trench and aimed in the direction of the enemy. When the wind direction was favorable, that is, blowing toward the enemy, all cylinders were opened simultaneously, and the chlorine was released. The liquid chlorine immediately turned into a gas and mixed with air, forming a yellow-green to white cloud containing about 0.5 percent chlorine at a distance of 50 to 100 meters from the cylinders. Since chlorine is two and a half times as heavy as air, this cloud rolled forward into the enemy trenches and foxholes and forced the enemy troops to flee their positions rapidly. The gas also damaged their weapons with corrosion. The German troops could follow the cloud and penetrate into enemy positions.[3]
Chlorine liquefaction was key because it allowed the transport and positioning of sufficient amounts of the gas. British and especially French industrial counterparts had no such capacity for producing liquid chlorine. British production went from 5 to 150 tons per week after Ypres.[4]

This map shows the geographic extent of the chlorine gas dispersion. The gas was released and rolled south across the French lines and towards the town of Ypres [Ieper]:

Link To Original
The hoped for result was to force the French troops out of their trenches and into marauding machine gun fire. In retreating however, the French soldiers simply moved back along with the advancing gas cloud and increased their exposure to its effects.

Both sides were unprepared for the consequences. The French had no protections in place. Within days and before the next gas attack on Canadian troops, word had spread that urine-soaked rags or cloth held against the mouth and nose afforded some protection: urea, a base, neutralized some of the HCl and HOCl.[5] As already mentioned, the Germans failed to follow through with troops.
Two days later the Germans gassed British and Canadian troops. Retaliation occurred in kind the following year.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Words In Drag

A student asked me to prepare a list of German/English cognate verbs; this is useful for building vocabulary. I've been at it for several hours.

Our verb "to drag" is rich in metaphor: dragging something; drag racing; drag queens; take a drag. In English, both verbs "to drag" and "to draw" are closely related.[1] In German, the related verb tragen is more limited: it means to wear, to carry, to bear, and has other supporting roles; they have another word for the basic idea of dragging, ziehen, which means to pull, to drag, to draw, to haul, etc.[2]

Here's the plausible origin of the term "drag race:"
Drag racing (1947), is said to be from thieves' slang drag "automobile" (1935), perhaps ultimately from slang sense of "wagon, buggy" (1755), because a horse would drag it. By 1851 this was transferred to "street," as in the phrase main drag (which some propose as the source of the racing sense). link
There is an old related word "dray" which meant a wagon for hauling stuff; a "drayman" was a "truck driver."

The origin of the term "in drag" is controversial:
Sense of "women's clothing worn by a man" is said to be 1870 theater slang, from the sensation of long skirts trailing on the floor (another guess is Yiddish trogn "to wear," from German tragen); drag queen is from 1941. link
The "dragging on ground" could be related to women's costumes being longer and having trains. The Yiddish origin sounds better, also given that the German word for costume is Tracht which in turn relates back to tragen.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Last Letters From Stalingrad: #37

...They told us this morning that we could write. Just once more, I say, for I know definitely that it will be the last time. You know that I always wrote to two people, two women, to the "other one" and you. And to you most infrequently. I have been very distant from you; Carola was closer to me than you during these last years. We don't want to go over how it happened and why it had to turn out that way. Today, however, when fate gives me the choice of writing to one person only, my letter goes to you, who have been my wife for six years. 
It will do you good to learn that the last letter of the man whom you loved is directed to you. I simply could not manage to write Carola and ask her to give you my regards. So I am asking you, dear Erna, in this hour which contains my last wish: be generous and forgive the wrong I have done you in life. Go to her (she lives with her parents) and tell her that I owe her a great deal, and that I greet her through you, my wife. Tell her that she meant a lot to me during these last days, and that I often thought about what would happen after my return home. But tell her also that you were more to me and that, although I am very sad not to be returning home, in a way I am glad to be compelled to take this road, since it will save the three of us ghastly tortures. 
Is God greater than fate? I am perfectly composed, but you don't know how difficult it is to say in one hour everything that still needs saying. There is a vast deal still to be written, but because it is so much, one must know when to stop, take pen from paper and put it away. Just as now I put my life away. 
Of my company, only five men are still around. Wilmsen among them. The others are all...all grown too tired. Isn't that a nice euphemism for the horror? But what is the point of talking about that now, and what good would it do you to know about it? So keep me alive in your memory as the man who recalled only at the very end that he is your husband and who asks forgiveness; more, asks you to tell everyone you know, Carola included, that I found my way back to you at the moment which will take you away from me forever.
The key to understanding the series is here, and here. Each letter (39 in all) was written by a different and anonymous German soldier who knew he was going to die. I associate these letters with Christmastime for reasons explained at the links.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Last Letters From Stalingrad: #28

Kriegsbeschädigten (War Cripples) Otto Dix (1920)
...Even for me this letter is difficult, how much more difficult it will be for you! Unfortunately there won't be any good news in this letter. And it hasn't been improved by my waiting ten days either. The situation has now become so bad we fear we'll soon be completely cut off from the outside. Just now we were assured that this mail will definitely get out. If I knew that there would be another opportunity, I would wait still longer. But that is just what I don't know; so, for better or for worse, I have to come out with it. For me the war is over. 
I am in a field hospital in Gumrak, waiting to be transported home by plane. Although I am waiting with great longing, the date is always changed. That I will be coming home is a great joy for me and for you, my dear. But the condition in which I'll get home won't be any joy for you. I am in complete despair when I think of lying before you as a cripple. 
But you must know something - that my legs were shot off. 
I'll be quite honest in writing about it. The right leg is totally shattered and amputated below the knee. The left one is amputated in the thigh. The doctor thinks that with prothesis I should be able to get around like a healthy man. The doctor is a good man and means well. I hope he is right. Now you know before you see me. Dear Elise, if I only knew what you are thinking. I have time all day long to think of nothing but that. Often my thoughts are with you. Sometimes I have also wished that I were dead, but that is a serious sin and one must never say such a thing.

Over eighty men are lying in this tent; but outside there are countless men. Through the tent you can hear their screaming and moaning, and no one can help them. Next to me lies a sergeant from Bromberg, shot through the groin. The doctor told him he would be returned home soon. But to the medic he said "He won't last until evening. Let him lie there then." The doctor is such a good man. On the other side, right next to me against the wall, lies a soldier from Breslau who has lost an arm and his nose, and he told me he wouldn't need any more handkerchiefs. When I asked him what he would do if he had to cry, he answered me, "No one here, you and me included, will have a chance to cry any more. Soon others will be crying over us."

I restarted this blog series. The key to understanding the series is here, and here. Each letter (39 in all) was written by a different and anonymous German soldier who knew he was going to die. I associate these letters with Christmastime for reasons explained at the links.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Exceeding Nature

The scheme belongs to a recent chemistry paper entitled "Nonmetal Catalyzed Hydrogenation Of Carbonyl Compounds" which I think shows significant advancement in chemistry. For the non-chemist, I'll unpack the title.

You may not be interested in hydrogenation, but hydrogenation is interested in you: it feeds you. The metal-catalyzed hydrogenation of vegetable oils is big business. You may have gotten away from trans-fats, but are you free of cis-fats?  How about saturated fats? The food industry uses hydrogen and metals like nickel to hydrogenate food stuffs. And then there is the "hydrogenation" of nitrogen to make fertilizer.

What these guys in London did is remarkable because they used hydrogen (H2) to make alcohols (top right) from ketones (top left). And they used only C, H, O, B, and F atoms, spatially arranged as shown. No metals.

Nature has little use for H2, the simplest of molecules. Relatively little free H2 exists on earth. There is a class of enzymes called hydrogenases, but guess what? They use metals to activate H2. So this work goes above and beyond Nature itself.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

"The Speck Of Matter God Had Not Welcomed At Creation..."

Today marks an anniversary of the Nagasaki atomic bomb, the so-called "Fat Man." Many forget that we dropped two kinds of atomic bombs in three days in 1945: The first, "Little Boy," contained all the laboriously accumulated U-235; its design was so simple that it didn't need testing: Fire one subcritical U-235 mass at another U-235 subcritical mass and blammo! --  the whole thing went nuclear.

The second was a plutonium bomb -- and its design was so radical that it had to be tested first, hence "Trinity" at Yucca Flats.

The bomb makers knew early on that U-235 would be the limiting factor: Only 1/140th of any natural uranium source was useable for a bomb -- the rest is the unusable U-238 isotope. But the eggheads (really a who's who of nuclear physicists and chemists) figured out that nuking the otherwise useless U-238 with cyclotron radiation would transmute that useless uranium isotope into heavier elements. Thus began a series of top secret experiments at Berkeley which extended the Periodic Table one element at a time.  That sort of work still continues.

First came element 93, the very first transuranic element, now known as neptunium, and synthesized by Edwin McMillan and Philip H. Abelson in 1940. That element proved unusable as a fissile material, so the search for the next heavier element continued. The work quickly became a rather a dirty job -- separating the toxic gemischt into identifiable components --and one more suited for chemists. Glenn T. Seaborg, and a graduate student, Arthur C. Wahl, did the yeoman's work. By early 1941, they knew that they had something new, but were unable to separate it from co-produced thorium.  Seaborg and Wahl pressed on, working in a cramped third floor laboratory in the chemistry department at Berkeley. Success followed and by early March 1941 Seaborg recorded:
With this final separation from thorium, it has been demonstrated that our alpha [particle] activity can be separated from all known elements and thus it is now clear that our alpha activity is due to the new element with atomic number 94. 
Within weeks, and after gathering enough material, tests showed that element 94 was fissile bomb material. They were already way ahead of anyone else. Because it was immediately apparent that chemical separation of elements was easier than isotopic separation, plutonium production became a second major project in the Manhattan Project, running in parallel to uranium isotope separation.

Richard Rhodes wrote in his incomparable "The Making Of The Atomic Bomb:"
Not until 1942 would they officially propose a name for the new element that fissioned like U-235 but could be chemically separated from uranium. But Seaborg already knew what he would call it. Consistent with Martin Klaproth's inspiration in 1789 to link his discovery of a new element [uranium] with the recent discovery of the planet Uranus and with McMillan's suggestion to extend the scheme to Neptune, Seaborg would name element 94 for Pluto, the ninth planet outward from the sun, discovered in 1930 and named for the Greek god of the underworld, a god of the earth's fertility but also the god of the dead: Plutonium. 

Monday, May 26, 2014

In Memory of the Union

The Memorial Union on the UW-Madison lakeshore opened in the fall of 1928, dedicated to the men and women of the University who had served in wars.

Inside the Student Union, der Rathskeller and der Stiftskeller feature murals done in a German beer hall style. My favorite is the one called "The War Between Wine And Beer"

It's hard to appreciate the detail in that photo. More detailed photos are here. That mural is not that old (1978) and is an inspired copy of the original at Munich's Rathskeller. The fight is not just an imaginary one between beer and wine but also a metaphor for the age-old fight between the wine-loving French and the beer-loving Germans. A history of the murals is here

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Charlie Watts' Golden

The key to Led Zeppelin is that somebody is always playing a counter point. You can hear that. ~Jimmy Page
I know that Page was talking musically, but the phrase popped into my head as I began write a tribute to Charlie Watts who will celebrate his 50th wedding anniversary in October.

Through all those years of temptation, one guy stays true and faithful. That's sort of a "counter point" isn't it?

I always thought Charlie Watts' rock drumming was deceptively simple. It wasn't hard to copy. His jazz drumming is another story. You can tell he's an old school drummer by the way he holds his sticks: traditional grip.

Here's Johnny Depp narrating Keith Richards' version of the time Charlie Watts slugged Mick Jagger.  [skip to 3min 43sec for the violent part, but watch the whole thing for context]:

Friday, January 10, 2014

Faking Bad

I'm trying an experiment: I have an improved product and want to market it via the Internet.  Don't laugh until you hear me out.

My "product" is something I formulated for making fake spills. I developed a recipe for faking most any clear or colored liquid and semi-solid. The materials are a polymeric plastic and a secret coloring method.
The Gatsby

Aviation Cocktail


Das Lagerbier
Ice Bucket Challenge

Melting Cubism
Scotch with Rocks
Lemon Twist Martini  (frosted)

Gin & Tonic

Classic Martini

In vino vas is das?

Pogue Mahone!

Another Margarita

Bloody Mary

Margarita Time!

Heuvos (sunny side up)

Heuvos (raw)