Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Who Invented That?

A sample question from the US Patent Bar Exam:
Roger Rocket is a designer of paper cups at Paper America. During his free time, he likes to attend baseball games at Yankee Stadium. One day, while seated in the stands, he caught a fly ball. He took the baseball home and played catch with his friends Andy Cannon, Orlando Torpedo, and Mariano Missile. Unfortunately for Rocket, Cannon has a problem with accuracy. Cannon threw the ball over Rocket’s head and straight through a neighbor’s front window. The shattered glass ripped the lining off of the baseball. Instantly, Rocket conceived a more durable baseball with an exterior similar to that of a golf ball. Rocket worked for months on his invention in Missile’s garage. His new baseball was comprised of a titanium core, and a plastic shell having circular dimples and V‐shaped laces. Torpedo realized and told Rocket that Y‐shaped laces would enable baseball players to throw the ball faster. Cannon, an engineer in a radar gun laboratory, tested the velocity of the baseball with both V and Y‐shaped laces. To Cannon’s surprise, the baseball traveled 10 M.P.H. faster with the Y‐shaped laces. Rocket wanted patent protection for a baseball having a titanium core, and a plastic shell having circular dimples and Y‐shaped laces, so he approached Yogi Practitioner for assistance. Rocket has no obligation, contractual or otherwise, to assign his inventions to Paper America. 
In accordance with proper Patent Office practice and procedure, who should execute the oath [i.e., who are the inventors]?
(A) Rocket
(B) Rocket and Torpedo
(C) Rocket and Cannon
(D) Rocket, Torpedo, and Cannon
(E) Rocket, Torpedo, Cannon, and Missile

Thursday, January 24, 2013

He Let Go Of His Ego...

...and Id emerged:

I know so many people who think they can do it alone
They isolate their heads and stay in their safety zone 
What can you tell them?
What can you say that won't make them defensive? 
Hang on to your ego!
Hang on to your ego!
Hang on to your ego! 
Hang on, but I know that you're gonna lose the fight 
They come on like they're peaceful
But inside they're so uptight
They trip through the day
And waste all their thoughts at night
Now how can I say it?
And how can I come on
When I know I'm guilty? 
Yeah, hang on to your ego!
Hang on to your ego!
Hang on to your ego! 
Hang on, but I know that you're gonna lose the fight 
a doobie doobay-doo
[cool banjo interlude]
Now how can I say it?
And how can I come on
When I know I'm guilty? 
So, hang on to your ego!
Hang on to your ego!
Hang on to your ego! 
Hang on, but I know that you're gonna lose the fight
a doobie

[Marylin Wilson to BW's dog]: Banana!

[Brian Wilson]: Hey Chuck is it possible we could bring a horse in here without...if we don't screw anything up?

[Chuck Britz]: I beg your pardon?

[Brian Wilson]: Honest to God, now, the horse is tamed and everything.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Kiss Me

The original version seems to be harder to find; you won't find it on Google in English, but rather just traces and an ominous "removed for copyright violation"

Enjoy it with Spanish subtitles while it lasts:

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Friday, January 4, 2013

Conversations with Henry

Henry:  Did you see that business in the news about negative absolute temperatures?

Me:  You mean this?

Henry:  Yeah, that.  Good thing you know how to manipulate the Internet. I never got the hang of it. You know what that news reminded me of?

Me: No, what Henry?

Henry:  The inverted Marcus region.

Me: Remind me what the inverted Marcus region is.

[Henry moves to the white board, grumbling that people no longer use chalk & blackboards. He sketched three related figures, and then explained them in words]:

Henry: Rudy Marcus laid out three different scenarios for the reaction coordinate of a simple "downhill" reaction using intersecting parabolas to represent reactant and product. Parabolas have a long history in physics (think of pendulums, and they "track" the potential energy in molecules). In the first, notice that the "initial state" reactant parabola is slightly higher in energy than the "final state" product parabola; where they cross represents a moderately uphill barrier given by the distance, ΔG.

In the second (middle) scheme, the initial state (left) parabola is higher in energy while the final state parabola stays the samefollow?  He got there by translating the left hand reactant parabola straight upwards and their intersection slides "down." The barrier to the more downhill reaction is now zero. See that?

Me: Yes!

Henry:  Here is where Marcus was an absolute genius:  if you keep on going as in the third scheme, the initial state parabola gets higher stillthis is now a very downhill reactionbut notice that the barrier, ΔG, goes back up because the intersect climbs up the other side!  This is the so-called "Marcus Inverted Region" and is utterly counter intuitive that a more downhill state should require more energy to reach. Boy, he really shook things up with that one!

Me: Fine, but how does that translate to the real world?

Henry: What?  Didn't you read my other stuff?

Me: Here's what I think...I've been saying all along that uphill effort requires more energy than downhill effort, for example here.  But suppose that we have something really severe like the Fiscal Cliff.  Suppose that the fall is so downhill that we will actually face a higher hurdle to get down there than if it weren't so precipitous.

Henry: Hair-brained economics!

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Foo Fighters: White Limo

Cross-posted in a comment at EBL

The Day The Muse Just Died*

Bobby Fuller idolized fellow Texan Buddy Holly and The Crickets and it really shows in his covers of "Love's Made A Fool Of You" and "I Fought The Law And The Law Won."

Fuller died at age 23 under mysterious circumstances. Here is a YouTube video dramatizing some of the unresolved details. link

Lesser known was Fuller's involvement in surf music in the early 1960's. Here are three songs he wrote and recorded, all of which appear to contain the same guitar riff which culminated in its purest form in "Our Favorite Martian" recorded and released in 1964.

First there is "The Chase" which I have not been able to date, but I put it first because I suspect it came first:

"Stringer" was recorded in 1963; listen at the 57 second mark for the same basic riff:

Finally, the whole riff was purified and distilled into my favorite, er, "Our Favorite Martian" from 1964:

Bobby Fuller's death was so ignominious, and so unseemly (no matter the motives) that the public barely remembers him; and if they do look they see him as a link backwards to Buddy Holly; I think he deserved a bit more respect than that.

Here Comes A Regular

Well a person can work up a mean mean thirst
after a hard day of nothin' much at all
Summer's passed, it's too late to cut the grass
There ain't much here to rake now in the fall

Sometimes I just ain't in the mood
to take my place in back with the loudmouths
You're like a picture on the fridge that's never stocked with food
You used to live at home, now you stay at the house

And everybody wants to be special here
They call your name out never fear
Here comes a regular
Call out your name
Here comes a regular
Am I the only one here today?

Well a drinkin' buddy bound to another town
Once the police made you go away
And even if you're in the arms of someone's baby now
I'll drink a great big whiskey to ya anyway

And everybody wants to be someone's here
Someone's gonna show up, never fear
Here comes a regular
Call out your name
Here comes a regular
Am I the only one that feels ashamed?

[Kneeling alongside old Sad Eyes
He says opportunity knocks once then the door slams shut
All I know is I'm sick of everything that my money can buy
The fool who wastes his life, God rest his guts]*

First the lights, then the collar goes up, and the wind begins to blow
You turn your back on a pay-'em-back last call
First the grass, then the leaves, then the snow
Ain't much rakin' anyway in the fall
Here comes a ... 

*Lines omitted, but are in the original version on Tim

Blog post dedicated to Paul Westerberg, who inadvertently brought me and my wife together 25 years ago at a Replacements show.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Who Knows?

Happy New Year, first of all!

Anniversaries mark the same place in the annular solar cycle. It's very ouroboros. Marking a new year is no less artificial and arbitrary than noting what makes a month a month or that "digital" is based on ten fingers. What's arbitrary is that that we chose January 1st instead of say March 1st.


43 years ago today, Jimi Hendrix played a series of shows at NYC's Fillmore East Theater in a power trio called the "Band of Gypsys." They hadn't performed together in public and this was sort of their unveiling. Note how Bill Graham introduced them: "...some old friends with a brand new name...a Band of Gypsys."

The Band of Gypsys more or less was just this set of showspublicly at least. They were to play together just once morelater that month at the Garden where Jimi famously "lost it."  After that, he broke with Buddy Miles and reassembled the Experience but kept his old friend Billy Cox on bass.  They recorded a spring and summer of intense performances, but by September it was overforever.

The call and response between Jimi and Buddy Miles in "Who Knows" is strikingly spiritualimagine him doing that with Mitch Mitchellnot.  Though it was already an established technique in American Blues with even deeper roots, it appeared anew and struck the same chord.

One more thing strikes me in that video: the way Hendrix flashes a brief smile through what must have been a painful time (1 min 9 sec). It's as if he realized the sheer joy of performing or perhaps he caught sight of an admirer.  Elvis flashed a smile like that a few months before he too passed away: link
Here is 30 minutes of the same show: link The version of "Machine Gun" in that show is the definitive one.