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

100 Years Ago On The Western Front

Read more here

[Added]: An edited dramatization from the BBC:

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)

Thursday, September 12, 2013

"Putin: Rhymes With Rasputin"

Flashback on the world stage to the moment when Vladimir Putin first appeared to us and William Safire memorably quipped: "Putin: Rhymes with Rasputin."

Put your way back machine on to 2000 and reread Safire's NYT article; it's well worth it -- from a time when I still read that paper religiously. I picked out a few excerpts:
Acting President Putin (pronounced POO-teen, rhymes with Ras-POO-teen) rocketed to popularity on Russian jubilation about the massacre of dark-skinned Chechens who dare to demand independence. He needed a snap election before the blood lust cooled and Russian body bags began returning home.
Was Safire pro-Chechen or just sympathetic? The question is clouded by the Brother’s Tsarnaev who were Chechens; remember what they did here: atrocities to bring attention to…? Well, not exactly to bring attention to al-Qaeda...but what then?
It is the Chechens who seek to liberate themselves from Russian rule. The Russian militarists are the ones raining bombs and shells on people who want the same independence as Georgians and Ukrainians. For Clinton to characterize the rape of Grozny as ''liberation'' is an abomination.
Al-Qaeda you will recall, first appeared on our radar in Afghanistan. But they did fight the Russians (Soviets) before us. It's all so confusing. And Bill Clinton, siding with Putin's take on Chechnya? What will Hillary say and do?
Their task, after last week's coup de main, is to present Putin (means ''born on the road'') to the electorate as a man on horseback out to crush the terrorists trying to tear Mother Russia asunder. 
I would have never guessed that. Safire was very good at etymology; I didn't know he covered Russian etymology too.
Putin is in a race with disillusionment -- that moment when Russians realize that the Chechens won't be beaten without heavy losses, that the flight of capital will continue under Chubais-Berezovsky, and that military spending robs Russia of its ability to compete.
Can I recast that?:

Obama is in a race with disillusionment -- that moment when Americans realize that al-Qaeda  won't be beaten without heavy losses, that the flight of capital will continue under Cloward-Piven, and that military spending robs America of its ability to compete.

It's a mixed-up, muddled-up, shook-up world.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

The Awful Chemical Language Continued

Back here somewhere I commented that new chemical terms were relatively rare -- infrequent enough to keep up with them. Well here's a new one: "agostomer."  Classics scholars and word lovers should like the origin of this new word.

The word agostic was coined about 30 years or so ago to describe how certain two-point bonding occurs. The Greek word agostos (ἀγοστός) means the "flat of the hand" and is apparently very rare and only occurs once in Homer's Iliad (it took me some doing to find that Greek link). The metaphor is that the bonding resembles a man's bent arm with the flat of one hand on a hip such that there are two points of arm attachment to the body: a strong one at the shoulder and a weaker one between the hand and the hip.

Recently, an old friend of mine co-discovered and reported on a remarkable new compound which crystallized in two subtly different ways, one analogous to having the palm on the hip and the other with the back of the hand on the hip. The two isomers are termed "agostomers" and also show the  interesting property that one agostomer crystal is orange and the other one is blue. Here's a depiction:

Sunday, August 11, 2013

What Should Be Forgiven?

Trespasses, sins, guilt, debts, shoulds?

Palladian's version of the Lord's Prayer (evolved from a machine) struck me because of how the words "trespasses" and "trespassed" survived wholly intact:

Or father
court in heaven
shall be dining biking them,
but I will be done
on corporate as it is in heaven
give us this day ordeal the bride
and for guests are trespasses
as a brief for give those who trespassed against its
and leave us not into temptation
to deliver us from evil
for design to step forward
and glory forever,
on and.

The Lord's Prayer has appeared in English since the latter's earliest recorded times but the word "trespass" did not appear until the 16th century. Originally, we used the word gyltas which is cognate with the modern English word "guilt":

Fæder ure þu þe eart on heofonum
si þin nama gehalgod
tobecume þin rice
gewurþe þin willa
on eorðan swa swa on heofonum
urne gedæghwamlican hlaf syle us to dæg
and forgyf us ure gyltas
swa swa we forgyfað urum gyltendum
and ne gelæd þu us on costnunge
ac alys us of yfele soþlice.

By the 14th century, the word had evolved to a combination of dettis and synnys, which are cognate with modern English words "debts" and "sins;" Middle English had clearly felt the influence of the Norman Conquest (1066):

Oure fadir þat art in heuenes halwid be þi name;
þi reume or kyngdom come to be.
Be þi wille don in herþe as it is doun in heuene.
yeue to us today oure eche dayes bred.
And foryeue to us oure dettis þat is oure synnys
As we foryeuen to oure dettouris þat is to men þat han synned in us.
And lede us not into temptacion but delyuere us from euyl.

By the 16th century, "trespasses" had supplanted guilt, sin, and debt to give the verses we know by heart:

Our Father which art in heaven, hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come.
Thy will be done in earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive them that trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation. But deliver us from evil.

"Trespass" has an archaic meaning of sin or transgression but the word today largely means to stray into another's territory--like being "offsides" -- 5 yard penalty. The OED instructs on the origin of trespass; it is French in origin, meaning to transgress or literally to go beyond. It's odd that we use a word of French origin when the French themselves use the word debit or debt and apparently always have done so: link

The Italians use debito and the Latin Mass uses the identical concept: link

I once wrote a blog post on this topic (which originated in an Althouse comment). There is a curious convolution of monetary debt and sin in the German language (Nietzsche is involved) and I wrote about it here.

[Cross-posted with a question here]

Thursday, August 8, 2013

The Awful Chemical Language

I was often asked to explain chemical nomenclature in the context of such and such intellectual property law matter and one day I surprised a trial lawyer — an elderly gent — with my knowledge. He was actually annoyed at first, perhaps because he felt hostage to knowledge which he did not possess. Actually, he probably just resented that I could bill time for knowledge which I already possessed — just like he could. Had he known what it had cost me to acquire my art, he would also have known that it would break any law firm to buy it. Meanwhile, I had been hard at work learning legal terminology for several weeks, and although I had made good progress, it had been accomplished under great difficulty and annoyance. But he was greatly impressed and after I had explained a while, he said my explanation of the chemical language was very rare, possibly "unique" and he wanted to add me to his litigation team.

Friedrich Wöhler, the father of modern organic chemistry, already remarked in 1835:
Organic chemistry just now is enough to drive one mad. It gives me the impression of a primeval forest full of the most remarkable things, a monstrous and boundless thicket, with no way of escape, into which one may well dread to enter.
A person who has not studied chemistry — especially organic chemistry — can form no idea of what a perplexing language describes that thicket. Or perhaps they can, but can come up with no logical explanation for why things are so. I aim here to simplify.

The Germans invented modern organic chemistry and they logically fashioned the nomenclature in their own image — and just as the German language is troublesome for the beginner — having so many parts of speech — it's no wonder organic nomenclature is so troublesome.

An average organic chemical name is a sublime and impressive curiosity; it may occupy several lines and comprise several unfamiliar names and numbers — things called moieties — and even Greek letters; it is built mainly of compound words synthesized by the writer around a core or parent name; it's quite often a word not to be found in any normal dictionary — several words compacted into one, but with joints and seams — that is, with hyphens; it may treat of up to umpteen different subunits, each enclosed in a parenthesis of its own, with here and there extra parentheses which reinclose three or four of the minor parentheses, making pens within pens: finally, all the parentheses and re-parentheses are massed together between a couple of king-parentheses, one of which is placed in the first line of the majestic structure and the other in the middle of the last line of it — after which comes the parent compound name, and you find out for the first time what the molecule is or at least what some chemical lexicographer thought it should be derived from. Sometimes, often as an afterthought — merely by way of differentiation — the writer shovels in the name of a salt, or in patent parlance "or salts thereof," signifying that the delicate molecular flower has been preserved as a salt, and the monument is finished. I suppose that this closing hurrah is often the doing of patent attorneys seeking to claim more broadly; it's not necessary, but covers the doctrine of equivalents.

To repeat, organic chemistry nomenclature was invented by 19th century Germans who wanted to create a simple system which closely mimicked the logic of their own language. Full stop. Therein lies the secret why that nomenclature is so seemingly obtuse — it is patterned after German syntax. In linguistics, syntax refers to the way in which morphemes are arranged. By analogy, "chemical morphemes" are irreducible units of metaphor — core words like "meth-," eth-," "prop-," and "but-" and ringed ones like "phen-" or "benz-" represent chemical entities. [1]  The studied reader may already recognize these morphemes in methane, ethane, propane, butane, phenyl, and benzene and the like. The endings "ane," "yl," and "ene" are, in a linguistic sense, inflections of the morphemes. Another word related to morphemes commonly used by chemists is moiety. Moiety refers to small clusters of recognizable function, for example, "acyl," carboxyl," "alkyl," etc.

By way of example, consider the common pain reliever ibuprofen which more properly goes by the name
RS-2-(4-(2-methylpropyl)phenyl)propanoic acid.

Chemical names are easier to read when you hold them next to the actual structure which is like a pictograph (hold that thought for later) or read them backwards in a mirror or stand on your head — so as to reverse the construction -- but because many refuse to learn the real language of chemistry — structural short hand — I'll muddle through the name of ibuprofen by way of example.  It's not a particularly elaborate molecule or name, but it strikes a nice balance between complexity and simplicity.

R,S-2-(4-(2-methylpropyl)phenyl)propanoic acid

First comes "R,S." The "R" stands for rectus (Latin for right) and the "S" stands for sinister (Latin for left). This gives the enlightened reader notice that chirality is at hand — more on this later.

R,S-2-(4-(2-methylpropyl)phenyl)propanoic acid

The second element in the name is the number 2, and because this number stands alone — outside of parentheses — the reader is asked to hold its meaning in abeyance until such a time as the parent morpheme is finally reached after much exhaustion of patience. Putting the "2" in front resembles the dreaded separable prefix verbs so common to German. Mark Twain wrote in his delightful essay, The Awful German Language:
The Germans have another kind of parenthesis, which they make by splitting a verb in two and putting half of it at the beginning of an exciting chapter and the other half at the end of it. Can any one conceive of anything more confusing than that? These things are called "separable verbs." The German grammar is blistered all over with separable verbs; and the wider the two portions of one of them are spread apart, the better the author of the crime is pleased with his performance.
R,S-2-(4-(2-methylpropyl)phenyl)propanoic acid

The third element, (4-(2-methylpropyl)phenyl) is a microcosm of the whole name writ larger; in it we have a 2-methylpropyl corralled by parentheses, which is itself corralled by "4-" and "phenyl." The name is starting to look like a matryoshka doll.

R,S-2-(4-(2-methylpropyl)phenyl)propanoic acid

At long last we arrive at the parent morpheme, which like the verb in a German sentence, tells us the key information: propanoic acid. In the lexicographer's mind, ibuprofen is a derivative of propanoic acid.

We have the germanic parenthesis disease in our language, too; also often expressed with em dashes and sometimes elipses and one may see cases of it every day in our books and blog posts: but with us it is — unless botched — the mark and sign of a practiced writer or a clear intellect, whereas with the Germans and chemical lexicographers it is doubtless the mark and sign of a practiced pen and of the presence of that sort of luminous intellectual fog which stands for clearness among these people. For surely it is not clearness — it necessarily can't be clearness.

Now dear reader, allow me to introduce a better way to depict all the foregoing and to illustrate the  foolishness:
R,S-2-(4-(2-methylpropyl)phenyl)propanoic acid

I have color-coded the three main parts of the molecule, both in name and in the depiction. The reader immediately grasps that the red propanoic acid portion has a three carbon chain. The red number "2" in the name describes wherefrom the rest depends. The "R,S" refers to the two possible ways that the invisible hydrogen atom attached to carbon 2 may point: either out of or into to the screen or page. The portion circled in light blue is a phenyl moiety having six carbons numbered as shown. The curious reader can attest that the portion in green indeed appends from carbon 4 of the blue phenyl. The left-most portion — circled in green — is the "2-methylpropyl" portion: it's really a 3-carbon propyl chain having a methyl affixed to carbon 2.

Lastly, it is perhaps now apparent (to me at least) where the trivial name ibuprofen comes from: I parse ibuprofen into three separable pieces: ibu/pro/fen

"ibu" is short for "isobutyl (another name for 2-methylpropyl;"
"pro" is short for "propanoic acid;"
"fen" stands for "phenyl."

Have you got a headache yet?
Suggested further reading:

[1] An Algorithm For Translating Chemical Names To Molecular Formulas
[2] Development Of Systematic Names For The Simple Alkanes

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Povera Casavecchia

Non so cosa dire. Solo Dio lo sa. E ha lasciato la scena nel 1966.

Friday, July 26, 2013

I Got A Postcard From London...

...It said "Happy Christmas in July"

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Trade Secrets

I'm not certain what to make of this study which asserts that 90+% of truly useful innovations are not patented. I have my doubts because in the chemical arts--and pharmaceutical inventions in particular--the converse is more likely the case. The paper takes a minute to load so here's the abstract:

It is well known that not all innovations are patented, but the exact volume of innovative activities undertaken outside the coverage of patent protection and, relatedly, the actual propensity to patent an innovation in different contexts remain, to a major degree, a matter of speculation. This paper presents an exploratory study comparing systematically patented and unpatented innovations over the period 1977-2004 across industrial sectors. The main data source is the ‘R&D 100 Awards’ competition organized by the journal Research and Development. Since 1963, the magazine has been awarding this prize to the 100 most technologically significant new products available for sale or licensing in the year preceding the judgments. We match the products winners of the R&D 100 awards competition with USPTO patents and we examine the variation of patent propensity across different contexts (industries, geographical areas and organizations). Finally we compare our findings with previous assessments of patent propensity based on several sources of data.

Trade secrecy is the default setting for intellectual property law. It's what the system reverts to when things get ugly, costly and when openness is abused. Trade secrecy is not what Thomas Jefferson wanted for us.

Friday, July 19, 2013

On The Roof (1986)

I know
I said you can't (even) fly
On your way
I hope you'll be OK

Stop for a while
Talk about it
For a while

From now on
Sooner or later
Sing a new song
Call me when you're better

Stop for a while
Talk about it
For a while

In a while
In a while
For a while
For a while

Inspired By Amba

Amba wrote this a while back on her blog Ambiance:
Matter is a corrective. Matter exerts a resistance, a counterforce, like wood to a carving knife or water to a ship’s keel or air under an airplane’s wings, that paradoxically enables us to get somewhere by making it more difficult. link
To which I responded:
OK, this is way off-topic and perhaps I should write it as another “inspired-by-Amba” blogpost, but I had to mention two connections this triggered for me. The first was the old-fashioned way that nations used to settled trade imbalances: there might be trade exchanges in one direction: goods or services for example. At the end of the day, there would be a reckoning and something like gold would flow in the other direction. In this way gold, having gravitas, kept thing[s] grounded. 
The second was the way chemical reactions occur. Chemistry is valence electrons exchanging and rearranging. The nuclei hardly change at all (unless we’re talking nuclear chemistry). Anyways, electrons, being flighty and fleet, are forever waiting around for the heavier nuclei to get into the right configurations for exchange. When the laggard atoms finally are…zip…the electrons are already there like magic. link
She responded:
Anyways, electrons, being flighty and fleet, are forever waiting around for the heavier nuclei to get into the right configurations for exchange. When the laggard atoms finally are…zip…the electrons are already there like magic. 
That is totally what it’s like to write, or perhaps to create in any medium. You have to do the heavy, lumbering work of getting yourself properly aligned, then–inspiration is there. link 

For too long I've behaved like water or electricity -- always seeking the path of least resistance. If I wish to channel my thoughts -- to steer them in a meaningful direction-- I must also do the work of building the embankments to contain them. I'll have to move a few atoms. I've done this before and so am no stranger.

Monday, July 15, 2013

I Believe In You (2008)

This is a cover of a Bob Dylan song from his 1979 album "Slow Train Coming"

Her cover version retains the same words and lyrics of Dylan's orginal but taken out of context of Dylan's album, she could be singing about faith in another person.

I saw Cat Power perform this song at San Diego's "Street Scenes" music festival a few years ago. Here are links to that which I want to watch later on. link  Her guitar player was a guy named Judah Bauer who played in the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion.

Notes on "The Disappearing Spoon"

[continuation in part]

I'm reading Sam Kean's book "The Disappearing Spoon" and posting comments about it. I'm on page 29:
Reading the periodic table across each row reveals a lot about the elements, but that's only part of the story, and not even the best part. Elements in the same column, latitudinal neighbors, are actually far more intimately related than horizontal neighbors. People are used to reading from left to right (or right to left) in virtually every human language, but reading the periodic table up and down, column by column, as in some forms of Japanese, is actually more significant. Doing so reveals a rich subtext of relationships among elements, including unexpected rivalries and antagonisms. The periodic table has its own grammar, and reading between its lines reveals whole new stories. 
Very very nice. I call the up down periodic relationship between elements "rhyming;" each element rhymes with the one above and below it.  The table is written in 2n2 meter, where n = 1, 2, 3, 4... link

Next up, Chapter 2: "Near Twins and Black Sheep: The genealogy of Elements C, Si, Ge" wherein I pretend to get nasty.