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31 December 2013

Happy (Reformed Gregorian) New Year! Eat Vigna unguiculata for Good Luck!

Click image to enlarge.
I hate cliches, so some years ago I resolved to tell C-space Happy New Year completely free of babies in diapers and hunched-over old men. That's its only virtue: it's different.
Light -- a shortcut nickname for electromagnetic radiation of all sorts, not just the narrow band of colors human eyes can perceive -- has a well-measured speed and well-understood properties. So light's speed and properties produce this Light Cone, and inside the Light Cone is all we can ever perceive or remember about the Past, the Present and the Future.
There may be other "stuff" outside the Light Cone, but we can never perceive or know it.
I suppose I should also throw in a word about The Arrow of Time. It flows inexorably in just one direction, and never flows backwards (even though Newton's wonderful laws of motion and gravitation and mechanics merrily work equally well forwards and backwards). So the Past is always behind us, the Present is now, and the Future is always ahead of us, and hasn't happened yet. And never Contrariwise.

Eventually we'll reach the Heat Death of the Universe, but you don't have to worry about that any time soon.
If you're preparing a big hoopla Happy New Year whoop-de-doo at your local Midnight -- mine will be about 8 hours from now -- please remember that this Magic Moment of the Odometer flipping over its rightmost digit specifically references the Reformed Gregorian Calendar. There are lots of other calendars, each with its own different Happy New Year date. But for a variety of reasons, some logical and scientific, most entirely arbitary, most of the world chooses to pop open a bottle of methode champaignoise and shoot off colored explosives when the Reformed Gregorian Calendar tells it to.
I just heard about 1,000,000 people in Hong Kong sing "Auld Lang Syne" first in English/Scots Gaelic, then in Chinese.
Vleeptron would like to thank Israel for making last week's Pilgrimage to Bethlehem unsually welcoming and easy for Christian pilgrims. Bethlehem's Church of the Nativity also got its first architectural makeover in 600 years, and the little town's merchants apparently prospered. Just like the first Christmas, but for happier reasons, there was No Room at the Inn.
For all Vleeptroids in Galaxy Dwingeloo-2 and on Earth and low-Earth orbit, Vleeptron and Agence-Vleeptron Presse and Lenny & Spike wish you a spectacularly peaceful and happy 2014. Leave a Comment and tell us how you celebrate the New Year. We eat black-eyed peas (Vigna unguiculata) for good luck. If we can stay awake until Guy Lombardo plays Auld Lang Syne, we'll drink a little methode champagnoise.

25 December 2013

the dreaded unreliable Pons Asinorum / Yorkshire Pudding

Click image to enlarge.

For many centuries long ago, if you were an educated European (male), if you had studied at any European university, you would be intimately familiar with this "bridge of asses," a common but fallacious screwup in Aristotle's logic scheme called the Syllogism.

And your failure was all your own fault -- your professor had explicitly warned you not to try to cross the logical chasm over the Pons Asinorum.

If you have things to say, or memories of plummeting into the chasm from the Pons Asinorum, please Leave A Comment. Also if you have nasty insulting things to say about Aristotle, feel free to post them here.

Meanwhile, Vleeptron wishes you all a Happy Solstice (summer or winter, your choice), a Merry Christmas, a belated Happy Hannukah. We're having a great, relaxed, cozy Christmas Day, a roast beef and Yorkshire Pudding in the oven, a fire in the wood stove.

23 December 2013

at long last, a pardon for England's war hero and computer genius Alan Turing

Click poster to enlarge.

The Associated Press
(USA newswire)
Monday 23 December 2013

U.K. finally pardons
computer pioneer 

Alan Turing

by Raphael Satter, Associated Press

LONDON (AP) -- His code breaking prowess helped the Allies outfox the Nazis, his theories laid the foundation for the computer age, and his work on artificial intelligence still informs the debate over whether machines can think.

But Alan Turing was gay, and 1950s Britain punished the mathematician's sexuality with a criminal conviction, intrusive surveillance and hormone treatment meant to extinguish his sex drive.

Now, nearly half a century after the war hero's suicide, Queen Elizabeth II has finally granted Turing a pardon.

"Turing was an exceptional man with a brilliant mind," Justice Secretary Chris Grayling said in a prepared statement released Tuesday. Describing Turing's treatment as unjust, Grayling said the code breaker "deserves to be remembered and recognized for his fantastic contribution to the war effort and his legacy to science."

The pardon has been a long time coming.

Turing's contributions to science spanned several disciplines, but he's perhaps best remembered as the architect of the effort to crack the Enigma code, the cypher used by Nazi Germany to secure its military communications. Turing's groundbreaking work — combined with the effort of cryptanalysts at Bletchley Park near Oxford and the capture of several Nazi code books — gave the Allies the edge across half the globe, helping them defeat the Italians in the Mediterranean, beat back the Germans in Africa and escape enemy submarines in the Atlantic.

"It could be argued and it has been argued that he shortened the war, and that possibly without him the Allies might not have won the war," said David Leavitt, the author of a book on Turing's life and work. "That's highly speculative, but I don't think his contribution can be underestimated. It was immense."

Even before the war, Turing was formulating ideas that would underpin modern computing, ideas which matured into a fascination with artificial intelligence and the notion that machines would someday challenge the minds of man. When the war ended, Turing went to work programing some of the world's first computers, drawing up — among other things — one of the earliest chess games.

Turing made no secret of his sexuality, and being gay could easily lead to prosecution in post-war Britain. In 1952, Turing was convicted of "gross indecency" over his relationship with another man, and he was stripped of his security clearance, subjected to monitoring by British authorities, and forced to take estrogen to neutralize his sex drive — a process described by some as chemical castration.

S. Barry Cooper, a University of Leeds mathematician who has written about Turing's work, said future generations would struggle to understand the code breaker's treatment.

"You take one of your greatest scientists, and you invade his body with hormones," he said in a telephone interview. "It was a national failure."

Depressed and angry, Turing committed suicide in 1954.

Turing's legacy was long obscured by secrecy -- "Even his mother wasn't allowed to know what he'd done," Cooper said. But as his contribution to the war effort was gradually declassified, and personal computers began to deliver on Turing's promise of "universal machines," the injustice of his conviction became ever more glaring. Then-Prime Minister Gordon Brown issued an apology for Turing's treatment in 2009, but campaigners kept pressing for a formal pardon.

One of them, British lawmaker Iain Stewart, told The Associated Press he was delighted with the news that one had finally been granted.

"He helped preserve our liberty," Stewart said in a telephone interview. "We owed it to him in recognition of what he did for the country -- and indeed the free world --  that his name should be cleared."

Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.
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12 December 2013

Michigan Hand Map made of burnt toast (Lower Pæninsula only)

Click on Lower Pæninsula of Toast to enlarge.

My Army pal what lives in the USA state shaped like the palm of a right-hand mitten so he can point to where he took art classes and everybody in Michigan knows where that is knows my fascination with the MHM and just sent me this one made of burnt toast. 

He will have to e-mail his old Army buddy Joe Schloblodewski (everybody who ever served in the military ends up with a buddy for life named Joe Schloblodewski) to explain how he came to be in possession of this amazing toast map of the Lower Pæninsula of Michigan (Michigan is in 2 parts). 

Some Michiganders know how to use both their hands to show both pæninsulæ, but this skill is rare. Maybe you point to where you bought a used car with your nose.

The other night they showed a really nice uninterrupted print of "Anatomy of a Murder," about a murder trial which takes place in the Upper Pæninsula. James Stewart is the jazz piano-playing and trout-fishing defense lawyer -- it's one of Stewart's most exciting and rivetting performances -- and Lee Remick is Very Attractive and enjoys playing pinball (Old School noisy Electromechanical) in the tavern near where she and her Army lieutenant husband live in the trailer park. 

I think the jazz score was by Count Basie. The judge is Joseph Welch, a very famous and much-admired lawyer who stood up to the vicious megacreep dipsomaniac US Senator Joseph McCarthy in the televised Army-McCarthy hearings in 1954.

04 December 2013

recent e-mails to Right-Hand Mitten State pal

Click coupon to enlarge. 

Present coupon to head referee at kickoff.


Subject: bankruptcy sale / clean out the van or rent U-haul

Sister Wendy did the DAI in her American Collection (2000), but I don't know which piece(s) she showed. She's a Sister of Notre Dame -- not a Carmelite, but is a contemplative at a Carmelite monastery.
    Detroit art sale could raise
    up to U$866,000,000
by Steve James
NBC News contributor
When you owe over $18,000,000,000 , does selling off a few paintings for $800 million make much difference?
That's the question for Kevyn Orr, emergency manager of the city of Detroit, who is looking for ways to satisfy creditors now that America's largest municipal bankruptcy has been given the go-ahead by a federal judge.
On Wednesday, the revered auction house Christie's said it has appraised some of the Detroit Institute of Arts' collection and said the works had a fair market value of $452 million to $866 million. It also suggested five alternatives to selling, which would allow the city to benefit financially, while keeping the DIA collection intact.
Christie's, which was retained by the city to appraise city-owned works as part of Detroit's bankruptcy case, said 11 pieces on display in the museum account for 75 percent of the appraised collection's total value.
Christie's only appraised 2,781 pieces, purchased with city funds and representing less than 5 percent of the institute's total collection, which includes masterpieces by Bruegel, van Gogh and Cézanne.
The alternatives, outlined in a letter to Orr from Christie's Americas president Doug Woodham, were: to use the art as collateral for a loan, lease the works to a partner museum, create a "masterpiece trust," sell the art and loan it permanently to DIA, or put the works in a traveling exhibition.
On Tuesday, Judge Steven Rhodes ruled that Detroit was eligible for Chapter 9 bankruptcy restructuring.
But the federal judge questioned the push by some of the city’s largest creditors to sell paintings and sculpture from the DIA. While he did not say specifically that the art should be spared, Rhodes said that such a sale would not have helped Detroit avoid bankruptcy.
“A one-time infusion of cash by selling an asset,” he said, would have only delayed the city’s “inevitable financial failure” unless it could have also come up with a sustainable way to enhance income and reduce expenses."
Related: Grandparents, have you changed how you spend on your grandkids?
Rhodes said that in considering selling assets, a city “must take extreme care that the asset is truly unnecessary in carrying out its mission.” 
A coalition of creditors filed a motion last week asking the judge to appoint a committee to oversee an independent appraisal of the collection. 
Orr told the Detroit Free Press editorial board after Tuesday's ruling that in “preliminary discussions” with Christie’s, it appeared that the market value of some of the best pieces in the collection would be less than $2 billion — a figure widely cited as a low estimate of the collection’s value — and that the appraisal could come in at less than $1 billion.
“We will try to get some value from the art in some fashion,” he told the board, but he said that did not mean that there was any plan at present to sell any art at auction. “Let’s be clear. That’s a city asset,” he told the newspaper.
He has said publicly that museum officials must “save themselves” by finding a way to contribute money, possibly as much as $500 million, toward the city’s debt relief. 
The institute itself is opposed to an art firesale.
"The DIA art collection is a cultural resource of the people of Detroit," it said in a statement. "The museum's collection is the result of more than a century of public and private charitable contributions for the benefit of the public.
"Protected by a charitable and public trust, the collection has survived several municipal fiscal crises and financial downturns, including the Great Depression, free from threats to its existence," it said.
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