Tag Archives: politics

A transcendental day


Last night I opened yet another transcendental Pandora’s box not realizing the irony of the fact that, being 2 o’clock  in the morning it was officially Pi day.   I have this rather unpractical habit you see of trying to resolve ancient mathematical paradoxes in a single evening.  It’s ambitious, while largely unproductive yet educational and entertaining all the same.

While driving home I thought it quite unsatisfactory that the year has a fractional number of days in it and so resolved to look at the numbers and see if anything could be done about dismissing leap years, normalizing the length of the months and things of this nature .  My apologies to Kepler, Galileo and the mathematical community in general for assuming this would be within my capabilities.

Half an hour after I got home I found myself entering data in the excel spreadsheet I’d created to compile all the many categories of numbers I found.  Our understanding of our position in the universe, of course, is a relative one and so even the question ‘How long is a year’ is a subjective one.  Furthermore, none of the lunar months or astronomical years I looked at were divisible by an integer number of days (or even seconds in many cases) and so I found myself once again in transcendental quicksand, with no foreseeable end to the quantity of significant digits that would suffice in pulling me out.

This afternoon I am patting myself on the head thinking ‘nice try killer’.  I will have to rank this excursion with the time I tried to calibrate integers such that Pi and Euler’s constant would be whole numbers or the time I tried to reinvent music by splitting the difference between Pythagorean tuning and Equal Temperament.  I concede for now.  1 is 1 and Pi is Pi.  Regarding musical temperament however,  I’ll get back to you.

Why Mind our Manners?

Apart from the joy in just witnessing my daughters growth from a 19 inch rather helpless infant to the 42 inch bright, beautiful and fully conversant five year old she is today, one of the great rewards of fatherhood for me has arisen from the constant need to revisit and call into question those principles which were ingrained in my own mind during those same formative years.  Recently, my daughter has been asking “Daddy, why are there so many rules and why are they always made by the grown-ups?”.  “Actually” I said, “There is only one rule: stay safe and healthy.  All the other rules are just to help you with this one and that is my job; to keep you safe and healthy.”  Once in awhile I am brilliant and I was pretty satisfied with this answer.  Still, I am constantly questioning the rules I make and the practices I try to encourage and It supports a lot of real thinking to explain why I think my daughter should do this or that at any given moment.  Much thanks to Popeye for setting such a fun example about why iron intake is so important, but for the rest of the billion why’s, it takes some reflection on things we, as parents, have merely assumed for a long long time.  Why do I have to clean my room?  Why can’t I finish my homework after I play?  And Why must I mind my manners.

To be honest, my daughters manners have been impeccable as of late, so pristine in fact that I’ve had to wonder why we regard them so important a tool as to spend all this time cultivating them.  My answer?  Manners are an advertisement.  Advertise-verb: to describe or draw attention to.  Manners describe and draw attention to the benefit one gets from knowing us in any capacity.  If you are applying for a job these days, you know a well crafted cover letter can be far more important than the contents of your resume.  You want the salutation, body, and signature of this letter to reflect not only your capabilities but your esteem for the company and the position you are applying for as well.  The details of your qualifications are to be found in your resume.  The province of respect however, it is the sole duty of the cover letter to address.

This is the purpose of our manners then.  To premise our actions with the promise of respect.  Let our consequent behavior define our integrity but let our manners at least start us out on the right foot and get us ‘in the door’.  It has been said that ‘ it doesn’t matter what people think of you’ but this statement is quite in need of modification.  Better to say I think, that it only matters what certain people think of you.  We are a collaborative society, humanity, and it is always to our benefit to cultivate the interest of those who promise to further our goals.  Manners then, are also the quintessential social networking resource that help us both identify  and make ourselves known to those we should associate with.

I consider myself a musician, a trumpet player, before anything else and I have absorbed several mantras from my teachers.  ‘Practice makes permanent’ I will cite for the purpose of this article ignoring others like K.I.S.S. (Keep it simple stupid) that are not so relevant.   It is to our benefit to be courteous on line at the grocery store, for example, if for no other reason than that it keeps us in shape to exhibit good manners when it matters most.  As a side note, you never know when it matters most and are continually making a first impression.  The guy on line behind you could be your future employer or the person who introduces you to your spouse.  Practice your manners every chance you get.  It is the only way to make them permanent fixtures.  I have cracked enough high notes to know this is true.

Give credit where credit is due.  It’s only polite.  Recently, a waitress (in her 40’s I presume) observed me pushing in my chair after dining at her table.  “Your mother raised you right.” she said.  Some weeks later, after I held a door open for an older woman she said “Thank you very much.”.  “Don’t thank me” I said overcome again by brilliance.  “Thank my mother.”  It made my day, the opportunity to say such a thing, as I like to think it made that woman’s day to hear it.  Nothing ventured nothing gained.

And so my dear daughter, I tell you this.  First of all, never start a sentence much less a paragraph with ‘and’ like I just did.  And always mind your manners.  Are they the key to success?  No, those would be oxygen, water and food in that order.  Somewhere along the line however, we find ourselves at liberty to act as we choose.  Say please and thank you every chance you get.  Say may I instead of can I; it will distinguish you.  At the very least, with minimal effort you’ll have offended no one.  At best, you’ll enjoy a more fullfilling life by noticing and being noticed by those that practice the simple discipline of manners.  Now will you please clean your room.  I am afraid that you will trip on one of your toys and hit your head on the bookcase.

Intellectual Property Rights

Intellectual property – legal rights over the creations of the mind.  This trend has great inertia and promises to accelerate at a feverish pace.  I have objected to it since I first noticed its evolution and, though I have been convinced to soften my stance a bit, I’d still like to call to attention some potentially negative effects.  All the laws on the books  today are forged with the well being of certain people in mind.  Often they injure others and in special cases, have adverse effects on those they were intended to serve.                                                                                                                                                                                                                Milton Friedman expressed this point far more clearly than I can in the interview I’ve attached to his name.

That we can grant intellectual property means that the state has approved and promises to enforce a more or less temporary monopoly on an artistic or commercial idea.   The intent I suppose is to allow the posessor of an idea a period in which he can recoup the expenses he endured in the design and execution of it.

In a conversation on the subject, a participant whom I respect introduced the example of the envelope with a window on it.  The patent perhaps is to be considered the original guise of intellectual property as it related to tangible designs; the many other types of property we now recognize did not exist a century ago. Continue reading