Archive for May, 2009

Telescoping back

I am listening to  Science Friday. Today’s episode is really good. The Invention of the Telescope was on a little while ago. Albert Van Helden was the guest expert for the segment. He is professor emeritus of history at Rice. Hearing him was a reminder. I took his class on Galileo long ago, and I remember enough to know that Galileo did not invent the telescope. Van Helden built the Galileo Project, a historical presentation on the WWW. It was an early and innovative use of the web. The site served as a primary source for the class. We students replicated experiments and did other small projects to expand it. My contribution is still there. For quite a few years, school children emailed me to ask me to do their homework.

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Michael M. on May 29th 2009 in General

Mathematically inclined

Steven Strogatz is the guest columnist for The Wild Side blog in The New York Times, and I am enjoying his post. Math and the City covers similar territory to the last time I mentioned him a couple of years ago. It is about power laws, relationships between quantities that scale together based on some exponent.

The body mass index (BMI) is one commonly familiar related topic. It gives a measure of weight to height proportionality. BMI is calculated by weight in kilograms divided by the square of height in meters. A BMI from 18.5 to 25 is generally considered healthy. The underlying assumption is that weight should scale with the height^2. In fact, another exponent other than 2 is a better choice for mathematical accuracy, but 2 is close enough to provide a useful guideline and easy calculations. Similar scaling laws show up all over the place.

I was excited a couple of years ago because Strogatz mentioned my friend Van Savage. This time, he discusses only Van’s mentors and collaborators. I wrote him about the omission and received a friendly reply.

His more recent column is Loves Me, Loves Me Not (Do the Math). It starts with examples about star-crossed lovers whose attraction to one another depends on the other’s attraction to oneself. From there, it introduces the idea of differential equations. It has been a while since I seriously dealt with any, but they are indeed the bedrock of physics, much of chemistry and a good bit of biology. While potentially viewed as arcane, it is terrific to see them introduced in a fun way.

I hope he writes a few more before the usual columnist returns.

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Michael M. on May 28th 2009 in General

Movies outside, movie inside

Today I dropped by the Schlafly Branch of the library to return Night of the Hunter and a couple of CDs. I saw a flyer for a movie night. CWE Families and Friends will show Ghostbusters this Saturday, May 30 at dusk at St. Stephen’s, 515 Pendleton Ave, Saint Louis, MO 63108. From there, I found Frontyard Features. Its calendar lists quite a few outdoor movies being shown this summer in several places across Missouri. I brought up the once mentioned Skyview Drive-In in Belleville just a couple of days ago chatting with a friend. I have not been in years, but it was great when I did. I hope I catch at least one or two outdoor movies this summer.

Night of the Hunter, which I watched inside on my laptop, was excellent. It is the story of a crooked preacher seeking treasure. A friend informed me about the creepy duet of “Leaning on the Everlasting Arms” in the movie a few years ago, and I learned to play it. The recording made it onto the Oxford American Southern Sampler 2000, Issue 34. So many scenes are dark and creepy. The child actors were excellent. I am glad that I finally watched the movie itself after so many years.

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Michael M. on May 26th 2009 in General, Movies, Music, Recorded


I updated my About me page to reflect the changes. I finally finished school. Commencement marked the end with ceremony. Most importantly, my family came into town to see me through the final step of my formal education.

The rest of the time, we explored the town looking for fun. We ate meals at Pappy’s, the Schlafly Tap Room, Dressel’s, Dewey’s, Bacana Brasil and Pi and desserts at Ted Drewes, Crown Candy Kitchen and Ben and Jerry’s. We visited the Missouri History Museum, the Saint Louis Zoo and the City Museum. My sister and I sang a little harmony at the Atomic Cowboy open mic. I enjoyed Mary Lee Bendolph, Gee’s Bend Quilts, and Beyond at the history museum. The City Museum has added many new parts since I last visited. We enjoyed Circus Harmony there.

I will start the next stage of my training in June. This post on Digg points to the Time story “Are Medical Residents Worked Too Hard?Kenneth Polonsky is one of the doctors interviewed for the article. He chairs the department in which I will spend the great majority of the next year. He authored “To Nap or Not to Nap? Residents’ Work Hours Revisited” along with Melvin Blanchard, residency director, and David Meltzer of the University of Chicago. It accompanies “Cost Implications of Reduced Work Hours and Workloads for Resident Physicians” in the New England Journal of Medicine. The questions about the health costs, often posed as mistakes from fatigue versus mistakes when changing shifts, and the length of training are valid, but extremely difficult to grasp.

The last article, a study, attempts to examine the issues at hand, errors, money and hours. I wonder about the money. Medicine is commonly seen as a lucrative career. It can be, but the delays before payment are long. On average, college and medical school are very expensive. Residency pays, but relatively little. Residents would object much less to adding time to residency if it paid better, if reducing the load at the beginning of residency did not simply shift it toward the end and if so many residents were not burdened with great debt. That money would have to come from somewhere, though. I do not know quite who holds the pursestrings, but I know that they hold them tightly.

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Michael M. on May 26th 2009 in General, Live, Music

I hear some fried chicken.

I loved 3-2-1 Contact. It might have had something to do with everything for me. The show debuted in 1980, and my pursuit of science continues these many years later. Waxy Links pointed to the YouTube video of electronic musician Suzanne Ciani on the program. YouTube links to several other related videos of her, and she has her own account. The synthesizer rain sounds sent my memory into a sprint. I thought, “Fried chicken.” Then there was the sound of frying chicken. So much is stored to be brought forth with minimal prompting. I also misremembered that the segment included a scene of real frying chicken. Memory is amazing and strange.

Waxy also posted this YouTube video “Alice” made by amazing sampling. Wonderland is the related album.

For the intended person, how do you like that title?


Michael M. on May 13th 2009 in General, Music, Recorded

Openings and Hopper

In my last post about Anvil! The Story of Anvil, I neglected to mention how much I enjoyed  Anvil drummer Robb Reiner’s paintings. I had planned to write about them, but I forgot when posting. When I saw the first ones in the movie, I thought of Edward Hopper right away. Reiner, too, has a fondness for empty factories and empty streets. Seconds later in the movie, Reiner said how much he likes Hopper. It only makes sense. Additionally, he has a fondness for thrash metal and bathroom humor, also reflected in his paintings.

Before moving here, I had several chances to frequent the Whitney Museum of American Art. Its collection of Hopper paintings is fantastic. Hopper’s personal holdings were donated to it by his widow. I hear the Whitney mentioned less often than the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the MoMA or even the Guggenheim. In general, it is a fabulous place.

Friday night, I and a few friends visited previously blogged Good Citizen Gallery for the opening of Relative Toxicity. Good Citizen is a gem on Gravois with some great folks behind it. This show by Jennifer Flores has the consequences of industrial pollution as its central theme. While she definitely has developed her own style and approach, it reminded me of Anvil! and, of course, Hopper.

We headed to Off Broadway for Thao with The Get Down Stay Down after. Opening for them were Samantha Crain and the Midnight Shivers and Sister Suvi. Off Broadway is a great place for live music that got much better when it banned smoking. Each of the opening bands had some good songs. Thao with The Get Down Stay Down play bouncy indie rock. They put on a great show. I am too tuned out to find this music myself. I am thankful to have some friends with their ears open.

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Michael M. on May 10th 2009 in General, Live, Movies, Music


I saw Anvil! The Story of Anvil at the Landmark Tivoli. I had no expectations, and they were exceeded. The documentary profiles the Canadian heavy metal band Anvil. The band never made it big despite long efforts and many brushes with fame. In the face of repeated denial, they push on.

This movie is This Is Spinal Tap in real life. It acknolwedges the parallels at many points, and it definitely pokes fun at the band in several places. In interviews with the band members’ families, the movie shows how they grew up and what roads they might have taken had they not pursued music. The overall look, though, is affectionate toward the band. Indeed, the filmmaker is a long time fan and former employee of Anvil. He shows dreamers hoping against the odds long, long after most people would have quit. It is an excellent documentary.

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Michael M. on May 8th 2009 in General, Movies, Music


Ultimate Frisbee Takes Off” in The New York Times covers a sport I have grown to enjoy. I began playing soon after I moved here, and I have a few groups of friends I regularly meet for pickup games. The St. Louis Ultimate Association is very active and includes competitive leagues that are more serious than I. I have only played at a some of their pickup games. One players quoted in the article captured my feelings about the sport.

“I love to run with purpose, meaning I hate the track, but I like to chase things,” Ms. Batchelder said. “I love the fact that when you’re playing, you make hundreds and thousands of little decisions — where the disc is, where your body is — but they happen without thinking.”

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Michael M. on May 8th 2009 in General

Mississippi Innocence Project

The Mississippi Innocence Project works investigate questionable convictions and to exonerate the wrongly imprisoned. The University of Mississippi School of Law hosts it. Thanks to NMissCommentor who posted about it. He linked to this video on YouTube from Mississippi Public Broadcasting‘s Mississippi Roads. Mississippi Roads is one of my favorite television programs ever  as I blogged once before. The segment about the Innocence Project is a great piece about a horror.

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Michael M. on May 5th 2009 in General

Bobby Lounge Today

Bobby Lounge came into the larger public eye a few years ago after his Jazz Fest performance. Every year about this time, Jazz Fest happens again, and favorite Bobby Lounge gets more attention. This article in USA Today is the latest. I also found this review of his performance at It is good to see that Bobby is still able to perform.

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Michael M. on May 3rd 2009 in General, Live, Music

Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 United States
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 United States.