Thursday, July 29, 2010


Sisyphus (SIS-i-fus). In Greek mythology, Sisyphus was a sinner condemned in Tartarus to an eternity of rolling a boulder uphill then watching it roll back down again. Sisyphus was founder and king of Corinth, or Ephyra as it was called in those days. He was notorious as the most cunning knave on earth. His greatest triumph came at the end of his life, when the god Hades came to claim him personally for the kingdom of the dead. Hades had brought along a pair of handcuffs, a comparative novelty, and Sisyphus expressed such an interest that Hades was persuaded to demonstrate their use - on himself.
And so it came about that the high lord of the Underworld was kept locked up in a closet at Sisyphus's house for many a day, a circumstance which put the great chain of being seriously out of whack. Nobody could die. A soldier might be chopped to bits in battle and still show up at camp for dinner. Finally Hades was released and Sisyphus was ordered summarily to report to the Underworld for his eternal assignment. But the wily one had another trick up his sleeve.

He simply told his wife not to bury him and then complained to Persephone, Queen of the Dead, that he had not been accorded the proper funeral honors. What's more, as an unburied corpse he had no business on the far side of the river Styx at all - his wife hadn't placed a coin under his tongue to secure passage with Charon the ferryman. Surely her highness could see that Sisyphus must be given leave to journey back topside and put things right.

Kindly Persephone assented, and Sisyphus made his way back to the sunshine, where he promptly forgot all about funerals and such drab affairs and lived on in dissipation for another good stretch of time. But even this paramount trickster could only postpone the inevitable. Eventually he was hauled down to Hades, where his indiscretions caught up with him. For a crime against the gods - the specifics of which are variously reported - he was condemned to an eternity at hard labor.

"Sisyphean task" or "Sisyphean challenge"

As a punishment from the gods for his trickery, Sisyphus was made to roll a huge rock up a steep hill, but before he could reach the top of the hill, the rock would always roll back down, forcing him to begin again. The maddening nature of the punishment was reserved for Sisyphus due to his hubristic belief that his cleverness surpassed that of Zeus. Sisyphus took the bold step of reporting one of Zeus' sexual conquests, telling the river god Asopus of the whereabouts of his daughter Aegina. Zeus had taken her away, but regardless of the impropriety of Zeus' frequent conquests, Sisyphus overstepped his bounds by considering himself a peer of the gods who could rightfully report their indiscretions. As a result, Zeus displayed his own cleverness by binding Sisyphus to an eternity of frustration. Accordingly, pointless or interminable activities are often described as Sisyphean. Sisyphus was a common subject for ancient writers and was depicted by the painter Polygnotus on the walls of the Lesche at Delphi.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Will Kemp's Jig

Will Kemp's Jig

Will Kemp's Jig is the amazing story of a man who once danced all the way from London to Norwich (it is about 80 miles (132 km) and it took him nine days) and of how, in one town, a young lady came out and danced a mile with him to keep him company. That was in 1580, and he made a bet, that he could do this in less than 10 days. As you know, he won the bet and then wrote the tale as "The Nine Daie's wonder".

Will Kemp was bet a hundred pounds that he couldn't jig a hundred miles. As the story goes, he won the bet and the tune "Kemp's Jig" was written to celebrate the event. Kemp's Jig is a well known piece from the renaissance originally written for lute.
Will Kemp was known to be purveyor of "mad jests and merry jigs" and was a famous Elizabethan actor and a shareholder with Shakespeare in the Company of the Lord Chamberlain's Men. It is probable that many of the Bard's comic roles were written with Kemp in mind.

Simple Melody

First page of simple guitar score

More including an account of the journey:

Monday, July 26, 2010

History of Chess

The history of chess spans some 1500 years. The earliest predecessors of the game originated in India, prior to the 6th century AD. From India, the game spread to Persia. When the Arabs conquered Persia, chess was taken up by the Muslim world and subsequently, through the Moorish conquest of Hispania, spread to Southern Europe. In Europe, the game evolved into its current form in the 15th century. In the second half of the 19th century, modern tournament play began, and the first world chess championship was held in 1886. The 20th century saw great leaps forward in chess theory and the establishment of the World Chess Federation (FIDE). Developments in the 21st century include the employment of computers for analysis, team consultations, and online gaming.

Rebracketing / Juncture Loss

Rebracketing (also known as juncture loss, junctural metanalysis, false splitting, misdivision, or refactorization) is a common process in historical linguistics where a word originally derived from one source is broken down or bracketed into a different set of factors. It is a form of folk etymology, where the new factors may appear meaningful (e.g., hamburger taken to mean a burger with ham), or may seem to be the result of valid morphological processes.

Rebracketing often focuses on highly probable word boundaries: "a noodle" might become "an oodle", since "an oodle" sounds just as grammatically correct as "a noodle", and likewise "an eagle" might become "a neagle", but "the bowl" would not become "th ebowl" and "a kite" would not become "ak ite".

Technically, bracketing is the process of breaking an utterance into its constituent parts. The term is akin to parsing for larger sentences, but is normally restricted to morphological processes at the sublexical level, i.e. within the particular word or lexeme. For example, the word uneventful is conventionally bracketed as [un+[event+ful]], and the bracketing [[un+event]+ful] leads to completely different semantics. Re-bracketing is the process of seeing the same word as a different morphological decomposition, especially where the new etymology becomes the conventional norm.

The name false splitting in particular is often reserved for the case where two words mix together but still remain two words (as in the "noodle" and "eagle" examples above). The name juncture loss may be specially deployed to refer to the case of an article and a noun fusing (such as if "the jar" were to become "(the) thejar", or if "an apple" were to become "(an) anapple").

Re-bracketing is part of the process of language change, and often operates together with sound changes that facilitate the new etymology.

Rebracketing is a common mechanism for new word formation. For example, the English word adder derives from the Old English næddre, snake, re-bracketed from "a nædder" to "an adder" (c. 14th c.); the word "nedder" for snake is still present in some Northern English dialects. Similarly, "nickname" is a refactorization of "an ekename" (1303, ekename=additional,little name).

Some common name forms are also rebracketings, e.g. Ned or Neddy may have risen from generations of children hearing "mine Ed" as "my Ned" (mīn is the Middle English form of the first person possessive pronoun, and the my form was also emerging around the same time). Similarly "mine Ellie" --> "my Nellie".

As another example, alone has its etymology in all+one (cognate to German allein). It was subsequently rebracketed as a+lone (akin to aflutter, afire), so the second part seemed likely to be a word, "lone".

Similar processes may also add a syllable on occasion, e.g. humble pie, is derived from the umble pie, where umble referred to the inner parts of a deer, and an umble pie was a less palatable meat. Clearly, the etymology "humble pie" seemed to fit. Umble is long gone, but this phrase continues.

* The word hamburger had its origins in a form of ground meat dish popular in Hamburg, Germany (where it is still called Tartar steak; it was apparently popular with the Mongol armies). A possible bracketing for the original may be [[ham+burg]+er], but after it became popular in America, it was soon factorized as [ham+burger] (helped by the fact that ham is a form of meat). This led to the independent suffix -burger: chickenburger, fishburger, etc. Note that in the original etymology, burg was town and burger was a resident, or something related to the town; after refactorization it becomes a chunk of meat for a sandwich.
* The English helico•pter (from Greek heliko- and pterōn) has been rebracketed to modern heli•copter (as in jetcopter, heliport).
* cybern•etics: (from Greek kubernan and -ētēs) has become modern cyber•netics (as in cyberspace).
* prosthodontics (= false teeth) is from prosth(o)- + Greek odont-; odont- = "tooth", and prostho- arose by misdivision of "prosthetic", which was treated as supposed stem prosth- and suffix -etic, but actually came from Greek pros = "in front of" and thē- (the root of the verb tithēmi = "I place").

An example from Persian is the word shatranj (chess), which is derived from the Sanskrit chaturanga (2nd c. BCE), and after losing the "u" to syncope, becomes chatrang in Middle Persian (6th c. CE). Today it is sometimes factorized as shat (hundred) + ranj (worry / mood), or "a hundred worries" - which appears quite a plausible etymology.

As demonstrated in the examples above, the primary reason of juncture loss in English is the confusion between "a" and "an". In Medieval script, words were often written so close together that for some Middle English scholars it was hard to tell where one began and another ended. The results include the following words in English:

* adder: Middle English a naddre ("a snake") taken for an addre.
* aitchbone: Middle English a nachebon ("a buttock bone") taken for an hach boon.
* apple pie order: English a nappes-pliées (meaning "neatly folden linen" in French) taken for an apple pie (this is also an example of transposition).
* apron: Middle English a napron taken for an apron.
* auger: Middle English a nauger taken for an auger.
* eyas: Middle English a niyas taken for an eias.
* humble pie: Middle English a numble taken for an umble (ultimately from Latin lumbulus, this is also an example of homorganicness).
* lone: Middle English al one (all one) taken for a-lone.
* newt: Middle English an eute (cognate with eft) taken for a neute.
* nickname: Middle English an eke name ("an additional name") taken for a neke name.
* the nonce: Middle English, for old English þen ānes (the one [occasion]).
* omelette: 17C English from French la lemelle ("omelette") taken for l'alemelle; ultimately from Latin lamella ("blade"), perhaps because of the thin shape of the omelette (SOED).
* ought: Middle English a nought ("a nothing") taken for an ought. Ultimately distinct from Old English naught ("nothing"), of complex and convergent etymology, from na ("not") and wight ("living thing, man"), but cf. aught ("anything", "worthy", etc.), itself ultimately from aye ("ever") and wight (SOED).
* tother: Old English (now dialectal) t[he] other, taken for t-other.
* umpire: Middle English a noumpere taken for an oumpere.

In French similar confusion arose between "le/la" and "l'-" as well as "de" and "d'-".

* French démonomancie ("demonomancy") taken for d'émonomancie ("of emonomancy").citation needed
* Old French lonce ("lynx") taken for l'once, thus giving rise to once (hence English: ounce), now more often applied to the snow leopard.
* Old French une norenge ("an orange") taken for une orenge.
* boutique from Greek-derived Latin apoteca, a change common to most Romance languages (e.g. Italian bottega, Spanish bodega), a putative proto-Romance l'aboteca or l'abodega taken for la + lexeme.

In Arabic the confusion is generally with non-Arabic words beginning in "al-" (al is Arabic for "the").

* Greek Alexandreia (Alexandria) taken for al Exandreia (and thus Al-Iskandariyah; this is also an example of metathesis).
* Greek Alexandretta taken for al Exandretta (and thus Iskenderun; this too is an example of metathesis).

* alligator from Spanish el lagarto ("the lizard").
* alone from all one.
* atone from at one.

From Arabic "al"

Perhaps the largest form of this sense of juncture loss in English comes from the Arabic al (mentioned above):


* Arabic al-faṣfaṣa in Spanish as alfalfa, alfalfa.
* Arabic al-kharrūba in Spanish as algorroba, carob.
* Arabic al-hilāl in Spanish as alfiler, pin.
* Arabic al-hurj in Spanish as alforja, saddlebag.
* Arabic al-qāḍī in Spanish as alcalde, alcalde.
* Arabic al-qā’id in Spanish as alcaide, commander.
* Arabic al-qaṣr in Spanish as alcázar, alcazar.
* Arabic al-qubba in Spanish as alcoba, alcove.
* Arabic al-‘uṣāra in Spanish as alizari, madder root.
* Arabic al-rub in Spanish as arroba, a unit of measure.
* Arabic al-zahr ("the dice") in Spanish as azar, "randomness", and in English as "hazard"


* Arabic al-bakūra in Portuguese as albacor, albacore.
* Arabic al-ġaṭṭās in Portuguese as alcatraz, albatross.

Medieval Latin

* Arabic al-’anbīq in Medieval Latin as alembicus, alembic.
* Arabic al-dabarān in Medieval Latin as Aldebaran, Aldebaran.
* Arabic al-ḥinnā’ in Medieval Latin as alchanna, henna.
* Arabic al-‘iḍāda in Medieval Latin as alidada, sighting rod.
* Arabic al-jabr in Medieval Latin as algebra, algebra.
* Arabic al-Khwarizmi in Medieval Latin as algorismus, algorism.
* Arabic al-kīmiyā’ in Medieval Latin as alchymia, alchemy.
* Arabic al-kuḥl in Medieval Latin as alcohol, powdered antimony.
* Arabic al-qily in Medieval Latin as alkali, alkali.
* Arabic al-qur’ān in Medieval Latin as alcorānum, Koran.


* Arabic al-ġūl in English as Algol.
* Arabic al-majisti in French as almageste, almagest.
* Arabic al-minbar in Medieval Hebrew as ’almēmār, bema.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Car Salesmen Now in Possession of “Perfect Handshake” Equation

Danger! Car Salesmen Now in Possession of “Perfect Handshake” Equation

To seal more car deals, Chevrolet UK looked to arm its salesmen with the perfect weapon of confidence: an unstoppable handshake. Here’s the secret they received from Geoffrey Beattie, Head of Psychological Sciences at the University of Manchester:

PH (Perfect Handshake)= v (e^2 + ve^2)(d^2) + (cg + dr)^2

We hope (and suspect) the training posters and equation, supposedly meant for Chevrolet-sellers, are meant for publicity and are not a real attempt to improve customer relations.

The variables, as outlined in a Chevrolet press release:

(e) is eye contact (1=none; 5=direct) 5; (ve) is verbal greeting (1=totally inappropriate; 5=totally appropriate) 5; (d) is Duchenne smile – smiling in eyes and mouth, plus symmetry on both sides of face, and slower offset (1=totally non-Duchenne smile (false smile); 5=totally Duchenne) 5; (cg) completeness of grip (1=very incomplete; 5=full) 5; (dr) is dryness of hand (1=damp; 5=dry) 4; (s) is strength (1= weak; 5=strong) 3; (p) is position of hand (1=back towards own body; 5=other person’s bodily zone) 3; (vi) is vigour (1=too low/too high; 5=mid) 3; (t) is temperature of hands (1=too cold/too hot; 5=mid) 3; (te) is texture of hands (5=mid; 1=too rough/too smooth) 3; (c) is control (1=low; 5=high) 3; (du) is duration (1= brief; 5=long) 3.

The press release details some pretty common sense advice: avoid sweaty palms; don’t squeeze too hard or hold on too long; make eye contact. But putting the formula into action might be tough; if actually meant to inspire confidence (which the release says 70 percent of hand-shakers are lacking), doing the math before every hand-to-hand may instead lead to more perfect head scratching.

Boom and bust ... the long term view

Of boom, bust but maybe not the Black Death
Jan 9, 2009 07:50 EST
Black Death | James Saft | The Great Debate

James Saft Great Debate – James Saft is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own –

As the crisis has deepened we’ve had to search farther back in history for precedents, and with deflation at hand much of the debate now centers on how similar the next while will be to the Great Depression.

But what if, rather than the 1930s, we ought to be thinking about the revolutionary crisis of the 18th century, or even further back to the 14th century lending and spending spree that ended with the Black Death?

A reading of The Great Wave: Price Revolutions and the Rhythm of History, by Brandeis University historian David Hackett Fischer will ring a lot of bells.

Fischer’s book, published in 1996, looks at price data back to the time of Babylonian king Hammurabi, and actual series of prices back to Europe in the 13th century.

As the title implies, Fischer finds in the data a succession of waves, often lasting more than 100 years, of first inflation punctuated by violent crises and then very long periods in which prices are basically stable. The most recent “Great Wave” of inflation began in 1896 and may or may not have broken on the shore of the current debacle.

“It looks as if the long inflation has come to an end but we can’t be sure,” Fischer said in an interview.
He makes no claims for the predictive value of his work, unlike those who study cycles, and cautions that the wild swings that characterize the end of waves make it impossible to judge until well after the fact.

The period that perhaps ended in the summer of 2007 fits in some broad and telling ways with his characterization of the latter stages of an inflationary wave: wealth inequality increased; returns to labor fell but returns to capital increased; debt was built up, both public and private; and there were severe commodity price shocks.

There are also some real similarities in how a crisis usually plays out, according to Fischer, and our own current state: a rapid fall in prices, rents and interest followed by a very sharp deflation.
So, will the near future feature scenes of 14th century-style devastation?

Almost certainly not. While each of the huge busts following long periods of inflation have featured violence, disorder, financial markets upheaval and the toppling of old orthodoxies, each crisis has been successively less severe than the last.

That’s likely because people have become better at managing the effects of financial disorder, and even though hopes of a great moderation in the global economy now look silly and the old certainties about markets and economics are under attack, there is good reason to hope that this time will be less severe.


Another possibility, not as grim as the Black Death although hardly appealing, is that we are about to enter into a last climax of inflation, courtesy of desperate deficit spending.

The latter stages of inflationary periods in the past featured effective bankruptcies on the back of fiscal stress by France in the 18th century and Spain in the 16th century, the economic and military giants of their times.

“It is conceivable that with the way the printing presses are going to have to be running to pay for all of the stimulus that is going to be happening all over the world we could well see another huge wave of inflation,” Fischer said. “And now there is a real potential for the greatest power in our own time heading towards some sort of a crisis of sovereign credit.”

Again, history doesn’t repeat, it rhymes, and there are good reasons to think this won’t happen.
At any rate, I think it’s fair to say that our current framework and discussion are actually based on an analysis of a relatively short period of history, one which because we have good data about it rewards debate and analysis but which can lead to an overly narrow vision of what is possible. Talking about depression and deflation would get you jeered out of court two years ago, and there was an unnaturally broad consensus about the benefits of financialisation.

And of course there is also the possibility that we will pass into a true period of equilibrium, without notable inflation and with narrowing differentials between wealth and poverty and higher returns to labor.

In the past, such periods have included the Renaissance, the Enlightenment and the prosperity of the Victorian period.

Regardless of where we are in the wave, it seems that the forces in alignment — deflation, regulation, an expanded role for government in the economy and a structurally smaller share of GDP for finance — will not favour returns to capital. The stock market may be a bit early in rallying, even if we are still surfing the wave.