Category Archives: History

Jennifer Aniston and Bill Gates

What comes to mind when you think about the ’90s?

Obviously, Jennifer Aniston of Friends and Windows 95!

As of the date of this writing, all this is an eternity ago – a quarter of a century, in fact. One of the two is nearly forgotten, and it is not Jennifer – thank God!

We have to admire the cloud and the foresight of Bill Gates to hire Jennifer and her co-star Matthew Perry to lend their fame to teach people about Windows 95. When the infotainment, below, was published, Friends was in its first season, and it could not have been clear what phenomenon Friends would become.

About a decade earlier Steve Jobs had rocked the world of product announcements with his Superbowl commercial introducing the MacIntosh. Boring Microsoft – in comparison – had to come up with something earth-moving, and celebrities probably seemed like a good idea.

The first move was to include a pretty cool music video on the distribution CD, Eddie Brickell’s Good Times, but the problem here was that you must have already bought the software, so it was not a particularly good promotional tool.

For this, Jennifer was put to work. At least by today’s standards, it was rather cringe-worthy, but then again, many of the 90s soaps carried the same hallmark.

Lean back, pour a drink and enjoy – all while learning how to use Windows 95.

Microsoft Windows 95 Video Guide – 1995 – Jennifer Aniston & Matthew Perry

As an afterthought – how much more fund would that have been, had Bill Gates hired Ross instead of Chandler!?

Towel Day

People in the know around the world recognize today – May 25th – as the day that made clear to all the importance of carrying a towel with you at all times.

Google is certainly aware of it

Google search result for Towel Day

as is your’s truly

Merlin Silk with towel to be prepared for all possible situations
Merlin Silk prepared with towel

One thought I want to give to you on your way to life from now on. Ponder the question how you learn to fly…

… and get the mind-boggling answer: You throw yourself to the ground – – – – and miss!

Blows all your accepted reality to bits – doesn’t it?

How to Measure the Height of a Building

Empire State BuildingSir Ernest Rutherford, President of the Royal Academy, and recipient of the Nobel Prize in Physics, related the following story: “Some time ago I received a call from a colleague. He was about to give a student a zero for his answer to a physics question, while the student claimed a perfect score. The instructor and the student agreed to an impartial arbiter, and I was selected.

I read the examination question: “Show how it is possible to determine the height of a tall building with the aid of a barometer.” The student had answered: “Take the barometer to the top of the building, attach a long rope to it, lower it to the street, and then bring it up, measuring the length of the rope. The length of the rope is the height of the building.”

The student really had a strong case for full credit since he had really answered the question completely and correctly! On the other hand, if full credit were given, it could well contribute to a high grade in his physics course and certify competence in physics, but the answer did not confirm this. I suggested that the student have another try. I gave the
student six minutes to answer the question with the warning that the answer should show some knowledge of physics. At the end of five minutes, he hadn’t written anything. I asked if he wished to give up, but he said he had many answers to this problem; he was just thinking of the best one. I excused myself for interrupting him and asked him to please go on. In the next minute, he dashed off his answer which read: “Take the barometer to the top of the building and lean over the edge of the roof. Drop the barometer, timing its fall with a stopwatch. Then, using the formula x=0.5*a*t^2, calculate the height of the building.”

At this point, I asked my colleague if he would give up. He conceded, and gave the student almost full credit. While leaving my colleague’s office, I recalled that the student had said that he had other answers to the problem, so I asked him what they were.

“Well,” said the student, “there are many ways of getting the height of a tall building with the aid of a barometer. For example, you could take the barometer out on a sunny day and measure the height of the barometer, the length of its shadow, and the length of the shadow of the building, and by the use of simple proportion, determine the height of the

“Fine,” I said, “and others?”

“Yes,” said the student, “there is a very basic measurement method you will like. In this method, you take the barometer and begin to walk up the stairs. As you climb the stairs, you mark off the length of the barometer along the wall. You then count the number of marks, and his will give you the height of the building in barometer units.” “A very direct method.”

“Of course. If you want a more sophisticated method, you can tie the barometer to the end of a string, swing it as a pendulum, and determine the value of g [gravity] at the street level and at the top of the building. From the difference between the two values of g, the height of the building, in principle, can be calculated.”

“On this same tack, you could take the barometer to the top of the building, attach a long rope to it, lower it to just above the street, and then swing it as a pendulum. You could then calculate the height of the building by the period of the precession”.

“Finally,” he concluded, “there are many other ways of solving the problem.”

“Probably the best,” he said, “is to take the barometer to the basement and knock on the superintendent’s door. When the superintendent answers, you speak to him as follows: ‘Mr. Superintendent, here is a fine barometer. If you will tell me the height of the building, I will give you this barometer.”

At this point, I asked the student if he really did not know the conventional answer to this question. He admitted that he did, but said that he was fed up with high school and college instructors trying to teach him how to think.

The name of the student was Niels Bohr.”

Kokain – a Blast From the Past

This is how Youtube works…

I was reminded of of the song “Spiel nicht mit den Schmuddelkindern” which I had taught myself to sing and play on the guitar many moons ago back in the old country. I wondered if I would find it on the Youtubes – sure enough, there it was.

But what then caught my eye was Kokain by Hannes Wader, another song that I could play and sing, with all the lyrics memorized. And this was a rendition of a much older Hannes Wader, so, obviously, I had to watch it and got sucked into another few Hannes Wader songs.

But Kokain was the best for me – that’s why I share it here…

Oops – sharing not enabled, so here’s just the link on the Tubes:

And so you can all sing along, here are the lyrics:

Ich kam von Frankfurt nach Berlin
Drei Koffer voll mit Kokain
Cocaine, all around my brain
Hallo Taxi, schnell zum Ku’damm, Ecke Tauentzien
Meine Frau und meine Kinder schrei’n nach Kokain
Cocaine, all around my brain

Hm, hm, hm, hey!
Oh Mama, komm schnell her
Halt mich fest, ich kann nicht mehr
Cocaine, all around my brain

Meine Frau heisst Evelyn
Ich weiss nicht, liebt sie mich oder mehr mein Kokain
Cocaine, all around my brain
„Liebster“, sagt sie, „Rate mal, was kitzelt so schön
In der Nase, schmeckt nach Scheisse, wirkt wie Arsen?“
Cocaine, all around my brain

Hm, hm, hm, hey!
Oh Mama, komm schnell her
Halt mich fest, ich kann nicht mehr
Cocaine, all around my brain

Mein Sohn ist zwölf und ewig angetörnt
Ich verbiet’ es ihm, damit er endlich laufen lernt
Cocaine, all around my brain
Seit gestern weiss er endlich, wer ich bin
Wenn er mich sieht, dann ruft er: „Pappa, hattu Kokain?“
Cocaine, all around my brain
Hm, hm, hm, hey!
Oh Mama, komm schnell her
Halt mich fest, ich kann nicht mehr
Cocaine, all around my brain

Meine kleine Tochter ist jetzt grad’
Auf ‘nem Trip, den sie letztes Jahr schon eingepfiffen hat
Cocaine, all around my brain
Sie sieht aus, als wär’ sie dreissig
Und sie macht auf zwanzig, dabei ist sie acht
Cocaine, all around my brain

Hm, hm, hm, hey!
Oh Mama, komm schnell her
Halt mich fest, ich kann nicht mehr
Cocaine, all around my brain

Meine Tante dealt seit einem Jahr
Seitdem geht sie über Leichen, fährt ‘nen Jaguar
Cocaine, all around my brain
Immer wenn sie kommt, bringt sie ein Stückchen Shit
In der Radkappe für die Kinder mit
Cocaine, all around my brain

Hm, hm, hm, hey!
Oh Mama, komm schnell her
Halt mich fest, ich kann nicht mehr
Cocaine, all around my brain

Mein Onkel kam vom Alkohol zum Kokain
Jetzt will er sich das Kokain mit Schnaps entzieh’n
Cocaine, all around my brain
Seit gestern liegt er im Delirium
Ab morgen steigt er wieder auf die Droge um
Cocaine, all around my brain

Hm, hm, hm, hey!
Oh Mama, komm schnell her
Halt mich fest, ich kann nicht mehr
Cocaine, all around my brain

Opa hat den Gilb, wartet auf den Tod
Freut sich auf Jimi Hendrix und den lieben Gott
Cocaine, all around my brain
Oma geht es augenblicklich auch nicht gut
Seit ihrem letzten Flash spuckt sie nur noch Blut
Cocaine, all around my brain

Ich merke schon, dass ich jetzt aufhör’n muss
Oh Mama, Mama, Mama, komm mach mir ‘nen Schuss
Mit Morphium und Heroin
Opium und Rosimon
Oder gib mir Lysergsäurediäthylamid
Mescalin und Nepalshit
La, la, la …

Oh, You Scientists!

This interesting piece from the BBC came across my desktop the other day…

and I feel compelled to comment.

One interesting science-historical fact is from the days before the discovery of atomic forces, before we ‘knew’ that the energy produced by the sun is based on nuclear fusion where two heavy hydrogen atoms are fused into one helium atom. The energy contained in the one helium is less than that of the two hydrogen and the energy difference makes our days bright and life possible on earth.

But it is not, that before the discovery of these processes, scientists just sat there and agreed to wait for the discovery of nuclear fusion – no – they used what they knew then to explain the sun. Lacking nuclear fusion to generate heat they turned to coal, which they knew well to generate heat. So they came up with the idea that the sun is a big ball of pure coal – and it burned. They already had a good idea how big the sun was so, commandeering all the scientific methods at their disposal, they calculated how long we could depend on the sun to give is light and life. I don’t recall what the number was they came up with, but it was considerably lower that the now estimated ten billion. It did  not matter too much, as other branches of science also did  not know too much about the time it took for the current state to develop to what they could observe. And the creation of the world in five days was still a well accepted possibility.

We might smile just how cute – and wrong – science was then. But I can not help imagine scientists in a century or two who unearth this BBC video and have a good laugh.

I wonder where the humility of science has been lost so that it can now tell us with utter conviction “How the Solar System Formed.”

My Old TRS-80

TRS-80 top modelOne of my first ‘investments’ I made after college, when I started making a boat-load of money (that’s how it felt, at least) with my new job, was a TRS-80 computer from Radio Shack.

Today I ran into an article on Mashable about that Trash-80 that brought back memories of sitting on that machine for long nights, the ash tray overflowing, discovering all the things you could do with BASIC.

Despite my feeling of being totally rich, my pay check of nearly 2000 Deutsch Marks would not allow me to buy anything but the entry model of this computer. At that time the US Dollar was around 4 Marks which brought the price of that computer to an amazing DM 3000 – one and a half month’s pay. This made me think about what that top model Tandy computer would cost in today’s Dollars – – – turns out to be over 26 thousand Dollars!

And looking at the exchange rate from the other side – I made only $1500 in today’s Dollars and I thought I was rich? Now I wonder if the exchange rate of DM to US$ really reflected the relationship of cost of living. A quick Google search reveals that in 1980 a bread in the US cost about 50 cents, while a bread in Germany cost DM 2.50 – so the exchange rate is at least in the ballpark.

Maybe I should have moved to the US right after college – I might have been able to afford one of those fancy floppy drives from Radio Shack…

In case the TRS-80 catalog on Mashable ever goes away, here’s a copy…

Water Time – Film Review

Somehow the film Water Time by Allan Weisbecker made it onto my hard disk and it was well worth watching albeit frustrating.

Frustrating because it confirmed my own experience with my fellow human’s acceptance of new facts that violate their ready-made conceptions – namely none, zero, nada, zilch.

But I never heard such honest statements as “No, I don’t change my mind – whatever the evidence might be!” What I personally get most of the time is rejection or attempts to question the validity of evidence or fact.

Over the last years it has become quite evident to me that the root of all evil is government. For the simple fact that they claim for themselves to be above and beyond any morality. We teach our kids that taking things away from other kids is stealing and we should not do that. Yet when the tax collector calls it tax and does the same thing – it somehow is something other than stealing – but it’s not!

This is such an obvious truth but try to explain this to somebody who has paid taxes for all of his life and could not admit that this is morally wrong – simply because he would have to admit that he was wrong for all of his life.

It appears that to admit being mistaken is very difficult for many and it is easier to insist to have been right all along.