August, 2010 browsing by month


Geography Quiz!

Thursday, August 19th, 2010

(Need for a quiz here was pointed out by a reader)

First commenter with 3 correct answers will win one of these.

1. What is the world’s largest island in a body of fresh water?

2. Name the states that share a boundary with Rhode Island. No peeking!

3. This I borrowed from Click and Clack’s Puzzler. I only heard it just before they gave the answer and I guessed wrong. If you heard the answer on the radio, please disqualify yourself.

You are in a city in the USA. You travel due north until you arrive in the next state, which is state X. You return to the city. Then you travel due west until you arrive in the next state. It is again state X. You return to the city. Then you travel due south until you arrive in the next state. State X again. You return to the city. Then you travel due east until you arrive in the next state and yet again reach state X. The first state boundary you reach whether you travel North, West, South or East is the same state. Where are you?

Why Read Music?

Friday, August 13th, 2010

There is nothing new about technology changing the patterns of how people develop their brains, for better or for worse. Written language, the printing press, and the clock are some examples. Wondering about case studies that resonate with what is happening to spatial intelligence I found where I myself am stone guilty of taking the lazy way out: What happened to musical intelligence?

In times before the radio and phonograph, almost everyone sang or played an instrument in family and social settings. That seems so much healthier than sitting around watching TV or listening to recorded music. If I lived then, I think I would certainly have continued to play piano, guitar or bass through the years. But I dropped the instruments. I play the radio. I know it is not too late to change my habits and improve my relationship with the universe of music. We’ll see.

Miracles are everywhere

Tuesday, August 10th, 2010

According to the “Don’t be how much longer can we pretend to not be evil?” folks, the following is quoted at 2310 places on the web. I can not resist being #2311. I usually think too hard about my posts. Why not an easy one now and then?


In Washington,DC, at a Metro Station, on a cold January morning in 2007, this man with a violin played six Bach pieces for about 45 minutes.  During that time, approximately 2,000 people went through the station, most of them on their way to work.  After about 3 minutes, a middle-aged man noticed that there was a musician playing.  He slowed his pace and stopped for a few seconds, and then he hurried on to meet his schedule.

About 4 minutes later:

The violinist received his first dollar.  A woman threw money in the hat and, without stopping, continued to walk.

At 6 minutes:

A young man leaned against the wall to listen to him, then looked at his watch and started to walk again.

At 10 minutes:

A 3-year old boy stopped, but his mother tugged him along hurriedly.  The kid stopped to look at the violinist again, but the mother pushed hard and the child continued to walk, turning his head the whole time.  This action was repeated by several other children, but every parent – without exception – forced their children to move on quickly.

At 45 minutes:
The musician played continuously.  Only 6 people stopped and listened for a short while.  About 20 gave money but continued to walk at their normal pace.  The man collected a total of $32.

After 1 hour:

He finished playing and silence took over.  No one noticed and no one applauded.  There was no recognition at all.

No one knew this, but the violinist was Joshua Bell, one of the greatest musicians in the world.  He played one of the most intricate pieces ever written, with a violin worth $3.5 million dollars.  Two days before, Joshua Bell sold-out a theater in Boston where the seats averaged $100 each to sit and listen to him play the same music.

This is a true story.  Joshua Bell, playing incognito in the D.C. Metro Station, was organized by the Washington Post as part of a social experiment about perception, taste and people’s priorities.

This experiment raised several questions:

In a common-place environment, at an inappropriate hour, do we perceive beauty? If so, do we stop to appreciate it? Do we recognize talent in an unexpected context?
One possible conclusion reached from this experiment could be this:

If we do not have a moment to stop and listen to one of the best musicians in the world, playing some of the finest music ever written, with one of the most beautiful instruments ever made. How many other things are we missing as we rush through life?

Yes, we miss a lot. But give people a break. Subway-passenger-pokerfaces hide a universe of inner life. There have been times I took delight in a busker’s performance, but no observer would have guessed it. I bet at least one person thought “Wow, this guy plays just like Joshua Bell!.”

Advice to parents: Whenever your child is ever moved as those in this tale, you can probably afford to wait for the next train.

A lot of mental effort is spent on maintaining “belief” in miracles, or the mere possibility of such, that we really know just ain’t so. Better to recognize how much of what we take for granted, like just being alive, is miracle aplenty.

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