Tuesday, June 16, 2015

After Court Battle Equifax Admits that God Exists

As reported in the Canadian Globe and Mail and the New York Daily 
NewsEquifax consents to the existence of God.

"Without a decent credit rating it's tough to borrow for large purchases, as
a Russian-American discovered.  The New Yorker, owner of a business
called Gold Hard Cash, was refused a car loan because credit rating
agency Equifax would not provide financial details on the man.
The problem! God Gazarov was told by Equifax that it "could not process
his name as God."  The suit alleged that an Equfax official told Gazarov it
could not provide him or a lender with his credit file "because it could
not process his name as 'God' and suggested that he should consider
changing it."
After appearing before Brooklyn Federal Magistrate Judge Ramon Reyes,
the two parties to the suit struck an agreement, and Equifax will
now acknowledge God's name.  He will also receive an undisclosed
monetary settlement from the company...
Mr. Gazarov claims his name is not uncommon in Russia, and that he
was named after his grandfather.  Still, he's used to the jokes.  "My
principal in junior High School would walk by me in the cafeteria and 
say, 'Oh my God, there he is.'""
What is also interesting here is that I personally know people by the
name "Jesus."  I don't think the credit reporting agencies have had trouble
with that name.  So, what was the big deal recognizing "God."

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Joseph Priestley, the Discoverer of Oxygen

Joseph Priestley, the Discoverer of Oxygen, 1912

Ernest Board, British (1877 - 1934)
Wellcome Library (Wellcome Trust) - London 
Painting - oil on canvas
Height: 61.5 cm (24.21 in.), Width: 91 cm (35.83 in.) 
I just found this painting by Ernest Board of Joseph Priestley. I had not run across it before and I wanted to share it with my readers. It is relatively modern painting of him. Ernest Board was a distinuished British painter of historical subjects and portraits; mural decorator. Born at Worcester, 1877 and was educated in Bristol. Studied art at the Royal College of Art, at the Royal Academy Schools, and later in the studio of Edwin Austin Abbey. Exhibited at the Royal Academy from 1902.  Died on 26th October 1934 aged 57.  Board was a member of the Royal Institute of Oil Painters (R.O.I.) and the Royal West of England Academy (R.W.A.).

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Thomas Holloway's Engraving of Joseph Priestley after William Artaud, 1795

Image provided with permission by Glenn Holgersen
This copper plate engraving was accomplished and published by Thomas Holloway in 1795 based upon a painting by William Artaud of 1794.  There are originals of this engraving at the National Portrait Gallery in London and the Smithsonian Institution in Washington. D.C.

Thomas Holloway (1748-1827) was a noted British engraver and portrait painter, not to be confused with Thomas Halliday (1771-1844) the British engraver who executed the death medal of Joseph Priestley in 1804, which is also in the National Portrait Gallery.  I have a post on the Thomas Halliday Medal elsewhere on this blog. Holloway studied engraving at the Royal Academy starting in 1773.  Initially, Holloway's main direction was line engraving.  His earliest published plates were small portraits for magazines, chiefly of nonconformist ministers, of which Priestley was a noted one, especially after his admission as a Fellow of the Royal Society.

Friday, January 2, 2015

A New Twist on Touchstones of Time

My original post on Touchstones of Time back in February, 2014 seems to have made a very positive impression on quite a few people. Thanks for all the many comments both public and private that I have received.  I had occasion to be thinking about the royal family again and had some interesting factoids that I would like to share with you.

For the purposes of this quick sketch I will be referring to Queen Elizabeth II as Liz and to Queen Victoria as Vicky and Prince William as Willy.  Of course, Vicky is the great great grandmother of Liz, or, to put it in terms of the Touchstones post Vicky's grandson was George V, and George's granddaughter was Liz and Liz's grandson is Willy, and Willy's grandchild doesn't exist yet.  But, Willy already has a child, another George again.

Here are some vital statistics, assuming that Liz makes it to 9/11/2015 alive:

At that time (9/11/2015) Liz would be the longest serving Monarch in the history of the British Empire.  There is a pretty good chance that she will make it to more than 63 and 1/2 years on the throne.  Liz is already considerably older than Vicky was at her death (89+ vs. 81+ years).  One reason that Vicky was on the throne for so long was that she was only just over 18 when she ascended, versus Liz's almost 26 years of age).

One interesting point is that Liz was born only a little over 25 years after Vicky died. 
Will the time come when I have to change the Touchstones connections (holding hands) from grandparent to great grandparent, and from grandchild to great grandchild?  This would make the span in years even greater.

There are a number of factors that would influence the answering of that question.  First, the average age of mortality is increasing, which makes having great grandchildren (while you are still alive) more possible.  However, since the average age of first marriage is also increasing, this makes having great grandchildren (again, while you are still alive) more difficult.  What is the compound effect of these two trends?  Since the age of mortality and age at marriage are averages, there will be some people, no doubt, who get married young and live longer, making the likelihood of having generations of great grandchildren more likely than ever before. However, given the averages, the number of such families with such luck will be limited.  Let's look at the numbers.

Life Expectancy

In the developed world the average life expectancy has increased from about 66 years before 1900 to about 78 years in 2015, an increase of about 12 years in about 125 years, or about 1 year increase in life expectancy for every decade.  In fact, if we look to the projected life expectancy for 2050 which is about 82 years, we will increase by 4 more years in the next 35 years. Basically on the same trend.

Age of First Marriage

Average age of first marriage seems to have bottomed out around 1960 and has steadily increased since then.  In 1960, males were about 23 years of age and females were just over 20 years of age.
In 2010 the equivalent numbers were 28 and 26.  For one thing, the gap in age between males and females is diminishing.  In the last 50 years the average age has increased (male and female combined) from 21.5 to 27, or an increase of about 5.5 years.  That is just over one additional year per decade.

So, we now have a better handle on the demographics. Both life expectancy and the age of first marriage are increasing at the rate of about one year per decade.

An average marriage today at age 27 means that the couple will live until age 84 (52 more years).  Their offspring will be married at age 29 (when the couple is aged 56 with the parent's average life expectancy of another 28 years).  Those offspring when married will have offspring at about age 32, which is after the grandparents have already died).

But, if someone were to buck the trend and marry, say, at age 18, with children to follow almost immediately, and those children to marry young (age 18), and so on, then there would be a strong likelihood that more parents and great grandchildren would hold hands due to the longer life expectancy.

So, while, Liz has, no doubt held hands with her great grandchild, George, she will most likely never hold hands with her great great grandchild, whomever that might be.  While Vicky missed the opportunity to do so with Liz by some 25 years, I doubt that there will be a 25 year gap from Liz's death to George's offspring's birth.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Russia, Population, Alcoholism, and Associated Mortality Rates

I have been watching with some interest the developments in Russia lately.  In particular, this perfect storm that is brewing in Russia between annexation of Ukraine's Crimea, the sanctions to counter this action by the Western Developed Nation, and the plummeting prices of oil.

During this brief period of 2014 we have already seen the exodus of massive amounts of capital from Russia resulting in the plummeting in the value of the Rouble (nearly 50%), the skyrocketing interest rates (currently 17%), and massive inflation (currently 11.4%), the decline in oil revenues (more than 50%), and the embargo on importation of western goods into Russia, just to mention a few items.

Today, I understand that Russia has now reduced the price of vodka.  I suppose this is to allow the citizenry to drown themselves in a drunken stupor so that they do not see what is going on economically.  But, I also recall that Russia has been struggling with a huge alcoholism problem for years.  So, I decided to look into this a little deeper.  I have decided to compare what is going on in Russia on this issue as compared to the US.

First, population.  Since Russia did not exist as a country before 1989 I am including here only information since about that date. Results are stated in millions.

Year                Russia                 US                Notes

1990                148.5                 249.6  
2000               140.7                 282.2
2010                141.8                 309.3       CIA estimate for Russia is 138.7
2014                142.5                 318.3        Population of annexed Crimea not
                                                                      included.  Currently, birth rate has
                                                                      declined and death rate has

Next, alcoholism.

I have read that alcoholism is and has been a substantial problem in Russia.  There was a campaign in the late 1980s to reduce alcohol consumption in the country.  That resulted in a  tremendous decrease in the mortality rate.
I have seen charts showing alcoholism rates fluctuating between 20% and 40% during the post Soviet years.  In recent years there was another attempt to reduce alcoholism.  Estimates of 500,000 deaths per year are reported for Russia in the very recent past. This puts the current rate of alcoholism at about 20%.  The equivalent number for the US is put at 88,000 deaths per year.

Since the Russian population is only 44.8% of the US population (2014), the equivalent number of deaths for Russia to have the same death rate from alcoholism would be 39,400.  Since Russia experiences a rate of 500,000, that means that the death rate in Russia is 12.69 times greater.
If the alcoholism rate for Russia were to increase once again to around 40% as has been the case in the not too distant past, then it might be reasonable to expect as many as 1,000,000 deaths per year attributable to alcoholism.  This would be a death rate exceeding 25 times the rate in the US.

Russia has been struggling to have its population increase.  As the population decreases, the number of working age citizens is also decreasing.  This makes economic growth difficult to impossible. I also can't imagine that a 40% alcoholism rate would add to productivity either.

This does not make for a great economic future for Russia.

So, the question is -- Given the above information, what is the first major shoe to drop, so to speak?
I would enjoy hearing your ideas.  If you have any more specific information regarding the information I have presented I would like to hear from you also.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Observations on Gun Control

I suppose the invention of the gun was heralded as a wonder.  I am not going to research the history.  I do know that the gun was useful for hunting and then was found to be used in war and for self protection in general.  But, somewhere along the way I think we got confused and never really put a cap on the use.

The atomic bomb was heralded for ending World War II, and we went through the Cold War, building up stockpiles of bombs.  Finally, with some sanity we realized that the use of nuclear bombs we would annihilate everyone and we started down the path of strategic arms limitation.

I'm watching the TV right now and seeing the story on the news about the killing today of a High School student in the State of Washington by another student with a gun in the cafeteria.  I flashed back to the terrible day a little over a year ago when all those innocent children in the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut suffered the death of well over 20 young children. And then I flashed to all the other massacres that have occurred by teens in recent years.

I watch the aftermath of these terrible events: the 2nd Amendment fanatics and the NRA rally for no controls on the use of guns. I think that the logic is that because the Constitution says something about the right to bear arms, any citizen, no matter how crazy or violent, or no matter how many crimes they have already committed, should therefore have the right to have a gun.


I think the reasoning goes that if we do not have this right, then the government might suppress the citizenry and create some sort of oppressive and non democratic society, or something like that.

My mind turns to Great Britain.  They have gun control.  Do I think that there is more of a chance that some despotic ruler, maybe the Queen, could impose a despotic reign and take away the rights of the citizens because they do not have "arms".  Hell no.

So, what's different here in this country?
I don't know.  I wish one of you gun happy, 2nd Amendment fanatics would explain it to me.

Even the right of free speech has its limitations. You cannot yell "fire" in a crowded theater.

How many people will be killed and maimed before we come to our senses?
We have probably killed more innocent people with guns than all the nuclear bombs that have ever been detonated. Let's get our priorities right.

It's time to support gun control legislation.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Apple's Newest Addition to its Product Line-up

This blog has concentrated on the history of Science and Technology and the important makers and milestones, their creativity and innovation.  Sometimes that history is being made before our very eyes.  I believe that one of those moments has just occurred.

 We all know the history of this great company and the incredible string of innovative products that have been released with amazing success.  Consumers love them. Their brand name is the envy of everyone looking to market a product successfully.  They are now the largest corporation in the world with a string of retail stores that produce more revenue per square foot than any other retailer.  A company whose customers line up for blocks, camping out overnight to be the first of their friends to have one of their new products.

Of course the company we are talking about is Apple.  They have captivated the world with their dazzling array of offerings.

But make no mistake, it is not the consumer that is first in the minds of the Apple executives.  They are always trying to maximize return for their shareholders.  The stock has increased many fold over the last decade and promises to continue to do so into the future. They pay handsome dividends and have aggressively repurchased shares on the open market with the vast amounts of cash that they have accumulated through sales of their products.

All that having been said, Apple has now embarked on the most innovative new product to further enhance their bottom line.  We all know about the "i" line of products: iMac, iPod, iPhone, iPad, and, of course, iTunes.  This is not to mention their Macs, Air,  AppleTV, and the announced, but not even released, Watch and Apple Pay.  But now we have the iCahn.  Yes, the iCahn.  This extension of the "i" line of products is so innovative and profitable that the production costs are free, the margins are infinite and the marketing costs nothing.  The iCahn promises to increase the share price and dividends substantially.  Since the iCahn was first rumored, the price of Apple stock has increased over 50%, the dividend has been increased, and the stock has split 7 for 1.  With the news just released, the iCahn promises to double the stock price once again.

The importance of Icahn's "letter" to Tim Cook was not the 4500 words contained in it, but rather, just the changing the first letter of his last name to "i" and then capitalizing the "C".  This addition to the Apple line-up is pure genius!

Congratulations, Apple!

But, this brings me to the real point.  The real innovation is that there has been a slight of hand here. It should not be called the "iCahn", but rather, by its homonym "iCon" (not to be confused with the heteronym "icon" where the stress is on the first syllable).  Truly, the iCon will do wonders for Apple's bottom line, but as Carl well knows, this is most likely a self fulfilling prophecy perpetrated by the iCon himself.