Archive for June, 2011

Co-Winners: Rosebud and Driver Shea

After Rosebud was announced as the winer, there was a vigorous challenge by perpetual bridesmaid Driver Shea. After a recount co-winners were declared. The bigger controversy erupted during the $ winner takes all game. The question: Which city has the largest population?

The answer given: Tokyo at 33 million. Of course, that is NOT the city, but the entire Tokyo metropolitan area. The city of Tokyo proper has a pop. of only about 8.5 million. Turns out the city with the largest pop. is not a simple question. What is a city? How current / valid are the population statistics or estimates? For my money, Mumbai with an area of 233 sq miles and a population of  about 13 million is the largest city proper, or maybe Delhi is – who knows, there are more population figures out there, than you can shake a stick at.

Darin recently returned from  a very successful trip to Las Vegas. The World Series of Poker attracts the best players from around the country and Darin showed that she belonged, by lasting deep into both of the tournaments she entered.

Good Question: The Gurkhas are original inhabitants of which country?

Answer: Nepal

Gurkha are people from South Asia who take their name from the 8th century Hindu warrior-saint Guru Gorakhnath. Followers founded the Kingdom of Nepal.

Probably the most renowned fighting knife in the world is the kukri, the 18 inch wickedly curved knife of the Gurkhas of Nepal. Wherever these British-trained mountain men have gone into battle, their kukris have carved a wide swath among the enemy.

“Better to die than be a coward” is the motto of the world-famous Nepalese Gurkha soldiers who have been an integral part of the British Army for almost 200 years.

The potential of these warriors was first realised by the British at the height of their empire-building in the last century. The Victorians identified them as a “martial race”, perceiving in them particularly masculine qualities of toughness.

Gurkhas are best known for their history in the Indian Army’s Gorkha regiments, or the British Army’s Brigade of Gurkhas. More than 200,000 fought in the two world wars, and 43,000 men lost their lives. Following the partition of India in 1947, an agreement between Nepal, India and Britain provided that four Gurkha regiments from the Indian army were transferred to the British Army, eventually becoming the Gurkha Brigade.

Since then, the Gurkhas have loyally fought for the British all over the world, serving in Hong Kong, Malaysia, Borneo, Cyprus, the Falklands, Kosovo and now in Iraq and Afghanistan, receiving 13 Victoria Crosses between them. Prince Harry lived with a Gurkha battalion during his 10 weeks in Afghanistan.

The soldiers are still selected from young men living in the hills of Nepal – with about 28,000 youths tackling the selection procedure, one of the toughest in the world, for just over 200 places each year.  A former Chief of staff of the Indian Army once famously said about Gurkhas: “If a man says he is not afraid of dying, he is either lying or he is a Gurkha.”

We are fortunate that both Droppin’ Dave and Sheena can speak fluent Gurkha (or Nepali) and they did treat us to a few of their favorite expressions after the game. To get a flavor of the language you must watch this rather strange Nepali folk song where the young lady plays hard to get.

sources: army.mod.uk; bbc.co.uk; himalayan-imports.com

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Winner: FrankC

In game that had some controversy, Frank, who had shared the trophy before,  finished all alone at the head of the pack. KathyS was close at 2 back. Rosebud was awarded a special “Rosebud” T-shirt for her recent amazin’ 3 peat performance. Thanks to our old friend from across the sea – Miss Connie for the shirt. Don’t forget to visit her bed and breakfast in Old Saybrook CT, when you are in the neighborhood. Speaking of distant neighborhoods, our host Darin is headed to Sin City to try her hand at the World Series of Poker. Those guys better not underestimate her.

Good Question: On a standard piano what normally is the lowest note?

Answer: A

As the only musically challenged member of my family I was curious about the notes on a piano. Plus it gives me a chance to link to Billy Joel and Elton John’s fun duet of Piano Man:

The piano is an instrument that offers the musician eighty-eight musical pitches organized in ascending order of pitch. The lowest note is at the far left of the instrument, the highest note on the far right. These 88 pitches, generally speaking, are all the ones our human ears can recognize as musical sounds. Pitches lower than the bottom note of a piano: the low ‘A’, are so low as to sound like a rumble; any note above the highest note on a piano. the high C, can be heard only by plucky dogs.

Now when I watch and listen to a piano player I will know – low notes from his left hand and high notes from his right hand.

The piano organizes these pitches in a seemingly arbitrary but ultimately logical system. When these notes are combined in various rhythmic and harmonic patterns they produce music as diverse as that of Mozart, Elton John and Ray Charles.

Interesting Piano Questions, Facts, and Information

What is the largest type of piano? Concert Grand. The Grand piano is the largest of all pianos and has the richest sound. A Grand Piano is one that is 8’11” or longer. The model D Steinway Grand weighs over 1400 pounds, and the average concert grand contains over thirty tons of total string tension. You’ve got to have a big instrument to handle that!

What instrument, similar in appearance to a piano, was used by early musicians (such as Bach and Beethoven) to create music prior to the invention of the piano? harpsichord. The harpsichord was the instrument that early composers like Bach composed their music on. It has a higher pitch than the piano and no notes can be sustained.

What is the real name of a piano? Pianoforte. It was given this name because, unlike the harpsichord and other similar instruments of the time, the pianoforte could play, as the name suggests, both loudly and softly. Piano being soft and forte being loud. This name was given to the piano by its inventor, Bartolomeo Cristoforti, who built the first practical piano in the 1700s.

What instrument family is the piano part of? percussion. Although the piano contains around 230 strings, it is considered a percussion instrument. Thus, it lives in the same family as drums and xylophones. The piano is usually considered a part of the percussion family because it uses a hammer to hit the strings which makes the noise you hear. Brass instruments include the trumpet and trombone. The woodwinds include the clarinet, saxophone, and flute. String instruments include the violin and guitar.

Watch this performance by Jerry Lee Lewis and it’s easy to consider the piano a percussion instrument:

How many keys does a standard piano have? 88. There are 36 black keys and 52 white keys.

What were the keys of a piano originally made from? ebony and ivory. Due to bans on the importation of ivory, and the expense and rarity of ebony, keys now are mostly made from plastic. Plastic has been used since around the 1950’s.

What instruction means to play the notes short and choppy? Staccato. Staccatos are marked by a little dot on the top of the note head. To play staccato, strike the key, then quickly release.

What time signature is most common? 4/4. 4/4 timing is used commonly in both classical and modern piano music. 4/4 time means a quarter note gets one count and each measure receives 4 counts.

When instructed to play “legato”, how should the piece sound? Smooth and connected. When playing legato, you will usually also be playing in phrases and/or with the sustain pedal down.

sources: funtrivia.com, en.wikipedia.org, martymethod.com, piano-lessons-info.com

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Winner: Pluto

In a game marred by false and slanderous accusations of cheating, Pluto and Driver Shea recovered from a rocky start and finished strong. If the Driver had only known that Jimmy “peanuts” Carter  was our 39th president, it would have been a dead heat. Also tied for 2nd place was the coffee man, who has given up trying to reunite the Sudan.

Good Question: In what decade did the battle of the Alamo take place?

Answer: the 1830’s

The Alamo, in what is now downtown San Antonio, served as home to missionaries and their Indian converts for nearly seventy years. In the early 1800s, the Spanish military stationed a cavalry unit at the former mission and continued to occupy the Alamo until the Texas Revolution. In December 1835, Ben Milam (who dat?) led Texian and Tejano volunteers against Mexican troops quartered in the city. The victorious volunteers then occupied the Alamo and strengthened its defenses.

On February 23, 1836, General Antonio López de Santa Anna’s army of around 2,000 arrived outside San Antonio. Undaunted, the Texians and Tejanos prepared to defend the Alamo together. The defenders, numbering maybe 200, held out for 13 days against Santa Anna’s army.  As the defenders saw it, the Alamo was the key to the defense of Texas, and they were ready to give their lives rather than surrender their position to General Santa Anna.

Among the Alamo’s garrison were Jim Bowie, renowned knife fighter, and David Crockett, famed frontiersman and former congressman from Tennessee. (The one thing that will turn Davy and Bowie over in their graves is the “Ripley’s Believe it or Not” tourist trap they built right across the street from the Alamo.)

The final assault came before daybreak on the morning of March 6, 1836, as columns of Mexican soldiers emerged from the predawn darkness and headed for the Alamo’s walls. Cannon and small arms fire from inside the Alamo beat back several attacks. Regrouping, the Mexicans scaled the walls and rushed into the compound. Once inside, they turned a captured cannon on the Long Barrack and church, blasting open the barricaded doors. The desperate struggle continued until the defenders were overwhelmed, and any survivors executed.

One of the best recaps (music and video) is Marty Robbins’  “Ballad of the Alamo”

The sacrifice of Travis and his command animated the rest of Texas and kindled a righteous wrath that swept the Mexican Army off the field at the Battle of San Jacinto on April 21, 1836, ending the revolution. People worldwide continue to remember the Alamo as a heroic struggle against impossible odds — a place where men made the ultimate sacrifice for freedom.  Since 1836, Americans on battlefields over the globe have responded to the exhortation, “Remember the Alamo!”

I’ve been told (by an older brother) that one of the saddest things for  a young boy to learn in the 1950’s was that Davy Crockett, the king of the wild frontier, had lost his life in the battle of the Alamo.  In Disney’s TV world, Crockett’s death was not actually shown; all we see is Crockett, the last survivor in the battle, on the parapet swinging his rifle at the oncoming hordes of Mexican soldiers. The picture fades and the flag of Texas is shown flying in the breeze as the male chorus reprises the last lines of “The Ballad of Davy Crockett”.

sources: thealamo.org, lone-star.net

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Winner: Droppin’ Dave

Rosebud did not go down without a fight, but in a very close contest she was dethroned by Droppin’ and for the first time in a month we have a new champion. Tonight’s game had a Memorial Day theme and drew a full house. The Kenyon Kid, a recent college grad, returned to see whether his degree made a difference. Alas, he finished back in the pack, but claims the questions are not fair to the youth of America. He may have a point. Instead of another photo of Droppin’ and Rosebud, this week we present the photos of those whose finish, while not top 3, was note worty and which earned them a prize – memorial day pin wheels.

Good Question: How many states have only one representative in the House of Representatives?

Answer: Seven

Let’s name them: Alaska, Delaware, Montana, North and South Dakota, Vermont, and Wyoming, and the 2010 Census will not change this. There are currently 435 members of the US House of Representatives. According to the U.S. Constitution each state is guaranteed at least one representative, but seats are otherwise distributed – or apportioned – based on the relative population of each state.

Why only 1 representative determined by population? Because of the The Constitution’s Great Compromise. In  a nutshell – the writers of the Virginia Plan wanted a bicameral legislature with both houses controlled by population (which was benefitting towards them). The writers of the New Jersey Plan wanted a unicameral legislature in which everyone had the same amount of representatives. The Connecticut delegates came up with the Great Plan — a bicameral legislature, with one house controlled by population, the other would have two representatives from each state.

BTW, The 23rd Amendment added the special category of non-voting membership in the U.S. House. The number wasn’t based on population. And it was fixed at one. That special category includes the commonwealth of Puerto Rico; the District of Columbia; and the territories of American Samoa, Guam, Northern Mariana Island, Samoa, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

If you wondered, a few states have only one telephone area code – Alaska, Delaware, Hawaii, Idaho, Maine, Montana, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Vermont, and Wyoming, while California has 30 area codes.

If you have time here is the fuller Constitutional back story:

It was soon becoming apparent that the Articles of Confederation were insufficient as a means of governing the nation. Important legislators such as Thomas Jefferson and James Madison quickly realized the importance of establishing national laws to prevent the states from becoming independent countries on their own. The new United States was on the verge of collapse due to a lack of monetary funds, and a series of rebellions. Shays’s Rebellion, in Massachusetts, was an uprising of debtor farmers led by Daniel Shays that resulted in a failed attempt to seize a federal arsenal in Springfield.

The Constitutional (Philadelphia) Convention was called in 1786, and held at Independence Hall in 1787. 55 men from throughout the colonies convened for the purpose of strengthening the Articles of Confederation. George Washington was chosen to preside over the convention. From the start of the convention, controversy arose concerning voting on legislation. Larger states such as Pennsylvania wanted their votes to count more than smaller states because they represented larger populations. Smaller states such as Rhode Island and New Jersey feared that their interests would be ignored.

On May 29, 1787, Virginia governor Edmund Randolph presented the Virginia Plan, a compilation of proposals drafted by future president James Madison. Madison proposed a three-tiered government with a legislative branch consisting of two houses (Senate and House of Representatives) that would make laws, an executive branch to carry out the laws, and a judicial branch to enforce the laws. Madison’s proposal also called for proportional representation in both houses of the legislative branch. This meant that states would be represented based on their populations or the amount of tax payments paid. Furthermore, the House of Representatives would be elected by the people, and the Senate would be elected by the representatives. To quell the rising tide of state sovereignty (independence), The Virginia Plan would authorize the national government to have direct authority over American citizens, as well as to negate any state laws that were not deemed in the best interest of the United States.

While the larger states seemed to support the Virginia Plan, the smaller states began to voice their opposition. William Paterson, from New Jersey, warned that his state would never go along with the plan, and Roger Sherman, from Connecticut. opposed the popular election (by the people) of representatives. Others, such as Alexander Hamilton, claimed that the Virginia Plan was too democratic, and failed to protect the government against the passage of popular, but ultimately, harmful laws. Nevertheless, the Virginia Plan was voted (7 states to 3) as the convention’s basis for deliberations. Thus, the Articles of Confederation would be effectively replaced rather than amended.

The issue of equal versus proportional representation, however, was the most contentious issue and threatened to destroy the deliberations, and perhaps, the new nation. The smaller states would not agree to any plan in which the larger ones had more votes. On July 5, 1787, a special committee was formed to try to come to a compromise regarding the issue of representation. The Great Compromise, as it came to be known, formed an alternative plan in which the House of Representatives would include one state delegate for every 40,000 citizens of a particular state, and the Senate would have the same number of delegates, regardless of population, for each state. On July 16, five states voted for the plan, and four (the larger states) voted against it. It was a victory for the smaller states.

On July 26, another committee was formed to begin drafting what would become the U.S. Constitution. On August 17, 1787, the Constitution was signed. The Constitution was first ratified by Delaware of December 7, 1787, and then by Pennsylvania on December 12. Although wealthy and powerful citizens in many states were reluctant to lend support to the Constitution because they would be relinquishing some powers, influential officials such as Benjamin Franklin and George Washington voiced their support for the Constitution which helped sway popular opinion. Alexander Hamilton and James Madison were among those who wrote The Federalist – a series of political essays written to promote ratification of the Constitution. By 1790, all thirteen colonies ratified the constitution and became states.

sources: wiki.answers.com, mrnussbaum.com, areacodehelp.com

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