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Friday, December 30, 2005

The M@tt Largo Show is Now Listed in Apple iTunes!!! heard it here first! After only one week on the air, "The M@tt Largo Show" is now a part of the Apple iTunes family. We will be putting the iTunes chicklet on the website in the next few days to make subscribing to the podcast via iTunes a snap. Thanks for listening.

If you have iTunes installed and you want to subscribe now, you can click on the following link:

Get Matt Largo on iTunes

Matt Largo

*Rolling on the Floor Gloating

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Sean Lennon's Lonely Hearts Club Band

I found this news story while perusing the Internet. I think that this is basically a social commentary on how disparate our society is becoming. Although the World is getting smaller because of advances in technology, we, as individuals, are growing further apart. The Universe isn't the only thing expanding, so is the space between our lives.

Poor Sean Lennon. John Lennon's 30-year-old kid has gone to the New York Post, asking for help in finding a true love. But he does have standards: "Any girl who is interested must simply be born female and between the ages of 18 and 45. They must have an IQ above 130 and they must be honest. They must not have any clinical, psychological disorders . . . and a kind heart. Clearly beautiful - but beauty on the inside is more important - but no deformities, third legs, fifth nipples . . . I'm completely alone and I'm completely miserable. So please send your request to [Page Six]."

Isn't this sad? This presents a very interesting conundrum.

1. You're the son of John Lennon, Pop Music Icon, one of the founders of the Beatles.
2. Any woman who marries you gets the booby prize of having Yoko Ono for a mother-in-law.

How this is going to work out...I don't know. My real question is how can you be the son of a Beatle and not have any game? Beats the f@$#! out of me. Such is life.

See the original post at The Plain Dealer

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Mistletoe History Lesson

This is some interesting historical information about mistletoe researched by Eleanor Sullo. I thought that some of you would like to know about the sordid history of the practice of kissing under the mistletoe. Enjoy!


Learn about mistletoe's history; this notorious little plant has a fascinating and somewhat morbid background.

The Christmas custom of kissing underneath a branch of mistletoe goes back hundreds of years, certainly to the early 17th century. But legends about the curious plant go back even farther, even to the time of Christ and earlier. One legend has it that the wood of the cross of Christ was made from mistletoe, and supposedly for that reason the mistletoe plant has been doomed to live as a parasite, and is so classified today, making it condemned to live on the goodwill of other trees.

Shakespeare in Titus Andronicus called it "the baleful mistletoe," no doubt referring to the fact that in large quantities the waxy white berries are toxic. On the other hand, ancient Druids thought the plant had healing, even magical, powers. Back in Roman times in Britain, Pliny the Elder referred to the habit of Druid priests of cutting away mistletoe from oak trees where it attached itself, using golden sickles and spreading white cloth on the ground under the tree lest the trimmings touch the ground and risk losing their powers. The Druids elevated mistletoe to sacred powers, even using it in ceremonies of human sacrifice. Unlike other plants, mistletoe retained its fresh green color, and the evergreen therefore became a symbol of fertility. They also hung it over doorways to protect against evil.

Because of the Druids' use of mistletoe, Christians banned its use in their churches in England. Because mistletoe grows primarily on apple, lime, poplar and hawthorn trees in the midlands and up to and around York, it was a local favorite there long after the Druids were in decline. So in the famous minster at York, its use during the holiday season has always been retained.

In the York cathedral the minister placed the branch on the High Altar and procalimed "public and universal liberty, pardon and freedom of all sorts of inferior and wicked people at the minster gates, and the gates of the city, towards the four quarters of heaven." In the 21st century the Dean informally hung a bunch of mistletoe and holly from the High Altar at noon on Christmas Eve, although the custom was more general good will than intended as an encouragement of kissing in its presence.

Strictly speaking, kissing under the mistletoe was never to get out of hand, and often nearly did. To prevent abuses, the custom was defined as a man might steal a kiss under the hanging branch, but when he did, one berry was to be plucked from the plant and discarded. Once the berries were gone, the kissing charm of the mistletoe branch was spent, although that aspect of the custom is rarely recalled in these days. During the 19th century abuses of the kissing custom were prevalent, according to a verse written and called "The Mistletoe Bough." Interestingly, during uptight Victorian times, the custom came into full bloom!

Adhoc Quote

Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man's character, give him power.
- unknown

Friday, December 23, 2005

The Shakespearean Version of Deliverance?

How many of you come from the Appalachia? I really don’t know if my readership or demographic captures a lot of Appalachian folk, but I thought I’d ask anyway. Really, if any of you do hail from Appalachia feel free to chime in….<sound of crickets chirping>….OK on with the meat of this post. This bit of information came as a bit of a shocker to me when I happened upon it a short while ago. There are very credible, scholarly linguists, who believe that the Appalachian dialect is a result of Elizabethan influences in that geographical area during the 16th Century. During the early development of the United States back when there were a few fledgling colonies, Shakespearean acting troops supposed traveled around in, what is now known as Appalachia. Before we go much further let’s define Appalachia.

“Appalachia, as defined in the legislation from which the Appalachian Regional Commission derives its authority, is a 200,000-square-mile region that follows the spine of the Appalachian Mountains from southern New York to northern Mississippi. It includes all of West Virginia and parts of twelve other states: Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, Maryland, Mississippi, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia. About 22 million people live in the 406 counties of the Appalachian Region; 42 percent of the region's population is rural, compared with 20 percent of the national population.”(1)
To make it a little easier to picture I have included a map of the region below:

Basically, the theory says that during the 16th Century in Appalachia there where a multitude of different cultures and dialects in this area. The Appalachian dialect is believed to be an amalgamation of elements from the original Indians, early French trappers, German settlers, and Blacks with whom the Scots-Irish pioneers worked in lumber camps, coal mines, cotton mills, and textile plants. I’ve also found accounts that implicate traveling Shakespearean acting troupes that left members behind in various Appalachian communities during their travels. In any case, the Elizabethan Shakespearean English influence can be recognized in the present day dialect with a little insight and some imagination. When the word “Appalachia” is uttered, most people immediately think of the movie “Deliverance” and the famous line, “Squeal like a pig for me…”. American film and television have been the messengers of a less-than-flattering almost repulsive view of Appalachia and the culture. Displayed by such films as "Deliverance", and such television shows as "The Beverly Hillbillies" and by the comic strip, "Li'l Abner", Appalachian people were viewed as hopeless but proud, desperate but industrious, noble first generation frontier people, yet somehow ignorant, degenerate, and INBRED.


Some examples of the Elizabethan and Scot-Irish elements in Appalachian dialect can be seen in the use of phrases like “a-studying” and “a-working”, which are verbal nouns and go back to Anglo-Saxon times. The word “nigh” is the old word for near, and “weary” was the pronunciation of worry in the 1300's and 1400's. Another common word, “reckon”, comes from Tudor England and means to consider or to suppose.

“Pronunciation of many words has changed considerably, too. Deef for deaf, heered for heard, afeared for afraid, cowcumber for cucumber, bammy for balmy, holp for helped, are a very few. Several distinct characteristics of the language of Elizabeth's day are still preserved. Words that had oi in them were given a long i pronunciation: pizen, jine, bile, pint, and so on. Words with er were frequently pronounced as if the letters were ar: sarvice, sartin, narvous. It is from this time that we get our pronunciation of sergeant and the word varsity which is a clipping of the word university given the ar sound. Another Elizabethan characteristic was the substitution of an i sound for an e sound. You hear this tendency today when people say miny kittle, Chist, git, and so on. It has caused such confusion with the words pen and pin (which our people pronounce alike as pin) that they are regularly accompanied by a qualifying word - stick pin for the pin and pin and ink pin for the pen.” (2)

I think that you get the drift. There is also a lesser know theory that environmental influences such as temperature and vectors (such as infectious mosquitoes) played a part in introducing lethargy and effectively slowing down the meter of the spoken language in the southern regions of Appalachia. Much like playing a 45 rpm record at something like 42 rpm (for our younger readers – there used to be these things called records way before CD’s and MP3’s – yes, really.). Well! There it is ladies and gentlemen, your brief foray into the wonderful and weird world of linguistics. The next time you watch “Deliverance” don’t think about a narvous Ned Beatty getting sodomized whilst hugging a fallen Sugar Maple for dear life, think about how those inbred mountain miscreants in the film have preserved a small token of the Elizabethan linguistic heritage.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Political and Science Quickies, with a Dash of Humor

  1. A few months after 9/11, President Bush authorized the NSA to eavesdrop on Americans in the US without having to obtain court warrants. Bush supporters argue that the president's actions "make sense, regardless of their legality." (What the f#$@ planet do these people come from?)

  2. The Onion on the Patriot Act: "I'd really like to tell this damn government what I think, but thanks to the Patriot Act, they already know."

  3. SNL did a hilarious parody of the robotic vacuum, Roomba. This ad for Woomba cracked me up.

  4. Don Wise on Incompetent Design: "Look at the bones in your face. They're the same as the other mammals' but they're just squashed and contorted by jamming the jaw into a face with your brain expanding over it, so the potential drainage system in there is so convoluted that no plumber would admit to having done it! So is this evolution or is this plain stupid design?"

  5. When you read this headline: Researchers: Mother squids nurse eggs think "squid milk." An extremely cool photo accompanies the story.

Visit Popplers to see the original post.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Unicorns Love White Chocolate

The questions of the day are:

1. What is this stuff (< ---I almost used an expletive here) called white chocolate? 2. Is it really chocolate in the true sense of the definition of chocolate? Let’s go back way back to the birth of chocolate…Central Mexico sometime during the 15th Century.

An Aztec Ritual (not chocolate-related. It would suck if it was.)

Chocolate originated thousands of years ago in the Aztec civilization. It is made from the Theobroma (Greek for “food of the Gods”) cacao tree. The Aztecs, Toltecs, and Mayans, brewed a stimulating drink called Xocoatl, which was brewed from cocoa beans, maize (Indian corn) and water. This concoction was sacred and was associated with fertility and wisdom.

“The divine drink, which builds up resistance and fights fatigue. A cup of this precious drink permits a man to walk for a whole day without food.” Montezuma – Aztec Emperor (1480-1520)

That’s a far cry from your Bosco, Ovaltine, or Nestle’s Quik.

Little did we know that during lunch hour in grade school we were all becoming wiser and all of the girls were becoming more fecund. Anyway, this original, ancient chocolate formulation was different (besides containing cocoa beans) from the chocolate we know and love today. The current formulation, which is mixed with milk, cocoa powder and cocoa butter, came about in 1876. Chocolate is believed to trigger many psychological and physiological reactions. I think that some of the reported effects are fueled by the folklore and mythology surrounding chocolate. I believe that some of the romanticism about the powers of chocolate contribute to a kind of placebo effect, but that’s an entirely different discussion.

True chocolate contains substances such as phenylethylamine, theobromine, anandamide and tryptophan. These substances trigger mood enhancing chemicals in the brain to reportedly create feelings of giddiness, attraction, euphoria and excitement. What is this atrocity called “white chocolate”? White chocolate is made the same way as milk chocolate and dark chocolate -- the difference is the ingredients. White chocolate does not contain chocolate liquor, the defining ingredient of real chocolate. White chocolate is made from cocoa butter, milk, sugar and vanilla…


The Bottom Line:

Because white chocolate has no cocoa solids from the chocolate liquor, the FDA doesn't classify it as chocolate. Below is a quote from the FDA website concerning white chocolate:

“A product labeled as ``white chocolate'' contains the term ``chocolate,'' an alternative nomenclature for chocolate liquor that indicates the presence of cacao-derived ingredients. All existing chocolate standards include the cacao-derived ingredient chocolate liquor, which contains both the nonfat and the fat components of the cacao nibs. In contrast, the cacao-derived ingredient contained in products that consumers have come to know as ``white chocolate'' is cacao fat (i.e., cocoa butter), not chocolate liquor. Because the term ``chocolate'' implies that the product contains cacao-derived ingredients similar to those in standardized chocolate products, in the absence of a standard of identity or TMP, the product described in the proposed standard could not use the term ``chocolate'' on its labeling. Specifically, a product labeled ``white chocolate'' would purport to be chocolate, but it would not comply with the current food standards for cacao products in part 163. Therefore, the product would be misbranded under section 403(g) of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (the act) (21 U.S.C. 343 (g)).”

White chocolate is technically (and in reality) a white candy confection. All of the mystical effects attributed to the consumption of real chocolate containing chocolate liquor are not realized when consuming white chocolate. The only euphoria you'll feel from eating large quantities of white chocolate, is the euphoria of growing your thighs and ass. It is believed that eating 2 ounces (50 grams) a day of plain chocolate with a minimum content of 70% chocolate solids can be beneficial to health, providing protection against heart disease, high blood pressure, and many other health hazards as well as essential trace elements and nutrients such as iron, calcium and potassium, and vitamins A. B1, C, D, and E and it's a lot tastier than vitamin pills. A 1 1/2-ounce square of chocolate may have as many cancer-fighting antioxidants as a five-ounce glass of red wine (1).

So the next time someone asks if you like white chocolate, you should reply:

“No, but I heard that Leprechauns love to feed their pet unicorns white chocolate because they both don’t f@#% exist!”

Matt “Real Chocolate” Largo

Monday, December 19, 2005

Emotional Machines: Binary Tears and Digital Sarcasm

At first I started to write this article as a bit of trivia about "The Terminator" series of movies. After contemplating the weight of the subject for a while, I decided to provide a little technical background information with some social commentary for good measure. Whether people want to admit it or not, the age of “Emotional Machines” is approaching. It’s just a matter of time before machines develop the ability to “think” and “feel” using complex heuristic algorithms. Remember the 1984 movie "The Terminator", starring Arnold Schwarzenegger as T-800 Terminator robot? Some interesting trivia about this film is that whenever you see the view as seen by The Terminator scrolling download the side of his eye/camera display. That 'stuff' is actually 6502 assembly/machine code fragment. More specifically, the actual code shown is the screen output of a checksum program for the Apple II. The 6502 chip (pictured below) was manufactured by MOS Technology in 1975 and was used in the Apple II and Commodore 64.

It looked pretty high-tech in the context of the movie. They decided to use more readable, but less believable stuff in the 2nd movie.

Just to illustrate how unwieldy the code is when using a low-level assembly language, below is the ever famous “Hello World” program written for this particular processor:

MSG: .ASCIIZ "Hello, world!"
LDX #$F3
@LP: LDA MSG-$F3,X ; load character
JSR $FFD2 ; CHROUT (KERNAL), output to current output device (screen)

The 6502 is an 8-bit processor with a 16-bit address bus was typically run at 1 MHz clock speed. The question of the minute is: “Can the 6502 chip power a complex machine like the T-800 Model 101 Terminator robot?” Although this chip was the inspiration for much faster processor chips that are currently in use today, the answer is …NO.

The beginnings of the “Age of Emotional Machines” can already be seen on the Internet. Where? You guessed it….in Internet Chat Rooms!

Chat bots are small stepping stones towards building anything close to an emotional machine. So far the bots are only able to understand emotions that are expressed by words or short sentences. Like "Hello!", "How are you?", "I don't like you", this step is just like the "hello world!" in programming language or single words.1.

Chat bots have been implemented quite successfully to moderate chat rooms. This is still light-years away from being an emotional machine, but it’s a creepy start. Reasons for this progression toward smarter more human-like machines and software, is:

  1. The dissolution of the need for face-to-face interactions with people.
  2. Increased comfort level in dealing with computers/technology instead of people
  3. The need for human interaction in an environment of increasing socially disparity

Responsive, emotional, intelligent machines seem to be just what the Doctor ordered. Although many human qualities can be mimicked by software and computers, the basic quality that cannot be coded into a machine is what French philosopher Henri Bergson called élan vital. His concept of élan vital, "creative impulse" or "living energy", was developed in Creative Evolution, his most famous book. Élan vital is an immaterial force, whose existence cannot be scientifically verified, but it provides the vital impulse that continuously shapes all life. It is basically the force that motivates people to persist and be motivated from moment to moment. No matter how many ones and zeros you feed into a super processor chip, I don’t believe that this can be fabricated. If (when?) the great Machine vs. Man conflict comes you can count me on the side of the human resistance.

Oh and another thing… There is one thing that kind of bothered me in the "Terminator" series. It's not really a big deal, but did you ever notice that Arnold has no eye brows in the first movie, but, in "Terminator 2" he does have eyebrows, why is this????. The Terminator in T2 has to be a different model with an eyebrow upgrade. It's all about accessorizing., “Overview: Building Emotional Machines”, Nitin Mendiratta

Terminator Action Figures at Movie Eye!Terminator Action Figures @ Movie Eye!

Saturday, December 17, 2005


Below are a few poignant quotes by some of the greatest
minds of the Modern Era. This will become a regular
feature of The Matt Largo Show. The birth of "Saturday
Evening Quotes". I think it is a great way to fuel
everyone's philosophical engines before a night of
saturnalia (ok, maybe not that extreme). Feel free to
comment on this or any other post. Ponder and Enjoy!

"A doctor can bury his mistakes but an architect can only
advise his clients to plant vines."
- Frank Lloyd Wright (1868-1959)

"Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent
- Albert Einstein (1879-1955)

"When I am working on a problem I never think about
beauty. I only think about how to solve the problem. But
when I have finished, if the solution is not beautiful, I
know it is wrong."
- Buckminster Fuller (1895-1983)

You Too Can Have "Automatic Mind Control"?

Do you remember the advertisements from the back pages of comics? All of those crazy novelty and gag items like a 7-foot Glow-In-The-Dark Frankenstein Monster, the ever-popular X-Ray Specs, Vanishing Ink, Soap that makes everything black, and my favorite, a book about “Automatic Mind Control”. Some of the items had redeeming qualities, while some were complete trash (Extra info: watch out for the 7-Foot Glow-In-The Dark Frankenstein Monster. It’s just a glow-in-the-dark picture of Frankenstein’s Monster on a white plastic sheet, basically a white trash bag). Although most of these things are codswallop, the “Automatic Mind Control” idea is based in fact. Many of the principles of mind control are known and used by government agencies, the military, and various cult organizations. At the root of this science are NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming) and basic subconscious direction. Some examples of subconscious direction and NLP are:

  1. Handshaking – When shaking someone’s hand upon meeting them, you can send and receive signals about their intentions and/or personality. If their hand is facing more toward having their palm upward, it shows a predisposition to taking a submissive position. Facing down, of course, means just the opposite. This interaction can set the tone for a meeting.

  2. Eye Contact – One simple way to exert some degree of control over someone during a meeting is to make constant eye contact. Most people feel uncomfortable having prolonged eye contact. A sign that it is working can be seen in the other person’s eye movements. Their eyes will usually start to dart back and forth to avoid this intense eye contact. Since they have now been put on edge, they will probably more likely to agree with what you are saying just to get out of this situation.

  3. Voice – One of the simplest ways to establish control of a situation is to speak with a strong, confident, even tone. This immediately sets the tone concerning who is the authority figure. The other person will usually drop their guard and be more likely to go along with what you are saying or suggesting.

  4. Mirror then Lead – This technique works best in a one-on-one situation. The idea is to behave like the mirror image of the person. If they cross their leg, you cross your leg. If they lace their fingers together, you lace your fingers together. It is also important to try to match the meter and tone of their speech and voice. After doing this for a while you can test them by uncrossing your leg. If they uncross their leg, try unlacing your fingers. If they perform both of these actions after you do, it is a good sign that they are following you now. Next you can present your ideas and they will be more likely to follow. A simple demonstration of the power of this technique can be seen by doing something simple like checking your watch. If a person is in tune with you, 9 times out of 10 they will check their watch too.

The foundation of all of this psychological hocus-pocus is that if you act like a leader, people will be more likely to follow you. Now go out into the world and control people to your hearts content. Try it when chatting up the babes/dudes at the club or in a job interview. Be careful with your new found powers and refrain from amassing a Legion of Terror wearing ominous black jumpsuits and helmets with face concealing plexiglass visors.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

A One-Way Ticket to Scoville - The Hottest Town This Side of the Pecos

When was the last time you ate someone’s famous three-alarm chili, which happened to be spiked with a secret ingredient that made your mouth turn into a mini blast furnace? Have you ever wondered why your mouth burns and what the specific mechanism behind the whole phenomenon was? Today is your day. I’m about to drop the science on you about culinary seasoning heat. Since it is Chili season, I thought that it would be appropriate and informative to explain the science of hot seasonings and how it is measured.

The Scoville Heat Scale
Columbus may have discovered chiles in the West Indies, but Wilbur Scoville is the name most closely linked with peppers today. Scoville, a pharmacist, was the first to develop a scale that defined the relative heat produced by different types of peppers back in 1912. His initial system was very subjective, akin to you and your friends sitting around the table and voting. Today, heat testing of peppers is done by complex machinery, but Scoville remains the scale's founder and namesake, worshiped by "chile-heads" worldwide. You can find Scoville heat unit ratings on jars of salsa or bottled hot sauce.

The Big "C"

What makes a chile hot is actually the amount of Capsaicin it contains. Capsaicin is said to be addictive because when it comes in contact with the nerves in your mouth, pain signals are sent to your brain. Your brain responds by releasing endorphins, natural painkillers, that create a sense of euphoria. The more spicy food you eat, the more endorphins entering your system, and the better you feel -- even if your mouth is on fire. That's why chile-heads say 'the hotter the better.'

Just for your enlightenment I have included an official Scoville Heat Units chart below.

If you are into trying different kinds of hot sauces, visit to Hot Sauce World.
It will be well worth it. Enjoy!

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

The Impossible, Frustrating 4-Step Origami Project

Welcome to the origami project, which contains complete and detailed instructions on how to build a simple origami model in 3 easy and one difficult step. I have entitled this fold "Rabbit style object on geometrical solid".

Step 1:First take a 2:1 rectangular piece off origami paper - ideally rabbit colored on one side and geometric object/rabbit's ear colored on the other.

Step 2: Fold the corner flaps of the left hand square to the centre and crease the right hand square as shown.

Step 3: Fold the right hand square into this simple base by pinching in the bottom centre crease so that it meets the top centre crease. Crease the left hand square as indicated.

Step 4: Fold all remaining bits of paper on the left hand square into a rabbit-like formation while folding simultaneously the right hand square into a geometric formation.

Did you get that? I thought you didn’t.

Techniques that Hollywood has Taught Me About Picking Up Chicks:

1. Steal cars. Nothing "drives" a woman into "high gear" faster than a man who can use automobile terms in his sexual innuendo.

2. Carry a giant sword, kill thousands of British soldiers, and threaten to kill the woman's husband, the heir to the throne of England.

3. Replace your weak human skeleton with a cybernetic skeleton, travel back in time, and try to kill the woman. When that fails, travel back in time again except this time, protect her son from mercury poisoning.

4. Go to prison for five years and when you get out, rob her boyfriend's casino of one hundred sixty million dollars.

5. Do not have a job. Instead, travel along a river and play guitar. Also, grow your hair into a pony tail and have constant stubble. Having previously been an undercover cop in a high school helps.

6. Kill a New York police captain, run to Italy, find a girl walking down the street, then go tell her father that you want to marry her or you will kill him. When you are through with her, blow her up with a car bomb.

7. Carry a guitar case full of guns and kill every man you see. Apparently, when you are finished, she will have no choice but to be with you.

8. Sneak your way onto a giant boat, make up some bullshit about being able to fly, and then freeze to death in the Arctic Ocean.

9. Grab a friend, sing a song to a stranger, then follow her into the bathroom and offer to have sex with her on the sink. It also helps if you have previously been a pimp, race car driver, or spy.

…and the absolute best way of picking up chicks...

10. If the woman's father doesn't like you, bring him to an orbiting asteroid, set a nuclear weapon. Then take off before he can make it back to the ship.

Which is Worse Email or Cannabis?

1. A system for sending and receiving messages electronically over a computer network, as between personal computers.
2. A message or messages sent or received by such a system.
3. An electronic communication medium that can dull you down more than a Philly Blunt.


I remember back in the early 1980’s, only very few people had access to email, or as they called it back then – electronic mail. You were either a government employee or a high-brow academician somewhere. Does anyone remember those ugly old Arapanet or CompuServe email addresses? It was only a matter of time before a good thing went bad. There has been research showing that Email may actually lower your functional I.Q. If you use email at work, think about how many emails you receive throughout the course of a day. The basic theory is that during the course of your work day emails basically attack your uniform and focused approach to your projects. The worst case scenario happens when you try to field each email as it chimes into your mailbox. After several hours, your brain starts tiring and you are at a lower functional level -- a whole 10 I.Q. points lower on the average!!! To drive the point home even further, researchers compared the effects of email with the use of marijuana. Guess what…The research showed that the effects of email posed a greater threat to concentration and I.Q. than cannabis. In some cases, the people who were studied couldn't resist the temptation of trying to juggle the influx of new email messages while trying to concentrate on their existing work, which resulted in, over the course of a day, the equivalent to loss of a night’s sleep.

Another “side-effect” of email overload are the deterioration of manners. This can be seen most commonly, when people divert their attention from a face-to-face conversation or meeting to read and reply to email. Some call it multi-tasking, but it just boils down to being rude.

The irony of email is that it is supposed to increase and improve productivity, but it has evolved into a destructive force on productivity in some cases. The irony of email, is that one would think that email facilitates social interaction by reducing the effort to communicate with others. It actually seems to be cultivating a preference for asynchronous communication over face-to-face communication. If it hasn’t already surfaced, I think that addiction to email will become a recognized psychological affliction along with new cases of ESA (Email Separation Anxiety). I just made ESA up, but I think it has a nice ring to it.

A good article about this can be found here: Emails Pose Threat to I.Q.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Debate with a Fizz Killer...

A few days ago, I got into a heated debate with some co-workers (not as heated as the one about “white chocolate”) one day because one of them had purchased a 20 ounce bottle of Coca-Cola and after drinking about 20% of the contents he proceeded to squeeze the bottle then recap it.

“Homer, what is your rationale for doing that?” I asked.

Homer said, “Duh….If you have a partially full bottle of soda, and you squeeze the sides together, it creates less air in the bottle and the soda won’t go flat as fast.

At first I thought I could understand how this could work. I thought that it would have something to do with partial pressure. But after reasoning this concept through, I figured that there was more to it than that. So…What IS the best way to keep Homer’s soda from going flat?

After putting on my Physics brain…Here is my take on this:

Squeezing the bottle, as Homer did, and then capping it will produce a less than 1 atmosphere pressure condition inside the bottle because the flexible container will try to return to its original shape. After digging around in some old Physics books I found our old friend...

Le Châtelier's Principle of Chemical Equilibrium, which goes something like this:

If an outside influence upsets an equilibrium, the system undergoes a change in a direction that counteracts the disturbing influence and, if possible, returns the system to equilibrium.
The three methods to stress a system that's in chemical equilibrium -

1. a change in concentration(s)
2. a change in temperature
3. a change in pressure

In this situation, involving the squeezing of the soda bottle, we are concerning primarily with number 3. The concentration isn't changing substantially (yep...I'm calling Homer's backwash negligible) and to keep it simple, neither is the temperature, even though the soda is slowly warming up to room temperature.

The inverse relationship between volume and gas pressure is the piece of the puzzle we need. We need to first consider how the volume change will affect pressure and then consider how the change in pressure affects the chemical equilibrium. This leads us to Boyle's Law which will give us a relationship between pressure and volume. Increase volume and pressure is decreased. Decrease volume and pressure is increased.

Boyle's Law

Pressure is inversely propertional to the volume:

And this gives us Boyle's Law:

The reduced pressure inside the squeezed bottle will encourage the carbonation to be released from solution. Looking at the carbonic acid ( are drinking carbonic your bottle...mmmm...mmmm...tasty!) equilbrium equation, the reaction shifts to the side that produces more gas molecules:

This will make the soda go flat sooner. So Homer, you are actually killing the fizz. You are a fizz killer!

The bottom line is…You will be more successful in keeping the soda from losing its fizz, by capping it tightly and keeping it cold at an elevated pressure. There is also a special cap out on the market that lets you re-pressurize the bottle. You just screw it in place and then operate a little pump that is part of and affixed to the center of the cap. I know this sounds pretty trivial, but it bothered me enough to waste about 20 minutes of brain power.

Holidays Wrapped in the Hospitality-Obligate System

Because I work in a corporate environment, I'm always aware of the subtext of how power is being played during the course of a day, throughout the lifetime of a project that involves several people and cross-functional groups. I try not to become obsessed with the power games, but I am very mindful and aware of them and how I fit into the mix.
Rituals of power have been around for thousands of years. Some of these rituals have remained intact over thousands of years, surviving eons with only minor changes. Many of the power rituals revolve around food and meals. The religious significance is blatantly obvious...a meal shared together is supposed to establish a sense of unity. It is very common for a Supervisor, Director, or some other big wig to foot the bill for a holiday meal. I tend to believe that this gesture smacks of some kind of power play instead of being an act of holiday cheer or kindness. I believe that this is an attempt to wield the power of a corporate expense account (of course the big wigs don't ultimately end up paying for this gesture of goodwill from their own pockets...) as some kind of Eucharistic transubstantiation. This comes from an ancient power ritual of "breaking bread together" or "having a bite together", which had very little to do with hospitality. It's not so much that the Supervisors, Managers, and Executives want to have a meal with all of the underlings (all of the people who don't have people), nor is it posited that lower level employees can each be simply bought for a $15 meal. The power of this gesture lies in the fact that it is based on an unconscious memory of the significance of eating a meal together as a gesture of peaceful intentions.
In many tribes of other cultures a stranger must share something to eat with the members before being accepted. From the tribe’s point of view the stranger has been extended some hospitality. Upon accepting this hospitality, an obligation has been placed upon the stranger. From the stranger’s point of view, he has announced his peaceful intentions and accepted those of the tribe. This is pretty much the same game with different players in the corporate environment. The upper echelon management assumes the role of the tribe and all of the underlings being the strangers. An exchange has taken place, but it does not really involve, except in the ritualistic sense. In some ways, by accepting the hospitality handed down to them, the underlings have given up a tiny parcel of power.
Some people are very aware of this power subtext and how it plays out into the hospitality-obligation game. The receiving and giving of presents is a prime example. How many times have you or someone you know received an unexpected present around the holidays? What is the most common reaction? You say, “Oh, you shouldn’t have!” This is because most people cannot accept a gift without immediately thinking about how it can be repaid. After receiving an unexpected gift, the gift giving exchange can sometimes reach neurotic levels. Subconsciously, most of us have the basic instinct to not want to be placed in a position of debt to someone. The worst news around the holidays is arrival of a card or gift from someone to whom we have sent nothing, especially when it’s too late to buy the return gift to cancel out the obligation. In this case, an obligation is put on us and even an expensive, belated gift cannot fully cancel out our obligation. You may find yourselves bitterly exchanging gifts for several holidays to come, or in extreme cases simply deciding not to see them again.
An example, of this type of power play and the hospitality-obligation couplet that is used to gain leverage is painfully obvious in Ik tribesman of Uganda. The trivia question goes something like this….
“Why do Ik tribesman build their houses at night?”
You can probably guess the answer…Ik tribesman try to build their houses secretly at night to avoid obligation to others. It is customary for Ik tribesman to offer help to a man, who is building his house and in turn he is obligated to repay the men, who helped him in food. You say…”So? That’s nice. That’s what neighbors are for.” The only problem with this scenario is that the Ik tribesmen live at starvation level. The helpful tribesmen can fulfill their social obligation to their house-building fellow tribesman, while simultaneously starving him out and possibly killing him, based on the hospitality-obligate system.  
My point is that most social customs, especially in the corporate environment, that have the trappings of goodwill and hospitality are actually concealed acts of aggression. We practice a lot of these customs without knowing their origins. Shaking hands originated as a way of proving that we are not carrying weapons in our right hands. Hence the weirdness associated with the left-handed shake – an act of deception. Standing up when new guests approach our table a dinner function was not originally done as a courtesy. It was done because our ancestors could not draw their swords from a sitting position.
Enough of my paranoid ramblings…now you kind of know what its like to be inside of my head.
Responses and other opinions are welcome.

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