A Change Of Pace

Mullet Over
Whatever you do today

By James K. White | January 21, 2009

Pope Sixtus died in 1590. He had arrangements in place to convert the famous Roman Coliseum into a wool factory. The plans were abandoned after the pope’s demise.

If you are penultimate, then you are next to last. I am often immediately after the penultimate guy.

A company called Changing World Technology has worked out a deal with a Butterball turkey processing plant near Carthage, Missouri to take in unwanted feathers, intestines, beaks, etc. Last year CWT converted 78,000 tons of waste into approximately 9,000,000 gallons of fuel. The “fuel” is refinery ready and by products include solid fertilizer and water.

This appears to be a very promising enterprise, especially if our governments will not get involved.

This next item seems futuristic enough. Japanese scientists have cloned living mice from dead mice frozen for sixteen years. Could those people frozen by cryogenics be cloned by similar procedures? Chilling.

An organization called the Union of Concerned Scientists’ Satellite Database proclaim that there are at least 898 active manmade satellites orbiting our earth. The United States is the “champion” with 463 – for now.

According to scientists with very quick hands, the animal still existing on our planet that has the most powerful bite is the crocodile which can exert in excess of 3,000 pounds. Lions bite with a force of about 900 pounds and large sharks 400 pounds. I would have guessed sharks or killer whales as the most powerful, but I got this information from television, so I know that it is true. I also learned that crocodiles can thrive in fresh or salt water while alligators live only in fresh water environments, if given any choice.

The rails of our American railroads are set 4 feet 8 inches apart. This is also the exact distance that the Romans used for the width of the wheel axles on their chariots of war.

Some say that rail distance was purposely chosen to match the chariot widths.

The rarest cat existing in the wild is likely the Amur leopard living in Siberia. The cat was feared to be extinct with too few left to support a breeding population, but new data indicates that as many as 30 may still exist with the last confirmed sighting in November of 2006 (Wildlife Conservation Society).

Will whatever you do today have a noticeable effect on the events some 40 centuries into the future? The Babylonians of 4,000 years ago had a sexagesimal (clean word) math system. Sexagesimal means that the base was 60 and all these centuries later we use 60 seconds in a minute and 60 minutes in an hour directly because of the influence of some clever Babylonians living 400 decades previous to our existence.

Well, I suggest that you resist the urge to jaw wrestle with crocodiles, but do have an exciting week.


Violinist in the Metro

A man sat at a metro station in Washington, DC on a cold January morning and started to play the violin. He played six Bach pieces for about 45 minutes.

During that time, since it was rush hour, it was calculated that thousands of people went through the station, most of them on their way to work. Three minutes went by and a middle-aged man noticed there was a musician playing. He slowed his pace and stopped for a few seconds and then hurried up to meet his schedule. A minute later, the violinist received his first dollar tip: a woman threw the money and, without stopping, continued to walk. A few minutes later, someone leaned against the wall to listen to him, but the man looked at his watch and started to walk again, clearly late for work.

The one who paid the most attention was a 3-year-old boy. His mother tagged him along, hurried, but the boy stopped to look at the violinist. Finally the mother pushed hard and the child continued to walk, turning his head all the time. This action was repeated by several other children. All the parents, without exception, forced them to move on.

In the 45 minutes the musician played, only 6 people stopped and stayed for a while. About 20 gave him money but continued to walk their normal pace. He collected $32. When he finished playing and silence took over, no one noticed it. No one applauded, nor was there any recognition.

The violinist was Joshua Bell, one of the best 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 playing in the subway, Joshua Bell sold out at a theater in Boston and the seats average $100.

This is a real story. Joshua Bell playing incognito in the metro station was organized by the Washington Post as part of a social experiment about perception, taste and priorities of people. The outlines were: in a commonplace environment at an inappropriate hour: Do we perceive beauty? Do we stop to appreciate it? Do we recognize the talent in an unexpected context?

One of the possible conclusions from this experience could be: If we do not have a moment to stop and listen to one of the best musicians in the world, playing the best music ever written, how many other things are we missing?